Spling reviews Ted K, Bullet Train and Jerry and Marge Go Large 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 biographical crime drama, an action comedy thriller and a comedy drama.
Starting off with a film now on Showmax…
An exploration into Ted Kaczynski’s life in Lincoln, Montana, in the years before his capture as The Unabomber.
Director: Tony Stone
Stars: Sharlto Copley
Ted K is a biographical crime drama chronicle, a blend of Into the Wild and Castaway, taking the countercultural instincts of a cross-country adventure and infusing it with a strangely compelling near-solo survivalist performance. The secret weapon is Sharlto Copley, an inspired casting decision that works wonders for this American domestic terrorist memoir and character study. Copley has a fine balance of comedic and dramatic intuition, immersing himself wholeheartedly. This intimate foray into the man’s motives and symbiotic relationship with nature, offers enough identification points that you may be mostly disturbed by just how much you empathise with Ted. It’s a welcome and triumphant return for Copley, whose captivating performance keeps you transfixed on what eventually became the longest and most expensive manhunt in the FBI’s history. From shaking his fist at planes and chemtrails to threatening motocross bikers, there’s a comic undercurrent, which could have been explored in a similar fashion to the Nicolas Cage film, Army of One. While Copley has the versatility, Ted K remains more experimental in its approach, crafting a hypnotic film experience that while inconsistent at times, remains supremely watchable. Swaying between classical and synthesised music, this adds gravity to the soundtrack with the sound design highlighting the ongoing disruption of peace. An authentic throwback, driven by a fascinating true story, mesmerising visuals and a volatile lead performance, it’s easy to overlook this unconventional character portrait’s shortcomings.
A satisfactory 6!
Moving on to a movie now on Netflix and Showmax…
Five assassins aboard a fast-moving bullet train discover that their missions are linked.
Director: David Leitch
Stars: Brad Pitt, Joey King and Aaron Taylor-Johnson
David Leitch is the director behind John Wick, Deadpool 2 and Atomic Blonde. Stepping into the vacuum left by Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie, he’s crafted a movie you could describe as Kill Bill: Vol. 1 meets Source Code. Tarantino’s eclectic comic book style violent action and dark comedy is the currency of Bullet Train, which has a similar intensity to the relentless train thriller from Duncan Jones. Featuring a stellar ensemble with cameos from several A-listers, it’s Brad Pitt who serves as the figurehead. Creating a space for some outlandish comedic moments with each train carriage sporting a different theme, the pop culture overload finds the film veering from Thomas the Tank Engine to a Lord of War life-of-a-bullet sequence. The cartoonish treatment and mix of goofy characters keeps things relatively entertaining – even if it’s playful spirit does make it seem disingenuous. Unfortunately, a few key performances come up short and the lightweight videogame style storytelling relies too heavily on exhilarating action sequences. Often entertaining and rarely intolerable thanks to the charms of Pitt, King, Henry and Taylor-Johnson, Bullet Train does push your patience at 2 hours but will strike a chord with those who appreciate wacky action comedy.
A satisfactory 6!
And finally a film on Showmax…
Based on the true story of Jerry and Marge Selbee, a long-married couple who win the lottery and use the money to revitalize their small town.
Director: David Frankel
Stars: Bryan Cranston, Annette Bening and Rainn Wilson
This feelgood biographical comedy drama could be described as About Schmidt meets Robin Hood, taking the story of a retiree trying to figure out “what next?” only to discover his next adventure could be his greatest as the gifted mathematician finds a loophole in the state lottery. Cranston and Bening make an exuberant pairing, whose infectious charms capture the selfless spirit of Frankel’s adaptation of an article about the real couple and their town. This could have easily been the stomping ground for a Christopher Guest style ad lib comedy with Rainn Wilson, Michael McKean and Larry Wilmore chiming in as local oddballs. The co-lead pairing are convincing, a great fit, whose winning performances steer this charming little coming-of-age comedy drama to safety. A gentle, noble, optimistic and timely comedy drama, the idea of uplifting a town and doing so with a smile just makes the triumph of the human spirit more endearing and heartwarming. A delightful gem, it’s almost too lovable, struggling to find obstacles and enemies in its path to the point of having to turn a hornet’s nest into a piñata. Filled with fun, much merriment and some real heartfelt moments, there’s much to appreciate in this simple, yet crowd-pleasing movie about big-hearted people and community spirit.
A solid 7!
So just to wrap up…
TED K… an intimate character study, strangely compelling lead performance and mesmerising visuals fuel this inconsistent and unconventional exploration… A satisfactory 6!
BULLET TRAIN… wacky dark comedy, stylish action sequences and a stellar cast mostly override a disingenuous feel and video game storytelling… A satisfactory 6!
JERRY AND MARGE GO LARGE… charming co-leads, a remarkable story and a winning spirit compel this gentle, delightful and crowd-pleasing tale… A solid 7!
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And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!