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.
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane **½ (This movie was filmed in 2006, but finally released in theaters six weeks ago.) until Amber Heard, Michael Welch, Whitney Able, Edwin Hodge, Aaron Himelstein, Luke Grimes, Melissa Price, Adam Powell, Peyton Hayslip, Brooke Bloom, Robert Earl Keen, Anson Mount. Directed by Jonathan Levine. A group of high-schoolers invite Mandy Lane, a good girl who became quite hot over the summer, to a weekend party on a secluded ranch. While the festivities rage on, the number of revelers begins to drop quite mysteriously. Levine shows some of the promise that would serve him so well later, but beyond an intriguing look and an initial attempt to put a new spin on the teen-horror genre, Mandy Lane winds up being pretty conventional.
Drinking Buddies ***** Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston. Directed by Joe Swanberg. Luke and Kate, workmates at a small Chicago brewery, are romantically involved with others but also the best of friends — on and off the clock. Things get complicated, however, when the couples spend a weekend together at a lakeside retreat. With dexterity and care, Swanberg illuminates our muddled perceptions of our own relationships. He fixates on the minutiae of hanging out, the stuff of little loves and lies, the feints and thrusts we make in sorting matters of head and heart. This nimble, knowing and altogether excellent new film, refuses to dance to the usual tune.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones *½ Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheenhan. Directed by Harald Zwart. After teen Clary Fray witnesses a murder at a New York nightclub, a sinister stranger named Valentine attacks and kidnaps her mother. Endowed with supernatural vision, Clary recruits a band of youthful human-angel hybrids to help rescue her mother. Though it has flashes of promise, Bones traces the footsteps of its fantasy film predecessors too closely to blaze anything close to an original narrative.
The Smurfs 2 * Neil Patrick Harris, Sofia Vergara, Christina Ricci, Alan Cumming, Brendan Gleeson, Hank Azaria, Katy Perry, George Lopez. Directed by Raja Gosnell. Evil magician Gargamel continues his quest to tap the power of the Smurfs, creating a pair of his own "Smurf-alikes" called the Naughties. But without the Smurf essence, the Naughties fizzle, so Gargamel nabs Smurfettte to cast a spell. This doesn’t even pretend to be anything more but the most base, sugar-coated family entertainment, the kind of things that parents won’t even be able to comprehend, much less enjoy.
Winnie Mandela ** Jennifer Hudson, Terrence Howard. Directed by Darrell Roodt. A drama that chronicles the life of Winnie Mandela from her childhood through her marriage and her husband’s incarceration. Roodt’s by-the-numbers biopic suffers from clunky dialogue and shallow characterization, all while never deciding what to make of its leading lady. Any urgency the movie has comes from Howard, a firebrand of an actor who can’t even be contained by a plodding script.
The Wolverine **½ Hugh Jackman. Directed by James Mangold. When Wolverine is summoned to Japan by an old acquaintance, he is embroiled in a conflict that forces him to confront his own demons. The filmmakers work at creating a new take on an old protagonist and then don’t really have much new to do with him once they’ve achieved that. It’s a good effort. Just not an entirely successful one.