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.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug *** Directed by Peter Jackson. The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug. Some of the dwarves have nice individual moments, namely Balin (Ken Stott), Bofur (James Nesbitt), and Kili (Aidan Turner), and Gandalf gets to throw some potent magic around at Dol Guldur. But other than that (and the dragon itself), The Desolation of Smaug turns to be more of too much of a good thing.
August: Osage County **½ Directed by John Wells. A look at the lives of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose paths have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Oklahoma house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them. It’s not so much a mangled movie as it is an unfulfilled, forgettable one: unnecessary for anyone who’s seen the play, yet sufficiently watered-down that newcomers won’t be able to tell what all the fuss was about. With Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Sam Shepard, Misty Upham.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones ** Directed by Christopher Landon. Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) begins experiencing a number of disturbing and unexplainable things after the death of his neighbor. As ever with this series, the shocks are cheap but effective, and the shaky-cam aesthetic adds an unsettling layer of realism (if you’re willing to overlook the innate ridiculousness of the film-everything concept).
Grudge Match ** Directed by Peter Segal. A pair of aging boxing rivals (Sylvester Stallone, Robert DeNiro) are coaxed out of retirement to fight one final bout, 30 years after their last match. Essentially recasting Grumpy Old Men with the senescent specters of Rocky Balboa and Jake LaMotta, the result is sporadically amusing, with some chucklesome sight gags and crowdpleasing supporting turns from Alan Arkin and Kevin Hart, yet its all so overcooked that it defeats its own purpose.
Justin Bieber’s Believe * Directed by Jon M. Chu. A backstage and on-stage look at Justin Bieber during his rise to stardom. Strictly for the Beliebers.
Nurse * Directed by Douglas Aarniokoski. By day Abby Russell is a dedicated nurse, someone you wouldn’t hesitate to trust your life with. But by night, she lures cheating men to their brutal deaths. Co-writer and director Aarniokoski’s clunky, crude blotch of prurience and bloodletting is too self-satisfied with its wink-wink naughtiness to be either fun-dumb or scary-sexy.
Back in the Day (no stars) Directed by Michael Rosenbaum. Jim Owens (Rosenbaum) heads home for his high school reunion. In an attempt to relive the glory days with his boys and explore an old romance, he nearly destroys his hometown and friendships. Cloying and smug when it’s not being unfunny and crass, this film hits lows with a frequency that suggests a world-class sharp shooter or free-throw king.