Spling reviews Malcolm & Marie, Bliss and Endeavour 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 romance drama, a sci-fi romance drama and a crime drama.
Starting off with a film now on Netflix…
MALCOLM & MARIE
A director and his girlfriend’s relationship is tested after they return home from his movie premiere.
Writer-Director: Sam Levinson
Stars: John David Washington and Zendaya
– Filmed in black-and-white, the silky cinematography is a highlight in this refreshing and bold two-hander romance drama.
– Leveraging classic textures the colour scheme enhances the drama with so many close-ups you actually welcome the buffer.
– An acting showcase, you can see why Washington and Zendaya were drawn to the film, giving them a chance to truly flex their range as actors and grapple with a story that unfolds almost in real-time.
– Shot on one location, it’s easy to see how it could be reduced to a stage play, focusing in on the actors in much the same way as Before Sunrise.
– Instead of a chance encounter on a train, this established couple are deconstructing their relationship after attending a premiere with life-changing consequences for both.
– Playing like a tennis match, the couple engage in discussion, arguments and some horsing around – weaving in and out of love in this rollercoaster romance drama.
– Passionate, well-balanced and intelligent co-lead performances drive this focused and artful drama pivoting off great chemistry.
– Malcolm & Marie’s as entertaining as you would expect a couple’s bickering and romantic squabbles to be, examining inspiration, ownership, frame of reference and talent in the process.
– While the screenplay is dexterous, the frequency of coarse language is distracting and mostly unnecessary.
A solid 7 on the splingometer!
Moving on to a film now on Amazon Prime…
A down-on-his-luck man meets a mysterious woman who tries to convince him the world around them is a computer simulation.
Writer-Director: Mike Cahill
Stars: Owen Wilson, Salma Hayek and Nesta Cooper
– Bliss is from the writer-director who brought us the modest yet beautiful and slow-burning sci-fi romance drama, Another Earth.
– Starring an unusual pairing in Wilson and Hayek in equally unconventional roles, they bring gravitas as Cahill attempts to recapture the essence of Another Earth.
– While versatile, Wilson is much more suited to genres with at least a twist of comedy – something missing from this more dramatic film.
– Hayek just seems to get spunkier with age and together, they have a refreshing energy, even if you don’t quite buy into a possible romantic connection.
– Bliss is a strange brew, borrowing bits and pieces from better sci-fi movies like The Matrix, Cypher and Limitless to the point of feeling uninspired.
– It’s restrained by its half-baked screenplay, which starts with promise but just doesn’t get better… stuck in trying to explain its world without paying heed to its characters or their motivations.
– It’s interesting to see Wilson and Hayek slumming it and bumbling about as grifters, but it would’ve probably worked better as a comedy in the vein of Idiocracy.
– Bliss is dry and overly serious, unable to reach the lofty heights of its ambitions in bringing this complex love story to life.
– The focus is on the co-leads, but it actually would have done well to stick with the real love story and emotional core, the power of which, it only realises in the dying moments.
– Bliss is competent enough to entertain with its charming co-stars in unconventional roles, curious futuristic inventions, strange paradigm and The Fisher King spirit.
– However, the undercurrent lacks self belief, the story is muddled, the casting is off-key and while modest it still seems too ambitious.
A flimsy 4 on the splingometer!
And finally a film from ITV…
Young Endeavour Morse joins Inspector Fred Thursday’s investigation into the disappearance of a schoolgirl named Mary Tremlett.
Director: Colm McCarthy
Stars: Shaun Evans, Roger Allam and Flora Montgomery
– Inspector Morse starring John Thaw is one of Britain’s most iconic detective series, which was succeeded by the equally adept Lewis, a spin-off about his partner.
– Following two excellent murder mystery TV shows, the prequel to Morse must have come as no surprise, allowing Colin Dexter’s characters to exist in a much broader universe and wider timeline.
– Rewinding Morse’s days to his first years on the police force following his stint as a cryptographer, we get an inside look at how the opera-loving, Jag-driving and pint-swilling Morse came to be.
– This masterpiece production lives up to its name, blending exquisite production values, strong casting, intelligent writing and music from Barrington Pheloung who has been a mainstay of the series.
– Evans has a compelling face, backed by an earnest performance that remains true to the character, pushing off Allam in a mentor role.
– Cleverly weaving in other characters from the series, Endeavour does a great job of immersing us in the life and times of a more naïve Oxford and Morse.
– Performing a brilliant balancing act and tribute to the original series and creating something original and captivating, they’ve managed to do it all.
– It’s a remarkable accomplishment, a wonderful tribute to an enduring character and a beautifully composed murder mystery that tips its hat with a final flourish that holds both cinematic appeal and timeless elegance.
A near-perfect 9 on the splingometer!
So just to wrap up…
MALCOLM & MARIE… strong co-lead performances, good chemistry and compelling writing powers this artful and intimate romance drama… A solid 7!
BLISS… two charming co-leads struggle to compel this promising yet ultimately uninspired, muddled and superficial sci-fi romance drama… A flimsy 4!
ENDEAVOUR… a class act from start to finish, this murder mystery serves as a fitting tribute and nuanced immersion into Inspector Morse’s earliest days… A near-perfect 9!
For more movie reviews, previous Talking Movies podcasts and upcoming Bingeing with Spling watch parties visit splingmovies.com.
And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!