Film Review: THE TRIP TO SPAIN (UK 2017) ***

THE TRIP TO SPAIN.jpgSteve Coogan and Rob Brydon embark on a six-part episodic road trip through Spain, sampling the restaurants, eateries, and sights along the way.

Director: Michael Winterbottom
Stars: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Marta Barrio

Review by Gilbert Seah
 

More of the same. The third entry of the food critics trips after THE TRIP TO ITALY and THE TRIP (that one set in the U.K.) provides fans of the trilogy what is expected from director Michael Winterbottom and actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Besides delicious mouth-watering gourmet delights with landscapes and stunning scenery on display, audiences will be treated with the usual comedic banter between the two actors complete with their impressions that they are famous for. Winterbottom (his best works being JUDE and COCK AND BULL STORY) takes it easy for the light comedy. Coogan looks much fitter and slimmer than his first THE TRIP film, his working out and jogging clearly noticeable.
Coogan and Brydon play themselves in the three TRIP movies.

One difference is that the two travel by luxury ferry to Spain. Steve gets sea-sick on the trip while Rob always ends up doing better.

As food food on display in this film, there is much less emphasis on food compared to the other two films. As for impressions, their famous Michael Caine and James Bond impressions are again present for good cheer, to make sure fans are not disappointed. There is a bonus of them doing Mick Jagger doing Bond impressions.

Something new in this trip is the first rendering of a song by Coogan with a bit of commentary from Brydon. The Oscar Winning song “The Windmills of Your Mind” is crooned by Coogan followed by the trivia question asked of the original singer of the song. (Answer is Noel Harrison, son of Rex Harrison).

After the culinary trip to Italy has ended, director Winterbottom turns on his serious tone, as he did in his other two films. Rob returns to his family of wife and two children, playing around with them like a godfather does. Steve on the other hand, discovers the girlfriend that he has suddenly fallen in love with, pregnant with baby from someone else. The seriousness is totally out of sync with the rest of the film. Steve landing stranded in the desert with an even odd development after is even weirder. The film would have been better enign with the ending of their trip to Spain.

THE TRIP TO SPAIN is interesting enough to keep those who liked the first two films satisfied. New converts would be difficult.

What next? The most obvious is a TRIP TO FRANCE. But fans may grow tired by then. Too much more of the same.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTvy8ab1NSo

 

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FILM REVIEW: THE DINNER (USA 2016) ***1/2

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the_dinner.jpgA look at how far parents will go to protect their children. Feature film based on a novel by Herman Koch.

Director: Oren Moverman
Writers: Oren Moverman (screenplay), Herman Koch (novel)
Stars: Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Steve Coogan

Review by Gilbert Seah

 THE DINNER is basically a four handler psychological drama which shows how far parents will (or will not go) to protect their children. In THE DINNER, two family of parents sit down to a dinner at a posh restaurant to discuss the implications of their children who have killed a homeless woman by setting her on fire.

As appropriate for a film entitled THE DINNER, the film is told in four parts – aperitif, main course, dessert and digestif. The film also contains acute and often hilarious observations, lightening the film’s serious theme, of the posh restaurant. It is clear that director Oren is not fond of these hip establishments. Paul Lohman (Steve Coogan) constantly hurls insults at the waiters and servers to the point of vulgarity. It is of great relief that at one point the maitre’d finally tells him off.

Director Moverman (THE MESSENGER, LOVE AND MERCY) is expert at getting the audience’s attention and creating drama at the dinner table. This is evident at the one hour mark of the film when all the hidden facts of the incident are slowly revealed. The key confrontation scene takes place in the Library section of the restaurant. It is really odd that the music is played quite obtrusively during the conversation. I am not sure whether this is done on purpose to up the ante during the segment because the music is really loud and annoying. It is certain that this kind of music is never played at any restaurant’s waiting area.

Steve Coogan ditches his British accent to play a sarcastic American teacher. The reason he was chosen for this film THE DINNER has likely something to do, though it does out really matter, being in the food/restaurant critic films THE TRIP and THE TRIP TO ITALY. Coogan, known to be sarcastic in real life, steals the show, managing to elicit a few laughs from his sarcastic remarks at the awkward dinner situation. It is surprising that he gets second billing to Richard Gere, likely because this is an American film and Americans might not know who Coogan is. Gere is quiet in the first half of the film, showing his true acting colours only after the second half. Laura Linney is as usual, very good as the mentally disturbed wife.

The film accurately touches the right chord on when human beings cannot come to an agreement and cannot no longer live with each other. This comes about, as the film demonstrates, when ones basic principles go against another’s. Stan wants his son to pay for his crime, his wife does not and neither does Paul’s wife Claire. It is clear that mothers will normally go all out to protect their children, particularly sons, while fathers are more inclined to teach their sons to do what is right.

Moverman manœuvres his film towards an exciting climax where no one can foresee who will do what at the end. The ending turns up quite a brilliant touch too (not to be revealed in the review).

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zP26KWVw5jE

_________

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Film Review: SHEPHERDS AND BUTCHERS (South Africa 2016) ***

shepherds_and_butches.jpgDirected by Oliver Schmitz

Writers: Chris Marnewick (novel), Brian Cox (adaptation)
Stars: Andrea Riseborough, Steve Coogan, Garion Dowds

Review by Gilbert Seah

Director Olive Schmitz has made quite a name for himself with his first feature MAPANTSULA (1988) debuting at Cannes in Un Certain regard and again with his LIFE, ABOVE ALL (2010) being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. His latest is again a film which deals with a controversial topic, inspired by true events, the trial of a prison guard who shot seven black men dead.

The film is set during the height of apartheid in South Africa. The racial prejudice is obviously expected to be an effect on the story. A young white prison guard, Leon Labuschagne (Garion Dowds) embarks on a seemingly motiveless shooting spree that leaves seven black men dead., one night during a traffic incident. But this is obviously something deeper than road rage. A British-born lawyer, Johan Webber (Steve Coogan), assigned to his case sets out to prove his actions were a direct result of psychological trauma from his volatile work environment.

It is an odd choice to cast Steve Coogan in the role of a concerned lawyer. His best roles have been in comedy as in THE TRIP and THE TRIP TO ITALY as well as in ALAN PARTRIDGE. Even in his serious roles like PHILOMENA, he injects a sarcastic, biting humour that makes him an actor a joy to watch. In this film, Coogan is total serious. He is seen smoking a cigarette during the planning of his case, but never gain in any other seen. Actor Garion Dowds was probably chosen for his role as the accused because of his innocent and small stature, showing his character a vulnerable and easily influenced one.

One expects to be disturbed when watching a film like SHEPHERDS AND BUTCHERS that deals with the death penalty. There is plenty in the film to shock the audience. These are mainly in the flashbacks and recalling of events by guard Leon Labuschagne. The description of a hanging with the rope not of correct length (the dying man suffering the pain of strangulation with a broken neck in consciousness for a full 15 minutes) and the actual enactment during a flashback are clearly not for the faint-hearted. The scenes showing the sights of the faeces and urine surrounding the dead hung bodies are also plain nasty. Director Schmitz also creates the uneasiness of the period of apartheid throughout the film.

Leon Labuschagne was a prefect at school and attended church regularly. He was a father with a wife and daughter but now he stands trial for the murder of 7 people. The most intriguing question the film is to answer is what brought the change to this man, Leon. Director Schmitz brings his film to a satisfying conclusion with the verdict of the court case.
The film’s most absorbing parts still lie during the courtroom drama. Andrea Riseborough is marvellous as the prosecutor Kathleen Murray questioning Leon to breakdown.

The film was shot entirely in Cape Town, South Africa in English and Afrikaans. Why the film is called SHEPHERDS AND BUTCHERS is clear during a crucial scene at the end of the film.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGdGrwd27Yk
 

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Happy Birthday: Steve Coogan

stevecoogan.jpgSteve Coogan

Born: October 14, 1965 in Middleton, Manchester, England, UK

The big comic performance is a very obvious thing to do. The bolder, more inventive thing sometimes is the subtler, understated performance with minute shades and variations. If you start to disrespect the character you’re playing, or play it too much for laughs, that can work for a sketch, it will sell some gags, but it’s all technique. It’s like watching a juggler – you can be impressed by it, but it’s not going to touch you in any way.

 

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SUBMIT your TV PILOT or TV SPEC Script
Voted #1 TV Contest in North America.
FILM CONTESTSUBMIT your SHORT Film
Get it showcased at the FEEDBACK Festival
writing CONTEST1st CHAPTER or FULL NOVEL CONTEST
Get full feedback! Winners get their novel made into a video!
SCREENPLAY CONTESTSUBMIT your FEATURE Script
FULL FEEDBACK on all entries. Get your script performed