A closer look at… Calvary

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Calvary is rated 15 for very strong language, strong sex references, bloody violence. The film is available on DVD.

The Scoop

Patient priest Father James Lavelle (Brendan Gleeson) hears confession. A voice on the other side of the grille – known to him, anonymous to us – recounts an appalling experience of childhood abuse at the hands of the priesthood. Father Lavelle is a good priest, the voice acknowledges, an innocent man – and for that very reason, he’s going to be shot. He has a week to get his affairs in order before the confessor will meet him on the beach, on Sunday, and end his life.

Instead of going to the police, Father Lavelle goes about his business as usual. His troubled daughter Fiona (Kelly Reilly) comes to stay, and he visits his parishioners; including sharp-tongued atheist Dr. Harte (Aiden Gillen), adulterous Veronica Brennan (Orla O’Rourke), the husband who might be beating her (Chris O’Dowd), mechanic Simon (Isaach De Bankolé) and arrogant banker Fitzgerald (Dylan Moran). He encounters a male prostitute (Owen Sharpe), a serial killer (Domhnall Gleeson) and a grieving widow (Marie-Josée Croze). In unexpected places, he comes across faith and doubt, fear and solace, anger and grace.

Against the backdrop of a country caught between past pain and the crises of the present, Father Lavelle will suffer and possibly die for all of these people.

Continue reading A closer look at… Calvary

A closer look at… Birdman

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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Birdman is rated 15 for strong language, sex references. The film is available on DVD.

The Scoop

Actor Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) was once a Hollywood icon, known for playing airborne superhero Birdman. But his career since has been a disappointment, and the only attention he gets is from Birdman fans wanting a picture with their reluctant, ageing idol.

In an attempt to claw back some credibility and do something he deems worthwhile, Riggan is directing and starring in a Broadway adaptation of the Raymond Carver short story collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. But backstage, the company is in chaos. Riggan may have got co-star Laura (Andrea Riseborough) pregnant, while another actor is injured by a falling spotlight. Leading lady Lesley (Naomi Watts) persuades Riggan to bring in her boyfriend, critical darling Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), as a replacement, but his volatile antics only destabilise things further.

The play’s producer Jake (Zach Galiafianakis) is struggling to hold everything together, while Riggan’s daughter and manager Sam (Emma Stone) seems on the verge of falling apart. Worst of all, Riggan is plagued by a sinister voice – the voice of Birdman, in fact – bent on ensuring that his failures and his vanities are never far away.

Continue reading A closer look at… Birdman

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.

Continue reading A closer look at… The Skeleton Twins

A closer look at… The Grand Budapest Hotel

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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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

A closer look at… Love & Friendship

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© Curzon Artificial Eye, 2016

Love & Friendship is rated U – no material likely to offend or harm.

The Scoop – A razor-shape take on a little-known Austen story

Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) – beautiful, widowed and wickedly witty – arrives to stay with her in-laws amid a cloud of society gossip. While Catherine DeCourcy Vernon (Emma Greenwell), her deceased husband’s sister, regards Susan with suspicion, Catherine’s handsome brother Reginald (Xavier Samuel) is soon smitten, much to the horror of his family.

When Susan’s daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) runs away from school, she too comes to stay with the DeCourcys – and idiotic suitor Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett) soon follows. With steely resolve, and with her friend Mrs Johnson (Chloe Sevigny) at her side, Susan sets about securing a future for herself and her daughter.

Continue reading A closer look at… Love & Friendship

A closer look at…The Lego Movie

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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This is a child-friendly guide; some of the discussion questions are for younger viewers. children  The Lego Movie is rated U, contains mild fantasy violence and very mild language. The film is available to buy on DVD, and to stream on Amazon Instant Video.

The Scoop

Emmett (Chris Pratt) couldn’t be happier. A construction worker in a seemingly utopian Lego world, he knows his place. He sings along to ‘Everything Is Awesome’, everybody’s favourite pop song; buys coffee from everybody’s favourite overpriced coffee shop; and watches ‘Where Are My Pants?’, everybody’s favourite sitcom.

But then, a chance encounter with freedom fighter Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) changes everything. She believes that Emmett is The Special, prophecied by the wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) to be ‘the greatest, most talented, most interesting, most important person of all time’. In the fight against Lord Business (Will Ferrell), a dictator with evil designs on the whole Lego universe, they will need all the allies they can get – including Wyldstyle’s arrogant boyfriend, Batman (Will Arnett).

If Emmett wants to live up to the prophecy, bring down Lord Business and win Wyldstyle’s heart, he’ll have to break with the instructions and get creative.

Continue reading A closer look at…The Lego Movie

A closer look at…High-Rise

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High-Rise is rated 15 for strong violence, sex, very strong language

The Scoop Stylish, gripping, possessed of a powerful nasty streak, High-Rise is not for the fainthearted.

Handsome, inscrutable Dr. Laing (Tom Hiddleston) moves into an apartment in a newly built high-rise block. The tower has every amenity, from a gym to a swimming pool and supermarket. He meets people from the floors below him – Wilder (Luke Evans) and his pregnant wife Helen (Elizabeth Moss) – and from the better-appointed floors above, including Charlotte (Sienna Miller) and the building’s penthouse-dwelling architect, Royal (Jeremy Irons).

Something is wrong in the tower. The extravagant lifestyles of those on the upper floors lead to simmering resentments beneath, spilling over into violence and anarchy. The thin veneer of civilisation will be peeled back to reveal the horrors beneath.

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A closer look at… Mistress America

© 20th Century Fox, 2015
© 20th Century Fox, 2015

Mistress America is rated 15 for very strong language, strong sex references. The film is available to rent or buy on Amazon Instant Video.

The Scoop – A funny and insightful screwball comedy about growing up and knowing who you are.

Tracy (Lola Kirke) is struggling to settle into college in New York. Nobody wants to be her friend, the Literary Society don’t want her as a member, and the boy she likes would rather be with someone else. So on impulse, she calls the only other person she knows in town: Brooke (Greta Gerwig), who is set to become Tracy’s stepsister when her mother remarries in the summer.

Though she’s hardly any older than Tracy, Brooke seems to occupy a whole other world, full of exciting possibilities. A friendship with Brooke – self-mythologiser, over-sharer, enormous fun, and quite possibly an enormous fake – will be unlike any other.

Continue reading A closer look at… Mistress America

A closer look at… Hail, Caesar!

© Universal, 2016
© Universal, 2016

Hail, Caesar! is rated 12A for infrequent moderate sex references

The ScoopAn affectionate and frequently hilarious Hollywood satire

It’s the golden age of Hollywood, and behind-the-scenes fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) has his work cut out making sure that the stars don’t lose their shine. A typical day includes covering up the pregnancy of unmarried actress DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson), fending off twin gossip columnists Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton), and persuading pretentious director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) that singing cowboy Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) is the perfect leading man for his new film.

But when matinee idol Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is kidnapped by communists in the middle of filming swords-and-sandals epic Hail, Caesar!, even Eddie has to concede that the show may not go on.

Continue reading A closer look at… Hail, Caesar!

A closer look at… The Big Short

© Paramount, 2016.
© Paramount, 2016.

The Big Short is rated 15 for strong language, sexualised nudity

The ScoopA mixed bag of a film which nevertheless acts as an effective primer on the financial crash.

It’s 2005, and socially inept hedge fund manager Michael Burry (Christian Bale) thinks he’s spotted something huge. The housing market, long considered to be the foundation of the American economy, is far less stable than everybody believes. In fact, Burry predicts, a huge and catastrophic crash is on its way. If he plays his cards right, he can benefit from it.

Paying visits to numerous incredulous banks, Burry ‘shorts’ the housing market, effectively placing bets against it. When trader Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) hears about what Burry is doing he accidentally alerts another hedge fund manager, the cynical Mike Baum (Steve Carrell), and they team up to short the market themselves. Meanwhile, another team – young investors Charlie (John Magaro) and Jamie (Finn Whittrock), and their older mentor Ben (Brad Pitt) – have also stumbled on Burry’s prediction and are doing the same.

As Baum and his colleagues dig deeper into what is causing the market collapse, they discover a financial system riddled with more fraud, corruption and stupidity than they could have imagined. The party will soon be over – and it won’t be the banks who have to pay.

Continue reading A closer look at… The Big Short