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.
Before Midnight ***** Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy. Directed by Richard Linklater. This second sequel to the romantic drama Before Sunrise checks in with multinational lovers Jesse and Celine nine years after they reunited. Living in Greece, the couple struggles with emotions relating to parenthood, middle age and faded romance. Just as swoon-worthy, and essential, as its predecessors, Before Midnight reveals the full scope of Linklater’s ambition. This is not just another stellar follow-up, but the latest entry in what’s shaping up to be a grand experiment — the earnest attempt to depict the life of a relationship onscreen, decade by increasingly tumultuous decade. In the process of justifying its own existence, Before Midnight redeems the very notion of sequels. It surpasses the two previous films in this trilogy in terms of its intelligence, narrative design, and vivacity. It’s a grand accomplishment, and I feel greedy about wanting to see this film series continue. Delpy and Hawke, who’ve invested this trilogy with the fine shadings of life lived, do extraordinary things with small moments.
The Conjuring *** Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor. Directed by James Wan. Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse. The film digs up no new ground — indeed, it seems almost proud of its old school bona fides — but it plows the classic terrain with a skill that feels a lot like affection. The ghost that’s really haunting this movie is nostalgia.
I Give It a Year **½ Rose Byrne, Anna Faris, Rafe Spall, Simon Baker. Directed by Dan Mazer. Newlyweds Nat and Josh find their marriage beginning to fall apart almost immediately after their fairy tale wedding. The couple seeks the advice of a counselor, but both are also tempted by old and new lovers. The jokes are strong and delivered by a very talented cast, but the heart isn’t there. It’s easy to laugh, but hard to care.
The Internship ½* Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson. Directed by Shawn Levy. Two salesmen whose careers have been torpedoed by the digital age find their way into a coveted internship at Google, where they must compete with a group of young, tech-savvy geniuses for a shot at employment. You need only watch the above trailer to know that this movie is a promo for Google; think Google for Dummies, as well as Comedy for Dummies. It’s as if the writers googled "how to write a script" and nothing came up, so they wrote this anyway.
Just Like a Woman * Sienna Miller, Golshifteh Farahani. Directed by Rachid Bouchareb. Two women get on the highway heading to Santa Fe. Marilyn dreams of winning a contest held by a famous belly dancing company, while her friend, Mona, is a fugitive from justice, accused of her mother-in-law’s death. All that’s missing from Bouchareb’s salute to Thelma & Louise, is the quality.
Molly’s Theory of Relativity **½ Directed by Jeff Lipsky. When an attractive young astronomer and mother abruptly loses her job, she’s obliged to consider what to do with her life next. Luckily, she has lots of advisers, including a neighbor who may not exist. The characters never sound like they’re actually talking to one another, but rather delivering Lipsky’s echo-chamber monologues.
Only God Forgives *½ Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas. Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. A drug-smuggler thriving in Bangkok’s criminal underworld, sees his life get even more complicated when his mother compels him to find and kill whoever is responsible for his brother’s recent death. The Danish filmmaker’s latest theater of the macabre is brutal, bloody, saturated with revenge, sex and death, yet stunningly devoid of meaning, purpose, emotion or decent lighting. Seriously. Artful shadows can certainly set a mood; too many and it merely looks like someone is trying too hard.
Paradise: Faith *** Directed by Ulrich Seidl. Anna Maria is an X-ray technician who spends her free time lugging a statue of the Virgin Mary through Vienna, hoping to convert her fellow citizens. But her mission is derailed by the sudden reappearance of her long-lost husband, an Egyptian Muslim. Although there are several stretches in the movie in which Seidl seems to be repeating himself, the director is carefully building toward a knock-out final scene in which the inscrutable, often annoying Anna becomes beautifully, poignantly human in front of our eyes, like magic.
Shepard & Dark **½ Sam Shepard, Johnny Dark. Directed by Treva Wurmfeld. A documentary that examines the process by which playwright and actor Shepard decided in 2010 to publish a chronicle of his long-standing friendship with Dark by gathering years of their correspondence. Despite its unusual beginnings, the friendship doesn’t offer much narrative juice.
The Way, Way Back **½ Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Annasophia Robb, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, Liam James. Directed by Nat Faxon, Jim Rash. Shy 14-year-old Duncan goes on summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park. The story of a teen desperate for a father figure who finds encouragement from a wild-and-crazy water-park employee — rather than from the guy auditioning to be his stepdad — can be explosively funny in parts, but overall feels pretty familiar, relying more on its cast than the material to win favor.