The trip to Spain

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are back with another of their Trip film series. The last film was The trip to Italy (2014), and it was very popular among the lovers of British films. And they should enjoy that one even more. The two comedians are in fine form and some of the dialogue is truly hilarious. Coogan and Brydon are basically playing themselves driving through Spain doing a restaurant tour for an upcoming article in a travel magazine. The story is thin and only serves to make the characters of Steve and Rob have something to come back to when they go back home. Rob is married with two young kids, and Steve has a much younger girlfriend and an adult son who will later join Steve and Rob in Spain. What’s important here is the back–and–forth conversations they have, they throw the ball at each other with perfect comic timing. It seems so effortless, you can’t even figure out if it is scripted or improvised. It’s mostly all done during a meal and in front of the gorgeous dishes set on their table. The jokes may be about the food itself:

Rob: When she said he makes chorizo like his grandmother, is that what she looked like?

Steve: No, Rob. It means the way his grandmother used to make it.

Rob: Fine, well, I think she should be more clear, because I’m picturing a grizzled old woman with the external appearance of chorizo.

 

Another funny highlight is the photo shoot. The posing in front of windmills dressed as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. And they often sing The impossible dream from Man of La Mancha. Director Michael Winterbottom knows that The trip to Spain is not about the food or the scenery, but about the two comedians. The landscape is beautifully photographed by James Clarke. But the dramatic drive of the film is the competitiveness between those two. Steve Coogan is constantly reminding his traveling companion that he received two Oscar nominations for Philomena, the film in which he co-stared with Dame Judi Dench, don’t you forget it. He’s planning to write a sequel (he calls it “a sister film”), but arranging the deal gets complicated when he suddenly gets a new agent and the studio wants to bring in a new writer to rewrite his screenplay. And then there are the improvisations. It starts with David Bowie. Brydon tries to impersonate Bowie, but Coogan tells him it is not how it’s done. They try to outdo each other. Anthony Hopkins and Roger Moore are some of the others. It takes up a big chunk of the film, and after a while it becomes repetitive and annoying. If you liked the first two films, then you probably will like The trip to Spain.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Plays at Ottawa’s ByTowne Cinema From August 11 – 20
http://www.bytowne.ca/movie/the-trip-to-spain

The trip to Spain

Directed by:
Michael Winterbottom

Screenplay by:
Michael Winterbottom

Starring:
Steve Coogan
Rob Brydon

108 min.

Rated 14A

Paris can wait

Paris can wait is a film cooked with just the right ingredients to please a certain type of audience, who will undoubtedly pepper the screenings with oohh’s and aahh’s at the beauty of the landscapes and the images. But that’s all there is. This is probably the worse screenplay in quite a while. Diane Lane plays Anne, the frustrated wife of Hollywood producer Michael (Alec Baldwin). They’re about to fly from the Cannes film festival to Budapest, when Anne decides to drive from Cannes to (Oohh! Aahh!) Paris with Jacques (Arnaud Viard), Michael’s (Oohh! Aahh!) French business partner. Why? Anne wants to be in (Oohh! Aahh!) Paris. She’s got an earache and shouldn’t be flying. The reasons are so thin and unconvincing, that the actors can’t even manage to convince themselves, and therefore can’t sell it to us. So they drive through (Oohh! Aahh!) France, but instead of going straight to (Oohh! Aahh!) Paris, Jacques detours to eat at haute cuisine restaurants and visit museums or historical sites. Everywhere they eat, Anne takes photos of the food in her plate. Anne’s photos look like all the photos you see in cooking magazines you can flip through while waiting for your doctor’s appointment. You’ve see one, you’ve seen them all. For (Oohh! Aahh!) Paris can wait Diane Lane has perfected the art of eye rolling and deep sighing. This is beneath her talent. As the romantic (?) lead, the unknown Arnaud Viard is very annoying and most unappealing. Hey! But he’s (Oohh! Aahh!) French! Yes, and his accent is so thick that we have a hard time understanding what he says. Just shows you. Some people will see anything if it has (Oohh! Aahh!) “Paris” in the title.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Plays at Ottawa’s ByTowne Cinema from August 21 – 23
http://www.bytowne.ca/movie/paris-can-wait

 

Paris can wait

 

Directed by:
Eleanor Coppola

Screenplay by:
Eleanor Coppola

Starring:
Diane Lane
Arnaud Viard
Alec Baldwin

92 min.

Rated Parental Guidance

In English and French with English subtitles

American Honey

Steady as a preacher

Free as a weed

Couldn’t wait to get goin’

But wasn’t quite ready to leave

So innocent, pure and sweet

American honey

There’s a wild, wild whisper

Blowin’ in the wind

Callin’ out my name like a long lost friend

Oh I miss those days as the years go by

Oh nothing’s sweeter than summertime

And American honey

American honey,

Performed by Lady Antebellum

Songwriters Shane Stevens,

Cary Barlowe, Hillary Lindsey

“I grew up in a working class family, so I guess you could say I write from what I know.”, says British director Andrea Arnold. It’s one thing to make a film about a British working class teenage girl as she did with Fish tank (2009), but to make such a vivid portrait of American youth and American society is simply astounding. To say that the film’s main focus is 18-year-old Star would be an understatement. First time actress Sasha Lane is in every scenes and in almost every shots. The shaky handheld camera follows her everywhere. At time it shoots her from the back of the head, as if it wants to mirror what Star sees. As if Arnold was saying, “I am with you. I see what you see and feel what you feel.”. Star does not have much she can count on. An abusing father and a heartless mother who is running around having fun, while Star has to take care of her younger siblings. She decides to leave it all when she sees a group of teenagers who seems to be having a great time. But mostly, it’s Jake (Shia Labeouf at his best here) that Star is attracted to. He proposes the she comes with them. They are door-to-door magazine sellers. Jake’s cocky assurance wins her over. And us too. The sellers are travelling across several states in a van. They are a diverse group of youth. There is one youth who has a habit of always flashing his penis, whether people want to see it or not. And they listen to a lot of music. American honey has a great collection of songs. Beside Lady Antebellum, there is music by Kevin Gates, Fetty Wap, Bruce Springsteen and E-40 among others. Their boss is Krystal (Riley Keough, Elvis Pressley‘s granddaughter) a young woman a few years older than them. Jake is picked to be Star’s trainer. The job is to knock on doors and convince (and seduce) clients into buying magazine subscriptions. Jake is doing fine, until Star screws up the sale when she gets angry at the woman and start swearing. And then she gets into more possible trouble when she hitch a ride with three middle-aged men wearing cowboy hats. Star seems to be unaware of the danger. These are cringe worthy moments. During a key moment a truck driver asks Star if she has any dreams. There is a smile appearing on her face and she has sparkles in her eyes as she answers that she never thought about that. Another revealing scene has Star buying groceries for children living with a junkie mother but no food in the house. Most of the actors in the film had never acted before. The cast was found in parking lots, construction sites and streets. Lane was spotted sunbathing on a beach while on spring break. She certainly a great talent. Hopefully we’ll see more of her. American honey is an epic travelogue. It clocks in at 2 hours and 42 minutes and it shows an America we never see. The despair, the poverty, but also the hope. Youth like Star, unaware or unafraid of dangers. Taking a plunge. Chancing being touched by a stranger. With sparkles in their eyes.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

American Honey

Directed by:

Andrea Arnold

Screenplay by:

Andrea Arnold

Starring:

Sasha Lane

Shia Labeouf

Riley Keough

Bruce Gregory

162 min.

 

 

 

Unbranded

In the United States there are 50,000 wild horses running free on government holding facilities. These horses have gotten a bad reputation as untamed, unmanageable and therefore unwanted. In Phillip Baribeau’s documentary Unbranded, we see young Texas cowboy Ben Masters and three of his friends set out to ride sixteen mustangs from the Mexican border to Canada through 3,000 miles of the most treacherous roads and mountains. Those guys are not what you would expect from wild west types. They read books while they ride, embrace the horses as if they were lovers and hugs and say “I love you” to each other. Not your father’s cowboys. Val Geissler, an older rancher who is helping them, says they remind him of his dead son and that makes him cry. We get emotionally attached to the horses. I found it hard to watch when they met danger on the roads and they risked being injured. They are such beautiful creatures. But there are also some fun to be had. There is a campfire scene that recalls Blazing saddles. And the comic relief is provided by Donquita, a donkey who does what you’d expect from a donkey. It is stubborn and it brays. The soaring score by Noah Sorora channels both Ennio Morricone and Elmer Bernstein. The cinematographer is Baribeau himself. The beauty of the landscape is enough to recommend Unbranded. Stunning!

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Unbranded

Directed by:
Phillip Baribeau

105 min.

 

Hector and the search for happiness

Hector and the search for happiness is what you would call a ‘feel good’ comedy, with the main character going through ‘personal growth’, and some in audience members who will decide if they like the film according to the ‘personal growth’ they got from the film. We often hear people describe the worth of a work of art by how ‘important’ it is. The Hector of the title is an unhappy psychiatrist who leaves the woman he loves (Rosamund Pike) to travel around the world and find out what makes people happy. First stop: China. On the plane he meets a taciturn and cynical businessman (Stellan Skarsgard), who offers Hector his hospitality. In Africa he meets French actor Jean Reno (very good here) as a drug lord, and gets entangled in the war between the drug lord and the militia. Finally, in LA he visits an ex girlfriend (Toni Collette) and one of his old teachers. The teacher (Christopher Plummer) is working on an emotion analyzing machine. Simon Pegg as Hector pushes his character’s geekness a bit too far, and his attempt at physical humor early in the film is pitiful. And the whole film just feel awkward. Sorry, but I did not ‘feel good’ about Hector and the search for happiness.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Hector and the search for happiness

 

Directed by: 
Peter Chelsom
 
Screenplay by: 
Maria von Heland
Peter Chelsom
Tinker Lindsay
Based on the novel “Le voyage d’Hector ou
la recherche du bonheur” by François Lelord
 
Starring: 
Simon Pegg
Rosamund Pike
Toni Collette
Stellan Skarsgard
Jean Reno
Christopher Plummer
 
114 min.

Land ho!

Land ho! is a road movie,but also a travelogue. The two main characters are older men. The film start with Mitch getting a visit from his former brother-in-law Colin. Mitch tells Colin that they are taking a trip to Iceland. The two men have contrasting personalities. Mitch is rambunctious, loud, and you could call him sexist, and Colin is a quiet soft-spoken man. Many times you can feel Colin embarrassed by his friend’s language. In Iceland they stay in nice resorts and hotels, go to fine restaurants and smoke the occasional joint. They get a visit from Ellen, Mitch’s distant younger cousin, and Janet, her travelling companion. And Mitch and Colin also get to enjoy Iceland’s beautiful landscape. Andrew Reed’s cinematography make you want to book a plane ticket and visit this beautiful country. Our two heroes are certainly enjoying themselves. Australian actor Paul Eenhoorn (Colin) and Earl Lynn Nelson play so well together, that the dialogue seems improvised… And maybe it is. This is Nelson’s third film, and he is impressive as the loudmouth Mitch. I think you’ll have a good time.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Land ho!

 

Directed by: 
Aaron Katz
Martha Stephens
 
Screenplay by: 
Aaron Katz
Martha Stephens
 
Starring: 
Paul Eenhoorn
Earl Lynn Nelson
Karrie Crouse
Elizabeth McKee
 
95 min.
 
Rated 14A