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Talking Movies with Spling - Twee Grade van Moord, Youth and Solace

Spling reviews Twee Grade van Moord, Youth and Solace as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.

Movie Review: A Bigger Splash

A Bigger Splash is an exotic new paradise drama turned psychological thriller from director Luca Guadagnino. 'Erotic' may be a better word to use, because A Bigger Splash is a sensuous and seductive film that doesn't shy away from skin or touch.

It's loosely based on Jacques Deray’s The Swimming Pool and shares its title with David Hockney's pop artwork, which depicts a pool with a diving board, set against a penthouse and palm trees using simple opaque colours and straight lines, whilst a splash of explosive white water takes our attention. While there aren't any humans in Hockney's famous picture, Guadagnino has filled his with Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Dakota Johnson and Ralph Fiennes.

The story, while light on plotting, follows the secluded vacation of a famous rock star and a filmmaker, which is disrupted by the unexpected visit of an old friend and his daughter. The once peaceful and idyllic seaside holiday gets railroaded by a blast from the past as flashbacks explain the baggage and present day turmoil as ulterior motives and temptation threatens to ruin everything.

A Bigger Splash echoes Kubrick's Lolita, Linklater's Before Midnight and Polanski's Chinatown. These great filmmakers get a tip of the hat as Guadagnino carves his own path, leaning on elements from these iconic films. The sultry forbidden romance and temptation at the heart of Lolita is on show, the meandering dialogue, storytelling and laid-back Italian volcanic island setting of Pantelleria, off the Sicilian coast echoes Before Midnight, while the drama's twists-and-turns and sweltering atmosphere pay homage to Chinatown.

A Bigger Splash

"Eat your heart out, Katrina..."

We're treated to fine performances from a stellar cast as Swinton works her nuanced magic as a recovering David Bowie meets Lady Gaga style rock star, while a quietly confident Schoenaerts and flamboyant Fiennes scuffle for her attentions. Swinton always delivers and in this film, she gets a chance to express herself almost without words, owing to her character's condition. Margot Robbie was originally set to star in this film, but the mantle was passed on to Dakota Johnson, who really owns the part as a not-so-innocent temptress. Fiennes is a repressed jack-in-the-box making up for lost time and his dance to The Rolling Stones and flippant energy is almost worth the admission alone as he provides much of the get-go to this meandering film.

Guadagnino has a great eye for what works visually, concocting a provocative and sleek psychological drama thriller through sexy visuals and firm direction with a beautiful volcanic island backdrop. The undercover travelogue is our bread-and-butter as we too get a chance to enjoy the summer holiday escape along with the actors, who immerse themselves in their characters, embracing the whole experience. The innate pleasures and hedonistic reverberations are in full effect as every scene tries to take you there by activating your senses.

It's all about living life to the full and being present in the moment, which means that if you're expecting conventional structure you may be disappointed. The third act doesn't really build to the crescendo you'd imagine, but remains thought-provoking with an interesting social commentary relating to passport control. It's the sort of film you should watch in your bathing costume... probably with a chaperone.

The bottom line: Sensuous

Movie Review: Twee Grade van Moord

Twee Grade van Moord (Two Degrees of Murder) is an Afrikaans drama about love and loss. We follow Aleksa Cloete, a renowned psychologist and author of "Love Doesn't Hurt", whose life is turned upside down when her loving husband, Ben, is admitted to hospital for examination. Having agreed to participate in a documentary about her breakthrough therapy, one of her patients arrives on her doorstep looking for help after her boyfriend dies.

This ambitious drama certainly looks and sounds the part, harnessing the talents of a fine cast and setting them against a technically competent feature film. The subject matter has the same potential as The Sea Inside and you get the impression that the filmmakers were inspired by dysfunctional suburban dramas like American Beauty. However, Twee Grade van Moord suffers from seemingly invisible flaws: a lack of story focus, tonal shifts, unlikeable characters and too much padding.

Sandra Prinsloo and Marius Weyers are two veterans of Afrikaans cinema, whose wealth of experience makes their mere presence a boost to any film project. In Twee Grade van Moord, they essentially take on the role of co-leads, playing a happily married couple tasked with a critical decision. At least, this is probably what the film should have been about, leaning on their acting prowess and funneling into an Away from Her style drama about the bounds of love when it comes to dealing with a degenerative disease.

While they give their characters impetus and there's a sense of history, it's not an entirely comfortable fit. The supporting cast includes: Shaleen Surtie-Richards as nanny Fy, who could have her own spin-off film, Hilda Cronje who dives in head first as a free-spirited yet fragile soul and Roelof Storm in a headstrong performance.

Twee Grade van Moord Movie

"Love doesn't hurt... pah."

Unfortunately, for its own sake, Twee Grade van Moord is a much more complicated affair. It functions more like a character-driven ensemble drama, trying to draw in dysfunctional strands from American Beauty. As such, we discover subplots involving a dejected son and his lover, a nosy family housekeeper, a distraught patient in an abusive relationship and an invasive documentary film crew. While these elements serve to layer the storytelling and contrast the emotional interplay, they simply distract from the central relationship.

Instead of creating depth, each subplot soaks up time and stretches the canvas, keeping a good pace but not really giving us a chance to care for the characters. While there's some playful intimacy between Aleksa and Ben at first, all of the characters seem self-centred and dedicated to carrying out their own singular objectives. This makes it difficult to empathise for any of them and further distances us from their pain. The documentary crew seems like an add-on, or a clever sub-narrative device to patch up the converging stories, and boils down to the role of a news reporter.

Twee Grade van Moord also suffers from an inconsistent tone. It starts in a bubbly way as if it were ramping up to become a provocative comedy about love in later life with a shower scene and some nudity. Then as if you were channel-hopping, it shifts into a sombre disease drama, then into a crime thriller only to round-off as a court room drama. These tonal fluctuations keep you guessing, but struggle to balance a film already dealing with soap opera tendencies that would have been better served as a dark comedy.

It's a pity that the quality of the parts don't add up to something more considerable. While the film-makers may have approached this curious drama with the noblest of intentions, Twee Grade van Moord remains elusive, off-balance and scattershot.

The bottom line: Riddled

Talking Movies with Spling - The Idol, The Legend of Tarzan and Triple 9

Spling reviews The Idol, The Legend of Tarzan and Triple 9 as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.

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