Giving Pregnant Pause


False Positive (2021)

“False Positive” is not body horror in the conventional sense, as the terrors visited on our protagonist, Lucy (Ilana Glazer), are from clinical procedures performed by fertility specialist Dr. Hindle (Pierce Brosnan) with a hospital gown obscuring her view. Much like “Here Before,” “False Positive” casts its protagonist as an unreliable narrator suffering mental breakdown, only to reveal its own plot twist as she’s gaslit the whole time.

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A Hard Row

Todd Martin

The Novice (2021)

Why can’t girls just have fun? We never learn why rowing is so important to Alex (Isabelle Fuhrman) – before she can introduce herself at the team induction, she’s interrupted. But it’s made very clear by Coach Pete (Jonathan Cherry) and fellow novice Jamie (Amy Forsyth) that anyone who’s good enough to make varsity by sophomore year gets a full scholarship. This is probably why there are so many people at the initial tryouts, but the 5 a.m. starts, punishing gym regime and the uncomfortable requirements of the sport swiftly thin the ranks. But Alex can’t get enough, and it’s immediately clear that her determination is indistinguishable from self-harm.

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Over the Borderline

Alejandro Lopez Pineda/Sony Pictures Classics

I Carry You With Me (Te Llevo Conmigo) (2021)

Though based on a true story, the synopsis of “I Carry You With Me” nevertheless reads like a liberal guilt bingo card: It’s the story of gay undocumented immigrants from Mexico. To escape poverty, lack of opportunity and a straight family, aspiring chef Iván (Armando Espitia) illegally crosses the border. His well-to-do lover, Gerardo (Christian Vázquez), fails to obtain a visa and forfeits his university teaching job and generational wealth in order to join Iván in New York. Even as they work their way up, the lack of a path to citizenship necessarily means that they will never again visit their loved ones back home.

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Field Goals

Laura Wilson/Sony Pictures Classics

12 Mighty Orphans (2021)

Was “12 Mighty Orphans” meant to be so howlingly funny? And doesn’t the fact that it clearly was not make it even funnier? Inspired by true events, we are in the depths of the Depression when Rusty Russell (Luke Wilson, who everyone forgets is from Texas), his wife Juanita (Vinessa Shaw) and their cute little daughter arrive at the Masonic Home in Fort Worth, Texas. Home to 150 orphans and run by Frank Wynn (Wayne Knight, who does everything the part requires with tremendous flair), the only kids that matter are the ones who end up on the fledging football team. Of those 12 boys, only six really have speaking parts, not that it matters who is who: You might as well call them Dashing, Angry, Weedy, Stammers, Peeper and Jolly. There’s also an assistant coach (Martin Sheen) who’s an alcoholic doctor perfectly called Doc and a knowing newspaperman (Rooster McConaughey) even more perfectly called Pop. It’s a damn shame Robert Duvall’s brief cameo part isn’t called Mac, but that would have been ridiculous.

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Running Into the Ground

China Lion Film

Never Stop (2021)

China’s box office champion over the dragon boat festival long weekend, “Never Stop” seems to be emblematic of that nation’s contemporary cinema. Its plot revolves around two track stars, both with corny, clichéd names. Hao Chaoyue (Ryan Zheng), which means “surpass” in English, is a washed-up medalist who finds himself in financial ruins for peddling counterfeit sneakers. Wu Tianyi (Li Yunrui), which literally translates to “adding wings,” is a current titleholder and qualifying for the Olympics. In a desperate bid to salvage his business, Chaoyue reaches out to Tianyi, his former underling, in hopes of securing an endorsement deal. Meanwhile, Tianyi’s A.D.H.D. symptoms spiral into a full-fledged mental breakdown.

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Golden Mean Girls

Ray Bengston/Gravitas Ventures

Queen Bees (2021)

The “Queen Bees” trailer pitches the film as “Mean Girls” for the geriatric set, but in actuality it’s a feature-length infomercial singing the virtues of the nursing home and brought to you by the AARP (which, incidentally, was the actual sponsor of the virtual preview this critic attended).

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Unlicensed to Kill

David Appleby/Lionsgate

The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard (2021)

“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” finds Ryan Reynolds reprising the role of dimwitted Michael Bryce, who suffers an identity crisis due to his professional license being revoked and goes on a sabbatical in Italy per the suggestion of his therapist (Rebecca Front). However, the serenity is short lived as Sonia Kincaid (Salma Hayek) from the 2017 original rudely disrupts to summon his help rescuing his former client and her husband, Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson).

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Father Imposes Best

3388 Films

Bo Gia (Dad, I’m Sorry) (2021)

In Vietnam’s all-time box office champ, “Bo Gia (Dad, I’m Sorry),” a deeply traditional extended family reckons with the generation gap and broader cultural shifts brought by modernization and Westernization. It’s the same well Ang Lee drew from exactly three decades ago to much international acclaim, yet this time it feels different. Whereas Mr. Lee became increasingly mindful of his international profile and audience as the “Father Knows Best” trilogy progressed, directors Tran Thanh and Vu Ngoc Dang are unabashedly Vietnamese in their approach, warts and all.

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Fleeing the Nest

Jonny Cournoyer/Paramount Pictures

A Quiet Place Part II (2021)

“A Quiet Place Part II” lives in the shadow of many great sci-fi horror flicks. Its predecessor revolved around blind creatures attracted to noises, like the cave dwellers in “The Descent,” but it felt original because of its theme of family dynamics related to responsibilities and guilt. The sequel seems to have drawn various plotlines from “The Walking Dead,” “Dawn of the Dead” and “Aliens.” It works for the most part, although it also feels comparatively derivative and tangential. Trailers and ads have played up the “Walking Dead” aspect, but it’s contained within only one scene.

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Inglorious Bastards

Focus Features

Final Account (2021)

The documentary “Final Account” tracks down about 20 members of the last generation of Germans and Austrians from the Third Reich to glean their recollections. The typical responses: 1. We didn’t know! Nobody knew! 2. Everybody knew, but we were too scared to talk about it! 3. Ashamed. 4. No regrets.

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