Barry Keoghan has TWO films in cinemas this weekend - true-crime story American Animals and Irish revenge tale Black 47 - and both are well worth seeing.

Saoirse Ronan is back on the big screen in The Seagull, while horror fans have Conjuring spin-off The Nun.

And there's more!

American Animals ****1/2

Documentary-maker Bart Layton's drama debut about a real-life botched robbery is wildly entertaining and a pure bonkers masterpiece.

American Animals delivers a daringly original and snappy thriller outing without taking itself too seriously. It dissects a 2004 true-crime case that saw four college kids - Spencer (Barry Keoghan), Warren (Evan Peters), Eric (Jared Abrahamson) and Chas (Blake Jenner) - attempt to steal rare books from a small Kentucky liberal arts university.

Layton brings his documentary nous into this feature, with present-day interviews with the people his actors are portraying. Even the actual Transylvania University librarian (played in other scenes by Ann Dowd of The Handmaid's Tale) makes a brief appearance. Read our full review here.

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Black 47 ****

The saying goes that revenge is a dish best served cold. Or in this case damp. It's in your bones right from the start of director Lance Daly's Black 47 - an Irish Western in all but name.

Australian actor James Frecheville plays Feeney, an Irish Ranger who deserts and returns home to Famine-stricken Connemara following his mother's death and brother's execution. 

Transforming into an almost supernatural force, Feeney draws up a hit-list of officialdom - and anyone else who gets in the way of his quest for justice. Read our full review here.

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The Seagull **

In Sorin's country house, passions conflagrate and egos are tested, as a spiteful, vain actress treats her son with unusual contempt in this new adaptation of the play which was astonishingly classed as a comedy by its author, Anton Chekhov.

Irina (Annette Bening) is the selfish, spoiled actress who is staying at the estate of her brother Sorin (Brian Dennehy) in the heart of the Russian countryside. Kostia or Konstantin (Billy Howle) is her son, a young man with a burning desire to be a writer as successful as his mother's lover, Trigorin (Corey Stoll). Trigorin is the author of revered fiction, and he is also visiting.

The amateur play which Kostia mounts in a marquee at the start of the film is deliberately gauche and naïve in its sentiment, essentially a dramatic vehicle for Nina (Saoirse Ronan), a young girl from a neighbouring estate. Like young Kostia, Nina has ambitions in the artistic realm - she wants to be a famous actress like Irina. Read our full review here.

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The Nun **

The latest in the never-ending series stars Taissa Farmiga (younger sister of franchise regular Vera) as a novitiate who travels to a big spooky abbey in Romania with a kind of priestly paranormal investigator to confront Marilyn Manson dressed as an evil nun.

Ok, so it's not Marilyn Manson - it's the demonic Nun Valak, who first made her evil presence known in The Conjuring 2 and as the Conjuring universe expands like the real universe or a nasty stain, she's naturally been given her own movie as a bad ass sister sinister.

The Conjuring franchise should end here - with a wimple and not a bang. Read our full review here.

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Puzzle ***1/2

Puzzle is an unvarnished and humane look at the missing pieces in one woman's life, built around Kelly Macdonald's exceptional central performance.

Based on a remake of Rompecabezas, a 2010 Argentine film by Natalia Smirnoff, the movie is a plaintive character study of a sheltered Connecticut housewife, who finds a new lease of life thanks to a 1,000-piece jigsaw.

The film's pulse comes in many ways from Macdonald's brave and beautiful work as Agnes. She lives and breathes her role and the more we watch her, the more beautiful her character becomes. Read our full review here.

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The Miseducation of Cameron Post ***1/2

Homecoming 1993 and young teenager Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz) is caught having intimate relations with her girl pal Coley Taylor (Quinn Shepherd) in a car. Cameron's parents died in a car accident, so her carer Ruth (Kerry Butler) sends her off to the kind of place that used to be called a 'reformatory' in this country.

The mind-bending institute, where she will board and attend school classes, is called God's Promise and it is run by a few creepy cult types led by Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr) and his odiously oleaginous sister Dr Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle), with help too from Rick's girlfriend Bethany (Marin Ireland). These so-called reformers exude wholesomeness, ineptness and oily awfulness in equal measure.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post shows how sexuality and gender identity issues are not at all safe in the wrong hands. One assumes there may well be places like this in the US, thriving in their pointless way, 25 years after the time period in question. Read our full review here.

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Searching ***1/2

A cleverly crafted thriller that twists and turns as it forces the audience to reflect on our relationship with the internet and how well we really know our nearest and dearest – Searching is worth looking out for.

Told through computer screens, FaceTime, text messages, security footage and news reports, Searching never opts for the traditional scene set-up, and, impressively, never feels too gimmicky.

As everything unfolds via some form of screen, so much of the film rests on extremely clever editing and it looks and feels like a puzzle. Read our full review here. 

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Upgrade ***1/2

It is the near future; the skies are constantly patrolled by drones, cybernetics have a steady grip on humanity, Alexa is getting too big for her boots, and your car can hijack itself and dump you on the wrong side of town.

This is what happens to the aptly named Grey Trace and his wife Asha in this stylish and blackly funny sci-fi thriller from Saw and Insidious writer Leigh Whannell and Blumhouse, the warped minds who brought you Happy Death Day, Get Out, and The Purge.

After the innocent couple are attacked by thugs with suspiciously sophisticated weaponry at a homeless encampment and the cops can't seem to solve the case, old school technophobe Grey's only hope for revenge and justice is an experimental computer chip implant called Stem. Read our full review here.

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Yardie ***

Idris Elba has a future in this directing lark. 

A crime-drama set in the brilliant sunshine of 1970s Jamaica and grimy 1980s London, Yardie suggests that The Wire and Luther star did plenty of watch-and-learn between his takes on both shows. Ironically, his finished film is a little episodic, but Elba's passion comes through in every scene - and kudos for resisting any temptation/pressure to put himself in front of the camera.

Based on Victor Headley's book, Yardie follows the rags to not-much-better story of Dennis Campbell, who becomes the protégé of Kingston crime boss King Fox (Sheldon Shepherd) when Dennis' MC brother Jerry (Everaldo Creary) is murdered. The coming-of-age story here is powered by that old chestnut about digging two graves if you're out for revenge. Read our full review here.

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I, Dolours ****1/2

This is, by some distance, the most disturbing film of the year. It is also one of the best.

Built around the controversial and contested 2010 interview given by the late IRA volunteer Dolours Price to journalist Ed Moloney - which was agreed only to be made public after her death - director Maurice Sweeney and producer Maloney's searing documentary serves as chilling history lesson and warning for the future about the perils of a vacuum and the ensuing human cost.

From the outset, I, Dolours says it is "based entirely on her account of events". What follows is closer to a maelstrom than a life story. Read our full review here.

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C'est La Vie! ****

C'est La Vie! is a zesty diversion, funny and touching and set almost entirely at a wedding in a glorious-looking 17th Century French chateau.

Max (Jean-Pierre Bacri) is the wedding caterer under pressure in his curiously funereal black suit and dark shirt, racing around the place trying to organise a ragged bunch, his decidedly eccentric gang of wedding operatives. These guys, cooks and waiters and musicians, are working hard, sort of, behind the scenes, to prepare what will hopefully be a successful and sumptuous wedding for the equally eccentric but utterly vainglorious groom, Pierre (Benjamin Lavernhe).

The omens are not good. Max's love life is not in good shape, hence he often wears the expression of a sad clown. Bacri, the actor who plays him has an amazingly expressive and malleable set of features and we mildly wonder why we haven’t seen him star in other French films to date. Read our full review here.

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Cold War ***

Poland 1949, and Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) is a musical director and folklorist who tours rural Poland recording singers and watching dancers perform as he recruits personnel for the folk theatre company Mazurek.

Auditioning in a village, he is struck by the singing of a feisty yet composed young girl, named Zula. She insists on singing the chorus to the song she has chosen for audition, despite being told that the verse was enough. That feisty, yes.

Wiktor is impressed by her determination and spirit and despite the fact that his female talent scout is unmoved, insists that she be taken seriously. However, there is a rumour that she did time in jail for killing her father. Not quite true, as she later reveals, she stabbed him when he "mistook her for her mother", as she delicately puts it.

Before long, Zula has proven her talent as a leading light in the musical ensemble, as the story progresses through the years of the Cold War of the title. Read our full review here.

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