ASTRONAUT

Cert PG Stars 3

This uplifting and heartwarming fable sees Richard Dreyfuss give some teeth to a drama which makes a quiet yet passionate plea for more considerate treatment for the elderly and recognise their experience and expertise remains of value to society.

A billionaire entrepreneur advertisers a lottery which offers twelve winners a place in an X Factor-style public vote to decide which person will be offered a free seat on the first commercial flight in space.

Although Angus has an affecting friendship with his young grandson, relations with his daughter and in-laws are more fraught and Angus lies to them about having entered the competition.

Plus he’s desperate to escape the confines of his nursing home and the script happily launches rockets at the exploitation of the elderly thorough the astronomical cost of care.

Dreyfuss bestows the lonely widower with an agreeably spiky dignity, humility and wisdom, and there’s a welcome refusal to engage in twinkly-eyed mawkishness as Angus attempts to have a close encounter with destiny

FOUR KIDS AND IT

Cert PG Stars 4

Sadly denied cinema distribution by the lockdown, Jacqueline Wilson’s 2012 novel is brought entertainingly to life in this handsome, fresh family fantasy about a group of holidaying kids facing the perils of being granted wishes by a magical creature, voiced by Michael Caine.

Wilson based her book on E. Nesbit’s 1902 classic, Five Children and It, and updated it with a modern setting and contemporary concerns.

Ireland’s gorgeous countryside and beaches stand in for Cornwall and a lively young cast are supported by Russell Brand as a local eccentric and singer Cheryl Tweedy as a pop impresario.

 

WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE!

Cert 18 Stars 4

Head bashingly brutal and tense from the off and a blood bath of carnage and corruption, this nasty and funny comedy thriller is a vicious commentary on modern Russia and definitely not for the squeamish or easily offended.

After a stand-off in an apartment between a detective cop and a young man who claims to be his daughter’s boyfriend, we flashback to see how the characters arrived there with murder in mind.

It involves shotguns, drills and hammers, and if the kitchen sink isn’t thrown into the mix, it’s only because they’re too busy throwing TV’s at each other.

 

SEA FEVER

Cert 15 Stars 3

This tense, atmospheric and claustrophobic sea-going Irish thriller ploughs ahead on strong currents of horror, sci-fi, and fairytales, skippered with a firm and sure hand by Neasa Hardiman on her feature film directorial debut.

When a fishing trawler becomes stranded in a military exclusion zone, a mysterious parasite infects the crew’s precious water supply.

Causing emotional outbursts, psychosis and violence among the increasingly desperate and dwindling crew, they resort to extreme measures to save themselves.

Veterans Dougray Scott and Connie Nielsen play the grizzled captain and his wife who due to being in financial straits, have taken on a fare-paying passenger.

Hermione Corfield is a thoughtful and reserved presence as marine biology student struggling to get her sea legs, but her auburn hair is a red flag to the superstitious sailors.

Taking its name from John Masefield’s evocative poem about the attraction to and obsessive nature of seafaring, the film’s intelligent photography captures the cold beauty and changing moods of the sea, while the scenes of isolation and deadly contagion make for a terrifyingly timely and uncomfortable watch.

EXTRACTION

Cert 18 Stars 3

Thor star Chris Hemsworth uses his considerable bulk to batter his way through this blood-soaked and bullet-riddled action thriller which is terrific when it barrels along all guns blazing, but a little unsteady on its feet when it stops to pause for breath.

Forgoing his over-abundant charm and gift for comedy in favour of a no-holds barred intensity, Hemsworth plays a world weary mercenary called Tyler whose latest mission is to extract the teenage son of an Indian drug lord from the clutches of a rival drug baron in Dhaka, the densely populated capital of Bangladesh.

Tyler is fast on his feet and with his fists for a big man, he always brings a gun and grenades to a knife fight and he’s also pretty handy with a blade.

But as Tyler’s mission begins to transform into a repentance for a lifetime of killing and his failings as a father.

Extraction is produced by Joe and Anthony Russo, who wrote and directed Marvel blockbuster Avengers: Endgame, and is directed by their stunt coordinator Sam Hargrave.

He brings inventive flair and highly polished technical skill to the exhaustingly brutal and extraordinarily well-executed scenes of multiple slaughter.

Immersive and fluent camera work puts you in the heat of the brutal action, and there’s room for the script to reflect on cyclical nature of violence and how the sins of the fathers are visited upon their sons.

At its best it rivals Keanu Reeves’ John Wick films for relentless carnage, but lacks its unique otherworldly sense of time and place.

Plus the dialogue and plotting is functional at best, and I hope Hemsworth isn’t getting paid by the word.

Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani is underused as a rare female character but still manages to impose herself on proceedings, and if there’s a sequel then it would be great to see her take centre stage.

 

CALM WITH HORSES

Cert 15 Stars 4

Ferocious, unrelenting and assured, this Irish crime thriller is a  superb contemporary tale of revenge, loyalty and family, a powerfully bleak study of modern masculinity and a wholly impressive debut from director Nick Rowland.

An ex-boxer turned enforcer for a clan of down market drug-dealers is teamed up with the family’s unpredictable protege to punish a gang member for a sexual attack, but when the pair are ordered to murder the perpetrator events take a desperate turn.

Cosmo Jarvis and Barry Keoghan are terrific as Arm and Dymphna – the reluctant heavy and his tough talking but weaselly ambitious companion – and their little and large pairing and has distant echoes of mismatched pairings such as 1969’s classic Midnight Cowboy.

Rowland skilfully creates a menacing atmosphere and moral murk as strong as the cast’s accents, and though he handles the brief shifts into action and horror with aplomb, this is a foremost character study and the careful inclusion of Arm’s ex-girlfriend and their young son offers a sliver of hope and redemption.