FILM: Saving Mr Banks ★★★★★ In this delightful movie, Emma Thompson plays ‘Mary Poppins’ author Pamela Travers. Thompson takes the audience along with her in an Oscar-worthy performance, as she portrays Travers’s leap from disgruntled prune to kite flying optimist. The rest of the cast don’t disappoint: Tom Hanks paints a masterly portrait of Walt Disney as a complex, benevolent visionary (his dark side is mostly overlooked) who spars deliciously with Travers. Colin Farrell is a revelation as Travers’s beloved alcoholic Aussie dad – sweet and carefree, but also beset by personal demons. And Rachel Griffiths convincingly plays the super efficient great-aunt who rescues the Travers family from disintegration – and the character is instantly recognisable as the Down-Under source of the nanny with the black umbrella. Ewan Comrie In cinemas now.
COMEDY: Lewis Schaffer – American in London ★★★★★ New York stand-up comic Schaffer would probably hate hearing this, but he is a ‘people person’ and loves interacting with his audience. He’s also an absolute master at ad-libbing. Here, in a discursive but highly entertaining way, Schaffer, who is now ‘trapped’ (as he puts it) in Nunhead, expounds his thoughts on England and the English. Some of the material is definitely un-PC but it is so obviously ironic that you can’t take offence. He excels in self deprecation – an unusual quality in an American comic these days. I can’t see Schaffer without being reminded of Woody Allen, or Robert De Niro’s character in ‘The King of Comedy’. The other great thing about this show is that seats only cost a tenner. But it’s the comedy that’s the draw. Simon Ellinas Next performance: Dec 8.
ART: Only In England at the Science Museum ★★★★★ This insightful exhibition, at the Science Museum’s new Media Space, shows work by Tony Ray- Jones, whose black-and-white photographs document English life in the 1950s and ’60s, alongside rarely seen pieces from Martin Parr (who was greatly inspired by Jones). The absurdly creative images, many of which capture the tackiness, joyfulness and melancholia of English seaside towns, are supported by notebook musings and other paraphernalia, forming a vivid celebration of eccentricity, idiosyncracy and individualism. I left the space wondering how such captivating images could possibly be made from such mundane subjects. Steven Robson Open until Mar 17, 2013.
EXHIBITION: The Cheapside Hoard at Museum of London ★★★★★ The wonder lies not in the size of these gems, which date from the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, but in their delicacy: a salamander, created from emeralds and gold, a few centimetres long, which looks like it could skitter away at any moment, or ruby and garnet earrings, mere millimetres in width, designed to resemble juicy grapes. The exhibition is made up of dozens of tiny, dazzling universes. It was impossible to choose a favourite. I could only narrow it down to a tiny squirrel, a miniscule parrot, a decorative purse in the shape of a frog and a Swiss pocket watch with alarm and calendar – from 1600! What I saw dazzled me fit to blast my eyes from their sockets. Darren Ross Open until Apr 28 2014.
FILM: Philomena ★★★★★ ‘Philomena’, directed masterfully by Stephen Frears, tells a fairly straightforward story. Philomena (Judi Dench) is a middle-aged Londoner who grew up in Ireland and is trying to trace the baby son that was taken away from her during her time in a convent as a young woman. Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) is the hardbitten journalist who accompanies her to Ireland and the US in search of her child. The film’s genius lies in its moving and compelling telling of the tale. This is the first time I’ve been able to get away from thinking about Alan Partridge when watching Coogan in a role. Dench is, even by her own high standards, remarkable as the eponymous heroine. It’s a compassionate film about a tragedy faced by many young Irish women and a story conveyed with humanity and great humour. Oliver Kianchehr In cinemas now.
EXHIBITION: Afro Supa Hero at V&A Museum of Childhood ★★★★★ Jon Daniel grew up in a Caribbean household in East Sheen during the 1960s and ’70s, and this show is his collection of black action figures and memorabilia of the period. Some of it will be familiar to those of us who grew up in the UK during that time, but the show will be equally captivating to younger visitors. It’s a colourful mix of black pride and P-funk: dolls such as Mr T and a Jackson Five board game sit beside a Muhammad Ali figure and a comic book based on the life of Martin Luther King, reflecting the fascination with African-American culture experienced by many of Daniel’s generation, who couldn’t find such cultural icons in the UK. An inspiring trip down memory lane. Phoebe Thorne Open until Feb 9 2014.
Find more recommendations from Londoners on our Readers Recommend page.