SUBURBICON Cert 15 Running time 104 minutes Stars 3

George Clooney drives his directorial career further into a cul-de-sac with this misfiring comedy thriller.

Putting the con into the suburbs, Clooney takes a dark thriller from the comic pen of Fargo creators, the Coen brothers, and clumsily uses a smathering of sentiment to stick it to a serious tale of 1950’s racial prejudice.

By failing in marrying these halves of two very different films together, Clooney loses the intended social commentary in the chasm between them. Meanwhile the clashing tones drown out the great production design and excellent performances.

While the family home of Matt Damon’s office worker suffers a violent break in, across the garden fence the arrival of an African-American family into the all-white neighbourhood results in the formation of an angry mob who terrorise them.

Damon, Julianne Moore and Karimah Westbrook keep us interested, though it’s Oscar Isaac who barges in and steals the film as an impertinent insurance claims adjuster.

BRAKES Cert 15 Running time 88 minutes Stars 2

Now comic Noel Fielding has achieved mainstream success as a judge on The Great British Bake Off, he’s being used to sell this this improvisational ensemble comedy to a bigger audience than it may have first hoped for when it was made last year.

However new fans will be disappointed at his limited screen time and old fans will be unamused to find him playing straight.

Patchy and indulgent and captured in a faux documentary style, it offers moments of embarrassment but no outright laughs.

We visit nine London couples all in the process of breaking up, and then we flash back to see them meeting for the first time. The characters predominantly seem to be various unsympathetic media types.

Creative driving force Mercedes Grower casts Fielding as her love interest in her directorial debut. She generously acknowledges the cast’s contribution to her script but perhaps next time she should release the brakes on her typewriter before beginning filming.

 

 

LOST IN PARIS Cert 12A Running time 83 minutes Stars 4

For a change of direction seek out this charming, whimsical and gently funny farce.

Leaving Canada Fiona arrives in the French capital to discover her elderly  aunt is missing and is soon lost herself.

With the face of a young Frances de la Tour and the seemingly elastic body of Popeye’s  girlfriend Olive Oyl, Fiona Gordon gives a performance of extraordinary agility and precision as Fiona.

A misplaced rucksack connects her with the homeless Dom who offers as much hindrance as help.

Influenced by Charlie Chaplain’s tramp, it also draws heavily on Jacques Tati’s Monsieur Hulot character, who inspired Rowan Atkinson’s Mr Bean.

Conjuring it’s own unique energy, it has a generous spirit, first rate clowning, the bold colours of a kids cartoon, and adds to the list of great dance scenes set in the city. 

I don’t mean to be rude when I tell you to go get lost in Paris.

DADDY’S HOME 2 Cert 12A Running time 99 minutes Stars 2

Two years ago Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg took an entertaining co-parenting comedy and used their star power to grab £184m at the global box office. Which is pretty impressive on a modest £38m budget.

This festive themed sequel doubles down on the dads by adding Mel Gibson’s smirking sex goblin and John Lithgow’s man-toddler, but dilutes the fun by half.

Plus the strong language and innuendo means this isn’t the joyous family film it thinks it is.

Most of the action takes place in a hunting lodge where the boys’ blended families are preparing the perfect ‘together Christmas’.

Among the macho posturing, childish squabbles and limp slapstick, there’s jaw-dropping misjudged rendition of Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’

Poor Linda Cardellini’s role is to nag everyone while feeling inadequate for not looking supermodel hot.

Everyone sees a fake Christmas movie starring Liam Neeson called Missile Tow, now that’s the film I’d rather be watching.

FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL

Cert 15 106mins Stars 4

The unwieldy title of this moving real life romantic drama refers in part to the reticence of actors to leave the limelight.

And true to form we have two headliners wrestling for the spotlight in this adaptation of Peter Turner’s touching memoir.

Veteran Annette Bening is terrific as the sexy and vulnerable Gloria Grahame, a 1950’s Oscar winner now eking a living on stage in northern England in 1981.

Falling ill Gloria seeks respite at the Merseyside family home of her former lover, Peter.

In flashback we see their romance begin with a brave invitation to dance from the 55 year old Gloria.

Especially as 26 year old Peter is played by the former Billy Elliot, Jamie Bell. The Teesside born star gives his most complete performance yet.

This is a rare excursion from the world of James Bond for producer Barbara Broccoli. Given Bell now has a physique to rival 007 Daniel Craig, maybe she was scouting for his replacement.

 

 

MUDBOUND

Cert 15 134mins Stars 4

Poverty, prejudice and PTSD are stuck in deep in this epic and moving period drama.

Sweeping landscapes and intimate voice overs are used to bring Hillary Jordan’s 2008 bestselling novel to life, which sees two families finding their fortunes yoked together across the racial divide.

Full of betrayal and violence the script navigates it’s way through the misery of the Mississippi mud, though green shoots of optimism are eventually found in the fertile soil.

Well crafted throughout, this is a prestige production by Netflix as the streaming service seek to add awards glory to their market influence, and so are releasing Mudbound in cinemas and online today.

Brit actress Carey Milligan takes top billing ahead of a strong male cast, and with female talent flourishes in the major departments of direction, script, editing, cinematography and music.

This sends a powerful message of empowerment to old Hollywood and its current troubles.

GOOD TIME

Cert 15 102mins Stars 4

From Twilight heartthrob to serious indie actor, Robert Pattinson’s ongoing mission to stretch his talent continues in this tense, sad, bleak, and blackly comic crime thriller.

Now aged 31 he brings a magnificent feral charisma to Connie, a sleep deprived desperado who has to raise $10,000 bail money to spring his mentally challenged brother from the notorious Riker’s Island prison.

Shooting on location in New York adds to the sense of urgency, while a strong 1980’s vibe is projected by the presence of Jennifer Jason Leigh, electric colour scheme, a synthesiser-heavy soundtrack and Pattinson’s bleach blonde hair.

Meanwhile the spirit of this character driven fraternal love story has undertones of classic 1970’s cinema such as Al Pacino’s Dog Day Afternoon.

The script by co-director Josh Safdie offers caustic comment on the ineffectual nature of government machinery, and how mainstream entertainment has always centred on violence and the macabre.

Far from a good time, I had a great time.