Talking Movies: The Swimmers, Stutz and Bill & Ted Face the Music

Spling reviews The Swimmers, Stutz and Bill & Ted Face the Music 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 biographical sports drama, a documentary and a sci-fi music comedy adventure.

Starting off with a film now on Netflix…


Two young sisters embark on a harrowing journey as refugees from war-torn Syria to the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Writer-Director: Sally El Hosaini

Stars: Manal Issa, Nathalie Issa and Matthias Schweighöfer

– Based on a remarkable true story, The Swimmers chronicles the journey of two young Syrian refugees who leave Damascus for Berlin.
– While focused on Syria, the powerful story comes to represent any individual faced with the difficulties around dislocation from their home country.
– The Swimmers finds a healthy middleground, striking a balance between making a political statement without losing its entertainment value.
– Blending the upliftment of a sports underdog story with the heartbreaking realities faced by millions of refugees, The Swimmers remains just as hopeful and determined as its co-leads.
– Compelled by heroics, resilience and spirit, The Swimmers finds itself hovering between the crowd-pleasing Cool Runnings and hard-fought Unbroken.
– Colourful, vivid and even eye-opening to a number of the social injustices, it’s ultimately a triumph over adversity with a ripple effect.
– Solid performances carry it through its paces, empowered by an incredible true story and a great sense of balance.
– While overlong and sometimes overwrought, good pacing and a stream of emotionally resonant and levelheaded dramatisation win the day.
– Retaining an innocence and optimism, this stirring biographical sports drama plays it relatively safe, hinting at harrowing abuses and leaning towards mainstream appeal over visceral impact value.

A solid 7 on the splingometer!

Moving on to a documentary now on Netflix…


Jonah Hill and his renowned therapist discuss mental health, tools for coping and their familiar relationship.

Director: Jonah Hill

Features: Jonah Hill and Phil Stutz

– Hill is an Oscar-nominated Hollywood actor, best known for his dramatic roles in Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street, constantly shapeshifting between the realm of comedy and drama.
– Much like Jim Carrey realised, having reached the pinnacle of his career and amassed fame, fortune and critical acclaim, he still didn’t feel that his pursuit of happiness resulted in fulfillment.
– Through his sessions with renowned therapist, Phil Stutz, the actor discovered a role model whose intuitive approach to counselling establishes more dialogue with helpful tools.
– This black-and-white documentary is Hill’s attempt to celebrate the man, his contribution and share his valuable array of coping skills when it comes to mental health.
– An artful documentary exploration, not tonally dissimilar to C’mon C’mon with Joaquin Phoenix, the crisp interview visuals interlace quite masterfully as Stutz’s trademark visual cue cards and scribble font creates progressive chapters.
– A familiar relationship, bordering on father-son, there is a rich intimacy, honesty and warmth that develops through this candid experiment as the two open up about their lives to offer real examples of how to apply the methodology.
– Filmed over several years with an attempt to make it seem like a single session, Stutz becomes self-referential and even interdimensional, offering a rare and tender glimpse into the mind of Jonah Hill and his esteemed therapist.
– Entertaining, informative and surprisingly funny, this unconventional documentary and its subjects are both spontaneous and self-reflective.

An excellent 8 on the splingometer!

And finally a movie on Showmax…


Two middle-aged Californian dads try to crank out a hit song to fulfill their destiny and save the universe.

Director: Dean Parisot

Stars: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter and Kristen Schaal

– At the height of his career, it seems only fitting that Keanu Reeves pays tribute to some of his earliest work, reprising the role of Ted opposite Alex Winter as Bill in a series reboot.
– A cult buddy comedy, centred on a garage rock band called Wyld Stallyns, the slacker pairing got by on bromance, catchphrases and the stick-it-to-the-man culture of MTV and the ’90s.
– Playful lightweight entertainment, the co-lead chemistry and rock-till-you-drop charms inspired an animated and live-action series in its heyday, garnering enough renewed interest to spawn a long overdue sequel.
– Spurred by the Reeves renaissance and other nostalgic reboots such as Ghostbusters, this breezy dumb fun time travel comedy has enough nostalgia and let-the-good-times-roll energy to get a hall pass.
– Giving Reeves and Winter a chance to dust off the beloved characters, their time-travel antics find them standing off against warped versions of Bill & Ted, whilst their chip-off-the-old-block daughters assemble a band comprising some of the greatest musical talents from across history.
– Young at heart, this silly and lightweight sequel makes a fitting conclusion to their ultimate quest.
– Leveraging Kristen Schaal’s role from Flight of the Conchords, paying tribute to George Carlin and passing the torch to possible successors, Bill & Ted Face the Music checks a number of boxes, slowly building up to a frothy and enthralling finale.

It did enough to warrant…

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!

So just to wrap up…

THE SWIMMERS… while a bit long and heavy-handed, this stirring chronicle remains eye-opening, powerful, vivid and well-acted… A solid 7!

STUTZ… an artful, entertaining, insightful, intimate, funny, unconventional and unexpected interview style documentary… An excellent 8!

BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC… while decidedly silly, this stellar buddy movie reboot is a fun, lightweight, innocent and nostalgic distraction… A satisfactory 6!

For more movie reviews and features visit splingmovies.com.

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