Adapted from Daphne du Maurier’s gothic novel, My Cousin Rachel stars Sam Claflin as Philip, a callow Cornish youth. When his beloved guardian inexplicably dies shortly after marrying the enigmatic Rachel (Rachel Weisz, below), Philip is convinced she is to blame. But he wavers upon meeting the woman herself: she may be as darkly beautiful as Philip was expecting, but she also seems a lot more modest and generous. Written and directed by Roger Michell (“Notting Hill”), what might look like just another picturesque British costume drama is enlivened by Freudian undercurrents and teasing mysteries. Stepping into roles last played on the big screen by Richard Burton and Olivia de Havilland in 1952, Claflin has a nice line in Hugh Grant-ish public-schoolboy stammering, while Weisz keeps us guessing as to whether she is a femme fatale who specialises in toxic herbal teas or an innocent widow who just wants a life of her own.
In Britain and America from Jun 9th
Hot as hell
Ana Lily Amirpour’s hypnotic debut was an Iranian vampire Western, shot in California in black and white, with all of its dialogue in Persian. The writer-director’s follow-up, The Bad Batch, has a much bigger budget and much bigger stars, among them Keanu Reeves and Jim Carrey. But Amirpour still isn’t swimming in the Hollywood mainstream. The conceit of her dystopian sci-fi fable is that in the near future any Americans who aren’t sufficiently rich are stripped of their rights and left to fend for themselves in a lawless desert. The latest outcast is a wary young woman (Suki Waterhouse) who escapes the cannibals for the shelter of a relatively civilised shanty town, but isn’t sure which is worse. Grisly, psychedelic and unpredictable, “The Bad Batch” is a 1970s-style gonzo midnight movie whose political themes are all too contemporary.
In America from Jun 23rd
Testament of youth
When tanks from Islamic State (IS) rumbled into the Syrian city of Raqqa in 2014, a band of young citizen journalists was waiting with phones and laptops. Calling themselves “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently”, they chronicled public executions and horrific deprivation, in part to show the world how their home town was being disembowelled, but also to counteract IS’s own glitzy and expensive propaganda films. In the process, the journalists put their own lives in danger. “Either we win,” their spokesman declares, “or they kill all of us.” City of Ghosts, by Matthew Heineman, an American documentary-maker, is an urgent account of the journalists’ work, their sacrifices and their subsequent lives in exile. They are now in hiding in Germany, hunted by IS sympathisers.
In Britain and America from Jul 14th
Nicholas Barber is a film critic for The Economist and BBC Culture online
Even stranger things
The peerlessly bizarre Twin Peaks vanished from the small screen in 1991, with its mysterious murder-victim Laura Palmer promising Kyle MacLachlan’s put-upon FBI agent that she’d see him in 25 years. That makes this third series of David Lynch’s and Mark Frost’s cryptic drama – part soap opera, part murder-mystery, part terrifying dream – only a year overdue. There are shreds of “Twin Peaks” in almost every major TV drama that followed it, from “The X-Files” to “Stranger Things”. For its long-awaited return, Showtime offered Lynch and Frost a free hand, presumably hoping that after a quarter of a century the pair had plotted their way out of the surreal morass of season two. Many of the original stars will be joined by new cast members, including Monica Bellucci, Tim Roth and Eddie Vedder, who’ll be moonlighting from his role as lead singer of the band Pearl Jam. With Lynch at the helm for all 18 episodes, this is set to be the wildest ride of the summer.
On Showtime from May 21st
Dressed to kill
It’s big hair, Spandex and drive-time rock all round in GLOW, a satirical adult drama spun from the real-life “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling” shows of the 1980s. Alison Brie (“Mad Men”) plays Ruth, a struggling actress who answers an advert for “unconventional women” and finds herself learning fighting moves like the “shrinky-dink” from Sam Sylvia, a coke-addled lounge-lizard promoter played by Mark Maron. Ruth has been quietly sleeping with her best friend’s husband, but things get complicated when she finds herself facing her love rival in the ring, in character as the evil “Homewrecker”. Produced by Jenji Kohan (“Orange Is the New Black”), this has all the makings of a long-running ensemble drama – assuming it heeds the wise advice Sylvia gives to his gorgeous ladies: “Fans are gonna tune in for the moves, but they’re not gonna stay tuned in unless we give ’em what, ladies?” “Blood?” shouts one of his protégées. “Tits?” chimes in another. “Storytelling,” he replies. Quite so.
On Netflix from Jun 23rd
Tim Martin writes about TV, games and technology for 1843