THE LOVEBIRDS

Cert 15 Stars 3

A pair of likeable stars bring a breezy freshness to this otherwise by-the-numbers romcom caper and do enough to divert you from the feeling you’ve seen it all before.

Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani play Leilani and Jibran, lovebirds who risk becoming jailbirds when a road accident unwittingly involves them in a high powered blackmail conspiracy and a night of being chased by the police and a relentless gun-toting bad guy.

Being in possession of a phone containing compromising photographs of prominent people, they’re chased around from dinner party, to bars, and to a masked ball which unsurprisingly turns out to be populated by high society swingers.

Being tied up, assaulted and forced to dress very badly allows them to learn truths about each other and reevaluate their relationship.

If this sounds familiar well you’re probably thinking of Steve Carell and Tina Fey in 2010’s Date Night, or Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams in 2018’s Game Night, and possibly a few more besides.

Where this is notably different is in the casting, as it’s still regrettably rare to see an African-American and a Pakistani-American headlining even in this sort of modest Hollywood fare.

The script is blind to their ethnicity except when gags are made about police prejudice, and even this is balanced by the vaguely sympathetic investigating officer also being African-American.

Rae is bright, vivacious and the more funny and ballsy of the two, though that doesn’t take much, as Nanjiani would probably be the first to admit he’s far from being an Alpha male.

He’s amiable screen presence and his throwaway comic asides on modern life are delivered in the passive aggressive style manner he demonstrated in 2017’s romcom success, The Big Sick, for which he was Oscar nominated for Best Original Screenplay.

A mainstream entertainment not trying to change the world, The Lovebirds provides sufficient chuckles in its enjoyable, undemanding and disposable way.

VIVARIUM

Cert 15 Stars 3

Quirky Brit actress Imogen Poots is deservedly given top billing over her more famous Hollywood co-star Jesse Eisenberg in this unnerving dystopian sci-fi horror which owes a considerable debt to the classic novels of John Wyndham.

They’re very well cast in a creepy savage satire of 21st century suburban servitude and a nightmarish dissection of modern life, whose off-beat script brings out the best in actors who’ve struggled to land leading roles suitable to their distinctive talents.

They’re nicely convincing as an aspiring couple whose relationship is tested when they become mysteriously trapped on an otherwise empty new-build identikit housing estate.

Poots is mischievous, terrified, angry, endearing and generally terrific, while the supremely articulate Eisenberg is often left speechless as their situation intensifies.

Director Lorcan Finnegan explores ideas of conformity, nesting and identity which argues civilisation is a prison which blinds us to the truth of our existence. And he has a less than kind view of estate agents as well.

FINAL WISH

Cert 18 Stars 2

Ancient demons, curses and small town prejudice can’t raise the pulse lacklustre mystery horror which is nicely shot and has a consistent tone but can’t shake up enough scares to justify the slow pace.

A hangdog Michael Welch plays Aaron, a newly qualified and heavily in debt lawyer who returns home to his family’s big old creepy rural home, where he receives a cold welcome from family and neighbours.

A mysterious urn belonging to his late father starts to make his wishes come true, but his initial happiness turns increasingly to terror as his good fortune comes at a cost to those closest to him.

As his wishes begin to come true, though his wishes are life-changing, they’re also pretty modest compared to what mine would be – though I’m guessing the budget didn’t stretch as far as my imagination does. However it does mean there’s a notable absence of what could be called premier league footballer with a pay rise excess.

RUN

Cert 15 Stars 3

A kitchen sink drama on four wheels fuelled by the romantic spirit of Bruce Springsteen’s songs, this low budget British opts for urban decay over the epic majesty of his turbo-charged tunes.

Taking it’s title and inspiration from The Boss’s classic rock album ‘Born To Run’, an industrial fishing port in Aberdeenshire offers plenty of scope to explore the restrictive and soul sapping mundanity of working class life.

Mark Stanley is a barely articulate ball of anguish and frustration as Finnie, the youngish head of a family of five who is struggling with grief, pregnancy and poor prospects.

Desperation takes him on a late night joyride around his hometown streets fuelling his dreams of leaving town forever.

From the window of Finnie’s souped-up Ford Fiesta, writer-director Scott Graham’s third feature casts an almost documentary eye over the local nightlife.

As you might expect, the sound design is great and mixes grime, upbeat techno, 1990’s pop, and of course Springsteen’s magnificent hymn to petrol-powered freedom.

THE CALL OF THE WILD

Cert PG Stars 4

Harrison Ford takes the lead from a canine co-star in this epic, expensive and determinedly old fashioned family outdoors adventure based on the 1903 novel by Jack London.

Every bit as monumentally craggy as the gorgeously photographed scenery, Ford plays a frontiersman who forms a bond with a dog named Buck, who was stolen from his home in California.

Buck may be a CGI creation but is as full of character, loyalty and bravery as any other big screen dog. Which is more than you say for the characters played by Dan Stevens and Karen Gillan.

DOGS DON’T WEAR PANTS

Cert 18 Stars 3

Love hurts in this provocative, explicit and eye-watering Finnish drama which goes so far beyond a bit of slap and tickle even ardent admirers of the Fifty Shades films may find themselves crossing their legs in sympathy.

Pekka Strang bares his soul – as well as the rest of himself – as a heart surgeon struggling to cope after the accidental drowning of his beloved wife.

He begins secretly spending his time in a sex dungeon with a dominatrix who calls him a dog and demands him to strip, hence the title, and as he finds solace in his own humiliation, the two lost souls begin to connect.

The appropriately named Mona also works as an osteopath, clearly a bit of a busman’s holiday for the broad minded professional.

This blackly comic chamber piece is definitely not for the timid or squeamish, it’s sensitive to its characters needs and everyone comes out with their dignity intact, though you can’t say the same for all their other bits.

EDGE OF EXTINCTION

Cert 18 Stars 2

Blood, mud, skulls and cannibal gangsters feature heavily in this violent and nasty low budget British dystopian sci-fi thriller, which sadly lacks the invention, scope or devious camp sensibility which made it’s spiritual grandfather Mad Max, such a full throttle success.

Set fifteen years in the future after an atomic war, a lone scavenger becomes the reluctant ally of other survivors to mount a desperate rescue mission.

A welcome absence of CGI sees the blood-spurting action use medieval weapons and a lot of fake blood, and though the relentlessly grim tone is almost provocative, it’s grounded in the gritty realism of its desolate locations.

An overgrown comprehensive school has ‘welcome to hell’ sprayed above the front door, but I’m not sure if the graffiti is pre-apocalypse or not.

Originally titled ‘The Brink’ and a labour of love for director Andrew Gilbert who’s not short of ambition and stages a tasty finale where the remnants of civilisation make a final stand against the forces of chaos, but it’s a slog to get there.