Streaming reviews: Val provides haunting insight into Kilmer's misunderstood Hollywood career and life

SURVIVOR: Throat cancer might have ended Val Kilmer's acting career, but his autographical documentary reveals that he remains a talented filmmaker.

SURVIVOR: Throat cancer might have ended Val Kilmer's acting career, but his autographical documentary reveals that he remains a talented filmmaker.


Amazon Prime

UNFAIRLY or not Val Kilmer has always been portrayed as one of Hollywood's most enigmatic and tempestuous stars.

However, it's difficult to imagine anyone as famous as Kilmer opening their lives to such brutal honesty as he does in Val. At times, it makes for depressing watching.

Within seconds we go from snatches of Kilmer as Tom "Iceman" Kazansky in Top Gun or shamanic rock star Jim Morrison in The Doors to hearing him croak and wheeze through a port in his larynx due to his battle with throat cancer.

There's also a harrowing scene where Kilmer is wheelchaired out of an autograph session hidden under a towel after becoming violently ill.

As Kilmer, 61, explains, throat cancer might have almost taken his voice, but he still wants to tell the story of his life. Due to Kilmer's life-long fascination with video cameras, he literally has thousands of hours of home movies dating back to his childhood in Los Angeles where he and his two brothers would remake their favourite films.

There's some amazing snippets of footage. These include a young Sean Penn and Kevin Bacon mooning the camera backstage during the Broadway play The Slab Boys and various auditions for films Kilmer failed to secure a role in, such as Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket.

We're also given an insight into his meticulous preparation that included being purposely cold towards Tom Cruise during the making of Top Gun because their characters were rivals and wearing tight leather pants for a year to get inside Jim Morrison.

Val also doesn't shy away from negative moments of Kilmer's life. There's audio of Kilmer threatening to quit the doomed The Island Of Dr. Moreau (1996) and arguing over custody of their children with his ex-wife Joanne Whalley following their 1996 divorce.

Physically Kilmer might be a shell of his former self, but Val proves he remains a vivid story-teller and this documentary could be his most powerful performance.

FUN: Pixar's Vivo is a colourful ride.

FUN: Pixar's Vivo is a colourful ride.



PIXAR enjoyed great success in 2017 with their touching film Coco, and Vivo attempts to distill that same Latino energy, albeit with less emotion.

Straight up if you're not a fan of musicals, forget Vivo. Music is at the heart of this colourful tale about friendship and adventure.

The good news is Vivo's songs are mostly fun and eclectic in style, visually-spectacular and generally serve the narrative.

Vivo tells the story of the title character, a kinkajou or "honey bear" who lives in Havana, Cuba after being rescued from savage dogs by an old man, Andrés. The pair form a close bond and become successful buskers in the city through their elaborate performances.

When Andrés receives a letter from his old friend and famous singer, Marta Sandoval, he reveals to Vivo a song he wrote for her that she's never heard. Andrés decides to travel to Miami to deliver the song to Marta.

However before he leaves Havana, Andrés dies in his sleep. Vivo is desperate to fulfil his former owner's wish and he stows away in the luggage of Andrés' rambunctious grand-niece Gabi, who lives in Miami.

With giant snakes, alligators and high-speed scooter chases there's plenty of fast-paced and colourful action to keep young viewers engaged.


This story Kilmer offers moving self portrait first appeared on The Canberra Times.