I have scratched together a living, in one way or another, as a writer for more than 50 years now. I was a free-lance writer during the early stages of the Vietnam War. I was the Southwest Division Overnight News Editor for United Press International back when UPI was a legitimate news gathering organization. Following that, I went to the Dallas Morning News where I became the first person to write about rock 'n' roll on a daily basis for a Texas metropolitan newspaper. I later became the News' entertainment editor. Following some stints with a couple of prominent PR firms, I had the extraordinary good fortune to team with two communications legends, Ken Fairchild and Lisa LeMaster, as part of one kick-ass media consulting/crisis communications team. That was followed by short stays with the City of Dallas, as its public information officer; the Dallas Northeast Chamber of Commerce where I had the good fortune to meet and work alongside some of this city's business and political titans; and editorial director for QuestCorp Media until that company went out of business. Now officially retired, concentrating on this blog.
From Up on Poppy Hill ***½ Directed by Goro Miyazaki. A group of Yokohama teens look to save their school’s clubhouse from the wrecking ball in preparations for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. This movie is a lovely example of the strong realist tendency in Japanese animation. Its visual magic lies in painterly compositions of foliage, clouds, architecture and water, and its emotional impact comes from the way everyday life is washed in the colors of memory.
The Iceman *** Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta, Chris Evans. Directed by Ariel Vromen. The true story of Richard Kuklinski, the notorious contract killer and family man. When finally arrested in 1986, neither his wife nor daughters had any clue about his real profession. An unsettling piece that reminds us how even monsters aspire to living the American dream. Shannon’s restrained and mesmerizing portrayal, bolstered by an excellent offbeat supporting cast, makes for an edgy and compelling Mob yarn.
The Lords of Salem **½ Directed by Rob Zombie. Heidi, a radio DJ in Salem, Mass., is sent a box containing a record — a "gift from the Lords." The sounds within the grooves trigger flashbacks of her town’s violent past. Zombie’s latest is gloomy, lacks variety, and is not without its flat patches. Heidi is an increasingly dullish heroine, and in the first 15 minutes you’ll know what’s going to happen in the next 80.
Now You See Me **½ Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Melanie Laurent, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman. Directed by Louis Leterrier. An FBI agent and an Interpol detective track a team of illusionists who pull off bank heists during their performances and reward their audiences with the money. A superficially diverting but substance-free concoction, a would-be thriller as evanescent as a magic trick and one that develops no suspense or rooting interest because the characters possess all the substance of invisible ink.
Petunia **½ Thora Birch, Christine Lahti, Brittany Snow. Directed by Ash Christian. A dysfunctional family learns to love each other. Features a top-notch cast, a few beautifully observed moments, and some amusingly bitchy dialogue. But its rambling, episodic structure and gallery of troubled characters will ultimately prove too off-putting to attract many renters.
Somm **½ Directed by Jason Wise. Four sommeliers attempt to pass the prestigious Master Sommelier exam, a test with one of the lowest pass rates in the world. The film maintains a sluggish calm, like its mellow jazz soundtrack, and suffers from following four players with similar stories.