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.
Adore * Naomi Watts, Robin Wright. Directed by Anne Fontaine. A pair of childhood friends and neighbors fall for each other’s sons. Everything is spelled out literally and at a stultifying pace, in a story that might have worked onscreen as either heightened melodrama or farcical comedy. Instead Fontaine, who is not exactly blessed with a light touch, opts for misplaced sincerity.
The Angels’ Share **½ Directed by Ken Loach. After avoiding jail, Robbie vows to turn his life around for his newborn son. He has a talent for discerning fine whiskeys, and he and his community service cohorts hatch a plan to lift a few expensive bottles to buy themselves a better future. There might be a pretty good film lurking in this latest dramedy from the veteran Scottish directing-writing team of Loach and Paul Laverty. I use the conditional because at least half the dialogue is delivered in a Glaswegian Scots so thick, it might as well have been Urdu.
Battle of the Year (no stars) Directed by Benson Lee. A break dance contest attracts all the best teams from around the world, but the Americans haven’t won in 15 years. Dante enlists Blake to assemble a team of the best dancers and bring the trophy back to America. The miracle of this 3-D dance film is how it can be so relentlessly boring while there is so much frenetic activity on screen.
Despicable Me 2 **½ Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Russell Brand, Ken Jeong, Steve Coogan. Directed by Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud. Gru is recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help deal with a powerful new super criminal. This loony ‘toon is dizzy with wonderments, especially in 3-D. The spindly-limbed character design owes more to Charles Addams’ family than to Walt Disney’s kingdom, while the story and settings evoke James Bond on laughing gas.
Fast & Furious 6 *** Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson. Directed by Justin Lin. Hobbs has Dom and Brian reassemble their crew in order to take down a mastermind who commands an organization of mercenary drivers across 12 countries in return for full pardons for them all. What really sets this installment apart is the blinding speed with which it shifts between over-the-top action, that speedometer inching toward 800 mph at times, and soap opera emotions that bring everything to a screeching halt. It’s enough to give you whiplash in a good way.
The Hunt **½ Mads Mikkelsen. Directed by Thomas Vinterberg. A teacher lives a lonely life, all the while struggling over his son’s custody. His life slowly gets better as he finds love and receives good news from his son, but his new luck is brutally shattered by an innocent little lie. The Hunt doesn’t know where to stop. It is undermined with a short, unsatisfying epilogue whose shocking final moment isn’t enough to justify its inclusion.
Jayne Mansfield’s Car **½ Robert Duvall, John Hurt, Billy Bob Thornton, Kevin Bacon, Robert Patrick, Ray Stevenson, Katherine LaNasa, Frances O’Connor, Shawnee Smith, Ron White. Directed by Billy Bob Thornton. The death of a clan’s estranged wife and mother brings together two very different families in 1969 Alabama. Characters scream, throw glasses, screw, and strip nude for the self-gratifying viewing pleasure of others, but Jayne Mansfield’s Car never musters up even the faintest trace of Tennessee Williams-style hothouse drama.
Man of Tai Chi **½ Keanu Reeves, Tiger Chen. Directed by Keanu Reeves. A young martial artist’s unparalleled Tai Chi skills land him in a highly lucrative underworld fight club. A modestly entertaining martial arts melodrama with impressively staged fight sequences that help compensate for a stale plot and some less-than-stellar acting.
Sightseers **½ Alice Lowe, Eileen Davies, Jonathan Aris, Kenneth Hadley, Monica Dolan, Richard Lumsden Steve Oram, Tony Way. Directed by Ben Wheatley. Chris wants to show girlfriend Tina his world, but events soon conspire against the couple and their dream caravan holiday takes a very wrong turn. It’s neither grounded enough to be genuinely horrifying nor over the top enough to be nastily fun.
Touchy Feely ** Rosemary DeWitt, Allison Janney, Ron Livingston, Scoot McNairy, Ellen Page, Josh Pais. Directed by Lynn Shelton. A massage therapist is unable to do her job when stricken with a mysterious and sudden aversion to bodily contact, while, her uptight brother’s floundering dental practice receives new life when clients seek out his healing touch. Shelton seems so preoccupied with making Touchy Feely feel natural and real that she’s forgotten to add any incident.