Film, book and theatre reviews – entertainment you can go out and see locally or curl up on the sofa and enjoy at home.

La Chimera (2024) – Review by Andrea Carnevali

La Chimera ⭐⭐⭐ Arthur works alongside a group of grave robbers looking for Etruscan artifacts buried underground. Out in cinemas now. Josh O'Connor is really having a great year! It was only a few weeks ago that I found myself bewitched by his charisma and the electric chemistry with his co-stars in Challengers and now I’m seeing him speaking in Italian throughout the entirety of this film. (To be honest, his diction and pronunciation is far from perfect, but that’s also the point of the film). While I was watching La Chimera I found myself thinking that this is the typical type of film that gets praised by the critics and yet will probably bore the general audience out of their minds. As always in these sorts of situations, I

May 2024 Books

What’s new and good to read this month? Dan Coombes has a look at what’s on offer from publishers in May and chooses Long Island by Colm Tóibín, Queen Macbeth by Val McDermid and You Like It Darker by Stephen King. Images: Long Island by Colm Tóibín; Queen Macbeth by Val McDermid; You Like It Darker by Stephen King Long Island - Colm Tóibín Set twenty years after his most lauded and lovely literary landmark Brooklyn, Long Island continues the story of Irish immigrant Ellis Lacey, making her way in the United States of America in the late Seventies with her husband, children, friends…and an imminent, great big life-changing clanger that’s going to upend everything. Colm Toibin is famous for his elegant and res

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (2024) – Review by Andrea Carnevali

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Many years after the reign of Caesar, a young ape goes on a journey that will lead him to question everything he's been taught about the past and make choices that will define a future for apes and humans alike. On in cinemas now. Here’s a film for which I had zero expectations, mostly because the trailer made it look like another one of those loud, brainless, battle-filled, visual-effects-packed and mostly uninteresting wanna-be-blockbusters (or at least that’s what I got out of it), but also because the idea of resuscitating a franchise, which, after the previous three prequels, felt so complete and satisfying, seemed to me to be a pretty pointless cash-in exercise. But I have to say, while this film su

The Fall Guy (2024) – Review by Andrea Carnevali

The Fall Guy ⭐️⭐️⭐️ A down-and-out stuntman goes on a mission to find the missing star of his ex-girlfriend's blockbuster film. On in cinemas now. The Blockbuster season is officially open, with this action/rom-com loosely inspired by the 1980s TV show of the same name, starring Lee Majors (who incidentally, shows up in a rather pointless cameo right after the credits, so if you're interested to see what the “Sixty-Million Dollar Man” looks like today, stay until the end). In a time when action films are either sprawling epics, sequels of something you barely remember, or interconnected sagas of whatever the latest superhero or space adventure might be and for which you might even need a notepad to keep track of who's who and where, it's a

Rear Window (1954) – Review by Andrea Carnevali

Rear Window ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbours from his Greenwich Village courtyard apartment window and, despite the skepticism of his fashion-model girlfriend, becomes convinced one of them has committed murder. Chiswick Cinema is holding a special screening of Alfred Hitchcock's classic film on Tuesday 14 May for Andrea's Film Club. Whenever people talk about perfect films, this is the one that comes to mind, over and over again. Rear Window is not just my favourite film by Alfred Hitchcock, but actually it’s up there among my favourite films ever made. Where to start? There are books and books written about this masterpiece and I feel a bit stupid just sitting down

Challengers (2024) – Review by Andrea Carnevali

Challengers ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Tashi, a former tennis prodigy turned coach, turned her husband into a champion. But to overcome a losing streak, he needs to face his ex-best friend and Tashi's ex-boyfriend. On in cinemas now. This my third 5-stars review in row. Somebody might be thinking “Andrea is going soft”. To be honest, a film like this is not even usually be my cup of tea: a love triangle, set against the world of competitive tennis? Mmm not so sure I’m that interested. Well, thank God, I didn’t listen to my instincts, because I thought this was fantastic!! Luca Guadagnino’s films have been a little bit of a hit and miss for me: I absolutely loved Call Me by Your Name (mainly because of Timothée Chalamet’ star-making perfor

The idea of You (2024) – Review by Andrea Carnevali

The idea of You ⭐ ⭐ ⭐½ Solène, a 40-year-old single mother, begins an unexpected romance with 24-year-old Hayes Campbell, the lead singer of August Moon, the hottest boy band on the planet. Streaming on Prime from Thursday 2 May. Once in a while I like to mix things up and watch things I wouldn’t normally be particularly interested in. So, when a ticket for preview of the latest romantic comedy starring Anne Hathaway landed on my inbox, I decided to take a gamble and went for it, without even knowing what it was all about. And you know what? The gamble sort of paid off. The Idea of You may look like just another one of those many disposable rom-coms, with possibly one of the most generic titles ever (only matched by an even more generi

There’s Still Tomorrow (2023) – Review by Andrea Carnevali

There's Still Tomorrow (C'è ancora domani)  ⭐️⭐️⭐️½ Trying to escape from the patriarchy in the Italian post-war society, Delia plots an act of rebellion against her violent husband. On in cinemas now. The film was released in Italy last year to a chorus of countless praises and after breaking all box office records, surpassing even the likes of Barbie and Oppenheimer (there’s talk already about an American remake with Lady Gaga), finally Paola Cortellesi’s black-and-white melodrama hits the British screens too. For months I’d been listening to all my friends back home talking about what is not only one of Italy’s ten highest-grossing films of all time, but also the country’s most successful feature directed by a

Ripley (TV Miniseries 2024) – Review by Andrea Carnevali

Ripley ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A grifter named Ripley living in New York during the 1960s is hired by a wealthy man to bring his wayward son home from Italy. Ripley sees the opportunity of a lifetime to make a killing. It’s probably a bit unfair, but also quite natural, to compare this miniseries on Netflix to the 1999 film The Talented Mr. Ripley by Anthony Minghella. After all, they are both adaptations from the same novel, written in 1955 by Patricia Highsmith; they both follow pretty much the same main plot points, they have (for the most part) the same characters, and they are filmed in the same Italian locations, and yet the two final products could not be further apart. I won’t be going into which one is better because it’s a

The Talented Mr Ripley (1999) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

The Talented Mr Ripley ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ In late 1950s New York, a young underachiever named Tom Ripley sees a once in a lifetime opportunity for enrichment when he is sent to Italy to retrieve Dickie Greenleaf, a rich and spoiled millionaire playboy. On at Chiswick Cinema Tuesday 23 April. I’ll come out clean, right from the start: I love this film and always have, and the idea to be able to host a film club around it (this Tuesday, 23 April at 8.25pm at The Chiswick Cinema), show it to a crowd, talk about it, and share the dozens of stories behind the scenes, and its cinematic techniques, fills me with joy. With the release of Ripley, the ultra-stylish TV series on Netflix, based on the same novel, and the 25th anniversary of th

Duet Review – Theatre at the Tabard

Image: (L) Wendy Morgan as Sarah Bernhardt; (R) Cynthia Straus as Eleanora Duse  The ghost of Sarah Bernhardt appears As she prepares for her performance as Marguerite in The Lady of the Camelias, internationally renowned actress Eleonora Duse is visited in her dressing room by the ghost of Sarah Bernhardt. The cause of this manifestation is a mystery. Duse is in ill health, complaining of a bad cold and clearly suffering with ennui (an unfortunate theatre manager is told that “there will be no performance tonight”), has she unwittingly summoned her fellow acting legend or has Miss Bernhardt returned for her own reasons? We will find out as the evening progresses. That is the set up of Duet, the new show at the Tabard, written by Otho Es

April 2024 Books

What’s new and good to read this month? Dan Coombes has a look at what’s on offer from publishers in April and chooses Hagstone by Sinead Gleeson, The Sleepwalkers by Scarlett Thomas, and Saltblood by Francesca de Tores. Images: Hagstone by Sinead Gleeson; The Sleepwalkers by Scarlett Thomas; Saltblood by Francesca de Tores Hagstone - Sinead Gleeson An exploration of art, voyeurism and all-round strangeness wrapped up in a slightly uneasy air of supernatural occurrences and human failings, this is a debut novel from an acclaimed essayist and critic, and promises great things to come in the world of engrossingly odd and atmospheric fiction with something to say. The sea is steady for now. The land readies itself. What can be done wi

Civil War (2024) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

Civil War ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A journey across a dystopian future America, following a team of military-embedded journalists as they race against time to reach DC before rebel factions descend upon the White House. On at Chiswick Cinema now. While most blockbusters these days tend to just numb your senses with explosions, loud music and fast cutting, and are packed with people in spandex and flashy visual effects, often with not a lot of substance and a plot which could be written on the back of a stamp, Civil War (ironically named just like one of those Marvel movies) felt like a breath of fresh air. Sure, there is action and all, but despite its miss-marketing, which sells it just like another one of the above-mentioned, what sets it apart

The Appraisal review – Theatre at the Tabard

Image above: Tim Marriott and Angela Bull in The Appraisal A delightfully uncomfortable watch The Appraisal is absolutely brilliant. It's only an hour long - a dialogue between two people: he the senior manager, she a direct report who manages a team of people under him. At the start of the play he has clearly forgotten he is supposed to be sitting down with her to discuss her annual appraisal, as he is practising his golf swing when there is a knock on the door. He has a passing acquaintance with employment law, certainly talks the HR talk - referring to the HSA (the Health and Safety Appendix to the staff handbook) and VAT (Value Added Targets), company watchwords such as Transparency and Integrity and measuring her achievements by the Robust Perfor

Fight Club (1999) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

Fight Club ⭐⭐⭐⭐ ½ An insomniac office worker and a devil-may-care soap maker form an underground fight club that evolves into much more. Fight Club is being screened for Andrea's Film Club at Chiswick Cinema on Tuesday 19 March 2024. I’ve been rewatching “fight Club” in preparation to my film club, this Tuesday 19 March at the Chiswick Cinema. And you know what? I think I liked it more this time than I ever did. It’s ironic that slogan of the film is “you don’t talk about fight club”, because to be honest, this feels like the perfect film to dissect, deconstruct, analyse, study… and talk about! Surprisingly, Fight Club didn’t do well at all when it was first released in 1999. A lot of that was probably to do

March 2024 books

What’s new and good to read this month? Dan Coombes has a look at what’s on offer and chooses Until August by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Last Murder at the End of the World by Stuart Turton, and The Warm Hands of Ghosts by Katherine Arden Until August - Gabriel Garcia Marquez A tricky recommendation, this one - but definitely a recommendation nonetheless, so bear with it. A 'lost' novel (in this case meaning Marquez himself said 'it doesn't work, don't publish it', and a decade after his passing his sons decided to anyway...) by one of the most adored literary heavyweights of all time is always going to be big book-based news, impossible to ignore, and so here it is... a tale of love, sex, f

Beauty and the Beast – 2024 Strand Panto

Image above: Beauty & the Beast whole company A Peruvian TV actress, an England cricketer and a King's Counsel walked into a playground ... Unbelievably, the Strand on the Green School panto is in its 43rd year. Since 1981 the primary school parents have put on a show, written, produced, directed and performed by them, taking great delight in making total fools of themselves on stage in front of their kids, and handing on the tradition to the next generation of parents when their kids moved on to secondary school. What is so amazing is that these pantos are fantastic. When we moved to Chiswick in 1993 and my daughter joined the nursery at Strand we went to see Mother Goose and were blown away by the professionalism of it: the costumes, the scenery, t

Uncle Vanya review – The Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond

Image above: James Lance as Ivan Voynitsky (Vanya) in Sir Trevor Nunn's production at the Orange Tree Theatre A triumph for Sir Trevor Nunn, in a career already choc-full of triumphs Trevor Nunn's fantastic production of Uncle Vanya has also just opened at the Orange Tree theatre in Richmond, to great acclaim. In the programme introduction he explains he has directed all 37 of Shakespeare's plays in his time at the RSC and the National Theatre, and several of Chekhov's plays, but Uncle Vanya  had always eluded him - until now. Set not long before the Russian revolution, at the isolated home of Vanya and his niece Sonya, deep in the Russian countryside, Chekhov's play is surprisingly modern. The visiting doctor, Mikhail Astrov, is passionate

The Lady or the Tiger review – Theatre at the Tabard

Image above: The Lady or the Tiger; Theatre at the Tabard Review by By Simon Thomsett The Theatre at the Tabard’s latest production is a lively and thoroughly entertaining musical mini-extravaganza. Adapted from a short story from the 19th century author Frank Stockton, The Lady or the Tiger tells the story of a despotic king who rules his “semi-barbaric” land according to his own whims and without mercy. It’s a land where the population is unceremoniously bumped off at the age of 65 (cue some uncomfortable shuffling in the press night audience), where there is no educational problem because, well there is no education, and where a deadly version of bingo has lethal consequences for the losers, one of whom was the unfortunate late queen. Th

February 2024 books

What’s new and good to read this month? Dan Coombes has a look at what’s on offer and chooses Butter by Asako Yuzuki Fourteen Days by Margaret Atwood, Celeste NG, John Grisham and more, and Come And Get It by Kiley Reid Butter – Asako Yuzuki A cult bestseller from Japan, absolutely destined to become a cult bestseller everywhere else, too. Deeply strange, skewed and on occasion really quite disturbing, Butter is nonetheless undeniably beautiful, thought provoking and completely unique. Gourmet cook Manako Kajii sits in Tokyo Detention Centre convicted of the serial murders of lonely businessmen, who she is said to have seduced with her delicious home cooking. The case has captured the nation’s imaginatio

After All These Years review – Theatre at the Tabard

Image above: L to R - Graham Pountney, Judy Buxton, Jeffrey Holland, Carol Ball in After All These Years, Theatre at the Tabard Review by Bridget Osborne Theatre at the Tabard Wednesday 9 - Saturday 24 February After All These Years is a play that will resonate with people who have been married a long time. Who, in the course of a thirty or forty year marriage, has not come to that stick or twist moment - the point where they think: 'Is this it? Is this really all there is? Should I leave and find a more exciting life? Or maybe I should stay put, maybe I would be jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Maybe, for all the minor frustrations and irritations, this marriage is good enough.' Image above: Act One -

January 2024 books

What’s new and good to read this month? Dan Coombes has a look at what’s on offer and chooses The Mystery Guest by Nita Prose, The Last Word by Elly Griffiths and Piglet by Lottie Hazell The Mystery Guest - Nita Prose Socially awkward cleaning enthusiast and amateur sleuth Molly the maid returns in this standalone follow up to last year's excellent murder mystery The Maid. Nita Prose (what else was she going to do with that name?) has an eye for quirky characters, dark comedy and a good mystery just on the right side of cosy. A new mess. A new mystery. Molly the maid returns. Molly Gray wears her Head Maid badge proudl

Look Behind You review – Theatre at the Tabard

Image above: Matt Tester, Olivia Jackson & Daniel Wain in Look Behind You at the Tabard; photograph Marc Brenner Review by By Simon Thomsett The Theatre at the Tabard has just opened with its new show, Look Behind You, and it is one ambitious undertaking.  A cast of 11 (backstage must be interesting) take us through a gruelling pantomime season at the fictional Britannia Theatre presenting a traditional, if slightly ropey version of Dick Whittington. Interspersed with the onstage antics, backstage intrigue provides a plot or two and some insight into the unique “band of brothers” mentality that such a season inevitably generates. The show originates from 1999 but has been extensively updated (by well over 60% according to a programme

The Secret Garden review – Theatre at the Tabard

Image above: Daisy Rae as Mary Lennox, Theatre at The Tabard; photographs by Charles Flint A story about loneliness and loss, and overcoming adversity - which is upbeat, and funny I was curious to see how a story which relies on switching between two dramatically different locations - one an austere and rather forbidding grand house, and the other a wildly overgrown garden - would work in such a small space as the theatre at the Tabard. Designer Hazel Owen and lighting designer Nat Green have come up with a creative solution which elevates the production beyond what you would expect from a pub theatre, setting the scene for an excellent production. Set in the days of the British Raj, Mary Lennox (Daisy Rae, making her professional stage debut) arrives from In

Wonka (2023) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

Wonka ⭐⭐⭐⭐ ½ With dreams of opening a shop in a city renowned for its chocolate, a young and poor Willy Wonka discovers that the industry is run by a cartel of greedy chocolatiers. Out in cinemas on Friday. For all those who are slightly apprehensive about this latest “prequel”, maybe  because their loving connection to the original story, or because of their fond memories of the classic film with Gene Wilder, or even the one by Tim Burton with Johnny Depp (yes, I am told there are people who love that too), I can safely reassure them and tell them that not only this film is the perfect pre-Christmas present for all those who want to spend some time in a cinema with their family, but I might even take it a s

The Truman Show (1998) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

The Truman Show ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ An insurance salesman discovers his whole life is actually a reality TV show. Chiswick Cinema is screening The Truman Show for Andrea's next film club night on Tuesday 5 December 2023 at 8pm, when the film will be shown with an introduction from Andrea and a discussion afterwards. Re-watching The Truman Show 25 years after its original release, I was pleasantly surprised to see how well it still holds up—sharp, thought-provoking, and current. And to think this was written and made a few years before the very first Big Brother and the idea of Reality TV was even a thing! It is one of those rare products in Hollywood that manages to be gripping and very entertaining as

Maestro (2023) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

Maestro ⭐⭐⭐⭐ A love story - A biopic which chronicles the lifelong relationship of conductor-composer Leonard Bernstein and actress Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein. Out in cinemas now. A film that comes with both Spielberg’s and Scorsese’s names attached as producers in the front credits deserves to be seen, no matter what, at least in my book. As it happens, this also has two of the best performances of the year waiting to score awards left and right. A lot has been said about Bradley Cooper's prosthetic nose in the film, but if you can get past the pointless debate (and to be honest, it’s not that hard to do that), you will not only find this is his best performance to date, but also it's an immersive and compelling portrayal and a l

Wish (2023) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

Wish ⭐⭐ ⭐ A young girl named Asha wishes on a star and gets a more direct answer than she bargained for when a trouble-making star comes down from the sky to join her. In cinemas now. As I am writing this, I hear the news that Wish, the 62nd original feature by Disney Animation, has underperformed at the box office on its first week-end of release (which incidentally is the Thanksgiving week-end in America), falling well short of the already pretty low predictions. And while of course, we shouldn’t really count it out yet (more holidays are coming soon and the film may eventually find its legs), it is clear evidence of the effect that streaming is having on family-oriented films. Once upon a time a Disney release, in the weeks before Chri

Cinderella review – Lyric theatre, Hammersmith

Image above: Cinderella at the Lyric, Hammersmith, the company; photograph Manuel Harlan The biggest ball in west London As Christmas hurtles ever closer, the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre brings us its 15th annual pantomime. This year’s production is a ‘brand new take’ on Cinderella from the pen of award-winning comedian, actor and composer Vikki Stone. Tilly La Belle Yengo makes for a sympathetic Cinderella, here updated as a sassy “boss-lady” selling diminutive clothes for rodents in Shepherd’s Bush Market (definitely a niche that no-one else has spotted!). Most of the laugh-out-loud moments come when Emmanuel Akwafo takes the stage as the inevitable Dame, Lady Jelly Bottom, a terrifying yet exhilarating combination of Margaret Thatcher and

Saltburn (2023) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

Saltburn  ⭐⭐⭐ A student at Oxford University finds himself drawn into the world of a charming and aristocratic classmate, who invites him to his eccentric family's sprawling estate for a summer never to be forgotten. On in cinemas now. After leaving this film I found myself a bit baffled, not quite sure how I should really take it. I kept on asking myself “Why?”. I won’t go into spoiler, but the whole thing didn’t quite click or made sense for me. So I waited a couple of days, trying to see if, with time, I’d be able to digest it a bit more and see the good in it and whether anything had stuck. Sadly the answer is ‘very little’. On one hand, the story of Oliver (An ultra-creepy Barry Keoghan), the young