I’m not a big fan of motor sport, but there was a time when Formula 1 was interesting and thrilling, not the procession it is today.
The 1976 F1 Championship season was dominated by the fierce rivalry between two contrasting racers.
In one car there was daredevil British driver James Hunt, the boozing blond ladies’ man, nicknamed ‘Hunt the Shunt’ because of his slap-happy racing style.
And then there was Niki Lauda, the nerdy, methodical Austrian defending champion known as ‘The Rat’.
Director Ron Howard captures the characters of the pair in zippy biopic RUSH (15: Studio Canal), helped greatly by near-perfect performances from a swaggering Chris Hemsworth as Hunt and a scowling Daniel Bruhl playing Lauda.
The action surrounds the German Grand Prix when Lauda crashed and burned, forcing a three-race lay-off while he was brought back from the dead, allowing Hunt a shot at the title.
The screenplay is faithful to the facts and respectful of both drivers without getting bogged down in technical detail and sentimentality.
> There’s nothing wrong with the premise behind THE CALL (15: Warner), a thriller starring Halle Berry, but there’s no room for the idea to develop without all credibility flying out the window.
Berry plays an emergency services operator in a race against time after receiving a call from a teenager (Abigail Breslin) who says she’s been kidnapped. She takes it upon herself to rescue the girl, but to do so she must confront the memory of her own traumatic encounter with a murderer.
The youngster has managed to dial 911 from the boot of a car she is being held in, yet the fact that she spends two-thirds of the film talking to Berry on the phone without the kidnapper (Michael Eklund) checking to see if she has a mobile is one of many gaping plot holes.
Some suspense is generated in the early scenes, but the movie soon runs out of steam.
> Rousing, low-budget musical SUNSHINE ON LEITH (PG: Entertainment In Video) is so likable that you hardly notice that the singing and choreography aren’t all that slick.
And it’s not a real problem that the boisterous back catalogue of Scottish folk-pop duo the Proclaimers has only a tenuous connection to the story the film-makers are trying to tell.
The follow-up to actor-turned-director Dexter Fletcher’s excellent Wild Bill sees two soldiers returning to the port town of Leith after a traumatic tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Back home, they try to rekindle their love affairs, while the parents (Jane Horrocks and Peter Mullan) of one of the pair are forced to confront a long-buried secret as they prepare to celebrate their 30th anniversary in style.
The music may not suit all tastes, but the charismatic characters will in a study of family life that’s raw, romantic and real.
> Contemporary fable THE SELFISH GIANT (15: Artificial Eye) sees two Yorkshire schoolfriends tangle with an unscrupulous scrap dealer in order to help their cash-strapped families.
Perhaps self-consciously harking back to Ken Loach’s Kes, the story’s outcome is a tad predictable, but there are wonderful contributions from newcomers Conner Chapman and Shaun Thomas as the lads who graduate from horse-and-trap racing to theft of valuable copper wire.