Gordon & Barbara in Paris

Gordon & Barbara in Paris
Here's Looking at YOU

Thursday, January 12, 2012


THE DESCENDANTS--Directed by Alexander Payne/Starring George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller/screenplay written by Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash from a novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, Rated R/2hr14min

Bifocal Reviews
Barbara and Gordon Rich

(B) I saw this movie twice. I have to admit even though I knew what was coming, I still waited anxiously for each new scene. Sometimes it takes tragedies to bring families together. Clooney experiences the transition of being a second string dad to becoming a dad who truly gets the meaning of fatherhood. With all the hiccups along the way, and there are many, he manages magnificently to not only to handle all his “messy stuff,” but to rise above the fray and end up understanding the true meaning of family, and not just immediate family. I give my kudos to the entire cast, but especially to Shailene Woodley who plays Clooney’s older daughter. My favorite scene is when Shailene while in the pool, gets the news about her mother’s illness. It’s very unique and powerful. The rest of the scenery and lilting Hawaiian music is soothing as you travel through the maze of problems, each like a thread in a tapestry of this touching story. Make no mistake, though. George Clooney IS the star of this film. This was easy. I give it four binoculars. See it! My prediction is for an Oscar to Clooney.
(G) This is going to be a tough awards year for me. I absolutely loved Midnight in Paris, but now I’ve seen THE DESCENDANTS and I won’t be able to pick a clear favorite. Every decision will be based on the specific category and the total number of categories won for the Best Picture award. In the case of The Descendants we see once again why George Clooney is such box office gold. Whenever there is a great script, location and director combination, he always seems to be in the mix. This film is no exception. I adored it from start to finish, and must confess that I felt a little guilty at how uplifted I felt, considering that the core of the movie was the tragic, slow death of the young wife of Clooney’s character. Last year, when I was teaching a scriptwriting class, I asked my students (as an exercise) to write a script that both meant something to them AND had something to do with Hawaiian Sovereignty. Too bad none of them came up with this script. It would have been an easy A. All the characters are well written and performed. I’m still viewing some of the contenders, but I have to say, this one is going away with some prizes. Four out of four binoculars are what I give THE DESCENDANTS, as well.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


MONEYBALL-- Directed by Bennett Miller/ Starring Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill/ screenplay written by Steven Zaillian & Aaron Sorkin/story by Stan Chervin from a book by Michael Lewis/PG-13/2hr30min

Bifocal Reviews by Barbara and Gordon Rich

(G) I will be doing this one without Barbara, because she has this “thing” against anything that relates to baseball, in any way. On the other hand, our son, Michael is a living sports encyclopedia who was all too happy to accompany me on this viewing and I’m glad he did. Knowing the historical backstory made the usual Sorkinesque telling of this seemingly mundane tale, that much more understandable for me. It is not because I don’t understand the game of baseball. In fact, it is my favorite game. However, this was really NOT a baseball movie. This was a movie about the business of successfully identifying a new solution to the age-old business problem of not having as much money as your opponent. MONEYBALL is the factual account of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane, who put together a baseball club on a budget by employing a new technology. As many of you know, that is also a subject that is near and dear to my heart. In addition, I think Brad Pitt (who plays Beane) is one of the most underrated, celebrity superstars of all time. He is really good in this part, but there is a good amount of jealousy with everything he does. He is such a good actor, in fact that it usually doesn’t appear that he is acting. That may well be his downfall again come this year’s award season. Anyway, regardless of whether you like baseball or Brad Pitt (or dislike both) you will likely find this film entertaining, albeit a little too long for my tastes. Jonah Hill actually fits the part of the aggressively nervous, but astute nerd who shows Brad Pitt’s character how important mathematics can be in a game of inches and percentages. I still give it three binoculars.


THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2011)--Directed by David Fincher/Starring Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara/screenplay written by Steven Zaillian from the Stieg Larsson novel, Män som hatar kvinnor/The Man Who Hated Women/rated R/2hrs40mins

(B) Had the original film been in English it would have surpassed the new version for me. The distraction of subtitles takes away some of the viewer’s concentration. In spite of that, I preferred the cast of the Swedish version. Everything seemed more real to me, the set direction, art direction even the more haggard and sloppy looking journalist’s look. I am not saying the performances of the English cast were not good. They were. However, either way the film is worth seeing. Stieg Larsson’s novel is great material, and a great story is always worth watching. I will let you be the judge this time around and pick your version. I give this version three bifocals.

(G) I saw both versions of this film. As compared to the Swedish version, there were many aspects of this film that I liked (the story and characters are perfect for the screen, for instance) but there are parts that I did not enjoy as well. Let’s start with the credits. Pah-leeeeease! What kind of nonsense was that? Who authorized this waste of my time and the increased cost of production to create opening credits that are completely out of synch with the tone, purpose and style of the film, script and especially the original novel? Film production is the art of totality. The director has the ultimate responsibility for every detail that the viewer sees. This includes, these days, the opening credits. This series was never conceived as a female version of Ian Fleming’s James Bond. You don’t have to compete with the opening credits of those films, either. Unfortunately these weird credits put me in a bad frame of mind to watch the film that I was out-the-gate already predisposed to compare to both the novel and the previous subtitled version, which I loved. Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig are both fine, but I still preferred the original screen versions for all the reasons that I gave in that review two years ago. I don’t think anything was added by Anglicizing or Hollywoodizing the story, except my (monolingual) ability to slide effortlessly from one character to another because I could concentrate on the dialogue and visual cues simultaneously. A remake of this story, so close upon the heels of a relatively successful European production, may have been a miscalculation on the part of the producers. The original, by the way was made for a mere fraction of the cost of the updated English version feature. The main problem for me was that unfavorable comparisons were too easily made, because the original is still fresh in my mind. Regardless, this was not a remake of the Swedish film. It was, in some instances a modernized retelling of the original story. This is evident to the discerning eye, in such seemingly minor details as the use of Macintosh computers by the two investigators. They were able to share immediate (and ultimately pertinent) information with one another due to Apple’s iCloud and the cloud-based application “Pages” which were, featured heavily in this film. Obviously neither product could have been in the original novel. I give this one 2 and ½ binoculars and recommend it only if you didn’t see, or are afraid to see the European, sub-titled version.


YOUNG ADULT--Directed by Jason Reitman/ Starring Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt/ written by Diablo Cody/rated R/1hr59min

Bifocal Reviews by Barbara & Gordon Rich

(B) When I left this movie one performance stood out. That was Patton Oswalt, who most of you might remember as a secondary character on the T.V. hit show, KING OF QUEENS. That is especially significant since Charlize Theron’s performance is one of her many artful ones. My comments do not diminish her presence on the screen, but I didn’t find her role particularly difficult. Therefore, I thought her job was adequate. Oswalt on the other hand, was very convincing under challenging circumstances. The movie to me was just O.K. The plot is thin and I don’t have that much to say about the story that you probably don’t already know from the trailers. I give it a 2 and ½ binoculars.

(G) I too think Oswalt was perfect for this role and he handled it very adeptly. Charlize is affable and vulnerable and I’m sure her character reminded every audience member of themself, or some other person that they know (wink,wink). However, I didn’t get the feeling that this was a completely polished product, in the end. I’m beginning to think that Diablo Cody is trying too hard to make her scripts plot-less and she is too reliant on situations rather than real character depth. There was a forced, reality t.v. show air, or a YouTube blog quality about the film that left me feeling a bit cheated. It was also too long a film for what it was trying to accomplish. Even though Oswalt’s performance (and I have to admit, the character that Cody drew for him to perform) was compelling, 2 and ½ binoculars seems a fair evaluation.


SHERLOCK HOLMES & The Game of Shadows--Directed by Guy Ritchie. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Jared Harris/written by Michele Mulroney & Kieran Mulroney/from the characters and story created by Arthur Conan Doyle/PG-13/2hr35min

Bifocal Reviews by Barbara and Gordon Rich

(B) I had such a terrible headache when I viewed this film, so my review may be tainted. For me it was a series of one adventure, explosion, chase and disguise after another. In my head, all this ran together like a runaway train. There were great special effects, scenery and costumes. I recommend that you try and see this one, without a headache. I give this one a three because Robert Downey and Jude Law’s performances were at least as good as the first one, but I would have preferred a little more clever dialogue and less action.

(G) I’m just going to say it slowly…I LOVE what Guy Ritchie is doing in these films and I am a huge fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s great hero, in the original version. I don’t mind what was done in the television versions, but I know that there has been definitely something lost in the translation, especially in regards to Doctor Watson, that Conan Doyle may not have liked. In these latest versions, not only does Robert Downey Jr. always add a sparkle to any character he undertakes, but Jude Law’s interpretation of the Dr. Watson character is much more interesting than the bungler we’ve been subjected to on the screen until this point. I think Conan Doyle would stand up and applaud, if he wasn’t dead for more than 80 years.
I believe, also that the detailed, slow motion, prefight, blow-by-blow analysis of every fisticuffs battle is something that Doyle would also appreciate, once he got over the shock of the range of this new medium. I’ve heard this technique criticized as unnecessarily time consuming, but it allows a layman a chance to see exactly how the super sleuth’s mind is always a step or several ahead of every adversary. I applaud Ritchie for sticking with his vision. I give this one four out of five binoculars and can’t wait for the next one.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Rise of the Planet of the Apes

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES—Directed by Rupert Wyatt/ Starring James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto/written by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver/ Pierre Boulle--suggested by novel "La planète des singes"/PG-13/ 110 mins

Bifocal Reviews written by Barbara and Gordon Rich

(B) It’s just a lot of monkey business to me. This film may have many great qualities, but I just don’t appreciate them. When I peel back the banana skin, there is only one binocular underneath for me to see, and that is for make-up. Other than that, I will speak no more evil.

(G) I rather enjoyed this one, though I am glad that it didn’t last any longer than it did. I was attracted to the film, by the unique perspective of the plot and some really fine acting by Andy Serkis. I don’t count myself a James Franco fan usually, but his laid back delivery suited the character he was portraying. Truly this was Serkis’ (the actor who plays the Chimpanzee named Caesar) film. His ability to relate subtle feelings through body language and with his eyes, is what makes this film worth the price of admission. Luckily, we say this one on the small screen (55 inches) for the price of a Video On Demand rental. Notwithstanding the other lens in this Bifocal Review (Barbara’s rather negative and anthropologically misguided statement above. Chimps are apes, not monkeys) I think this is worth a look. I’ll give it a solid 2 and ½ bifocals.