Tripping Again with Coogan & Brydon

 DATELINE: Another Sequel, not Deja Vu

 tripping

No, you didn’t read this movie review last week here.

What more can you ask?  Beautiful scenery, lovely music, and witty conversation. Yes, those two British actors (one with 2 Oscar nominations) are back to delight us.

We have skipped the second trip to Italy for now and cut to the chase with Trip to Spain. These two marvelous performers can hit the road and still hit their marks. This is another followup to their British series, The Trip, condensed and made into a feature film. No, it’s not a mid-life crisis movie, despite what the New York Times claims.

They seem to make the films every three or four years, which is just about right. They are reality-based, as the stars play themselves, notable thespians and comedians on a journalistic journey for the New York Times as food critics, or culture commentators.

With each stop at a breathtaking locale, Steve Coogan foams at the mouth with his erudite knowledge. Heaven help you if you know more or have enough. Rob Brydon can match him every mile, and that makes them chemically compatible.

Each morsel is back-lit with some of the funniest conversations this side of reality. Coogan notes how sorry he feels for anyone who thinks this stuff is not scripted and fully ad-libbed. It’s likely a circle within a square is outlined and the two drop in their witticisms.

However, the impressions make all the difference over the meals. When they argue over who does the best Mick Jagger impression as he plays Hamlet, you have moments that will knock fans of Noel Coward into the aisle.

Coogan remains prickly, but Brydon manages to break him up several times this trip, which may not have been planned.

If Coogan reminds us of ourselves, then we have had a bittersweet lesson. Sheer delight awaits the viewer.

 

 

 

The Trip (of Light Fantastic)

DATELINE: Boon Companions

trip 2.jpeg

Gourmet Wit & Impersonations on the menu!

We don’t know how we missed this film or its sequels. We are delighted to say we have found them now: epicurean wit and breathtaking scenery.

Two minor actors for reasons unclear are assigned to sample fancy restaurants in northern England. You may well ask if there any fancy restaurants in far-off south of Scotland. You may well ask yourself why two actors would be hired as journalists, not even TV journalists.

Yet, this light fare is sweet enough and fluffy around the edges. Steve Coogan is often insufferable and hardly worthy of spending five days in a long car ride. Rob Brydon is more pleasant and funnier. We do vote that Steve’s Michael Caine impersonation is better.

They have an edgy friendship, Platonic as Steve claims, but Coogan is known for his gay-themed movies like Philomena and Ideal Home. Here, he plays himself: as a womanizing aging actor.

There are some hilarious moments in a largely improvised script. One wonders why Brydon would be willing to go along after being told that just about everyone else said, no, thanks.

After an hour with Coogan, we understand why everyone from ex-wives to children and girlfriends are loathe to go anywhere with him. Alexander Pope’s wit likely rendered him unpleasant too. Groucho’s did.

They eat delectable meals and seem to have no appreciation for the hard work that goes into their menu trivia.

They sing-along during boring rides in the countryside, and they stop off in famous literary haunts. Their witty impersonations of notable and not-so-notable British stars (Michael Caine, Sean Connery, yes; Michael Sheen, no) are lively and funny.

Ultimately, Brydon admits that Coogan was exactly what he expected during their trip, and Coogan turns down a chance to star in an American TV series about a British pathologist.

How much is reality? How much is fake? Well, they made a few sequels—and we will sign up to go along with them.

Coogan insists it is not reality at all. It is the epitome of entertainment.

 

M/M: Sexual Identity Thief

DATELINE:  Weird Sex Thriller!

m:m M/M

Drew Lint is a director whose name we will watch in the future. His effort called M/M refers to Matthew and Mattias, two trendy young gay men in Berlin. However weird, this is not your usual gay love story. It is more a story of bizarre sexual obsession and identity theft. It’s Strangers on a Train on steroids.

If Jean Cocteau were still making movies, this would be his updated Beauty of a movie. If Rene Clair were making movies, this would be his update of a Highsmith story. Drew Lint writes and directs this film that rises far above the usual fare of gay-themed movies.

Hitchcock dared to make a movie like this, without overt sex in Rope.

Dialogue is sparse throughout the film, but it is definitely international with dollops of French, English,  and German, often in minor conversation or background.

Matthew is an artist, and Mattias is a bademeister (or glorified pool boy). Mattias wants to become his near twin, and there is a Patricia Highsmith Purple Noon quality here.

Stealing your life and sexuality may be more daring than taking your purse.

Whether parts of the tale are a dream (as Mattias notes in the opening, he dreams of statues come to life), you may be left guessing. Since Matthew may be involved in computer sculptures, you have a connection.

The dream twins become more and more alike, which may be why they both are devotees of techno music. How Mattias comes to take over Matthew’s life is intriguing and almost expected from stalking.

If you are not squeamish about sexual peccadilloes, the deeper psychological by-play between the characters sexually will be part of the sophisticated puzzle of the movie.

Prepare for a roller-coaster of creepy psychological games.

 

 

Springtime for Trump

DATELINE:  Trump Sings & Dances!

springtime for trump

In the classic Ponzi comedy The Producers, the big Broadway musical number that did in the crooks was called “Springtime for Hitler”. They oversold the show, hoping it would flop and they’d walk away with tons of money. Manafort and Cohen are the new producers. They oversold Trump to the gullible public.

In Springtime for Trump, his investors (all Russian mobster types) expected him to lose—and make a big profit. Alas, he won—and the undoing of these producers is now unfolding. May they all wind up in federal prison where they can put on a show.

In Mel Brooks’ original version of The Producers, Zero Mostel was the overweight man with the appalling comb-over. In the White House today is an overweight man with an appalling comb-over. He is a bigger crook than Zero’s character.

Mostel’s producer would sleep with dozens of women to procure their investments in his musical. In Trump’s world, he pays off dozens of women with campaign funds and a crooked lawyer to guarantee his tenure in office.

The big musical number was meant to shock people: goose-stepping showgirls in formation, a la Busby Berkley, dancing in a swastika conga lines. Trump’s conga lines include words like “dog”, “lowlife”, and “rat.”

Alas, they all apply to the biggest shyster ever to sully the white White House where Nixon claimed there would never be a white wash.

After Trump is impeached, we may need to fumigate the place.

We laughed uproariously at Zero’s crook, and we fumed at Nixon’s crook. Trump’s crook is still lining up the chorus.

Cue the dancing girls: we are about to sing the refrain from Springtime for Trump.

 

Hitler’s Hollywood by Any Other Name

DATELINE: Singing in the Reich

Hitler on movie set

If  imitation is a sincere form of flattery, Hitler’s attempt to copy Hollywood movies is indeed a nasty compliment. Hitler’s Hollywood is a horrid misnomer.

During the years 1933 to 1945, there was a thriving movie business under the Nazis in Germany, run by Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister of notoriety.

Hitler loved movies—and his studios planned to give him an exact duplicate of the big boffo productions out of Hollywood.

If he couldn’t have Garbo, he had Ingrid Bergman in one movie before she cleared out of the Third Reich for Rick’s Café in Casablanca.

The Germans loved musicals with numbers more extravagant than the Busby Berkley movies. They were overlaid, however, with nasty digs at Jews at every turn in subtle fashion. Then, there were the outright anti-Semitic films.

There were about a 1000 movies made by the German state studio with their own star system: comedy, melodrama, and historic epics, but never science fiction or horror. In fact, the melodrama featured so much fantasy and nightmares to the Aryan heroes that they turned into horror pictures.

The Nazis never knew irony.

If there was a steady theme, it was the glorification of death for the Fatherland. Good Germans dying for their country was a common theme.

As the war proceeded and was undermining morale, the films started to be oriented for female audiences—and in glorious technicolor. But the wild extravagance was panic to keep the home audiences on target.

The version of the Titanic sinking was blamed on the Jewish financiers, and then was banned from showings in Germany itself by Goebbels.

The entire documentary is narrated in creepy fashion by Udo Keir—and is hypnotic, horrifying, and surprising.

Westworld 2.4: Resurrection Postponed

DATELINE:  Lost in Delos-world

Jimmi Jimmay Jimmi as William aka Black Death!

We couldn’t spoil this episode if we gave you a plot synopsis.

With most of the cast absent without leave, we faced the prospect of William’s dubious mission. Yes, Ed Harris and his younger doppleganger, Jimmi Simpson, carry the action in the fourth episode of the second season.

Now if you want to know what it all means, you may find there is no such thing as a spoiler when you are lost in a maze. For the life of us, we realize that there is some issue around immortality being examined.

We learn that the palsy that afflicts Bernard and a bunch of other hosts is some kind of cognitive deterioration because they lack brain stem fluids, or are driven mad by being a human in a robot body.

Yes, the automaton robots have a problem with immortality, or a weak script .

They learn the truth and cannot handle it.

We are more convinced that, in this Delos World, there is no such thing as Death. You can always return in a past incarnation, or in a reboot. Actors love this kind of role.

You can only speculate about what’s really going on because creator Jonathan Nolan, like the Grand Creator of the Universe, is flying by the seat of his pants.

Bernard (as limned by Jeffrey Wright) could be something more like a brain transplant into a robot body. The head man of Delos is apparently a grand experiment. It leaves us wondering why they didn’t bring back Ford (Anthony Hopkins) in the same fashion.

Indeed, we might speculate that his resurrection could be the stuff of the series climax in season two. Don’t hold us to any firm prediction while we wait for the regular cast members to return from their hiatus week.

 

 

Kinky Puss’n Boots

DATELINE:  A Really Big Shoe

 kinky boots Kinky-Dinky!

Kinky Boots may kindly be called an old-fashioned character drama. The difference is that it’s about drama queens in men’s shoes. It was later turned into a smash stage show, but the 2006 version is one of those working class British angry young man movies (except the young man dresses like a woman).

The two characters in juxtaposition are, first, the son of a shoe factory heir facing bankruptcy for making traditional footwear for men when disposable sneakers are the rage.

The second young man likes to wear high-heels and becomes a cabaret star in drag shows.

Under normal circumstance, you almost would expect the two men to slip into each other’s loafers at some point. Thank heavens, Kinky Boots keeps us in our own lanes and avoids any moments with glass slippers.

Joel Edgerton is the scion of shoemakers who learns that market niche for men’s boots with stilettos is high end. He meets Chiwetel Ejiofor in a career-busting role as Lola, the giant man in glitter. They kick up the story. Chiwetel also sings us a torrid version of “Whatever Lola Wants.”

Unfortunately, to walk a mile in one man’s shoes, or high-heels, may be a stretch too far. The movie makes its points early and often but keeps on giving us more. The climax on the runways of Milan for shoe biz is too much glitz for our own good. Hero and audience fall flat.

Lessons in what defines masculinity and manhood are made a few times too many. It’s always hard to figure out British men anyhow since, to American eyes, they all look ready to put on a feathery boa and dancing shoes.

Tom, Giselle, Boris & Natasha!

DATELINE: Met Gala Stun Guns Again

Tom, Giselle, Boris, Natasha

Yes, right after the Kentucky Derby “and they’re off—” comes the notorious Met Gala in New York where the show horses and would-be celebrities fall all over themselves on the red carpet.

Yes, on the heels of the bizarre nature of Westworld’s second season comes Evan Rachel Wood, Kim Karadasian, and Elon Musk, on the red carpet.

Our favorite had to be Tom Brady, erstwhile ageless quarterback and his wife (the billionaire), looking like refugees from 1960s Gilligan’s Island. Indeed, you had to wonder if Jonathan Nolan had produced the glitzy extravaganza as a means to publicize his TV HBO weirdo series.

You can’t tell the androids from the guests.

What Tom Brady has had to do to cause his wife to agree to let him play for two more seasons? You have only to look at his outfit as the twosome cavorted with other Barbie and Ken dolls.

Yes, Tom is wearing nail polish. You can’t see the multi-colored nail polish on his feet. And he looks like he is storing botox in his cheeks. Yet, the rash comments that he and wife look like James Bond villains is a tad off-the-mark.

Tom is not auditioning to play Dr. No, nor Goldfinger. He is acting like a friendly Russian that would charm President Donald Trump, whose hair would have fit right in on the red carpet.

Tom and Giselle came across as Boris and Natasha, those 1960s spies who gave Bullwinkle Gronk and Julian the Flying Squirrel fits.

Halloween comes early. However, we did see Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his young Baby Mama. To our shock, Kraft was NOT wearing his blue collar/white shirt. He did have de rigueur tennis shoes with his tux.

You have to love insanity with money.

 

 

Reel History: When Bette Met Mae

DATELINE:  What Becomes a Legend Most

 Bette & Mae The Reel McCoys!

Yes, a young fan at an intimate dinner party made an audio tape of a conversation with Bette Davis and Mae West when they met in November of 1973. And, now that young man has produced and directed a marvelous documentary that re-enacts that meeting with lip-synch lookalikes.

What a treat for those who love the old Hollywood legends—and it’s the actual voices of the stars, played to the hilt of re-enacting.

Their pre-dinner conversation is dotted and interrupted with annotations about their lives and celebrity that comprise a little gem that lasts over an hour.

You might expect fireworks, but Mae only plays her famous Diamond Lil for money—not for social laughs. And, Bette does her Margo Channing with an endless punch of hard drinks galore.

In some ways Davis dominates—and takes on the other two guests who came with Mae West.  But, the two legends have a love-fest as they run down the old Hollywood studio system, imitators, and worthless men in their lives.

All this is enhanced with two marvelous doppleganger actresses in the roles of Mae and Bette—looking so realistic that you feel like you really are there.

Wes Wheadon was a young friend of Bette and decided to put the chat on an old cassette tape from that long-ago night–and direct it as he recalls. Now he shares that wonderful evening with a new generation. With Victoria Mills as Mae and Karen Teliha as Bette, Sally Kellerman narrates this delicious night of stars.

 

 

 

 

Visitor from a Strange Planet? Or Time Traveler?

DATELINE:  Weird Photo 

 interesting

We have begun to think that Trump’s Chief of Staff, John Kelly, is not who he says he is.

Kelly purports to be a local Boston person who attended UMass Boston before climbing the ranks to the level of General. Since the Trump election, he has risen to Director of Homeland Security—and thence moved to the White House as Trump’s mad dog, er, we mean guard dog.

Yet, during recent research, we have discovered a photograph that may belie the truth.

It seems John Kelly has a double who served on the Warren Commission—and helped fired CIA director Allen Dulles in that benighted investigation.

Warren conspirators

John McCloy died, allegedly, in 1989, but during his illustrious career as a Know-Nothing politician, he masterminded the idea of interring Japanese during World War II and restoring properties and money to the supporters of Hitler, despite the Nuremberg decision not to reward these people.

It seems that McCloy and Kelly may be cut from the same cloth, as Kelly wants to toss hundreds of thousands of legal and illegal immigrants from the United States. He may also be a witness to Trump’s recent racist rant, saying all Haitians have AIDS and all Nigerians lived in African huts before coming to America.

Can it be that Kelly is actually a time traveler who shows up at the White House periodically to weave his peculiar brand of politics?

What’s next? Will we learn that Kelly is also on the board of directors for MJ-12, the shadow government of the United States, that conspires to keep the truth about space aliens from the general public?

Photographic evidence is chilling.

Trick or Treat, Belichick Style

 DATELINE:  Yes, We Have No Bananas

Did Bill Belichick just put a razor blade in Patriot fans’ apple?  Or like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, did he simply offer the Apple to the Sodom and Gomorrah team of America?

Shock waves continue to reverberate around New England as the man in the Grim Reaper costume goes door to door, locker to locker, looking for another trick to pull.

Tom Brady, youthful optimist, wished another of his long-term second-bananas the best of luck. Poor Jimmy G will need it with the band of merry losers out by the Golden Gate.

The revolving door of quarterbacks likely means that Belichick has another sleight of hand at the ready before the end of trade deadline. We are not privy to the inner machinations of the Machiavelli of football.

We would suggest that Drew Bledsoe will not come out of retirement for the Patriots. Their last-ditch quarterback replacement always was Julian Edelman who is now wearing his costume for the big Day of the Dead festival in Foxboro.

We already let the black cat out of the bag before tossing him into the Charles River by mentioning the name of Brian Hoyer, long-time Shemp to the stooges who wait in vain for Brady to grow old.

Brady is smiling like Alfred E. Neumann because he knows that he will never age and will never lose a step.

Does Robert Kraft have Colin Kaepernick’s smartphone number on speed dial? We await the special prosecutor investigation of the Jimmy G deal.

Jimmy G By-Gone with the Wind

DATELINE:  Cable Cars Come and Go

As coach Swami Bill Belichick said to Scarlett O’Hara, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”  With those words, the quarterback of the Patriots future went West, Young Man.

With NFL QBs at a premium, and with their quarterback of the future under contract for two more years, the Patriots felt strongly they could send Jimmy G packing before the Curse of the Broken Brady Mirror caused untolled grief in New England.

Though thought to be set as the next Franchise Player, arrested and held in house for next season, it appears that another Tom Brady acolyte will be running his own team sooner than later.

The San Francisco 49ers will not re-sign Colin Kaepernick now that Jimmy will be high-stepping and standing up for Country.

As for the Patriots, the Patriots are left with only one young, handsome immortal:  the ever-perennial blooming Jack Benny of the Gridiron. Tom plans to stick around.

Who then shall take a seat behind Brady for the rest of the season? Surely, Trump-loving Belichick will not stand for Colin Kaepernick. No, he won’t have to. It appears the 49ers will release Brian Hoyer, Tom’s past backup QB. Tom’s other backups are all hard at work with other teams:  Jacoby, Matts 1 & 2,  and now again Brian–but hold on to your past backup.

Everything comes full circle. The one-time Brady backup Hoyer who flopped in San Francisco and left his heart on the field will return to New England where the splinters in his pants are awaiting a reunion with his former championship team.

Well, now, you don’t need a rear-view mirror after all, Tom.  Take Maxwell’s Silver Hammer to another one.

Boston Celtics Unveil Third Big Three

DATELINE:  Here We Go Again, Hopefully

whats not to like?

Nouveau Celtics: Hayward and Irving, Alphabetically

After a long hiatus, we returned to watching The Boston Celtics again.

They do look rather exciting this season, which may take the sting off the stink of the Patriots.

On top of that, the Celtics don’t take a knee during the national anthem. They may be more interested in making the Celtics great again, not making Trump look good.

There is a new big three in town.  Kyrie Irving surprises us by being find less sour than we remembered him on the Cleveland team, and Gordon Hayward is far more muscular than we remembered him on the Utah team. Combine them with our new old favorite Al Horford, and we feel like Bird, McHale, and Parrish, have just walked through that door. Well, Bird has returned: oh, wait, it’s Jabari Bird, not Larry.

Or perhaps we see a new version of Garnett, Pierce, and Ray Allen, if only they provide us with such soap opera drama.

Indeed, 2/3 of the Celtics roster is totally new. We couldn’t recognize anyone. Trader Danny Ainge has brought back only four young players, but even they look like Celtics of the future. We refer to Jaylen Brown, the new number seven, and Jayson Tatum, the new big zero. Red Sox star Mookie Betts showed up to jump-start the inter-sports support.

These youngsters seem to be taking the places of memories we have of Rajon Rondeau and Avery Bradley.

The best came from announcer and Hall of Famer, always amusing, 83-year-old Tommy Heinsohn. He said he had seen the new center, bullish Aron Baynes in the shower, and he represented the big continent of Australia in sheer size.

Heavens, can things be looking up from Down Under?

Feud: Ryan Murphy & Olivia DeHavilland

DATELINE: Creepy Producer

 

coda

The spry legend, Miss Olivia DeHavilland whose Oscars outnumber anything Ryan Murphy will ever compile, has fired another volley at miniseries Feud: Joan & Bette, created by Mr. Murphy.

Right before the series is about to reap Emmy glory for its hilarious and entertaining depiction of two movie stars in a death throe struggle like scorpions, more turns of the screw emerge.

Miss DeHavilland’s character, ‘herself’ it appears, is a mere supporting figure. Yet, she does not like how she is portrayed. In a deposition through her lawyers, she tells the world she never called her sister, actress Joan Fontaine, ‘a bitch’ to any director or producer.

That may mean she used to term privately among friends, or even to hapless Joan Fontaine’s face, but her point is the script and series misrepresented her behavior. She said: “The false statements and unauthorized use of my name, identity and image by the creators of Feud have caused me discomfort, anxiety, embarrassment, and distress.”

Yes, being violated is like that, no matter what your age.

Murphy’s glad-hand attitude demeans Miss DeHavilland by calling her “Olivia,” despite her age, her position, and the fact that he never has met her, let alone sought her permission to use her as a figure in a docudrama.

In blatant admission, Murphy’s mouthpieces claim: “The fact that the words attributed to her and the purported endorsement are false does not transform the character into anything other than an exact depiction of de Havilland.”  Hunh?

That’s quite an admission: they know they have misused her by having her say words she never uttered, but it’s all for the profit of Ryan Murphy—and to give us viewers a few guffaws.

We wish to point out that Miss DeHavilland is a real human being, not an emblematic symbol like the White Whale, appearing in a work of fiction.

Murphy is betting that the 101-year old Oscar winner may pop off at any time—thus giving him the last word, which he will have anyhow as time will likely bestow on him the honor to be standing at the end of all this mess.

In all likelihood, the arrogant TV producer probably thought DeHavilland was already dead—and it didn’t matter how he used her identity.

What the old legend is showing here is that identity theft can occur in many ways:  when you profit from stealing someone’s personality, you’re a thief, Mr. Murphy. But, as Hollywood producers go, that is no crime at all.

 

No Crying Jag for Crying Game

 DATELINE:  Sexual Politics in the IRA

 jaye

 

Twenty-five years ago, The Crying Game was nominated for Oscar’s Best Picture and co-star Jaye Davidson was a nominee for supporting star. Davidson stayed in movies a few more years before deciding to drop out, disliking the attention.

Director Neil Jordan made his reputation with the movie and worked deliberately since, with Interview with the Vampire standing out from his oeuvre.

The Crying Game uses the terrorism of the Irish Republic Army as a backdrop for sexual politics.

The impressive cast is so young and fresh: Forrest Whitaker as a British soldier, Stephen Rea as his abductor, Miranda Richardson as a firebrand radical, with Jim Broadbent—and, of course, Jaye Davidson as the striking main squeeze of Forrest Whitaker.

The film is two distinct halves: the capture of the victim and his ordeal, and Rea’s escape to England to find Whitaker’s paramour (at the request of the prisoner).

Twists of the plot and turns of the body politic make for Jordan’s unusual take on how radical agendas may be dwarfed by the personal foibles of the participants.

If someone spoiled the story-line for you, curses on them. You need to see this to figure it out—and the clues are omnipresent from the easy friendship between Rea and Whittaker, to the odd Metro bar where Dil sings after daywork as a hairdresser.

Where Rea’s IRA escapee seems too easily manipulated by the women around him, the women are forceful and willing to take charge.

Jordan throws pop music handily into the plot—from Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman,” to the ultimate, “Stand by Your Man,” sung by Tammy Wynette. There is subtext here, mostly found in the song of the movie title, lip-synched by Davidson effectively in one scene.

Watching the film, you will know why it was all the rage a generation ago—and remains topical and effective today.