If you had to pick the best person to remake a cult 1947 noir about a sleazy carnival and the grifters, hustlers and femmes fatales who inhabit it, Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) would be top of many people’s lists, and with this electrifying new version of Nightmare Alley, starring Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett and Willem Dafoe, he proves exactly why.
A Journal for Jordan
A true story based on a journal kept by First Sergeant Charles Monroe King (Michael B Jordan) while deployed in Iraq and intended for his infant son, this weighty drama is directed by Denzel Washington from a script by writer-on-the-rise Virgil Williams.
Writer-director Kenneth Branagh’s family lived in Belfast in the 1960s, but moved away when he was nine to escape the Troubles. An intensely personal film shot in black and white, Belfast is based on Branagh’s memories of that early childhood in Northern Ireland and how. throughout all the difficulty and danger, cinema provided with a semblance of solace.
The idea of the past as a type of Pandora’s box sits at the heart of this inter-generational drama that skilfully blends experimental storytelling and real-life artefacts. Set in contemporary Montreal, but with its roots in war-torn Beirut, where protagonist Alex’s mother spent her adolescence, Memory Box asks if we can ever really know our parents. Catherine Bray
Let’s Eat Grandma
26 & 27 January; tour starts Norwich
Ahead of April’s Two Ribbons, the follow-up to 2018’s breakthrough I’m All Ears, childhood friends Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth test the waters with two warm-up shows. Revelatory recent single Happy New Year, all cascading synths and euphoric lyrics, should go down a treat in a live scenario.
27 January to 6 February; tour starts Southampton
While work continues on the follow-up to 2019’s second album Grim Town, Irish singer-songwriter Soak heads out on a tour supported by the Independent Venue Week initiative, which shines a spotlight on smaller venues. Keep an ear out for songs from their unflinching 2015 debut Before We Forgot How to Dream. Michael Cragg
Total Immersion: Music for the End of Time
Barbican Hall, London, 23 January
The BBC SO devotes its latest Total Immersion day to the remarkable works that came out of the prison camps and ghettos of the second world war. There’s music from Terezín by Schulhoff, Klein, Krása and Haas, before a concert staging of Viktor Ullmann’s opera Der Kaiser von Atlantis, and Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, composed in a Silesian POW camp. Andrew Clements
Zoe Rahman Trio
Vortex Jazz Club, London, 28 January, 7pm & 9pm
British pianist-composer Zoe Rahman’s mergers of the American, Bengali, and Celtic music she learned from her US hard-bop piano teacher Joanne Brackeen and her own cross-cultural family connections, always make for vivacious live shows. Classy bass and drums partners Alec Dankworth and Gene Calderazzo are in close attendance.
25 January to 18 March; tour starts Salford
In her recent BBC standup special, the straight-shooting Scot spoke about receiving an autism diagnosis in her early 30s. Autistic Bikini Queen, her new show, looks set to dig deeper into the subject without skimping on the delightfully scathing observations about sex and class that have become her trademark. Rachel Aroesti
Compagnie 111: Ash
Barbican theatre, London, 26 January to 29 January
Indian kuchipudi dancer Shantala Shivalingappa has been a muse for some big names in western theatre and dance, including Maurice Béjart, Peter Brook and Pina Bausch. Her latest collaboration is with the French director Aurélien Bory, who has created a solo paying homage to Shiva, god of creation and destruction. Lyndsey Winship
The Old Vic, 24 January to 19 March
Lyndsey Turner directs Caryl Churchill’s head-spinning play about a father and son and a cloning conundrum. Paapa Essiedu and Lennie James star, with designs by the great Es Devlin.
The Play What I Wrote
22 January to 5 March; tour starts Theatre Royal, Bath
Sean Foley revives this blissfully silly comedy. It’s about a comic double act at a crossroads in their career, is jam-packed with Morecambe and Wise sketches and features an exquisitely hammy celebrity guest appearance every night. Miriam Gillinson
Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, to 13 February
It’s been a tough time and we all deserve a break. This young British painter and sculptor offers a sweet pastoral escape into free floating colour. Some of her objects even look like garden swings. Her canvases have hints of a modern Gainsborough in their soft and sensual colours. Enjoy.
Gainsborough’s Blue Boy
National Gallery, London, 25 January to 15 May
One of the masterpieces of British art returns. Gainsborough is a painter of exquisite nuance, a portraitist of acute empathy – and one of the first Romantics. This bold, self-possessed kid, painted in about 1770, is both a homage to Van Dyck and a premonition of the French Revolution’s youthquake.
America in Crisis
Saatchi Gallery, London, to 3 April
But not for the first time. Today’s crisis has people predicting civil war but the US felt similarly riven in the Vietnam era. This show revisits a 1969 photographic exhibit called America in Crisis – and compares its images with those of today, featuring Bruce Davidson, Sheila Pree Bright, Stacy Kranitz and more.
Tate Liverpool, to 5 June
What is it like to live in a flat world? Speed’s video takes its title from the novel Flatland by Edwin Abbott, a Victorian masterpiece not so much of science fiction as mathematical fiction that imagines a two-dimensional society. Speed uses this idea to investigate how we are shaped by cities. Jonathan Jones
24 January, 9pm, BBC One and iPlayer
Another week, another police drama, but this new series starring a convincingly scouse Martin Freeman as a misanthropic copper blends the job’s wearing mundanity with casual corruption, mental health struggles and blood-curdling career criminals in novel – if unremittingly grim – style.
Out 28 January, Apple TV+
This murder-mystery comedy from Christopher Miller (21 Jump Street) stars Broad City’s Ilana Glazer, Sam Richardson of I Think You Should Leave fame, and Stath Lets Flats’s Jamie Demetriou among the suspects. Tiffany Haddish and cult funnyman John Early investigate.
The Gilded Age
25 January, 9pm, Sky Atlantic
In Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes’s ever‑so‑slightly camp period drama, Cynthia Nixon and Christine Baranski are old-money sisters under siege from the new breed of social climbers that proliferated during New York’s late 19th-century boom.
The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window
Out 28 January, Netflix
Twisty thrillers led by unstable female protagonists have become a category of their own in recent years; this supremely silly parody stars Kristen Bell (The Good Place) as a wine-glugging woman who believes she has witnessed a murder. Is she perceptive, paranoid or just drunk? RA
Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem
Out 25 January, Windows
You might remember this unapologetically silly shooter from the 00s: spray bullets at relentless hordes of enemies with entertainingly OTT weapons.
Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves collection
Out 28 January, PS5
A remaster of the superb Uncharted 4 and its expansion Lost Legacy, two of the greatest Indiana-Jones-style globetrotting adventures in video games.
Years & Years – Night Call
No ballads, all bangers is the order of the day on this third Years & Years album, the first as a solo vehicle for Olly Alexander. While the likes of Crave and 20 Minutes exalt the thrill of sweat-soaked hedonism, sugary current single Sweet Talker hides relationship disappointment under lashings of DayGlo dance-pop.
Aurora – The Gods We Can Touch
Parents might recognise Norwegian singer-songwriter Aurora’s bewitching vocals from the Frozen II soundtrack, while art-pop connoisseurs might be familiar with 2019’s A Different Kind of Human (Step 2), a multi-layered concept album about the climate crisis. This follow-up finds her flitting between rumbling electropop and delicate folktronica.
Bad Boy Chiller Crew – Disrespectful
The UK’s hardest-working bassline crew return with a 16-track mixtape to follow last year’s Charva Anthems EP and 2020’s debut album, Full Wack No Brakes. Disrespectful is led by the alcopop-infused single Messages, all rave pianos and “jump around for no reason” lyrics.
FKA twigs – Caprisongs
A playful stop-gap mixtape after a period of personal upheaval, Caprisongs has been billed by its creator as a celebration of togetherness. Its 17 songs feature a plethora of friends, from Jorja Smith to Pa Salieu, while production comes from the likes of Arca, Mike Dean and Rosalía collaborator, El Guincho. MC
Everything Under the Sun
Guardian kids’ quiz writer Molly Oldfield hosts this lighthearted weekly podcast, answering questions from children with celebrity help. Recent queries include investigating why there are always problems in stories, and whether we can make paper from poo.
This database explores the DNA of hit songs and the samples that make them. Discover how Nas’s The World Is Yours flips Ahmad Jamal’s I Love Music, or how the Winstons’ Amen Brother drum break has been repurposed.
Sky Documentaries, Saturday
Man vs mountain: director Peter Mortimer tracks down the camera-shy solo climber Marc-André Leclerc, who has made a name for himself tackling some of the most nerve-shredding ascents in history, without a rope or companions. Ammar Kalia