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James Ward Byrkit completes his journey from storyboard artist (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest) to story man (Rango) to writer-director with this overextended but mostly enjoyable trip into the Twilight Zone. (The writing is sharp and clear; the direction tends toward jittery-jumpy, with frequent fades to black thrown in for the sake of disorientation.) The trip comes courtesy of a passing comet that somehow puts eight friends who have gathered for a dinner party into the box with Schrodinger’s Cat. What does that mean? Here’s a hint: as one guy writes a note to leave on the door of a nearby house, the exact same note gets left on his own door. Much time and energy is spent on doping out the mechanics of just what is going on, but the actual drama is more personal and relationshippy. And the eventual collision between mechanics and drama, while intriguing, isn’t as shattering as it might be. (2013) — Matthew Lickona

Rated NR | 1 hour, 29 minutes
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Coherence is a science fiction thriller that's heavy on the science and the fiction yet light on the thrills. When a passing comet brings about a confluence of multiple realities, eight yuppies at a dinner party scramble about with more panic than curiosity. (Fans of the original Star Trek series will be reminded of the episode Mirror, Mirror, which makes as much sense but is a lot more compelling.) There's plenty to think about as the story unfolds, but the mood is one of malaise rather than tension and the drama never transports; this movie doesn't move. Eventually tedium sets in as the characters meander through the puzzle, but with a running time of only 89 minutes the journey is thankfully not a long one. The handheld and sometimes unfocused camera conveys a sense of realism at the cost of any cinematic interest, much as the improvised dialogue feels natural but fails to engage. Comparisons to Buñuel's The Exterminating Angel are inevitable, but this is not to the advantage of Coherence: Buñuel's masterpiece had the good sense to avoid any attempt to explain the curious goings-on but instead delighted in the absurdity. As the film enters is second half it increasingly aims its attention at Em (Emily Foxler), whose pulchritude becomes a distraction from the film's denouement.

July 10, 2014

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