Gordon & Barbara in Paris

Gordon & Barbara in Paris
Here's Looking at YOU

Friday, December 24, 2010

Grown Ups

GROWN UPS—Directed by Dennis Dugan/Writers: Adam Sandler, Fred Wolf/starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, and David Spade/102 mins/PG-13

(B) I can’t say anything good about this movie. I was not entertained, but rather very annoyed. I’ve already spent too much time on this one.
(G) Horrible! Just awful! Possibly the least entertaining movie I’ve ever had the displeasure of wasting my time viewing. Not worth a single monocle. In our (and the movie’s) defense, we were directed to this co-called comedy by some of our children and grandchildren who found it hilarious.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Fighter

THE FIGHTER--Directed by David O. Russell/ Starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo—1 hr 54 min/ R/ screenplay written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson from a story by Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson & Keith Dorrington

(B) This film is about a struggle between two brothers whose personal dreams are challenged by family conflict. One brother has lost his dream (partly due to drugs) but the other brother still has hope. The only thing possibly standing in the hopeful brother’s way is the hopeless brother’s choices. The stage is set for a drama that tugs at your heart. All performances are notable, however, for me Christian Bale’s had the edge, mainly because of the role he was given. Another performance that got my attention was that of Melissa Leo who plays the mother of these brothers. I don’t recall seeing her in other films, but a supporting role nomination would not surprise me. I recommend this film, especially because it was based on a true story and if you are not a fan of boxing, you probably are a fan of family. I give this film three and a half-binoculars.

(G) I was not in the mood for another boxing movie, and luckily I was pleasantly surprised to find that this film transcended my expectations and assuaged my fears. In simple language, this is really NOT a boxing movie at all, though a true knowledge of boxing and of the hardships of training in a brutal sport come shining through, behind a uniquely told, age-old story. This is really (as Barbara pointed out earlier) a movie about choices and about something we don’t have a choice in…our families. There is even a very subtle Anti-Drug message, concealed behind the struggle of the Christian Bale character to hold onto his brief moment of celebrity at the risk of destroying his younger brother’s chance (Mark Wahlberg) of true success. I thought that everything worked well and the casting was superb, especially if you knew the true story that is behind the one portrayed on the screen. However (and this is an important point) knowing that Mickey Ward was an actual champion boxer, and his brother stood toe-to-toe with Sugar Ray Leonard is really unimportant. The Fighter can be enjoyed by both men and women, as a film about two brothers (one with a hot girlfriend played by Amy Adams). If I had not just seen The King’s Speech, this likely would have been my favorite movie of 2010. I agree with Barbara (again) the film starts out a little slowly and, though builds to a rousing conclusion, earns a near-perfect three and a half binoculars.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Richiusa Channel 6 Shidoshi interview

Rob was very well prepared for this television interview he conducted with me, regarding the release of SHIDOSHI.

Friday, December 17, 2010


THE KING’S SPEECH—Starring Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Derek Jacobi/ Geofrey Rush and Guy Pearce/ rated R/ 1 hr. 51 minutes.

(G) The King's Speech is billed as a British historical drama following the true story of King George VI, unexpected ascension to the throne and the speech therapist who helped the stammering monarch overcome his impediment and self-doubt to become the leader of Britain just prior to WWII. On the surface, this seems like it could be pretty dry, but surprisingly it was just the right stuff to make this, at this late date on the cinema calendar, my absolute favorite movie of the year. As a scriptwriter, teacher and lover all things communicative, I was enthralled by the suspense of a script that hinged on a speech defect. I’m not kidding. I found it emotionally very stirring to witness these royal performances. Colin Firth as the king-to-be was an inspired performance, perfect in every nuance. You could feel his frustration every time a syllable got stuck in his throat. It was something that everyone could relate to, since the fear of public speaking EXCEEDS the fear of death, on the fear-o-meter, according to actual scientists who measure those things. However, this ultimate fear also was ingeniously united to all manner of human conflicts. Public speaking for a stutterer is bad enough, but for someone who has the ultimate responsibility to speak publicly in a time of world calamity, it is beyond what most of us could ever imagine. The good King had to overcome his fear, to rouse resistance against the greatest orator of evil that the world has ever known…Adolph Hitler! Now that was courage and I’m a sucker for this kind of story. Every performance was stellar and though I haven’t seen all of the movies up for awards yet, I think this one is the one to beat. Four binocular all the way!

(B) Well, after Gordon’s review of The Kings Speech, there’s not a lot left for me to say. I agree with him, therefore I won’t bore you by being redundant (note from Gordon: Read this part with a British accent). I might add that Geofrey Rush stands out in my mind as the best performance. The settings in this movie seemed real to me and not overdone even in the presence of royalty. It worked quite well for me, you see, because it did not distract from the story. Four binoculars for me as well. Chereo!


THE TOURIST--directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp/ 1hr 43min - ‎Rated PG-13

(B) Again Gordon has done his review before me and he does drive me nuts because once he makes up his mind, he won’t budge. Jolie is gorgeous, granted, but in Hollywood they are a dime a dozen. She draws attention to herself by her lifestyle, living outside the box. Jennifer Aniston knows more about comedy than Jolie will ever know. A successful series
called, “Friends” comes to mind and PLEASE Cher in Burlesque a no-nod, in comedy and Jolie is? Jolie’s nomination for best actress in a comedy is what is funny. Come on, people, really! This film was light entertainment starring two popular beautiful people at best. One and a half binoculars for me, because I like to look at beautiful things.

(G) I am a big Angelina Jolie fan, partly because she’s a great actress, partly because she’s gorgeous and partly because it seems to drive Barbara nuts—my lovely wife will never forgive Angelina for stealing Brad away from Jennifer Aniston (an actress I find to be greatly overrated). In all honesty though, there have only been a few times when I could say that the whole Jolie package really came together for me. She was O.K. in the Lara Croft series, but let’s face it. She was merely portraying a video-game heroine in that one. While many consider The Good Shepherd or Alexander noteworthy, Mr. and Mrs. Smith and her work as the voice of the Master Tigress in Kung Fu Panda are by far her most successful films. I think she was robbed of well-deserved accolades for her performance in Changeling but her performance in The Tourist, did not even raise her heart rate. Both she and Depp appear bored with the whole thing. Each seems to be merely going through the motions of acting in this one. The movie is not completely disappointing, but it comes about as close to failure as anything with this caliber of stars. I did not like the camera work and think that a little post-production could have gone a long way to satisfy me, at least, on a travelogue level. You would think that Paris and Venice would make great backdrops for any spy-thriller, but the shooting schedule must have not had “clear and sunny days” as a priority. Every outdoor scene is shot on a cloudy day, making some of the most spectacular scenery in the world look brown and about as bored as the two main actors. It was as if the shooting schedule didn’t call for more than one take, or waiting until the sun came out. They had Jolie and Depp and that was enough. If that is enough for you—and I realize that this may well be enough for a lot of people-- then you will not hate this film, but you’ll likely not feel it was very good either. I can only give The Tourist two binoculars, one for each star.

Monday, December 6, 2010

SHIDOSHI--Bifocal Reviews

For those that are interested, below is the promised/partial transcript of the above broadcast (also found at the grichiusa or five birds productions channels on YouTube).

Open with medium two shot of Barbara and Gordon talking and laughing, over music, credits and titles

ZOOM IN: Barbara Speaks to audience


(Speaking to camera)

Hello and welcome to another Bifocals Review Podcast. I'm Barbara Richiusa and I'm here with my costar here and in life, my husband Gordon. Because of an recent release of the his new novel, we're going to do something a little differently today. I'm going to interview Gordon Richiusa. (Turning to G). So, congratulations on the release of your new suspense-thriller, SHIDOSHI:The Four Ways of the Corpse. Did I say that right?


That was perfect, as usual, and you also pronounced our last name exactly correctly.


So what does the title mean? Not, our last name, but the title of the novel?


SHIDOSHI is a title, used to denote a certain rank in the underworld organizations called ninja. It's a Japanese term that has been translated, as with many terms and phrases, more than one way. One translation is part of the title, The Four Ways of the Corpse. The other is Teacher of the Warrior Ways of Enlightenment.


So, why would someone want to attain that rank, if they use the first translation? Sounds scary.


Well, that's what the book is about. The main conflict in the book is how a 300 year war got started because of the two differences in translating a single word.


I've gone this far, so I guess there's no excuse to be shy about continuing the shameless self promotion. To go the the online press release, click here:http://www.aegauthorsedge.com/press_releases/Richiusa,%20Gordon,%20Shidoshi-PR%20Final.pdf

Here is a review of my novel, SHIDOSHI:The Four Ways of the Corpse, which was written by Russ Buchanan. Portions of this review are referenced in the piece above. Thanks Russ for your kind words.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010


BURLESQUE-- Directed by Steve Antin/ Starring Cher, Christina Aguilera, Eric Dane, with Cam Gigandet, Julianne Hough, Alan Cumming, Peter Gallagher, Kristen Bell and Stanley Tucci/ PG-13/ 2hr33min

(B) I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’d recommend it, but not to those who don’t enjoy seeing girls with great figures in skimpy outfits. If that’s the case, then this movie may not be for you. Oh, and let’s not leave out great music and dynamite vocals…especially by Christina Aguilera. I liked the simplicity of the story and the clever weaving of “musical” with “drama.” There was no downtime and they didn’t try to make two films out of one, or two films out of a musical and a movie. Cher fuels this film by adding genuine burlesque qualities that only a star of her caliber and depth could. The ads say, “Only a legend can make a legend” and that is what we have here. Need I say more? It was my kind of movie. I give this one three binoculars, easily.

(G) This film just came out today and already I’m seeing reviews that say the movie is surprisingly entertaining, but lacks a serious plot. HELLLOOOOOOOO! Look at the title for goodness sake! Look at the name stars! If you went to see this film expecting something more than any other musical you’ve ever encountered, then you need to check your expectations. Having said that BURLESQUE was far better in many ways than CHICAGO (which won a few Oscars), in my opinion, because it was not made like a stage production in film’s clothing, but rather WAS a film first that utilized the musical talents of the stars to the best advantage. As for the plot, it was at least as complex as a million romance stories that I’ve seen over the years. In that regard, I was pleasantly surprised. I have to say that Cher is terrific. She played her part perfectly and we got just enough of her singing—according the dictates of the character-- that we did not feel cheated or that this talent was being forced upon us. I also thought that it was an inspired pairing of her with Stanley Tucci. They worked particularly well together, in every scene the two of them shared. However, this movie really belongs to Christina Aguilera. I thought it was absolutely a perfect casting to have Cher as the wise old master training the talented apprentice. Christina’s character would absolutely have overshadowed any other female/singing star, as this movie almost seemed to have been created just for her.
I’m going to give it three-and-a half binoculars and predict at least two Oscar nominations for the cast and crew.


Saturday, November 6, 2010


HEREAFTER--directed by Clint Eastwood from a screenplay by Peter Morgan with Matt Damon, Cécile de France, and Frankie and George McLaren as Marcus and Jason. PG-13 2hr9min

(G) This movie was like starting a mountain climb at the top of the mountain. After the opening sequence (which was great) it was downhill from there. I wanted to see this one, mostly because I think that Matt Damon is one of the finest actors working today. He is as close to pure acting genius as America has offered since Brando, in my opinion. That aside, I have to also premise my remarks by saying that Barbara “told me so” on this one. She did not want to see it, and only went reluctantly because our daughter, Carla and I coerced her (Carla’s remarks may appear below, and/or on the podcast version of Bifocal Reviews).
That said, here are my impressions: As I said, the opening was riveting. It was one of the finest disaster film sequences I’ve ever witnessed. I still have no idea how it was accomplished, how much was where cgi, or where dangerous real-life stunts and animation departed. It was stunning and I was certain that I was about to witness the absolute best film of the year. In the very next sequence, I realized I was wrong. Every one of the supporting actors was miscast, so much so that I could barely take it seriously when two “well-known comedians” tried to pull off a serious “dead relative” conversation that introduced Matt Damon’s character. I kept waiting for the punch lines. No offense to Jay Mohr and Richard Kind.
The story comes off (for a variety of reasons) as disjointed and uninteresting. It was WAAAAYYY to slow and dry. Many following sequences, plot lines and story elements were completely unnecessary and obviously forced. There was really nothing “bold” about this film, after the opening…and the boldness only came in the blending of technical and human effects, not in story telling or content. I have to give this one only one and a half binoculars, and that is only for Damon and the female lead’s performances. The child star is also adequate, but there are too many other flaws.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

WALL STREET: Money Never Sleeps

133 minutes/PG-13
Directed by Oliver Stone. Starring Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Josh Brolin,Frank Langella

(B)The only reason I can see that this movie is rated PG-13 is because anyone without a college education in finance will need a tutor to fully understand all the Wall Street mumbo-jumbo. In fact, there is absolutely no sexual content, violence or language that would warrant such a rating and the sexual chemistry between Shia LaBeouf and Carey Mulligan in non-existent. However, Michael Douglas shines throughout and draws in the viewer. He also has the most chemistry with each of the other actors that share his scenes. He brings the entire movie to life. Another performance that needs to be mentioned is that of Frank Langella. He stood out for me as a supporting actor. I guess I wish that Frank Langella and Michael Douglas were in every scene, but they were never in a scene together. The other performances were adequate at best. Shia LaBeouf’s relationship with Carey Mulligan lacked passion.
(G) In fact, there seemed to be a lull, each time the love-interest took over the screen. This dull relationship almost ruined the subplot motivation for Shia’s character to act, which is so essential in character development. I was not convinced that he really loved Carey enough to go after the big bankers at his own financial peril.
(B) All in all, I’m glad I saw this film. I recommend it, if only for the main performance. Michael gets five binoculars. The rest of the movie I can only give three.
(G) I was very impressed with Oliver Stone’s handling of the world financial crisis. There was one scene where MD (AKA Gecko) rattled off several acronyms and initials and just when the viewer was about to glaze over, Douglas pointed out that the whole subject was beyond EVERYONE’S understanding. It put the bailouts and the bank closures and the Madoff scandal and the government’s inability to make a clear case for reform in perspective. This film was also more human and more hopeful than many of Oliver Stone’s previous accomplishments, in that the bad guys do (at least sometimes) get punished and those who do good get rewarded. Ultimately the character who we believe is most evil, Michael Douglas’s Gekko, ends up experiencing the most subtle yet profound transformation, responding to the same motivations that average Americans can relate to such as love of family and saving the planet. Because of this entertaining handling of delicate and often confusing subject matter, I have to rate this film much higher than Barbara, but I’ve always been a sucker for a good conspiracy film and think Stone (who makes a few cameos in this one) is one of our top filmmakers. Definitely this one will be Oscar nominated and will probably earn Michael Douglas the ultimate actor’s prize. Four Binocs for me, which is an average Bifocal Score of 3 and ½.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


THE EXPENDABLES: 103 minutes/ R
Directed by Sylvester Stallone. With Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li.

Barbara and I have an agreement. If one of us wants to see a film that we know the other would hate, we can either see the film alone or view it with another friend. In this case, while Barbara was off watching her choice (THE SWITCH I think), I got to view the latest Sly Stallone offering, with an old friend of mine and real-life action hero, Frank Dux (the namesake of the movie BLOODSPORT).
Interestingly, the undefeated heavyweight champion of the unsanctioned full-contact bouts was more critical of the film than I was. Though, we both had no trouble sitting through this shallow, tongue-in-cheek explosion fiesta, since the whole film is little more than an hour and a half in length. It takes nearly that long to merely identify all the old action stars who are populating the screen. Stallone definitely made this one for himself, his friends and his die-hard fans. Speaking of Die Hard (for instance) both Bruce Willis and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger have important cameos. Important, that is if, in fact you accept the premise that there is a credible story to begin with. Mr. Dux did not. In fact, his contention was that the, “Story was rather weak and not up to Stallone’s usual standards.”
Luckily, I was not expecting anymore than what I got from this film, a chance to see the old and new stars playing in the same sandbox. Wisely, Sylvester Stalone has not portrayed this flick as anything more than what it is, either. It’s just fun for him and his buddies and he hopes and believes (rightly so, in my opinion) that people will be entertained. He probably was sitting around one night with one of the other film stars and one of them said something like, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great to make a movie with as many action heroes as we can get together.” And the other added, “Too bad Arnold is busy with running a state. It would be perfect if we could get him to do a walk on.” And, so on.
I give this one two binoculars. Frank Dux said he could spare only one.


INCEPTION: 2hr28min/PG-13
Directed and written by Christopher Nolan, With Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Dileep Rao

(G) I think Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the best actors we have working today, but the real draw for this movie is the writing/directing genius of Christopher Nolan. Here he establishes himself as the undisputed scriptwriting champion and my new hero. In INCEPTION, he takes a basic con-man, heist thriller and adds the complex, intellectual layering that was present in his Academy Award winner, MEMENTO (his other great script from a few years ago). That movie was basically a murder mystery, but revealed in reverse from the end to the beginning and written from the perspective of a man with a memory-disorder who cannot recall anything from his recent past. The presentation, therefore fit the storyline.

INCEPTION butts the con-man theme up against another of Carlos Castaneda’s basic concepts (delineated in the classic book, THE ART OF DREAMING) asking,”Is the dream world real? Does it have rules that must be followed and can that world be manipulated?”

There has been a lot of talk about the ending being confusing--there are several new sites dedicated to explaining the ending, for instance--, but once you accept that people can share dreams and that it is possible to go into deeper and deeper levels of consciousness within a dream, then the adjustments in time become just another interesting quirk in the unique perspective that Nolan enjoys bringing to the screen. It’s O.K. to have to think a little when watching a movie, in my opinion. Chris Nolan is asking the audience to think, just a little, just enough to make a run-of-the-mill con-man movie into a brand new entertainment experience.
I have to give this one a full four binoculars because it sets itself up to do something different and then, I believe it delivers.
The friend I viewed this one with, Mark Morris said he enjoyed it, but afterwards felt like he'd eaten too many oysters before bedtime.


EAT PRAY LOVE: PG-13/ 2hr28 min/Directed by Ryan Murphy/ Shared screenwriting credits go to Ryan Murphy and Jennifer Salt from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book of the same name/ Cast of importance: Julia Roberts, Richard Jenkins,Viola Davis, James Franco and Javier Bardem

(B) I enjoyed this film. I journeyed with Julia on her quest. I felt I was eating the great food in Italy and praying in India and I loved falling in love in Bali. Two scenes were very memorable for me. One scene with Julia talking to God was very honest and moving. Another scene was with Richard Jenkins, when he confesses to Julia about why his own search brought him to India. All in all, it was a wonderful trip. I give this film three binoculars. Elizabeth Gilbert has her own EAT PRAY LOVE website at:http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/eatpraylove.htm

(G) I too enjoyed this film very much at many levels. I think it is clear that this movie has struck a nerve with the American public, as is evidenced by the surge in book sales and the thousands of theme items being sold throughout the world. Though the main character is a woman it is not really a “Chick Flick” per se, because the journey we watch the main character take, is one that all humans can relate to, based on things that most of us are concerned with. I also think it was genius to have Richard Jenkins be the male counter-foil for the Julia Roberts character, mainly because I think Richard Jenkins can make any character believable. I enjoyed watching this story in much the same way that I enjoyed Out of Africa (though I’m usually not a Meryl Streep fan). The scenery was enough to keep me interested, but everyone can relate to these themes, regardless of how narrow your personal beliefs might be. Julia Roberts has gotten some flack for being a poor choice to portray the author, but she is wonderful and very real in my opinion. Naturally, I understand why any woman would want her to play them in a biographical tale. Anyway, there was one scene where she seems to be able to leak only one tear and control the speed at which it falls down her cheek. That is acting! When Jenkins, Bardem, or even Franco joins her on the screen everyone seems somehow “better.” I too score this one a three and may be willing to go one monocle higher than that after I see it a second time.

The Switch

THE SWITCH: PG-13-2hr30min/ Directed by Josh Gordon &Will Speck/Writers :Allan Loeb (screenplay) from a short story by Jeffrey Eugenides/ with Jason Bateman, Victor Pagan, Jennifer Aniston, Jeff Goldblum, and Juliette Lewis

(B) This movie was very predictable. It was a no-brainer so to speak, but I couldn’t bring myself to see Inception, which just seemed too hard to watch and was not my cup of tea. Jason Bateman seems very natural in his role of a guy waiting in the wings for something great to happen in his life. Jeff Goldblum provides a little humor and Aniston is just par for the course. I could have missed this film without much regret. I give it one and a half binoculars.

NOTE: We did not feel you needed a trailer of this one.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


SALT: Directed by Phillip Noyce. With Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor PG-13 / 1h:40 m

(B) If there is such a thing as a film with too much action, this is it. I was exhausted after viewing unending armed conflict, car chases, jumping off trucks and planes, that I lost track of the good guys and the bad guys. There was very little dialog except for Russian, which Angelina spoke well. She had what it takes to be an action hero, if that’s what you want in a movie. Jolie survives situations that even Bond couldn’t. It held no great interest for me. I like a solid story with much more dialog and less action. To compare it with Knight and Day, at least that film was comical and amusing. Although I did laugh
when Jolie got beat up and managed to force the door out of a plane in flight, jump out, land in the ocean unharmed and to run through the woods. I mean, come on! Is she bionic? I can’t give more that two binocs and they are for the action stunts.

(G) Note: Ironically, (as Angelina Jolie is definitely a strong attraction for male viewers) I did not get to see this one with Barbara, as I was with two of my grandsons on this particular weekend. My review of Clash of the Titans (2010) will follow in a day or two (I know I'm late, but that's the way it goes). In place of my “focal” on Angelina’s latest (and to somewhat counterbalance Barbara’s jaded perspective) our neighbor, Joyce Mulligan, who viewed this film with Barbara will contribute her view below. When she sends it, I will post it. Until then, enjoy the trailer...
(J) Here goes the guest focal...I probably have nothing more to say than what Barbara does. Great action-packed movie, fun for the gals & easy on the eyes for the guys. She was superwoman, James Bond & Cleopatra all wrapped in one. Probably rated 3+.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Twilight: ECLIPSE--Directed by David Slade. With Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner and Gil Birmingham 1h:39m/ PG-13
(B) For starters, we decided to see this film with our eleven-year-old granddaughter, because she had been begging ANYONE in the family to be her chaperone. Her review, after viewing consisted of, “I loved it, but I liked the first one better.” I can halfway agree with her. I liked the first one better, but I didn’t really like either one of them. I didn’t like the first one enough to even see the second in the series. The problems are many. Most importantly, for me is that I was a BIG fan of the all-too-short-lived-television series, Moonlight with Alec O’Laughlin. This series combined action and an actual story with a love interest that had emotion. Eclipse had the passion and emotion of a dry turnip. Really, a love triangle with young people should not be so boring. The action with the special effects was the only redeeming factor. Sad to say, I give this one binocular and I am being generous.
(G) I have to say that I have been trying to give this saga a chance, because I know that many of my college-aged students, children and grandchildren seem to relate in some way to something, somewhere hidden, someplace in these films. I have always been a big fan of anything vampire, werewolf, or monstrous. This love goes all the way back to Lon Chaney Jr. days and reaches its pinnacle with Abbot and Costello Meets Frankenstein. Here’s what bothered me about Eclipse: You need substance to make a “saga.” Everything of interest was divulged in the first half of the first film. With Moonlight (mentioned above) we have the same basic conflict, but the story varies and new elements were added weekly. With HBO’s True Blood, we see witches, vampires and shape-shifters interacting from the unique perspective of awareness. In other words, they know each other exist and are merely trying to “get along.” With Twilight? It’s old hat, romanticism, and just not interestingly presented. Nothing ever really happens and the stylized direction makes every line spoken by the actors soporific—that means ,“tending to induce drowsiness” for those of you who want to improve your vocabulary. This one, at least had a final battle between shifters and vamps to look forward to, but it was not enough. I’ve seen all three of the Twilight films, so far and will likely see the fourth on my iPod, while walking on the elliptical machine to take my mind off of the fact that exercise hurts. If you use the films for the same purpose or are between the ages of eleven and eighteen, then there may be some redeeming value. 1 & ½ binoc.


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—Director: Niels Arden Oplev/ (screenplay) Written by: Nikolaj Arcel & Rasmus Heisterberg/starring Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace

(G) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is based upon the award-winning crime novel by the late Swedish author and journalist Stieg Larsson. It was originally titled (in Swedish) Män Som Hatar Kvinnor, which translates to mean, "Men Who Hate Women.” The accuracy of the original title becomes apparent when you watch this tightly woven suspense thriller with some of the most interesting film characters and sub-themes that I’ve seen in years.
With a well-deserved R rating (there are several horrific rape scenes which establish motivation for the Lisbeth character’s actions and behavior), this film can still be viewed at the occasional theater in an unfortunately trimmed 1:43 min version. I assume (again) that the theatrical version has removed these rape scenes. We watched the 2:30 minute film as an HD download from Amazon last night and I am glad that I saw the entire, uncut film. Barbara and I were still talking about the film long into the night and into the next morning. What we have is a rare foreign-film gem. Though you must currently be willing to read the English subtitles, there is talk about recasting the film with American/name actors. I hope that U.S. producers reconsider and keep as many of the original cast as possible, especially Noomi Rapace who captivates with her grandly subdued delivery. What we have in the current form is a classic, suspense thriller of the Chinatown variety which forces you to watch with interest, first to sort out the actual “case at hand” and second to rejoice in the fact that all a suspense thriller really needs is a good story, not a bunch of good looking Hollywood stars. I have to give this one all four binoculars!
(B) This film was of the type that I both love and hate. I loved it because it was a good, old-fashioned suspense thriller that reminded me of Diabolique in its intensity. I hated it because it’s the type of film that I can’t get out of my head and shouldn’t watch right before trying to go to sleep. I have been waiting for a film like this for a long time. I wanted to see a movie that doesn’t rely on hocus pocus special effects, but has solid substance to the story. I am so relieved that the actors were not “Barbie and Ken” perfects. The actors transported me directly into this film and engaged me in answering a slew of questions from the outset. I was compelled to solve the mystery along with the characters themselves. I loved it. This was easy. Four binoculars!

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Love Ranch

The Love Ranch—Directed by Taylor Hackford
Starring Helen Mirren, Joe Pesci, Sergio Peris-Mencheta 1hr:57 min rated R

(B) I had a special interest in this film because Joe Pesci and I grew up in the same neighborhood and shared the same friends. Joe and I played pinnacle with my ex-husband in the old neighborhood, in fact. Although I am usually drawn to movies based on a true story, there is always something special about seeing a friend from my past on the big screen. Both Helen Mirren as the strong but vulnerable madam, and Jo Pesci as her selfish, manipulative husband gave convincing performances in this Taylor Hackford film. I think the screenplay could have been better. With stars like Mirren and Pesci, there could have been more meat to the story. Sergio Peris-Mencheta as the Argentine boxer handled his part well and was easy on the eyes.
I give this one three binoculars.

(G) I was most struck by Helen Mirren’s great choice of hard-to-place mid-western accent. Her ability to adapt to a role is nothing short of miraculous. Joe Pesci played himself, but it is a character that we all love, even though we also fear him for his potential explosiveness. The supporting cast was virtually perfect. However, I want to give honorable mentions to Gina Gershon, Rick Gomez and M.C. Gainey. As for the script, I think this is a good example of how the truth often gets in the way of good story telling. Just because something happened in a certain way, it doesn’t mean that it will have the suspense, mystery and emotional impact to carry the audience for two hours or more. An attempt is made to wrap up all the inconsistencies and questions we might have with a last minute narrative by Mirren about “love.” I can’t say that I did not enjoy this film. I liked it. How can you not like Mirren or Pesci? I just felt that it had a chance to be great and did not quite make the mark. I always am a little suspicious of a film, when the trailer tells the whole story and gives away the plotline (watch the trailer below). I give this one 2 ½ binoculars. So, rounding up, this one gets a three from the Bifocals Reviewers.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Bifocals on Flamenco in Madrid

The links below all lead to online articles on the art of flamenco, its origins, history, development and even mystical meaning. To further investigate the beautiful arts, composed of the vocal, the dance and guitar/music read any one (or all) of the articles below, as a starting point for your enquiry. Each link contains suggestions to further, more specific links.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Bifocals on Bullfighting

In the near future we will post some new materials that deal specifically with this subject. For now, please enjoy the podcast. If you are interested in a pdf of the DESTINO Los Cabos article, send us an email.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Knight and Day

Knight and Day
Director: James Mangold, Writer:Patrick O'Neill/With Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard/110 minutes/PG-13

(B) Fun, Fun, Fun. That’s what this movie was for me. I don’t want to say this is a no-brainer, but this is pure entertainment that doesn’t require any deep thinking. I was in the mood for just that type of film. Cruise and Diaz work very well together in this light-hearted, romantic comedy. A big bonus was the selection of locations that added to the visual effect. If looking at Cruise and Diaz was not enough, there was also Salzburg, Austria, Seville, Spain and tropical Jamaica to name a few. I mustn’t omit by any means, the daring stunts that both stars perform in this action packed romp. If this is what you’re looking for, you got it. I give it three binoculars.

(G) Usually it would matter to me that a film’s plot was illogical, bordering on schizophrenia when giving my half of a bifocal review. However, director James Mangold and writer Patrick O’Neil have struck gold with the pairing of Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz who stand out, even in all the beautiful places that Barbara mentions above. Plot doesn’t matter. This film is simply a light, romantic comedy starring two of my favorite movie stars who demonstrate why they are box office royalty. There is something unexplainably appealing with both of these actors and putting them together in an action film that allows their personalities to radiate in the foreground of a global travel-picture book, is nothing less than perfect. That is not to say that this is one of the great films of all time. Far from it. We still have to hold all movies to the same standards. But, this is slightly less than two hours of enjoyment that you will probably not regret having invested your money or time in. I also give this one a three on the binoc scale and therefore the average is three, even though I still don't know exactly what the title has to do with the characters in the film.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

BIFOCALS visits New Orleans

BIFOCALS visits New Orleans

Here is an example of a previous post from YouTube and our old website:

In light of the recent disasters around the world, and especially in the Gulf we decided to add a few comments about New Orleans after Katrina, and this video which includes short interviews from the local business owners one year after the huricane struck. Barbara and I felt that we should always do whatever it is we CAN do to shed light on any situation and to offer any help, no matter how small, to remind us all that the "government" is us and that big business is not ALL businesses.

CHER at Caesar's Palace

(B) Cher-cus-soleil That was the word that came to mind as soon as the show was over. Not only were we served a generous helping of stage genius by the named celebrity, but the background dancers and singers and musicians all seemed to be hand-picked by the star to complement not only her, but each other. There were a total of 15 costume changes, during which acrobats and dancers lit up the stage. If anybody could, "turn back time" Cher does it. Her voice and look are timeless. In her rousing 90 minute show, she also pays tribute to her days with Sonny and has fun with her own self image by projecting video images all around the theater.

(G) Tomorrow is my birthday. So, this evening Barbara took me to the Colosseum at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas to see Cher. At the opening of the show, Cher joked that many of the men in the audience were probably unwillingly being dragged along for the ride by their women...unless, of course the men were gay. The truth of the matter is, it was one of the most spectacular shows I've ever seen and a tribute to the concept of "superstardom."

Cher also joked that this kind of show would only be possible in a place that thrives on excess and is fueled by the mistaken belief that you can leave the casino a winner. All those nickels and dimes and dollars that we all have left in the slots, or poker machines or at the keno or roulette or craps or blackjack tables apparently have added up. The theater offers a top notch, audio-visual and pyrotechnic filled show that is unsurpassed in any live show I've ever seen. Even the background videos that are sometimes used to entertain while the star changes clothes, are artistic and cleverly presented. I enjoyed it all. Cher did not disappoint anyone in the audience. Her voice was strong. Her body is unbelievable and her wit was sharp. She showed why she not only was a recording phenomenon, but a TV comic star and an Oscar winner as well. Four very clear binoculars!

Bifocals Madrid

Bifocals becomes BIFOCAL reviews

(G) In an effort to streamline our lives and also to make our travel podcasts and print reviews more easily available to you, our loyal viewers and readers, we are launching this new blogcast through blogspot. If you have arrived here through our old producer.com blog, then please make sure that you bookmark this new location, to save yourself some hassle when we close down that site permanently. We intend to move all or our reviews and printed matter here, as well as easier access to our podcasts that are usually found on YouTube. In fact, below you will find the latest podcast about our most recent trip to Europe where we visited Amsterdam, Barcelona and Madrid. There will be two more videos posted from the Madrid part of the trip. In addition to the general impressions podcast, we will post one specifically about bullfighting and another about Cafe Las Chenitas where we were entertained with Flamenco. In addition, I want to point out (in print) some things that we may not have a chance to dwell upon in the video podcasts. Notably, I want to highlight one important comment from our trip to Madrid. While Barbara was interviewing a "man on the street" about two pickpockets having a dispute, he made some very poignant comments about international opinions that Barbara wanted to emphasize.
(B) One message that our interviewee (a native of Madrid) was that he believed that American's do not appreciate president Obama as much as they should. While discussing pleasantries and the pickpocket issue at hand, he steered the conversation to Obama. I was not prepared to take notes (basically I couldn't see anyways) but this is the gist of the message. He said that Obama is looked to with respect and for guidance by the people of Europe. He said that there is a general feeling of relief that Bush is no longer in office and that President Obama understands and respects European concerns better than most in the past.
To underline this unprecedented feeling of excitement about a U.S. president that is very obvious especially in Spain, I want to tell you that what I could see were several stores recently opened that sell NOTHING but Obama memorabilia. They really love the guy and want us all to know it. I told this man ( his view was echoed by his brother, sister-in-law and mother who were standing nearby) that I would write about it, when I could. This is the fulfillment of that promise.