Controversial film opinion coming up, hold on to your hats: Mark Rylance is quite good at acting, isn’t he?
Finger on the pulse as ever, I watched Wolf Hall for the first time earlier this year, and was awestruck by his portrayal of Thomas Cromwell, a performance so mesmerising that you can’t take your eyes off him when all he’s doing is sitting silently in a chair (just as well, as that does make up about 20% of the show’s runtime).
More recently, it was a delight to watch him as Maurice Flitcroft in above-par sporting underdog tale The Phantom of the Open, his twinkle-eyed inscrutability lending real heft to what could have been a two-dimensional have-a-go-hero role.
The great man is back this week, facing off against fellow thesp Simon Russell Beale in tense thriller The Outfit – while the long wait is over for Harry Potter fans as the Fantastic Beasts saga continues…
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
Intrepid magizoologist Newt Scamander joins forces with the young Albus Dumbledore once again in this third instalment in the Harry Potter prequel series.
Set in the years leading up to World War II, the story sees Dumbledore (Jude Law) task Newt (Eddie Redmayne) with leading a team of witches and wizards against the evil Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen), who hopes to gain total control of the wizarding world.
There have, of course, been turbulent times off-screen too, with Covid-enforced production delays and Johnny Depp’s widely-reported departure from the role of Grindelwald just as filming began – but fans can take heart from reviews which suggest that the always excellent Mikkelsen is a definite improvement on his predecessor.
Mark Rylance finds himself caught up with the mob in this single-location thriller set in 1950s Chicago, which marks the directorial debut of Graham Moore (the Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Imitation Game).
The action unfolds on the premises of Leonard Burling (Rylance), a quietly-spoken British tailor who manages to stay afloat thanks to the patronage of the local gangsters, headed up by capo Roy Boyle (Simon Russell Beale, The Death of Stalin), who have set up HQ in his backroom.
When it emerges that one of Boyle’s gang is a rat, the hunt is on to reveal their identity, and Leonard must use all his wits to survive in the mounting pressure-cooker environment.
Harrogate-born director Harry Wootliff proved herself one to watch with her debut, 2018’s honest, compassionate romantic drama Only You – but if that film was about two soulmates put under intense strain, her new one portrays the corrosive effects of a far less wholesome relationship.
Ruth Wilson (Luther) stars as Kate, a bored benefits officer who begins an affair with an flirtatious claimant known to her only as ‘Blond’ (Tom Burke, who played another charismatic wrong’un to great acclaim in The Souvenir).
Kate’s feelings for her mysterious and unreliable new lover quickly develop into an obsession in a film which Variety called ‘a jaggedly grown-up psychological drama (which) thrives on the hot, tense chemistry between its two excellent leads’.
Easter holiday round-up
There are plenty of cinematic treats to entertain the kids while you plot that epic Easter egg hunt this week.
As ever, budget viewing options are available throughout the week at Cineworld and Vue, with Cineworld’s Movies For Juniors strand showing current Disney fave Encanto (10am daily, tickets £2.50), the songs from which will doubtless be the in-car soundtrack of (possibly grudging) choice for many a family’s schlep to Scarborough on Easter Monday.
Meanwhile, Vue’s Mini Mornings are running the latest example of that multiplex school holiday staple, the underwhelming European CGI animation that will do just fine if you’ve seen everything else – German offering Rabbit Academy (10am daily, £2.49) sees a team of plucky rabbits teaming up against a gang of villainous foxes who want to take over their Easter egg distribution business.
City Screen’s Kids’ Club offering this week is the seasonally appropriate Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Sat 9th at 11:15, tickets £3.00).
For younger viewers, Vue’s Kids TV strand is showing the Julia Donaldson double bill Superworm and Zog (daily, £4.99, check website for timings).
Vue also have one-off screenings of Clifford the Big Red Dog (Sat 9th) and Sing 2 (Mon 11th), while the fun-sounding The Bad Guys (Cineworld, Everyman, Vue) and the inevitable Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (all cinemas) are both on wide release.
It wasn’t the biggest shock on Oscar night, obviously, but family drama Coda’s victory in the Best Picture category surprised all the commentators who had declared The Power of the Dog a nailed-on certainty for the award – and you can see what all the fuss is about at Everyman this week, where the emotional tale screens on Mon 11th (it is, of course, also available to stream on Apple TV+).
Everyman are also screening documentary Revolution of Our Times, covering the protests in Hong Kong against the 2019 “Extradition Bill”, which would have allowed the extradition of Hongkongers to China – it’s showing on Tues 12th and Weds 13th.
Over at Cineworld, Indian superstar Vijay stars in Beast on Weds 13th and Thurs 14th – this Die Hard-esque Tamil action thriller sees a lone agent work to take down a terrorist gang who have hijacked a shopping mall.
A season of films celebrating iconic French director François Truffaut kicks off at City Screen on Sun 10th with his semi-autobiographical 1959 debut feature The 400 Blows.
One of the best loved and most acclaimed of all the French New Wave films – and hailed by many as containing one of the all-time great teen performances – this coming-of-age tale follows a rebellious teenager who finds solace in friendship and cinema.
Like Truffaut and his New Wave contemporaries, Dutch director Paul Verhoeven is no stranger to ruffling establishment feathers – and while he may not have been canonised for the gleefully pulpy likes of Total Recall and Starship Troopers, you suspect that’s just fine with him.
City Screen have a preview of Verhoeven’s latest controversy-magnet Benedetta on Mon 11th – it’s an erotic drama about a 17th-century nun’s forbidden lesbian affair in which the director, according to the Guardian, ‘(does) for pious young women in wimples what he did for exotic dancers in his cult classic Showgirls’. Yikes…
Another preview follows on Tues 12th – highly acclaimed French drama Happening follows a pregnant student’s desperate attempts to arrange a termination at a time (1963) when abortions are illegal.
And finally, City Screen have a couple of music docs covering stars of very different genres and eras – All I Can Say (Sun 10th, Mon 11th) uses self-shot camcorder footage to create a portrait of Shannon Hoon, the late lead singer of 90s alt-rockers Blind Melon, while Charli XCX: Alone Together (Thurs 14th) documents the 40-day production of the pop polymath’s lockdown album How I’m Feeling Now, made in collaboration with her fans.
Still can’t believe she ignored my suggestion to call it Sourdough Blues…