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. Available in all bookstores and on Kindle.  


Thumbnails March 12

by Tony Medley

Safe House (9/10): Denzell Washington and Ryan Reynolds give wonderful performances, ably backed up by a good cast that includes Vera Farmiga and Brendan Gleeson. Equally compelling is the cinematography (Oliver Wood, who also shot the Matt Damon "Jason Bourne" films, which used similar technique), although the plethora of shots using cinéma vérité techniques highlighted by hand held cameras and cuts so quick they might make one dizzy, could be bothersome to some viewers. The amplified sound and splendid music (Ramin Djawadi), add immeasurably to the high tension that pervades throughout.

Thin Ice (9/10): Greg Kinnear sparkles as a sleazebag, devious insurance salesman, aided by captivating performances by Alan Arkin and Billy Crudup, whose erratic, tumultuous outbursts are rollicking good fun. This is a fine, entertaining black comedy that is so well directed and written (with sister Karen) by Jill Sprecher that one never anticipates what is going to happen next, except that it's probably not going to turn out too well for Kinnear.

Contraband (9/10): Set in New Orleans, Panama, and on a container ship, whose captain (JK Simmons) is less than friendly towards Mark Wahlberg, who is a reformed drug runner forced into a shady deal to help his brother-in-law, the cinematography (Barry Ackroyd) and music (Clinton Shorter) are both first rate. Directed by Baltasar Kormákur with pace and tension that never lets up from the opening scene, Wahlberg gives a scintillating performance, and it's matched by Tim Foster, Giovanni Ribisi, and Kate Beckinsale. If films are mainly meant as entertainment, this is first rate.

Seeking Justice (9/10): This terrific chase film has everything a good thriller needs, a talented director (Roger Donaldson), actors giving fine performances (Nicolas Cage, Guy Pearce, and January Jones), and an inventive script (Robert Tannen) that doesn't contain plot holes that make you say, "What?". Opens March 9.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island IMAX 3D (8/10): Shot in the best 3D I've seen since the first of the series, this is a delightful entertainment for children and adults alike. Dwayne Johnson and Michael Caine give charming performances, but the one who impressed me the most was Vanessa Hudgens, who wears a tight, scoop-necked tee shirt and short shorts throughout the film. She was definitely built for 3D. But that's not to depreciate the beautiful colors that are almost constantly onscreen. Johnson, who has branched out from his normal action roles occasionally, seems more and more comfortable in a light comedy like this. He even plays the ukulele and sings. Unfortunately, when he got rid of his nickname, The Rock, he discarded what had become his trademark move, raising his one eyebrow. I miss that.

Act of Valor (4/10): The most noteworthy aspect of this disappointing film (which has been criticized for being inappropriate publicity for what is a relatively clandestine military group) is that all the action scenes, which comprise more than 75% of the movie, were shot with 15 handheld DSLR Canon 5D cameras. Exacerbating the less than thin story (which avoids apparently silly things like plot and planning), the acting by real Navy Seals detracts from the film. The reason actors like Bruce Willis (who played a Navy Seal in 2003's "Tears of the Sun") get the big bucks is that they can make one believe they are what they portray.

This Means War (1/10): Lowlighted by poor casting (Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, and Reese Witherspoon), a humorless script, ridiculous situations, and McG's hardly Capraesque directing, this is more evidence that lots of modern filmmakers don't have a clue how to make a romantic comedy that's romantic or funny.