ANOTHER YEAR * * *
(Cert 12A, 129 mins)
On Bonfire Night weekend, you might be expecting an all-action new movie from Jerry Bruckheimer to compete with the fireworks head on.
Instead, the very British filmmaker Mike Leigh rolls into town with a self-penned story that is so one-paced, dour and sombre that some viewers might find it an almost unwatchable damp squib.
But whereas Jerry’s movies try to sparkle through every scene only to become instantly forgettable, this film will grow inside of you afterwards.
Hewn from his usual improvised workshops with many actors he’s worked with before, writer-director Leigh has aimed at the nerve centre of modern Britain.
The result is no match for Leigh’s own Vera Drake (2005), either for drama or as a period piece, but at least the wonderfully-named Tom and Gerri (Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen) are a happy couple.
Educated, employed and dedicated to their allotment, they even enjoy meals together on their kitchen table. How old fashioned. Everyone else, though, is struggling to find their place.
Grown-up son Joe (Oliver Maltman) is such a slow-starter at everything that Gerri’s work colleague Mary (a career-best Lesley Manville) thinks he could put a spring in her step.
But she’s also the type of girl who takes years to build up to an opportunity, so when livewire occupational therapist Katie (Karina Fernandez) arrives on Joe’s arm, will Mary’s house of cards come tumbling down?
Two other characters bookend the film – there’s middle-aged Janet (Imelda Staunton) in the opening scene’s health check and Tom’s almost silent older brother Ronnie (a brilliant David Bradley), who is unlikely to find any reasons to be cheerful late on.
And let’s not forget Ken (Peter Wight). Overweight and rudderless, he chews every open mouthful of food as if it might be his last. Will Mary be this desperate?
The Salford-born son of a doctor, Leigh forensically examines each character, never more brilliantly than with Imelda Staunton’s guest appearance.
When we see her back to the camera, Janet is at her most defenceless in a scene of haunting subtlety.
If Leigh really wants to unsettle his older fans, this is the perfect start.
Thankfully, Tom and Gerri are a playful couple despite their friends. And the still youthful Mary could be the life and soul of any party if only she had a soul mate.
“My looks works against me,” she says. “When older men find out how old I am, they don’t want to know.” Another Year has plenty more ‘if only’ moments.
Stay with this film through its anachronistic seasonal dividers and Leigh will definitely get under your skin, no 3D glasses required.
JACKASS 3D * *
(Cert 18, 94 mins)
Introduced by animated duo Beavis and Butt-Head, this third feature-length instalment from the MTV silly stunts show features bodily fluids spurting towards your 3D frames.
As ever, pratfalls beyond your wildest dreams will deliver moments of unrestrained hilarity for those in search of easy laughs. But you’ll often be left reeling by the unpleasantness of having to suffer sequences like the Sweat Suit Cocktail or Poo Cocktail Supreme in the name of big screen entertainment.
Any comedy film should aim to relax troops serving on the front line in Afghanistan – except any of them watching this would end up thinking: ‘‘Is this the freedom we are defending?’’
SAW 3D *
(Cert 18, 89 mins)
Made with an unexpected degree of intelligence in 2004, the first Saw film was clever enough to overcome its hard-to-stomach graphic content.
Since then, five more increasingly convoluted films have given serial killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) far too much life.
In what is promised to be the final, seventh movie prepare for an endless supply of body parts.
Coming on top of The Collector, made by the same team earlier this year, this repetitive round of mind-numbing, stupidly-elaborate traps will have you pleading for your soul to be saved by Tinkerbell, not Tobin Bell.
DUE DATE * * *
(Cert 15, 95 mins)
Workaholic Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr) spends his life on a mobile phone and needs to cross America to be back home with his wife Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) in time for her to give birth.
Aspiring actor Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) carries his dog in his hand luggage (what an obvious terrorist threat).
Thrown off their flight following a luggage mix-up, the pair become fellow travellers by land. Galifianakis was one of the stars of Hangover and here he’s reunited with its director, Todd Phillips.
Due Date is a comparative misfire, with its workmanlike predictability taking the sheen off the comic timing of its stars.