THE VAST OF NIGHT

Cert 12 Stars 4

Creepy, claustrophobic and immaculately constructed, this stylish and intriguing sci-fi mystery thriller pays loving homage to TV shows such as The Twilight Zone as it builds to a haunting and transcendent finale.

Set in the 1950’s Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz have a lovely flirtatious chemistry as an earnest telephone operator and a cocky local radio DJ, who begin exploring reports of power cuts, strange electrical interference and secret military operations in the nearby desert of New Mexico.

Their enthusiasm for new technology is infectious and their rat-a-tat dialogue makes hanging out with them great fun, especially as the film treats their fears and concerns with great seriousness and respect.

It’s a remarkable directorial debut by Andrew Patterson, who demonstrates a deft confidence, steady handed ambition and an unadulterated love of cinema.

He skilfully deploys a light-handed awareness of the time’s racial, class and sexual divisions, there’s a palpable love of the period’s technology, and I really dug the cars and clothes, daddy-o.

THE LAST FULL MEASURE

Cert 15 Stars 3

A battle for justice is fought for a Vietnam War veteran in this straightforward and respectful real life US drama given gravitas by the astonishing roll call of acting talent.

Giving gravitas to a workaday script are William Hurt, Ed Harris, Peter Fonda, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Plummer, and in the lead is Sebastian Stan, fresh from saving the world in Marvel’s blockbuster smash Avengers: Endgame.

Sporting an interesting bouffant hairstyle he plays a young ambitious government lawyer strong-armed into securing a posthumous prestigious Medal of Honour for a Pararescueman, a member of what’s essentially the air ambulance wing of the US air force.

Flashback combat rescue scenes are effectively staged so we’re in no doubt as to him being a worthy recipient, as well providing as some welcome punctuation to the pedestrian investigative stuff.

Where once the Vietnam War was used to explore the dark heart of humanity, this is a solid endorsement for family, the flag and the sacrifice of the common soldier.

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.

NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS

Cert 15 Stars 4

Unlike any other cinematic teenage road trip I’ve ever seen, this raw, honest and unflinching coming-of-age US drama is all the more devastating for skilfully combining a reflective and sombre tone with a steely-eyed look at its subject matter.

Sidney Flanigan gives a remarkably nuanced and sensitive performance as Autumn, a pale and ordinary working class 17 year old high schooler and part time supermarket worker, who’s response to the tests and scans confirming her pregnancy is to self-pierce her own nose, which is more an act of self harm than fashion statement.

As we’re we’re left to guess the identity of the father, Autumn travels from rural Pennsylvania to New York to secure an abortion for an unwanted pregnancy, and is accompanied only by her supportive and similarly aged cousin Skylar, played by the impressively impassive Talia Ryder.

They struggle to negotiate a series of bureaucratic hurdles, medical tests, legal obstacles, social pressures and financial difficulties.

And among the many scenes of desperate heartbreak, the most agonising is an interview where Autumn endures a series of sexually intrusive questions, the possible answers to which form the film’s title.

The script by director Eliza Hittman maintains compassion and respect for Autumn but doesn’t bother trying to justify her behaviour with grand speeches, though it does condemn those who try to stall, abuse and manipulate her, and generally treats its male characters with deserved disdain.

Having established the divide between idealised romantic love and the realities of sex with consummate economy in a deft opening sequence, Hittman fully immerses us in Autumn’s world by using a hand held camera which frequently captures the actress in emotionally revealing close up.

A refusal to shy away from the procedures involved and bleak ordinariness of Autumn’s world brings harrowing authenticity and huge emotional power, and while this a deeply unsettling watch, the girls’ courage and solidarity demand our sympathy.

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.