Tag Archives: Justin Theroux

Pregnant Pause

False Positive

by Hope Madden

You’ll find real horror in False Positive. There’s the plot, sure—a woman desperate to conceive, in the hands of a nefarious physician with a God complex—and all the body horror and helplessness that go along with it. But that’s not the scary part.

Indeed, co-writer/director John Lee levels a more comedic tone to the by-the-numbers premise. Where he and co-writer/star Ilana Glazer mine unnerving dread is in their observational honesty.

Glazer is Lucy, and she and her husband Adrian (Justin Theroux, slyly wonderful) have been trying to get pregnant for two years. As much as she wants to do this naturally, she finally caves in to Adrian’s suggestion that they visit his med school mentor, Dr. Hindle (Pierce Brosnan – perfection).

Lee’s intention is not to make you wonder whether something sinister is afoot. The Stepford-esque nursing staff and eerily meticulous clinic proclaim it. The sheer number and variety of phallic instruments to be inserted, and the volume of lubricant so very lovingly applied, plays like SNL by way of Cronenberg.

If you’ve ever seen Broad City, Glazer’s groundbreaking Comedy Central sit-com, you may not recognize the performer’s dramatic skills, but you will recognize the writer’s keen eye for everyday absurdities.

Here’s where False Positive’s horror kicks in. It’s the authenticity, the banal realism of Lucy’s daily condescending, dismissive, patronizing, smothering, gaslighting humiliations that really eat at you. The low-key accuracy of it all—from the male colleagues who swear you are glowing as they leave their lunch orders next to your laptop, to your nurse’s reassuring caresses and terms of endearment, to your husband’s reminder whenever you’re feeling down that we’ve been through a lot with this pregnancy.

Tensions escalate as the storyline itself dictates, although the film is far more surefooted in its observational horror than it is in its plot. Lucy’s pre-pregnancy character is ill-defined, which makes her descent less satisfying. The climax is played for comedic value and the final act’s weirdness, though welcome, holds no real meaning.

Worse of all is the under-developed character of a midwife played imposingly by Zainab Jah. Lee clearly hoped to use this character as a statement on the genre itself but the whole affair feels wrong-headed.

Those are some serious misgivings, I grant you, but there really is something subversive, honest, and horrifying worth witnessing in this movie.

Katie Galore

The Spy Who Dumped Me

by George Wolf

As late summer comedies go, we’ve done worse than The Spy Who Dumped Me. And like so many secret agents with a “particular set of skills,” this film has one.

It’s name is Kate McKinnon.

That’s not to throw shade on Mila Kunis, who flashes fine comic timing in the straight woman role, giving McKinnon plenty of space to do that thing she does. Be weird and funny and sometimes hilarious.

McKinnon is Morgan and Kunis plays Audrey, her longtime best friend who just got “text dumped” by boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux). Just as the girls are setting fire to the stuff Drew left at Audrey’s place, they find out he was a spy, and that “2nd Place Fantasy Football” trophy of his is valuable enough to get them killed.

Director/co-writer Susanna Fogel cooks up the usual elements for a spy spoof, with amusing hijinx, scattershot action, globe-trotting locales, and a little touch of raunch to earn that R rating.

There’s also a couple quirky side characters (like the agent who keeps reminding everyone he went to Harvard) and some familiar faces (Jane Curtin, Paul Reiser, Gillian Anderson).

But Fogel’s MVP is McKinnon, and it’s pretty clear she knows it. McKinnon may not get a script credit, but it isn’t hard to imagine some of the pages saying little more than “have Kate do something funny.”

And she does, particularly skillful enough to make The Spy Who Dumped Me a goofy, enjoyable time-waster.



Fathers and Sons

The LEGO Ninjago Movie

by Christie Robb

A spin-off movie of the LEGO Ninjago television show, the new LEGO movie once again centers on the relationship of a dude and his boy.

Like the first LEGO Movie, the main story is nestled within the frame of events happening in the human world. A live-action sequence starts Ninjago when a young boy wanders into a Gremlins-esque antiques shop run by Mr. Liu (Jackie Chan). The lad seems a bit lost, possibly bullied, so Mr. Liu lets him hang out and spins a yarn about another troubled boy. Chan’s story comes to life, portrayed by LEGO minifigures, set in the island city of Ninjago.

In the animated story within a story, we are introduced to Lloyd (voiced by Dave Franco), the abandoned son of Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux), a warlord intent on destroying Ninjago. Everyone knows who Lloyd’s dad is and they direct their anger and frustration on the son.

Thankfully, Lloyd does have some friends who happen to be part-time ninjas…just like him, who fight Lord Garmadon in supercool mechs.

Like LEGO Batman, Ninjago is more than willing to take elements of other intellectual properties and play around with them. However, where Batman came off gloriously snarky and peppered with pop culture references, having creatures like Doctor Who’s Daleks’ interact directly with baddies like Lord Voldemort, Ninjago feels like the scriptwriters put their favorite fiction in a blender and hit pulse—Star Wars, Godzilla, Power Rangers, Austin Powers, Captain Planet, Voltron, Team America World Police with a little bit of Sharknado thrown in there, too.

The resulting film is muddled—confused about what it wants to be and derivative. The philosophical frame of the first LEGO Movie and the rapid-fire in-jokes from LEGO Batman are missing, letting the adults in the audience down. There’s a sameness to the supporting characters and a dearth of fun cameos. (Although a troublingly flamboyant “Fuchsia Ninja” does pop up for a moment.)

The action is pretty run of the mill, sacrificing the opportunity for what could have been some truly great physics-defying fight sequences for mech vs mech battles that seem like commercials for (admittedly probably pretty cool) playsets.

The hero’s quest that forces father and son together comes off as somehow both rushed and ponderously slow. And the father/son drama so heavy-handed that you can almost hear Cats in the Cradle playing behind a particularly fraught conversation.

LEGO Ninjago is the weakest offering in Lego’s growing collection of colorful family drama action movies, just serving to remind me that I should probably rent one of the previous two and have a night in instead.