Monday, December 29, 2014

New movies released on DVD in 2014: From best to worst

4-star films
1.  12 Years a Slave
2.  Gravity
3.  Inside Llewyn Davis
4.  American Hustle
5.  Her
6.  Ida
7.  The Act of Killing

3 1/2-star films
8.  The Grand Budapest Hotel
9.  Blue Is the Warmest Color
10. All Is Lost
11. We Are the Best!
12. The Missing Picture
13. Nebraska
14. The Great Beauty
15. Ernest & Celestine
16. Fruitvale Station
17. The Past
18. Dallas Buyers Club
19. Snowpiercer
20. Captain Phillips
21. The Lego Movie
22. The Wind Rises
23. Gloria
24. 20 Feet From Stardom
25. The Selfish Giant
26. The Spectacular Now
27. Short Term 12
28. Stranger By the Lake
29. Cutie and the Boxer
30. Locke
31. Wadjda
32. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
33. Pride
34. Jodorowsky's Dune
35. In a World
36. Blue Jasmine
37. Only Lovers Left Alive
38. Enough Said
39. Under the Skin

3-star films
40. Calvary
41. Blue Ruin
42. Mother of George
43. Abuse of Weakness
44. Guardians of the Galaxy
45. Philomena
46. How to Train Your Dragon 2
47. Obvious Child
48. Tim's Vermeer
49. The Lunchbox
50. The Guest
51. Blue Caprice
52. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
53. Rush
54. The Invisible Woman
55. The Wolf of Wall Street
56. Night Moves
57. The Trip to Italy
58. Frank
59. Omar
60. The Punk Singer
61. The Dance of Reality
62. Frozen
63. X-Men: Days of Future Past
64. Joe
65. The Skeleton Twins
66. Finding Vivian Maier
67. A Most Wanted Man
68. Cold in July
69. Like Father, Like Son
70. Le Weekend
71. The Grandmaster
72. 22 Jump Street
73. Edge of Tomorrow
74. The Raid 2
75. The Broken Circle Breakdown
76. We Are What We Are
77. Fed Up
78. Captain America: Winter Soldier
79. Happy Christmas
80. The Fault in Our Stars
81. Palo Alto
82. The Unknown Known
83. Venus in Furs
84. Noah
85. Neighbors
86. Chef
87. Land Ho!
88. The Double
89. Inequality for All
90. The Armstrong Lie
91. Korengal
92. The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden

2 1/2-star films
93. Lee Daniels' The Butler
94. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
95. You're Next
96. Alan Partridge
97. The One I Love
98. Borgman
99. Saving Mr. Banks
100. The Good Lie
101. Kill Your Darlings
102. Nymphomaniac Volume 1
103. Belle
104. The Rover
105. Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon
106. The Patience Stone
107. Chinese Puzzle
108. Kelly & Cal
109. Out of the Furnace
110. Young & Beautiful
111. The Congress
112. Big Bad Wolves
113. A Coffee in Berlin
114. Godzilla
115. Begin Again
116. Veronica Mars
117. About Last Night
118. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
119. Muppets Most Wanted
120. Oculus
121. Lone Survivor
122. Nymphomaniac Volume II
123. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
124. Enemy
125. They Came Together
126. Breathe In
127. Life of Crime
128. Great Expectations
129. What If
130. The Railway Man
131. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
132. Mr. Peabody and Sherman
133. The Best Man Holiday
134. Go for Sisters
135. Hateship Loveship
136. August: Osage County
137. Fading Gigolo
138. Dolphin Tale 2
139. Escape From Tomorrow
140. Deepsea Challenge
141. The Equalizer
142. Bad Words
143. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
144. How I Live Now
145. The Grand Seduction
146. 1,000 Times Good Night
147. Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead
148. Million Dollar Arm
149. Non-Stop
150. Maleficent
151. The Maze Runner
152. Filth
153. For No Good Reason
154. The Fluffy Movie

2-star films
155. Dom Hemingway
156. About Time
157. I'm So Excited
158. The Hundred-Foot Journey
159. Tusk
160. Hellion
161. Thor: The Dark World
162. Magic in the Moonlight
163. Draft Day
164. Jersey Boys
165. Thanks for Sharing
166. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
167. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
168, Mood Indigo
169. The Amazing Spiderman 2
170. Earth to Echo
171. The Signal
172. The Book Thief
173. Carrie
174. The Monuments Men
175. Labor Day
176. Robocop
177. Cuban Fury
178. Ender's Game
179. Closed Circuit
180. Cesar Chavez
181. God's Pocket
182. The Face of Love
183. A Five Star Life
184. Half a Yellow Sun
185. The Purge: Anarchy
186. A.C.O.D.
187. Life After Beth
188. War Story
189. Riddick
190. Oldboy
191. Escape Plan
192. The Fifth Estate
193. Words and Pictures
194. The Sacrament
195. Afternoon Delight
196. Stalingrad
197. Rio 2
198. Elsa & Fred
199. The Counselor
200. Divergent
201. Last Vegas
202. 300: Rise of an Empire
203. Planes: Fire & Rescue
204. Black Nativity
205. In Secret
206. The Giver
207. Heaven Is For Real
208. Hercules
209. At the Devil's Door
210. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
211. If I Stay
212. Step Up: All In

1 1/2-star films
213. A Million Ways to Die in the West
214. This Is Where I Leave You
215. Delivery Man
216. Into the Storm
217. Wish I Was Here
218. Stephen King's A Good Marriage
219. Transcendence
220. Devil's Knot
221. Austenland
222. Machete Kills
223. Ride Along
224. The Quiet Ones
225. Sabotage
226. Romeo and Juliet
227. When the Game Stands Tall
228. Deliver Us From Evil
229. Brick Mansions
230. 3 Days to Kill
231. Homefront
232. Last Weekend
233. The Other Woman
234. Tammy
235. Pompeii
236. Need for Speed
237. And So It Goes
238. Free Birds
239. Think Like a Man Too
240. The Jungle Book 2
241. As Above, So Below
242. The November Man
243. Third Person
244. Gimme Shelter
245. Walking with Dinosaurs
246. The Nut Job
247. Are You Here
248. Son of God
249. That Awkward Moment
250. Sex Tape
251. Runner Runner
252. The Expendables 3
253. Grudge Match
254. Diana
255. A Long Way Down
256. Baggage Claim

1-star films
257. The Christmas Candle
258. The Hero of Color City
259. Transformers: Age of Extinction
260. Blended
261. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
262. Winter's Tale
263. Let's Be Cops
264. Endless Love
265. I, Frankenstein
266. Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas
267. 47 Ronin
268. Cam2Cam
269. Mom's Night Out
270. Legend of Oz: Dorothy's Return

1/2-star films
271. Reach Me
272. Kite


This Weeks’ DVD Releases

(Click on title to see the film’s trailer)

Kelly & Cal **½ Directed by Jen McGowan. Juliette Lewis. Struggling with the challenges of parenthood, a dispirited young mother (Lewis) finds an unlikely friend and confidante in her paralyzed teenage neighbor (Jonny Weston). It’s easy to see how an unhappy transition to suburban mommyhood might be enough to unhinge any self-respecting former punk rocker but, even so, it’s a little hard to take the angst-ridden mid-life shenanigans in Kelly & Cal seriously.

The Equalizer **½ Directed by Antoine Fuqua. Denzel Washington, Chloë Grace Moretz, Melissa Leo, Bill Pulman. A former intelligence operative comes out of retirement to help a young prostitute, only to end up in the Russian Mafia’s crosshairs. Bring on the sequel please, because, as fine as Denzel is, director Fuqua’s film is not so good — a self-consciously stylized, stop-and-start hodgepodge of Death Wish street vengeance, Bond-style Russian villainy, and moodily shot Boston locales.

Tusk ** Directed by Kevin Smith. Michael Parks, Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment, Genesis Rodriguez. When podcaster Wallace Bryton goes missing in the backwoods of Manitoba while interviewing a mysterious seafarer named Howard Howe, his best friend Teddy and girlfriend Allison team with an ex-cop to look for him. This is not a particularly good movie, but the vivid anxiety dream at its heart makes it one of the most personal films this writer-director has ever made.

Elsa & Fred ** Directed by Michael Radford. After losing his wife, Fred (Christopher Plummer) feels disturbed, confused and alone, so his daughter (Marcia Gay Harden) helps move him into a small apartment where he meets Elsa (Shirley Maclaine). The corny love story is all the more disappointing given the pedigree of the octogenarian actors.

Stephen King’s A Good Marriage Directed by Peter Askin. Joan Allen, Anthony LaPaglia. With a serial killer on the loose and a disheveled stranger stalking her, a devoted wife has further cause for alarm after she unwittingly uncovers an ominous secret about her husband that threatens their happy marriage. Comes off as curiously flat for a movie about a woman who sleeps next to a murderer every night.

Last Weekend Directed by Tom Dolby, Tom Williams. Patricia Clarkson. When an affluent matriarch gathers her dysfunctional family for a holiday at their Northern California lake house, her carefully constructed weekend begins to come apart at the seams. The characters flutter about, argue and flirt, but they are simply too bland and vacuous to make much of an impression. It doesn’t help that half of them serve no purpose other than to fill the camera frame.

Reach Me ½* Directed by John Herzfeld. Danny Aiello, Tom Berenger, Lauren Cohan, Kevin Connolly, Terry Crews, Cary Elwes, Kelsey Grammer, Omari Hardwick, Elizabeth Henstridge, Thomas Jane, Ryan Kwanten, Nelly, David O’Hara, Kyra Sedgwick, Tom Sizemore, Sylvester Stallone, Danny Trejo. A motivational book written by a mysterious man quickly gains popularity, inspiring a group of people that includes a journalist, his editor, a former inmate, a hip-hop mogul, an actor and an undercover cop to re-evaluate their choices and decisions by confronting their fears in hopes of creating more positive lives. A misbegotten venture that constantly ups its own ante on histrionic overacting, ludicrous plot twists and insipid empowerment mantras.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Oh, mama, is this really the end?

A few observations before I plunge head first into the holidays.

  • The Austin chapter of the Society of Financial Service Professionals took out a full page advertisement in today’s Austin American Statesman that features the name, affiliation and mugshot of each of its members. I’m not sure it was the wisest thing to do, at least in these times. There are 27 mugs on the page: 23 white men and 4 white woman. It looks like shots of the Republican Congressional leadership group. C’mon gang, there’s got to be a "financial service professional" of color somewhere in Austin you will allow into your Klan.
  • There’s also a story in today’s newspaper about a troublemaker in the East Texas town of Rusk who thought he should be able to put up a non-religious display alongside the nativity scene on view behind the county courthouse. The powers-that-be followed the East Texas non-tolerant script verbatim and told that lad "You gotta be kidding me. Get outta here." So the lad, along with a few of his friends demonstrated outside the courthouse where they were greeted with a typical East Texas neck holding a sign that said "If this was back in Bible times, all y’all would’ve been stoned." Yeah, boy, that’s the Christian spirit!
  • The best line I’ve heard recently comes in a commercial for, of all things, a cellphone app for a war game in which a rather healthy looking blonde woman encourages her troops about to go into battle by telling them: "You have absolutely nothing to fear except for what’s about to come out of those woods."

Monday, December 22, 2014

This Week’s DVD Releases

(Click on title to see the film’s trailer)

Pride ***½ Directed by Matthew Warchus. Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West, Paddy Considine. In an unlikely alliance, striking British mineworkers draw support from a coalition of gay and lesbian activists who solicit donations to help tide over the miners’ families during the 1984 standoff with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government. The film moves effortlessly from some pretty intense dramatic moments to hilarious scenes showcasing the contrasting lifestyles of the gay and straight worlds to some vignettes of incredible poignancy.

The Trip to Italy *** Directed by Michael Winterbottom. Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon. Two men, six meals in six different places on a road trip around Italy. It’s Sideways meets My Dinner With Andre — a low-key, sensual affair punctuated by off-the-cuff moments of brilliant wit and wordplay — and the result is delectable.

The Good Lie **½ Directed by Philippe Falardeau. Reese Witherspoon. Sudanese refugees given the chance to resettle in America arrive in Kansas City, where their encounter with an employment agency counselor changes their lives. The images have the power to disturb but lack the gut-punch impact necessary to give us an immediate and lasting connection to the protagonists.

A Thousand Times Good Night **½ Directed by Erik Poppe. Juliette Binoche, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. After a near-death experience, a top war photojournalist (Binoche) is forced to choose between her work and the family on whom she depends. The first English-language film from Norwegian director Poppe is a conscientious and beautifully shot movie that ultimately bogs down in its own disinclination to come to any kind of dramatically useful conclusion about its subject.

Monday, December 15, 2014

This Week’s DVD Releases

Click on title to see the film’s trailer

The Guest *** Directed by Adam Wingard. Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe. A soldier introduces himself to the Peterson family, claiming to be a friend of their son who died in action. After the young man is welcomed into their home, a series of accidental deaths seem to be connected to his presence. It’s hellish good fun. Stevens is mesmerizing as the avenger, helping director Wingard turn The Guest into a blast of wicked mirth and malice.

The Skeleton Twins *** Directed by Craig Johnson. Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Luke Wilson, Ty Burrell. Having both coincidentally cheated death on the same day, estranged twins reunite with the possibility of mending their relationship. If a movie with suicide as a central theme can be deemed funny, then writer/director Johnson has pulled it off, mixing heartache and humor and giving Wiig, especially, the opportunity to shine.

The Maze Runner **½ Directed by Wes Ball. In a postapocalyptic future, an amnesiac named Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) wakes up to find himself trapped with a group of other teenage boys in a mysterious community called the Glade, where they must uncover the deadly secrets of a giant maze in order to survive. It’s bleak business, and as it hurries toward its explosive, expository conclusion, the film becomes nonsensical, too.

Magic in the Moonlight ** Directed by Woody Allen. Eileen Atkins, Colin Firth, Marcia Gay Harden, Hamish Linklater, Suimon McBurney, Emma Stone, Jacki Weaver. Exposing a phony soothsayer proves harder than expected when the debunker (an Englishman) becomes smitten with the purported fraud (a French beauty). It starts off with a flourish and winds up limp, like a rabbit pulled out of a hat that turns out to be dead.

At the Devil’s Door ** Directed by Nicholas McCarthy. When a gung-ho real-estate agent is asked to unload a house with a dark past, she encounters the sellers’ unhinged daughter. Goes right up to the threshold of being an interesting possession saga but never truly gets inside.

This Is Where I Leave You Directed by Shawn Levy. Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, Kathryn Hahn, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant, Dax Shepard, Jane Fonda. In accordance with Jewish custom, four siblings gather to sit shivah after their father’s death but are soon bickering and renewing old grudges. A totally aimble, utterly unmoving filler given a major shot in the arm by its cast, people it’s simply a pleasure to watch, even with the creeping feeling they’re better than this.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles * Directed by Jonathan Liebesman. Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Johnny Knoxville, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, William Fichtner, Whoopi Goldberg, Tony Shalhoub. When a kingpin threatens New York City, a group of mutated turtle warriors must emerge from the shadows to protect their home. This isn’t a movie; it’s a brand re-launch that’s going to satisfy stockholders far more than it’s going to entertain the people who paid to rent or buy it.

Cam2Cam * Directed by Joel Soisson. While on vacation in Bangkok, Allie Westbrook (Tammin Sursok) meets two expatriate men who invite her to participate in a racy sounding online game. Ostensibly a lame treatise on how slippery self-image can be in the Internet age, the film ultimately reveals itself as a much lamer treatise on the evil sorcery of female sexuality.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Big 12 football fans: Stop your whining

It’s still going on: all this groaning and whining and gnashing of teeth all because poor TCU and poor Baylor got left out of the four-team college football playoff. I read four letters to the editor about it in this morning’s newspaper. Get over it. The system worked. The four best teams got in. And we don’t need to expand the playoff to six, eight or 16 teams to remedy the situation. It’s absolutely fine just the way it is.

How could the voters have TCU ranked No. 3 the week before the final poll and then drop them all the way to sixth at the end, these groaners ask. Actually, that’s not exactly the way it happened. Ohio State played itself into the No. 4 slot. Regardless of what any Big 12 apologist claims, Ohio State’s (and I was not a supporter of the school’s top four qualifications before this) final victory, a 59-0 thrashing of Wisconsin, was not only, by far, the most powerful statement made by any college football team that weekend, but one of the most overpowering of the entire season. And not just because it was in a conference championship game, as the detractors claim, but because it was against a team that was ranked 11th in the AP poll going into the game, had a running back that wound up being the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, and had only lost a game by more than one score once in the last five years. They held that Heisman runner-up, Melvin Gordon, to 76 yards on 26 carries, his second worst performance of the season. Not only that, the Buckeyes were a 4½-point underdog going into the game because the week before they had lost their starting quarterback to a season-ending injury. Nothing that the TCU or Baylor did that weekend — or the entire season, for that matter — even came close to matching what Ohio State did the final weekend of the season. Also consider this: Ohio State finished the season on an 11-game winning streak and defeated nine bowl-eligible teams, all but two by double digits. Ohio State earned that No. 4 ranking.

But there are overlooked reasons why this four-team playoff system worked so well. I don’t know about you, but under the BCS system, the only bowl games I cared one bit about were the BCS championship game and whatever Bowl Texas was in. However, this year, we’ve got a number of high-tier bowl games that are not only extremely watchable, but, if the oddsmakers are correct, will be more thrilling than the semifinals of the playoffs. The Peach Bowl (when was the last time anyone outside of Georgia cared about the Peach Bowl?) has an intriguing TCU-Ole Miss matchup in which TCU is 3½-point favorite. The Cotton Bowl this year will feature a Baylor team that lost its last bowl appearance 52-42 to Central Florida facing a far tougher Michigan State squad. Baylor is a 3-point favorite. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time either the Peach or the Cotton bowls seemed this attractive and it’s all because of a playoff system that worked. As a comparison, Ohio State is a 9½-point dog to Alabama and Oregon is favored over defending national champion Florida State by 9.Only two other bowls have a wider spread.

So here, in short, is what happened to Baylor and TCU: they got passed over by a better team. My advice: Quit crying about it and play your way into the playoff in 2015.

Monday, December 8, 2014

This Week’s DVD Releases

(Click on title to view the film’s trailer)

Calvary *** Directed by John Michael McDonagh. Brendan Gleeson. An anonymous man comes to Father James in confession and vows to kill him in one week, simply because the priest is himself a good man. McDonagh (who wrote and directed The Guard and is the brother of Martin In Bruges McDonagh) has crafted a darkly hilarious and deeply ruminative update on the passion play.

Guardians of the Galaxy *** Directed by James Gunn. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro. A group of space criminals must work together to stop the fanatical villain Ronan the Accuser from destroying the galaxy. Though the special effects win the day, Guardians of the Galaxy holds court with a sense of humor that transcends its more familiar ingredients.

Frank *** Directed by Lenny Abrahamson. Domnhall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scott McNairy, Michael Fassbinder. An aspiring musician joins a band of eccentrics led by an enigmatic singer — who wears a fake head — and his unstable girlfriend. A film that is always interesting, largely thanks to an entirely committed cast and a writer willing to play with themes like a band improvising until it finds the right tune. There are a few off-key notes but the melody finally comes together.

Dolphin Tale 2 **½ Directed by Charles Martin Smith. Harry Connick Jr., Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson. The team of people who saved Winter’s life reassemble in the wake of her surrogate mother’s passing in order to find her a companion so she can remain at the Clearwater Marine Hospital. Life lessons are learned, children do some growing up, nothing too terribly upsetting happens, and the corniness is, mostly, kept to tolerable levels.

Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead **½ Directed by Tommy Wirkola. After medical student Martin escapes from Nazi zombies, he finds himself charged with murdering his friends. The film is playful throughout. Unfortunately, the shoddy treatment of the film’s sole LGBT character and a tendency to use people in wheelchairs as punchlines mar this otherwise delightful gruesome confection.

When the Game Stands Tall Directed by Thomas Carter. Jim Caviezel, Michael Chiklis, Alexander Ludwig, Laura Dern. The journey of football coach Bob Ladouceur (Caviezel), who took the De La Salle High School Spartans from obscurity to a 151-game winning streak that shattered all records for any American sport. Hoosiers this ain’t. The redemptive final game has some nice plays and bone-crunching sound effects, but no grit. Ultimately, it’s a ho-hum, bromide-filled production undeserving of a victory dance.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

In new college football playoff system it’s what you call the game the counts

I really hope Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby is on the phone right now. And I hope he stays on the phone until he convinces two of these four teams — Colorado State, BYU, Utah State or Boise State — to leave the conference they are currently members of and join the Big 12. Then it all becomes symmetrical again — you actually have 12 teams in a conference called the Big 12.

But symmetry and logic are the least important reasons for adding these teams. Th real reason is that then you can divide the conference into a South Division — consisting of Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas and Texas Tech — and a North Division with Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, West Virginia and whatever two new teams are added.

Why is that important? Because then you can have a conference championship game and it appears you need to have a conference championship game in order to make it into college football’s four-team playoff. All four teams in the playoff — Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State — won a conference championship this weekend. The two teams left out — Baylor and TCU of the Big 12 — won convincingly yesterday, but they only won regularly scheduled games.

Baylor defeated a very good Kansas State team 38-27. Had the Big 12 had 12 teams in the conference and that Baylor-Kansas State game had been a Conference Championship game and not just a regular season game, I absolutely guarantee you Baylor would replace Ohio State as the No. 4 team in the playoffs. The Bears finished fifth only because that game wasn’t set up as a championship game.

That’s why I hope Bowlsby is on the phone taking steps to correct this injustice.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Bad Apology

It’s a ridiculous idea to begin with: the President of the United States (the most powerful human being in the Free World) pardoning a pair of turkeys. And by that I don’t mean two movies like Dumb and Dumber Too and The Legend of Hercules; I’m talking about the feathered birds usually devoured on Thanksgiving. But even Presidents must endure ridiculous ceremonies so Barack Obama, joined by his two teenage daughters, Mahlia and Sasha, participated n the sparing of the birds. All three looked as if they desperately wanted to be anywhere else but where they were. Especially Mahlia and Sasha who came across just as you would expect any 13-year-old and 16-year-old would. The whole affair would have been quickly forgotten if not for Elizabeth Lauten, a communications director, of all things, for Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., who wrote on her Facebook page:

"Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department. Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised public events."

The only part of this I’m not surprised about is that it came from the office of a southern Republican, who just hate the fact that a black man is in the White House. The reason they oppose all of Obama’s policies is not because they are against them so much, (for example, a bi-partisan immigration reform bill that passed the Senate would pass the House if Republicans there would simply let it come up for a vote) as they simply hate Barack Obama. The kind of personal attacks such as the above one leveled by Ms. Lauten are simply another example.

But going after the President’s two teen-age daughters is simply going too far. And I guess the public outcry over Ms. Lauten’s Facebook post made her realize that fact, so she issued the following apology:

"I wanted to take a moment and apologize for a post I made on Facebook early today judging Sasha and Malia Obama at the annual White House turkey pardoning ceremony. When I first posted on Facebook I reacted to an article and quickly judged two young ladies in a way I would never have wanted to be judged myself as a teenager. After many hours of prayer, talking to my parents, and re-reading my words online I can see more clearly just how hurtful my words were. I'd like to apologize to all of those who I have hurt and offended with my words, and I pledge to learn and grow (and I assure you I have) from this experience."

That is a terrible apology for two reasons:

1. She didn’t apologize to the individuals she should have been apologizing to. She should have begun her apology by saying "I wanted to take a moment and apologize profusely to Sasha and Malia Obama for a post I made on Facebook today judging them at the ...."

2. The statement " I'd like to apologize to all of those who I have hurt and offended with my words ..." She is not apologizing for what she said, like she should be; she only seems to be sorry because some folks were "hurt and offended" by what she said.

And this from someone serving in the capacity as a congressman’s communications director.

Well, to be accurate, a former communications director. Elizabeth Lauten has resigned, as well she should, especially after communicating a wrongheaded Facebook criticism of the President’s daughter followed by a misguided apology that wasn’t really an apology at all.

Monday, December 1, 2014

My Top 25 College Football Teams

Last week's ranking in parenthesis
1.  Alabama 11-1 (1)
2.  Oregon 11-1 (2)
3.  TCU 10-1 (4)
4.  Ohio State 11-1 (8)
5.  Florida State 12-0 (6)
6.  Mississippi 9-3 (11)
7.  Mississippi State 10-2 (3)
8.  Baylor 10-1 (7)
9.  Michigan State 10-2 (12)
10. Georgia 9-3 (5)
11. Kansas State 9-2 (13)
12. Wisconsin 10-2 (14)
13. Georgia Tech 10-24 (19)
14. Arizona 10-2 (16)
15. Auburn 8-4 (10)
16. Missouri 10-2 (17)
17. UCLA 9-3 (9)
18. Oklahoma 8-3 (15)
19. LSU 8-4 (21)
20. Boise State 10-2 (NR)
21. Arizona State 9-3 (18)
22. Clemson 9-3 (24)
23. USC 8-4 (25)
24. Nebraska 9-3 (NR)
25. Louisville 9-3 (23)
Dropped out: Marshall (20), Arkansas (22)

This Week’s DVD Releases

(Click on title to see trailer)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ***½ Directed by Matt Reeves. Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Judy Greer, Kod Smit-McPhee. Ten years after a pandemic disease, apes who have survived it are drawn into battle with a group of human survivors. Not quite the intimate parable of the first movie nor a balls-to-the-wall battlefield extravaganza, Dawn is pitched somewhere in the middle, with much of its two hour-plus running time powered by the simmering, expertly sustained tension both between and within the two species.

The Congress **½ Directed by Ari Folman, Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel, Paul Giamatti, Danny Hustion, Jon Hamm, Kodi Smit-McPhee. A film star agrees to have her digital image recorded for reuse in future films. Despite the handsome payoff, however, she begins to recognize some unforeseen consequences of the deal. Folman’s vision is just too personal and obtuse, and the result can feel rather like watching someone else drop acid, enjoying their giddy descriptions of all the pretty colors but unable to fully engage.

The Hundred-Foot Journey ** Directed by Lasse Hallström. Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Charlotte La Bon. The Kadam family leaves India for France where they open a restaurant directly across the road from Madame Mallory’s Michelin-starred eatery. It delivers the kind of sentimental sledgehammering I found myself willing to forgive — the presence of Helen Mirren goes a long way in that regard — but once the story goes off on a pointless tangent, the whole soufflé collapses.

As Above, So Below Directed by John Erick Dowdle. When a team of explorers ventures into the catacombs that lie beneath the streets of Paris, they uncover a dark secret. It’s more unpleasant than scary, and ever so slow in getting up to speed.

The Hero of Color City * Directed by Frank Gladstone. A diverse band of crayons strive to protect not only their magical multihued homeland but the imagination of children everywhere from a terrifying monster. Cannily distills the children’s movie to its lowest common denominator: bright colors flashing on screen.

Kite ½* Directed by Ralph Ziman. India Eisley, Callan McAuliffe, Samuel L. Jackson. When her cop father is killed, a young woman tracks the murderer with the apparent help of his ex-partner. A kill-a-minute gore-a-thon whose twist is so obvious your grandma will see it coming. Kite never gets off the ground.