Gordon & Barbara in Paris

Gordon & Barbara in Paris
Here's Looking at YOU

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Wild (the movie)

Wild—directed by Jean- Marc VallĂ©e/starring Reese Witherspoon with Laura Dern, Gaby Hoffmann, Michiel Huisman/written by Nick Hornby, Cheryl Strayed based on a memoir by Cheryl Strayed/run time/115 min/rated R

Bifocal Reviews by Barbara Rich and The Other Guy

(BR) Let me say this: I would have to have a gun to my head before I would ever entertain the thought of trekking up any wilderness trail, sleeping on the ground, grubbing for food, or going without a shower or a toilet for more than a day. That’s why this movie impressed me. To voluntarily decide to take this challenge is an alien concept for me. I’d rather jump out of a plane, and I’m not doing that either. Anyone who’s read my reviews knows I’m drawn to true-life stories. Hence, Wild was a must see for me. This certainly was one of Reese Witherspoon’s finest performances. I reserve my opinion about an Oscar nod, because I have yet to view the other potential nominees. Cheryl Strayed’s motivation for taking the 1000 mile journey was a personal one, because of her beloved mother’s tragic death, giving this film an extra emotional content that drew me in. Most of the dialogue though is in the head of the Strayed character, as she walks alone on this trail, including the memories of her childhood or conversations with her mother played by Laura Dern. I therefore calmly give Wild three binoculars.

(OG)  It was either a wise old woman, or a motorcycle company that once said, “It’s not the destination, but the journey.” This movie puts a blunt point on that statement, and get’s rid of the motorcycle. If you don’t know it by now, Cheryl Strayed walked the Pacific Crest Trail—it’s a fantastic wilderness trail that stretches from Mexico to Canada) and she lived to tell about it. In fact, she wrote a book about it and now it’s a movie which relives the trek for us and gets us into the mind of the woman who felt the need to do something to remember her mother by. I am glad she walked and that it influenced her life for the better. I’m really happy for her. Walking is great, and experiencing nature is also great. Great things happen to people when they test themselves and spend time alone or with Nature. There’s no question about it, but hundreds of thousands of people walk this trail every year. Each one of them has a story, just as interesting as the one in this movie. I’ve personally met hundreds of them.  Wild seemed realistic and I loved the scenery and the acting by Witherspoon. However, maybe because of the familiarity of the script, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as Barbara. I give this one 3 binoculars, mostly for the acting.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything-- directed by James Marsh/written by Anthony McCarten/ based upon the book by Jane Hawking/starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones/rated PG-13/2hr 23min

(B) I had been waiting anxiously to see this film. There is no single word that adequately describes Stephen Hawking. Terms and phrases like genius, or brilliant or one of kind fall short, and that would be WITHOUT the handicap! Combining this mental genius and his physical limitations only intensifies the effect of The Theory of Everything. Realizing what a challenge this role would be for an actor, made me dubious. I must say, I was not disappointed with Eddie Redmayne’s paralyzing performance (pardon the pun). He demonstrated that he was more than up to the challenge. He was, in short, flawless.  The actress who portrayed his first wife also delivered a riveting performance (she played the wife who was also the real life author of the book, from which this screenplay was written). Fear not if you think you can’t grasp the genius of Stephen Hawking. This is really a love story about someone who happens to be physically challenged but also considered the smartest man on the planet. This love story orchestrates how two unique and special individual instruments can combine to make an even more beautiful melody. I’m always drawn to biographies because I can’t wait to come home from the theater and look up the facts of the real person’s life. Without reservation I give generously 5 binoculars to this truly magnificent movie.

(OG) First, I loved The Theory of Everything. I remember reading Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and feeling like someone had reached into my brain and squeezed, though not in a bad way necessarily. At the time, even though I couldn’t understand much of what was written, I did grasp the special quality of the intellect, which conceived the concepts contained there. I was a very stubborn, self-righteous English major who was a little bit jealous of those who spoke the language of mathematics. There are those who respond negatively to Stephen Hawking’s message, because, honestly they have either a fear of intellect or an aversion to anyone in a wheelchair, but you don’t need to fear here. This is a movie about human emotions, those that are deep inside us and exactly the ones, which are most important, and that is what a movie is supposed to be. Near the end of The Theory of Everything, the now—decades into a life that was not supposed to last more than two years--famous Professor Hawking is asked to summarize, in a sound bite the importance of finding God. I believe that he answered the question (as always) perfectly, and you’ll have to see the movie and/or read some of Professor Hawking’s books, or watch some of his television specials to find out for yourself. Here I will tell you that what he said in this film was the message I carried away with me when I left the theater…Where there is life, there’s hope. I too give this one five binoculars. Go see it and learn about love and life from great models of human beings, one in a wheelchair who cheats death for decades, and everyone else who comes into contact with him. If you let the positive message of love touch your heart, I guarantee you won’t feel like your brain is being pulled from your skull.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Bifocals Cruise to Catalina

The Interviews and some articles dealing with "The Best Way to Travel" and "Best Destinations" will be on L&L Magazine (www.Legends-Legacies.com) in the coming weeks. For now, enjoy our next segment (beginning in January) of our local Channel 6 BIFOCALS show...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

This is Where I Leave You

This Is Where I Leave You--Directed by Shawn Levy/screenplay by Jonathan Tropper, based upon his novel/starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, Kathryn Hahn, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant, Dax Shepard, and Jane Fonda/ rated R/ 103 minutes.

Bifocal Review by Ageless1der Barbara Rich & The Other Guy

(BR): This comedy, is about a dysfunctional family. And, whose family isn’t, in some way? The family reunites for the death of their father, who requests a shiva, even though he was not Jewish, just as a means to keep the family together for seven days (shiva, apparently means seven in Hebrew). That is Where I Leave You, gives you a peek at the individual children’s odd situations. Jason Bateman is one of the most underrated actors. I hope this film convinces the right people of his unique talent. Someone else to look at is the sibling played by Adam Driver. He is kind of a Jeff Goldblum character, only hotter. All the acting was spot on, but these two really stood out for me, and that is saying something since the rest of the troop consisted of actors like Jane Fonda, Tina Fey, Timothy Olyphant, etc. Rose Byrne is well-known to me from one of my favorite series, Damages.  I love to laugh, and this comedy provided ample opportunities. I think the ending provided a twist, of sorts, that was unnecessary, but maybe this was based upon some true family story. If this is not your family, you certainly know of one just like this. This film merits four healthy binoculars.

(OG): Let me begin by saying that this movie was a winner for me. I’ve already recommended it to people whose personal tastes in film was not a concern for me. My recommendation is based purely on a personal gut feeling. This Is Where I Leave You, struck home for many. I’m from a family of five children, the second to the youngest overall and the youngest boy of two. This is not the exact same mix of siblings as in the movie, but the release comes at a similar time for my family as the one, which is portrayed (perfectly I might add) by Bateman, Fey, Driver, Hahn, and Stoll. In the movie, the father of this brood has just died—in the midst of the usual personal problems for the children—and Jane Fonda is the mother. My mother passed away last year at the end of September, one week before her 93rd birthday. My father especially (he’ll be 95 in December) and all the kids are still in the midst of mourning—all of us in our own weird ways, and with our own baggage, as in the film. Even though we are not living close by, we all still love one another and had a special relationship with our parents…not unlike EVERY family and every set of siblings, from every culture in the world. I’m not sure how much of Tropper’s story is fact-based, but he got so much of the relationships right that I hope for his sake that this is his family. Another reason the story seemed real is because it had a couple of left turns that were unnecessary for me. However, there is no question that This is Where I Leave You will stay with me (and you) for a long time. I give this one Four and ½ binoculars out of five.

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Judge--directed by David Dobkin/starring Robert Downey, Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, with Billy Bob Thornton, Ken Howard, and Dax Shepard/screenplay by Nick Schenk and Bill Dubuque from a story by David Dobkin and Nick Schenk/rated R/running time:2hr21min

Bifocal Reviews Written By “Ageless1der” Barbara Rich and The Other Guy

(BR): This courtroom drama opens with the death of Hank Palmer’s mother. Hank is a Chicago attorney who does not get on well with his cantankerous father, a judge in a small town, played by Robert Duvall. Hank Palmer, played by Robert Downey Jr., must return to Indiana for his mother’s funeral. The father-son relationship that is revealed during the course of this movie, is the real fuel that drives this intriguing tale. Duvall and Downey are so compelling on screen. There is a veritable fountain of emotions that spill between the two. The co-stars that support this drama are all very well cast and add just the right amount of icing on this tasty piece of film work. There was too much unnecessary family background, which inflated the length of this movie. I think 20 minutes could have been cut. That is my only minus in critique. I loved the film and it easily deserves four and a half binoculars.

(OG): I have been a fan of Robert Duvall’s since he first peeked our from behind the porch door as Boo Radley in the classic film-based-on-my-favorite novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Then, think about the plethora of roles that are forever better because he was the actor who played the part. I’m talking about everything from True Grit, Bullit, Mash and The Godfather trilogy all the way to Apocalypse Now, The Great Santini, The Natural, Phenomenon and Jack Reacher. For every film I named there are at least 10 more that we all love and we think of as a classic Duvall role. Now, put into the mix Robert Downey Jr. (who I think is the absolute epitome of the perfect character actor), mix it up with Vera Farmiga, Billy Bob Thornton and the rest of the cast and you can see why this was a very enjoyable 2 hours and 21 minutes for me. I cannot help but think, however that Downey Jr. and Duvall’s skills helped raise the game for everyone else who were a part of this one. I think I would have liked it even if the story was not interesting and compelling. I will be surprised if there are not several awards contenders in this stable of consummate actors. To quote Barbara Rich…Kudos, and as close to five binoculars as possible—still leaving me some wiggle room for a few more films I intend to see this season. Finally, I have to say something about the title. Everyone I talk to, and many critics keeps calling this film The Judge, but from what I can see and what I read on the screen when I saw this film...there is NO "The."

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Gone Girl

Gone GirlDirected by David Fincher/starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, with Emily Ratajkowski, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry/novel and screenplay written by Gillian Flynn/rated R/ 2hrs 30min

Bifocal Reviews by Ageless1der Barbara Rich & The Other Guy

(BR) This film’s take on the gripping novel by Gillian Flynn translates as just as engaging--with all the twists and turns of the original--to keep the audience guessing throughout the movie. Kudos to Rosamund Pike who is very convincing in her role as the missing wife of Ben Affleck. Clue cards are conveniently left, and these, in addition to a handwritten diary help to solve the mystery at the core of the story, but this film is more about a marriage than anything else. Both leading roles are constantly changing because of their mood swings. Getting into the heads of these two main characters is a challenge. Carrie Coon is impressive as the twin sister who stays loyal, in spite of the odds, in supporting her brother, Ben Affleck’s claim of innocence. The other supporting roles were adequate. This is one movie that the story is greater than the performers, which has not been the case with most of the films this year, where the actors outshined the stories. I will not be accused of popping spoilers to ruin this movie, for you if you haven’t seen it yet or haven’t read the book…so I will quit here.  The movie is a little long and the ending, I understand, is different from the book, but definitely worth viewing. For me, this one is worth 3 ½ binoculars.

 (OG) It’s not a new thing to try and posit a completely preposterous scenario in a novel then stick to your storytelling guns come Hell or high water. I’ve been accused of jumping on the “too many twists” bandwagon, myself from time to time; this tends to make a story a little hard to follow, though. Not the case here, as the story is easy to follow: Two people get married and live together for seven years, but they just don’t know anything about themselves or each other…and one of them is a psychotic killer who has exhibited no signs or anti social behavior in these seven years. I’ll leave it at this…3 binoculars out of 5…and not