Gordon & Barbara in Paris

Gordon & Barbara in Paris
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Monday, September 19, 2011

The Garden State Adventure

Bifocal Reviews of New Jersey
Barbara and Gordon Rich

We had to do some book signings recently and stayed with Barbara's niece, Nicole in Howell,New Jersey. Barbara was born and raised in New Jersey but I had only a few days relationship to the state. Both of us do enjoy going to New Jersey and on the podcast below, you'll see some of the better and lesser known reasons why a trip to New Jersey is always a good time. At the very bottom of this review, if you're interested in finding out more about The Garden State, or some of the locations we viewed within the state, you can click on the appropriate link.


Atlantic City Links

Manasquan Reservoir

Monday, September 12, 2011


CONTAGION--Directed by Steven Soderbergh. With Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard, Jennifer Ehle/written by Scott Z. Burns/rated PG-13/1hr45min

Bifocal Review written by Barbara and Gordon Rich

(B) This movie was very informative, at times, somewhat more of a documentary about the intense research and detail that goes on when an epidemic threatens. For me, that made the film compelling and the credit probably goes mostly to the cast and the director for my level of interest. On the other hand, I could not help feeling that something was missing. I don’t know exactly what it was. Perhaps it was that there were no strong starring roles, mostly co-starring ones. Matt Damon and Kate Winslet were more significant than the other co-stars, although they were all good. Maybe it needed a little more emotional content for the viewer. Best scene: Matt Damon’s reaction after learning of his wife’s (Paltrow’s) death. It was so real and it came at a perfect time in the story. I give it three binoculars.

(G) Before I get rolling, I have to say that the most impressive part of this film is the graphic example that is given on how small the world has become. There is an old phrase on synchronicity that goes something like, "A butterfly flapping its wings in the Brazilian Jungle can cause a hurricane in Taiwan." This movie shows how ultimately interconnected all life is on our planet. That was the memorable message for me. Now, I am going to have to do something, that I don’t ordinarily like doing and that is, I have to criticize some of my fellow critics. When Contagion hit the screens this opening weekend, one barb that was thrown was that the story “had no heart.” That’s absurd! In a world that is in the throws of a pandemic virus, how could there not be heart? Within the storyline, many of the main characters make personal sacrifices to alleviate the suffering of others (on small and grand scales). For me, there is nothing that shows heart more than self-sacrifice. The script moved pretty well for me (better than it did for Barbara, apparently) and I always like it when the writer takes the time to tie up any loose ends the viewer might have. During the course of the film (this and others) Barbara was constantly pointing out that certain details hadn’t been explained. Be heartened. The final frame of the film will answer all your plotline questions. Fishburne, whose name doesn’t even appear as a star, was in his element. Damon is perfect and it’s a three way tie for best female performance with Paltrow, Winslet and Cottilard all doing what we've come to expect from them...deliver great performances. Jennifer Ehle, like Fishburne deserves an honorable mention. In the new world of digital reviews, I give this one 3.4 binoculars. Check my math, but I think that makes our Bifocal Average a 3.2.


THE DEBT--Directed by John Madden/Starring Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain,Tom Wilkinson/written by Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman and Peter Straughan/rated R/144 mins

Bifocal Review by Barbara and Gordon Rich

(B) I liked this film. I think, I liked it a little more than the film Contagion, which we also viewed this weekend. The Debt, for me was more suspenseful and had fewer lulls than its competitor for box-office bragging rights. However, there was one nagging problem for me with the script. Without giving too much away, it didn’t make sense that all the inner suffering and sacrifice that went on for the characters in the film, didn’t seem to equate with the motivations that were laid out for the viewer. One character’s actions didn’t seem to warrant the decades long lie that was the core of the story. In the end, I give this film 3.1 binoculars, as I am forced to grade it slightly higher than Contagion, if only to make sense of my opening statement.

(G) Once again, Jessica Chastain stole the film for me. She is fast becoming one of my favorite actresses, as she has shot to stardom with two of the most versatile portrayals I’ve seen since…well, Helen Mirren came on the scene. Ironically, Chastain’s character in THE DEBT, is Helen of a younger age. Congratulations to Michelle Guish for the casting of this film. I’m never quite sure how much of that credit is warranted for a casting credit, because I’m not sure what a casting director does really, but in this case I say…perfect choice. For those of you who do not know the name yet (and that would be most people at this point I’d guess) Jessica Chastain also portrayed the white trash, Celia in the movie The Help and even though Sean Penn and Brad Pitt are also in the Tree of Life (which we’ve yet to see) I may now get around to the film merely because Chastain is in it. She’s been called the next Meryl Streep, but with her playing the young Helen Mirren in THE DEBT, I call her the next Helen Mirren instead. As for the other characters, well what praise can we give the actual Helen Mirren that we haven’t already? Tom Wilkinson is no slouch either. However, the story seemed a bit contrived for me and at some points it just didn’t add up at all. As a writer, the script is the most important part of the film and the story must be engaging enough to overshadow the fact that we must, at time “suspend disbelief.” In this film’s case, however I was not compelled to do much in the way of suspending. If it weren’t for the actors I mentioned above, I think the final score would have been much lower. Following Barbara’s decimal diversion from tradition, I give this one a 2.9 Binoculars. Mirren and Chastain get fours.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Catalina Island/Barbara celebrates her 75th birthday

I can speak for both of us when I say that Barbara had a great 75th birthday, thanks to the folks at the Dana Point, Catalina Express. They have a wonderful program that allows people free round trip passage out of three ports, but you must travel ON YOUR BIRTHDAY. We decided to take advantage of this offer and several members of our family joined us. The boat ride over is about one hour and 15 minutes (give or take) and is very comfortable. We saw dolphins along the way and I'm told that this is not a rarity, especially at this time of year. Naturally, FREE is always the right price for Barbara and that cinched the deal for us. Once there we rented a six passenger golf cart to drive around the island. Another freebee comes when you rent this type of transportation for two hours...the third hour is free. In fact, there are a number of special offers for those celebrating just about every kind of event. Call ahead to check what is available once you arrive on the island. Naturally, many people do spend more than one day there, and (especially if you are into any kind of water sports or nature adventure) you can spend a few days here and still not see it all. We went over at about one p.m. and returned at 7 7 p.m. and were very happy, however. There are many things to do, but I'll let the video below speak for us. This is our Catalina Island Birthday Adventure.

For more information about Catalina Island go to the Chamber of Commerce website by clicking HERE.

To take a ride on the Catalina Express or to book online click HERE or call:1800 481 3470 for information or to reservations.