Talking Movies: It All Begins with a Song, Destroyer and Agatha and the Truth of Murder

Spling reviews It All Begins with a Song, Destroyer and Agatha and the Truth of Murder 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 crime drama and a murder mystery drama.

Starting off with a documentary now on Amazon Prime Video…


Director: Chusy

Features: Aerosmith, Bill Anderson and Garth Brooks

A tribute to the most valuable resource in the music industry today, the Nashville songwriter.

– Nashville is America’s songwriting capital, a city romanticised in much the same way that actors flock to Hollywood to make it big
– exploring the hallowed ground for songwriters, It All Begins with a Song grapples with the art form interviewing the unsung heroes behind many of today’s greatest hits
– you probably won’t know any of them by name, yet their contribution to pop culture has been immense doing the behind-the-scenes work in writing some of the most inspired music and lyrics of all-time
– through a wide array of interviews with luminaries, established songwriters and rising stars, this compilation speaks to the dreamers but also conveys the tough realities of paying your dues and making it in their fiercely competitive world
– investigating what it takes to write a hit song, exploring the collaborative nature of songwriting, communicating the hard knock life, searching for true inspiration and going behind-the-scenes to put a face to some of the personal stories that have been adapted into timeless classics, it’s a soulful, impassioned and informative journey
– Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey, Try by P!nk, Change the World by Eric Clapton and pop music from Elvis to Rihanna, many of these timeless songs originated in Nashville
– the documentary makes a fascinating musical tour, punctuated by real songwriting jamming sessions, passionate insights into what it takes from absolute characters and many amusing behind-the-scenes stories about their biggest moments
– while entertaining, emotive and shedding light on the earnest craft, it’s beautifully composed and edited
– seamlessly moving between interviews against exquisite backdrops, capturing special moments and the spirit of the city, it makes for an awe-inspiring tribute to the songwriters behind the song

An excellent 8 on the splingometer!

Moving on to a film now on DStv Now…


A police detective reconnects with people from an undercover assignment in her distant past in order to make peace.

Director: Karyn Kusama

Stars: Nicole Kidman, Toby Kebbell and Sebastian Stan

– Destroyer is like a blend of Monster and Sabotage, taking a typical LA cop crime thriller genre film and shaking things up
– casting Kidman in an uncharacteristic role, purposefully downplaying her exquisite facial features and immersing her in the gritty, unrelenting world of Erin Bell is reminiscent of the dramatic shift for Charlize Theron in Monster
– a big-name star headlining a crime drama ensemble piece with a trashy edge, delving into the political scrambling of a heist connects it with Sabotage
– Australian director-actor duo, Kusama and Kidman, are the main attractions in this character portrait about a cantankerous and unhinged cop
– Kidman’s brilliant performance reinvents her career much like the spate of mature actors undertaking special op vendettas, however within the confines of a much more nuanced and complex drama
– Kusama elevates this from being a typical crime procedural, adding weight in terms of themes, cleverly using sound design to add an epic feel and drenching everything in the mire of a grim, seedy Los Angeles as if inspired by Michael Mann
– intense, visceral and packing a punch, it’s overdressed for the occasion and unwieldy trying to balance a seesawing flashback narrative
– the plotting is convoluted, the supporting characters are thin and apart from the Dirty Harry posturing and a game-changing twist in the third act, it’s rather vapid
– you can appreciate the style and texture, which remains fresh thanks to a heavyweight performance and female lead, however the story’s flimsy foundations and supporting characters make this gritty affair middling and portentous

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!

And finally another film now streaming on DStv Now…


In 1926, with her personal and professional life in crisis, a young Agatha Christie decides to solve a real-life murder.

Director: Terry Loane

Stars: Ruth Bradley, Tim McInnerny and Ralph Ineson

– Murder on the Orient Express allowed Kenneth Branagh to play Poirot in an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s most famous detective novels
– the renewed interest and upcoming Death on the Nile sequel probably inspired this film about the celebrated author, who went missing for 11 days
– taking some poetic licence, the filmmakers presuppose what could have happened to her over that time crafting a tale about an author seeking inspiration and the resurfacing of an old murder mystery, which prompted her to play detective within one of her own stories
– the clever idea bridges Downton Abbey, Poirot and Cluedo against the backdrop of the 1920s
– while not quite as refined in terms of wardrobe, elegance and performance, it still makes a curious distraction
– paling in comparison to its influences, the mystery crime drama will still appease Agatha Christie fans even if it wasn’t endorsed by her estate
– attracting several recognisable British actors, it’s an enjoyable, borderline farcical jaunt
– it’s nowhere near as exciting, sleek or star-studded as Branagh’s rendition and equally not as sophisticated, quaint or well-acted as the Poirot films
– occupying no man’s land, you could do a lot worse and while this work of fiction is amusing enough to be enjoyable, it’s far from the finesse of Downton Abbey or the fun of Cluedo

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer

So just to wrap up…

IT ALL BEGINS WITH A SONG… a captivating music documentary elevated by impassioned interviews, a slick edit and truly heartfelt moments… An excellent 8!

DESTROYER… a gritty lead performance and epic crime drama posturing drench this convoluted LA crime drama in attitude and style… A satisfactory 6!

AGATHA AND THE TRUTH OF MURDER… an intriguing concept A satisfactory 6!

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