Near the beginning of Ron Howard's documentary, which incorporates footage from concerts and interviews to recount Luciano Pavarotti's journey in his own words, the ebullient Italian tenor is asked to imagine his legacy.

"I'd like to be remembered as a man who took opera to the people," he replies modestly, flashing the camera a pensive smile.

There are plenty of reasons to grin at Howard's affectionate portrait of flawed musical genius, which loudly celebrate the qualities which elevated a baker's son from Modena to the dizzy heights of global superstardom and worldwide record sales in excess of 100 million.

Pavarotti's well documented faults are largely glossed over to concentrate on the coterie of admirers and celebrity friends he accumulated as he took opera into stadia, including his relationship with Diana, Princess of Wales, as well as the physical and emotional strain of performing.

"It gave him purpose but it was also a burden," observes first wife, Adua Veroni.

Howard's film opens with grainy footage of Pavarotti's 1995 visit to the Teatro Amazonas, an opera house nestled in the heart of Brazilian rainforest where fellow Italian tenor Enrico Caruso performed a century earlier.

From here, the timeline fractures, rewinding to childhood years in Modena, northern Italy, where the young Luciano acquired a love of music from his father Fernando, a tenor who might have pursued a professional career as a singer.

They performed together in a male voice choir called Corale Rossini and on April 29 1961, Luciano made his debut as Rodolfo in La Boheme.

Howard has been granted access to the Pavarotti family archives, where he unearths some gems including the singer's pithy description of his voice as "the prima donna of my body".

There are some exceedingly colourful sections involving concert promoter Harvey Goldsmith and the singer's cutthroat manager Herbert Breslin before Bono offers his typically forthright opinion on the appeal of Pavarotti.

"He is one of the great emotional arm wrestlers," comments the U2 frontman in old footage, "and he will break your arm."

Howard's entertaining film treads too lightly to break anything, certainly not fans' hearts.

The introduction of Pavarotti's second wife Nicoletta Mantovani inspires more gushing tributes, like when she explains how the singer helped her to face a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.

"This is what love does, it makes you feel better," she assures.

Predictably, the documentary hits a high note with excerpts of The Three Tenors concert featuring Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras.

Standing three abreast, the men spark off each other as they deliver a thunderous rendition of the Nessun Dorma aria from Turandot.

Nothing in Howard's film tarnishes that glorious memory.

Three stars


Twenty-five years ago, The Lion King was the cat's whiskers.

Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff's heartbreaking rites-of-passage drama roared at the Academy Awards, collecting golden statuettes for Hans Zimmer's score and Elton John and Tim Rice's swooning ballad Can You Feel The Love Tonight?

The highest-grossing hand-drawn animated film of all time continues to purr as a long-running stage musical.

Now, director Jon Favreau employs the same photorealistic computer wizardry, which served him well for his rollicking reimagining of The Jungle Book, to transport us to the sun-baked savanna for a virtually word-for-word remake, which trades heavily on technical excellence to justify its existence.

Screenwriter Jeff Nathanson appropriates most of the original dialogue and tempers the animated film's more extravagant flourishes.

Consequently, scheming uncle Scar is no longer a scene-stealing pantomime villain, his Machiavellian call to arms Be Prepared loses the goose-stepping hyenas and provocative Nazi imagery, and the Busby Berkeley-style fantasia of I Just Can't Wait To Be King is now a scamper around a watering hole.

Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen riff to hilarious effect as meerkat Timon and flatulent warthog Pumbaa, tucking into a banquet of bugs with gusto ("That's what I call umami!") and cheekily referencing another Disney classic when they are asked to cause a distraction.

As before, Mufasa (voiced by James Earl Jones) and mate Sarabi (Alfre Woodard) maintain a delicate balance between various animal factions.

Their proud leonine bloodline continues with the birth of Simba (JD McCrary), who is introduced to the world by shamanic mandrill Rafiki (John Kani) atop Pride Rock.

Mufasa's embittered brother Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) plots to seize control of the grasslands by forging a fragile alliance with the hyenas.

The despicable plotters lure Simba into a canyon during a stampede and Mufasa dies saving his boy from being crushed under clattering hooves.

Overwhelmed by guilt and grief, Simba flees and the tearful cub is befriended by carefree duo Timon (Eichner) and Pumbaa (Rogen), who are eager to share their "problem-free philosophy".

Meanwhile, Scar's tyrannical reign reduces the lush pride lands to a barren sprawl of rotting carcasses where Simba's sweetheart Nala (Beyonce Knowles) feel powerless to oppose despotic rule.

There is no denying that The Lion King is a mighty handsome and muscular beast.

Close-ups of Simba's baby blue eyes shamelessly pluck heartstrings and the attention to detail on the animals' fur is jaw-dropping.

Aside from Eichner and Rogen's ad-libs, every word and emotional crescendo is secondhand, beginning with a soaring cry of "Nants Ingonyama" from Circle Of Life as a sun rises over the animals' domain.

Audiences unfamiliar with the 1994 animation may consider Favreau's picture to be king of the cinematic jungle.

For me, the beautifully imperfect original reigns supreme.

Three stars


In 2017, Agnes Varda received a coveted Honorary Award from the Board of Governors of the Academy Awards to mark her exceptional contribution to filmmaking, which began before the first crests of the French New Wave.

She reflects on this long and distinguished career in her latest documentary, Varda By Agnes, a two-hour meditation on the creative process and some of her missteps.

Intercut with dramatic reconstructions and archive clips, the film allows Varda to talk affectionately about her love for her late husband and fellow filmmaker, Jacques Demy, and her burgeoning interest in photography as an art form.

Through the lens, we gain a deeper appreciation for the late Varda's passion for cinema.


Adapted from the novel of the same title penned by Fiona Shaw, Tell It To The Bees teases out forbidden romance between two women in 1950s Scotland under the direction of Annabel Jankel.

Robert Weekes (Emun Elliott) is haunted by his experiences on the battlefields of the Second World War and he abandons his wife Lydia (Holliday Grainger) and their 10-year-old boy Charlie (Gregor Selkirk).

Mother and son forge a strong bond in this time of emotional upheaval, when poor Charlie is subject to relentless bullying at school.

After one particularly nasty incident, Charlie's cousin Annie (Lauren Lyle) takes him to local doctor Jean Markham (Anna Paquin), who has recently taken over the practice from her father.

Jean tells Charlie about her family's tradition of telling their secrets to a colony of bees and her kindness kindles a friendship between the medic and Lydia.

Passion ignites and the two women continue their relationship behind closed doors, painfully aware of the consequences if their love is exposed.


A kidnapping in the name of love becomes infinitely more complicated when passion is introduced to the mix in writer-director Michael Winterbottom's slow-burning thriller.

Jay (Dev Patel) is hired by his employer Deepesh (Jim Sarbh) to fly to Lahore to abduct Deepesh's girlfriend Samira (Radhike Apte).

She is being forced into an arranged marriage and Deepesh wants his underling to spirit her across the border to India where she will be free from the shackles of her family.

Unfortunately, Samira's extraction goes awry when Jay accidentally shoots a security guard, who is protecting her.

As Jay and his willing hostage flee, the plot twists and turns to reveal Samira's underhand complicity in the daring scheme.

Winterbottom's film is simultaneously available to download and stream.

GWEN (15)

A young girl shoulders the burden of holding her dysfunctional family together in writer-director William McGregor's bleak drama set in 19th-century Snowdonia.

Elen (Maxine Peake) works the land to keep a roof over the head of her two daughters, Gwen (Eleanor Worthington-Cox) and Mari (Jodie Innes).

Abandoned by her husband who has gone off to war, Elen struggles to make ends meet while she tries to conceal her worsening epilepsy from the owners of the local quarry, who intend the seize the family's land.

Teenager Gwen receives free medicine from a kind-hearted local doctor, Wren (Kobna Holdbrook-Smith), but the outlook is grim.

As the family's predicament worsens, friends and neighbours seemingly turn against Gwen and her embattled loved ones.


1. Spider-Man: Far From Home

2. Toy Story 4

3. Annabelle Comes Home

4. Yesterday

5. Midsommar

6. Stuber

7. Aladdin

8. The Queen's Corgi

9. The Matrix (20th anniversary release)

10. Super 30

(Chart courtesy of Cineworld)