Spling reviews Return to Space, Licorice Pizza and Swan Song 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 space exploration documentary, a comedy drama romance and a coming-of-age comedy drama.
Starting off with a documentary now on Netflix…
RETURN TO SPACE
A chronicle of SpaceX’s 20-year journey to send American astronauts back to space aboard US rockets.
Directors: Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
Features: Bob Behnken, Douglas Hurley and Elon Musk
– South African-born American entrepreneur, business magnate, investor and bigwig billionaire of SpaceX, Tesla, the Boring Company, Neuralink and OpenAI fame is a household name and already has a defining influence on our future.
– Return to Space chronicles the rise of his pioneering SpaceX company, the advent of space exploration commercialisation and charts their many failures and triumphs.
– Detailing the history of NASA’s missions and the United States’ flagging space exploration programme, Return to Space positions Musk’s SpaceX company as the next generation.
– Aiming to forge ahead with plans to get people back on the moon and eventually to Mars to instigate multi-planetary existence, there’s nothing small about SpaceX.
– Through interviews, behind-the-scenes and incredible launch site footage, this documentary offers an intimate and humanistic point-of-view on its brave astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.
– You may know the outcome but there’s still a feeling of spontaneity, at times emulating a taut space thriller based on the precision of each launch, capsule docking and even parachute deployment.
– It’s a comprehensive tour of SpaceX’s development, an accessible yet detailed excursion that features exquisite shots from the launch sites, space station and spacewalks with some philosophical undertones.
– While it’s overlong at 2+ hours and often feels like a SpaceX infomercial, Return to Space is a conventional yet entertaining, compelling, sleek and well-paced documentary.
A solid 7 on the splingometer!
Moving on to a film now on Google Play Movies…
The story of two kids running around and navigating first love in the San Fernando Valley, 1973.
Writer-Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Stars: Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman and Sean Penn
– A nostalgic throwback to young romance, entrepreneurship and the American Dream, this immersive coming-of-age comedy drama romance has the earmarks of a Richard Linklater film.
– Licorice Pizza is buoyed by its charming young co-leads, particularly Alana Haim whose fascinating facial features and spirited performance compel and entertain.
– It’s refreshing to see so much confidence placed in rising stars, whose star-making performances are sculpted by a seasoned director with some stellar minor supporting roles.
– A throwback to the early ’70s, the accurate production design and values add a thick layer of authenticity carried forth by unmodulated hairstyles and wardrobe.
– It’s a joy to see life in an age before the Internet, social media and personal devices took over, a time where people seem to be doing more living.
– Dealing with show business and emerging trends of the age, the “will they, won’t they” romance serves as a constant tension as unrequited love and the maturation of an unlikely friendship take place.
– A meandering adventure where plot takes a backseat to character, good-natured fun and hang out vibes, the film weaves in and out of jobs and ventures as the friends become business partners.
– Seizing opportunities, living in the moment and trying to be cool, Licorice Pizza is an ode to the recklessness and potential of youth in a time where flyers and phone calls were still common business practices.
– Much like Apollo 10 1/2, this drama celebrates the innocence of the time and simply touches on some darker themes without capsizing into them.
An excellent 8 on the splingometer!
And finally a film on Showmax…
A formerly flamboyant hairdresser accepts one last job to style a dead woman’s hair.
Writer-Director: Todd Stephens
Stars: Udo Kier, Jennifer Coolidge and Linda Evans
– Udo Kier is a German actor with a recognisable face who’s built a career on supporting character performances.
– While it’s not his swan song, he demonstrates just how much he’s got left to offer with a pitch perfect leading performance as a hairdresser who comes out of retirement for one last job.
– This offbeat comedy drama has no shortage of indie spirit and plenty of moxie.
– Embracing the artful, unconventional and restorative quest of This Must be the Place it also embodies the happy-go-lucky, dark comedy and characterful adventure that is Little Miss Sunshine.
– The momentum gathers as the artist rekindles his passion and stokes up nostalgic feelings around a lost lover, an old foe and his former glory.
– A modest production, it remains entertaining and quirky, ambling along with a bold, unfettered lead in Kier whose priceless expressions and ever-evolving look add a touch of whimsy.
– It’s bejeweled by an unusual genre mix and complex emotion, venturing into daydreams and unpacking themes around charity, respect, class division, friendship and forgiveness.
– Swan Song is a dark horse, an offbeat, quirky and even touching character portrait.
A solid 7 on the splingometer!
So just to wrap up…
RETURN TO SPACE… while overlong, this conventional documentary chronicle of SpaceX’s journey is compelling, eye-opening and sleek… A solid 7!
LICORICE PIZZA… charming co-leads and hang out vibrations drive this immersive and nostalgic Linklater-esque comedy drama romance throwback to the ’70s… An excellent 8!
SWAN SONG… a pitch perfect lead performance, offbeat comedy and touching drama compel this playful and wistful low-key indie gem… A solid 7!
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And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!