A closer look at… Moana

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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.

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A closer look at… The Skeleton Twins

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 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.

Continue reading A closer look at…Kubo and the Two Strings

A closer look at… Midnight Special

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Midnight Special is rated 12A for moderate violence, threat

The Scoop – Intriguing, affecting Sci-Fi which keeps its cards close to its chest

Two men and a young boy are on the run in the dead of night. Sneaking out of a motel room, they climb into a nondescript car and drive away. To avoid being spotted by the police, they turn off the headlights, the driver donning night-vision goggles so he can see the road in the darkness. The boy in the back seat is wearing goggles too – for a very different reason.

He is Alton Meyer (Jaeden Lieberher), an eight-year-old possessed of mysterious powers which mean that he must be kept out of daylight. One of the men, Roy (Michael Shannon), is Alton’s father; the other, Lucas (Joel Edgerton), Roy’s childhood friend. Having kidnapped Alton from a cult which sees his abilities as messianic, they are on their way to rendezvous with Alton’s mother, Sarah (Kirsten Dunst).

Roy, Lucas and Sarah believe that they are taking Alton to meet his destiny. But other people, with other ideas, are in pursuit.

Continue reading A closer look at… Midnight Special

A closer look at… Joy

© 20th Century Fox, 2016.
© 20th Century Fox, 2016.

Joy is rated 12 for infrequent strong language

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

The Scoop –  Though not as riotously entertaining as David O. Russel’s best work, Joy nevertheless provides a great showcase for Jennifer Lawrence as a truly inspirational woman.

Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) was a creative, vivacious, high-achieving child. But somewhere along the line, life stole her spark. Her parents’ divorce, a failed marriage to Tony (Edgar Ramirez), caring for two children, trying to hold down a job, and managing the chaos that her mother (Virginia Madsen), father (Robert De Niro) and half-sister (Elisabeth Rohm) throw her way, have all caused Joy to sideline her own dreams.

Her grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd) is determined to see Joy rise and take her place as matriarch and provider for the family. And when Joy hits on an ingenious design for a self-wringing mop, it could be the key to unleashing her buried potential.

Continue reading A closer look at… Joy

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

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… Brooklyn

 

© Lionsgate, 2015.
© Lionsgate, 2015.

This is a level 2 guide, suitable for moderately experienced groups. Brooklyn is rated 12A for infrequent strong language, moderate sex.

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

The Scoop a sweet-natured, old-fashioned love story that’s bound to charm.

A big change is coming for small-town Irish girl Eilis (Saoirse Ronan). Concerned about the lack of opportunities for her at home, her older sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) has arranged for her to emigrate to Brooklyn, New York. One rather rough voyage later and Eilis is walking through the famed checkpoint at Ellis Island, into her new life.

At first all she can think about is how much she misses home. But with the encouragement of kindly priest Father Flood (Jim Broadbent), and of the community of women in the boarding house where she stays, Eilis gains confidence. When she meets a kind, funny Italian boy named Tony (Emory Cohen) she begins to fall in love both with him and with Brooklyn.

Just when she’s beginning to think of America as her home, Eilis gets some shattering news from Ireland. She will need to decide, once and for all, where she really belongs.

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A closer look at… Divergent

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.

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Divergent is rated 12 for moderate violence, threat. The film is available on DVD.

The Scoop

Like The Hunger Games (2012 and 2013) and How I Live Now (2013), Divergent follows the journey of a teenage girl in a dystopian society. Chicago is a city of ruins surrounded by an impenetrable fence, and its inhabitants live peacefully due to a system of segregation. Everyone lives in one of the five different factions: Abnegation, who value selflessness above all; Dauntless, who value bravery; Erudite, knowledge; Candor, truthfulness; or Amity, who value friendship. Every citizen takes an aptitude test when they turn sixteen to determine the faction to which they are best suited. The results are then used to guide them as they pledge their lifelong allegiance to a faction. When the choice is made there is no going back. In this world faction comes before blood. The only other option is to be one of the factionless, who are left homeless and starving.

Abnegation-raised Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), however, is different. Her aptitude tests are inclusive. She does not belong in one faction: she is ‘divergent’. At the choosing ceremony she is torn between staying with her family in Abnegation and the allure of the exciting, dangerous Dauntless, and at the last moment chooses the latter. Once the choice is made she enters a rigorous training programme, since Dauntless only take the best recruits and those too weak and fearful will be sent to live factionless. Her training instructor is the mysterious, handsome Four (Theo James) who begins to take an interest in his courageous, determined recruit. But even as Tris begins to finally feel that she’s found a place where she belongs, it becomes apparent that, being divergent, she can never truly belong anywhere. To be divergent is to be a threat to the system: a system that is slowly crumbling and will do all it can to eliminate this threat.

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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?

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