A closer look at… The Skeleton Twins

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The Skeleton Twins is rated 15 for strong language, sex, sex references. The film is now available on DVD.

The Scoop

Twins Maggie (Kristen Wiig) and Milo (Bill Hader) haven’t spoken in ten years. When Milo’s failed suicide attempt brings his sister to the hospital, the two are forced to resume their relationship. Once drawn close together by tragedy in their childhood, they have now taken very different paths.

Flamboyant failing actor Milo is horrified to discover that his sister now apparently lives in blissful, bland domesticity with her upbeat husband, Lance (Luke Wilson).  But under the surface, Maggie is struggling just as much as her brother. Her marriage is built on a crumbling foundation of lies, and her will to keep going is failing.

As the twins begin to reconnect, their blossoming mutual understanding is threatened by ghosts from the past: the parents who made them who they are, and Rich (Ty Burrell), the high school teacher whose relationship with Milo cast a shadow over all of their lives.

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A closer look at…Kubo and the Two Strings

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This is a child-friendly guide; some of the discussion questions are for younger viewers. children Kubo and the Two Strings is rated PG for mild fantasy violence, scary scenes

The ScoopA deep, dark and mind-blowingly magical adventure

Kubo (Art Parkinson) is a fearless storyteller whose days are spent entertaining crowds in the marketplace with tales of adventure. His nights, however, are spent caring for his sick mother, and wondering about the father he never got to meet.

Then Kubo unwittingly catches the attention of the villainous Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) and is plunged into an adventure of his own. Torn away from his home, he must embark on a quest to salvage the lost pieces of his father’s armour – accompanied by his fierce protector Monkey (Charlize Theron), and the dim-witted Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), a cursed Samurai warrior.

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A closer look at… A Most Violent Year

Note: Guides from our archive are in a slightly different format and have been edited here to make them more user-friendly.

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A Most Violent Year is rated 15 for very strong language, strong violence. The film is available on DVD.

The Scoop

New York, 1981 – the most violent year in the city’s history. Immigrant businessman Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) and his wife Anna (Jessica Chastain) are trying to expand their heating oil company, but a DA agent (David Oyelowo) is investigating their dealings. To add to their troubles, the Morales’ trucks keep being hijacked at gunpoint by anonymous goons. Not only is the company losing money, but the drivers – including Julian (Elyes Gabel), who lands in hospital after a savage beating – are becoming too afraid to work.

Though Abel suspects that one of his competitors is behind the attacks, he’s determined to behave honourably, and not resort to violent tactics in return. Anna, whose father and brother are in the mob, has other ideas. How far will each of them go in order to protect what they’ve built?

Continue reading A closer look at… A Most Violent Year

A closer look at… Ida

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Ida is rated 12, contains suicide scene. The film is available on DVD.

Poland, the 1960s. Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) is a young nun who has grown up within the sheltered confines of the convent. Before she takes her vows, her superiors decree that she must meet her only living relative – her aunt, Wanda (Agata Kulesza).

Anna travels to stay with Wanda in her city home, and meets a woman about as different from herself as she could have imagined. A heavy-drinking court judge who loves dancing, jazz music and men, Wanda’s carefree persona hides a painful past. She quickly reveals to Ida that the family is, in fact, Jewish: Anna’s real name is Ida, and her parents were murdered during the anti-Semitic purges of the Second World War.

Together, the mismatched pair set off to find where Anna’s parents are buried. But digging up the past, it soon becomes clear, will change the direction of both of their futures.

Continue reading A closer look at… Ida

A closer look at… Nightcrawler

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Nightcrawler is rated 15 for strong bloody crime scene detail, strong language. The film is available on DVD.

The Scoop

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is ready to try his hand at anything. Full of self-improvement aphorisms and entirely empty of scruples, he stumbles across the Los Angeles underworld of ‘nightcrawling’: following police-radio tipoffs to incident sites, and filming the grim aftermath. The resulting footage can be sold to cable news stations, who have no qualms about broadcasting images of car wrecks or bleeding shootout victims. If it pulls in viewers, it runs – or as Lou’s fellow nightcrawler Joe (Bill Paxton) puts it, ‘if it bleeds, it leads.’

As Lou’s fledgling business grows, he develops a symbiotic relationship with news director Nina (Rene Russo), who’s every bit as ruthless as he is, and an uneven partnership with ‘intern’ Rick (Riz Ahmed), a young man too desperate for money to say no. Just how far is Lou willing to go in pursuit of the success he craves? And who will end up paying the price?

Continue reading A closer look at… Nightcrawler

A closer look at…The BFG

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This is a child-friendly guide; some of the discussion questions are for younger viewers. children The BFG is rated PG for mild threat.

The Scoop – A delight from start to finish, The BFG sees Spielberg bottle Roald Dahl’s magic. 

Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) knows how to stay safe from the monsters that lurk in the small hours of the night. Don’t get out of bed. Don’t go to the window. Don’t pull back the curtain.

But when she catches a glimpse of a huge, shadowy figure lurking outside the London orphanage where she lives, Sophie can’t help herself. The giant (Mark Rylance) snatches her away and carries her off to the ramshackle cave where he lives – but it turns out that he’s nothing to be afraid of. In fact this big, friendly, word-mangling, dream-catching creature needs help defeating some monsters of his own.

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A closer look at… Anna Karenina

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Russia, the late nineteenth century, and one of the best-known tragedies in literature is about to unfold. We meet Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) as she prepares to rescue her boisterous brother Stiva (Matthew Macfadyen) from a marital crisis, brought on by his infidelity to wife Dolly (Kelly McDonald). Anna bids farewell to her mild-mannered husband Alexei (Jude Law) and beloved young son Serhoza (Oscar McNamara), and embarks upon a fateful train journey to Moscow.

Having talked Stiva and Dolly into a reconciliation, Anna is persuaded to attend a ball with Dolly’s sister Kitty (Alicia Vikander), who is innocently infatuated with the dashing Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). She is expecting a proposal at any minute – but to her dismay, Vronsky suddenly has eyes for nobody but Anna. His gaze is reciprocated. Having been in a passionless marriage since the age of eighteen, Anna is completely swept off her feet, and it isn’t long before the two have plunged headlong into an affair.

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A closer look at… Foxcatcher

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Foxcatcher is rated 15 for drug use, brief strong violence. The film is available on DVD.

The Scoop

The glory of winning an Olympic gold medal has had little bearing on the everyday life of wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum). He lives alone, surviving on pot noodles and video games, earning a pittance giving motivational talks to disinterested schoolchildren. The only meaning in his life seems to come from training, which he does under the supervision of his brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo), an affable family man whose own sporting achievements overshadow Mark’s.

Then from out of the blue, Mark is contacted by billionaire John du Pont (Steve Carrell).  The philanthropist and wrestling enthusiast has built an expensive private training facility on his estate at Foxcatcher Farms, and wants the Schultz brothers to come and train there for the World championship. Dave doesn’t want to uproot his family, but Mark has nothing to lose, and is soon living at Foxcatcher under the wing of the seemingly benevolent du Pont.

The relationship between the two lonely men grows increasingly strange, as Mark yearns for the father figure he never had, and du Pont tries to impress his distant mother (Vanessa Redgrave).  When Dave finally agrees to come to Foxcatcher, the ensuing power struggle will lead to tragedy.

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A closer look at… Hector and the Search for Happiness

Note: Guides from our archive are in a slightly different format and have been edited here to make them more user-friendly. This guide was written by Rachel Helen Smith.

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Once upon a time there was a young man called Hector (Simon Pegg). He lived a neat and tidy life with his girlfriend Clare (Rosamund Pike), who tied his ties, made his lunch and kept his sock drawer in order. Hector worked as a psychiatrist, listening patiently to his patients’ tales of trauma, whilst doodling in his notebook and dreaming of another life.

One day, Hector snaps. He cannot live as a fraud any longer, offering meaningless advice to his patients when he himself has never really experienced life. He sets off alone on a cross-continental adventure in the hope of discovering the route to true happiness. Those he meets along the way offer snippets of wisdom that he jots down in his notebook, but it is only once he has faced up to the emotions of his own past and his fears of the future that Hector can truly embrace happiness for his own life in the present moment.

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A closer look at… The Grand Budapest Hotel

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The Grand Budapest Hotel is rated 15 for strong language, sex references, brief gory images. The film is available on DVD.

The Scoop

A girl sits on the snowy steps of a memorial to a great author, reading a book entitled The Grand Budapest Hotel. In flashback, we meet the author (Tom Wilkinson), who begins to explain how the book came into being. As a younger man (Jude Law), staying in the crumbling Grand Budapest during the 1960s, he met the hotel’s owner, Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham). In his turn, Zero relates his own youth as a lobby boy during the hotel’s golden years.

Young Zero (Tony Revolori), an immigrant in the middle-European Republic of Zubrowka, is taken under the wing of the hotel’s flambouyant concierge Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). When one of Gustave’s elderly lovers, Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), dies, she bequeaths him the priceless painting Boy With Apple – leaving him in hot water with her grasping family. Zero and Gustave take off with the painting, setting off a series of comic escapades which play out against the shadowy backdrop of a coming war.

Continue reading A closer look at… The Grand Budapest Hotel