A closer look at…Effie Gray

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The Scoop

Bright, beautiful young Effie Gray (Dakota Fanning) marries renowned art critic John Ruskin (Greg Wise), a man who is significantly older and wealthier than her, and whom she has known since childhood. To Effie, it seems like a fairy tale – but from their wedding night onwards, something is terribly wrong. The newlyweds move in with Ruskin’s overbearing parents, and over the years which follow, her in-laws interference and her husband’s neglect cause Effie to waste away.

A ray of hope comes in the form of Lady Eastlake (Emma Thompson), an acquaintance who offers a sympathetic ear. A trip to Venice sets Effie’s mind whirling as to the other possibilities which life could offer; and a holiday to Scotland with Ruskin’s handsome protégé Everett Millais (Tom Sturridge) could bring scandal or salvation.

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A closer look at… Before I Go To Sleep

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

Christine (Nicole Kidman) wakes up every morning remembering nothing. Gradually, she pieces things together. Her walls are plastered with photos of her wedding day to help her remember that she is married to Ben (Colin Firth), the man she finds lying next to her in bed. Every drawer is labelled to help her find her clothes and downstairs is a list of her allergies, hobbies and interests. She spends her days working out who she is and simply passing the time until she goes back to sleep and forgets the day’s events all over again.

Her condition is a result of a traumatic accident that she suffered fourteen years ago and which, of course, she cannot remember. Unbeknown to Ben, she has begun a course of treatment with Dr Nash (Mark Strong) in an attempt to help her recall what really happened. He encourages her to keep a video diary of her daily experiences and soon she is beginning to question everything around her. Can she really trust the secretive Dr Nash? What about Ben, who claims to keep certain things hidden from her for the good of their marriage? Or are her concerns simply the products of a paranoid mind?

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A closer look at…Philomena

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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Philomena is rated 12A for infrequent strong language and moderate sex references. The film is available to buy on DVD or to stream on Amazon Instant Video.

The Scoop

Labour spin doctor Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), fired after an unforgivable political blunder, is down in the dumps. Once a journalist, he vaguely considers writing a book, though scoffs when someone suggests he look for a ‘human interest story’. He looks down his nose at this kind of ‘soft’ journalism – but then, just such a story falls right into his lap.

He hears about Philomena Lee (Judi Dench), a retired nurse from Ireland, who after a lifetime of silence has just told her daughter (Anna Maxwell Martin) about the baby boy she gave up for adoption fifty years before. A teenaged single mother, she was taken in by nuns who forcibly separated her from her son. Now all she has is a faded photograph of little Anthony, and a heavy burden of guilt and regret which her continued belief in God can’t relieve. She’s willing to share her story with Martin, if he will help her find out what happened to Anthony.

The search takes them to America, and into unfamiliar territory for both the cynical Martin and the frightened – but still faithful – Philomena.

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A closer look at…The Lego Movie

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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This is a child-friendly guide; some of the discussion questions are for younger viewers. children  The Lego Movie is rated U, contains mild fantasy violence and very mild language. The film is available to buy on DVD, and to stream on Amazon Instant Video.

The Scoop

Emmett (Chris Pratt) couldn’t be happier. A construction worker in a seemingly utopian Lego world, he knows his place. He sings along to ‘Everything Is Awesome’, everybody’s favourite pop song; buys coffee from everybody’s favourite overpriced coffee shop; and watches ‘Where Are My Pants?’, everybody’s favourite sitcom.

But then, a chance encounter with freedom fighter Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) changes everything. She believes that Emmett is The Special, prophecied by the wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) to be ‘the greatest, most talented, most interesting, most important person of all time’. In the fight against Lord Business (Will Ferrell), a dictator with evil designs on the whole Lego universe, they will need all the allies they can get – including Wyldstyle’s arrogant boyfriend, Batman (Will Arnett).

If Emmett wants to live up to the prophecy, bring down Lord Business and win Wyldstyle’s heart, he’ll have to break with the instructions and get creative.

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A closer look at… The Big Short

© Paramount, 2016.
© Paramount, 2016.

The Big Short is rated 15 for strong language, sexualised nudity

The ScoopA mixed bag of a film which nevertheless acts as an effective primer on the financial crash.

It’s 2005, and socially inept hedge fund manager Michael Burry (Christian Bale) thinks he’s spotted something huge. The housing market, long considered to be the foundation of the American economy, is far less stable than everybody believes. In fact, Burry predicts, a huge and catastrophic crash is on its way. If he plays his cards right, he can benefit from it.

Paying visits to numerous incredulous banks, Burry ‘shorts’ the housing market, effectively placing bets against it. When trader Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) hears about what Burry is doing he accidentally alerts another hedge fund manager, the cynical Mike Baum (Steve Carrell), and they team up to short the market themselves. Meanwhile, another team – young investors Charlie (John Magaro) and Jamie (Finn Whittrock), and their older mentor Ben (Brad Pitt) – have also stumbled on Burry’s prediction and are doing the same.

As Baum and his colleagues dig deeper into what is causing the market collapse, they discover a financial system riddled with more fraud, corruption and stupidity than they could have imagined. The party will soon be over – and it won’t be the banks who have to pay.

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A closer look at… Spotlight

© Entertainment One, 2016.
© Entertainment One, 2016.

Spotlight is rated 15 for child sexual abuse references

The Scoop – An intelligent drama which manages to be both restrained and powerful.

It’s 2001, and the Spotlight investigative team at the Boston Globe are looking for their next big story. They’re dubious when their new boss, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), asks them to dig deeper into a case involving an abusive priest, John Geoghan. The documents are all legally sealed, and any attempt to access them will be viewed by the Church as a hostile move. In a city where Catholicism is part of everybody’s life, the Globe doesn’t want to alienate its readers.

But when journalists ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaten), Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) start asking questions, they realise that Geoghan is just the tip of the iceberg. Not only are there more abusive priests in Boston than anybody had guessed, but the cover-up encompasses powerful figures from the Church and across the city.

Shining a light into this story will involve not only confronting the painful experiences of the many victims, but also coming to terms with the shocking complicity of everyone involved.

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A closer look at… Gone Girl

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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Gone Girl is rated 18 for strong bloody violence, very strong language. The film is available on DVD.

Beautiful, intelligent Amy (Rosamund Pike) and laid-back journalist Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) were once the kind of golden couple that everybody envies. Amy’s diary records how, after meeting at a party, their relationship went from strength to strength, until they eventually got married. But then the recession hit, Nick’s parents fell ill, and the Dunne partnership began to show signs of strain.

Now, on the morning of their fifth anniversary, Amy has vanished without a trace. Nick finds the house empty, with signs of a struggle – and within hours his life is a whirl of police questions and television cameras. The whole community rallies around to try and find Amy, who appears to have been kidnapped. But what if things aren’t quite as they seem? As more clues emerge and hysteria builds, the finger of blame is pointed at Nick.

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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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