Adam Driver, fresh from his success in HOUSE OF GUCCI, plays with conviction another Italian celebrity in Michael Mann’s stylish biopic. The time is the summer of 1957 and Enzo Ferrari is on the brink of financial crisis. The factory that he and his wife Laura (Penelope Cruz) have worked so hard to develop is now facing closure. And if that’s not enough, his marriage to Laura is in tatters especially after the tragic loss of their son. Laura is a tortured soul even more so, after she finds out about Enzo’s secret affair with Lina Lardi (Shailene Woodley) and their illegitimate son…
The visuals are tremendous as can be expected from Mann, the man behind such superbly made films as HEAT, THE INSIDER and COLLATERAL. No one shoots giant close ups more effectively that Mann and here he photographs Penelope Cruz’s face overpowered with fury as the woman scorned to great effect. It takes a while to witness Enzo’s love for his creations in the racecourse but when it happens it simply takes the breath away.
It is superbly photographed and stylishly executed. The acting is strong – Driver is a solid presence and so is Woodley as his loyal mistress, but it is an unrecognisable Cruz that steals the show.


It is good to see one of my favourite documentaries turned into the feel-good movie of the year! British documentary filmmakers Mike Brett and Steve Jamison spent six months following the American Samoa football team trying to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. The team became front page news in 2001 when they lost to Australia 31-0 and were called the worst team in the world. Now, the eccentrically unpredictable filmmaker Taika Waititi from New Zealand, known for JOJO RABBIT and for giving a new lease of life to the THOR franchise, tells the American Samoa story for the big screen.
Michael Fassbender is Thomas Rongen, the Dutch coach, and the only applicant, who accepts the Herculean task to train the team that hasn’t yet won a single match. The American Samoa team has also broken another record – they are the only team in the world with a transgender player.
The film not only celebrates the underdog in a David against Goliath battle, but it is also a story of acceptance.


Kirill Serebrennikov, the Russian director of the hugely imaginative PETROV’S FLU, brings to the screen another wonderfully theatrical production which, as the title suggests, follows the story of Antonina Miliukova (Alyina Mikhailova), the unfortunate wife of Pyotr Tchaikovsky (Odin Lund Biron). When she first encounters the great composer, she falls instantly in love with him and begins to pursue him until he agrees to see her. Even though Tchaikovsky is very direct to Antonina about his desires and expectations, she is thrilled to marry this gay man. Inevitably their relationship soon begins to disintegrate forcing Antonina into madness…
It is a compelling story which was also explored by Ken Russell in his 1971 movie THE MUSIC LOVERS with Richard Chamberlain and Glenda Jackson as the volatile couple. This project is much closer to the real story with superb production values and stunning performances particularly by Mikhailova as the eponymous heroine.


Here is another instant classic from the great Japanese studio Ghibli written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, the creator of SPIRITED AWAY and MY NEIGHBOUR TOTORO. He tells the story of Mahito, a young boy who, in his desire to see his mother one more time, enters a world shared by the living and the dead…
A riveting story of loss and discovery from one of the most original minds working in cinema today. His brilliant ideas are perfectly combined with superb, hand drawn animated designs and a terrific musical score from Joe Hisaishi. The film was one of the highlights from the recent London Film Festival and is now screening in both Japanese and English versions – I would recommend the original if you have a choice.


The acclaimed Spanish director J.A. Bayona brought vividly to life the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that hit Thailand with his film THE IMPOSSIBLE back in 2012. Now he turns his attention to another real-life disaster – in 1972, Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, which was flying a rugby team to Chile, crashed in the heart of Andes. Only 29 of its 45 passengers survived the crash, but soon after they were forgotten by the authorities when all attempts to find them in this hostile environment failed. The survivors had no alternative but to resort to extreme measures to stay alive…
This compelling story was previously filmed by Hollywood in 1993 under the title ALIVE with Ethan Hawke and Vincent Spano as two of the survivors. It was a decent, powerful movie – now Bayona spends more time in introducing his characters before the tragic accident and his casting of strong Latino actors pays dividends. It is based on Pablo Vierci’s novel “La Sociedad De La Nieve” and is superbly photographed, complemented by great use of sound – even though one knows the outcome it will keep you at the edge of your seat.
Big screen entertainment but not ideal for those who are claustrophobic or about to fly!


It has been ages since Meg Ryan last appeared on the big screen and she now not only plays the leading role of Wilma, but also directs this uninspired film which is based on a stage play called “Shooting Star.” It is basically a two hander which takes place at an airport, where Willa accidentally meets her ex-lover Bill (David Duchovny) and as fate would have it they get snowed in and are forced to spend some time together…
The actors have zero chemistry, and the static action makes this quite a dull affair.


This powerful documentary from Madeleine Gavin is unlike any other. She uses hidden camera footage which shows desperate North Korean defectors as they try to escape their country’s oppression.
A mother, who managed to escape under the most perilous conditions, is eagerly awaiting to be reunited with her son, whom she was forced to leave behind years earlier. Meanwhile, another family with two young children along with their 80-year-old grandmother embark on this dangerous journey…
There are many horror stories coming from North Korean’s brutal regime but hopefully here, there is a light at the end of a very dark tunnel in the presence of a man of God, whose mission is to help these desperate souls. Highly recommended!


The eagerly awaited second project from Emerald Fennell, the director and writer of A PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN, for which she won an Oscar for her brilliant screenplay, recently opened the London Film Festival. It is a change of gear, and the action now moves from America to Oxford and to an English country estate that recalls the setting of BRIDESHEAD REVISITED and DOWNTON ABBEY.
The story follows Oliver Quick, a solitary student who falls head over heels with the handsome rich boy Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi). Oliver can’t believe his luck when Felix invites him to spend summer at Saltburn, his eccentric family’s estate…
Fennell’s writing and directing are superb and with just the right touch or irony. She draws remarkable performances from her actors – rising star Keoghan is excellent as the shy boy whose ugly duckling develops into a dark swan among Saltburn’s magnificent surroundings. Rosamund Pike is hilarious as the matriarch of Saltburn.


This likable film from Norway follows the story of Marian, an eight-year-old who falls instantly in love with a stuffed teddy bear while visiting a Christmas market in her small town. She is convinced she saw him moving his head and is determined to win him as a prize but to her huge disappointment someone else wins Teddy instead…
It is a lovely story ideal for smaller children during the festive season. The English dubbing of the human characters doesn’t always match their mouth movements but thankfully Zachary Levi’s task is much more effective in revoicing Teddy.


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