AFTER all the excitement of the awards season, it’s a relatively quiet week for mainstream cinema that ushers us into March.

Don’t be surprised to find most picture-houses still carrying the films hoping for success at this Sunday’s Oscars but there are a few new releases well worth seeking out.

Having courted controversy in last year’s horror film Mother!, former franchise-heroine Jennifer Lawrence returns to screens in another strikingly different film.

Red Sparrow is based on the 2013 novel by retired-CIA officer Jason Matthews and has been adapted by writer Justin Haythe and three-times Hunger Games-director Francis Lawrence. Lawrence plays Dominika Egorova, a ballerina who becomes a pawn in Russian espionage, being recruited as a ‘Red Sparrow’ operative and trained to seduce and reduce state-enemies.

Egorova is trained by Charlotte Rampling’s stern Matron of the Sparrow School and directed by Jeremy Irons’ General Vladimir but will ultimately fall for CIA agent Nate Nash, played by Joel Egerton.

Matthews’ book comes with the accreditation of being named ‘accurate’ by the CIA itself, whilst the film rights were snapped up for a tidy seven-figure sum prior even to its publication. Should the new film prove a hit with audiences, Matthews was also immediately offered the contract for a sequel.

Lawrence’s film may however be a tough sell for most cinemagoers. Whilst its star is a glittering draw, a bleak plot, graphic scenes of torture, two-hour plus runtime and dispiriting attempts at a Russian accent aren’t going to be for everyone.

A more freely entertaining night at the pictures this week is instead to be found with Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein’s Game Night. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams star in the comedy thriller, which sees a group of friends – who regularly meet up for game nights – find themselves entangled in a real-life murder mystery.

A sterling cast ensemble includes Billy Magnussen, soon to play Aladdin in the Disney live action remake, and Ireland’s Sharon Horgan. Expect laughter in the billiards room with the funny bone.

With both films rated at 15, families are served instead by Monster Family, a British-German animation about a dysfunctional family who get cursed by a witch. Boasting an all-star British cast (Emily Watson, Catherine Tate et al), this one’s based on a ride at Somerset’s Wookey Hole.