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WHAT TO WATCH
Undoubtedly one of the biggest films of the year, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie has taken over social media for months in the lead up to its arrival on the big screen on 21st July. With a cast that features pretty much everyone noteworthy in the worlds of film and music, the film shows Barbie (Margot Robbie) and Ken (Ryan Gosling) having the time of their lives in the colourful and seemingly perfect world of Barbie Land. However, when they get a chance to go to the real world, they soon discover the joys and perils of living among humans.
Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer is an IMAX-shot epic thriller that thrusts audiences into the pulse-pounding paradox of the enigmatic man who must risk destroying the world in order to save it. The film stars Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer and Emily Blunt as his wife, biologist and botanist Kitty Oppenheimer. Oscar winner Matt Damon portrays General Leslie Groves Jr, director of the Manhattan Project, and Robert Downey Jr is Lewis Strauss, a founding commissioner of the US Atomic Energy Commission. A starry cast also features Florence Pugh as psychiatrist Jean Tatlock, Benny Safdie as theoretical physicist Edward Teller, Michael Angarano as Robert Serber and Josh Hartnett as pioneering American nuclear scientist Ernest Lawrence. And still there’s room for Rami Malek and Kenneth Branagh.
The Bear, Series 2
Award-winning hit series The Bear returns to Disney+ on 19th July. Season two continues to track Carmy Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White), Sydney Adamu (Ayo Edebiri) and Richie Jerimovich (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) as they work to transform their grimy sandwich joint into a next-level destination. As they strip the restaurant down to its bones, the crew undertake transformational journeys of their own, each forced to confront the past and reckon with who they want to be in the future. Of course, it turns out the only thing harder than running a restaurant is opening a new one, and the team must juggle the insane bureaucracy of permits and contractors with the beauty and creative agony of menu planning. The transition brings a newfound focus on hospitality as well. As the entire staff is forced to come together in new ways, pushing the boundaries of their abilities and relationships, they also learn what it means to be in service, both to diners and each other.
In 1982, the late George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley set out to conquer the world. Just four years later, they played their very last Wham! gig at Wembley Stadium having done exactly that. For the very first time, this documentary charts the amazing story of how they dominated charts around the world with timeless and classic pop songs. Their time in the spotlight was white hot. It was a time that both encapsulated and epitomised not just their youth, but also those of the many millions of fans that adored them. With unprecedented access to both George and Andrew’s personal archives, including never-before-seen footage and previously unheard interviews, Wham! charts their incredible journey from school friends to superstars.
WHAT TO READ
Ordinary Human Failings by Megan Nolan
Award-winning Irish writer Megan Nolan releases her second novel later this month. It's 1990 in London and Tom Hargreaves has it all: a burgeoning career as a reporter, fierce ambition and a brisk disregard for the 'peasants' – ordinary people, his readers, easy tabloid fodder. His star looks set to rise when he stumbles across a scoop: a dead child on a London estate, grieving parents loved across the neighbourhood, and the finger of suspicion pointing at a reclusive family of Irish immigrants and ‘bad apples’ – the Greens. At their heart sits Carmel: beautiful, otherworldly, broken and once destined for a future beyond her circumstances until life – and love – got in her way. Crushed by failure and surrounded by disappointment, there's nowhere for her to go and no chance of escape. Now, with the police closing in on a suspect and the tabloids hunting their monster, she must confront the secrets and silences that have trapped her family for so many generations.
Bellies by Nicola Dinan
While out with friends at a university drag night, Tom buys Ming a drink. Confident, witty and a charming young playwright, Ming is the perfect antidote to Tom's awkward energy, and their connection is instant. Tom finds himself deeply and desperately drawn into Ming's orbit, and on the cusp of graduation, he's already mapped out their future together. But shortly after they move to London to start their next chapter, Ming announces her intention to transition. From London to Kuala Lumpur, New York to Cologne, we follow Tom and Ming as they face shifts in their relationship in the wake of Ming's transition. Through a spiral of unforeseen crises – some personal, some professional, some life-altering – Tom and Ming are forced to confront the vastly different shapes their lives have taken since graduating, and each must answer the essential question: is it worth losing a part of yourself to become who you are?
Four Seasons In Japan by Nick Bradley
From the author of The Cat & The City, Four Seasons in Japan is a book-within-a-book about literature, purpose and what it is to belong. Flo is sick of Tokyo. Suffering from a crisis in confidence, she is stuck in a rut, her translation work has dried up and she's in a relationship that's run its course. That's until she stumbles upon a mysterious book left by a fellow passenger on the Tokyo subway. From the very first page, Flo is transformed and immediately feels compelled to translate this forgotten novel, a decision which sets her on a path that will change her life. As Flo follows the characters across a year in rural Japan, through the ups and downs of a couple’s burgeoning relationship, she quickly realises that she needs to venture outside the pages of the book to track down its elusive author. And, as her two protagonists reveal themselves to have more in common with her life than first meets the eye, the lines between text and translator converge.
Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano
William Waters grew up in a house silenced by tragedy, where his parents could hardly bear to look at him, much less love him. So, when he meets the spirited and ambitious Julia Padavano in his freshman year of college, it's as if the world has lit up around him. With Julia comes her family, as she and her three sisters are inseparable: Sylvie, the family's dreamer, is happiest with her nose in a book; Cecelia is a free-spirited artist; and Emeline patiently takes care of them all. With the Padavanos, William experiences a newfound contentment; every moment in their house is filled with loving chaos. But then darkness from William's past surfaces, jeopardising not only Julia's carefully orchestrated plans for their future, but the sisters' unshakeable devotion to one another. The result is a catastrophic family rift that changes their lives for generations. Will the loyalty that once rooted them be strong enough to draw them back together when it matters most?
The Last Word by Katy Birchall
Harper Jenkins is at the top of her game. A brilliant, determined journalist with a well-known knack for getting tight-lipped Hollywood stars to open up to her, Harper loves her job as celebrity editor at a newspaper's glossy weekend magazine and has the best contacts in the business. But when her awful boss hires talented reporter Ryan to be the new features editor, Harper is furious. Because the two have met before: a decade ago, they were interns at the same publication, where they fell into a whirlwind romance... until Ryan betrayed Harper and they never spoke again. Thrown together in a busy newsroom, their dynamic is a disaster from the start. They can't agree on anything and bicker constantly – Ryan can't bear how chaotic and messy Harper is; Harper finds Ryan's condescending nature infuriating. They clash over who's writing what article, and fight over who's going to which event. Yet as they're forced to spend more and more time together, Harper realises she may have misjudged Ryan and can't help but feel a spark growing between them. Long-buried feelings start to resurface and, when they're thrown together on a romantic press trip abroad, their chemistry comes to a head.
Lioness by Emily Perkins
From humble beginnings, Therese has let herself grow used to a life of luxury after marrying into an empire-building family. But when rumours of corruption gather around her husband's latest development, the social fallout is shocking, and Therese begins to look at her privileged and insular world with new eyes. In the flat below Therese, something else is brewing. Her neighbour Claire believes she's discovered the secret to living with freedom and authenticity, freeing herself from the mundanity of domesticity. Therese finds herself enchanted by the lure of the permissive zone Claire creates in her apartment – a place of ecstatic release. All too quickly, Therese is forced to confront herself and her choices – just how did she become this person? And what exactly should she do about it?
The List by Yomi Adegoke
From the bestselling co-author of Slay In Your Lane comes The List, a debut novel about secrets, lies and our lives online. Ola Olajide, a high-profile journalist at Womxxxn magazine, is marrying the love of her life in one month's time. Young, beautiful, successful – she and her fiancé Michael are the ‘couple goals’ of their social networks and seem to have it all. That is, until one morning when they both wake up to the same message: ‘Oh my god, have you seen The List?’ It began as a crowdsourced collection of names and somehow morphed into an anonymous account posting allegations on social media. Ola would usually be the first to support such a list – she’d retweet it, call for the men to be fired, write article after article. Except this time, Michael’s name is on it.
The Rachel Incident by Caroline O’Donoghue
Rachel is a student working at a bookstore when she meets James, and it's love at first sight. Effervescent and insistently heterosexual, James soon invites Rachel to be his roommate and the two begin a friendship that changes the course of both their lives forever. Together, they run riot through the streets of Cork, trying to maintain a bohemian existence while the threat of the financial crash looms before them. When Rachel falls in love with her married professor, Dr Fred Byrne, James helps her devise a reading at their local bookstore, with the goal that she might seduce him afterwards. But Fred has other desires. So begins a series of secrets and compromises that intertwine the fates of James, Rachel, Fred and Fred's glamorous, well-connected, bourgeois wife.
Zero-Sum by Joyce Carol Oates
Zero-sum games are played for lethal stakes in this collection of arresting stories by one of America’s most acclaimed writers. A brilliant young philosophy student bent on seducing her famous philosopher-mentor finds herself outmanoeuvred; clever high-school girls wreak a particularly apt sort of vengeance on sexual predators in their community; a woman stalked by a would-be killer may be confiding in the wrong former lover; a young woman is morbidly obsessed by her unfamiliar new role as “mother”. In the collection’s longest story, a much-praised cutting-edge writer cruelly experiments with “drafts” of his own suicide. In these powerfully wrought stories that hold a mirror up to our time, Joyce Carol Oates has created a world of erotic obsession, thwarted idealism and ever-shifting identities.
WHAT TO SEE & DO
Lyonesse, Harold Pinter Theatre
Kristin Scott Thomas (Darkest Hour) and Lily James (Pam & Tommy) will star in the world premiere of Lyonesse, a searingly funny and passionate new play by Penelope Skinner. Lyonesse will play a strictly limited season from 17th October to 23rd December at the Harold Pinter Theatre – and tickets are on sale right now. Elaine (Scott Thomas), a reclusive and talented actress, disappears in mysterious circumstances. Thirty years later, she finally feels ready to tell her story – summoning young film executive Kate (James) to her remote Cornish home to assist with her glorious comeback. But who really controls the stories we tell, and how we get to tell them? Will these women own their narrative, or will it be swept away from them at any given moment?