As restrictions ease and cinemas return to something approaching normal service, the days when films were released at a rate of one or two a month are (thankfully) behind us. Here, then, is our pick of the best cinematic experiences to look forward to between now and the end of June.
Death On The Nile
Busy man, Kenneth Branagh. Having recently turned out Artemis Fowl and sort-of biopic Belfast, he now returns to Agatha Christie and picks up where he left off with 2017’s Murder On The Orient Express. This time it’s the famous crime writer’s much-loved 1937 novel about skullduggery on board the SS Karnak, supposedly treating its passengers to a luxurious Egyptian cruise. Instead, murder most foul ensues. If you watched the 1978 Peter Ustinov version when it was on over Christmas, try to forget who dunnit. Branagh reprises his role as Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot and among the all-star cast are Annette Bening, Gal Gadot, Rose Leslie, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, and Russell Brand.
The Justice Of Bunny King
Described by debut director Gaysorn Thavat as “a social justice action film about motherhood”, The Justice Of Bunny King is set in New Zealand and follows down-on-her-luck mum Bunny (Essie Davis) as she battles to regain custody of her two young children, who have been taken into care. Between run-ins with the authorities she spends her day washing car windscreens around Auckland and struggling to win niece Tonyah (Jojo Rabbit’s Thomasin McKenzie, currently starring in Edgar Wright’s Last Night In Soho) to her cause. It comes to UK cinemas trailing plaudits and superlatives, and if you’re a fan of the work of Ken Loach, this is one for you.
Game Of Thrones star Peter Dinklage (below) heads the cast in Joe Wright’s spin on Erica Schmidt’s stage musical, itself a take on Edmond Rostand’s much-adapted 1897 play Cyrano De Bergerac (see 1987 Steve Martin vehicle Roxanne etc.). Hayley Bennett stars as Roxanne and Kelvin Harrison Jr and the great Ben Mendelsohn also feature. And if you’re a fan of five-piece US indie rockers The National you’ll be pleased to learn that Matt Berninger and twin brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner – respectively the band’s singer and guitarists – have written the music.
Shot partly in Glasgow and (according to director Matt Reeves) heavily influenced by Nirvana and by Gus Van Sant’s film about Kurt Cobain, Last Days, this latest Batman re-boot stars Robert Pattinson as the gloomy crime fighter. The story catches Batman early on in his career and features a plot involving a serial killer. Joining Pattinson in the cast are Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, Paul Dano as Riddler and Colin Farrell as Penguin, and if you rate superhero films by their length, this is the one for you: the running time is just a fraction under three hours.
Paris, 13th District
This latest film from French director Jacques Audiard, whose credits include A Prophet, The Beat That My Heart Skipper and Palme d’Or-winner Dheepan, is an adaptation of the work of American graphic novelist Adrian Tomine with a script co-written with acclaimed film-maker Céline Sciamma. Lucie Zhang, making her screen debut, has already picked up award nominations in France for her performance and she’s joined in the cast by Makita Samba, Noémie Merlant (who starred in Sciamma’s recent Portrait Of A Lady On Fire) and Jehnny Beth. Better known as a musician, Beth fronts British art-punk band Savages and last year collaborated with Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie. The plot? A ménage à quatre set in Les Olympiades, a development of a dozen 1970s tower blocks in Paris named after Olympic cities.
Downton Abbey: A New Era
French acting legend Nathalie Baye joins the cast for this second big screen outing for the Downton Abbey crew, a sequel to 2019’s Downton Abbey, which brought the action up to 1927. Simon Curtis directs Julian Fellowes’ script which sees Lady Violet (Maggie Smith) inherit a villa in the south of France. Among the other new cast members are Dominic West, Hugh Dancy and Laura Haddock as Myrna Dalgleish.
Italian great Nanni Moretti directs this affecting domestic drama, set over a decade in a three storey block of flats and telling the tale of three families whose lives and loves become intertwined. A hit at Cannes last year, it’s based on a novel by Israeli writer Eshkol Nevo, with the action transplanted from Tel Aviv to Moretti’s usual stomping ground of Rome. The director also stars, and joining him in the cast are veteran Italian actors Margherita Buy and Anna Bonaiuto alongside Tommaso Ragno and Alba Rohrwacher, who played together in the award-winning Happy As Lazzaro, directed by Rohrwacher’s younger sister, Alice.
Compartment No 6
A hit at Cannes last year and currently sitting on the shortlist for Best International Feature at next month’s Oscars, this offbeat Finnish drama follows archaeology student Laura (Seidi Haarla) as she boards a train en route to a date with some rare rock paintings in Russia’s Murmansk region. Sharing her second-class compartment is rough and ready Russian Ljoha (Yuriy Borisov), who swigs vodka, eats sausage and scatters showers of sparks from his cigarette everywhere. Over the courses of the journey, however, an unlikely bond emerges. Before Sunrise it ain’t, but it could just prove to be one of the year’s sleeper hits.
Hollywood action legend Paul Verhoeven, director of RoboCop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers, returns to his native Europe for this biographical drama about real-life mystic Benedetta Carlini, who scandalised the church in 17th century Italy by having a relationship with a fellow nun. Belgian actress Virginie Elfira, who starred alongside Isabelle Huppert in Verhoeven’s 2016 French language drama Elle, takes the title role. British acting icon Charlotte Rampling also stars and the soundtrack is by Elle composer Anne Dudley, co-founder of 1980s synth-pop jokers Art Of Noise. A hit at last year’s Cannes Film Festival where it competed for the Palme d’Or, it is also screening at next month’s Glasgow Film Festival.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore
Director David Yates, who helmed the last four Harry Potter films, returns for this third instalment in the Potter spin-off series, now not featuring Johnny Depp after he was replaced by Mads Mikkelsen. Eddie Redmayne reprises his role as Ministry of Magic whizz Newt Scamander and we pick him up a few years after the events of the previous film, which was set in 1927. Now he is asked by Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) to take on a mission which will pit him against dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Mikkelsen) and his fearsome army, while the film itself broaches the subject of what the wizards were doing while the Muggles were slugging it out in World War Two – so expect Newt to touch down in Germany at some point.
The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent
If you enjoyed Nicolas Cage almost playing himself in Kick Ass – or at least poking fun at his own screen persona – then you’ll love this film. Cage plays a fictionalized version of himself alongside Game Of Thrones star Pedro Pascal as super-rich superfan Javi Gutierrez, who offers the actor $1 million to appear at his birthday party. He says OK, but lives to regret his greed: Javi is a notorious drug lord, so in order to extricate himself Cage has to reprise some of his most famous characters. Sharon Horgan, US stand-up Tiffany Haddish and Neil Patrick Harris also star. The script is by Desperate Housewives writer Kevin Etten.
Shakespeare In Love director John Madden helms this adaptation of Ben Macintrye’s non-fiction book about the deception staged by the Allies to make the Nazis discredit the idea that an invasion of Sicily was planned. The ruse involved planting a dead body with false documents and releasing it close to the Spanish shore. Colin Firth stars as Ewen Montagu, who played a lead role in the plan, with Simon Russell Beale as Winston Churchill. Kelly Macdonald, Penelope Wilton, Jason Isaacs and Succession’s Matthew Macfaddyen also feature, as does Johnny Flynn playing one Ian Lancaster Fleming. A naval intelligence officer at the time, he went on to write novels featuring a spy by the name of James Bond.
The latest from American director Robert Eggers, best known for trippy films such as The Witch (Anya Taylor Joy in 17th century New England) and The Lighthouse (19th century keepers Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe plagued by visions of mermaids and going slowly bonkers). Taylor-Joy and Dafoe return here alongside Nicole Kidman, Bjork and Ethan Hawke in a bloody epic following 10th century Viking prince Amleth (Alexander Skarsgard) on a quest for revenge. It’s co-written by Icelandic poet, novelist and sometime Bjork-collaborator Sjon, and lensed by Jarin Blaschke, whose black and white cinematography on The Lighthouse gave it such a wonderfully eerie feel. Oh, and Scottish actor Kate Dickie plays Halldora the Pict.
Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the American writer-director team that gave us A Quiet Place, join forces with Star Wars stalwart Kylo Ren, also known as Adam Driver, for this sci-fi thriller. Sony Pictures are keeping all plot details to an absolute minimum, so beyond the one line synopsis released so far – “An astronaut crash lands on a mysterious planet only to discover he’s not alone” – there is little in the way of information. Of course tongues wag in Tinseltown, and it’s thought that dinosaurs may be involved. We do know that veteran composer Danny Elfman has written the music and that Chloe Coleman and Arianna Greenblatt, aged 13 and 14 respectively, are among Driver’s co-stars.
Directed by Nabil Ayouch, who received death threats when a previous film about sex workers in Marrakesh screened at Cannes, this sparky street musical follows three girls living in Casablanca’s slum district of Sidi Moumen as they try to put on a rap concert. Last year it became the first Moroccan film to compete for the Palme d’Or since Children Of The Sun in 1962, and it has been selected as Morocco’s official entry for this year’s Academy Awards. Set mostly in the music room of an arts centre (and shot in one which Ayouch co-founded), it uses non-actors playing fictionalized versions of themselves. If you thought Morocco didn’t have a thriving and politically-charged hip-hop scene, think again.
Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness
Benedict Cumberbatch (below) wins the prize for the year’s daftest film title as he reprises his role as Doctor Strange in yet another superhero offering from Marvel Studios. A sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange, it’s directed by horror/superhero veteran Sam Raimi and among the strong supporting cast are Brits Benedict Wong and Chiwetel Ejiofor alongside Elizabeth Olsen and Rachel McAdams (she of Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga fame, though the less said about that the better).
Top Gun: Maverick
Half the cast of this Top Gun sequel weren’t even born when the original was sonic booming its way to cinema icon status, which tells you how long we have waited for it to land in our multiplexes. Even this film has been in various stages of production since 2010. Tom Cruise (below) reprises his role as Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell and while there’s obviously no Goose, Whiplash star Miles Teller appears as his son, Bradley ‘Rooster’ Bradshaw. They’re joined in the cast by Jennifer Connelly, John Hamm, Val Kilmer and Ed Harris – what a line-up – and the plot has Maverick working as a test pilot and finding himself being asked to train a group of pilots for a dangerous special mission. Will it be any good? Who cares – it’s a Top Gun sequel!
Jurassic World Dominion
The third in the ongoing Jurassic World franchise is set four years after the events of Fallen Kingdom and finds humans living alongside genetically-engineered dinosaurs. Unsurprisingly, not all is perfect with this state of affairs. Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum return, as do Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard as Owen Grady and Claire Dearing. Chief among the newcomers is DeWanda Wise, star of Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It update for Netflix. A sure-fire summer blockbuster.
A Buzz Lightyear origins story? You betcha. Animator Angus MacLaine makes his directorial debut helming this Toy Story spin-off, with Chris Evans taking on the voice of Buzz from regular Tim Allen. Oscar-winning New Zealand director Taika Waititi, whose credits include What We Do In The Shadows and Jojo Rabbit, is also in the cast. C’mon, what’s not to like?
Tom Hanks stars as Colonel Tom Parker in Baz Luhrmann’s musical drama about the life (and inevitable death) of Elvis Presley. American actor Austin Butler plays The King with Australian actress Olivia DeJonge playing Priscilla. From the character list alone it looks like a real treat for music fans: Kelvin Harrison Jr, Alton Mason, Kodi Smit-McPhee, David Wenham and acclaimed English singer-songwriter Yola all feature playing, respectively, BB King, Little Richard, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Snow and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Destined to be a real foot tapper.