Coogan And Brydon’s Second Outing Is Another Entertaining And Delectable Trip

Courtesy:  IFC Films/mpi Media Group

Courtesy: IFC Films/mpi Media Group

IFC Films’ latest outing from actors Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan is one of 2014’s best new independent releases. The “sequel” to the duo’s 2011 feature simply (and aptly) titled The Trip, The Trip To Italy stands out unlike any other production released in 2014. It stands out primarily in its approach. It isn’t necessarily a movie in the most traditional sense. Though there is a sense of a buddy road trip to the story. That buddy comedy element is crossed with something that could almost be considered a reality TV sort of approach. The end result is a presentation that one can’t help but watch if only for that reason. The approach taken by those behind the cameras in presenting The Trip To Italy is just part of the whole that makes this rather intriguing and entertaining work so well worth the watch. Brydon and Coogan’s (sounds like a law firm doesn’t it?) jokes and impersonations throughout the trip make for their own share of entertainment. Nothing is off limits to the pair. No doubt the duo’s comic bits and discussions will have any open-minded viewer laughing uproariously. The last element of The Trip To Italy that makes it such a joy is its backdrops. There is no green screen here. There is no movie magic. Everything that audiences see is really the Italian countryside. In its own way, it could be argued that it is a throwback to the golden era of moviemaking. Together with the movie’s comic element and its overall presentation, all three elements make The Trip To Italy a movie that while not a movie in the traditional sense, a production that still stands firm on its own laurels and is one of the best new independent releases of 2014.

The Trip To Italy is one of the best new independent film releases of 2014. The movie, which ironically enough is itself a sequel, proves to be far better than any of the mass of sequels churned out by Hollywood’s Power Five studios last year. The central reason that it outperforms those movies is the manner in which it is presented. The “movie” isn’t necessarily a movie in the traditional sense. Yet the classic buddy comedy/road trip aspect is there. To be more precise, it blends that element with something along the lines of a reality TV show to make for a production that completely stands out from that mass of major name equels. What’s more, being that Coogan and Brydon spend most of their time either eating and driving, one could even compare it to the likes of PBS’ Rick Steves Europe. Go figure, Coogan and Brydon go after so many pop culture figures, movies, and more. But they don’t poke fun at Rick Steves even being in a setting that only encourages such jabs. That will be discussed later. Getting back to the subject at hand, the duo’s travels through Europe was compltely unscripted. It was just them touring Italy, checking out some of the country’s finest cuisine and taking in the sights all while making jokes and trying out their best impersonations. There’s no scripting. So while yes it is a movie, it also shows to be one third documentary and one third reality TV. That The Trip To Italy comes across as such an intriguing hybrid is plenty of reason within itself for audiences to check out this latest release from IFC Films. It’s just one reason to watch it, too. The jokes and impersonations shared throughout the its near two-hour run time make The Trip To Italy even more worth the watch.

The hybrid presentation of The Trip To Italy offers audiences plenty of reason within itself for audiences to watch the “movie” at least once. The jokes and impersonations that are thrown around throughout the course of its near two-hour run time add even more reason for audiences to check it out. Nothing is off limits to Coogan and Brydon, either. From Alanis Morissette to Sean Connery and Roger Moore to Al Pacino and more, Coogan and Brydon go after everyone that they can think of. There’s even a joke aimed at famed Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor. Speaking of public broadcasting, it is interesting that there was no mention of PBS’ travel series Rick Steves Europe anywhere in this production since the duo spent the length of the movie travelling the Italian countryside. Perhaps that was just too easy and too expected. It’s anyone’s guess. Regardles, the jokes and impersonations that are included throughout the “movie”–including a lighthearted jab at Americans’ tendency to use overblown names for themselves and their posessions–make for plenty of laughs and in turn, just as much entertainment. It’s yet another way in which The Trip To Italy proves itself worth the watch. It still isn’t all that makes the production worth the watch, either. The backdrops throughout the presentation round out the reasons to watch The Trip To Italy.

The comic element of The Trip To Italy and its original hybrid presentation are both key to its enjoyment. Both aspects play their own important role in the production’s enjoyment. While both are equally important, they still are not all that make the presentation worth the watch. The “movie’s” backdrops round out the whole thing and make it all the more enjoyable. As noted previously, it would have been so easy for audiences to make a comparison between The Trip To Italy and PBS’ Rick Steves Europe in watching this work since Coogan and Brydon were travelling the Italian countryside. It would have been just as easy for Coogan and Brydon to make jokes at that show’s expense. Of course that didn’t happen. Perhaps that’s because it would have been too expected and easy. Regardless, the backdrop of the Italian countryside is a major positive to the whole of The Trip To Italy. As subtle as it is and as little as some might think about it, seeing that countryside is just like watching Rick Steves Europe. It’s like watching a video postcard. There is no green screen. There are no special effects. It is really the duo travelling the countryside. It is more proof of the duo’s (and of IFC Films’) dedication to making the experience 100 real and believable for audiences. It is that reality of the “movie” alongside its original hybrid presentation, and its laugh riot jokes and impersonations that makes The Trip To Italy a trip that audiences will want to take more than once.

The Trip To Italy is available online now in stores and online now. It can be downloaded via iTunes now at https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/the-trip-to-italy/id900191598. More information on this and other titles from IFC Films is available online at:

Website: http://www.ifcfilms.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/IFCFilmsOfficial

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Lishy Lou and Lucky Too Another Contender For One Of 2013’s Best Children’s Albums

Courtesy:  Sugar Mountain PR

Courtesy: Sugar Mountain PR

Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band return next Tuesday with the group’s third full length studio release.  Lishy Lou and Lucky Too! The L.A. based five-piece’s new album comes only months after the release of its first ever EP, fantastico!  It is yet another fun and original release from Lucky and company.  Even more, it serves as more proof of what makes children’s albums just as viable as “grown-up” albums if not more so.  That is primarily because much like so many other children’s acts, the band has managed to come up with a new sound on each of its albums so far.  Even its sole EP bears a style and sound different from its previous pair of full length releases.  It has continued that tradition with this album, too opting for something unlike any other children’s or grown-up act.

Lishy Lou and Lucky Too! Is nothing like fantastico! or its previous full length releases.  This time, the band takes listeners of all ages way back in time.  It goes back to the golden days of broadcasting when radio was the only means of broadcast entertainment for audiences.  It does this with its own family friendly “radio comedy.”  For those that perhaps might not know, the days of radio broadcasting “saw” some of the greatest ever programming make its debut.  And the “show” put on by Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band is just as entertaining as any original family friendly radio show put on during that great era.  It might be a bit of a stretch, but the closest comparison that can be made in this era is perhaps to that of PRI’s (Public Radio International) “A Prairie Home Companion.”   Those that are familiar with that landmark radio show are welcome to debate that comparison.  That’s just the view of this critic.  Perhaps for those that are not so familiar with the work of Garrison Keillor and company, maybe this review will be the catalyst to get said individuals interested not just in this new album, but also in “A Prairie Home Companion” and other public radio programs.

The overall presentation of Lishy Lou and Lucky Too! is wonderful fun for the entire family.  The jokes are groaners, obviously.  That’s not a bad thing.  Any grownup that allows themselves to do so will find them such groaners that they’ll laugh at them, much like those told by Svengoolie’s rubber chicken friend, Kerwyn (BERWYN!).  Any Me-TV fans will get that reference.  The jokes aren’t all that audiences will appreciate in this new record.  The introduction of new characters Pockets, Time Travelling Tina, Milt, Alistair, and Chantal is a great touch to the record.  New friend Pockets is a wonderful throwback to the late great Harpo Marx.  He only talks through sound.  And his skits are among the funniest on the entire album.  Parents and children alike will love how he gets tricked into introducing a song all about him after having just gotten into a little argument with Alistair.  It would be a surprise if this moment doesn’t leave listeners of all ages laughing to some extent.

Lucky and company offer listeners of all ages so much enjoyment throughout the course of the band’s new album.  It pays homage to old time radio with its overall presentation.  This is wholly original and more than deserving of praise.  It’s nice to see someone trying to develop a starting point to get today’s audiences interested in broadcasting’s golden era.  This critic challenges anyone to find another act—children’s or otherwise—that has done what Lucky Diaz and company have done here.  Of course for the homage paid to classic radio on this record, the band also pays tribute to the golden days of film, too.  It does this through the inclusion of its own acoustic take on Meredith Wilson’s ‘Till There Was You.’  The gentle acoustic guitar set against the song’s vocals and the harmonica part will bring back fond memories of the Morton DaCosta directed 1962 classic, The Music Man.  It is played with the same gentility as when it was sung between Marian (Shirley Jones) and Professor Hill (Robert Preston) as they stood on that bridge under the moonlight.  For all of the funny moments offered to audiences throughout this record, this one moment stands out like a shining beacon unlike anything else included in its sequencing.  And it makes the rest of the record that much better.  For that matter, it makes one wonder what a full album of jazz covers would sound like form Lucky and company.  Yes, that’s a hint to Lucky and company should they read this critic’s review.

Lishy Loud and Lucky Too! has so much heart and so much substance to listeners, as one should be able to tell at this point.  Whether one is familiar with the band or not, this is still a solid record from beginning to end.  Its skits are wholly entertaining.  Its cover of a jazz classic adds even more heart to the album.  And with any luck, because of the overall presentation, it could even serve as a starting point to get listeners of any age interested in classic radio and the history of radio entertainment in general.  So much more could likely be noted of this album.  But that would entail aimless rambling for days.  Keeping that in mind, the album will be available next Tuesday, October 1st.  It can be ordered direct from the band’s website at http://luckydiazmusic.com/merchandise/lishy-lou-and-lucky-too-by-lucky-diaz-and-the-family-jam-band.  More information on this and all of the band’s albums is available online at http://luckydiazmusic.com, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lucky-Diaz-and-the-Family-Jam-Band/182600891967, and http://twitter.com/Lucky_Diaz.

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Wreck-It Ralph Offers More family Fun From Disney

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph was originally said by the company to be the first in a movement to attract more young male audiences.  Disney made the announcement in 2010 when it released what was said to be its last princess movie for the foreseeable future in Tangled.  Ironically enough, Wreck-It Ralph proves to be a movie that will appeal to both young male and female audiences as well as parents.  Kids will enjoy the movie thanks to the backdrop of the video game world.  Parents will appreciate the movie for its multi-pronged moral story placed against the video-game based world.

Wreck-It Ralph is an interesting story.  On the surface, some might argue that it’s just a blatant advertisement for the video game industry.  That is true, but only partially.  It’s more than that.  It pays homage to both the video game industry’s golden era and its more modern era.  It’s more than that though.  Anyone that remembers Pixar’s groundbreaking movie, Toy Story will almost instantly recognize something a similarity between that movie and this work.  It is basically Toy Story set against the world of video games.  Just as the toys in Toy Story had their own secret world and life, so do the video game characters in Wreck-It Ralph.  And just as Woody was worried about being replaced, the characters in Wreck-It Ralph worry about their game being permanently unplugged.  The lesson of friendship is also present in both stories.  As can be seen, there are quite a number of similarities between Pixar’s groundbreaking CG based story and this latest release from Disney.  For all the similarities between the two works, Wreck-It Ralph does manage to establish its own identity.  It does this through its multi-pronged moral story.

The primary moral of Wreck-It Ralph is one of self-acceptance.  Ralph—voiced by veteran actor John C. Reily (Cyrus, Talladega Nights, A Prairie Home Companion) learns to accept himself and be comfortable with himself despite the labels placed on him by the social structure of the video game world.  But it isn’t until he develops a friendship with young Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) that he reaches this epiphany.  He realizes that he should be happy with himself because he sees in Vanellope someone just like himself.  And just as he sees a kindred spirit in Vanellope, she sees a hero in him, thus leading to the revelation that he doesn’t need a medal to be a hero.  As long as he is a hero to one person, that’s all that matters.  This is something to which any child and adult can relate, thus giving the story part of its heart.  The other part of the heart behind Wreck-It Ralph lies in the topic of social acceptance. 

Ralph learns in this story that regardless of the labels put on him by the video game world’s standards, he can be a hero to at least one other, thus leading to his epiphany of self acceptance.  He isn’t the only one that learns a valuable lesson though.  Those around him learn to be more accepting of him, too.  That’s thanks to him uncovering a “royal” sized secret that could have had a major impact on the video game world in his journey of self-discovery.  He ends up being a hero and saving the day.  How he does won’t be revealed here for the sake of those who have yet to see this movie.  But because word spread to his fellow video game characters, everyone’s view of Ralph changed.  And sure he was still the “bad guy” in Fix It Felix, Jr., but he was much more accepted than at the movie’s outset.  This lesson of social acceptance is one from which the entire family can benefit.  And it’s one more positive to what is another fun and family friendly story from Disney.  It may not be Disney’s finest.  But it is still an enjoyable work.  Wreck-It Ralph is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via the Disney DVD store at http://www.disneystore.com/wreck-it-ralph-blu-ray-and-dvd-combo-pack/mp/1326674/1000316/

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