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.
Manakamana ****½ Directed by Stephanie Spray, Pacho Velez. A documentary about a group of pilgrims who travel to Nepal to worship at the legendary Manakamana temple. A haunting experience, one that requires patience (and then some) but that offers spiritual, philosophical, and aesthetic rewards beyond the immediate power of words to describe.
The Empty Hours **** Directed by Aarón Fernández Lesur. On the desolated coast of Veracruz, 17 year-old Sebastián (Kristyan Ferrer) takes over running his uncle’s small and cozy rent-by-the hour motel. There he meets Miranda (Adriana Paz), a regular customer who comes to the motel to meet a lover who always keeps her waiting. Full of long takes and matter-of-fact performances, melancholy low-contrast cinematography and desolate vistas suffused with acute loneliness, The Empty Hours captures the feeling of idling away the time, waiting for something to arrive.
Only Lovers Left Alive **** Directed by Jim Jarmusch. Depressed over the state of the human world, underground musician Adam (Tom Hiddleston) — a vampire — hooks up again with Eve (Tilda Swinton), his mysterious lover of many centuries. Jarmusch has made a vampire movie, but, as you might expect, not just any old vampire movie. Twilight fans will not be amused, but Jarmusch’s usual coterie of art-film followers will likely find the movie his best in years. With Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin, John Hurt.
The Dance of Reality ***½ Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky. Chilean filmmaker Jodorowsky weaves the story of his early years with mythical themes, recounting his unhappy childhood and how he was molded by a tyrannical communist father and free-spirited mother amid a landscape of political turmoil. This film, which deserves a place alongside Amarcord as a fantastical take on coming of age, is the work of a wise and experienced old soul with the heart and curiosity of a young man in love with life.
Go For Sisters *** Directed by John Sayles. Just out of prison, Fontayne (Yolanda Ross) is enlisted by Bernice (LisaGay Hamilton), her estranged old friend and current parole officer, along with a disgraced cop (Edward James Olmos) to search for Bernice’s son, who went missing on the Mexican border. Like too many of Sayles’ films, this one seems bound to slip through the cracks, not quite memorable enough to make a lasting impression.
Fading Gigolo *** Directed by John Turturro. Middle-aged Fioravante (Turturro) and Murray (Woody Allen) are an unlikely gigolo and pimp in this farce about two cash-strapped friends who turn to the sex trade to make ends meet. A low-energy drama, but the kind that has a way of holding your attention — and keeping you smiling — for the entire time you’re watching it, lifting your mood in the process. With Vanessa Paradis, Liev Schreiber, Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara.
The Amazing Spiderman 2 **½ Directed by Marc Webb. Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) squares off against the Rhino (Paul Giamatti) and the powerful Electro (Jamie Foxx) while struggling to keep his promise to leave Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) out of his dangerous life. There are too many explosions, too many blaring sonic effects, too many break-ups-and-make-ups, too many villains. And not enough heart.
The Sacrament **½ Directed by Ti West. Another one of those "found footage" films that recounts the story of an exiled Christian cult and the grisly events that transpire after three journalists — one looking for his missing sister — arrive at the commune. Because the film is meant to resemble documentary footage, West is forced to effectively "play dumb," disguising his craftsmanship behind a lot of intentionally cruddy handheld camerawork. Still, that’d be less of a problem if the material he was gracelessly filming weren’t such run-of-the-mill claptrap.
The Quiet Ones ** Directed by John Pogue. Charismatic Professor Coupland (Jared Harris) and a few of his brightest students set out to summon a poltergeist. There are a couple of decent jumps and a few giggles, but nothing armrest-clenchingly scary about this movie.