The Trip To Italy is a Refreshing Summer Get Away

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by Carrie Specht

Summer is usually the time for big movies with lots of action enhanced by copious amounts of special effects and computer generated images. Or even high concept comedies that involve opposites who are irrevocably drawn to each other. And of course there are the silly, flamboyant films aimed at kids accompanied by gobs of marking products that inevitably end up making more money than the film itself. But sometimes, maybe once in a blue moon there emerges another kind of film, one that relies on content clever dialogue, and snappy repartee. Fortunately for audiences the week before this film opened we experienced a “super” moon, which is even more rare than a blue one. On its trail comes The Trip To Italy, the delightful follow up to Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s previous road movie, The Trip.

thetrip240314wLike their previous team up, Coogan (Philomena, Hamlet 2) and Brydon (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, The Rob Brydon Show) are on a regional exploration with the intention of visiting several restaurants to review for some English print outlet, but this time they’re in Italy instead of the English Lake district (poor fellas, right?). They drive a lot and they eat a lot, and there’s not much more to the plot than that. Although there are some strained attempts at a couple of subplots (romance for Brydon and family drama for Coogan), the whole set up is just a really good excuse for two friends to talk and rant about whatever comes to mind.

trip-to-italy This might seem like a boring concept to some moviegoers, but with the likes of Coogan and Brydon it’s a brilliant idea that allows for some moments of hilarious comedy that will have you laughing along as if you were a part of the conversation and endless bantering. And since the two comedians appear to be sincerely close friends – the kind that pick on each other relentlessly and get on each other’s nerves to the absolute straining point and yet will still go for the kill on a tender subject if there’s a good joke in it – you’re really getting an inside look at a wonderful adult friendship. The Trip To Italy is as intimate a film as you’re ever likely to see.

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I recommend seeing this film with someone with whom you share a similar relationship to the one that exists between Coogan and Brydon. No doubt the empathy you’ll experience will make the comedy that much more funny, and the movie that much more memorable (kind of like when you take a vacation with a friend). There are times you’ll wonder why these two men put up with each, and why they would even consider a trip together their behavior toward each other is so acerbic and unrelenting. And yet it is clear that they understand each other, making each other laugh harder than anyone else they know. When those moments happen I promise you’ll be laughing just as hard, especially if your own Coogan or Brydon is sitting next to you with whom you can share a knowing glance.

 

Co-op of the Damned Makes Good Use of Horror Clichés on a Tight Budget

Co-Op of the Damned is a cleverly devised comedy/horror web series with plenty of charm and an impressive production look. Made on the cheap, but not cheaply made, the visual effects and prosthetic makeup combine to give the independently produced show a nicely polished homemade quality that will grab the attention of internet viewers, and likely inspire other financially challenged filmmakers to attempt the bold step of “doing it for themselves”.

After a dozen or so years in Hollywood working in a variety of positions behind the scenes I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons. Perhaps the most important one is the fact that if you want to make strides in your career you better be prepared to make things happen for yourself. This includes the possibility of producing your own projects and finding distribution for them. Now that the Internet has come of age and sites such as YouTube and Funny Or Die have proved to be viable venues, the act of self-producing has become a common occurrence for anyone with an idea and a camera. In deed, the online presentation no longer has the stigma of a poorly manufactured B movie, but receives its due respect. You may have ideas as grand as Steven Spielberg and a budget more limiting than Roger Corman’s, but it doesn’t matter anymore. That is, as long as the content is entertaining.

Regardless of budget it’s still not enough to make just anything, post it to the web and expect people to like it. You have to have something people want to see. And this is where Co-Op of the Damned succeeds where others fail. Co-op of the Damned takes two well used story devices and mashes them together; the undead and bad housemates, resulting in the humorous situation of roommates from hell, literally. Set in the most haunted building in New York City, each episode of Co-Op of the Damned takes place in a different apartment. Creator Ned Ehrbar has devised the send-up of a different genre specific scenario for each apartment and introduces a new apartment in each episode. Each installment of horror mayhem offers a clever twist on a popular cliché, and places the extraordinary amongst the ordinary for solid comic effect – often with zombies.

Every new episode of Co-Op of the Damned premiers on My Damn Channel first at http://www.mydamnchannel.com/coopofthedamned, then becomes available on demand on YouTube. You can also find Co-Op of the Damned on Twitter (@CoopoftheDamned) and Facebook (facebook.com/Coopofthedamned). I highly recommend checking it out if only to see what can be done with limited funds and a whole lot of imagination. I can’t wait to see what Ehrbar can do with a real budget. Lets just hope that it doesn’t stifle his ingenuity. After all, when it comes to film production, tight purse strings are the mother of invention.

Best Classic Comedy Movie Lines Ever? Really?

Billy Wilder undoubtedly knows what is funny in "Some Like It Hot".

Not too long ago, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) released a list of what the cable channel considered to be the ten funniest lines in movie history. The list (accessible at tcm.com/dailies/) was presented in no particular order other than chronological, nor stipulated any parameters for the selection process.

Now, it’s not usual for me to contradict TCM about anything. Ever. However, I have to say I was a bit disappointed with a few of the choices, mostly because some of the selections are not independently funny in and of themselves. Some rely upon context, or at the very least a set up line to truly be humorous. To be fair, TCM did not stipulate any conditions for their rankings, but I think they should have and I’ll tell you why.

“It’s good to be the king” is one of TCM’s choices as funniest movie lines. It’s from the Mel Brooks comedy “History of the World Part II”. Although I am a big a fan of Mel Brooks, I have never seen this film, so I have no understanding of what makes this otherwise simple statement so funny. The line itself is not humorous, let alone distinctive. You might as well select, “Werewolf. There wolf” from “Young Frankenstein” which I think is hysterical, but for someone who hasn’t seen the film the reference is likely lost.

Whereas, “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here this is the war room” is intrinsically funny whether of not you know that it is an extremely well placed line delivered brilliantly by Peter Sellers in “Dr. Strangelove”. On it’s own without the aid of a set up or understanding of the situation the statement is quite possibly the most perfect oxymoron ever uttered on the silver screen. One of my other favorites along the same vain is, “Shh! Listen. Smell that?” from “Ghost Busters” although its not an oxymoron, just a funny mingling of different actions.

Another line from the TCM list I have a problem with is one I hesitate to criticize, because it comes from a dear favorite. It’s the final line in “Some Like It Hot”. The Billy Wilder classic is considered by many (myself included) to be the best comedy of all time, and the line itself is arguably the best final line ever. However, if you don’t know the line that precedes it, let alone the set up of the whole movie, then the quip, “Well, nobody’s perfect” is likely to fall flat with you.

On the other hand, “I make more than Calvin Coolidge… put together” is a funny line that stands on its own even if you don’t know that the character saying it has been established as a complete idiot. The humor, as well as the personality of the character’s voice, is built into the phrase automatically. The only problem is that in today’s culture it’s not likely most people would know that Calvin Coolidge is one person, let alone a former president.

Granted, TCM did not place any stipulations on their choices. TCM is also a classic movie channel with a fan base that is far more knowledgeable about old film references than the average TV viewer. With this in mind, the lack of parameters is understandable based on the fact that TCM is talking to its audience and not the world at large. So, I suppose I can’t be too critical. But I think they should have been. After all, there’s a big difference between a funny moment and a funny line. I know that funny is as funny does, but some of the so-called best comedic lines just aren’t funny when read as opposed to being seen within the context of a film.