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.
Bounty Killer *½ Matthew Marsden, Kristianna Luken, Christian Pitre, Barak Hardley, Abraham Benrubi, Eve Jeffers, Beverly D’Angelo, Kevin McNally, Gary Busey. Directed by Henry Saine. It’s been 20 years since corporations took over the world’s governments; in retaliation, a group issues death warrants for all white-collar criminals. From amateur savage to graceful assassin, the bounty killers now compete for body count and cash. The film’s lack of seriousness isn’t the problem; rather, it’s that its jokey carnage is all caricatured poses devoid of original verve or legitimate wit.
Byzantium **** Gemma Arterton, Saoirse Ronan. Directed by Neil Jordan. Residents of a coastal town learn, with deathly consequences, the secret (which becomes clear quickly in the above trailer)shared by the two mysterious women who have sought shelter at a local resort. It takes a while, but the old-fashioned pleasure of watching a well-told story unfold eventually becomes the chief satisfaction in Byzantium, though there are other things to enjoy as well.
Free Samples *** Jess Weixler, Halley Feiffer, Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Ritter, Tippi Hedren. Directed by Jay Gammill. Jillian has dropped out of law school and migrated to Los Angeles in this comedy about deferred adulthood and the romantic hazards of heavy drinking. But a day spent doling out ice cream samples to the Angelenos dramatically changes her attitude. This is a modest but pleasant small-budget movie with two bits of laziness in the script, but one particularly sweet performance that makes up for them.
Monsters University **½ John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, Dan Foley, Julia Sweeney. Directed by Dan Scanlon. This prequel to Monsters Inc. once again features eccentric monster pals Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan. Set during their college days, the film tells the tale of how the pair became friends. As a piece of disposable entertainment, this strenuously upbeat prequel passes with vibrant colors and will. But as an offering from Pixar, the studio that set the platinum standard for contemporary animated features, it’s an awful disappointment — and one more reason to worry about Pixar’s future under Disney ownership.
Out in the Dark *** Nicholas Jacob, Michael Aloni. Directed by Michael Mayer. The story of a love affair between two men on opposite sites of the Mid-East conflict: Palestinian student Nimer and Roy, an Israeli lawyer. This suspenseful love story isn’t a political film by any stretch, but the intrigue and prejudices of the Arab-Israeli conflict certainly fuel the romance and thrills of this entertaining, taut movie.
R.I.P.D. * Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon, Mary-Louise Parker, Stephanie Szostak. Directed by Robert Schwentke. A recently slain cop joins a team of undead police officers and tries to find the man who murdered him. A dud that squanders a decent cast and succeeds neither as the comedy nor the action film it purports to be.