Gordon & Barbara in Paris

Gordon & Barbara in Paris
Here's Looking at YOU

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

12 Years A Slave

12 Years A Slave—Directed by Steve McQueen/Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael K. Williams, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt/screenplay written by John Ridley from a first hand account written by freeman, Solomon Northrup/rated R/134 minutes

Bifocal Reviews written by Ageless1der, Barbara Rich & The Other Guy

(BR) Let me start out by saying this is not a feel-good film. It is however, a powerful story. If you abhor cruelty and torture, go well armed to this movie. You will need courage just to watch the abominations throughout this film. Performances played by
Lupita Nyong’o, the female slave and Chivetel Ejiofor, the male lead, were riveting.
The supporting roles deserve a nod, as they were well performed. I particularly liked Michael Fassbender in the role of the tormented plantation master. He struggled with good and evil in a most perverse way. I must add, I was also very impressed with the director, Steve McQueen. It was difficult for me to take in all the other fine contributing factors, such as, cinematography, sound and set direction, because the story was so strong, but in hindsight, I recall it was remarkable. The title of this movie and the names of its cast will be heard many times on Oscar night. I must give this film four, resounding binoculars. In fact, because of this film and many recent great productions, I am instituting a binocular change. The range of binoculars will now be set on a scale of one to five. That makes this film a five.

(OG) There are so many good reasons to see this film, I hardly know where to begin…or end. It is never easy to summarize the effects of a creative piece of work, in any medium, but a film can affect us on so many levels, which simply is not possible in almost any other form of expression. That said, I also want to emphasize that sometimes the seemingly simple special effects are the ones that make a film horrifyingly believable. It should come as no surprise to anyone that this film depicts an agonizingly shameful period in our nation’s history, when slavery was accepted by ignorant and selfish U.S. citizens, as lawful and even expected behavior. Slaves were routinely beaten, tortured and treated as animals. When characters in this film are whipped mercilessly, you can actually see the faint cloud of fibers left behind by the lash on human skin. I don’t know how they did that. It was just too real. I could go on about the editing, the directing, the acting, the music, the cinematography, etc., but I will leave it at this: 12 Years A Slave is a story that is unique to filmmaking so far. It is based on the story of a freeman who is kidnapped to the south and forced to live as a slave. If we believe that this is somehow more unfair for Solomon Northrup, because he was kidnapped, then I think we are missing the point of the film and the original book. This is a five more me as well.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips--Directed by Paul Greengrass/ starring Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed/screenplay by Billy Ray, based upon the book A Captain’s Duty: A Captain’s Duty:Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips and Stephan Talty/133 mins/ PG-13

Bifocal Reviews written by Ageless1der Barbara Rich & The Other Guy

(BR): Wow, I loved it.  As accomplished an actor as Tom Hanks is, I found his role as Captain Phillips dazzling. I think it is his best work so far. There is such a fine line between giving a stunning performance, while not overshadowing your co-stars, but Hanks nails it. Everything about this film is well tooled and professionally crafted. Paul Greengrass was brilliant in directing this movie, a true compelling story about Somali pirates commandeering a U.S. cargo ship and blundering their way into a standoff with the U.S. government. The new faces on the screen gave excellent performances. Another plus for this movie is that the whole family can see it. Watch Captain Phillips, and you tell me if this isn’t Tom Hanks’ best!  I give this one my top rating. Score: 4 binoculars.

(OG): Let me start off by saying, “This is a four.” Captain Phillips is the kind of movie that meets all my personal qualifications for a top score. All the acting was realistic. No one tried to jump out of the story and make themselves the center of attention, even within a scene, even Tom Hanks (who we know could steal a scene if he wanted). There was only one repeated phrase, an unnecessary clue for the viewer of how the main conflict was going to be resolved, but it was a trifle. Perfectly acted by all, recognizable characters, newcomers and stars. Perfectly directed, edited and filmed with just enough handheld camera action to give it the feel of realism without making you seasick, as with some Oscar winners in recent years). The story is compelling and gives many life lessons that are not shoved down the viewers’ throats, not the least of which is, “It is futile to take on the U.S. military.” For me, this is another four for the year.

Monday, October 21, 2013


Enough Said--Directed and written by Nicole Holofcener/starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette/93 mins/PG-13

Bifocal Reviews written by Ageless1der, Barbara Rich & The Other Guy

(BR): There was no way I would have missed James Gandolfini’s final film. I just love the guy. Another favorite of mine is Julia Louis-Dreyfus. How refreshing it is to see a normal couple portrayed on the big screen in a relationship that is realistic. We can put the glamour on the back burner in this movie to get a glimpse about how relationships really work in the world. There is very clever dialogue, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus is at her very best with her physical comedy, that was given many opportunities to bloom. She plays a mobile-masseuse, for instance, and at one repeat customer’s home she is forced to carry her heavy table up a narrow flight of stairs. No one does it like her. I don’t want to give away a twist towards the end of the movie, which really completes the tale, but I just want to say that it worked for me. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, but will always remember that this is the last time I will see Gandolfini perform new material. I miss him already. I give this one three out of four binoculars.

(OG): Once again, the beauty of Bifocals is revealed. For, Barbara and I just don’t see eye-to-eye on this one. I find it head-achingly confusing as to how a reasonable woman would find this film realistic. Though, I have to say, like most men I at least am self-aware enough to know that I don’t understand women at all. That said, I too will miss having an opportunity to see James Gandolfini perform. He was very natural, no matter what the character. However, I don’t think this was his best, though it was good. To me he looked a little tired. Another male friend said to me after viewing the film, “He looked like a heart-attack waiting to happen.” As for Julia Louis-Dreyfus, she was always straining, even in a smile. That, I assume was acting the character, but it still made me uncomfortable to watch. Finally, the story turned on a conceit that was completely UN-believable for me. Barbara doesn’t want me to give away what she deems a twist, but I have to say again: Men and women apparently look at everything differently. For me, the drama of the movie was completely contrived and therefore not that interesting. I am giving this one two binoculars, out of respect for the actors.

RUSH--The Movie

Rush--directed by Ron Howard/ written by Peter Morgan/starring Daniel Brühl, Chris Hemsworth, Olivia Wilde/123 minutes/rated R

Bifocal Reviews written by Ageless1der, Barbara Rich & The Other Guy

(BR): This film is based on a true story of a legendary racing rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. The fact that it was a true story was what drew me to the film in the first place, not to mention the devilishly handsome Chris Hemsworth. With the exception of a few spectacular crash scenes, the storyline fell short of my anticipations. Hemsworth played a believable part of the womanizing, playboy-daredevil well enough, while Bruhl was much more cautious and intense in his approach to racing and to acting the character. Ironically, the highlight of the movie was the fiery crash that left the Niki Lauda character severely burned and disfigured. Niki Lauda, in real life (and in this film) tenaciously fought back from his injuries, to return to the racetrack,--probably before he should have--to compete with James Hunt. It was the rivalry that sustained him. For me, it might have been the dialogue, but something was just not as exciting as it could have been. I don’t find fault with the performances. It’s just that this kind of story had the potential for much more substance. There are only so many car crashes and racing scenes that I can stand, and the love interest was bland by comparison. If the chemistry exploded on the screen like some of the formula cars did, I may have upped my rating. As is, I give this one 2 and ½ binoculars.

(OG): Throughout the viewing of this film, I had two nagging problems. First (and I am a big Ron Howard fan, usually) every cinematic scene seemed completely staged and self-conscious. I never got the feeling that the characters thought they were doing anything else but acting in a movie. People did not move naturally, always aware of the camera and their lines. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s how I feel. Second, even though I knew this was based upon a true story, my mind kept going back to Le Mans, the Steve McQueen movie that focused on a rivalry between two drivers and the playboy lifestyle that often accompanies the fast-paced, death defying occupation of racecar driving.  I’m glad Barbara (and apparently many young people) enjoyed the eye-candy (Hemsworth and Wilde) and appreciated the intense acting of Bruhl, but I was often bored. I give this one only a 1 and ½. It just never grabbed me.