Captain Marvel takes her big screen bow; Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem star in the Spanish thriller Everybody Knows, while Maggie Gyllenhaal turns in another great performance in The Kindergarten Teacher.
Captain Marvel ***1/2
Eleven years and 21 movies later, we finally have our first female-led Marvel film.
Thankfully, Captain Marvel doesn't buckle under the considerable weight of expectations that come with being such an important milestone in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Brie Larson steps into Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel's boots for the first time and it's a blast to see the Room Oscar-winner transform into a superhero in this solidly entertaining, if regrettably conventional, origins story. Read our full review here.
The Kindergarten Teacher ***1/2
The Kindergarten Teacher tends towards the earnest and well-meaning before unleashing the plain, old-fashioned indie-creepy movie that it is at heart.
Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Lisa Spinelli, the overly-committed kindergarten teacher who seems mildly discontented from the beginning of this quirky, engaging film. It's there in the way she communicates at home, how she interacts with her nice, compliant husband Grant (Michael Chernus). It's there when she faces down her rebellious adolescent kids.
Gyllenhaal plays the uptight and gently imploding teacher brilliantly. We sense a crisis about to unfold; there is emptiness in her life. The real drama starts the day she hears five-year-old Jimmy (Parker Sevak) reciting a short poem, which, it transpires, is his own verse... Read our full review here.
Border is strange, disturbing and brave in its own way, but not everyone will be willing to accept its nervy, visceral terror.
The Swedish border security guard Tina is played by the remarkable Swedish actress Eva Melander. Tina has a strange ability to sniff out the bad in the travellers or visitors to Sweden who pass by her desk. It's a sixth sense signalled by that quivering upper lip.
The storyline in director Ali Abbasi's phantasmagoric, hallucinatory film gets a little crazy. You may like that if you like, say, vampires - otherwise you will virulently dislike. Read our full review here.
Everybody Knows ***1/2
Everybody Knows is a superbly acted, twisted tale of deception, loyalty and the ties that bind, but a bloated run-time detracts from the drama.
Penelope Cruz plays Laura, a woman living in Buenos Aires, Argentina who travels to her hometown in Spain with her two children ahead of her sister's wedding. The celebrations and family reunions are brought crashing down when Laura's free-spirited daughter Irene is kidnapped.
As everyone bands together to try to figure out why Irene was abducted, who could be behind it, and how to get her back, old grudges, old flames and old arguments are unearthed. Trust is called into question, as are Laura's nearest and dearest's loyalties and motives. Read our full review here.
The Aftermath ***1/2
Director James Kent's eminently handsome post-World War II period drama The Aftermath is a tasteful exploration of trauma and grief and how they can tear relationships apart.
The troubled lovers at the centre of this emotionally fraught story are Rachael (Keira Knightley) and her husband Lewis Morgan (Jason Clarke), a colonel with the British Army who has been charged with rebuilding the bomb-shattered city of Hamburg after the war.
After being reunited in Hamburg, the couple set off to live in a grand home that has been repossessed by the British Army. However, the pragmatic and magnanimous Lewis has made a grave error - he has allowed the house's previous German owners to share the property with them. Read our full review here.
Fighting with My Family ****
As electro punk duo Carter USM asked as far back as 1992, is wrestling fixed? They were being mischievous, of course, and sadly further songs about bears' toilet arrangements and the Pope's belief system failed to materialise.
So it is a tribute to writer and director Stephen Merchant's talent that he has taken this tale of a working class English girl's unlikely rise to fame in the WWE and made it into a very funny and emotional smackdown of a movie.
After all, Merchant's feel-good movie of hard knocks and self-belief is based on the true story of the Beavis family, a tightly-knit working class clan who ran a small-time wrestling league in Norwich, while fostering dreams of big ring fame in the soap opera meets cabaret of WWE. Read our full review here.
Foxtrot is a tightly-focused, slow-moving work of great subtlety. While clearly decrying war's sinister fall-out, it also manages to honour the memory of the young men who die, in this case, in defence of Israel.
Michael and Dafna Feldman (Lior Ashkenazi, Sarah Adler respectively) are in their apartment in Tel Aviv when the door buzzer sounds. The couple receive the terrible news that their young son, Jonathan (Yonaton Shiray), has lost his life in the line of duty.
That introductory scenario amounts to a modicum of plot detail, but there is not much more that can actually be revealed without spoiling this exquisitely-delivered tale, enacted through Hebrew dialogue, with subtitles in English. Read our full review here.
The Hole in the Ground ****
Having made a Utah January even colder than usual, The Hole in the Ground returns from its midnight victory lap at the Sundance Film Festival to put it up to Irish audiences.
While the people at home are always the hardest to please - especially the horror hardcore - naysayers here should prove to be as few and far between as across the Atlantic.
This feel-bad debut from director Lee Cronin takes that dream of the fresh start in the country and turns it into every mother's nightmare. Read our full review here.
An Engineer Imagines *****
The late Peter Rice was an Irish visionary who brought flair and imagination to his engineering work on some of the most iconic and challenging buildings constructed in the 20th century.
An Engineer Imagines, a new film about Rice's life, is as much about art as it is about engineering. Indeed, it is hardly technical at all in its proceedings, looking more to highlight the playful, risk-taking side of the bold engineer.
Foreign friends and collaborators - one of whom is moved to tears as he recalls Rice - pay tribute to their friend and colleague who grew up at 52 Castle Road, Dundalk. They recall the Irish charm and the glint in the eye of this burly, curly-haired Louth-man. Rice had the ability to jump off a cliff, knowing he would find a way of grappling back up, one of his friends remembers. Read our full review here.
What They Had ***
This rather dry feature debut from Elizabeth Chomko is set in a wintry Chicago at the fag end of Christmas. It is a tale of family discord and tension at a moment of reckoning, but also a study of memory. It is centred on an elderly husband as he stoically tries to deal with his wife's Alzheimer's, while their two children play a tug of love over what's best for their ailing mother.
A grizzled and dead-pan Michael Shannon plays son Nick; Hilary Swank is careworn, unhappily married daughter Bridget, and Richard Forster plays their curmudgeonly ex-army father Bert.
But it is Blythe Danner as fading mother Ruth who is the heart and soul of this slightly soapy affair. She brings light, childlike innocence and humour to every scene as her loved ones rage at each other. Her mind may be going, but Ruth is still the rock and heart of this unhappy brood. Read our full review here.
Set in a sordid, hidden Strasbourg, at some variance with the venerable image, Sauvage features a mesmerising performance from Félix Maritaud. He plays 22-year old rent boy Léo, who is looking for love and security of a kind behind that tough, insouciant exterior.
The story veers expertly from gay disco scenes to tough encounters in the bedroom, to moving glimpses of Léo in a vulnerable state, revelatory glances into the state of his torn soul and corroded sexuality.
Sauvage has some of the gritty pathos of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's classic, L'Enfant, which won the Palme d'Or in 2005, and with its protagonist could perhaps be the continued story of the young boy in 400 Coups. Read our full review here.