Month: April 2014

The Trip (2010)

This was a strange one, I must admit. But it is truly excellent viewing I found. So, bare with me on this one.

I came about this show, due to it’s ‘sequel’ of sorts, in The Trip To Italy, which thus far I have thoroughly enjoy. (You should all definitely check it out). The Trip features Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon going round the North of England, eating in the North of England’s finest restaurants and reviewing them for The Observer. Here’s the kicker though, it’s not a documentary of them literally reviewing restaurant’s in England, it’s more of a ‘mockumentary’ where Coogan and Brydon are playing fictionalised versions of themselves.

The Trip is actually directed by Michael Winterbottom, who directed Coogan and Brydon in A Cock and Bull Story. Interestingly enough, they both play alter-ego’s of themselves, again fictionalised. Unfortunately I haven’t seen A Cock and Bull Story, but I am intrigued slightly due to my enjoyment taken from The Trip. 

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The initial premise is that Steve Coogan has been asked by The Observer to go and review restaurants that are claimed to be some of the best in England. His initial plan was to go with his girlfriend Misha, but she has plans that conflict with this. So Steve invites Rob Brydon, who agrees to go along with him. The brilliance in this comes from the chemistry that occurs between the both, although you can feel Coogan’s (sometimes genuine I think) irritation with Brydon.

This is when the comedy comes from as their bickering that occurs as the pair, playing the fictionalised versions of themselves, are constantly trying to one-up each other, with their different impersonations of Michael Caine and Sean Connery. Usually occurring over dinner, they have battles of impersonations, which they both do brilliantly, but then they have arguments about Welsh actors and Coogan’s ideas on who he should be working with and what he should be working on.

In all honesty, Coogan’s character of sorts, comes across as arrogant and annoying eventually as he constantly wrestles with his American agent about roles he should be playing, expecting a big break, expecting auteurs to be ready and waiting for him to play someone in their films. You feel sorry for the torrent of abuse that Brydon receives from Coogan due to his frustration and annoyance with Brydon. Mostly capped off by seeing a cottage where Coogan gets frustrated with the lady saying it’s closed, where as Brydon is able to get them into the cottage due to his small man trapped in a box voice. But as the episodes wear on, the more enjoyable their relationship becomes, for them on-screen and for us off-screen. Also you get to see Coogan become jealous of Brydon’s ‘small man trapped in a box’ and his attempts at doing it in the mirror.

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It was originally aired on the BBC and ran for six episodes, and the show matures as it goes on, because a ‘bromance’ forms between Coogan and Brydon and between bouts of impersonating Michael Caine, they eat an incredible amount of food (Which all looks so so good), but there is separate narratives which add something to the show, to make it seem authentic. Coogan wrestles with abundance of things, his boisterous teenage son, his rocky relationship with Misha (for which he dabbles in a string of affairs) and his acting career. Whereas, Brydon simply relishes the opportunity, but becomes homesick and rings his partner up impersonating Hugh Grant.

In theory, after reading back through this The Trip  does sound a bit rubbish. In practice, I wish they did more of the shows because it’s absolutely brilliant. The comedy works and according to interviews with Coogan, some of their conversations out of frustration are genuine and most of the comedy is improvised. All I can really suggest is if you watch, to take it with a pinch of salt. I personally think it’s brilliant and two comics that I didn’t neccesarily watch a great deal off and you get to see some culinary expert’s doing their best.

I find it difficult to give a rating to television shows, because some episodes are great, some aren’t. With this show, most of the shows are the same, just different restaurants, but the comedy although may seem repetitive is still brilliant to watch. So I shall say I recommend this!

An Announcement.

For those of you who read this blog regularly, you may have noticed the lack of posts for the past month or so. Fear not, I haven’t forgotten, I’ve just simply been far too busy with deadlines for university. I pledge here, from Monday onwards, you can have me back.

I have some movies in my drafts and I have been watching various films that I may or may not write a post about in the future, but for now my primary focus is on the deadlines!

I intend to spend majority of my time in the movies after I finish so I will have some wonderful reviews again for you, so if there is anything you’d like me to see and review then please get in contact with me via the comments section, or via my Twitter which you can find in the left hand side of this page.

Some of the future movies I intend to review are:

Completing the favourite films list (I’m working on it)

The Grand Budapest Hotel (I have a draft)

The other films in my drafts!

The Double

Divergent

Noah

Locke

Transcendence

Snowpiercer

Godzilla

Calvary

The Raid 2

Frank

Oh, and films that have recently come out on DVD that I have failed to see at the cinema.

Now there’s just some of the films, and admittedly some of them don’t come out til May or sometime after, but I’ll try and a review done for them!

If there is anything you’d recommend me adding to the list then let me know of course, I look forward to hearing from you.

Again, I apologise about the lack of posts this month, but May will be my month!

All the best,

Nathan.

Glory Road (2006)

This cropped up in my Netflix, and being a fan of basketball, I wanted to watch this. Low and behold, I am watching it. It crossed me as one of those inspirational sports films. But with a mix of comedic value in the film. Glory Road has a largely unknown cast and of course is based on a true story of Texas Westerns NCAA Tournament. However, something that should always be remember, this film is set in the 60s.

The story is the true story of Coach Don Haskins, who takes a major pay cut to coach at the NCAA Divisional college team Texas Western, which has next to no funds and no recruitment process. Don Haskins realises the potential of a black player at a player invitational. Realising the potential of these players, that have be passed up due to the colour of their skin, regardless of the skill and potential that was present.

The Coach then compiles a team of seven black players and five white players, a roster that was previously unheard of. Naturally, Coach Haskins works on the fundamentals and believes in team play and none of the showboating that was previously shown in the montage of the recruiting of players. In the training of the players, naturally the Coach is tough on the players which is always evident in these kind of inspirational sports films.

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The team in movie fashion gets off to great start, but face a difficult challenge in the fourth-seeded Iowa. This causes a dispute in the fundamentals that were enforced by the coach but also how the players would like to play with their showboating. Of course, the team plays with a mix of the two styles and goes on and wins.

 “It’s like making sweet music with your game, only thing is you don’t wanna hear the song.”

However. As they become more successful, the more attention they gain, which causes disruptions. It’s worth remembering, this was the 1960s and that black sportsmen weren’t as well tolerated as they are nowadays. The black players rooms were broken into and blood thrown against the walls and threats scrawled across the walls too. This causes tensions in the group whilst they continue to gain momentum into the NCAA tournament.

I won’t spoil the ending for you, of course. But being a true story, it’s not hard to look up Don Haskins and find out his story. He was rewarded with being inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame for his coaching with Western Texas. Ultimately, it’s about the power that was given to the first starting five black men, that was fielded intentionally by Coach Haskins which shocked people watching the NCAA championship game.

In all honesty, this film isn’t groundbreaking or special in any way, it’s just as regular as the rest of these sports films. In all honesty if you mixed the hostile situations seen in Remember The Titans and took Coach Carter’s stance on playing basketball, you’d essentially be given Glory Road. But that being said, if you enjoyed both of those films, chances are you’ll like Glory Road. As it does create that hostility, maybe not to the extent that the black people of the 60s would have felt, but it’s definitely there. But in one particularly gruelling scene, one of the members of the team is beaten up in the toilets by two adults. The racial and hatred towards the team continues to occur, especially when the team start winning more frequently.

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What is refreshing in this, there is some comedic value in the film, through the character interactions with each other. Especially their music battles on the buses for road games, but also at the very start Don Haskins shouting “I’ll buy you a skirt if you carry on playing like a girl” and a matter of fact, he is coaching a high school girls team.

I think most importantly, like in all sports films, there is that brotherhood that appears. Of course during their tremendous run into the NCAA tournament, the team show this brotherhood, but then hangs by a thread when the black members of the team blame the racial abuse on their white teammates purely because of the colour of their skin. Although it’s not actually them as it’s happening in the stands during the road games. The framework is visible, and as I mentioned not groundbreaking, but essentially, it is just a mix of elements from Remember The Titans and Coach Carter, however this is based on a true story, so the situations the team were placed in actually happened.

As I said, it’s nothing groundbreaking. It’s an easy watch, and a delight for the college basketball fans that know their NCAA tournaments, as it does feature Pat Riley in one of the teams (not the real Pat Riley of course). And with the big montages of the Miners dominating the other teams, it becomes a well rounded film.

3/5

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Okay, I actually approached this film from a unique, somewhat dodgy point. I have a confession. I hadn’t actually seen Captain America: The First Avenger all the way through. I mean I knew the gist of the storyline, but never actually committed myself to watching it all the way.

Of course, this is the second instalment of the Captain America solo franchise and predominantly features Chris Evans as Captain America and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, or Natasha Romanoff. The film, if you hadn’t of guessed, picks up after Avengers Assemble and Steve Rogers is trying to adapt to live again in the present day, this is played on by comedic ways when he meets with Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and he reveals his list he must catch up on.

I hadn’t watched many trailers for The Winter Soldier, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this, but I originally thought the titular character The Winter Soldier was referring to an ally that Captain America would fight with against a new enemy. I was sadly mistaken, as a glance at the IMDb synopsis states that Steve Rogers is trying to come to terms with present day lifestyle whilst battling an ancient enemy in The Winter Soldier.

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As I mentioned in my review of Thor, Marvel have recently hit a decent stride with the mix of comedy and action that has been seen during their current surge of films. However, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, is different. Of course there is the comedy, none like that in Thor or Iron Man as the charming characters make the comedy betterCaptain America on the other hand is more stern, more to the point, but of course that’s expected of a 1940s character now stuck and adjusting to life in the present day.

This difference I saw in The Winter Soldier worked though. It’s close to being the favourite Marvel film as the twists and plot, however implausible and foreseeable they are, are different to what has come to be expected of a Marvel film. I’ll try not to give any spoilers away, but Captain America, when meeting with Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) learns about S.H.I.E.L.D’s efforts to keep threats at bay using these mahoosive sky planes (Similar to the one in Avengers, except there is three of ‘um) called Project Insight. He learns this after retrieving some data from a ship that is owned by S.H.I.E.L.D, but raided by some mercenaries led by Batroc (Georges St-Pierre) who is a complete nutter and badass. (Something fishy is a afoot) But not as bad ass as The Winter Soldier. Then it becomes a seedy web of lies and things happen. With a pinch of ass kicking from The Winter Soldier and Captain America.

So you're telling me he doesn't look like a badass?

So you’re telling me he doesn’t look like a badass?

Captain America discovers things aren’t what they are and it becomes a tale of corruption and deceit, which is different as it’s not the classic tale of finding oneself and then an exciting sequence of action, which kind of happened in Thor: The Dark World, but it doesn’t in Captain America. Sure I said it’s kind of foreseeable, it’s in no shape or form edge of your seat stuff, but it’s enough and keeps the movie chugging along at a decent pace.

The Winter Soldier (takes a while to show up, despite being a titular character) simply put, turns up and kicks ass every so often and seems to be a past soviet weapon as Romanoff seems to know about him. Sam Wilson on the other hand is not integral, but helps move the story along and of course by the end of the film you see the brotherhood that Captain America and Falcon have formed. I, for one, am looking forward to the third instalment (should there be one) because of this brotherhood. Anthony Mackie and Chris Evans don’t share a whole lot of screen time, but you can tell they are a dynamic duo, much like Black Widow and Hawkeye in Avengers Assemble. That being said, there is a certain chemistry between the two (Captain America and Black Widow), especially with the playful banter back and forth about Captain America trying to find a date as an on-going joke and is spoken about during a mission.

I haven’t really mentioned the characters because everyone has come to know the characters already present in the Marvel movies, but The Winter Soldier is still the most intriguing as I mentioned due to the story behind the character and Anthony Mackie is nothing special, but the film is a nice platform for his character and the introduction of him. This behind a not all too complex narrative doesn’t offer a mind boggling effort of story and overload of characters (which I found in Avengers Assemble, man there were an abundance of characters to deal with).

"Cool guys don't look at explosions, they blow things up and then walk away"

“Cool guys don’t look at explosions, they blow things up and then walk away”

It stands at just over two hours which has become the standard measure for a Marvel superhero film now, and due to the pace of the film, it doesn’t feel long and the filming is genuine, you can tell the use of CGI has been reduced, giving it a more natural feel. And of course, with this new angle of corruption and deceit, mixed in with the comedy that Marvel has now become as common as blood in horror movies. It’s different and I liked it. It shows Marvel aren’t prepared to dwell on a success and keep trying new things. And of course these solo films always provide a platform for new characters and characters to improve their own characters, which happened with Black Widow. (Although her hair really annoyed me throughout the film, I don’t know what it was)

If you go into the movie expecting to see a movie where Steve Rogers is trying to adapt to modern life, your in the wrong film, although it is sold like this, it turns out it’s nothing like this. Either way, it is really compelling and enjoyable for the superhero movies. I’m not going to lie, it might be my favourite modern marvel film, but alas, I pine for The Incredible Hulk instalment.

4/5

P.S. I have since watched Captain America: The First Avenger and although serving as a introduction to the character of Steve Rogers and Captain America, this one is much better for some reason. It’s a different approach to the movie as a whole for Marvel, and I cannot reiterate this enough, because it felt different.