His Dark Materials
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Based on a best-selling book series, Bent is a fairy stereotypical noir crime thriller. After getting out of prison former police detective Daniel Gallagher looks into a murder that his partner was investigating before he was killed, and comes to believe that it could be connected to the crime boss that set him up. Starring Karl Urban, Sofia Vergara, and Andy Garcia, the film has a pretty solid cast; though Vergara seems a bit out of her element. The plot is a little convoluted, or at least the murder mystery is, and is kind of hard to follow at times. Still, there's a good amount of intrigue and a few interesting plot twists. Bent is entertaining and delivers some thrills, but ends up being a rather mediocre action film.
James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez team up for the sci-fi action film Alita: Battle Angel. Based on a Japanese graphic novel and adapted by James Cameron, the story follows a cyborg who's rescued from a junk yard with no memory of who she was, but after she becomes a bounty hunter she starts getting pieces of her memory back; meanwhile Nova, the mysterious leader of the sky city Zalem takes an interest in this new cyborg after she demonstrates some long forgotten fighting techniques. Rosa Salazar gives an impressive motion-capture performance as Alita, but there's an "uncanny valleyness" about the character design. And the script is kind of a mess, as it's all over the place setting up multiple story threats (several of which are never resolved). Still, the action scenes are incredibly exciting and dynamic. Also, the set and character designs are really creative, featuring a variety of interesting future tech and several different types cyborgs. Alita: Battle Angel is a visually stunning and entertaining film that reaches a little further than it can grasp.
From director Tim Burton comes the whimsical fantasy adventure Dumbo, a live-action adaptation of the Disney animated classic. When a baby elephant with abnormally large ears learns how to fly he proves to be a boom to a failing circus, which is then invited to join a Coney Island amusement park; but they soon discover that the park is not as welcoming as it seems. Featuring Colin Farrell, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, and Michael Keaton, the cast is quite impressive and delivers some good performances. And Burton does an impressive job at creating a surrealistic, fairy tale-esque atmosphere; which of course is helped out by Danny Elfman's wonderful score. It's a little dark and edgier than the original (crows notwithstanding), but Dumbo delivers the same magic.
Incredibly powerful, Unplanned is true story of Abby Johnson, a Planned Parenthood clinic director who became pro-life. The film follows Abby as she joins Planned Parenthood as a volunteer in college to help women in crises and works her way up to counselor and eventually director, but when she's called on to assist in an abortion everything changes. The writers do a good job at addressing the pro-life and pro-choice issues while keeping the focus centered on Abby. And while the story is ultimately pro-life, the film plays fair; showing extremists on both side, as well as good people of conscience. Additionally, Ashley Bratcher does an excellent job at showing the emotionally journey that Abby went through. Extraordinarily compelling, Unplanned takes the audience to the frontlines of the battle over abortion.
A mediocre thriller, First Kill has a bit of intrigue but not much of a story. When Will Beeman takes his son on a hunting trip they accidentally witness a falling out between two bank robbers, one of whom then kidnaps Will's son in order to force him to retrieve the stolen money for him. Hayden Christensen and Bruce Willis lead the cast and give solid performances. However the plot is pretty formulaic and uses a lot of standard clichés; dirty cops, a criminal with a heart of gold, etc. And the directing is rather perfunctory, and does nothing to heighten the dramatic tension or action sequences. First Kill is a stereotypical abduction film that's by-the-numbers.