A closer look at… Despicable Me 2

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

Despicable Me 2 Movie

The Scoop

The once ill-tempered super-villain Gru (Steve Carell) has given up a life of crime in order to care for his boisterous adopted daughters, Agnes (Elsie Fisher), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Margo (Miranda Cosgrove). However, when someone steals a secret Arctic laboratory using a giant magnet, The Anti-Villain League (AVL) recruit Gru to help them find the thief. He is put to work alongside perky undercover AVL agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) and finds himself hiding out in a bakery at The Paradise Shopping Mall.

Life at home is just as eventful. Gru’s assistant Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) has decided that he misses being evil and is leaving for a new job. Margo has fallen for the handsome young Antonio (Moisés Arias). Agnes must recite a poem about mothers in the school performance, but really she longs for a mother of her own. To top it all, Gru’s minions keep going missing. But most despicable of all, everyone seems insistent on helping Gru to fall in love…

Continue reading A closer look at… Despicable Me 2

A closer look at… Loving

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The Scoop

Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred (Ruth Negga) are young, in love and expecting a baby. The year is 1958: because Richard is white and Mildred is black, a marriage between them will be illegal in their home state of Virginia. In order to get married, they will have to cross state lines.

After a small ceremony in Washington they return to live quietly in the town of Central Point. But though their own rural community is relatively integrated, the state authorities have got wind of their relationship, leading to the couple being arrested after a night-time raid on their home. In order to avoid prison time, they must accept a 25-year banishment from the state of Virginia, meaning a separation from family and friends.

As the years pass and their children grow up in the city, Mildred in particular misses her home, and begins to wonder if anything can be done to overturn the ruling. A phone call from the American Civil Liberties Union ignites her hope – setting this unassuming couple on the path to changing history.

Continue reading A closer look at… Loving

A closer look at… La La Land

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La La Land is rated 12A for infrequent strong language 

The Scoop

Aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and jazz fanatic Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) cross paths in Los Angeles. The city is full of dreamers, and Mia and Sebastian are no exception: she wants to be a star on the silver screen, while he wants to open his own jazz club. From their first encounter, sparks fly between them, and soon they are falling in love.

Their relationship plays out against the sweeping backdrop of Hollywood, to a soundtrack of wistful musical numbers. Will they get where they want to go – and will their love survive the journey?

Continue reading A closer look at… La La Land

A closer look at… Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

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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Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is rated 15 for brief strong violence. The film is available on DVD.

The Scoop

Bob (Casey Affleck) and Ruth (Rooney Mara) are young and in love. They’re also criminals who, after committing an armed robbery, end up in over their heads. During a shootout with the police force, Ruth puts a bullet in Sherriff Wheeler (Ben Foster), and Bob agrees to take the rap. He goes to begin a twenty five-year stretch in prison, while Ruth gives birth to their baby daughter.

Four years and five escape attempts later, Bob finally breaks out and writes to tell Ruth that he’s coming for her. But things have changed since the lovers were parted. Ruth is doing her best to raise little Sylvie (Kennadie and Jacklynn Smith), under the watchful eye of Bob’s adoptive father Skerritt (Keith Carradine), and the kindly Wheeler, who has fallen in love with her. Will she take off with Bob to live the outlaw life they’d always planned? Or are other priorities now guiding her choices?

Continue reading A closer look at… Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

A closer look at… Birdman

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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Birdman is rated 15 for strong language, sex references. The film is available on DVD.

The Scoop

Actor Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) was once a Hollywood icon, known for playing airborne superhero Birdman. But his career since has been a disappointment, and the only attention he gets is from Birdman fans wanting a picture with their reluctant, ageing idol.

In an attempt to claw back some credibility and do something he deems worthwhile, Riggan is directing and starring in a Broadway adaptation of the Raymond Carver short story collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. But backstage, the company is in chaos. Riggan may have got co-star Laura (Andrea Riseborough) pregnant, while another actor is injured by a falling spotlight. Leading lady Lesley (Naomi Watts) persuades Riggan to bring in her boyfriend, critical darling Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), as a replacement, but his volatile antics only destabilise things further.

The play’s producer Jake (Zach Galiafianakis) is struggling to hold everything together, while Riggan’s daughter and manager Sam (Emma Stone) seems on the verge of falling apart. Worst of all, Riggan is plagued by a sinister voice – the voice of Birdman, in fact – bent on ensuring that his failures and his vanities are never far away.

Continue reading A closer look at… Birdman

A closer look at… Anna Karenina

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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Russia, the late nineteenth century, and one of the best-known tragedies in literature is about to unfold. We meet Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) as she prepares to rescue her boisterous brother Stiva (Matthew Macfadyen) from a marital crisis, brought on by his infidelity to wife Dolly (Kelly McDonald). Anna bids farewell to her mild-mannered husband Alexei (Jude Law) and beloved young son Serhoza (Oscar McNamara), and embarks upon a fateful train journey to Moscow.

Having talked Stiva and Dolly into a reconciliation, Anna is persuaded to attend a ball with Dolly’s sister Kitty (Alicia Vikander), who is innocently infatuated with the dashing Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). She is expecting a proposal at any minute – but to her dismay, Vronsky suddenly has eyes for nobody but Anna. His gaze is reciprocated. Having been in a passionless marriage since the age of eighteen, Anna is completely swept off her feet, and it isn’t long before the two have plunged headlong into an affair.

Continue reading A closer look at… Anna Karenina

A closer look at… Hector and the Search for Happiness

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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Once upon a time there was a young man called Hector (Simon Pegg). He lived a neat and tidy life with his girlfriend Clare (Rosamund Pike), who tied his ties, made his lunch and kept his sock drawer in order. Hector worked as a psychiatrist, listening patiently to his patients’ tales of trauma, whilst doodling in his notebook and dreaming of another life.

One day, Hector snaps. He cannot live as a fraud any longer, offering meaningless advice to his patients when he himself has never really experienced life. He sets off alone on a cross-continental adventure in the hope of discovering the route to true happiness. Those he meets along the way offer snippets of wisdom that he jots down in his notebook, but it is only once he has faced up to the emotions of his own past and his fears of the future that Hector can truly embrace happiness for his own life in the present moment.

Continue reading A closer look at… Hector and the Search for Happiness

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.

Continue reading A closer look at… Love & Friendship

A closer look at…Slow West

Hey, it’s a new Film Blog feature!  I’ll now also be covering films which have recently been released on Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, or other popular on-demand services, or on DVD. This way, you can host a film club evening from the comfort of your own home, or catch up on hidden gems you might have missed the first time around.

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Slow West is rated 15 for strong violence. Available on DVD and Netflix.

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

The Scoop  An odd, atmospheric arthouse Western with a few surprises up its sleeve

Young Jay (Kodi Smit-McPhee) has travelled all the way from Scotland to the American frontier to find the girl he loves: Rose (Caren Pistorius), who fled there with her father under shady circumstances. A helpless idealist in a country of hard, cynical men, Jay looks set to meet a violent end, and soon.

He is rescued by Silas (Michael Fassbender), who offers to protect him on his journey in exchange for money. But unbeknownst to Jay, Silas is hoping to kill Rose and her father and claim the bounty on their heads.

Continue reading A closer look at…Slow West

A closer look at… Carol

© StudioCanal, 2015.
© StudioCanal, 2015.

Carol is rated 15 for infrequent strong sex.

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

The Scoop – A sweeping and beautifully designed 1950s love story

Therese Belevit (Rooney Mara), a wide-eyed New York shopgirl, is captivated by her first glimpse of a glamorous older customer in a fur coat. When Carol (Cate Blanchett) leaves her gloves behind in the store, Therese returns them, and the two women begin spending time together. Though neither of them quite has the words to convey it, they are drawn together by a powerful attraction.

Carol is divorcing her husband Harge (Kyle Chandler), but he is still possessive of her. When he finds out about Therese, he threatens Carol with legal action that would block her from seeing their young daughter.

Continue reading A closer look at… Carol