Talking Movies: Blinded by the Light, Roll Red Roll and Loving Pablo

Spling reviews Blinded by the Light, Roll Red Roll and Loving Pablo 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 a coming-of-age music drama, a true crime documentary and a crime drama biopic.

Starting off with a film now showing at the Labia Theatre…


In 1987, during the austere days of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain, a teenager learns to live life, understand his family, and find his own voice through the music of Bruce Springsteen.

Writer-Director: Gurinder Chadha

Stars: Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir and Meera Ganatra

– based on a true story, this feel good coming-of-age music drama is filled with heart and spirit
– essentially a tribute inspired by the music of Bruce Springsteen, it’s also a story about growing up, following your dreams and cutting the proverbial apron strings
– set in the 1980s, the hair and wardrobe department have made a special effort to take us back in time, making a concerted effort to scream ’80s verging dangerously close to clichéd
– pivoting on a likable lead in Kalra and a nostalgic ’80s soundtrack, the film has grit and emotion but doesn’t take itself too seriously
– it deals with racism, xenophobia, cultural and familial obligation, without losing its irrepressible sense of joy
– Blinded by the Light could be described as a blend of Sing Street, Sunshine on Leith, Material and Pride
– Sing Street for the period, fashion, music, romance and passion for the arts
– Sunshine on Leith for the exuberant spirit and blend of domestic drama and musical elements
– Material for the father-son dynamic, culture clash and similar blend of comedy-drama
– it’s an entertaining, touching, reflective and toe-tapping tribute with a powerful message that sheds new light on Springsteen’s music that does just enough to get…

An excellent 8 on the splingometer

Moving on to a documentary now available on Netflix…


When social media, “boys will be boys”, and vigilante justice collide, Steubenville, Ohio will never be the same.

Director: Nancy Schwartzman

Featuring: Mark Cole, Anthony Craig and Rachel Dissell

– this topical documentary covers a number of timely and timeless issues relating to gender politics, sexual violence and human rights when it comes to privacy
– set in the Ohio town of Streubenville where the local football team is revered, we find a town divided by a sexual crime involving some of the star players
– using actual witness interview footage, news footage, social media recreations and interviews with some key players, Roll Red Roll grapples with a prickly case that rocked a town and echoed throughout the world in 2012
– with the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the #MeToo movement still ringing in our ears, this documentary raises critical social issues affecting modern society
– these are amplified by social media, something that actually helped investigators piece together this challenging case, which was thwarted by teamster code and sent international shock waves after the Anonymous group got involved
– it doesn’t profess to have all the answers, uncovering an incident that could have happened in any machismo-fueled team culture in the hopes of starting the right conversations

A solid 7 on the splingometer!

And finally, now streaming on Showmax…


A journalist strikes up a romantic relationship with notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar.

Director: Fernando León de Aranoa

Stars: Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz and Peter Sarsgaard

– this crime drama is based on the book Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar by Virginia Vallejo
– there have been many iterations of Pablo Escobar’s story with many actors eager to get a chance to portray the iconic Columbian drug kingpin
– taking the perspective of his on and off lover, Virginia Vallejo, Loving Pablo sets about dramatising some of the man’s highs and lows
– featuring two heavyweight acting talents in Bardem and Cruz, their star power helps but can only take the drama so far
– Hollywood has a problem with prosthetic bellies, pregnant or otherwise, and besides this recurring distraction it serves as a metaphor for Loving Pablo
– bloated by its pomp, camp in appearance and attempting to be carried by lead star, it struggles to build substance in terms of meaning or the fleeting co-lead relationship
– while infrequent, the violence is quite extreme and doesn’t warm you to the callous megalomaniac or his empire-building
– while a slick and serviceable crime drama, it’s a chore to hang in there for it’s two hour running time

A flat 5 on the splingometer

So just to wrap up…

BLINDED BY THE LIGHT… a buoyant spirit and likable lead guide this exhilarating and layered music comedy drama tribute to Springsteen… An excellent 8!

ROLL RED ROLL… a timely documentary that unpacks the sports team machismo and power of social media that divided a town… A solid 7!

LOVING PABLO… while a hit on paper, this slick and meandering crime drama has bite but lacks impetus and substance… A flat 5!

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