Tag Archives: Steve Coogan

Stan & Ollie (2019) Movie Review By Philip Henry

Stan & Ollie Review,

Director: Jon S. Baird
Writer: Jeff Pope
Stars: John C. Reilly, Steve Coogan, Shirley Henderson & Nina Arianda

I’m from the generation that grew up watching Laurel & Hardy reruns on TV. The classic shorts were shown on Saturday mornings and in the evenings on BBC2 at 6pm as an alternative to the news. Even at a very early age I saw the genius in this duo when most of my friends wouldn’t stoop to watch something that was made in black and white. I started off loving the slapstick antics, but Laurel & Hardy were one of the few acts to transition from silent movies to talkies without missing a beat, and later on I came to love the dialogue too. A favourite line that I still remember from back then is from one of the shorts where they both have nagging wives and Stanley says: “She talks to you like water off a duck’s back.” That, to me, is genius.

So it was with some trepidation that I went to see a movie where these immortal personalities would be recreated. I had seen this tried many times before and the results were always disappointing. Ronnie Barker was a huge L&H fan and there can be no doubting his comedy chops, but when he recreated a classic skit with him as Ollie and Roy Castle as Stan, it fell flat with me.

But anyone who has watched Steve Coogan in The Trip will see his meticulous attention to detail when doing a voice or impression, and he nails Stan Laurel to a tee. Not just the voice and mannerisms, but the physical look as well. It’s either a hell of a make-up job or he lost a lot of weight because he looks nothing like his most famous creation, Alan Partridge. John C. Reilly doesn’t let the side down either, with a perfect representation of Oliver ‘Babe’ Hardy. He was coming off the abysmally reviewed Holmes and Watson, released just a few weeks earlier, but what credibility he lost on that movie he more than regains here. It just proves that an actor is only as good as the material he’s got to work with.

The film begins with Stan and Ollie on the set of Way Out West. The duo are not happy that producer Hal Roach is taking the lion’s share of profits from their films when their peers like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton have much better deals in place. Stan wants to walk out on Roach and try to set themselves up with their own studio, but Ollie, an inveterate gambler on his third divorce and who has just got engaged again, likes the stability of a regular income, no matter how lousy the money is.

The film then cuts to sixteen years later when the duo have lost their star power and are struggling to get a film made. But there is a ray of light. A British producer is trying to find finance for a Robin Hood picture starring Laurel & Hardy, so the duo agree to do a small stage tour of the UK to prove to him that the audiences are still there and that they’ve still got it. There’s smouldering resentment between them over the Roach incident. Stan did walk out on Roach, but Ollie was still under contract and continued to make movies for the tyrant producer, which Stan sees as a betrayal.

In many ways it’s the classic story of the aging boxer who thinks he has one more fight left in him. The duo know their routines inside out, and Coogan and Reilly recreate these better than I have ever seen anyone do them, but the years of physical comedy, his weight issues and his heavy drinking, have left Ollie with bad knees and a dodgy heart. So it’s a case of the spirit being willing, but the body just not being able anymore.

Shirley Henderson and Nina Arianda play Ollie and Stan’s wives; two women who really don’t like each other and don’t get along, but are forced to spend a lot of time together because of the bond between their husbands. Their arrival at the Savoy in London is a marvellous piece of ‘business’ as the duo perform a little routine for the cameras in search of any publicity they can get.

The film is best described as bittersweet. The comedy sketches are a joy for any fan to watch, and the banter between the pair when they’re ‘on’ is fantastic. The counterpoint to all this is the resentment going on behind the scenes. They were two very different people; with Stan the workaholic always wanting to rehearse or work on their next script, while Ollie just wants to eat, drink (gamble) and be merry, and sees their collaboration as a job like any other that he wants to clock in and out of when it’s done.

It’s a terrific tale of two of Hollywood’s biggest stars as their fame slips away and their best efforts to hold on to it for as long as possible. The ending may be inevitable, but the journey is filled with laughs and moments of real heart.

What Maisie Knew (2012) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin


Directors: Scott McGehee, David Siegel
Writers: Nancy Doyne (screenplay by), Carroll Cartwright (screenplay by)
Stars: Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgård, Steve Coogan, Joanna Vanderham, Onata Aprile

“What Maisie Knew” is set in New York City and is about a young girl who is caught in the middle of her parents’ bitter custody battle. The Movie is based on the acclaimed novel by Henry James. The story is primarily focused from 6 year old Maisie’s perspective and is portrayed by the Onata Aprile who is unfortunately caught in the midst of a bitter custody battle between her mother Susanna (Moore) and father Beale (Coogan)

Susanna is an ageing rockstar and from what I gather Moore used real life inspiration from Courtney Love and Patti Smith for her character in this movie. Moore’s portrayal throughout the movie is frustrating and brilliant at the same time. Committed to touring and battling against her husband for custody for her daughter results in emotional abandonment and neglect.

The same can be said for Beale who is an Art-Dealer struggling for work in New York and commits his time to traveling for business and like Susanna results in emotional neglect. Moore and Coogan appear to be the same side of the coin in many ways. They use their daughter as pawn against each other and abandon her with their Nanny named Margo (Vanderham) when they are too busy and in near enough every scene with them their young daughter is witnessing argument after argument.

Onata Aprile as Maisie plays the role naturally as a subdued child not showing physical signs of trauma because of her nature to take things in her stride. Aprile is brilliant and you really do feel for her and the situation she is in. For me Susanna and Beale don’t deserve Maisie (as stated by Lincoln later in the movie) they are selfish and very egotistical and their abandonment of their child at the drop of a hat infuriated me. Thankfully there are people in Maisie’s life who are willing to step up and look after the girl.

Ironically, Beale marries former nanny Margo (Vanderham), and in retaliation Susanna also remarries, to young bartender Lincoln, (Skarsgård). Margo and Lincoln for most of the movie are basically drop off points for Susanna and Beale who show evermore disrespect towards them and confirm what a couple of horrible people they are. We discover a bond between Maisie and Lincoln. At first I was unsure of the character and what his motives were but you get the sense that from early on he senses what the young girl is missing in her life and falls naturally into their friendship like a big brother (rather than a step father) to Maisie.

Vanderham and Skarsgård play their roles very well and the audience are just glad their portrayal of their characters are like saviours for Maisie. Both actors don’t have a lot of shared on screen time for the duration of the movie but when they do there is a natural bond there that like Maisie have been used by Susanna and Beale and are definitely the flip side of the coin.

I love the way “What Maisie Knew” is shot and directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel. It’s always interesting to see a movie from the perspective of the child and reminded me a little bit like “I Am Sam” a lot of the shots are from the view of Maisie and adds to the emotional impact of adults arguing in front of their child.

Overall the movie is very interesting because it follows around what the girl sees and hears, and we see her world through her eyes and her conversations to other adults. Though the storyline is upsetting, it is real and happens everyday in life and there are lessons to be learnt for all adults out there whether you have children or not. Scott McGehee and David Siegel manage to portray the events in the movie without being overly dramatic thanks to a brilliant screenplay by Nancy Doyne and Carroll Cartwright. It is emotionally painfully to watch Maisie being passed about like a parcel from one adult to another, yet surprisingly Maisie is still holding up without showing negativity. It shows that her world is innocent and untainted and in her eyes you see hope. “What Maisie Knew” is highly recommendable.

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin


Director: Declan Lowney
Writers: Peter Baynham (based upon characters created by),  Peter Baynham (screenplay)
Stars: Steve Coogan,  Colm Meaney,  Tim Key

Any television show or television based character usually doesn’t translate well on to the big screen. Shows that condense most of it’s comedic content can pull this off in the usual 22 minute format but trying to stretch those same values over a longer period isn’t something that comes around often and when a TV show is brought to film it usually fails to live up to the expectations of its fans.

I felt this with “The Simpson’s Movie” and more recently David Brent’s “Life on the Road” I am a massive fan of both properties but where an unimaginative plot may be forgiven if the script is passable. Neither of these two lived up to their television shows.

Going into watch “Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa” back in 2013 I had my reservations, but I was intrigued on how Steve Coogan and Peter Baynham were going to manage to pull this off. One of the things that I felt was a clever device to use in preparing the audience for this format was the release of “Mid Morning Matter” on Sky TV. I’ve been a fan of Coogan for almost 25 years now and Partridge for just as long. “Mid Morning Matters” ditched a laughter track which I felt was overly used in “I’m Alan Partridge” series 1 (1997) and series 2 (2002). Don’t get me wrong, both were pieces of art, but the transition of a “canned” audience straight to film would never had worked and I felt “MMM” cleared the runway for “Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa” to have a least a smooth landing and a chance to succeed.

When Norfolk’s most famous DJ Alan Partridge’s radio station North Norfolk Radio is taken over by a new media conglomerate who want to rebrand as “Shape Radio” ,it sets in motion a chain of events which see Alan having to work with the police to defuse a potentially violent siege after sacked DJ Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) holds the station hostage. Alan views the situation as an opportunity to move forward in his career as the “go between” between Farrell and the Police and at the same time impress Jason Tresswell (Nigel Lindsay) head of Shape.

As previously mentioned, a flimsy plot can damage any credibility in a film if there aren’t any other elements to save it. Yes “Alpha Papa” isn’t the most complex storyline and yes there are no sub plots going on. The movie is a simple but funny hostage movie. What makes the movie not only watchable but keeps you interested in how Alan is going to play this and what his end game is. Fans of the television series will understand the character and “get” what Alan is all about. Coogan knows the character so well and has admitted that parts of the character have taken over his personality at times and equally has admitted his fondness and enjoyment revisiting the character every now and again.

I was delighted to see the return of Alan’s loyal PA Lynn played by Felicity Montagu who was a star in her own right throughout both series of “I’m Alan Partridge” and also in another Steve Coogan series “Coogan’s Run” It had been over e decade since we last saw Lynn and Montagu just slips back into the character with ease. The same can be said for Michael played by the brilliant Simon Greenall who just like Felicity Montagu didn’t feature in “MMM” and again just slotted back into this world as if he had never been away. Michael was the handyman in the Linton Travel Tavern in Series 1 of “I’m Alan Partridge” and again in series 2 as a Petrol Shop Assistant “I’m Michael, I’m here to help” in “Alpha Papa” he is now the doorman at the radio station. Okay admittedly this does feel a little forced on having him there, but unfortunately Greenall is used in only a few scenes and this was one of the rare disappointments of the film.

Sidekick Simon from “MMM” is back and the brilliance of this character played by Tim Key is that him and Alan although work on the show together are night and day. Key delivers some of the funniest one liners in the movie and is also sporting a very odd gun holstering hat constructed by the mad sacked DJ Pat Farrell. Meaney must have been the actor the writers thought of when putting pen to paper when this project kicked off as I cannot imagine another actor playing the role. There is something unique and although disturbing, very funny about the character of Pat Farrell and how he thinks this is going to play out.

Both Coogan and Meaney share so much screen time playing opposite each other and this isn’t a criticism by any means. Both actors really bounce off each other and one particular scene involving Partridge fantasising about a rescue job results in three special force men (all played by Alan Partridge) unmasking  and introducing themselves as “Jason Stratham” “Jason Bourne” and “Jason Argonaut?” That results in Partridge mumbling “Jason Argonaut? It’s Jason and the….Argonauts”

“Alpha Papa” is littered with funny little lines like this a most of them are hits rather than misses and will make you laugh. Is “Alpha Papa” as good as “Knowing Me, Knowing you with Alan Partridge” I’d probably go as far as saying yes. Is it as good as “I’m Alan Partridge” or “Mid Morning Matters” I’d definitely say no. What Coogan and Baynham have achieved though is a rather amusing movie about a much loved British character that has been on our screens since the early days of “The Day Today (1994)” with a simple but effective plot that isn’t forced or begging to be laughed at. If you haven’t watch “Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa” I would recommend it.

Shepherds and Butchers (2016) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin


Director: Oliver Schmitz
Writers: Chris Marnewick (novel),  Brian Cox (adaptation)
Stars: Andrea Riseborough,  Steve Coogan,  Garion Dowds

“Shepherds and Butchers” is a beautiful yet shocking film drama set in the apartheid era of South Africa that manages to be sensitive and brutal at the same time. Johan Webber (Coogan) and Kathleen Marais (Riseborough) go head to head in a trial of a young mentally broken prison guard, accused of a multiple murders to a football team of black players facing the death penalty if convicted.

The focus throughout the movie is centred around the courtroom with flash backs and intervals of Webber cross examining his own path and reasoning on why he is defending an accused who is almost certainly guilty of the terrible crime he is being tried for.

Webber’s angle throughout the movie is the accused Leon Labuschagne’s mental state being in close proximity of the inmates on death row and how this has effected his mind resulting in his actions that fateful night.

“Shepherds and Butchers” is a graphic and harrowing movie at times. The story is enthralling for the duration of the movie and really takes the audience on an emotional rollercoaster as you begin to sympathise with the accused on how he went from School Prefect to appearing in Court for multiple murders in the space of a few years.

I’ve followed and been a fan of Steve Coogan since the early 1990’s. Having watched his career mostly in comedy and in particular, Alan Partridge the Norfolk DJ. I grew up watching the development of this character with other Coogan projects in between from The Day Today, Paul and Pauline Calf, Saxondale as well as his voice work in shows like Spitting Image.

So it wasn’t a surprise to me that Coogan at some point would try his hand at drama. Already having a film career that spans almost 20 years in his early work of The Parole Officer and 24 Hour Party People, it was refreshing to see him tackle something with a bit more bite. Already praised for his role as Martin Sixsmith in the 2013 Movie “Philomena” I was already to accept Steve Coogan the actor and not Steve Coogan “the comedy actor” that implies and pigeonholed him in small Hollywood roles which I felt was wasting good talent.

Steve Coogan throughout the movie is the star, who portrays Webber as at first reluctant, then intrigued and finally quite determined as the defence counsel to Labuschagne.

Equally as interesting is Garion Dowds portrayal of the accused and only 17 years old Leon Labuschagne. Dowds introduction as Leon is a convincing redundant young man who appears to have accepted his crime and is preparing himself for execution, something he knows well and has experienced working in that environment for a few years. Dowds surprisingly only has 3 acting credits to his curriculum vitae to date which stunned me when I read this information. Dowds comes across as an experienced actor for someone who is fairly young and his portrayal of Labuschagne is cold, sorry and convincing throughout.

As far as the photography and direction goes, Oliver Schmitz gives a 1980’s feel to the movie in what I can only imagine what living in South Africa during these times must have been. The photography is equally as impressive and beautiful to watch and the execution scene although are expected to be shocking still have shock value in what the victims experience but is balanced throughout those scenes on how it effected the guards who by order suffered physiologically and haunted by those moments and in particular the character of Leon Labuschagne.

The story resolves itself in a way that is more complex than these films usually allow themselves to be. At its climatic conclusion you will be left with mixed emotions that I haven’t felt since Kevin Bacon’s “The Woodsman” satisfied with the verdict? I’ll leave that for you to decide as I don’t want to spoil the ending. I will say that you will be left confused about your emotions and resolve.

“Shepherds and Butchers” is a terrific movie from start to finish from its direction and development of the characters and shot deliberately with a whole load of close ups to capture the reaction and emotions of the people in the courtroom which I believe the audience will experience too. I highly recommend this movie just for Coogan’s performance alone and admit that I will go back and watch this again at some point in the near future.