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.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints *** Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Ben Foster. Directed by David Lowery. The tale of an outlaw who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met. Lowery has a lyrical style of storytelling that is delicate and subtle yet suffused with emotion and atmosphere. It’s gentle and pointed at the same time. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints wafts over you like a dream, leaving behind a lovely, melancholy trace that hurts.
Prisoners **½ Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano. Directed by Denis Villeneuve. When Keller Dover’s daughter and her friend go missing, he takes matters into his own hands as the police pursue multiple leads. For all its pretensions and intermittent power, this is essentially high-grade claptrap. At its best, it dwells on the ways the characters affected by the case are held mentally captive — by conviction, compulsion, procedure, skewed beliefs, rage, and grief — and how each character’s blind spot and/or maniacal focus furthers or frustrates the search for the girls.
The Family **½ Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones. Directed by Luc Besson. The Manzoni family, a notorious mafia clan, is relocated to Normandy, France, under the witness protection program, where fitting in soon becomes challenging. The movie has holes galore. It has abrupt tonal shifts, an incoherent back story and abandoned subplots. It doesn’t even try for basic credibility. But buoyed by hot performances, it sustains a zapping electrical energy.
Elysium **½ Matt Damon, Jodie Foster. Directed by Neill Blomkamp. In the year 2154, the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth. A man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds. Elysium could be more clever as it goes about its business. This is smart sci-fi, but it’s not as smart as it could have been — or as many District 9 fans like me were probably hoping it would be.
Kick-Ass 2 ** Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey, Donald Faison, John Leguizamo, Morris Chestnut. Directed by Jeff Wadlow. The costumed high-school hero Kick-Ass joins with a group of normal citizens who have been inspired to fight crime in costume. A messy, confused, over-the-top mixture of brutality and sick comedy, puckishness and ugliness, self-awareness and tone-deafness.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters ** Directed by Thor Freudenthal. In order to restore their dying safe haven, the son of Poseidon and his friends embark on a quest to the Sea of Monsters to find the mythical Golden Fleece while trying to stop an ancient evil from rising. Despite the usual end-of-world crisis and Mount Olympus MVP characters in this Harry Potter wannabe, there’s no sense that anything’s truly at stake; rather, it feels as if the filmmakers are coasting on the fumes of teen-angst fantasy and making up their fairy-tale rules (Cyclopes are fireproof!) as they go along.
The Lone Ranger ** Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer. Directed by Gore Verbinski. Native American warrior Tonto recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid, a man of the law, into a legend of justice. It’s all too much and not enough — a succession of disparate, can-you-top-this episodes inelegantly piling up like skidding cars on a freeway. And that’s not even taking into account the action scenes. Lord, those action scenes: Monotonous, loud and relentless, they’re a punishing example of the self-satisfied, digitally augmented ephemera that typifies modern Hollywood moviemaking, and House Bruckheimer in particular.
Ghost Team One ** Carlos Santos, J.R. Villareal, Fernanda Romero, Tony Cavalero, Meghan Falcone, James Babson. Directed by Ben Peyser, Scott Rutherford. Two roommates deathly afraid of ghosts both fall in love with a girl who believes their home is haunted. An aggressively obnoxious tone undermines a decent concept and appealing cast.
One Direction: This Is Us * Directed by Morgan Spurlock. The film follows the multiplatinum group One Direction as they prepare for their 2013 world tour. The movie is aimless, seemingly deceptive and spreads a poor message: that it’s OK to act extremely immature, as long as you have millions of blind followers who think it’s cute.