Talking Movies: Return to Space, Licorice Pizza and Swan Song

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…


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!

For more movie reviews and previous Talking Movies podcasts visit splingmovies.com.

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