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.
Cold in July ***½ Directed by Jim Mickle. Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, Don Johnson, Vinessa Shaw. When a man kills a home invader in self-defense, the burglar’s father begins threatening the victim’s young son. The first half of Cold in July is tense and suspenseful, albeit in a conventional way; the second half is sickeningly compelling. It’s hard to watch and hard to look away from.
Chef *** Directed by Jon Favreau. Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Oliver Platt, Bobby Cannavale, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Downey Jr. A chef who loses his restaurant job starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family. Like so much in Chef, the plot resolution seems contrived and a bit silly. By then, though, we’ve had plenty of laughs, and generous helpings of warm feelings — the meat and potatoes of real life.
Hellion **½ Directed by Kat Candler. Aaron Paul, Juliette Lewis. When 13-year-old delinquent Jacob lures his little brother, Wes, into trouble, the state sends the younger boy to live with an aunt. Now Jacob and his recently widowed father struggle to reform their lives and put their family back together. A little more deviating from the playbook would make Hellion stand out more amidst an ever-growing pack of similar films.
Are You Here *½ Directed by Matthew Weiner. Owen Wilson, Zach Galifinakis, Amy Poehler. Two childhood best friends embark on a road trip back to their hometown after one of them learns he has inherited a large sum of money from his recently deceased estranged father. If Weiner’s Are You Here is good for anything, it’s to illustrate how the themes and conflicts he has worked out with such depth and dexterity in all these seasons of Mad Men can go terribly amiss with the wrong actors, wrong backdrop, wrong tone, wrong time.
Third Person *½ Directed by Paul Haggis. Olivia Wilde, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis, Kim Basinger, Maria Bello, Adrien Brody. Three interlocking love stories involving three couples in three cities: Rome, Paris, and New York. Derivative and self-important, Third Person is a concept and not much more, precisely the sort of film that makes you wonder why anybody would bother to see it at all.
Transformers: Age of Extinction *½ Directed by Michael Bay. Mark Wahlberg, Kelsey Grammer, Stanley Tucci. A mechanic and his family join the Autobots as they are targeted by a bounty hunter from another world. It’s big, it’s loud and it’s all over the place, never really making a lick of sense. To his credit, sort of, director Bay tries to insert a little story into the film early on, even a little humor, but that’s overrun at some point by explosions and plot digressions.