Talking Movies: The Alpinist, Spencer and Phoenix Rising

Spling reviews The Alpinist, Spencer and Phoenix Rising 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 sports documentary, a historical biographical drama and a crime documentary.

Starting off with a sports documentary now on Showmax…


Free-spirited solo mountain climber, Marc-André, makes some of the boldest solo ascents in history.

Directors: Peter Mortimer, Nick Rosen

Features: Marc-André Leclerc, Peter Mortimer and Alex Honnold

– You could describe The Alpinist as a blend of Summit of the Gods and Into the Wild giving scale and experiential detail to the actual climb.
– While animated, Summit of the Gods dealt with mountain climbing and Alpinism from a purist’s perspective trying to unpack the enigmatic allure of the dangerous sport.
– It also recalls the story of Christopher McCandless and Sean Penn’s cross-country epic, Into the Wild, as a young man forgoes convention to follow his heart and dreams.
– Referred to as a “dirt bag” and said to have been born late for his ’70s and ’80s outlook, the socially-awkward Canadian climber bypassed phone ownership and literally lived in a stairwell in Squamish with a bohemian community of likeminded spirits.
– From breaking a longstanding speed record to ascending the notorious Torre Egger in Patagonia, Argentina in winter in “awful conditions” – Leclerc’s purity, graceful movements and calculated solo climbing are awe-inspiring and unreal.
– A character portrait and exploration of the extreme sport, the subject’s purity is often at odds with the nature of filmmaking, cutting through the irony of accomplishment and accompaniment.
– After Leclerc disappears for a while, the documentary changes tack with more narration from Leclerc as he takes over to tell his own story.
– The Alpinist is ultimately about living in the here and now as if your days are numbered.

A near-perfect 9 on the splingometer!

Moving on to a movie now on Labia Home Screen…


Diana Spencer decides to end her marriage during her Christmas holidays with the Royal Family at their Sandringham estate in Norfolk, England.

Director: Pablo Larraín

Features: Kristen Stewart, Timothy Spall and Sally Hawkins

– Stewart delivers a career-best performance as Princess Diana, a transformative role that captures the wistful essence of Diana.
– Supported by a stellar ensemble, this prestige picture sounds and looks the part but is rather alienating and struggles to garner emotional investment.
– Instead of an expansive biographical drama, this moody character portrait and unsettling psychological drama attempts to get an all-encompassing snapshot of Diana’s life over several days.
– Essentially a companion piece to Jackie starring Natalie Portman, there’s a similar formula at play with a strong lead performance, moody atmosphere, ornate production design, an iconic backdrop, meticulous wardrobe with a score to enhance the psychological thriller undercurrent.
– Spencer’s cinematic finesse, compelling lead and accomplished cast escalate the film but there’s a frustrating disconnectedness when it comes to emotional resonance and engaging storytelling.
– Playing like a low-key prison break it harps on familiar tones around Diana’s “conservatorship” type existence, bowing to etiquette, form, tradition and rule in a constant attempt to flee royal duty, the public eye and the media’s constant threat of breaking a new scandal.
– Spencer’s exquisite cinematography, daydream elements and stately residence keep it visually-captivating but this artful film often feels stuffy and distant in spite of its slow-burning intimacy.

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!

And finally a two-part documentary on Showmax…


The true story of actress and activist Evan Rachel Wood, a survivor of domestic violence as she moves toward naming her infamous abuser for the first time.

Director: Amy Berg

Features: Evan Rachel Wood, Sara Wood and Ira David Wood IV

– Recounting her childhood and growing pain experiences, Wood and her close activist friend Illma Gore piece together a case against her former fiancee who allegedly groomed, isolated and abused her over the course of their rocky relationship.
– Getting the story from her brother and parents, Phoenix Rising covers Wood’s acting career, Warner’s bad influence, their twisted relationship and court proceedings to extend California’s limitation on reporting such abuse.
– Marilyn Manson’s freak show antics and debauched stage presence reveal a tortured artist who channels his difficult upbringing and inner demons into a persona that seeps into real life.
– It’s easy for bystanders to say “well, what did you expect?” but Wood contests that she was drawn in by Manson’s rock god status, groomed by the man 19 years her senior and ultimately coerced into a dark and abusive albeit high profile relationship.
– Berg directed ‘Deliver Us from Evil’ and ‘West of Memphis’, making her a good choice for this dark two-part documentary that follows a similar format to HBO’s Allen vs. Farrow.
– Phoenix Rising is revelatory and timely, but does come across as one-sided in its demonisation of a man who already professes his dark side openly.
– Staging an FBI interview, adding an Alice in Wonderland motif, continually pointing the finger and primarily based on personal testimony… the reporting style often comes across like an E! Entertainment segment rather than a well-researched journalistic endeavour.

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!

So just to wrap up…

THE ALPINIST… this awe-inspiring, dizzying and enigmatic character portrait and spirited sports documentary offers a pure and rare glimpse into the void… A near-perfect 9!

SPENCER… a transformative lead, exquisite visuals and sleek cinematography attempt to substitute for this moody film’s distant, stuffy and altogether alienating air… A satisfactory 6!

PHOENIX RISING… while eye-opening, entertaining and timely, this tabloid style documentary’s harrowing one-sided slant and iffy journalism blunts serious allegations… A satisfactory 6!

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