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.
It Felt Like Love **** Directed by Eliza Hittman. Determined to explore her budding sexuality, 14-year-old Lila (Gina Piersanti) develops romantic delusions about an older guy that soon turn to obsession. Hittman’s film captures the exclusive properties of sex with a degree of intimacy and empathy that, at times, feels authentically revelatory.
Finding Vivian Maier ***½ Directed by John Maloof, Charlie Siskel. A documentary on the late Maier, a nanny whose previously unknown cache of 100,000 photographs earned her a posthumous reputation as one the most accomplished street photographers. This movie might better have been titled "Constructing Vivian Maier" — not because the filmmakers came up empty-handed, but because what they found out sheds too neat and tidy a light on her unsparing, yet warmly sympathetic portraits of the denizens of Chicago’s seamy underside.
Noah ***½ Directed by Darren Aranofsky. This adaptation of the story of Noah (Russell Crowe) depicts the visions that led him to voice dire prophesies of apocalypse and to build an ark to survive. Aronofsky’s earnest, uneven, intermittently powerful film, is both a psychological case study and a parable of hubris and humility. At its best, its shares some its namesake’s ferocious conviction, and not a little of his madness. With Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins.
On My Way *** Directed by Emmanuelle Bercot. Prompted by a post-midlife crisis, Bettie (Catherine Deneuve) goes out for cigarettes and decides to keep on driving, abandoning the restaurant she owns. Family members fight and reconcile over delicious-looking regional cuisine, new romantic possibilities present themselves, and Deneuve swans through all the heartstring-plucking silliness like the ethereal superstar she is. There are worse things in life.
Cuban Fury **½ Directed by James Griffiths. Two decades after retiring his dancing shoes, former almost-champion salsa expert Bruce Garrett (Nick Frost) tries to regain his form. Frost is a likable lead and an easy rooting interest. But his affability isn’t enough to give this silly-sweet feature the edge and dimension that would make it a memorable contribution to the subgenre epitomized by The Full Monty — comedies in which middle-aged, unassuming Brits discover their inner showman. With Rashida Jones, Chris O’Dowd, Ian McShane.
Half a Yellow Sun **½ Directed by Biyi Bandele. Twin sisters Olanna (Thandie Newton) and Kainene (Anika Noni Rose) each find unexpected romance in the late 1960s against the backdrop of Nigeria’s civil war. One of those movies in which a pesky event of great historical import keeps getting in the way of a soap-opera romance. With Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Five Dances **½ Directed by Alan Brown. The coming of age tale of an extraordinarily gifted young dancer (Ryan Steele) recently arrived in New York City. The gorgeous physicality is more impressive than the sketchy storyline of this dance-centric drama.
The Protector 2 ** Directed by Prachya Pinkaew. Martial arts expert Kham (Tony Jaa) wages new battles with animal poachers who work for an organization planning to use his beloved elephant Khon as part of a plot to carry out a coup d’état. In brief spurts, the film is funny, but taken as a whole, it feels like a waste of talent. Cheesiness should not be the most memorable thing about a Tony Jaa movie.
Cold Turkey ** Directed by Will Slocombe. Thanksgiving for the eccentric Turner clan turns into a train wreck when "insane" daughter Nina (Alicia Witt) comes homes for the first time in 15 years. The film is too busy and offers no fresh insight on the inner hysteria of seemingly upright WASPs. The actors work hard, but their roles are mostly one-note. It’s Witt who generates the laughs and the pathos. With Peter Bogdanovich, Ashton Holmes, Sonya Walger, Wilson Bethel, Cheryl Hines.
The Other Woman ** Directed by Nick Cassavetes. When she finds out that her boyfriend is married and that she’s his mistress, a woman teams up with the jerk’s wife to get revenge. Ignores dozens of potentially edgy possibilities to tell the most banal story imaginable — and to do it badly. With Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton.
Lullaby *½ Directed by Andrew Levitas. A man (Garrett Hedlund) who’s estranged from his family receives word that his father has chosen to take himself off life support within 48 hours. This feature debut deals mainly in clichés, never transforming the tough question at its center into compelling cinema. With Richard Jenkins, Jessica Brown Findlay, Anne Archer, Jennifer Hudson, Jessica Barden, Terrence Howard, Amy Adams.