Grab the popcorn for these new releases.
Everybody Knows (15)
Everybody knows fragments of the truth in writer-director Asghar Farhadi's slow-burning thriller but piecing together this mosaic of desire and regret across the class divide is another matter entirely.
Set against the backdrop of a family wedding with a full complement of underlying tensions, Everybody Knows orchestrates the abduction of a teenager, then sows seeds of mistrust between guests as the clock ticks down on a ransom demand.
The precision-engineered narrative provides Farhadi's picture with dramatic momentum and a sense of jeopardy, and his lean script withholds the identity of the captor(s) until the final act.
He generates palpable heat from the on-screen pairing of husband and wife Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, luminously photographed by cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine.
They implode on cue as emotionally damaged characters face the repercussions of their shared past.
Farhadi, a two-time winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for A Separation and The Salesman, has a sharp eye for the ebb and flow of human interaction and he sketches lovely moments between protagonists.
Unfortunately, his resolution feels underpowered and you can second-guess one twist far in advance of the tear-sodden big reveal.
Laura (Cruz) returns to her Spanish homeland from Argentina with her children Irene (Carla Campra) and Diego (Ivan Chavero) to attend the wedding of her younger sister Ana (Inma Cuesta).
Her architect husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darin) remains in Buenos Aires for work so Laura spends precious time with loved ones including her father Antonio (Ramon Barea), older sister Mariana (Elvira Minguez) and childhood friend Paco (Bardem).
Meanwhile, Irene explores the belfry of a local church with Paco's nephew Felipe (Sergio Castellanos), who draws her attention to initials carved into the stonework.
‘Your mother and Paco. They were in love. Everybody knows,’ confides Felipe.
During the wedding reception, the town suffers a power cut and under the cover of darkness, Irene is kidnapped.
The abductors issue a ransom demand by text for 300,000 euros.
Alas, Laura doesn't have the money.
The family closes ranks to avoid alerting the police and Paco takes charge of raising funds to the consternation of his wife Bea (Barbara Lennie) and Laura's proud father.
Everybody Knows promises more than it ultimately delivers but Farhadi confidently holds our attention for more than two hours as his slippery plot uncoils.
He conjures a vivid sense of community and relishes the opportunity to test the ties that bind friends and neighbours on the sleepy outskirts of Madrid.
Cruz is luminous as a wife on the verge of a nervous breakdown, whose primary concern is her imperilled flesh and blood, and Bardem is a brooding physical presence.
They light up the screen whenever the wattage of Farhadi's vision threatens to dim.
Released March 8.
Fighting With My Family (12A)
The family that dropkicks and piledrives together stays together in writer-director Stephen Merchant's spandex-clad comedy drama.
Inspired by a real-life rags-to-riches fairy tale, Fighting With My Family nelson holds our attention with a winning combination of angst, potty-mouthed humour and sentimentality.
Merchant's film is a conventional underdog story, which traces a predictable path in the razzamatazz world of professional wrestling where musclebound heroes and snarling villains whip crowds into a frenzy with their carefully choreographed acrobatics.
A simple, heart-warming story unfolds during the glory days of John Cena and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson under the World Wrestling Entertainment banner.
WWE branding is prominent throughout a life-affirming second half set in sun-kissed Florida but doesn't obstruct Merchant from sketching his misfit characters in sufficient detail to mine salty humour from their confrontations.
Florence Pugh is instantly likeable as the self-confessed ‘freak’, who experiences the usual growing pains as she vies to become a supporting player in a multimillion-dollar ‘soap opera in spandex’.
Patrick Bevis (Nick Frost) turns his back on thieving to establish the World Association of Wrestling (WAW) in Norwich with his wife Julia (Lena Headey).
They fight as Rowdy Ricky Knight and Sweet Saraya and encourage their wrestling-obsessed children Zak (Jack Lowden) and Saraya (Pugh) to resolve differences with a grapple.
Zak and Saraya have their own wrestling alter egos – Zak Zodiac and Britani Knight – and harbour bold ambitions to perform in America.
WWE trainer Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughn) invites the siblings to audition for their dream at the O2 Arena in London.
Zak is confident this will be his shot at bone-crunching super-stardom to provide for his partner Courtney (Hannah Rae), who is pregnant with their first child.
Only Saraya makes the cut and she flies to Florida alone with a new stage name - Paige Knight - to prove her worth against body beautiful rivals Jeri-Lynn (Kim Matula), Kirsten (Aqueela Zoll) and Maddison (Ellie Gonsalves).
Far from the warm embrace of home, Saraya is desperately lonely and she struggles with self-esteem.
Thankfully, Zak boosts his sister's wavering resolve by reminding her that wrestling is in their blood.
‘That's not good,’ she responds. ‘Makes it sound like hepatitis!’
Fighting With My Family is infused with Merchant's dry humour and he earns further laughs with an extended cameo from Johnson, playing himself with a twinkle in his eye.
One-liners are generously distributed among the cast including a scene-stealing Julia Davis as a strait-laced mother, who is clueless to the pomp and pageantry of the wrestling ring.
End credits include home video footage of the real Paige Knight and her clan to illustrate where the script powerslams fact and somersaults into the realms of crowd-pleasing fiction.
The Kindergarten Teacher (12A)
A shepherdess of impressionable young minds leads us into murky ethical waters in director Sara Colangelo's gripping English-language remake of the Israeli film of the same title.
Reset to Staten Island, The Kindergarten Teacher is a deeply unsettling psychological drama which pivots deliciously on a fearless lead performance from Maggie Gyllenhaal as the titular educator, whose obsession with a five-year-old pupil warps her instinct to nurture.
Colangelo's script invites Gyllenhaal to walk a tightrope between predator and misguided protector, which she accomplishes with dizzying aplomb.
She teases the ambiguities of her flawed character and these subtle shifts in tone and intent steadily crank up tension until our knuckles glow white with fear.
Gyllenhaal's fallen angel repeatedly crosses the divide between encouragement and exploitation in her pursuit of perfection, averting her gaze from her own mediocrity to focus intently on the burgeoning brilliance of a boy entrusted to her care.
The actress burrows deep beneath the skin of her anti-heroine and we find ourselves ricocheting at speed between pity and disgust as she enacts her plan, seemingly blinkered to the potentially catastrophic consequences.
Kindergarten teacher Lisa Spinelli (Gyllenhaal) yearns for a spark of excitement in her marriage to her husband Grant (Michael Chernus).
Her relationship with her own children is strained and, to compound Lisa's dissatisfaction, her efforts at writing poetry fail to impress Simon (Gael Garcia Bernal), the handsome teacher of an evening class for aspiring scribes.
In one of these sessions, Lisa recites verse composed by one of her students, a cherub called Jimmy Roy (Parker Sevak), and passes off his poem as the fruits of her creative toil.
Simon is impressed and gives the carefully chosen words a glowing reception.
Buoyed by the undeserved praise, Lisa surmises that Jimmy is a ‘young Mozart’ in need of nurturing.
She assiduously inserts herself into the boy's life and disrupts the influence of other adults including Jimmy's babysitter Becca (Rosa Salazar).
Lisa fails to convince Jimmy's father Nikhil (Ajay Naidu) that his boy should forgo weekly baseball practice with friends to publicly recite poetry.
‘I want my son to have a normal life,’ argues Nikhil.
However, Lisa has come too far to stop now...
The Kindergarten Teacher is an expertly composed character study that holds us in a vice-like grip, steadily forcing the air out of our lungs as Lisa jeopardises her reputation and - more importantly - the well-being of her innocent ward.
Gyllenhaal is inscrutable when she needs to be and gels wonderfully with youngster Sevak, who is a natural in front of the camera.
Colangelo makes light work of the 97-minute running time, leaving us to make our own choices before we sink into the moral quagmire with the lead character.
Released March 8.
Captain Marvel (12A)
Brie Larson dons the distinctive costume of one of Marvel Comics' most powerful heroes in an origin story directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, which paves the way for Captain Marvel's introduction in Avengers: Endgame later in the year.
US Air Force pilot Carol Danvers (Larson) takes to the skies with good friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), pushing her body to the limit to protect her country.
Fate propels Carol far from home to an alien world ruled by a shape-shifting race known as The Kree, where she joins an elite military unit called Starforce.
Operating under Starforce's leader (Jude Law), Carol hones her superhuman strength and fighting skills alongside Kree warriors Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan) and Korath (Djimon Hounsou).
Carol's time with the Kree, who are controlled by the Supreme Intelligence (Annette Bening), is cut short and she returns to 1995 Earth with fragmented memories of her past.
Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), who is a low-ranking member of S.H.I.E.L.D., subsequently seeks Carol's help to protect humanity from an invading race called the Skrull.
Released March 8.