A closer look at… Okja

okjaposterheader

Okja is available on Netflix and on DVD

The Scoop

It’s the latest thing in food production. Lucy Mirando, the new CEO of the formerly ruthless Mirando corporation, is happy to announce that they have developed a new breed of genetically engineered super-pig. As part of a publicity stunt meant to bolster Mirando’s touchy-feely new image, twenty six piglets will be sent out to farms in different parts of the world to be raised by local farmers using traditional methods.

In South Korea, a pig named Okja is brought up by young Mija (Seo Hyun) and her grandfather (Byun Hee-Bong). Girl and pig share a close bond – and Mija is heartbroken when the Mirando corporation return to claim what’s theirs. To make matters worse, animal rights activist Jay (Paul Dano) tells her that Okja is being sent to America to be slaughtered. Can Mija and her friends make a stand  and save Okja’s bacon?

Continue reading A closer look at… Okja

A closer look at… How to Train Your Dragon 2

Dragon2

children This is a child-friendly guide. Some questions are suitable for younger viewers. 

The Scoop

Five years on from the events of How to Train Your Dragon, humans and their scaly, fire-breathing friends now live in harmony in the Viking town of Berk. Dragon-racing is a favoured sport, and Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is now closer than ever to his fearsome black steed, Toothless. The pair loves nothing more than to soar away and explore new horizons, with Hiccup evading the request of his father Stoick (Gerrard Butler) that he takes over as town chieftain.

But on one such adventure, Hiccup and his girlfriend Astrid (America Ferrera) make an alarming discovery: a band of dragon-trappers working for the fearsome Drago Bloodvist (Djimon Hounsou), a tyrant amassing a dragon army. As Hiccup fights to counter this threat to Berk’s future, he meets Valka (Cate Blanchett), a mysterious woman who holds the key to his past.

Continue reading A closer look at… How to Train Your Dragon 2

A closer look at… Moana

movie-clipping-1

Moana is rated PG for mild threat.

The Scoop – A joyous and uplifting addition to the Disney pantheon 

Long ago, the trickster god Maui (Dwayne Johnson) stole the Heart of Te Fiti – a stone belonging to an island goddess, which possessed the power to create life. When Maui was attacked by the lava demon Te Ka, the Heart of Te Fiti was lost, bringing down a curse which would eventually spread to all the surrounding islands.

A thousand years later, Chieftain’s daughter Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) is preparing to take on her responsibilities as a leader on the island of Motunui. Her father (Temuera Morrison) has forbidden her to go out on the ocean, but she can’t help but feel drawn there. When Motunui’s resources are threatened by a mysterious darkness, Moana’s grandmother (Rachel House) tells her that she is the chosen one: she must discover the truth about her seafaring ancestors, find Maui, and restore the Heart of Te Fiti.

Continue reading A closer look at… Moana

A closer look at… Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

fantastic-beasts-where-find-them-posters

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is rated 12A for moderate threat 

The Scoop – A charming, if flawed first instalment in a new wizarding series

It’s 1926, and a storm is gathering in both the wizarding and non-wizarding worlds. In the midst of this, magical zoologist Newt Scamandar (Eddie Redmayne) arrives in New York, fresh from travelling the world and collecting an enchanted suitcase full of strange and wonderful creatures.

He couldn’t have picked a worse time. When several of his fantastical beasts break free from the case and are let loose on the streets of the city, the secrecy of the wizarding community – who live in suspicion of their non-magical (‘No-Maj’) neighbours – is threatened. With the help of witching sisters Tina (Katherine Waterston) and Queenie (Alison Sudol), and of unsuspecting No-Maj Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), Newt must round up his creatures or face the wrath of the American wizarding authorities.

Continue reading A closer look at… Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

A closer look at… Only Lovers Left Alive

Only Lovers Left Alive

Only Lovers Left Alive is rated 15 for strong language. The film is available on DVD.

The Scoop

Eve (Tilda Swinton) and Adam (Tom Hiddleston) have been alive, and in love, for centuries. Spending their days immersed in literature, music and obscure scientific knowledge, they’re cultured and effortlessly cool. They also happen to be vampires.

At her home in Tangiers, Eve receives a steady supply of black-market blood via her friend and fellow vampire Kit (John Hurt). Adam, who records albums from the seclusion of his crumbling Detroit house, gets his blood fix from a local hospital. He’s a connoisseur of vintage guitars, acquiring a collection from naïve human fan Ian (Anton Yelchin), but this passion is starting to lose its appeal. In fact, Adam has begun to wonder – not for the first time – whether his endless life is really worth living.

Getting wind of his suicidal mood, Eve comes to visit him in Detroit. Before long, they’re joined by her younger sister Ava (Mia Wasikoswka), whose recklessness could put them all in peril.

Continue reading A closer look at… Only Lovers Left Alive

A closer look at… The Force Awakens

© Disney, 2015.
© Disney, 2015.

This is a level 2 guide, suitable for moderately experienced groups.  The Force Awakens is rated 12 for moderate violence, threat

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

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.

Continue reading A closer look at… The Force Awakens

Footprints in beach sand: on ‘The Force Awakens’, and riding out the hype

2973342-icecream-600x328
Image credit: nonfictiongaming.com

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 Force Awakens has – prior to anyone having actually seen it – been dubbed ‘the biggest film of all time.’ There have been pieces written about the significance of Han Solo’s blaster and the design of Kylo Ren’s mask. There is Star Wars ice cream. There are people getting married in the premiere queue, and astronauts watching the film in space.  This is the hype. There have been pieces asking whether The Force Awakens will live up to the hype  and pieces assuring us that it will indeed live up to the hype.  There have been pieces about how to avoid the film altogether.  And now, here I am, writing a piece about how too much is being written about Star Wars.

Continue reading Footprints in beach sand: on ‘The Force Awakens’, and riding out the hype

A closer look at… The Good Dinosaur

© Disney, 2015.
© Disney, 2015.

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

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

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.

Continue reading A closer look at… The Good Dinosaur

A closer look at… The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

© Lionsgate, 2015.
© Lionsgate, 2015.

This is a level 2 guide, suitable for moderately experienced groups. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is rated 12A for moderate violence, threat.

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

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.

Continue reading A closer look at… The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

A closer look at…Cinderella

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

This is a child-friendly guide; some of the discussion questions are for younger viewers. children Cinderella is rated U – contains very mild scenes of emotional upset. The film is available on DVD.

Once upon a time there lived a happy couple who had a daughter named Ella (Lily James). They share a golden existence in their beautiful house until the tragic, premature death of Ella’s mother (Hayley Atwell). Before she dies she asks her daughter to do two things: ‘have courage and be kind’. These, she promises, will help her overcome the trials life throws at her. Time passes and Ella’s beloved father (Ben Chaplin) eventually remarries, bringing his daughter a Stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and two stepsisters, Drizella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger), to keep her company whilst he is away on business trips. But tragedy soon strikes again and Ella’s father dies too.

It soon becomes apparent that Ella’s new family have no intention of welcoming her. Over time she becomes their servant, left to do all the cooking and cleaning. Some nights she cannot find the energy to climb to her draughty attic room and so sleeps by the dying embers of the kitchen fire; leaving her covered in cinders come morning, and earning her the nickname Cinderella. Life is tough, but through all Ella remembers her mother’s instruction to ‘have courage and be kind’.  It is this spirit that captures the heart of Kit (Richard Madden), a ‘palace apprentice’ she meets by chance in the woods.

Meanwhile, the Kingdom’s young Prince is under pressure to choose a wife that will strengthen the country’s political footing. He is to make his decision at a lavish ball full of foreign princesses and, at the prince’s request, ordinary members of the public. Will Cinderella make it to the ball to meet Kit once again? Will they find out each other’s true identity? And will their families allow them their happily ever after?

read more