By Lynn Venhaus

Over the past decade, actor-comedian Steve Coogan and his best friend, actor-comedian Rob Brydon, have taken us on excursions that showcase scenic countrysides, stunning panoramic vistas, exquisite meals and luxurious comfort in northern England, Italy, Spain and Greece.

For their fourth movie in “The Trip” series, the bickering buddies travel from Troy to Ithaca following in the footsteps of the Odysseus.

They only have six days but manage to hit The Temple of Apollo at Delphi, the Ancient Agora of Athens, the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, the unique island of Hydra, the Caves of Diros, Nestor’s Palace, Kiokastro Fortress in Pylos and Ancient Stagira, as well as destination restaurants and luxury hotels.:

While the locales are breathtaking, what makes this more than a fancy travelogue is the witty showbiz banter. The scripts are largely improvised and while they are playing heightened versions of themselves, the film is fiction. Therefore, the family stories aren’t real – but seem authentic.

The erudite pair dispense nuggets of facts about their whereabouts while they show off their wit. Experts at impressions, the pair try to one-up each other as they mimic famous celebrities. Their riff on Dustin Hoffman movies is impressive.

They also argue, with topics sparked by being at the cradle of drama, democracy and views of the country’s ancient history. The observational humor is what I most look forward to, whether they are quipping while driving or breaking bread.

Both men gained prominence for characters created on BBC television shows, and this series started on television. Coogan has more well-known film roles, usually playing jerks or clueless blowhards, and co-wrote the Oscar-nominated “Philomena.” But even if you are not familiar with their work, or the other films in this series, that does not detract from this movie.

This time, however, their personal odyssey has both tragedy and comedy, some genuine pathos.

Nevertheless, it’s another enjoyable romp. They had me at the azure Aegean Sea.

A version of this film appeared in the Webster-Kirkwood Times online. “The Trip to Greece” comedy-drama is not rated. Directed by Michael Winterbottom, it stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Runtime is: 1 hr. 43 min. Lynn’s Grade: B+. Now available on Video on Demand

By Lynn Venhaus
A satire of the super-rich, “Greed” focuses on Sir Richard “Greedy” McCreadie (Steve Coogan), a snotty prep school dropout (Jamie Blackley in flashback) who parlayed selling cheap clothes in London’s rag district into a billionaire lifestyle.

He is throwing himself a “The Great Gatsby” meets “Gladiator” meets “The Godfather” 60th birthday party on a Greek island. His staff, family, hired help and unfortunate refugees are all making his ‘moment’ miserable.

Easy targets here, and slinging arrows at one percenters has been done ad infinitum, so there is not much to separate “Greed” from other exercises in skewering excess.

While lampooning ridiculous people can be fun and some bullseyes are sharp, this film does not have anything different – let alone laugh-out-loud funny — that makes it special or worth spending nearly two hours’ watching.

Therefore, any spoofing of Kardashian-like reality TV, the focus on indulgences and entitlement of the privileged class and the scheming of truly awful people is not that engaging.

The movie’s a manic mess, jumping from introducing “Sir Shifty” of the tabloids to his family drama to party preparation.

As written by director Michael Winterbottom, with additional material by Emmy winner Sean Gray of “Veep,” the main characters are tedious and boorish with little to redeem them.

Radiating rich-guy arrogance, tan Steve Coogan, with blinding white fake teeth, is believable as a slick retail magnate with questionable ethics, decadent lifestyle and shoddy business practices. Coogan often plays jerks, so this isn’t a stretch.

Winterbottom and Coogan have worked together well before, particularly “The Trip” movies, especially “The Trip to Italy” and “The Trip to Spain.” Upcoming is “The Trip to Greece” (hmmm…). The production values are handsome.

Faring well are Shirley Henderson as McCreadie’s feisty widowed mother, and Isla Fisher as a steely yet shallow ex-wife who berates their son Finn, played by Asa Butterfield, for his wispy facial hair and aimlessness.

While it had promise as a mockumentary, “Greed” winds up an insufferable episode of “The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” without much to amuse. 
“Greed” is a comedy rated R for pervasive language and brief drug use. DIrected by Michael Winterbottom, it stars Steve Coogan, Isla Fisher, Asa Butterfield and Shirley Henderson. Run time: 1 hr. 44 min. Lynn’s Grade: C