Coogan + Brydon=Bliss: A Trip to Greece

Here’s a first: I rented the new, fourth and unfortunately last of Michael Winterbottom’s Trip series with the delectable Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon AND was enjoying it so intensely, I watched it in spurts in purpose. Their impersonations, singing, sound effects are so dizzying, their conversations so witty and fun, that why you would you want to gobble it all down in one sitting?

While the middle two movies were more basic, the first and last of this series are home run hits. Part travelogue; in this a gorgeously shot trip to Greece and part foodie paradise, the men allegedly are orchestrating a chronicle for the UK Observer amongst all this hedonism.

What’s special about this series is the men play a fictionalized version of themselves: their names are their real names, they have their acting careers as fodder (here for instance, Coogan’s 7 Bafta’s) and their personal lives are a close facsimile to reality (Coogan is single, Brydon married). This last contrast adds poignancy to each movie, this one especially.

I love these two men and am sad this is the last. I could watch them talk, eat, banter forever.

For rent now from IFC for a mere 7.99. Worth the over 90 minute smile I had on my face.

Here’s my own coming attractions: Did you know I also write book reviews? Here’s the link to my recent review posted on Goodreads and feel free to support the book shop I work for at ! Here’s the review link:
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Stan & Ollie Needed a (Script) Fluffer

I wrote a play about five years ago about a conversation between two old friends. Feedback repeatedly came back that I needed to move the conflict sooner in the script. Stubbornly, I held fast until recently and Stan & Ollie‘s led weighted script is definitely a good slapstick kick in the arse to that same point.

What could have been a blockbuster; poignant friendship between to men starring two outstanding actors, ends up stumbling and fumbling as much as the real pair’s schtick use to include.

I couldn’t help but feel for Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly, titans in my list for Philomena (and Jeff Pope helped write that AND this??? A mystery.), The Trip (the former) and Magnolia and Chicago (the latter). They had to have loudly gulped at the script which leaves out ‘coulda been scenes, LIKE:

what about sailing with a bevy of actresses?
what about Stan’s drinking or Oliver’s gambling?
or either’s failed relationships?

In all three circumstances we’re told the information instead of shown. Instead, we’re smothered entirely by their vaudeville scenes and hotel rooms, and even the music which seems cloistered.

One character who could have been written at least with some charisma is their manager, who again limps through bland writing without leaving a mark.

Ok, so it did receive a Rotten Tomatoes 92% so let’s switch hats to the positive, a la Nicki Minaj, and say, “Myley, what’s good?”

The make up and superior acting of the two male leads are certainly worth seeing. The scene where Stan visits Ollie in his post heart attack bed, and blathers on about a new bit where Ollie cries, is projecting Stan’s deep feelings for his friend. Here, Coogan’s watery eyes made the movie soar to Oscar worthy, again, had that type of depth or visual been allowed in the film’s entirety. Likewise the actresses who portrayed their wives were very good. Had they been able to let loose a little more in their scenes (Nina Arianda as Stan’s fiercely independent Russian wife and Shirley Henderson as Ollie’s straight out of central casting 50’s wife) the movie would have been livelier.

So what we’re left with is a semi boring movie with a halcyon look back at two vaudeville originals. Stan & Ollie deserved better, as did Steve and John.

Would the real Steve Coogan please stand up? (The Trip to Spain)

I’ve had enough of Mother Nature (Irma here, deadly Maria and Mexico City earthquakes there) so I decided to forego mother! until I have someone to give me a hug after.

And I could use a hug. Let’s just say I wish people were more self-aware, acknowledged questions or previous plans and communicated in a linear fashion.

And so I took The Trip to Spain, loving Steve Coogan as I do. The movie parallels some of Coogan’s life (he brags about his Philomena Oscar nominations and meeting the Pope) and intrigues those of us middle aged women who are attracted to his unknown real life. IMDB reports that he has a college aged daughter with a solicitor and was married for three years.

I won’t give away those plot details that lead you to believe that Coogan needs a hug. Let’s just say one of the film’s themes is ‘you can’t have everything’. Which is a great message the cinematic gods were sending me; I have a great son, two interesting, semi easy jobs, and my health. So I should quit my whining about romance and consistent friends.

The Trip to Spain is the third in a series. I loved the first The Trip and was sad about the weak, maudlin The Trip to Italy. Spain seems to be a little closer to the first, albeit with a really dumb ending, which I can only hope alludes to the fourth in a series and if it is, let’s get it rolling.

To me, “The Trips” (directed by Michael Winterbottom) have become the parallel monosex version of Linklater’s Before Sunrise, Sunset and Midnight in that I hang on every word, wondering what Coogan or fellow actor Rob Brydon will say next. Unlike Linklater’s films though I am NOT sad when the trips end, mainly because there’s just a little too much meandering and not enough conflict, or in Spain’s case the conflict shows up at three quarters in, when my vacation enthusiasm has started to wane.

But still worth the price, even just to see two witty, dapper (they should get a male fashion award of some kind) gents pare off amidst the splendor of Spain’s food and gorgeous vistas.

Muy bien.

Sofia Coppola First of a Trio: Some Day My Dauphin Will Come “Marie Antoinette”

This review is rated PG13, just like the film!

In an attempt to gear up for the misandrist Beguiled, I decided to warm up with 3 Sofia Coppola movies I have never seen. Mind you, one of hers, Lost in Translation, could be my number one modern era movie of all time (though Whiplash is close as is The Reader), so I have high hopes for this trio, the first of which is Marie Antoinette from 2006.

I need to fact check history^ in order to truly enjoy the plot (I’m not a fan of taking history and rewriting it, though isn’t that what memory is?*), but from what I gather of Sofia’s version, at least one small part was that her husband Louis wasn’t that into sex, but came through in the end. ^Post check: the film’s pretty accurate, save for the number of children and which ones lived vs. died.

*Recently, I had my own rewriting of history in a failed mini relationship which doesn’t happen too often in life. (Sometimes life brings you this close to a mulligan only to have it snuffed away. Like last year when I thought a reunion might happen with one of the three (seems to be a trio motif happening) greatest loves of my life, but when life quid pro quo inquiry was requested, away he ran. Which brings us to an approximate separate flight tie score of 5 to 5).

Anyway back to the nearer past, I take responsibility for this mini relationship’s original rocket’s failure to launch since I was unable to get passed that uncomfortable getting-to-know-you-phase. Possibly my life’s greatest tragic flaw.

In launch two, my past date/relationship came for a five day visit. Five days may sound like an easy feat to accomplish, but I’m a girl with two jobs who hasn’t had a serious relationship (tried with my every Saturday night 5 year long stint with my Jewish gentleman, but he was elusive, yet fun for my exhausted school teacher years) in a decade (come to think of it, probably no real solid relationship since Marie Antoinette was made! And if you thought I was going to say ‘lived’, how old do I look?!:)).

At any rate, on evening four (after two previous tko successfully fun nights!) of the encounter, we arrived home and my partner announced he had to take a shower. If I could rewrite history and make a movie like Sofia, I’d have my self/character say, “No please, take me like a cave man now. I could care less if you’re sweaty. I’ll get too tired by the time you’re out, let’s do this!”, but instead, I said mealy mouthed, like Marie Antoinette did for years (as her underlings whispered about her ‘frigidity’), “ok” and proceeded to horizontal, aka only-good-if-you’re-into-necrophilia-state.

Unfortunately, this one fatigued rejection** took the wind out of the visitation’s sails, and since we didn’t have years ahead of us for make up time, the remaining time fizzled as unspoken second guessing grew into fleeting lost opportunities.

But I digress, isn’t this a film review?! Ok back to Marie Antoinette and Sofia’s rewriting of history. Perhaps I passed this by, many moons ago, blowing it off as a stuffy biopic. Mais porquoi! M.A. combined modern music and some of THE most beautiful cinematography and costuming (won the Oscar for costuming) I have ever seen. Who doesn’t like hearing Bow Wow Wow’s “I Love Candy” while seeing French royalty in the height of their hedonistic eating, drinking and dancing?

And the cast, magnifique! I love Kirsten Dunst, cat teeth and all. I love every ounce of Jason Schwartzman (see former Jewish boyfriend, not JS obviously, but similar in the quiet serious faced, but percolating under the surface kinda way.) And I love even more Steve Coogan, that irresistible, sarcastic son of a gun. Two other special mentions were Rip Torn as Louis XV and Judy Davis as Comtesse de Noailles.

I noted bad editing twice in the film where it was obvious something had been chopped out and then like a cold slap in the face, the next scene jumped in. Perhaps that’s where Tom Hardy went (saw him in the credits, but that was all she wrote).

If you didn’t see it the first time, give Marie Antoinette a re-do. Like me, you might get two great nights of libidinous fun, music, eating and fashion out of it at least:)

The Dinner, have some reservations

Oren Moverman, how are you? I had no idea until just now that Moverman who directed The Dinner, the new movie based on the book by Howard Koch, also directed one of my (and my movie date)’s favorite movies of all time: Love&Mercy. The Dinner, sadly, is a film you should have reservations about….

Am I wrong to not want to glorify heinous acts by showing visuals? Especially when it involves malicious, misguided teens? I guess, if I’m open minded, showing incidents of affluenza may wake up some wealthy parents that perhaps they should take responsibility (early on, not once they reach adulthood) of their children’s upbringing (aka teaching them how to behave and how to love) and their mental health (if it walks like a depressed duck and talks like a depressed duck, get some therapy).

Anyway, while I understand to some extent the moral dilemma portrayed in The Dinner, I care about my fellow human beings enough to know; a sociopath, no matter if he or she is your child, should never get a free pass.

The movie’s subject matter was obviously almost good enough to make me forget I was watching one of my favorite actors (Steve Coogan) minus his typecasted upperhand sarcasm. His character, father of “Charles Manson”, is certainly bitter, but undermined by said son Charlie and his own wife; portrayed by another favorite actress of mine, Laura Linney.

Equally compellng was Rebecca Hall, who I envy most for how good she looks in short hair, a shallow female commentary. To be super objective, Hall’s acting was best of the four (Hall, Coogan, Linney, Gere) as Gere’s strong willed trophy wife. Pulling up four out of four is Richard Gere, who always seems to be playing the same dang man of power with an equal amount of ‘white people’s problems’ angst. I look forward to his upcoming performance as a homeless man, it’s high time for him to mix it up.

Due to the movie’s unsatisfying ending and it’s violence porn quotient, I say this is better off as a rental. Choose a dark deary night and it’ll fit right in.

“A Trip to Italy”, akin to sorbet; pretty colors, shallow nutrition

I’m a bit of a homebody and that trait tranfers over to my vacation choices as well. Meaning, I like to vacation in the ol’ US of A and think a sojourn to Italy is the equivalent of buying a fine wine when the local varietal is just as palatable.

But hold up! Michael Winterbottom’s “A Trip to Italy” might be the best travel advertisement for Italy since the Oscar winning foreign film from last year, “The Great Beauty”. Vistas from every hotel and palace veranda were breath taking as was the swimming scene on the sunlit mirrored sea.

Steve Coogan, a very nice postcard to gaze from my 50 year old eyes perspective, and his comedic partner on this sequel, Rob Brydon are very funny together. Yet the laughs were more chuckle, than belly laugh. Many of their scenes are simply extended riffs on voice impersonations improving on different topics. Suggested viewing before seeing this film, by the way, is Roman Holiday which is referenced throughout.

Winterbottom seemed to want to rely too much on the visual ascetic, the food, and comedic improv. His writing merely dribbles the olive oil of the real emotional depth potential; Coogan’s character’s overt life disillusionment and Crydon’s marital strife.

Perhaps Winterbottom plans to have the co-stars confront their existential selves in a third film set in Sartre’s France which would prove he had this three course cinematic meal planned all along.
And the Alanis Morrisette sound track is the perfect sorbet. Ciao Bella!