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… 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… Paddington

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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This is a child-friendly guide; some of the discussion questions are for younger viewers. children Paddington is rated PG for dangerous behaviour, mild threat, innuendo, infrequent mild bad language. The film is available on DVD.

The Scoop

In darkest Peru a young bear (Ben Wishaw) has grown up in the care of his Uncle Pastuzo (Michael Gambon) and Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton). But these are no ordinary bears. After the visit of a British explorer (Tim Downie) many years before, Pastuzo and Lucy have learnt to talk. They are fluent in British manners and have a passion for marmalade. The family dreams of visiting the London the explorer told them about, where he promised they would always receive a warm welcome. When a violent storm destroys their idyllic life, Aunt Lucy sends her nephew to fulfil the family dream. With a suitcase filled with jars of marmalade, his Uncle’s hat (complete with emergency marmalade sandwich inside) and a label saying ‘Please look after this bear, thank you’, the young bear stows away on a ship bound for the golden city.

When he arrives, however, all is not quite as expected. In the hustle and bustle of Paddington Station no one replies to a small bear’s polite greetings and requests for a home. Enter the Brown family – Mary (Sally Hawkins), Henry (Hugh Bonneville) and their children Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) and Judy (Madeleine Harris). Untrusting Henry hurries them past the forlorn-looking bear but Mary takes pity, naming him Paddington and offering shelter.

As the clumsy, kind-hearted bear starts to make friends and learn how to live in this strange new world, the search for a permanent home becomes the least of his worries. For a fanatical taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) has heard of the arrival of this unusual specimen and has her sights set on a new addition to her collection. How will Paddington escape her evil clutches? As the Browns begin to realise that they need Paddington just as much as he needs them, can they help him in time?

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A closer look at… Boyhood

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Boyhood is rated 15 for strong language, sex references, drug use

The Scoop

Mason (Ellar Coltrane) is six. He cycles around the neighbourhood with his friends, talks with his mother (Patricia Arquette) about his problems at school, and squabbles with his older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater). Their estranged father (Ethan Hawke) drops by at the weekend to shower his children with gifts and empty promises.

Mason is seven. The family are moving house. He is eight; nine; his mother remarries. His father takes him camping. As we watch him and his family grow older before our eyes over the course of twelve years, milestone moments fly by. Innocence is lost, and experience gained. Their lives, like our own, are completely ordinary – and completely extraordinary.

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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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A closer look at…Frozen

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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Frozen is rated PG for mild threat. The film is available to buy on DVD and on Amazon Instant Video.  children This is a child-friendly guide; some of the discussion questions are for younger viewers.

The Scoop

In the kingdom of Arendelle, princess Elsa (Idina Menzel) has the power to conjure snow and ice. As a child, she uses it to entertain her younger sister Anna (Kristen Bell) – but one day, an icy accident causes their parents to panic. They warn Elsa that she must control and conceal her ability, and Anna’s memory is magically wiped. The sisters grow up estranged, with Elsa struggling to contain her growing powers.
On the day of Elsa’s coronation, Anna meets and quickly falls for the dashing Prince Hans (Santino Fontana). Ensuing events so upset Elsa that she unwittingly unleashes an icy winter on the entire kingdom, before fleeing to the mountains. In an attempt to reconcile with her and save the kingdom, Anna sets off into the snowy wilderness, aided by rugged mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) – and an enchanted snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad).