Arts

New to watch: Bruce Springsteen, The Witches, On The Rocks, Barbarians...

Bruce Springsteen's Letter To You
Damon Smith

FILM

ON THE ROCKS (Cert 12, 96 mins, Comedy/Drama/Romance, streaming from October 23 exclusively on Apple TV+)

MOTHER-of-two Laura (Rachida Jones) is struck down with a crippling case of writer’s block after she accepts a hefty advance for her next book. She looks to her high-flying husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) for support but he is constantly away on business trips.

His growing emotional distance sows seeds of doubt and Laura becomes convinced Dean is having an affair.

She has no concrete evidence, just a nagging suspicion that he is sleeping with his co-worker Fiona (Jessica Henwick).

Laura seeks counsel from her art dealer father Felix (Bill Murray), an inveterate womaniser who knows a thing or two about the art of seduction. He suggests the best course of action is to spy on Dean and gather evidence of the spouse’s betrayal.

Filmed on location in New York, On The Rocks is a humorous and touching portrait of affairs of the heart, as seen through the eyes of a father and daughter with painful first-hand experience of the damage wrought by marital infidelity.

Writer-director Sofia Coppola’s Lost In Translation reunion with Murray is a gently paced delight, powered by the leading man’s twinkly-eyed, roguish charm.

The dramatic conceit of Dean’s potential betrayal is flimsy but Coppola deftly layers complex emotions onto her lightweight narrative while keeping the tone frothy and delectable.

A CALL TO SPY (Cert 12, 124 mins, Signature Entertainment, Thriller/War, available from October 26 on Amazon Prime Video/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services, available from November 2 on DVD £12.99)

IN 1941, Prime Minister Winston Churchill grows increasingly concerned about the advancing Nazi army, which has occupied France and is gathering strength on the other side of the English Channel.

He orders the Special Operations Executive (SOE) to recruit female spies, who can undermine the German war effort and prevent the unthinkable: Britain under the control of Adolf Hitler.

SOE supervisor Maurice Buckmaster (Linus Roache) has faith that his trusted team leader, Romanian Jewish immigrant Vera Atkins (Stana Katic), will answer the call.

She identifies two excellent candidates: Virginia Hall (Sarah Megan Thomas), whose dream of becoming a diplomat has been hampered by a physical disability, and Muslim pacifist Inayat Khan (Radhika Apte).

The recruits undergo gruelling training to ensure they can withstand torture at the hands of the enemy before they head to France to turn the tide against the German onslaught.

Inspired by true stories of wartime heroism, A Call To Spy is an affecting dramatisation of courageous women under fire, whose contributions to the Allied effort have been overlooked by the history books.

Screenwriter Sarah Megan Thomas draws on years of research to contrast the experiences of the central characters, who are subject to intolerance in their day-to-day lives as they strive to prove their worth beyond England’s borders.

ROALD DAHL’S THE WITCHES (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, available from October 26 via Premium Video On Demand rental for 48 hours on Amazon Prime Video/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services, Adventure/Comedy/Horror)

DIRECTOR Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) puts his distinctive spin on Roald Dahl’s creepy children’s story from a screenplay, which he co-wrote with Kenya Barris and fellow Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro (The Shape Of Water).

An orphaned boy (Jahzir Bruno) arrives in 1967 Demopolis, Alabama to live with his grandmother (Octavia Spencer).

It’s an unsettling time for the child, even more so when the grandmother and boy encounter a coven of glamorous and diabolical witches.

The grandmother heads to a seaside resort with her young ward to escape the choking fog of evil.

Alas, The Grand High Witch (Anne Hathaway) and her cackling crones arrive at the same retreat to carry out a nefarious plan that will have dire consequences for every child.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN’S LETTER TO YOU (Cert PG, 91 mins streaming from October 23 exclusively on Apple TV+, Documentary/Musical)

IN 2019, Bruce Springsteen worked closely with director and long-time friend Thom Zimny on the acclaimed concert film Western Stars.

Shot in a 19th-century barn on his 378-acre horse farm in Colts Neck, New Jersey, the picture promoted the release of his 19th studio album by showcasing the LP’s 13 introspective tracks.

For his new album Letter To You, Springsteen reunites with Zimny for a fly-on-the-wall documentary, which combines previously unseen archive material with live performances of 10 songs in the recording studio featuring the full E Street Band.

Renditions of the tracks are intercut with the rocker’s heartfelt musings about the defining role that music has played in his life.

BOX SETS

THE UNDOING (6 episodes, starts streaming from October 26 exclusively on NOW TV, Drama/Romance)

AWARD-winning Danish film-maker Susanne Bier brings a keen eye to this glossy six-part adaptation of Jean Hanff Korelitz’s novel You Should Have Known, which begins this week on Sky Atlantic and streams exclusively on NOW TV.

Life is pristine for successful therapist Grace Fraser (Nicole Kidman), who juggles her demanding work and responsibilities to her devoted husband Mike (Hugh Grant) and young son Henry (Noah Jupe).

The couple send their boy to an elite private school in New York City and enjoy an enviable standard of life, which shatters to smithereens overnight.

A violent death forces Grace to question everything she thought she knew, especially the mentality of her husband.

Sifting through the wreckage in the public eye, Grace discovers she has failed to heed her own advice and must regroup to protect her child.

THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT (6 episodes, streaming from October 23 exclusively on Netflix, Drama/Romance)

THE price of genius is loneliness and self-doubt in a six-part Netflix drama written and directed by two-time Academy Award nominee Scott Frank, which is based on the novel of the same title by Walter Tevis.

Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) was abandoned at a young age and entrusted to the care of an orphanage in late 1950s Kentucky.

Prescribed tranquillisers as a sedative by the state, Beth becomes dangerously addicted to drugs that are supposed to keep her on an even keel.

As she battles her demons, Beth discovers an aptitude for chess and hones her formidable skills.

She challenges outdated conventions in the male-dominated world of competitive chess and realises she can mimic the most valuable piece on the board – the queen – to outflank her detractors.

BARBARIANS (six episodes, streaming from October 23 exclusively on Netflix, Action/Drama/Romance)

IN THE year AD9, Germanic tribes face off against the might of the seemingly invincible Roman Empire, setting in motion events leading up to the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in a sweeping six-part historical drama.

Thusnelda (Jeanne Goursaud) harks from royal blood but is romantically linked to lowly warrior Folkwin (David Schutter).

Their clandestine liaisons come to an abrupt end when Roman governor Varus (Gaetano Aronica) and his vast army threaten the future of the disparate tribes.

Thusnelda and Folkwin take diverging paths to banishing the invaders, regardless of the personal consequences.

Meanwhile, Varus despatches his foster son, officer Arminius (Laurence Rupp), to crush the uprising.

Arminius has his own secret, a deep personal connection to Thusnelda and Folkwin, and in the heat of bloodthirsty battle, he must decide where his allegiance lies.

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Arts