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.

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A closer look at… Only Lovers Left Alive

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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.

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A closer look at… Birdman

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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.

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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

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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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…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

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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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.

Continue reading A closer look at… Anna Karenina

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