A closer look at… How to Train Your Dragon 2

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children This is a child-friendly guide. Some questions are suitable for younger viewers. 

The Scoop

Five years on from the events of How to Train Your Dragon, humans and their scaly, fire-breathing friends now live in harmony in the Viking town of Berk. Dragon-racing is a favoured sport, and Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is now closer than ever to his fearsome black steed, Toothless. The pair loves nothing more than to soar away and explore new horizons, with Hiccup evading the request of his father Stoick (Gerrard Butler) that he takes over as town chieftain.

But on one such adventure, Hiccup and his girlfriend Astrid (America Ferrera) make an alarming discovery: a band of dragon-trappers working for the fearsome Drago Bloodvist (Djimon Hounsou), a tyrant amassing a dragon army. As Hiccup fights to counter this threat to Berk’s future, he meets Valka (Cate Blanchett), a mysterious woman who holds the key to his past.

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A closer look at… What We Did On Our Holiday

This guide is from our archive. It was written by Rachel Helen Smith.

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What We Did On Our Holiday is rated 12A for moderate bad language, discriminatory language, moderate sex references

The Scoop

The McLeod family are setting off on a holiday in the Scottish Highlands. Surprising, given that parents Doug (David Tennant) and Abi (Rosamund Pike) are about to get a divorce. They have been living in separate houses – they fight constantly – and so the idea to take a trip together seems bound to end in tears. However, they have all promised not to talk about the imminent separation during the holiday.

It’s because they are planning to visit Doug’s father Gordie (Billy Connolly) to celebrate his birthday. Gordie is suffering from cancer and they are desperate not to upset him. However, the presence of Doug’s obnoxious brother Gavin (Ben Miller), his depressed wife Margaret (Amelia Bullmore) and their nerdy son Kenneth (Lewis Davie) inevitably makes things even more difficult. Indeed, it is not long before they discover that various family members are keeping even more unexpected secrets.

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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… 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… 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…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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