Five of the best … films
(Alejandro Landes, 2019, Col/Arg/Neth/Ger et al) 102 mins
Winner of best film at the London film festival, Alejandro Landes’s child-soldier tale finally reaches UK cinemas after premiering in January at Sundance. Monos depicts the young commandos who have been detailed to guard an American prisoner, connected to a larger, unnamed organisation by “the Messenger”. A bloodsoaked fever dream.
Official Secrets (15)
(Gavin Hood, 2019, UK/US) 112 mins
A serious-minded account of a major whistleblower scandal: the leak by GCHQ translator Katharine Gun in 2003 that revealed that US spies were putting pressure on their allies to ferret out incriminating material on UN diplomats in the run-up to a vote on invading Iraq. Keira Knightley plays Gun with stern intelligence; Matt Smith a key journalist contact.
Terminator: Dark Fate (15)
(Tim Miller, 2019, Chi/US) 128 mins
You have to think the Terminator is in the last-chance saloon, in franchise terms. Nothing has really worked since James Cameron left, with three successive features failing to deliver the goods. While the hype here was consumed with the return of Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the real question will be whether audiences connect with the new human character, played by Natalia Reyes.
Hoop Dreams (12)
(Steve James, 1994, US) 171 mins
The epic basketball doc gets a reissue 25 years on. It follows two high-school prospects over eight years as they battle poverty and the competition to obtain sports scholarships. Its combination of inspirational sports struggle and reportage of the kids’ difficult home lives drew acclaim across the board, although – controversially – no best documentary Oscar nomination.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (PG)
(Joachim Rønning, 2019, US) 119 mins
Angelina Jolie does what only she can in this sequel to Disney’s Sleeping Beauty reboot. She leads with those digitally enhanced cheekbones as her Maleficent, after first accommodating to Princess Aurora’s desire to marry handsome human Prince Phillip, then launches into all-out conflict when Phillip’s mother Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) springs her trap.
Five of the best … rock & pop
Pennsylvania’s Natalie Mering, AKA Weyes Blood, has always been drawn to heaviness, be it via the underground noise scene she started out in or the weighty lyrical conceits of her four solo albums. This April’s Titanic Rising, whose 70s psych-pop dented the US Top 40, focuses on living under the shadow of impending doom.
Dublin, Saturday 26; Glasgow, Monday 28; Manchester, Tuesday 29; London, Wednesday 30 October
Last month’s album, Charli, found the Cambridge-born, LA-based pop experimentalist in a state of flux, veering between her weirder mixtape fare and the pure pop rush of her early releases. She still makes most sense live, conjuring up an all-inclusive party atmosphere where each song sounds like an end-of-night anthem.
Glasgow Sunday 27; Birmingham Monday 28; Manchester Wednesday 30; London Thursday 31 October
Headlining the Roundhouse Rising festival – excellent support comes from the likes of Flohio and God Colony – London’s self-proclaimed “ghettofuturist” rapper, who followed up 2018’s Sophie-assisted debut Basic Volume with May’s equally head-spinning mixtape Heaters 4 the 2 Seaters, will be joined by a 10-piece jazz ensemble. As if that weren’t enough, the show also promises a new audiovisual element.
Roundhouse, NW1, Tuesday 29 October
April’s Love + Fear gave Welsh odd-pop practitioner Marina (now sans “and the Diamonds”) her fourth consecutive UK Top 10 album, a pretty impressive feat for someone always deemed too outre for radio playlists. This latest UK jaunt is her second in a year, so expect a heavily polished skip through a never dull discography.
Edinburgh, Monday 28; Manchester, Tuesday 29; Dublin, Wednesday 30; Cardiff, Friday 31 October; touring to 5 November
A Night at Ronnie Scott’s: 60th Anniversary Gala
Ronnie Scott’s, one of the world’s most famous jazz clubs, has hosted greats from Sonny Rollins and Ella Fitzgerald to Robert Glasper over its now 60-year lifespan. Vocalists Kurt Elling, Imelda May and Georgie Fame, saxophonist Courtney Pine, and crossover violin virtuoso Nigel Kennedy join a raft of stars on this anniversary gala show.
Royal Albert Hall, SW7, Wednesday 30 October
Three of the best … classical concerts
The oboe takes centre stage this year in north-east Scotland’s new-music festival. Oboists Christopher Redgate and Nicholas Daniel are both artists in residence, while visiting groups include the French new-music specialists Ensemble TM+ and the Dutch-based reed quintet Calefax, as well as the Red Note Ensemble and, as a postscript next month, the Hermes Experiment (27 November). There is a portrait concert devoted to John Casken’s music with the Fidelio Trio too, plus premieres from Judith Weir, Tansy Davies, Linda Buckley and Luke Styles.
Various venues, Aberdeen to 3 November
Philip Glass Ensemble
A weekend residency by one of the founding fathers of minimalism and his own instrumental group brings two of Philip Glass’s most celebrated scores to Dublin. Music in 12 Parts (Saturday 26) remains one of the landmarks of “pure” minimalism, an exhaustive exploration of how that newly forged musical technique could build large-scale musical forms; while Koyaanisqatsi (Sunday 27) was the first of three scores that Glass composed for films by Godfrey Reggio; here it will be performed to accompany a screening of the film.
National Concert Hall, Dublin, Saturday 26 & Sunday 27 October
Any chance to hear Daniil Trifonov live should be seized eagerly; he is one of the most exciting pianists around today. The programme for his latest London recital should show off the Russian’s talents at their very best, with late sonatas by Scriabin (his Ninth, the “Black Mass”) and Beethoven (Op 110), plus the last of Prokofiev’s trilogy of “war sonatas”, the Eighth.
Royal Festival Hall, SE1, Thursday 31 October
Five of the best … exhibitions
Outer space obsesses Katie Paterson. She ponders our relationship with the cosmos in works that range from meteorite sculptures to sending a “satellite” around the world by post. The more she explores her astral enthusiasm the more convincing and memorable her art becomes.
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Saturday 26 October to 31 May
Lucian Freud: The Self-Portraits
The harsh eye of Lucian Freud made the people he painted look blotched and brittle, alone against the bare boards of his Paddington studio. As he said, it was the least he could do to look at himself with similar honesty, which make these self-portraits his starkest, strangest masterpieces. He examines his image in the mirror with wondrous detachment.
Royal Academy of Arts, W1 Sunday 27 October to 26 January
The sensitive and suggestive colours of Hodgkin’s paintings tell, or rather hint at, personal stories, relationships and moments of passion. This survey of his works on paper reveals that he was also a superb print-maker. Hodgkin’s prints have the same cocktail of abstract colour and confessional immediacy as his paintings. Here is an artist who captures not what the eye sees but what the soul feels.
Cristea Roberts Gallery, SW1, Thursday 31 October to 24 November
Moving to Mars
Will humans ever be able to live on Mars? The red planet has no breathable atmosphere or surface water and savage variations in temperature. Regardless, this utopian exhibition imagines what life on a Mars base might be like. It promises to immerse you in a Martian home of the future and let you experience a bleakly beautiful landscape. Nasa and the European Space Agency have helped create this visionary journey.
Design Museum, W8, to 23 February
August Sander’s photographs show you the remoteness of yesterday’s Europe. Taken in the 1920s, these portraits of Germans reveal a very different reality to the jazz-age cliche, as country and small-town people stand with archaic formality in stiff clothes. His scientific attempt to chronicle a nation is one of the eeriest and most powerful projects in the history of the camera.
National Museum Cardiff, Saturday 26 October to 1 March
Five of the best … theatre shows
Simon Stephens has penned several blockbusters (see: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) but he is also a very subtle and heartfelt writer. His latest play is about a family torn apart, and pulled together, by a devastating event. Jarvis Cocker has written the music and it forms part of Sarah Frankcom’s final season as artistic director at the Royal Exchange.
Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester to 16 November
Praise be to the theatre gods for another outing of Ian Rickson’s stunning production. Translations might just be Brian Friel’s best work. It is set in rural Ireland, where British army officers are creating a new map, replacing Gaelic names with English ones. Ciarán Hands reprises his role as schoolmaster Hugh, aghast as the winds of change blast through Donegal.
National Theatre: Olivier, SE1, to 18 December
Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads
Director Nicole Charles has a real gift for pulling her audience into the heart of her shows. Recent work includes a stirring production of Emilia and now she has transformed the Spiegeltent into a lively pub for a thrilling reimagining of Roy Williams’s still-pertinent 2002 play. An England v Germany football match is about to kick off on the TV, as pints are sunk and tensions – big, old, ugly tensions – are on the rise …
Chichester Festival Theatre: The Spiegeltent, to 2 November
Clare Barron penned the Pulitzer prize finalist Dance Nation – a period-blood-stained battle anthem about growing up, and growing into one’s own body. Her plays are brilliantly unpredictable, energetic and a little bit odd. Dirty Crusty is one of her earlier works and is about a young woman, Jeanine, determined to improve her life with sex, dance, hobbies and, er, horticulture? It stars Akiya Henry and is directed by Jay Miller, whose productions always surprise.
The Yard Theatre, E9, to 30 November
David Baddiel’s debut play stars Alan Davies, who manages to be lovable and laughable all in one. The show also features Nitin Ganatra and Alexandra Gilbreath, and is directed by James Grieve, late of the hugely respected Paines Plough theatre company, who has a brilliant ear for exciting new writing. The question this play asks is oh-so-Baddiel: what would happen if someone were able to scientifically prove the existence of God?
Soho Theatre, W1, to 30 November
Three of the best … dance shows
Northern Ballet: Dracula
Halloween theme alert! A live relay of Northern Ballet’s Dracula will be beamed into 300 cinemas around the UK and Ireland (or see it in the creepy, cold flesh at Leeds Playhouse). Choreographer David Nixon’s gothic, erotic vamps tear up 19th-century society in this pacy, pointy-toothed telling of Bram Stoker’s classic novel.
Leeds Playhouse Tuesday 29 October to 2 November; in cinemas Thursday
Richard Alston Dance Company: Final Edition
A farewell tour, including the premiere of Richard Alston’s final work for his company before it winds down next year. Shine On is set to Benjamin Britten’s song cycle On This Island, a composer with whom Alston has a great affinity.
Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Friday 1 & 2 November; touring to 22 November
BalletLorent: The Lost Happy Endings
Expect spirited adventure in a family show from Liv Lorent, based on a story by Carol Ann Duffy about a witch who steals all the happy endings to fairytales. Music is by Murray Gold, narration by Joanna Lumley.
Northern Stage, Newcastle upon Tyne, Thursday 31 October to 2 November; touring to 11 April