Cruella (Disney+ Hotstar)
Emma Stone plays Cruelle De Vil in this origin story and prequel to the animated Disney classic 101 Dalmatians. Set in swinging London, Craig Gillespie's film pits her against Emma Thompson’s villain. Our review this week notes that “Stone, who was superb as a tortured underling finding high-society footholds to insinuate herself into positions of advantage in The Favourite, scrambles around here as well. She plays the title character — one split into the alter egos of Estella, a sad girl with striking black and white hair and Cruella, her true swaggering, ruthless self — with a bouncy indecision, somehow nerdy and graceful at once. Her accent is delightful, her anime eyes agleam with enthusiasm and, as she dons mad outfit after mad outfit with ravenous flair, she looks to be sashaying to a beat entirely her own. Stone creates what is — to paraphrase David Bowie — ‘a brand new dance; we don’t know its name.’”
The Green Knight (in theatres)
This trippy, opaque fantasy film by David Lowery is based on the 14th century poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Dev Patel stars as Gawain, nephew of King Arthur, who responds to a challenge by a supernatural knight. In order to keep his honour and attain knighthood, he goes on an adventure, during which his character is tested in various ways.
The Chair (Netflix)
In this sprightly comedy series, Sandra Oh stars as Ji-Yoon Kim, the newly appointed chair of the English department at Pembroke University. She faces pressure, as the first person of colour to hold the position, to redress longstanding biases; instead, she finds herself mired in department politics and trying to contain the blithely destructive trail left by her friend Bill Dobson (Mark Duplass), another professor at Pembrooke. The series looks squarely at teaching in the era of cancel culture, though with wry humour and an open mind.
Chehre (in theatres)
The other theatrical release this week is a mystery thriller in the Agatha Christie mould. Amitabh Bachchan stars as one of a group of senior citizens who like to get together and conduct ‘mock trials’ that end in them delivering ‘justice’. Emraan Hashmi plays a businessman with secrets, and Annu Kapoor, Dhritiman Chatterjee and Raghubir Yadav round out the cast. The film is directed by Rumy Jafry, who’s co-written it with Ranjit Kapoor (Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro).
Summer of Soul (Disney+ Hotstar)
Questlove’s documentary Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) is a resurrection and a labour of love. It comprises footage from the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, which was ignored for years. Our piece made a strong case for it as a hidden gem, saying: “The film works on many levels. First, of course, is the music itself. The cathartic, therapeutic gospel singing by Mahalia Jackson, then nearly 60, and her duet with Staples; the young (and already successful) Wonder, who was then at the crossroads, experimenting with styles; the peppy R&B of Gladys Knight and the Pips as they perform I Heard It Through The Grapevine; and the Fifth Dimension, comprising black musicians, with music that was like a bridge between white pop and black soul. For them, performing at Harlem was like being accepted by their own people. Not to forget the game-changing set by Sly and the Family Stone, who appeared in psychedelic outfits, featured (unusual for a gig in Harlem) a woman trumpeter and white musicians on drums and sax, and ended their set with an exuberant rendition of I Want to Take You Higher.”