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 Grand Budapest Hotel ****½ Directed by Wes Anderson. The adventures of Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. This is one of Anderson’s funniest and most fanciful movies, but perversely enough it may also be his most serious, most tragic and most shadowed by history, with the frothy Ernst Lubitsch-style comedy shot through with an overwhelming sense of loss. With F. Murray Abraham, Matthieu Amalric, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Lea Seydoux, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson.
Ernest & Celestine **** Directed by Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar, Benjamin Renner. The story of an unlikely friendship between a bear, Ernest (Forest Whitaker), and a young mouse named Celestine (Pauline Brunner). A tale of found family, sweetly realized and supported by clever writing and talented voice work, but it’s the animation that really makes this Academy Award-nominated movie. With Mackenzie Foy, Lauren Bacall, Paul Giamatti, William H. Macy, Megan Mullally, Nick Offerman, Jeffrey Wright.
The Lego Movie **** Directed by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller. An ordinary Lego construction worker (Chris Pratt), thought to be the prophesied "Special", is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil tyrant (Will Ferrell) from gluing the Lego universe into eternal stasis. Lord and Miller irreverently deconstruct the state of the modern blockbuster and deliver a smarter, more satisfying experience in its place, emerging with a fresh franchise for others to build upon.
Joe **** Directed by David Gordon Green. When ex-con Joe (Nicolas Cage) hires 15-year-old Gary (Tye Sheridan) to help clear trees for a lumber company, he doesn’t expect to become a father figure for the abused boy. A beautiful film, shot by Tim Orr, that is elevated by Cage’s stirring portrait of a violence-prone man who can’t restrain himself from doing good.
Jimmy P. ***½ Directed by Arnaud Desplechin. A Native American Veteran (Benicio Del Toro), suffering from a series of psychological issues, develops a deeply powerful friendship with his progressive French psychoanalyst (Mathieu Almaric) as they discover and attempt to understand the source of his illness. The film is saved largely thanks to the subtext of ethnic discrimination that runs through the film, and two riveting central performances, which overcome a wobbly start to find emotional balance by the final reel.
The Final Member **½ Directed by Jonah Bekhor, Zach Math. This documentary follows curator Siggi Hjartarson as he works to complete his collection of specimens at the Icelandic Phallological Museum: the world’s only penis museum. Smartly, the filmmakers minimize their topic’s punchline potential. But even though the running time is short, the movie feels stretched out.
13 Sins **½ Directed by Daniel Stamm. Desperate to get his finances in order, a man (Mark Webber) agrees to appear on a game show where performing 13 tasks could win him $6 million. This horror flick is passable enough when it comes to dialing up the suspense, but the Saw formula of a mysterious voice guiding our hero through a series of depravities has gone a bit stale.
Almost Human ** Directed by J.H. Wyman. Two years after disappearing in a blinding flash of blue light, a young lumberjack returns to rural Maine and embarks on a murderous rampage.With acting this wooden even among those not playing zombies, though one at least attempts a rural Maine accent, the suspense lies less in who will die than in how grisly the means.
Walk of Shame * Directed by Steven Brill. After an uncharacteristic drunken one-night stand, an aspiring news anchor (Elizabeth Banks) winds up on a wild trek across Los Angeles with no car, money or memory. Even when it’s at its best, Walk of Shame is rarely more than merely amusing. On the other hand, when it’s at its worst, it’s nothing short of insulting, thanks to its willingness to engage in the kind of gross stereotyping that treads uncomfortably close to racist territory. With James Marsden.
Authors Anonymous ½* Directed by Ellie Kanner. A band of unpublished writers who gather to gripe about their misfortunes must cope with the sudden success of Hannah (Kaley Cuoco), who’s just joined their group. Little more than an exercise in sustained contempt, a petty little missive directed at anyone who dares to wield a pen.c