It’s been 10 years since the journey of two actors, Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan, who embarked on a tour across UK’s finest restaurants and engage in amusing banters. At the time, it started with Coogan, who was asked by The Observer to do the project, but when his girlfriend backed out, he ended up taking his friend Brydon instead.
I remember quite enjoying that film, which felt like an experimental film by Michael Winterbottom with basically two people bantering while being served sumptuous meals at five-star restaurants and staying in fancy hotels. I guess your enjoyment of the film depends on how you feel about the actors themselves, which I happen to find amusing. I do remember in my super brief review of The Trip To Italy, that I had gotten tired of their schtick and their endless impersonations of other actors, thus I skipped The Trip To Spain.
Now, a decade has passed, and somehow I was intrigued to see both actors reunite, as they traveled from Troy to Ithaca following in the footsteps of the Odysseus. One thing I realize is how much of a snobbish jerk Coogan can be. I guess I have known that for some time, but here he’s quite insufferable as he mentions how he’s won numerous BAFTAS, blah blah blah… which makes Brydon seems far more affable by comparison. I wonder if that’s intentional, but it’s quite off-putting at times even when Brydon deliberately poke fun of his pomposity. One scene in particular highlights that, that is when Coogan ran into a Greek national who did a film with him a few years ago and he didn’t bother remembering his name even though he re-introduced himself. Brydon called him out on it, which was quite amusing.
The two actors talk about Greek history/mythology once in a while when they’re not busy doing impersonations (which is still amusing at times, but does get repetitive). I do enjoy British’s sarcastic humor and there’s plenty of that in this, but what’s different this time is there is a sad incident that gives the film a poignant layer. I won’t mention about it in details, but let’s just say that towards the end of the film it became a journey of grief for one of the characters.
I guess watching this film during a pandemic while most of us are under stay-at-home order feels like a vicarious experience as the Grecian scenery is truly drool-worthy. I do think part of the charm of this movie is the gorgeous cinematography and stunning landscapes. Seeing the bustling restaurants and people enjoying their vacations certainly make me so eager to see the world once again.
I’m glad I watched this movie and there’s certainly plenty of things to enjoy. As it says on the poster, this fourth ‘Trip’ movie is the final course, which means it’s the last of the series. I have to say it’s good that it’s the last one, as it’s on the verge of overstaying its welcome. The finale ends on a poignant and hopeful note, which I think is a proper farewell to the two friends’ decade-long odyssey.
Have you seen The Trip To Greece or other ‘Trip’ movie? If so, I’d love to hear what you think!…
Thank goodness for in-flight entertainment! I was on a trip to Eastern Europe recently, in fact I just got back about a week ago. Sleep are often elusive on long flights, so I used the time to catch up on movies I’ve been curious to see.
I rewatched parts of Aladdin on my way to Europe and on my way back, I watched most of Gone With The Wind (yeah I know, an odd choice but I was in the mood for it). But these are two features I watched that I haven’t seen before, glad I did!
THE WEDDING GUEST (2018)
I’ve been a fan of Dev Patel for some time, and I think he’s really grown as an actor since his debut in Slumdog Millionaire over a decade ago. When you’ve got a brooding hitman-type on a mission to kidnap a bride-to-be the night before her wedding, you don’t immediately think of Patel. But that’s precisely why I’m curious to see him here, and I think he’s quite compelling playing against type. In most of his previous films (well except for LION) he’s often the jolly guy, but he barely cracked a smile in this entire film!
Directed by Michael Winterbottom, the opening sequence shows the unnamed Patel preparing for a journey from London to Pakistan. We have no idea what’s on his agenda, but with a sequence of buying guns, roll of duct tape, etc. we know he’s up to no good. It wouldn’t be a spoiler to say that indeed he indeed kidnaps the bride-to-be (Radhika Apte), but there’s more than meets the eye. In fact, the core of the film centers on their unconventional bond. It’s not stockholm syndrome however, as we don’t quite know who actually plans for the whole thing.
The movie itself is as reserved and moody as the protagonist. The neo-noir style is enhanced by the music (that’s reminiscent of Jóhann Jóhannsson’s style) and gorgeous cinematography, making the most of the India/Pakistan locations. I know the pacing might be a problem to some, but I was quite invested in the story as the movie went on. Even watching it on the plane, I wasn’t bored by it. I find Patel to be a magnetic presence, and a pretty convincing enigmatic figure. But it’s Apte who’s quite a revelation here, and it’s certainly a juicy role for a woman of color who rarely gets to turn the table on the male protagonist.
It’s too bad the film didn’t do well after its premiere at TIFF. I highly recommend this if you’re a fan of Patel, or if you’re up for an off-the-beaten path psychological thriller that’s more about the character development than a well-choreographed action sequence.
The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley (2019)
I’m glad Delta has this Alex Gibney documentary as I don’t have HBO. I’ve been curious about this film since I read a lengthy article about Theranos’ founder Elizabeth Holmes, the youngest self-made billionaire who turns out to be a fraud. Apparently the film’s producer met with Holmes early in development (per IMDb), before criminal charges were filed, to determine whether she could be interviewed for the film. Gibney decided to portray how Holmes crafted her company and her own image seen by the public, which is inherently fascinating. Holmes herself is perhaps a documentarian’s dream given how controversial yet magnetic she is, it’s no wonder she was able to fool so many prominent figures to invest in her company (Walmart founder Sam Walton, Rupert Murdoch, etc) and people like Henry Kissinger, George Schultz to be on her company’s board.
Gibney’s documentaries are extremely well-crafted and this one is no different. There are plenty of archival footage of Holmes and the miniature blood testing labs she dubbed the “Edisons” in the Theranos Palo Alto headquarters. Most were taken before she was charged, and some were from Theranos’ own promotional videos. Interestingly enough, we learn that ‘Edison’ is actually a perfect moniker for her blood testing machine, given the man known as one of America’s greatest inventors perfected the ‘fake it until you make it’ mantra. In any case, there are also interviews with whistleblowers, such as former Theranos lab technician Erika Cheung and Tyler Schultz (his grandfather was one of the board members). Of course, the one crucial interview is with John Carreyrou, The Wall Street Journal journalist who first accused Theranos of misrepresentation.
This is the kind of documentary that makes you shake your head repeatedly and also gets you riled up on how someone could deceive people and be allowed to do so for so long. One can’t help but think of her ‘white privilege’ upbringing that contributes to this whole thing, as so many important people were so easily swayed by her claims and willing to help her without investigating further. It also gives me chills how she went so far as making a deal with Walgreens with her blood testing procedures that compromises many people’s health.
Gibney is quoted on IMDb as saying “She made the documentary she wanted me to invest in and I used it to a different purpose.” While he didn’t outright condemn Holmes for her actions, it’s hard to feel neutral about such a fraud, especially one who’s as arrogant and defiant as Holmes.
So have you seen either one of these films? I’d love to hear what you think!
Hi everyone! My weekend roundup is slightly delayed this week as I also got Monday off. Well I ended up seeing quite a few movies in the comfort of my home cinema. These are the four films I got to watch in my three day weekend.
Top Gun (1986)
Thanks to Ted for lending me his Top Gun Blu-ray, my hubby and I watched it on Friday night and despite the inevitable 80s cheese-fest, the movie is still pretty darn entertaining! I remember being so wowed by it when I first saw it on the big screen two decades ago. All the flying sequences made me dizzy on the big screen, but it wasn’t too bad seeing it on my smaller TV screen. Of course, when the Berlin song Take My Breath Away played on, I was swept by the feeling of sweet nostalgia! 😀
There were few movies bigger than Top Gun in the mid 80s and Tom Cruise’s career shot up to super-stardom. Amazing that he still remains there today, but the same can’t be said for the rest. I mean, Anthony Edwards became a TV star because of E.R., Meg Ryan became the queen of rom-com, Val Kilmer starred in high profile movies and even became a superhero (Batman), but Kelly McGillis never really got another memorable roles since. But today, Meg seems to have disappeared from Hollywood, Val has lost his svelte figure, and most tragic of all, we’ve lost director Tony Scott to suicide 😦 So not only does Cruise seemed to have drank from the fountain of eternal youth, he’s pretty much still got that movie star status. That’s really quite a feat after 27 years!
Anyway, here are my mini reviews of the rest:
Code 46 (2003)
A futuristic ‘Brief Encounter’, a love story in which the romance is doomed by genetic incompatibility.
I’ve been wanting to see this film for quite some time but when my pal Mark mentioned Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton as his favorite cinematic pairing in this post, I finally decided to see it this weekend. I’ve always been a fan of sci-fi romances, and nothing is more tragic when human’s free will cease to exist and totalitarian government enforces rules as to who we can and can’t love.
The film takes place in a not-too-distant future where city security zones are enforced due to a climate disaster, and cloning and genetic manipulation has become the norm. A strict global law called Code 46 is especially troubling, as it makes the union of two people with genetic similarities illegal. The film opens with William (Robbins) traveling to Shanghai to investigate an identity fraud case for the Sphinx Corporation. During his travels, he runs into María (Morton) and though he realizes she’s the one who committed the fraud, somehow he covered up for her. A forbidden affair ensues after they spend the night together, but the fact that William has a wife and young boy is the least of their complications.
I’m not going to go further into the plot as it’s best that you discover the predicament the two people are facing and what they have to do to be together. I have to admit though that because there are sooo many details about the universe this film is set in that I actually had to read more about it in order to grasp just what the heck is going on, especially involving the empathy drugs and other medical procedures that’s become prevalent in their world.
Though the romance is not explosive, nary of melodramatic declarations or the likes, there is a painful honesty between Robbins and Morton that is so heart-wrenching. Towards the end though, there is one scene as they run away together that I find pretty shocking for its brief graphic nudity. Now, I always think that most of the time such scenes are unnecessary as a suggestive depiction could’ve made the same impact and I feel the same way here. That said, I’m not going to hold it against the filmmaker as the scene is not without emotions. One can’t help but feel for this couple, no matter how ill-advised their union has been from the start.
What makes it more intriguing is the small details of this futuristic world, especially the language used that’s a mix of English with other languages like Spanish, Mandarin, and Arabic. The characters use “Ni Hao” or “As-Salamu Alaykum” to greet each other, the Spanish word “palabra” for “password”, etc. The most important legal document of that world is called “papelles” which is a made up word that sounds French. Despite the relatively low budget, somehow director Michael Winterbottom manage to make this film look futuristic-looking by using sleek, modern buildings in Shanghai, etc. and some of the gritty market/street scenes has a Blade Runner vibe to it.
One thing for sure, despite the slow and sometimes sullen mood of the film, this is one of those film that linger with me long after the film is over, especially after it’s revealed what happens to William and Maria in the finale. Worth a look for fans of sci-fi romances, I wish they made more films in this genre.
3.5 out of 5 reels
Bill Cunningham New York (2010)
Chronicles a man who is obsessively interested in only one thing,the pictures he takes that document the way people dress. The 80-year-old New York Times photographer has two columns in the paper’s Style section, yet nobody knows who he is.
Truth be told, I didn’t know who Bill Cunningham was until this documentary was made, but I must have seen his photos on the fashion magazines/blogs. He’s the pioneer of street fashion photography since he published an impromptu set of pictures in the New York Times which then became a regular series. He basically takes photos of fashionistas in Manhattan that catch his eye, using a 35mm Nikon as he rides his Schwinn bicycle around town. His ‘uniform’ is a blue nylon jacket, and a convenience-store bought poncho filled with black masking-tape patches all over it as he refuses to buy a new one when it gets torn.
When you watch this, it’s guaranteed that you will fall in love with this man. He’s just so endearing for his eccentricities, but you’ll also admire him for his integrity and work ethic. I find him to be even more quirky and a rare human being, much rarer that even the most bizarre piece of fashion he photographs, and you’ll see some really out-there stuff in this film!
All the fashion stuff is fun and dandy, but what I love most about this documentary is to get to know Bill the man, the person behind the lens and all those fashion photographs. He does what he does because he loves it — he practically shuns money almost to a fault, refusing to cash his check according to his former boss at Details Magazine. It’s never fully explained why, but basically the 83-year-old refuses to sell out to anyone as he values his creative freedom more than anything. He’d rather be allowed to do what he wants than being paid to ‘conform.’ He also doesn’t allow himself to get caught up in the glitz and glamor of the fashion world. When he does go to lavish parties (even to Lady Astor’s 100th birthday party), sitting on the front row of fashion shows, he doesn’t even take a drink of water offered to him. He said he always eats before he goes to work and he’s only there to do his job, not to hobnob with the rich and famous.
What really gets him is fashion and he is married to his work, which he doesn’t call work at all as he enjoys it so much. There’s a twinkle in his eye and he has this huge grin on his face when he’s out in his element photographing people and he’s well-loved in the fashion community. “We all get dressed for Bill“, says Vogue editor Anna Wintour who’s frequently interviewed in his documentary, and Bill appreciates fashion. He sees the beauty even in outfits most of us would deem as too weird or even ugly.
What’s fascinates me most is the contrast between Bill’s minimalist, even monastic lifestyle and the glam and glitter of the subject he’s covering. At one time, the filmmaker was baffled to learn that he goes to church every Sunday. Later on he was asked about his personal life, whether he ever has a romantic relationship and whether he’s gay, which he nonchalantly replied. But when the question turns to his faith, as to why he goes to church every weekend, suddenly the cheerful man choked up and grew quiet. It’s clearly a personal matter to him and after a long pause, he admitted that his Catholic faith ‘gives him guidance.’ It’s something he needs in his life, and to me, it makes so much sense and in a way it explains how he’s able to live the way he does.
I highly recommend this documentary to anyone who loves to learn stories about intriguing people. Mr. Cunningham definitely fits the bill and you’ll also meet other fascinating patron of the arts, like Editta Sherman, the 100-year old photographer dubbed “Duchess of Carnegie Hall” who was once Andy Warhol’s muse. Bill and Editta were two of the last few members of Carnegie Hall Artist Studios until the planned building renovation in 2010.
4.5 out of 5 reels
Oh, I also rewatched this late 90s British rom-com The Very Thought of You which I saw quite a while ago because Rufus Sewell is in it. It’s actually a pretty decent movie written by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon, The Last King of Scotland) and directed by Nick Hamm (Killing Bono). I find it especially amusing as the protagonist Martha (Monica Potter) is from Minneapolis and there’s a brief scene at Mpls/St Paul airport with Tom Hollander. Mostly the movie is set in London though, which is a big plus for me.
The cast is full of talented but underrated British actors: Sewell, Hollander and Joseph Fiennes as three lifelong friends who all fall for the same woman. Oh and Ray Winstone also has a small role as a sympathetic neighbor, a far cry from his usual violent mobster roles! It’s nice to see the normally intense actors playing a light, fluffy rom-com. It’s surprisingly enjoyable though I wouldn’t rate it as the best in the genre. I’d say give this a shot if you have Netflix Instant, especially if you’re a fan of any of the actors.
I will have the review of The Heiress next week. I’m sort of still mulling it over, but it’s definitely an excellent film from William Wyler that can’t be pigeonholed into a certain genre.
Well that’s my weekend viewing roundup, folks. Any thoughts on these films?