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

A closer look at… The Lady in the Van

© Sony, 2015.
© Sony, 2015.

This is a level 2 guide, suitable for moderately experienced groups.
The Lady in the Van is rated 12A for infrequent strong language.

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

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

Continue reading A closer look at… The Lady in the Van

A closer look at… The Lobster

 

© Picturehouse Entertainment, 2015.
© Picturehouse Entertainment, 2015.

This is a level 3 guide, suitable for more experienced groups. The Lobster is rated 15 for strong language, sex, sex references, bloody images.

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

The Scoop – A pitch-dark satire on the contemporary relationship game. Would make an excellent double-bill with ‘Her‘.

Think it’s tough being single? At least you don’t live in the off-kilter futuristic world inhabited by David (Colin Farrell). When his wife leaves him, he is sent to stay in a hotel where he and a large group of other singletons have forty-five days to fall in love with someone, or be turned into an animal. David decides that if it comes to that, he’ll be a lobster. He’s always liked the sea.

When things at the hotel go awry, David runs away to the woods, where he encounters a group of rebel Loners whose fearsome leader (Lea Seydoux) enacts bloody punishments on those who are tempted by romance. Falling in love with a Loner woman (Rachel Weisz) could be a short-sighted move.

Continue reading A closer look at… The Lobster

A closer look at… The Martian

 

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

This is a level 2 guide, suitable for moderately experienced groups. The Martian is rated 12A for infrequent strong language, injury detail.

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

The Scoop – Matt Damon’s stuck in space, again. And he needs saving, again.

When a fierce storm during a manned mission to Mars leaves astronaut Mark Watney stranded alone on the red planet, it seems all hope is lost. But Watney is not the type to give up easily. Using his botany skills, his ingenuity and a lot of duct tape, he sets about staying alive until somebody can come and rescue him.

Help is only 140 million miles away. Back on Earth, NASA head Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) and his colleagues – including mission director Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and spokesperson Annie Monroe (Kristen Wiig) – try to figure out how to achieve the impossible.

Meanwhile, Watney’s commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) and the rest of her crew are on their return voyage, still believing that they left him for dead. What will they do if they find out the truth?

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A closer look at… Paddington

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 Hannah Rowe.
Paddington1

This is a child-friendly guide; some of the discussion questions are for younger viewers. children Paddington is rated PG for dangerous behaviour, mild threat, innuendo, infrequent mild bad language. The film is available on DVD.

The Scoop

In darkest Peru a young bear (Ben Wishaw) has grown up in the care of his Uncle Pastuzo (Michael Gambon) and Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton). But these are no ordinary bears. After the visit of a British explorer (Tim Downie) many years before, Pastuzo and Lucy have learnt to talk. They are fluent in British manners and have a passion for marmalade. The family dreams of visiting the London the explorer told them about, where he promised they would always receive a warm welcome. When a violent storm destroys their idyllic life, Aunt Lucy sends her nephew to fulfil the family dream. With a suitcase filled with jars of marmalade, his Uncle’s hat (complete with emergency marmalade sandwich inside) and a label saying ‘Please look after this bear, thank you’, the young bear stows away on a ship bound for the golden city.

When he arrives, however, all is not quite as expected. In the hustle and bustle of Paddington Station no one replies to a small bear’s polite greetings and requests for a home. Enter the Brown family – Mary (Sally Hawkins), Henry (Hugh Bonneville) and their children Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) and Judy (Madeleine Harris). Untrusting Henry hurries them past the forlorn-looking bear but Mary takes pity, naming him Paddington and offering shelter.

As the clumsy, kind-hearted bear starts to make friends and learn how to live in this strange new world, the search for a permanent home becomes the least of his worries. For a fanatical taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) has heard of the arrival of this unusual specimen and has her sights set on a new addition to her collection. How will Paddington escape her evil clutches? As the Browns begin to realise that they need Paddington just as much as he needs them, can they help him in time?

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A closer look at… American Hustle

Note: Guides from our archive are in a slightly different format and have been edited here to make them more user-friendly.
american-hustle-poster1
American Hustle is rated 15 for strong language. The film is available on DVD.
The Scoop

Is Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) a fake? His hair, an elaborate combover held together by hairspray and bravado, certainly is. His work revolves around selling forged paintings and conning people through a loan scam. But when he meets the clever and glamorous Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), his feelings couldn’t be more real.The two fall madly in love and soon go into business together, ramping up Irving’s con operation and raking in the money. The only fly in the ointment, as far as they’re concerned, is that Irving can’t bear to leave his adopted son with volatile wife Roslyn (Jennifer Lawrence), who refuses to divorce him. Love and business both continue illicitly, until FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) catches them in the act of a scam.

Richie, ambitious and reckless, proposes to release the con artists if they help him with a scheme of his own. He wants to entrap Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), a popular politician whose passion for helping people makes him less than scrupulous about where his funding comes from. As Richie sets his plan in motion, the lives and loves of all five characters become so entangled that it’s no longer clear who’s conning who.

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