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

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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.

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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… Love & Friendship

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© Curzon Artificial Eye, 2016

Love & Friendship is rated U – no material likely to offend or harm.

The Scoop – A razor-shape take on a little-known Austen story

Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) – beautiful, widowed and wickedly witty – arrives to stay with her in-laws amid a cloud of society gossip. While Catherine DeCourcy Vernon (Emma Greenwell), her deceased husband’s sister, regards Susan with suspicion, Catherine’s handsome brother Reginald (Xavier Samuel) is soon smitten, much to the horror of his family.

When Susan’s daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) runs away from school, she too comes to stay with the DeCourcys – and idiotic suitor Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett) soon follows. With steely resolve, and with her friend Mrs Johnson (Chloe Sevigny) at her side, Susan sets about securing a future for herself and her daughter.

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A closer look at… Mistress America

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

Mistress America is rated 15 for very strong language, strong sex references. The film is available to rent or buy on Amazon Instant Video.

The Scoop – A funny and insightful screwball comedy about growing up and knowing who you are.

Tracy (Lola Kirke) is struggling to settle into college in New York. Nobody wants to be her friend, the Literary Society don’t want her as a member, and the boy she likes would rather be with someone else. So on impulse, she calls the only other person she knows in town: Brooke (Greta Gerwig), who is set to become Tracy’s stepsister when her mother remarries in the summer.

Though she’s hardly any older than Tracy, Brooke seems to occupy a whole other world, full of exciting possibilities. A friendship with Brooke – self-mythologiser, over-sharer, enormous fun, and quite possibly an enormous fake – will be unlike any other.

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A closer look at… Bridge of Spies

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

Bridge of Spies is rated 12A for infrequent strong language, moderate threat, violence

The Scoop –  Gripping, humane and good-humoured, Bridge of Spies is a superior thriller.

It’s 1957, and in the midst of escalating tensions between America and the Soviet Union, a nondescript Brooklyn artist is arrested as a Russian spy. Since Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance) refuses to cooperate with the US government, he faces either thirty years in prison or the electric chair.

Enter insurance lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks), who has been asked to represent Abel in court. Donovan’s superiors expect him to do little more than show up: but he isn’t that kind of man.  Against the objections of his wife Mary (Amy Ryan), his colleagues and the American public, Donovan sets about fighting Abel’s corner. His principles will lead him on a cloak-and-dagger trip to East Berlin, and into an unlikely friendship with the mercurial spy.

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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.

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