A closer look at… Arrival

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The Scoop – An eerie, atmospheric sci-fi story which packs an emotional punch

When twelve silent, monolithic alien spaceships touch down at twelve locations across the planet, humanity is thrown into chaos. Nobody knows what the aliens want, and whether they are dangerous. In Montana, linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is brought in, along with physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), to try and find a way of talking to these extraterrestrial visitors.

Working against the clock, under the suspicious eye of the FBI and of Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker), Louise and Ian must decipher the strange symbols which the aliens use to communicate. As the tension mounts and global war threatens, Louise finds that her immersion in this new language is changing her in unexpected ways.

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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… Gravity

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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Gravity is rated 12A for sustained moderate threat, disturbing images and strong language. The film is available to buy on DVD or to rent on Amazon Instant Video.

The Scoop

Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) was recruited for a space mission due to her technical expertise, not her experience as an astronaut. Nervous and jittery during a spacewalk, she’s hardly reassured by the smooth patter of veteran Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), who’s up there with her. Then the unthinkable happens. Debris from a demolished Russian satellite comes hurtling towards them, and the two are cut loose both from the space station and from communications down below.

Spinning through the void, attached to one another only by a thin cord, survival seems impossible for Stone and Kowalski. Is there any way they can reach the distant Russian station, and find a way back down to Earth?

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A closer look at…Testament of Youth

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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The Scoop

It’s the golden Edwardian summer of 1914 and Vera Brittain (Alicia Vikander) is excited about what the future holds. After persuading her parents (Dominic West and Emily Watson) to let her sit the entrance exam and tutoring herself, she has been offered a place to study at Oxford and will soon escape provincial Derbyshire. Her brother Edward (Taron Egerton) is also Oxford-bound along with school friends Victor (Colin Morgan) and Roland (Kit Harrington). Vera and Roland, both aspiring writers, have been in correspondence with one another over the last few months and are falling in love. But as they embark on a heavily chaperoned courtship, the bells of war begin to toll and their worlds are turned upside down. Roland immediately turns down his place at Oxford to enlist and is soon joined by Edward and Victor. Vera moves to Oxford alone but after a while finds it impossible to study in the context of war. She surrenders her hard-won place at Oxford to become a nurse.

Day after day the newspapers list pages upon pages of the dead, and it becomes apparent that the war is not going to be as brief as everyone first thought. Vera’s nursing takes her to the western front where she witnesses the devastating cost of war on both sides. As she nurses captured German soldiers the seeds of her future pacifist thinking are sown. Will the Armistice come soon enough to save Vera’s loved ones and will she be able to find any hope in the devastation left by war?

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A closer look at…A Little Chaos

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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A Little Chaos is rated 12 for moderate sex. The film is available on DVD.

What King Louis XIV (Alan Rickman) wants, he gets. In 1682, he decides he wants a monumental garden for the Palace of Versailles, full of terraces, ponds and fountains. Landscape architect André le Nôtre (Matthias Schoenaerts) is put in charge of meeting these extravagant requirements, but feels that for the most lavish water feature he will need an assistant. Sabine de Barra (Kate Winslet) is an unconventional candidate. She’s straight-talking, her designs disrupt the acknowledged standards of order and symmetry, and she’s a woman. Nonetheless, she wins the job and finds herself thrown into the court of the Sun King.

The etiquette of the court is foreign to Sabine, and her status as a single woman means that she is constantly under scrutiny. All of this must be faced after long, hard days working in the garden. As Sabine battles with the difficult terrain, and with the King’s exacting demands, she is also battling with her own heart. She is haunted by the memory of her daughter and, perhaps most seriously of all, she finds herself falling for André.

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A closer look at… Still Alice

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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At the age of fifty, Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) has everything she wants: a prestigious job as a linguistics professor, a loving husband (Alec Baldwin), and three grown-up children. Life doesn’t seem about to slow down any time soon. But then Alice begins experiencing some unnerving memory lapses, and after a series of tests, she receives the devastating news that she has early-onset Alzheimer’s.

The disease, which she may have passed on to her children, will gradually take away her memories until she no longer knows who she is. For this sharp, competent, independent woman, it’s a crushing blow, and only her youngest daughter Lydia (Kristen Stewart) seems to really understand. As Alice goes into decline, she and those who love her must come to terms with everything they’re going to lose.

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A closer look at…The Fault in our Stars

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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The Fault in Our Stars is rated 15 for terminal illness theme, strong language

Sixteen-year-old Hazel has thyroid cancer. A new drug has bought her some time but her constant companion is an oxygen tank and her illness is still terminal. Augustus lost a leg to cancer but is now in remission. Good-looking, charming and with a penchant for keeping an unsmoked cigarette between his lips as a ‘metaphor’, Hazel is instantly attracted. As they become friends, Hazel persuades him to read her favourite book, An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten (Willem Dafoe), which she finds to be the most honest portrayal of cancer. The book, which ends mid-sentence, leaves many questions unanswered and Hazel is desperate to ask the author what happens next. As Hazel and Gus become closer, Hazel is hesitant to leave another broken heart in her wake, but Gus won’t be deterred.

It is not until they travel to Amsterdam, on a once-in-a lifetime trip to see Van Houten, that she allows herself to fall head-over-heels in love. The trip is not what they expected though, for Van Houten’s reception is not entirely welcoming and Gus has some news to share. How much time will the young lovers have together? And how can they go about living a meaningful life in the short time that they do have?

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