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.
The Colony **½ Laurence Fishburne, Bill Paxton, Kevin Zegers. Directed by Jeff Renfroe. Amid an icy postapocalyptic landscape, the inhabitants of Colony 7 abruptly lose contact with the only other known settlement. An expedition to solve the mystery reveals a threat much worse than imagined and kicks off a savage battle for survival. This is two-thirds of a pretty good sci-fi suspense movie. But it eventually takes a disappointing turn and becomes yet another run-from-the-ghouls exercise, cheapening decent work by a good cast.
Dirty Wars **** Directed by Rock Rowley. Exploring America’s covert operations in the war on terror, investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill takes viewers on a revealing journey through drone strikes, night raids, kill lists that include U.S. citizens and secret government-condoned torture. A remarkable documentary as important as it is compelling.
Drug War **** Directed by Johnnie To. A drug cartel boss who is arrested in a raid is coerced into betraying his former accomplices as part of an undercover operation. This is a deeply intelligent, exhilarating and eminently satisfying adult crime story, one of the best thrillers you’re likely to see this year.
The Heat **½ Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy. Directed by Paul Feig. An uptight FBI Special Agent is paired with a foul-mouthed Boston cop to take down a ruthless drug lord. The movie — too much of it — is spent testing the boundaries of how loud and obnoxious McCarthy can be. Feig doesn’t hand this able comic actress the gift of freedom; he simply gives her enough rope, which isn’t nearly the same thing.
A Hijacking ***½ Søren Malling, Johan Philip Asbæk, Dar Salim, Roland Møller, Gary Skjoldmose Porter, Abdihakan Asgar. Directed by Tobias Lindholm. The crew of a Danish cargo ship is hijacked by Somali pirates who proceed to engage in escalating negotiations with authorities in Copenhagen. Danish director Lindholm spins an exacting drama out of a crisis on this deft, verite-style account of Somali piracy in the Indian ocean. Full credit to the film for resisting the siren-call of Hollywood histrionics in favour of the nuts-and-bolts.
Jug Face **½ Lauren Ashley Carter, Sean Bridgers, Sean Young, Larry Fessenden, Daniel Manche. Directed by Chad Crawford Kinkle. Teenager Ada is pregnant, which means she’ll make the ideal sacrifice to a monstrous beast that lives in a pit near her backwoods village. When she learns of her fate, however, she flees, leaving the community to cope with the unfed creature’s wrath. Kinkle’s debut refreshingly sacrifices gore showpieces (though it is bloody at times) for a steadily increasing dread tied to a young woman’s desperation.
Maniac **½ Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder. Directed by Frank Khalfoun. As he helps a young artist with her upcoming exhibition, the owner of a mannequin shop’s deadly, suppressed desires come to the surface. The movie, told from the killer’s point of view, is genuinely unsettling and propelled by a terrific, buzzing synth soundtrack straight out of the early ‘80s. But the only suspense is in which woman will be the next victim.
Pacific Rim *** Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Rob Kazinsky, Max Martini, Ron Perlman. Directed by Guillermo Del Toro. As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse. Of all this year’s loud, over-long action movies that, in various ways, simulate the experience of having a tin bucket placed over your head and being struck repeatedly with a stick, it must be said that this one is by far the most entertaining.