At The Movies: Unpregnant is a funny, moving teen comedy

Still from the film Unpregnant starring Haley Lu Richardson (left) and Barbie Ferreira. PHOTO: HBO MAX

Unpregnant (NC16)

99 minutes / Premieres on Feb 6 on HBO Go and HBO / 4 stars

Unpregnant's subject matter - abortion - is at the heart of the American culture war. It is an issue so radioactive that the press materials for this comedy - yes, it is a comedy, and a funny one, too - do not use the "A" word.

Lead characters Veronica (Haley Lu Richardson) and Bailey (Barbie Ferreira) prefer euphemisms - "procedure" and the word of the film's title - until towards the end of the film.

But an abortion is what 17-year-old Veronica wants. As her home state requires parental consent for minors, the pretty and popular girl from a good family is forced to make overtures to estranged childhood friend and social outcast Bailey, because she has a car. With it, they can drive 14 hours to reach the nearest no-consent clinic.

Their secret road trip finds them meeting those who help them reach the clinic and others who prefer they fulfil "God's plan" for Veronica.

Despite this work containing almost every comedy cliche - one girl is an impulsive slob, the other a control freak; one is in the mean girls clique, the other the target of their bullying - it manages to find fresh detail in the girls' relationship while wisely staying away from the most obvious groaners.

For example, Bailey is not a stoner, nor does she exude a wisdom beyond her years. Like Veronica, she hides her vulnerabilities under a tough exterior.

The film's breeziness does not undercut or trivialise its message of sympathy for girls like Veronica, who are shamed, first for having sex and thenfor dealing with its consequences.

Adapted from a young adult novel of the same name, this work by director Rachel Lee Goldenberg veers close to being an all-girl version of the Harold & Kumar movies (2004 to 2011).

But it pulls back from the brink and what emerges is a funny, moving coming-of-age story featuring two winning performances by Richardson and Ferreira.

Assassins (PG13)

Still from Assassins with news footage showing accused killers Doan Thi Huong and Siti Aisyah in court. PHOTO: THE PROJECTOR

104 minutes / Showing exclusively at The Projector / 4 stars)

The 2017 murder of Kim Jong-nam at Kuala Lumpur International Airport was remarkable for just how weird it was.

The women arrested for it claimed to be hired to perform a prank. Also, the killing was alleged to have been done at the behest of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, half-brother of the murdered man.

American director Ryan White makes award-winning films that fight for a cause, whether it is for same-sex marriage (The Case Against 8, 2014) or to put a spotlight on an unsolved murder (The Keepers, 2017).

Here, with the help of sit-down interviews and archived news footage, he provides a broad and useful recap of the twists and turns of the whodunnit and the international squabbles it generated.

But the story gets its emotional centre from the women on death row - Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong. White gets long, heartbreaking interviews with them and their family members, and also filmed in their home countries to capture the economic conditions that made them go to Malaysia in search of a better life.

Unfortunately, he is so adamant about making this film a justice project that he takes their words at face value, despite it being clear to anyone watching that there is more to it than meets the eyes. That hurts the journalistic credibility of this otherwise fine project.

One hero that stands out is Siti's defence lawyer, Gooi Soon Seng, a lively and principled man who tried to save the women from execution, knowing the odds were against him. He deserves a film about his life.

Caught In The Net (R21)

Behind the scenes, they create three film sets that look like bedrooms, and have counsellors and legal experts standing by. PHOTO: HYPERMARKET FILM / MILAN JAROS

100 minutes / Now showing / 3 stars

Co-directors Barbora Chalupova and Vít Klusak hired three actresses over 18 years old but who looked 12 to pose as children on social media.

Behind the scenes, they create three film sets that look like bedrooms, and have counsellors and legal experts standing by. Their goal is to catch a paedophile.

The honey trap succeeded beyond their wildest dreams: Within hours, the girls netted thousands of chat requests from older men.

Within minutes of chatting, the gruesomeness begins - requests for nudes, sexual grooming and inboxes flooded with genitalia selfies. So many are sent and shown in the film - pixelated, of course - one might leave the screening in need of a disinfectant shower.

There are many paedophilia documentaries in which journalists interview victims and pick over the traces left by the crime, with the help of re-enactments. This one immerses the viewer in the horror while it is unfolding, going where those films dare not.

At times, it feels like lurid tabloid scaremongering, reinforced by the film's hand-wringing over predators, with little said about how to stop it.

Anti-Life (NC16)

Bruce Willis stars as Clay in Anti-Life. PHOTO: TOUCHSTONE PICTURES

93 minutes / opens Feb 4 / not reviewed

In a ship taking hibernating humans away from a dying Earth to repopulate a new world, Clay (Bruce Willis) is one of the few left awake to maintain the ship. When members of the crew are found dead, Clay has to find the killer and save the ship.

The Room (NC16)

Olga Kurylenko and Kevin Janssens star in The Room. PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

100 minutes / opens Feb 4 / not reviewed

In this horror mystery, Kate (Olga Kurylenko) and Matt (Kevin Janssens) move from the city to a rural mansion. They discover a room which grants wishes but soon realise the magic comes with strings attached.

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