Alita: Battle Angel (2019) | Robert Rodriguez



The origin of Alita: Battle Angel starts with Yukito Kishiro’s intricately plotted 1990 manga, something this adaptation has to simplify in order to make it palatable for wide-release audiences.  The setting is an Earth five centuries from now, a mostly tumultuous and vice-filled world that suffers even more by comparison to the life of luxury from the beaming city utopia called Zalem that floats above their heads. Christoph Waltz plays Dr. Ido, a brilliant scientist who has been through he trash-heaps of history to find something of value and meaning. Ido soon discovers the remnants of a robotic entity, taking it back to his lab for rehabilitation, resulting in a cyborg creation he has dubbed “Alita” (which was also the name of the daughter he lost in a tragedy), who has the mind of a teenage girl and hard-shell body to match. She walks, talks and understands, but one thing she can’t readily do is remember who she is or why she exists. Ido provides fatherly guidance, but Alita is drawn to battle and action by her nature, stoked further by an interest in the local boy named Hugo, who sees more potential in Alita’s abilities that could make her formidable in a world that values such adept skills in the arena of conflict.


Isn’t It Romantic (2019) | Todd Strauss-Schulson



Rebel Wilson plays Natalie, working as an architect in New York City, though often marginalized by her peers at her firm as one of the administrative assistants who make copies and fetch coffee for the others a the board meetings. To make matters worse, she ends up getting mugged and assaulted in the subway, resulting in a loss of consciousness that finds her waking up in a too-nice hospital being catered to, and flirted with, by the handsome doctor there.  Her apartment is now three times the size and meticulously furnished, her neighbor now flamboyantly gay, and the hunky, wealthy client they’ve recently taken on at the firm (Liam Hemsworth) now only has eyes for her. In short, she’s the star of her own romantic comedy, and the only person she can confide in that knowledge is her best friend at work, Josh (Adam Devine), who holds a secret crush for Natalie that she’s been too stuck in her low self esteem to see.


How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019) | Dean DeBlois



Hiccup is now into adulthood, young but now the leader among the Dragon-rescuing Vikings of their island fortress village of Berk.  Though the Vikings have lived in Berk for generations, Hiccup soon sees that they’ve outgrown their small island, especially with the overcrowding of the Dragons there as they rescue more of them, eyeing the mythical sanctuary on the edge of the world to guide these magical beasts.  Meanwhile, love may be in the air, with Hiccup perhaps on the verge of marriage with Astrid, though she seems reticent, and Toothless perhaps finding a mate with a female Dragon very much like him, dubbed a “Light Fury” due to its alabaster color, in contrast to Toothless’ obsidian appearance. Unfortunately, it’s all a trap set by Grimmel, the notorious hunter of Night Fury dragons, who aims to snuff them all out at any cost.


The Kid Who Would Be King (2019) | Joe Cornish



THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING involves a young boy in London named Alex, who spends his days bullied at school, primarily because he sticks up to those bullies – Lance and Kaye – to protect his bullied friend Bedders. In the heat of one of those skirmishes, Alex stumbles upon a ‘sword in the stone’ like the one in his book on King Arthur left to him by his absent father, and he manages to pull it out from the concrete block that had been its home. Knighting Bedders with it, the boys are soon visited by a teenage representation of Merlin (he claims to age backwards), who is lost in time and newly in disguise as one of their schoolmates. Merlin gets Alex up to speed about his quest to save humanity from enslavement from the coming of the dormant but powerful witch Morgana within four days (when a solar eclipse will happen), and that he’ll need to raise an army of his friends, and enemies, to become the king of legend.  Joe Cornish writes and directs. Features Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Angus Imrie, Rebecca Ferguson, and Patrick Stewart.


Vice (2018) | Adam McKay



Written and directed by Adam McKay, who impressed in his last effort from 2015, The Big ShortVice is specifically a biopic of sorts about former Vice President of the United States under George W. Bush, Dick Cheney — both of whom were seen as responsible for the policies that brought about the stock market crash covered so well in McKay’s prior film.  McKay covers Cheney’s rise from drunken slob, to shaping up by entering Wyoming business and politics, to becoming a power player in the Republican party in Washington (Chief of Staff under President Ford), to his failed ambition to become president, to becoming the CEO of Halliburton.  However, some would say that, after a successful bed on the bottom of the ticket for the 2000 and 2004 elections, he found a way, dubbed the Unitary Executive Theory, to become the most powerful nation in the world from the number-two position despite it being seen as a do-nothing office.


Glass (2019) | M. Night Shyamalan



Glass serves as a sequel to two films from M. Night Shyamalan, 2000’s Unbreakable and 2018’s Split, the latter of which tied itself to the former with the post-end title stinger. Bruce Willis makes his return as the ‘unbreakable’ security company owner David Dunn, who, along with his adult son (and sole employee) Joseph, is trying to track down a crazy roaming the streets of Philadelphia who is abducting teenage girls.  James McAvoy continues his portrayal of Kevin Wendell Crumb, aka The Horde, a conglomerations of split personalities that take over Kevin’s body at various points, including the homicidal brute known as The Beast, who is the one feeding on those girls David is looking for .  Samuel L. Jackson also returns from Unbreakable as the titular character, the brittle mastermind self-named Mr. Glass, aka Elijah Price, who has apparently been laying low for some time under heavy sedation.  The three end up rounded up and subsequently kept separate chambers within a high-security psychiatric facility led by Sarah Paulson’s Dr. Ellie Staple, whose specialty is in rehabilitating persons who believe they are superheroes. From Split, Anya Taylor-Joy returns as Casey Cooke, who survived her terror-filled first meeting with The Horde while in its persona as The Beast, but who finds herself drawn to help him escape his inner demons.


Leave No Trace (2018) | Debra Granik



Ben Foster’s war vet Will, widower father to the young teenage girl with the boy’s name of Tom (Thomasin McKenzie), is suffering from some sort of Post Traumatic Stress from his time in the service, living out in the woods, completely off the grid, roughing it in that public park in Oregon.  Director Debra Granik combined these elements with the story of a man who raised his daughter off the grid in their own cabin in Oregon, wanting her to learn from nature and books rather than live her whole life in a world of conformity, though she did have exposure to those elements in her time of custody with her mother, as well as in her teen years, when she went to a high school and became more interested in conforming to society.


Bumblebee (2018) | Travis Knight



This time out, the character of Bumblebee ends up going back to his original look from the toy line and cartoon series of a Volkswagen Beetle, when he arrives on Earth back in 1987 as part of a last-minute escape plan for the Autobots on Cybertron to find an inhabitable planet as theirs is about to be destroyed in an all-out civil war with the Decepticons.  Bumblebee ends up emerging in California, where his dormant state of the Beetle laying in rust in a junkyard, in hiding after being hunted by Sector Seven (the government agency who first discovers him), draws the eye of a troubled teenage girl named Charlie Watson, who views the car as freedom and an opportunity to follow in her recently deceased father’s footsteps by repairing two damaged precious things – the car, and herself.


BlacKkKlansman (2018) | Spike Lee



In this Spike Lee joint, we go back to the 1970s, where we find Ron Stallworth, the first black police detective working for the Colorado Springs Police Department.  In one of his first assignments after laboring behind the scenes to test the waters as a file clerk, Ron is hired to go undercover to record a speech being given locally by black activist Kwame Ture (Corey Hawkins), formerly known as Stokely Carmichael, at a nearby college, in which the subject is black empowerment, racist law enforcement, and preparation for the race war they feel will be inevitable. The police thought the speech would incite violence, but Ron saw the speech as just talk in that regard, and inspiring otherwise.


Aquaman (2018) | James Wan



The setting starts sometime in the 1980s, where we find Atlantean queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) coming up to the surface in the state of Maine to get away from an arranged marriage, seeking a bit of sanctuary and time to heal in a lighthouse run by a human named Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison). The two unlikely partners fall in love, eventually leading to a son, Arthur Curry.  The kingdom of Atlantis is not pleased with Atlanna’s apparent defection to the land, sending out their soldiers to claim her back, culminating in Tom being left alone to raise the boy himself as a human, except one with the powers of Atlanteans in his DNA, including an ability to talk to and command all forms of marine life.

We fast forward to Arthur’s adulthood, known to the land-dwellers as “The Aquaman” after a series of public acts of heroism, one including taking down pirates that includes future nemesis Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mareen II).  However, Arthur has to become a savior to his adopted people when the current rule of Atlantis, Arthur’s half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson), is looking to mount a war with the land walkers who continue to pollute the oceans, seeking the assistance of King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren), one of the leaders of the ‘seven seas’ needed to approve. Nereus’s daughter Mera looks to recruit Arthur’s assistance in staving off the uprising from his brother’s charge.  Arthur must go undersea to make his presence felt, but the opposite of a fish out of water in his new environs in the Atlantean realm, especially when the situation boils down to a mano-a-mano battle between Arthur and Orm on his home turf (or non-turf, as it happens to be).