Talking Movies: The Lion King (2019), Close and The Bleeder

Spling reviews The Lion King (2019), Close and The Bleeder as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.


“Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about an animated adventure, a bodyguard thriller and a sports biopic drama.

Starting off with…


Director: Jon Favreau who is known for The Jungle Book

Featuring the voice talents of James Earl Jones, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Danny Glover

– The Lion King is and will be one of Disney’s greatest animated films of all-time, tapping into universal themes around family and legacy.
– Although, the original may even struggle to live up to its reputation, dated in terms of animation by today’s fiercely competitive standards.
– the first thing you’ll notice is the visuals… it’s as if they blended the realism of White Lion with the story of the 1994 original, achieving photorealism, taking Ang Lee’s tiger from Life of Pi and extending the majesty of those effects across the Pridelands.
– The memory of the animated classic seems to be undermined by the type of humour at play. Breaking the fourth wall and wind just seem out of place in this celebrated epic.
– The voice casting is good, but there are some weak points, most notably Beyonce, who seems to be there for her star quality than her talent. While her name will certainly help draw crowds, her powerful vocals add a freshness to the soundtrack, it’s too much of a distraction with her performance not invisible enough to blend into the tapestry.
– The Lion King is a technical masterpiece but just doesn’t match the original for charm and magic. Favreau can be commended for the near-revolutionary visual effects and creating a realistic, breathing version of The Lion King, but its flaws, challenges and distractions keep it just out of reach.
– The spectacle is mesmerising and majestic, but the visual perfection is undermined by foundational decisions concerning casting, tone and design.

A satisfactory 6 on the SPL!NGOMETER

Moving on to…


Sam goes on-the-run with a rich young heiress named Zoe after being hired to protect her.

Director: Vicky Jewson

Stars: Noomi Rapace, Olivia Jewson and Sophie Nélisse

– Swedish actress, Noomi Rapace, rose to fame as Lisbeth Salander in the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
– this role has informed her Hollywood career, tending towards playing tough women in gritty situations
– Close plays into this type as she locks into the role of a counter-terrorism expert and elite bodyguard
– a tight little thriller, it moves at a good pace as a high value individual finds her life in danger as she becomes a kidnapping target
– punctuated by intense bursts of action, especially at close quarters, the kidnapping thriller is realistic and violent with a mean streak
– we’ve seen a number of female-led La Femme Nikita style action thrillers of late, including Red Sparrow, Anna and
– Close slots in as one of the grittier ones, refreshing the genre with an unusual mentor-apprentice co-lead pairing
– constantly on-the-run, trying to stay ahead of their captors it’s a relentless game of cat and mice against the backdrop of corporate politics
– focused on driving suspense and tension, the characters operate at a surface level with bravery, tenacity and fortitude substituting for depth of emotion
– it’s an intense, serviceable and stylish thriller with a promising plot and some intriguing twists, yet seems restrained by its sparse scripting

A flat 5 on the SPL!NGOMETER!

And finally…


The highs and lows of tough heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner, who was known as the “Bayonne Bleeder”.

Director: Philippe Falardeau

Stars: Liev Schreiber, Elisabeth Moss, Ron Perlman

– Rocky brought fame and fortune to Sylvester Stallone, who undertook the role of an underdog on camera and behind-the-scenes in making the Oscar-winning picture
– while the influential boxing drama still echoes through pop culture today, the character was actually inspired by real-life boxer Chuck Wepner
– sporting an ensemble of underdogs, the drama is more concerned with Wepner’s tumultuous life than his boxing career
– Wepner may have inspired Rocky, but he’s best known for battling Muhammad Ali after his famous Rumble in the Jungle victory and receiving the nickname “The Bleeder” for regularly being patched up in bouts against the likes of Sonny Liston and George Foreman
– this is a moody and entertaining biopic drama that immerses us in the life-and-times of the tough brawler, whose road to fame coasted on hard living and his anonymous Rocky credit
– Schreiber’s voice and film career make him a good choice, tapping into his own journey as an overshadowed antihero who has also had to get by on blood, sweat and tears
– he’s aloof and a little enigmatic, supported by an effective ensemble, who you wouldn’t ordinarily associate with a boxing drama
– the film relies on narration to pull it together as Schreiber’s dulcid and unmistakable voice adds insight and depth to the tough guy character
– The Bleeder isn’t a great film but serves as a gutsy and fascinating addendum to one of the sport’s old-time favourites

A satisfactory 6 on the SPL!NGOMETER

So just to wrap up…

THE LION KING… while tonally inconsistent and flawed, it remains a visually-astounding and entertaining live-action adaptation… A satisfactory 6!

CLOSE… this intense, well-paced and violent thriller has promise and style, but struggles to overcome its thin script… A flat 5!

THE BLEEDER… a entertaining, moody and nuggetty underdog boxing biopic drama with a sharp cast and plenty of spirit… A satisfactory 6!

For more movie reviews, interviews and previous Talking Movies podcasts visit

And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!”