Spling reviews Amandla, Ophelia and The Mitchells vs The Machines 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 crime drama thriller, a romance drama thriller and an animated adventure comedy.
Starting off with a film now on Netflix…
Years after a childhood tragedy, brothers are tested when they fall on opposite sides of the law.
Director: Nerina De Jager
Stars: Lemogang Tsipa, Thabo Rametsi and Israel Matseke-Zulu
– Films that echo South Africa’s darkest days are often criticised for being stuck in a time most would rather forget.
– Yet, while a painful reminder, these historical recreations can serve as a contrast to show how much progress we’ve made or how far we’ve still got to go.
– This is a feature film debut for writer-director Nerina De Jager, who returned to South Africa to shoot a film that’s been in the pipeline since 2011.
– It’s a visually-striking and potent chronicle of two brothers who narrowly escape a life-threatening situation to start over in Isando.
– While somewhat typecast, its stars faithfully deliver impassioned performances to help realise this tale about two brothers whose paths diverge.
– The pacing and suspense keep this film captivating, even if heavy-handed with contrivances at regular intervals as if all-seeing.
– While a bleak and brutal representation of the New South Africa era in 1997, there’s a raw urgency to the storytelling.
– Starting like a prestige film, the sweeping cinematography and score adds weight even if clichés and familiarity detract.
– While deeply flawed, there is an intensity that drives this ruthless crime thriller, which is expressed through emphatic performances and vivid storytelling.
– It’s bold enough to harness a Shakespearean appetite for injustice, yet restrained by missing pieces and the self-awareness of its script.
A flat 5 on the splingometer!
Moving on to another film now on Netflix…
A reimagining of Hamlet, told from Ophelia’s perspective.
Director: Claire McCarthy
Stars: Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts and George McKay
– Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s most famous works, a play that features the often misunderstood and tragic character, Ophelia.
– Taking the story from her perspective, this clever concept based on a book by Lisa Klein plays out in a revisionist retelling that remains faithful to Shakespeare’s universe, yet offers some curious twists.
– The focus is on Ridley, who is reminiscent of a young Kate Winslet and almost unrecognisable in contrast to her character Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
– She’s just as rebellious and tenacious though, delivering some of her best work opposite Watts who is also completely invested even if they could’ve given her more to work with.
– This is an ornate production, featuring beautiful backdrops, elegant wardrobe and a magical medieval setting of woodlands and castles.
– Owen and McKay realise that this isn’t their stage, hampered by some stylistic choices yet happy to play second fiddle.
– While Ophelia takes a fresh reimagined angle, is steeped in ethereal pageantry and features some strong performances, it’s perspective attempts to substitute for spark – further dulled by viewer’s preconceived notions.
– Re-engineering the story from Ophelia’s perspective has its charms and it does escalate with time but tends to feel overstuffed.
– The costume period drama aspect helps ground Shakespeare’s tragedy yet the double-edged sword of it’s modern affectations attempt to lure new audiences to the bard’s world.
A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!
And finally another film on Netflix…
THE MITCHELLS VS THE MACHINES
A quirky, dysfunctional family divert their road trip to become humanity’s last hope when they find themselves at the mercy of a robot apocalypse.
Directors: Michael Rianda, Jeff Rowe
Voice talents: Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride and Maya Rudolph
– The Lego Movie and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse were both equally revolutionary in terms of visual style, creating sometimes frenetic and eclectic visuals to complement some rather squirrelly storytelling.
– The Mitchells vs The Machines falls into the same category with both aforementioned films serving as a good gauge for your potential enjoyment of this animated adventure.
– Playing The Incredibles, if they were more dysfunctional and didn’t possess superhero abilities, this entertaining animated film makes its own space.
– Using hand-drawn animation as if doodling on a student’s workbook, it keeps things light, peppy and upbeat without ever taking itself too seriously.
– This filters into the tone, from the depiction of an extraordinarily ordinary family who turn out to be the last hope for civilisation during a robot uprising.
– The technological overreliance makes for a timely self-reflection, while at its core the heartfelt quest is of the restoration of a distant father-daughter relationship.
– Delightfully over-the-top, sporting a wacky sense of humour and visually dexterous enough to entertain a cat, The Mitchells vs. The Machines rockets along as a college road trip takes an unexpected and exhilarating detour.
– It’s a dazzling, surprisingly touching movie that aims high and lands not far behind its exquisite and revolutionary counterparts.
– While it takes a while to acclimatise, is more about style than substance or story logic and has some familiar elements, it kicks into overdrive about an hour in and all you can do is hold on.
An excellent 8 on the splingometer!
So just to wrap up…
AMANDLA… while visually-striking, well-paced and impassioned, this bleak and brutal crime thriller struggles to overcome a sense of the familiar and fundamental script issues… A flat 5!
OPHELIA… a smart concept, fine production elements and key performances from a stellar cast elevate this Shakespearean romance drama thriller… A satisfactory 6!
THE MITCHELLS VS THE MACHINES… eye-popping and eclectic visuals, wacky comedy and rip roaring world-saving drive this fun and zippy animated adventure… An excellent 8!
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!