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 Missing Picture **** Directed by Rithy Panh. Panh uses clay figures, archival footage, and his narration to recreate the atrocities Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge committed between 1975 and 1979. A gripping, fascinating and visually arresting memoir.
Omar ***½ Directed by Hany Abu-Assad. A young Palestinian freedom fighter (Adam Bakri) agrees to work as an informant after he’s tricked into an admission of guilt by association in the wake of an Israeli soldier’s killing. Abu-Assad shows a world from which all trust has vanished, where every relationship carries the possibility — perhaps the inevitability — of betrayal and where every form of honor is corroded by lies.
Alan Partridge *** Directed by Declan Lowney. When famous DJ Alan Partridge’s (Steve Coogan) radio station is taken over by a new media conglomerate, it sets in motion a chain of events which see Alan having to work with the police to defuse a potentially violent siege. An often funny workplace hostage comedy that doesn’t demand prior knowledge of the character.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit *** Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Jack Ryan (Chris Pine), as a young covert CIA analyst, uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack. The movie itself isn’t dull. It’s moderately stylish, moderately suspenseful, fun in patches. It hits its marks. But the setup lacks urgency. With Kevin Costner, Branagh, Keira Knightley.
Adult World *** Directed by Scott Coffey. Amy (Emma Roberts), a naive college graduate who believes she’s destined to be a great poet, begrudgingly accepts a job at a sex shop while she pursues a mentorship with reclusive writer Rat Billings (John Cusack). Proceeds by fits and starts, but fans of Cusack won’t want to miss his performance as the petulant poet, whose resistance is inevitably worn down by his persistent fan.
Tim’s Vermeer *** Directed by Teller. Inventor Tim Jenison seeks to understand the painting techniques used by Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer. An entertaining and interesting film, and one that speaks with a reasonable degree of credibility. And while that might not make it high art, it’s good enough for me.
Visitors *** Directed by Godrey Reggio. Completely devoid of dialogue and backed by a soundtrack by Philip Glass, this cinematic showpiece explores humans’ reactions to technology and media. Strange and surreal but with moments of real beauty.
The Short Game **½ Directed by Josh Greenbaum. Eight grade-school golfers must navigate parents, coaches, and their own pint-sized rivals as they compete in a junior-level championship at the prestigious Pinehurst golf course in North Carolina. Greenbaum is observant of tears and laughter alike, but he might have made fewer sacrifices in the name of a tidy package.
Non-Stop **½ Directed by Jaume Collet-Sera. On a commercial flight at 40,000 feet, federal air marshal Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) starts receiving text messages from a threatening blackmailer who claims he’s on the airplane too. A solid, workmanlike action picture that builds slowly, bends over backwards to over-explain itself and its villain, and delivers a lulu of an ending.
Devil’s Knot ** Directed by Atom Egoyan. The savage murders of three young children sparks a controversial trial of three teenagers accused of killing the kids as part of a satanic ritual. This stilted crime drama from Egoyan feels misguided from the start. He’s attempting to fictionalize a true story that has already been told better, several times over. With Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon.
Perfect Sisters ** Directed by Stanley M. Brooks. Tired of their mother’s alcoholism and a string of her abusive boyfriends, two sisters plot to kill her. Brooks’ first directorial feature provides scant psychological depth, drawing its characters and staging their incidents in crude fashion, despite superficial production gloss. With Abigail Breslin, Georgie Henley, James Russo, Mira Sorvino.
Capital ** Directed by Costa-Gavras. The newly appointed CEO of a giant European investment bank works to hold on to his power when an American hedge fund company tries to buy out his company. Ends up being neither a high-stakes thriller nor a cutting commentary on real-world bad behavior. It’s just CEO exotica, all dressed up with nowhere to go.
Haunt ** Directed by Mac Carter. An introvert teen befriends his new neighbor, and together the couple begin to explore the haunted house his family has just purchased. Bland and bordering on nonsensical, Haunt trots out all the standard haunted-house tropes without breathing any new life into them.
The Secret Lives of Dorks *½ Directed by Salomé Breziner. High school übergeek Payton (Gaelan Connell) lusts for cheerleader Carrie (Riley Voekel), who wishes he’d chase fellow dork Samantha (Vanessa Marano), who happens to love him. This movie, also featuring Jim Belushi, is, well, the Jim Belushi of high-school romantic comedies: indifferent, kind of exhausted.