Hot off the back of the most exciting weekend for cinemas this year, we’re recapping the big movie releases – Barbie and Oppenheimer – as well as pointing you in the direction of what to see next. There’s high-stakes drama featuring on-the-rise Kiwi actor Frankie Adams, and the highly anticipated second season of The Bear (which already has 13 Emmy nominations). Seen it all? Stream one of the most meta documentaries of the year, Subject.

For one-of-a-kind Allan: Barbie
Opening weekend was a sea of Pantone 219 C at cinemas around the world. Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is the biggest box office success of the year so far, taking $501 million worldwide (yes, ahead of Oppenheimer). But is it worth the hype? We reckon Ryan Gosling’s performance – particularly in his Ken-out-of-Ken prime – is worth the ticket price alone. He gets the best gags, and his character arc is a joy to watch. The critics may be divided on Barbie’s tightrope walk of promoting a toy and self-consciously criticising its impact on girls everywhere, but even the saccharine moments in this movie were moving. And that’s before we dote on the perfect casting for Allan, played to perfection by Michael Cera. Gerwig and Noah Baumbach’s writing is witty, reflective and sentimental, and the cameos (John Cena’s Merman Ken in particular) are totally bananas – just as Gerwig intended.
In cinemas now.

For a reality check: Subject
Remember being glued to the screen when The Staircase first aired? Novelist Michael Peterson was accused of his wife Kathleen’s murder, and it felt like the whole world watched as the North Carolina family recounted her final moments in a high-profile trial. Margaret Ratliff, one of Michael and Kathleen’s daughters, is now a participant in a doco exploring the ethics of documentary filmmaking. “It’s like old ghosts are coming back to haunt us,” says Ratliff of seeing her family’s story on screen once again in the Netflix series featuring Colin Firth and Toni Collette. In Subject, Ratliff and subjects from documentaries Hoop Dreams, The Wolfpack, Capturing the Friedmans and The Square share what those intimate moments shared with a camera crew cost them individually. And, without picking a side, Subject poses questions of responsibility around trauma therapy, monetary compensation and privacy for people who’ve shared their lives onscreen – especially as our insatiable appetite for documentaries only increases in a stream-on-demand world.
In selected cinemas now.

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For total devastation: Oppenheimer
No matter what you thought of the film Tenet, this year’s biggest blockbuster is a direct descendent of the 2020 sci-fi thriller. Robert Pattinson, who starred in the film, gave director Christopher Nolan a collection of Oppenheimer’s speeches as a gift when filming wrapped, and it was this book that was the kernel for a biopic about the father of the atomic bomb, J Robert Oppenheimer. Of course, it was steely-blue-eyed Cillian Murphy who got the call from Nolan to take on the lead role. He then spent six months ahead of filming researching the physicist and reading American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J Robert Oppenheimer, Nolan’s source material for the screenplay. The end result is a three-hour film with multiple timelines that’s partly filmed in black and white and includes steamy sex scenes among all the men chatting about war. Emily Blunt and Florence Pugh’s appearances as Katherine “Kitty” Oppenheimer and Jean Tatlock are all too short, but the overall casting is exemplary – Rami Malek, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr, Kenneth Branagh but also a surprisingly good Josh Hartnett as nuclear scientist Ernest Lawrence. Is it too long? Sure. Three hours is a big commitment, but the way Nolan paces Oppenheimer and has the timelines converge is masterful and worth the extra run time.
In cinemas now.

For Richie singing Tay-Tay: The Bear
It’s rare that the second season of a TV show is considered better than the first. Last year’s smash-hit The Bear introduced us to Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) who was on a mission to clean up and save his brother’s sandwich shop, The Beef. It also introduced a saucy new meaning to “Yes, chef!” as the internet honed in on Carmy’s depressed, stressed and often dishevelled hotness. The second season moves us beyond the early stages of grief and trauma; Broadsheet editor Audrey Payne, who spoke to chef, actor and producer Matty Matheson, says this season provides more lightness to the dark parts of season one. Carmy and Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) are crafting a new menu for the soon-to-open Bear, pastry chef Marcus (Lionel Boyce) is in Denmark training at an unnamed fine diner, and in one star-studded flashback episode we’re introduced to Mama Bear, Jamie Lee Curtis. Creator Christopher Storer keeps the thrill of season one’s culinary craft with more room to build on his characters’ backstories, including a moment we won’t forget: Richard “Richie” Jerimovich (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) singing along to Taylor Swift’s Love Story (Taylor’s Version). It was, as they say, chef’s kiss.
Stream on Disney Plus.

For secrets and lies: The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart
Every episode of this tense, captivating drama – based on the bestselling novel of the same name – unravels messy layers of lies, violence and trauma for the Hart family. It begins with young Alice living with her mother and father in an isolated town by the coast. The nine-year-old dreams of fire, and, following an incident that kills her parents, she ends up living with her paternal grandmother, June (Sigourney Weaver), on a native flower farm. Here she’s surrounded by “flowers” – women who’ve fled family violence, as well as rows of dusty-pink kangaroo paws and fiery-red waratahs. As the series progresses, older Alice (Alycia Debnam-Carey) travels to the Northern Territory and falls in love, but her family’s secrets keep unravelling and Twig (Leah Purcell) follows her in the hope that the truth will help orphan Alice reconnect with her family. It has a stellar cast, including Samoan-New Zealand actor Frankie Adams, and Weaver is compelling as the angsty matriarch armed with a shotgun. Every episode comes with a trigger warning, and we’ll echo that this one’s brutal when it comes to the depiction of domestic violence.
Stream it on Prime Video from August 4.

For a tense, engrossing courtroom drama: Anatomy of a Fall
This year’s NZIFF is well underway in Auckland and is heading around the rest of the country from tomorrow. French director Justine Triet’s Palme d’Or-winning Anatomy of a Fall opened the festival, and the psychological drama centres on a murder trial that steadily reveals the complex family dynamics of the suspect and the victim. Sandra is a German-born author, living in a beautiful chalet in the French Alps with her French husband Samuel and their son Daniel, who is blind. When Samuel is discovered dead outside their home, Sandra is charged with his murder – and Daniel is not the only unreliable witness. Touted as gripping and sharply intelligent, Anatomy of a Fall is a compelling exploration of the slippery nature of truth.
In selected cinemas now.