Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Trip to Italy

The Trip to Italy  (TTTI)  reunites the stars of, The Trip and takes them to (yes, you guessed it) Italy. The premise is essentially the same (go on a scenic gastronomic tour) but this time the stars go together on purpose because of the success of the newspaper articles about the previous trip.

I think I should say first up that I did really enjoy this film and it is very funny and there is no reason not to go to it. However, it is a bit lazy and it could have been even better. If we look at the five layers of entertainment potential I discussed in my blog about The Trip you can see why that is. The first layer is the scenery and of course Italy is lovely to look at. Their accommodation is a level up from the British version and is generally beautiful and historic. There's a bit of a theme of visiting the haunts of ex-pat English poets which adds a bit of interest.

The second layer is that of putting two funny people together to amuse us. This is TTTI's big strength. The jokes are good. There are more impressions (Hugh Grant, Batman, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino,  more Michael Caine, and the little man in a box) and there are amusing monologues.The third layer, the investigation of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's relationship and of them as people is where the film starts to fall down. If you want to be blunt, you could call this aspect the plot and the film's downfall is the lack of it. There's an inference that Steve Coogan has tidied up his act (hasn't been drinking for about six months) and he doesn't bonk the first attractive woman they meet), but we don't get any detail about that. And then its seems as if  someone said , "tell you what, let's make Rob Brydon's character the one who has casual sex" without really considering what that would add to the film or the dynamic, or if they considered it, didn't actually write it into the script.. Having done that, then Yolanda, the photographer from the first film is brought back which you'd think would make things interesting, but nothing happens and nothing is added to the plot. And Steve Coogan's son arrives from Spain (which is used to explain why they don't go to Sicily) and you think THAT might be a plot development, but no, the credits roll and you wonder why that happened.

(After I wrote the last paragraph I watched Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in an interview about The Trip to Italy on Youtube and apparently there was no script - Michael Winterbottom just outlined the premise and the actors had to improvise. This does explain the lack of plot.)

As in the first film, the food is merely background interest, although a wine called furore does provide fodder for some jokes. Unlike the first film, any celebration of englishness is only cursory, but there is some examination of aging which is amusing and well-done. So there we are - a very funny film, but only thought provoking in the sense that you think about how it could have been better. And now that I know it was improvised, to reflect that it's perhaps surprisingly cohesive.

Anne's rating 3/5 Ian's rating 3/5.

Friday, June 20, 2014

What We Do in the Shadows

Warning bells go off in Anne's mind when she reads a film being described as "hilarious". Too often that word is used in desperation to describe an otherwise nondescript comedy.
Self described as hilarious
So she was a little apprehensive going into What We Do in the Shadows at the Embassy.

Some mockumentaries try hard to fool the viewer into believing they are real documentaries, others just play it straight without trying too hard to fool the viewer. What We Do in the Shadows belongs in a third category that discards pretence in its exploration of the lives of 4 vampires flatting in Wellington.

While True Blood tried to integrate and normalise vampires into small town southern America, What We Do in the Shadows tries to place vampires into the New Zealand flatting scene. The film explores their domestic life and conflicts, attempts to make friends and go out on the town. It also explores questions missed by other vampire films such as what happens when a vampire eats hot chips.

There is more than a hint of Flight of the Conchords in the style and pacing of What We Do in the Shadows. It is laid back, hesitant and self mocking.

Ian's rating 3/5  Anne's rating 3.5/5