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.

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A closer look at… Hector and the Search for Happiness

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 Rachel Helen Smith.

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Once upon a time there was a young man called Hector (Simon Pegg). He lived a neat and tidy life with his girlfriend Clare (Rosamund Pike), who tied his ties, made his lunch and kept his sock drawer in order. Hector worked as a psychiatrist, listening patiently to his patients’ tales of trauma, whilst doodling in his notebook and dreaming of another life.

One day, Hector snaps. He cannot live as a fraud any longer, offering meaningless advice to his patients when he himself has never really experienced life. He sets off alone on a cross-continental adventure in the hope of discovering the route to true happiness. Those he meets along the way offer snippets of wisdom that he jots down in his notebook, but it is only once he has faced up to the emotions of his own past and his fears of the future that Hector can truly embrace happiness for his own life in the present moment.

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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… American Hustle

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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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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