Each time I’ve watched one of the three Trip movies, from director Michael Winterbottom, I can’t help but think about my best friend Patrick Boyle. I’ve known him since I was two, was the best man at my wedding, and he comes to mind, because these films have become the quintessential display of friendship, humor, and male bonding. As I get older in life, I too hope that I can go on a European journey with Patrick, driving along the countryside, laughing, and enjoying the time away from things that wear us down such as work and family. This time, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon return for a third serving of delectable food, wine, beautiful settings, and plenty of Michael Caine impersonations. Without a doubt, The Trip to Spain is one of the funniest movies of the year, capping off a superb trilogy of true friendship.
The award for “worst timed release of the year” has to go to Shot Caller, the new movie from director Ric Roman Waugh (Snitch). Only a week removed from Nazis and White Supremacists marching and causing violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, arrives a violent drama about Jacob AKA Money (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a man who becomes imprisoned for a DUI manslaughter and quickly reverts to becoming a tattooed Nazi gang member in prison. He does what it takes to survive amongst the nastiness of scum in the state penitentiary. It’s not in any way the worst thing you will see this year, frankly it’s a relevant story now, but it’s also impossible to root for anyone in this movie. What is impressive however, is a strong turn from Coster-Waldau who buffs up and shows he has more range to offer than just his Game of Thrones work.
The rags to riches story is standard when it comes to movies that premiere at the Sundance film festival. Although it may be viewed as cliché at this point, that doesn’t mean that Patti Cake$ isn’t one of the better ones of recent years. Patti believes she will be a star someday, played by the extremely talented Danielle Macdonald, who lives in the rougher parts of New Jersey, and works as a bartender trying to make it out of her broken home with her talent for hip-hop music. That may remind you of 8 Mile, and it is very close in plot, but Patti Cake$is a strong combination of succeeding when the odds are stacked against you and an impressive first film from director Geremy Jasper.
Who at any point of their life can’t say they were passionate about something? Some loved Star Wars or My Little Pony growing up. Or maybe you had a passion for collecting stickers, reading comic books, or watching Thundercats on Saturday morning cartoons. The underlying message of Brigsby Bear, an odd, but kind film, is “find something you love and do the best you can at it.” Part satirical comedy and part independent gem, Brigsby Bear is about a boy named James (played by SNL regular Kyle Mooney), who was kidnapped at birth by a couple (played by Mark Hamill and Jane Adams). This “family” lives in a bunker where James’ obsession in life is watching his favorite show- Brigsby Bear. What he doesn’t know is that the big headed teddy bear does not exist to anyone outside of him and when the police take him back to his real parents, leaving Brigsby behind, it is not an easy obsession to forget. Director Dave McCary has made an adorable film, celebrating ingenuity, and ones passion for creativity. With plenty of laughs, a charming cast, and a sweet message, Brigsby Bear is a unique comedy.