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Here at the Damaris Film Blog, we publish regular discussion guides to help you make the most of the latest cinema releases.
The Scoop – Though not as riotously entertaining as David O. Russel’s best work, Joy nevertheless provides a great showcase for Jennifer Lawrence as a truly inspirational woman.
Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) was a creative, vivacious, high-achieving child. But somewhere along the line, life stole her spark. Her parents’ divorce, a failed marriage to Tony (Edgar Ramirez), caring for two children, trying to hold down a job, and managing the chaos that her mother (Virginia Madsen), father (Robert De Niro) and half-sister (Elisabeth Rohm) throw her way, have all caused Joy to sideline her own dreams.
Her grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd) is determined to see Joy rise and take her place as matriarch and provider for the family. And when Joy hits on an ingenious design for a self-wringing mop, it could be the key to unleashing her buried potential.
You know the dilemma. You’re sat in a stuffy room strewn with bloated relatives and discarded scraps of wrapping paper. The food has been consumed, the presents have been opened; the charades, if you’re into that kind of organised jollity, have been played. And it’s only four o’clock. To get you through until bedtime, you’re going to have to watch a film.
But how to choose? The likelihood is, you’ve got such a range of ages and/or tastes represented that you’re never going to please everyone. You’re faced with potential boredom and confusion at best, and with deep embarrassment at worst. What if you’re forced to sit through a sex scene with grandma in the room? What if your hard-of-hearing uncle insists on having you explain every plot development in Inception? What if your annoying little brother makes you listen to his running commentary about the back-story of each of the Avengers?
Watching films at Christmas is a total minefield. Here at Damaris headquarters (which we share with staff from Charity Office), we may not have the answers, but we can certainly offer a little solidarity.
The Scoop – An entertaining adventure which will please long-standing fans, and bring a new generation into the fold
Thirty years have passed since the events of Return of the Jedi, and the galaxy is under threat once again. Legendary Jedi Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has disappeared, and a power called the First Order has risen from the ashes of the fallen Galactic Empire. The Resistance, led by General Leia (Carrie Fisher), is attempting to fight back, sending out ace pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) on Luke’s trail.
What are we all going to talk about after The Force Awakens has been released? This is surely a matter of international concern. Ever since the announcement in October 2012 that Disney had bought Lucasfilm and would be making more Star Wars, every media outlet in existence has wrung out every drop of speculation, obsessed over every detail, and mined every tangential topic. And now, in the days leading up to release, we have reached peak Star Wars.
The Scoop – An endearing but ultimately somewhat forgettable Pixar offering
What if the meteorite that wiped out the dinosaurs had missed? The Good Dinosaur imagines an alternative pre-history in which dinosaurs have evolved to become the dominant species on earth. Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), a timid young Apatosaurus, helps out his parents and siblings on their farm. But his fears stop him from truly taking his place in the family.
Then tragedy strikes, and Arlo finds himself lost a long way from home. He’ll need all of his courage – and the help of his unexpected friend Spot (Jack Bright) – to find his way back.
The Scoop – A sweeping and beautifully designed 1950s love story
Therese Belevit (Rooney Mara), a wide-eyed New York shopgirl, is captivated by her first glimpse of a glamorous older customer in a fur coat. When Carol (Cate Blanchett) leaves her gloves behind in the store, Therese returns them, and the two women begin spending time together. Though neither of them quite has the words to convey it, they are drawn together by a powerful attraction.
Carol is divorcing her husband Harge (Kyle Chandler), but he is still possessive of her. When he finds out about Therese, he threatens Carol with legal action that would block her from seeing their young daughter.
The Scoop – A snappy, pacy drama that’s got far more to offer than just surface gloss
Three different years: 1984, 1988, 1998. Three different product launches. Behind the scenes, self-described tech genius Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) gets ready to wow the world.
He argues – with everyone. With his right-hand woman Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), the only person who isn’t intimidated by him. With Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), who wants Jobs to publicly recognise the contributions of others. With his old boss and father figure John Sculley (Jeff Daniels). With Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston), who is struggling to convince him that her daughter Lisa (Makenzie Moss/Ripley Sobo/Perla Haney-Jardine) is his. And eventually, with Lisa herself, as she takes him to task for all of his personal failings.
The Scoop – A sometimes meandering but ultimately satisfying send-off for Katniss Everdeen and a game-changing blockbuster series.
After the events of Mockingjay – Part 1, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is sick of being a pawn in somebody else’s plan. Both her mortal enemy President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and her supposed ally President Coin (Julianne Moore) are looking to use her for their own ends. But Katniss has other ideas.
As an alliance of rebels gets ready to storm the Capitol and overthrow Snow’s oppressive government, she hatches a plan to face him on her own terms. But with her old friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) growing increasingly warlike and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) struggling to get his sanity back, Katniss can trust nobody but herself.
The Scoop – A film with a big heart but not without bite, The Lady in the Van is a funny and touching showcase for its leads.
In a Camden suburb, one person disrupts the comings and goings of the comfortable, middle-class residents. She is Miss Shepherd (Maggie Smith), a chaotic force of nature whose personality is as overpowering as the smell inside the van where she lives. When playwright and actor Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) moves into the neighbourhood, he makes the mistake of offering her a little sympathy – and so begins a peculiar relationship which will span the next fifteen years.
To the bewilderment of everyone around him, Alan allows Miss Shepherd to park her van on his driveway, becoming a permanent part of his life. Is this a cynical attempt at getting material for his writing, a symptom of his guilt around his relationship with his mother (Gwen Taylor), or a genuine act of kindness? Alan isn’t sure. And whatever the truth, Miss Shepherd isn’t going anywhere.
I was looking after myself, Miss Shepherd only incidentally; kindness didn’t really come into it. – Alan Bennett