FlixChatter Review: The Trip To Greece (2020)

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!

FlixChatter Review: STAN & OLLIE (2019)

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Review by Vitali Gueron

You don’t have to be a Laurel and Hardy expert to appreciate Jon S. Baird’s latest movie Stan & Ollie. The Laurel and Hardy biopic (released in late 2018 to qualify for OSCAR contention) is currently out at the Landmark Edina Theater in the Minneapolis area and further expanding in the coming weeks. The “picture” stars Stan Laurel (played by Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (played by John C. Reilly) as their careers have started to fade, and are being overshadowed by other acts i.e. Abbott and Costello, they embark on a music hall tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland in 1953.

We first get a glimpse of Laurel and Hardy when they are making the 1937 Hal Roach picture Way Out West. Hal Roach (played by Danny Huston) refuses to give a fair contract to Laurel while Hardy remains tied to the studio on a contract that the studio refuses to terminate, forcing Hardy to make “pictures” without Stan Laurel but rather with other actors/comedians. Laurel calls Roach a “parvenu” meaning a person who got rich off others and has no class. As Laurel tells Roach in the movie; “look it up in the dictionary, Hall. There’s a picture of you!” Oliver Hardy is made to shoot the “elephant” film Zenobia with another comedian and Stan Laurel signs a new contract with Fox Studios, but without Hardy’s signature, the contact becomes null and void and leaves Laurel feeling betrayed by Hardy. Their bitter feelings would linger for years.

When we next see Laurel and Hardy in 1953, they are back together but are struggling to shoot another film together. The promise of the new film – a comedic adaptation of the classic Robin Hood made by a director impossible to get on the phone or find in person – is what gets the comedic duo in contract with producer Bernard Delfont (played by Rufus Jones). But Delfont’s poor pre-publicity means that their tour begins in almost empty theaters, ones that surely weren’t meant for the likes of Laurel and Hardy. Bernard Delfont was preoccupied with the publicity of his up and coming star Norman Wisdom, which caused Laurel and Hardy to have to create their own publicity while on tour. They made serval public appearances, which included judging a beauty contest in the UK seaside resort of Worthing. It is at this public appearance that Hardy collapses from a heart attack and is forced into bed rest.

The duo, having recently been reunited with their respective wives, Ida (played by Nina Arianda) and Lucille (played by Shirley Henderson), are set back with Hardy’s bed rest and Laurel’s refusal to perform the act with any other comedian. With the exception of all of the Lauren and Hardy scenes, the movie’s scenes with Ida Laurel, Lucille Hardy and Bernard Delfont are some of the most comedic scenes, pitting Ida and Lucille against each other and then Ida against Delfont whom she refuses to sit next to during shows and has to remind; “no touching!”

With Ollie Hardy having gotten some much needed rest, he decides that he must do one last show with Stan Laurel and the duo, along with their wives and Delfont, set sail for Ireland. As they arrive at the Irish harbor, they are arrived to great cheers and thunderous applause. Their show in Ireland is completely is sold out and their show is met by great appreciation and hailed as a triumph. While their Robin Hood movie is not meant to be, Laurel continues working on its script, even after Hardy’s death in 1957. As the “picture” reminds us at during the end credits, Stan continued to write sketches for Laurel and Hardy past Hardy’s death and also during the last eight years of his life.

The movie, even though a comedy, is full of bittersweet moments. They never get their happy ending by making one last “picture” and their lukewarm personal relationship is enough for the movie to end on a sorrowing note. While the acting of both Steve Coogan and especially John C. Reilly is masterful, the “what could have been” movements at the end of their careers make the movie much more dramatic than comedic. Both actors deserve to be recognized for their acting, but if there was any justice, Reilly should’ve been nominated for best actor by The Academy. Overall, this was a delightful “picture” of two comedic superstars in the sunset of their careers, filled with brilliant performances by the two leading actors.


Have you seen STAN & OLLIE? Well, what did you think? 

Thursday Movie Picks #62: Journalist/Reporters for Print/TV

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… 

Movies featuring journalists/reporters for print/TV

I LOVE this month’s theme as I actually wanted to be a journalist growing up. I was thisclose to enrolling in Journalism major in college before I switched to Advertising. I like a lot of film that involve journalism, especially investigative journalism that continues to be an intriguing subject today. In fact one of the films I’m anticipating later this year that screened at TIFF is SPOTLIGHT, about the Boston Globe’s investigation into the child molestation scandal within the local Catholic Archdiocese. These three films also involve scandalous events that’s notable in their time.

So without further ado, here are my picks:

All The President’s Men (1976)

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Reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncover the details of the Watergate scandal that leads to President Nixon’s resignation.

This was one of my Blindspot picks of last year and I’m glad I finally saw it. It’s as much a detective tale as it is about journalism. I like how the story stays focused on the investigative aspect of the scandal and how the Post finally got to publish it, there’s no unnecessary subplots about the personal lives of the leads or anything of the sort. What an intriguing slice of American history, and as someone who’s not born in the US, it’s especially fascinating to see. To this day, every political scandal is tagged with the “-gate” suffix because of this, which adds to the timeless aspect of this film. Thanks to Robert Redford for acquiring the rights to Bernstein’s and Woodward’s memoir and for Mr. Pakula for bringing this engrossing political history to life. The two leads Redford and Dustin Hoffman are in top form here, but it also feature fantastic supporting performances from Hal Holbrook who played Woodward’s extremely secretive source, “Deep Throat.”

The Insider (1999)

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A research chemist comes under personal and professional attack when he decides to appear in a “60 Minutes” expose on Big Tobacco

This film (as well as HEAT) is why I will always admire Michael Mann. I was disappointed by Blackhat but I think he’s still a phenomenal filmmaker that can infuse such a compelling drama to an otherwise ho-hum story. Russell Crowe gave one of his best performances in his illustrious career, which I think deserved a Best Actor Oscar more than his role in Gladiator. I dedicated this post to highlight some of the scenes I love from this film. The relationship between Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (Crowe), the whistle blower of the mammoth tobacco company Brown & Williamson’s and Lowell Bergman, a senior producer on 60 Minutes (Al Pacino) is compelling to watch. It’s amazing how even just two people talking on the phone can be so riveting, but that’s the genius of Mann’s style. Lots of great supporting cast here too, most notably Christopher Plummer as the legendary CBS News reporter Mike Wallace, Bruce McGill as trial lawyer Ron Motley, and Michael Gambon as the top tobacco company exec.

Veronica Guerin (2003)

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Based on a true story, this is about the Irish journalist Veronica Guerin, a reporter for The Sunday Independent, who exposed some of Dublin’s most powerful crime barons and drug lords in 1996.

One of my all time favorite Cate Blanchett performances, where she totally disappeared into her role. Cate not only portrays the feisty reporter, she embodies the journalist’s incredible valor in investigating Dublin’s drug trafficking. You immediately believe her as the character and the Aussie thespian even nailed Guerin’s Irish accent convincingly. I know some of you might be put off by Joel Shumacher as director, but it’s a good film, so give it a shot if you haven’t already. It’s one of the great examples of the danger of investigative journalism and how some of them are truly unsung heroes for their bravery to expose things that are harmful to society.

 

BONUS PICK

Philomena (2013)

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A world-weary political journalist picks up the story of a woman’s search for her son, who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent.

I already had the three above locked down but I still want to include this film as I haven’t reviewed it yet. I LOVE Dame Judi Dench and she’s simply phenomenal as Philomena (hey that rhymes :D) Steve Coogan (who also co-wrote the script) played the disgraced former journalist Martin Sixsmith who ended up coming alongside Philomena Lee in her journey to find her long lost son. A lot of his acting consist of bewildered reaction to Philomena, especially the part where she basically divulges the entire plot of a trashy book she’s reading that he couldn’t possibly be more disinterested in. It’s a bittersweet story that made me laugh and cry. Dame Judi is mesmerizing here and she’s as effortlessly adept in comedy as she is in dramatic roles. I find the story to be poignant, thought-provoking, and profoundly moving.

……


What do you think of my picks? Which movies involving journalism/reporting are your favorites?

Weekend Viewing Roundup: Mini[on] review of Despicable Me 2

Happy Sunday everyone! Hope your Summer weekend was a fun one! It’s a mellow one after a hectic few weeks for me, though my hubby’s triathlon race can’t be described as such. Strong thunderstorm nearly canceled the entire thing, but fortunately the short distance still went on, phew! So, did you see any new releases this weekend? Ah well, looks like Pacific Rim actually lost to two sequels. I guess it’s to be expected that Despicable Me 2 would reign at the box office but man, apparently 7% Rotten Tomatoes score doesn’t deter people from going to see Grown Ups 2 [shrugs], earning a whopping $42 mil, which is $4 mil more than Pacific Rim 😦


My weekend watching:

MansfieldPark1999Mansfield Park (1999) – rewatch

ACatinParis
A Cat in Paris
(2010)


And here’s my mini review of…

DESPICABLE ME 2

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When I first rented the first movie, I instantly fell in love with those yellow minions, so I was thrilled when I heard they had a bigger part in this movie. In this sequel, ex-supervillain Gru (Steve Carrell) is adjusting to family life, as adopted father to three adorable girls Margo, Edith and Agnes. He and his crew of Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) and his legion of minions now attempt an honest living in the jam & jelly business. That is until the Anti-Villain League (AVL) enlist his help to investigate the latest major heist of a secret Arctic lab.

The movie is as fast-paced as the original, it didn’t take long before I was swept away into the colorful world of Gru & co. The whole kidnapping scene has a playful homage to 007, complete with the amphibious car/boat/plane a la The Spy Who Loved Me). The arrival of a couple of new characters add a dose of fun and hilarity to the story: Lucy Wilde, Gru’s AVL partner and Eduardo, owner of a Mexican restaurant Salsa, in the mall where Gru & Lucy’s going undercover. Lucy’s pretty much tailored perfectly for Kristen Wiig‘s comedic chops, but Benjamin Bratt actually has pretty good comic timing. Oh, I also love Steve Coogan as the AVL director Silas Ramsbottom. Just like the minions, Silas and Eduardo already look hilarious before they even opens their mouths!

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I find Gru to be a pretty fun and likable lead due to Carrell’s charms, but it’s hard to refute that the wacky-but-lovable minions supplied the most laugh-out-loud moments in their endless mischief and shenanigans! Kudos to Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud for creating such uproariously funny characters with these minions, even creating a certain ‘minion language’ that’s all their own but somehow still make out what they’re saying. At the same time, I do think they might work better as supporting characters though, as they might be overwhelming if the movies revolves entirely on these mischievous little guys!

I have to say though that the story is pretty thin, as the creators rely heavily on these irresistible characters. The plots are predictable and the even mawkish at times, but yet this movie still delivers on a fun family entertainment. The scenes of Gru and his girls, especially the adorable Agnes (Elsie Fisher), who dreams of having her own mother, tugs your heartstrings. I think the moral of the story about family and loyalty comes across, which is quite a feat in itself as it could’ve easily been drowned out by the riotous energy of the supervillains battle. I wish I had gone to a matinee showing though, I don’t know that it’s worth $10 at the cinema. I didn’t go for the 3D but the visuals are certainly gorgeous to look at, which is to be expected as the quality of animated features have improved significantly in the past few years. I’d say, if you like the first movie, then you probably get a kick out of this one as well.

Three and a half stars out of Five

3.5 out of 5 reels


So that’s my weekend folks, what did YOU watch this weekend?