Could we be in for a chance of a Bechdel Test-passing hat trick with this week’s new releases?
If you’re unfamiliar with the Bechdel Test, allow me to mansplain: it’s a simple measure designed to gauge a film’s level of female representation, by asking if it meets three criteria.
The film must (1) have at least two women in it, who (2) talk to each other, about (3) something other than a man.
Sounds easy enough, but there are plenty of famous failures, including the entire original Star Wars trilogy.
Female-fronted, written and directed comedy Late Night seems a shoo-in, as does Julianne Moore-led drama Gloria Bell.
The outlier is X-Men: Dark Phoenix – but providing Sophie Turner stops causing carnage for long enough to grab a coffee with Jennifer Lawrence, we should be safe…
Julianne Moore has been picking up stellar reviews for her performance in this drama about a fifty-something divorcee living in Los Angeles.
Moore plays the eponymous Gloria, a divorcee with two grown-up children who’s happily living the single life, but spies the chance for new love when she meets Arnold (John Turturro) one night at a singles bar.
Director Sebastián Lelio here remakes his acclaimed 2013 Chilean-Spanish drama Gloria – apparently almost shot-for-shot – and critics are in agreement that this is that rare case of an English language adaptation which loses nothing in translation.
And if that title’s got a certain guitar riff going round in your head, then you won’t be surprised to hear that Laura Branigan’s 1982 classic Gloria does indeed feature on the soundtrack…
Emma Thompson’s performance as an acerbic chat show host in this new comedy has drawn comparisons to Meryl Streep’s imperious turn in The Devil Wears Prada.
Thompson plays late-night veteran Katherine Newbury, whose long-running residency is under threat from falling ratings and accusations of being out of touch.
To turn things around, she hires her first-ever female writer in the form of Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling), and together the two set about restoring her place at the top of the tree – a mission made harder for Molly as she has to navigate the culture of the established, all-male writing team.
The screenplay was written by Kaling and inspired in part by her time as the “diversity hire” on the writing team of the US version of The Office (in which she also starred), and the film was a hit with audiences when it premiered at this year’s Sundance Festival.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix
This latest instalment in the X-Men series sees the heroic mutants doing battle with one of their own after Jean Grey develops a destructive alternative personality known as the Phoen…hang on, haven’t we already seen this one?
Well, sort of – the Jean Grey/Phoenix plot was a key part of 2006’s little-loved X-Men: The Last Stand, the third outing for the original Patrick Stewart-led cast.
However, due to what are technically known as wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey plot devices in later films, those events have been conveniently wiped from the series’ timeline, meaning that the franchise now gets to do them all over again with the younger X-generation, helmed by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender.
This time round, the X gang head into space, only for Jean Grey (played in this incarnation by Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner) to be struck by a cosmic force which transforms her into the volatile and deadly Phoenix.
The accompanying blurb’s promise that this is ‘the culmination of 20 years of X-Men movies’ smacks more than a little of trying to piggyback on residual Avengers: Endgame hype – but it’s widely expected that this will be the last outing for this current line-up, with Disney likely to reboot the franchise as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward.
You can catch a couple of documentaries with accompanying Q&A sessions at City Screen this week – both about unfamiliar but intriguing subjects.
Sunday 9th sees a screening of All My Life’s Buried Here, which tells the story of George Butterworth, an English composer, folk song collector and country dancer who was killed aged just 31 in the Battle of the Somme.
Butterworth, who grew up in York (there’s a blue plaque in his name at the Mount School), was a leading member of a radical group of composers and a close friend of Ralph Vaughan Williams, and the film aims to breathe new life into his story via a host of newly uncovered archive materials.
The film’s director, Stewart Morgan Hajdukiewicz, and Anthony Murphy, author of a biography of Butterworth, will be on hand for a live Q&A after the film.
Later in the week on Weds 12th, Freedom Fields follows the formation of a women’s football team in post-revolution Libya.
Hailed by the Guardian as a “superbly made, stirring documentary”, it shows the women’s struggles to realise their dream of playing internationally in the face of wide-ranging obstacles.
A recorded Q&A with Libyan/British director Naziha Arebi follows the screening.
Quite a bit going on this week – the pick of which for my money is a screening of the Ealing Studios classic Kind Hearts and Coronets at Vue on Sun 9th.
Re-released for its 70th anniversary, this 1949 black comedy sees the heir to a dukedom bumping off the eight people who stand in the way of his inheritance (all of whom, famously, are played by Alec Guinness).
Its winning combination of witty dialogue and devilish deeds wouldn’t be out of place in an episode of Blackadder, and it continues to delight audiences 70 years on – well worth catching if you’ve never seen it. Fingers crossed that it’ll pop up at City Screen or Everyman sometime soon too.
There’s a chance to see a preview of a highly anticipated new documentary at City Screen on Sun 9th – Diego Maradona is a portrait of the iconic Argentinian footballer put together by Asif Kapadia, the man behind previous smash hit docs on Ayrton Senna and Amy Winehouse.
Meanwhile, Everyman’s Studio Ghibli season continues on Sun 9th with Ponyo. The story of a goldfish princess who gets her wish to become human, it’s directed by Ghibli master Hayao Miyazaki, who took inspiration from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.
Music fans continue to be well served by all three cinemas this week. Jazz On A Summer’s Day shows at City Screen on Sun 9th, featuring performances from such legends as Mahalia Jackson, Louis Armstrong and Chuck Berry.
Great to see that they’re also bringing back highly rated Aretha Franklin concert doc Amazing Grace for matinee screenings.
The man no-one’s calling the Aretha Franklin of Burnage takes up residency over at Everyman, with new Liam Gallagher doc As It Was showing throughout the week.
And finally, Liam might be a bit handy in a fight, but he’s got nothing on my sister if someone tries to push in front of her at a Take That gig.
Those unable to get tickets for the all-conquering manband on their latest tour can head down to Vue and Everyman on Sat 8th for Take That – Greatest Hits Live, beamed direct from their last UK date in Cardiff.