Thursday, May 21, 2020

Bob's Cinema Diary: 5/22/20 -- 'The Trip to Greece' and 'Military Wives'

The Trip to Greece
There are at least two ways to look at The Trip to Greece, the fourth and purportedly final episode in a series of movies from Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Those familiar with the series, know the drill. Coogan and Brydon trade barbs, do a variety of spot-on imitations and roll through routines that feel entirely improvised. They also eat sumptuous meals, mostly in premier restaurants boasting spectacular views. During a time when most of us can’t travel, watching Trip to Greece either will provide welcome relief for the homebound or become a form of torment, a reminder of all that has moved beyond reach during these Covid-19 days. Director Michael Winterbottom adds a bit of story to the mix, the major one involving a saddened Coogan and his hospitalized father. Coogan, by the way, does a great Ray Winstone, casting the actor as an improbable Henry VIII. Did I enjoy seeing some of the locations? Yes. Was the idea of building the trip around Ulysses's travels in The Odyssey particularly compelling? Not really. Does it sometimes seem as if the few additional characters are around to function as a laugh track for Coogan and Brydon? Yes. Did I feel any hostility toward the series? Not a bit. Look, Coogan and Brydon have mastered their comic-duo act and Trip to Greece offers intermittent pleasures -- even if it has lost some of its freshness and even if you sometimes wish that the two would calm down and stop being two brilliant guys whose commitment to entertaining can become annoyingly incessant.

Military Wives

Director Peter Cattaneo directed The Full Monty (1997). That should tell you that Military Wives isn't about to offer a hard-hitting critique of the military or a deeply felt lament about the women who support husbands (and in one case, a wife) who go off to war. The story centers around two characters, Kristen Scott Thomas's Kate and Sharon Horgan's Lisa. Not surprisingly, Scott Thomas plays the bossier of the two with Horgan giving life to a character who's far less rule-bound. After the troops leave the movie's military base, the two begin a choir that's supposed to boost the morale of those who wait at home. Cattaneo sounds a few somber notes, but Military Wives makes no bones about its intention to write a feel-good prescription that reaches its crescendo when the choir is invited to perform at a memorial ceremony at Royal Albert Hall Scott Thomas knows how to deliver the goods when it comes to a character such as Kate. She can put her nose in the air while reassuring us that she'll eventually play the trump card of her character's humanity. Horgan makes a relaxed foil as the two clash over the kind of music on which the choir should focus. Cattaneo gins up some last-minute conflict that hardly matters, a predictable bump on a predictable road. My conclusion: I'm not a great fan of this particular kind of movie but kudos to the cast for approaching the task without apology. Sometimes, it pays not to veer too far off the main road.

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