The first edition of Complete Idiot's Guide to Bridge by H. Anthony Medley was the fastest selling beginning bridge book, going through more than 10 printings. This updated Second Edition includes some modern advanced bidding systems and conventions, like Two over One, a system used by many modern tournament players, Roman Key Card Blackwood, New Minor Forcing, Reverse Drury, Forcing No Trump, and others. Also included is a detailed Guide to Bids and Responses, along with the most detailed, 12-page Glossary ever published, as well as examples to make learning the game even easier. Click book to order.  

Thumbnails September 08

by Tony Medley

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (8/10): Writer-director Woody Allen has created four disparate characters, all of whom have problems with romance. The man, Javier Bardem, is such a roué he could charm a saint into an assignation. So the dubious, structured, engaged Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and her more flexible friend, Cristina (Scarlett Johansson), in Barcelona (get it?) are no challenge for him, even though all the while he holds the torch for his volatile ex-wife, Penélope Cruz. They all discuss their problems frankly and in an oh, so civilized manner with the best dialogue Allen has written in years, if not ever. How could one not admire a script that has one of the characters talk about her “turgid categorical imperative” without blinking an eye? Oscar®-quality work by Bardem, Hall, and Allen.

Frozen River (8/10): This is such a radiant, well-made film, it looks like a black and white documentary (even though it’s filmed in color). It is a riveting, fictionalized tale of two impoverished women, Melissa Leo and Misty Upham, a Mohawk Indian, who smuggle illegal immigrants across the frozen St. Lawrence River from Canada into the United States in order to support their families. The bleakness of the landscape beautifully captures the bleakness of these women’s lives. Shot on a shoestring budget with a digital Sony Varicam by writer-director Courtney Hunt, this can’t help but make one take a serious look at the quality of life as these two women struggle every waking second for survival. This, my friends, is a movie!

Brideshead Revisited (7/10): This is a slow but atmospheric retelling of Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 novel as Emma Thompson’s rigid Catholicity shapes the lives and characters of her daughter, Hayley Atwell, and son, Ben Whishaw, and not for the better. All three give smashing performances. Some of cinematographer Jess Hall scenes appear so beautiful they brought to mind Impressionist paintings.

Henry Poole is Here (7/10): Lots of people in Downey, California, including Luke Wilson’s next door neighbors, Adriana Barraza on his left, and Radha Mitchell (surely the most beautiful woman ever to live in Downey) on his right, think a stain on Luke Wilson’s wall is an apparition. Luke is violently skeptical. Although some may find this dark comedy slow, I thought it was adequately paced and that the approach to a controversial subject even-handed and interesting.

Tropic Thunder (7/10): Some real belly laughs, mostly from reaction shots of Reggie Lee and Robert Downey, Jr., and a terrific performance by Tom Cruise highlight this satire of making movies. Be warned, it’s profane and irreverent and I couldn’t understand a word Downey uttered.

Pineapple Express (5/10): A self-described “stoner action comedy,” about two potheads, Seth Rogen and James Franco, on the run from bad guys. A comedy about smoking pot is so five minutes ago, but producer Judd Apatow uses his special talent, prolific use of the “f” word, and adds a climax that kills more people than appeared in the movie. Almost saved by Rogen’s comedic talent, it’s undone by the most excruciating last ten minutes I’ve endured in a movie in a long time.

Swing Vote (3/10): In a film which tries to poke fun at the hypocrisy of politicians, it is painful to watch Kevin Costner’s bumbling effort to be funny in a role that would have been made to order for a younger Ryan O’Neal (or Hugh Grant, who is the right age). This film wastes a great cast. In addition to the miscast Costner, there are Kelsey Grammer, Dennis Hopper, Nathan Lane, Stanley Tucci, and Judge Reinhold. Unfortunately, they have to work with a lame script by Jason Richman and Joshua Michael Stern, and wooden direction by Stern. It’s tough for actors to create laughs when the lines aren’t funny, the leading man is miscast, the direction is hardly Capraesque, and the history ignorant.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2/10): The first two in the series were pleasant comedies. This one seems like a replay of the last Indiana Jones fiasco, just a bunch of preposterous chases and enough special effects to last several lifetimes.