There's a documentary on Luciano Pavarotti on screens this weekend, and another one on Steve Bannon. Plus, a treat for Conjuring fans.
Ron Howard's latest film pays homage to the late singer, employing a generous lens to cast a warm and informative light on the acclaimed tenor's life and career. Howard's take on Pavarotti is, much like the singer himself, light-hearted, doughy and largely uncontroversial. In the spirit of the tenor, it toes the line.
While more cynical filmmakers would have dug into the darkest corners of Pavarotti's life, Howard leaves these spaces largely untouched. If he includes any potentially degrading material, e.g. an account of Pavarotti's diva-like antics, he does so only briefly, as means to humanise an otherwise superhuman figure.
For the bulk of the film, Howard shamelessly embraces the themes that earned his subject matter the adoration of millions (as well as the derision of a critical few). Mirroring Pavarotti's amiable personality and the earnest content of opera itself, Howard's film deals in simple, broad-based emotions: joy, romance, sadness and hope. Read our full review here.
Annabelle Comes Home ****
There's life in the old doll yet.
Back for a third run, the sinister doll from the Conjuring universe takes centre stage once more, in this highly enjoyable 'look out behind you' horror story that rattles along.
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reprise their roles from The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2 as Ed and Lorraine Warren, a pair of paranormal investigators and authors associated with prominent cases of haunting, but really their characters bookend this film. Read our full review here.
The Brink ***1/2
The Brink follows former White House strategist Steve Bannon through the 2018 US midterm elections, and the film also covers his attempts to mobilise far-right European parties for the May 2019 parliamentary elections.
The Time magazine cover sets the scene. Both Donald Trump and Steve Bannon made the cover and the caption used to describe Bannon is the memorable one: "The Manipulator".
"The Manipulator" - that about sums Steve Bannon up, what we can see of him in the film anyway. Unfortunately, we learn nothing about him, about his background, what kind of family he grew up in, what made him what he is. Read our full review here.
Spider-Man: Far from Home ****
This is pretty much a perfect Peter Parker pic. It's certainly one of the most enjoyable solo superhero adventures in years, and at just over two hours it rattles along at a nice pace.
The tale's as straightforward as they come. Peter Parker's (Tom Holland) pretty pooped - both physically and mentally - following the monumental battle between the Avengers and Thanos in Endgame.
Back in Brooklyn, a school trip to Europe offers the 16-year-old an opportunity to get away from everything for a while, and he even ignores phone calls from Samuel L Jackson's Nick Fury. Read our full review here.
What's the worst thing you can say about a horror film? That it's not scary enough or that it's too up itself?
Midsommar, Ari Aster's follow-up to his breakout debut Hereditary, makes quite the case for the latter. And yet, like its predecessor, there is plenty to admire.
After a superb prologue (as powerful as anything else in the film - and that's saying something), Aster shouts "Roll up!" to his carnival of the bizarre. Read our full review here.
Never Look Away **1/2
Never Look Away (Werk ohne Autor) runs to over three hours and is a reasonably engaging human story but it is overly-long and flawed by a certain degree of cinematic indulgence that makes it syrupy and fluffy when it should not be so.
The best thing in it, however, is the enthralling stage baddie, SS doctor Professor Seeband. We gleefully follow proceedings, awaiting his eventual comeuppance and, indeed, the enthusiastic viewer may be tempted to shout "He's behind you!" at certain points.
The film's director, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, impressed many with his breakthrough film The Lives of Others, which won Best Foreign Language Oscar in 2007. He also made The Tourist, starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, which did not pass muster for people who expected more from Herr von Donnersmarck. Now, nine years on, comes this German-language movie, an overflowing, milky saucerful of secrets, sinister and otherwise. Read our full review here.
Vita & Virginia ***
"Love and work... work and love, that's all there is."
Sigmund Freud's life-itself quote comes to mind many a time during Vita & Virginia, the story of the relationship between authors Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf, and how it inspired Woolf's classic Orlando.
Really, director Chanya Button's refined literary biopic about the chase and the catch has no business being in cinemas at the height of summer, but if you're looking for something away from the multiplex norm, or a break from the boxsets, it will inspire you to read more of/about both authors at its centre. Read our full review here.