And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

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Review: Stan & Ollie

Do (or did) you get a kick out of the slapstick comedy of Laurel & Hardy? If the answer is yes, then Stan & Ollie is worth a watch, primarily due to the heartfelt and moving performances of Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel and John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy. Stan & Ollie is not your traditional biographical drama. It kicks off with the legendary comedy duo at the height of their fame during Hollywood’s Golden Age circa 1930s, then fast-forwards to the pair as fading stars looking to revive their routine – and film careers – by embarking on a variety hall tour of Britain in 1953.

The Trip to Italy

I did not see the first of this series, but it is now on my list. In the first one, called simply The Trip (2010) the same two men, comedian/actors Steve Coogan (Philomena) and Rob Brydon, traveled around the the north of England eating and talking while ostensibly writing an article for a newspaper. This one takes them to one of my favorite places on earth, Italia! And there they dine at six fabulous restaurants and continue their silly conversations, frequently doing impersonations of actors from Pacino to Christian Bale to a contest of who can do Michael Caine best. (Brydon does a pitch perfect Hugh Grant a few times.) The film is not really about the food, though the director does shoot the chefs and the presentations lovingly, and Coogan and Brydon do ooh and ahh from time to time. It is really about the witty repartee covering an uneasy feeling that both men’s lives are in flux, and each is struggling to find his next move.


2013 is the year of the “based on a true story” movie. The latest addition to the group is Philomena a tragicomic tale from director Stephen Frears (The Queen, Dangerous Liaisons.) It stars the ever wonderful Judi Dench in what is turning out to be a much nominated role. She plays Philomena, an old Irish woman whose life has been colored by the theft of her adorable little son Anthony back when she was an unwed teenage mum sent to live in a convent. She has kept the story secret for decades, but realizing that it would be her son’s 50th birthday, she decides to come clean to her daughter. The daughter thinks the story should be told, so she introduces her mom to a journalist she met at a party. And the rest is essentially a very engaging odd couple road trip in search of the son.

What Maisie Knew

What Maisie Knew is a pretty faithful modern adaptation of a Henry James novel written in 1897, that just goes to show that there have always been people who shouldn’t be allowed to have children. The Maisie of the title is a 6-year-old New Yorker, through whose eyes the story is told and who you really want to kidnap to save her from her horrible, selfish parents. This is one of those films that makes you really uncomfortable from the first frame until the end, but is peopled with great actors and characters so you can’t dismiss it.