Talking Movies: Pavarotti, In the Shadow of the Moon and Journey’s End

Spling reviews Pavarotti, In the Shadow of the Moon and Journey’s End 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 music documentary, a sci-fi thriller and a war drama.

Starting off with a film now on circuit…


A look at the life and work of opera legend, Luciano Pavarotti.

Director: Ron Howard

Features: Luciano Pavarotti, Princess Diana and Bono

– Luciana Pavarotti is one of opera’s most prolific and iconic stars, whose charisma and ability turned him into one of the most recognisable people on the planet
– he was able to fill stadiums, winning the hearts of those who had the chance to witness the tenor in action from recitals to star-studded celebrity charity events
-it’s unusual for Ron Howard to direct a documentary, yet he does so with aplomb, crafting this biographical retelling of Pavarotti’s story in a respectful yet entertaining manner with a goosebump-inducing soundtrack
– interspersing interviews with family, colleagues and celebrity friends and piecing together a blend of archival photographs and footage, it’s a fairly traditional documentary format
– as a tribute, it’s not surprising that it’s a celebration of his life mostly through rose-tinted spectacles, touching on his demanding ways and treating his public love affairs with great empathy
– the documentary covers his early days, unpacking his achievements, greatest performances and what truly made him an international superstar
– garnering commentary from immediate family, concert promoters, fellow opera stars and close assistants, Howard seems to have unprecedented access yet manages to keep the all-encompassing documentary in check with good pacing, wonderful insights and some of his most famous performances
– through his personal interviews, larger-than-life personality and charity work, we uncover a portrait of a generous, trusting and unforgettable talent, whose life story played out on the world stage with operatic vigour
– while a bit long, it did just enough to warrant…

An excellent 8 on the splingometer

Moving on to a film now on Netflix…


A Philadelphia police officer struggles with a lifelong obsession to track down a mysterious serial killer whose crimes defy explanation.

Director: Jim Mickle

Stars: Boyd Holbrook, Michael C. Hall and Bokeem Woodbine

– In the Shadow of the Moon is surprisingly good, serving as a midweight police murder mystery that spans several decades with a curious time travel element
– while fairly ambitious in terms of its scope, it fares remarkably well, smart in the way it manages to blend genres and instil a sense of continuity despite its timespan
– while the supporting cast are relatively unknown, they rally to create a solid dramatic platform for Holbrook, Woodbine and Hall with a promising turn from Cleopatra Coleman
– Holbrook is the film’s guiding light, serving as the subject of a curious character study about a man struggling to let go
– the nine-year gaps do require you to roll with it, but remain entertaining in discovering the differences and investigation’s progress
– the high concept probably could have worked better as a TV series, giving the filmmakers more space to explore the characters, but they manage to cover a lot of ground in the space of a feature film
– the soundtrack, cinematography and polished feel of this sci-fi thriller give it clout
– it’s reminiscent of films like Cypher and Predestination, wielding some substantial themes and verging on the point of becoming epic
– In the Shadow of the Moon is somewhat stunted, but remains entertaining and makes you wonder what they could have achieved with a bigger budget

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!

And finally a film now on Showmax…


Set in a dugout in Aisne in 1918, it is the story of a group of British officers, led by the mentally disintegrating young officer Stanhope, as they await their fate.

Director: Saul Dibb

Stars: Paul Bettany, Sam Claflin and Asa Butterfield

– Journeys End is based on a 1928 play by R.C. Sherriff
– being familiar with Blackadder Goes Forth, you’ll be at a slight disadvantage when it comes to this World War I drama
– set in a dugout, dealing with many of the same issues that were probably inspired by the Sherriff’s play, it’s difficult to ignore some of the classic comedy’s most memorable moments
– Dibb has crafted an authentic, thorough and intense depiction of trench warfare from the perspective of the British forces
– grappling with undesirable conditions, shellshock, confronting the prospect of death and doing one’s country proud, it comes to focus on the destabilising influence of Stanhope in claustrophobic and trying times, echoing war is hell
– while noble and realistic, making full use of the language of the time and pressures of living in confined spaces, it’s a bit dull, dated and somewhat restrained by its stage origins
– the story doesn’t have the same impact value that it would have had a decade after the war and unfortunately, it’s a battle to connect with the characters
– somewhat adrift, just coping or wide-eyed, this disconnect becomes more pronounced as the weighting of Journey’s End shifts to the experience of being there rather then identifying with any one character

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer

So just to wrap up…

PAVAROTTI… while rose-tinted, it’s a comprehensive, entertaining, rousing and well-paced biographical documentary… An excellent 8!

IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON… while ambitious, it’s a polished, entertaining and genre-bending sci-fi thriller with a charming lead… A satisfactory 6!

JOURNEY’S END… solid performances and realistic depictions of World War I enliven important yet stodgey dugout drama… A satisfactory 6!

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