PICK OF THIS WEEK’S FILMS
SEARCHING (12A) THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST (15)
A father’s quest to track down his missing daughter unfolds in overlapping windows on a desktop computer screen in this smartly executed thriller. Tapping into timely concerns about cyberbullying and social media peer pressure, Searching employs the same stylistic conceit as 2014 supernatural horror Unfriended and its sequel to test the bond between a parent (John Cho) and 16-year-old child (Michelle La) in a 24-hour digital age where appearances can be dangerously deceptive. Aneesh Chaganty’s script, co-written by Sev Ohanian, invites us to piece together evidence by following the distraught pater familias’ cursor as he clicks on video files, initiates a video conference call or makes several wrong guesses at his daughter’s passwords. Every second could mean the difference between the closing shot of a funeral or a tear-filled reunion.
Based on a novel by Emily M Danforth, The Miseducation of Cameron Post chronicles the damage wrought by a gay conversion therapy camp through the eyes of one girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), who wages a war of attrition against counsellors and discovers her greatest weapons are her compassion and wit. The script skips nimbly though an emotional minefield of raging hormones and adolescent angst as tortured teenagers – known as disciples – root out the source of their supposed imperfection.
Viewed against a dispiriting backdrop of violent crime across London, gritty coming-of-age story Yardie is the wrong film in the right place at the right time. Sadly. Adapted from a novel by Victor Headley, Idris Elba’s feature directorial debut is an uneven and emotionally unsatisfying drama set in 1970s Jamaica and 1980s London.
The cast’s thick, melodic accents render some of the leaden dialogue in Brock Norman Brock and Martin Stellman’s script unintelligible and contribute to a lack of emotional investment in characters as they wrestle with their desires.
THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS (15)
In 2003, Tony Award-winning musical Avenue Q imagined an alternate reality in which humans and puppets co-exist and two hand-operated felt characters engage in vigorous on-stage coitus. The Happytime Murders arrives woefully late to the same raucous, expletive-laden party without the uproarious laughter. Directed by Brian Henson, whose father created The Muppets, this filthy-minded whodunit dangles loosely on a couple of outlandish sex scenes and a homage to Basic Instinct that ultimately serves a narrative purpose. At one of the film’s initial crime scenes, a private investigator is drawn to a curlicued capital letter on a ransom note and growls, “This mystery was brought to you by the letter P”.
The gumshoe is correct: Henson’s film is puerile, pitiful, potty mouthed, predictable, preposterous and politically incorrect to the point of tedium.
John David Washington and Laura Harrier in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman
LUIS AND THE ALIENS (U)
First contact with kooky extra-terrestrial visitors is second-rate family entertainment in the computer-animated yarn, Luis and the Aliens. A 12-year-old boy flees a lonely existence on Earth to live among the stars with a shape-shifting otherworldly race. An emotionally malnourished script doesn’t earn the tears it wants us to shed as a grief-stricken son reconciles with his father and feuding neighbours unite to vanquish a monstrous threat, side by side. Jeopardy and jest are in short order and vocal performances are one-note, to match the quality of the writing, which languishes in the narrative tractor beams of ET: The Extra-Terrestrial and Home.
Released almost exactly one year after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, BlacKkKlansman handcuffs racial divisions in present-day America to the outlandish true story of a black police detective who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. Director Spike Lee’s conscience-pricking satire on corruption and bigotry is based on a memoir by retired Colorado Springs officer Ron Stallworth and walks a tightrope between fact and stranger-than-fiction, seizing every opportunity to echo battlecries of the 2016 US presidential election. Lee bookends his call to arms with sickening footage from Charlottesville of a car being driven at speed into counter-protesters, which left one woman dead and others injured. The director occasionally overeggs his deliciously tart pudding, such as his choice to juxtapose climactic scenes of characters chanting “Black Power” and “White Power”.
Scots Outlander star Sam Heughan is used to finding himself in odd spots, but playing an