In physics, Schrodinger's Cat is used to explain quantum physics as a cat, in a sealed box with a vial of poison that could open at any time and kill the cat, being simultaneously being alive and dead until the box is opened and one possibility becomes reality.  But what if that duality broke down -- and was more than one?  This is the sort of mind game as the center of Coherence, a low-key, special effects-free science fiction movie,

Mike (Nicholas Brendon) and Lee (Lorene Scarafia) are having a dinner party for some couples they know: Emily (Emily Baldoni) and Kevin (Maury Sterling) , Hugh (Hugh Armstrong) and Beth (Elizabeth Gracen), and Amir (Alex Manugian) and Laurie (Lauren Maher).  It's also a special night -- a comet is passing by overhead -- and strange things are happening: Some people's cell phone screen shatter and there's no phone or Internet reception.  Emily has stories about strange happenings when comets have been seen, and Hugh's physicist brother asked him to phone if anything unusual occurs.  The greater tension seems to be Emily's upset that her former boyfriend Amir showed up with Laurie as his date.

When the power goes out in the town (except for one house, two houses down) and there's a knock at the door, everyone gets jumpy.   Then things get really weird.  Hugh and Amir go to the only house with power, to use their phone, but come back saying it was exactly like Mike and Lee's house.  Amir also found a metal box with a ping pong paddle and photos of everyone at the dinner party, with a number written on the back of each photo -- in Emily's handwriting.

 Pretty soon people keep experiencing changes in time (Hugh writes a note to leave on the door of the other house, only to immediately find a copy of the note on their door) and duplicates of themselves with slight differences (like when the originals use blue glowsticks to see in the dark -- and running into other versions of themselves with red glowsticks).  It all comes down to a theory in Hugh's brother's physics book explaining that decoherence keeps different outcomes from interacting with each other.  But the friends start getting stressed and turning on each other, as well as figuring out what to do: Stay holed up in the house until everything passes?  Wander in the dark?  Kill their duplicates?

Coherence reminds me a lot of the movie Triangle, in that both are mind games that don't have much supporting an intellectual mind-blowing concept.  The acting is okay, but the characters are far too ready to accept converging alternate realities as explaining some weird stuff happening during a blackout.  Most of the characters are also paper thin, and the camerawork is jumpy with far too many blackout cuts between scenes.  Coherence has an interesting basic concept, but not enough behind it to involve the audience.  (DVD extras are basic behind-the-scenes features and commentaries.)

Overall grade: C
Reviewed by James Lynch



Everybody sing!  Let's all shout some mo-vies/ let's all shout out some mo-vies/let's all shout out some mo-vies/ and win ourselves a game!  Ahem.  Double Feature, from Renegade Studios, is a party game for 4-10 players who, ideally, know a lot of movies.

Double Feature has six decks -- Prop, Scene, Character, Theme & Genre, Setting, and Production -- that are all laid out face-down in front of everyone.  Each turn, one player is the Director.  At the start of the game they draw and read two cards from different decks, and the first player (not the Director) who can name a movie matching the two cards gets a point (and the card that's been on the table the longest to represent the point).  The newer card remains, the next player clockwise becomes the next Director, they choose a card from a different deck than the card on the table, the other players shout out a movie matching the two cards, and so on.  (If no one can name a movie matching the two cards, a third card is added and players have to name a movie matching two of the three cards.)  Whoever gets enough points (based on the number of players) wins!

Double Feature is a fun, simple, and straightforward game.  It plays pretty quickly, and I recommend someone have their smart phone or laptop ready to check on any disputed movies.  There's not a lot of depth to the game, and it definitely favors those who see a lot of films.  Double Feature is another "fun little game" that's good for some light entertainment before a more strategic game starts.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch


WHAT YOU NEED by Rachel Wifall

A central theme of literature is what the character(s) need, whether it's survival, love, victory, wealth, knowledge, or something else.  Rachel Wifall looks at this search through three very different people, times, and places in her first novel What You Need.

This novel is divided into three separate stories.  "Haunted Heart," set in England 1949, revolves around former pilot Edward, his unspoken love for his friend Claire, and her wedding to his best friend Archie.  "Stairways" is set in NYC in 2013, where Fergus McNamara balances family, gambling, and working as household manager for the rich, impatient, and obnoxious Abe Goldman, his spoiled wife Julia, and their servants and high-society friends.  Finally, "What You Need (Ce dont vous avezbesion)"  brings us to Long Island in 2010 and Mary, whose balance of waitressing, education, dating, and friends is upset by the murder of her neighbor Mark.

What You Need is a satisfying, pleasant novel.  Rachel creates very distinct protagonists for each segment of the book, whether it's the almost antiquated feel of the post-war love triangle, the hectic life of a big job in Manhattan, or the uncertain stumbling to figure out what one wants and needs in their thirties.  The dialogue is nice, whether it's philosophical musings ("Time may not be an issue for those already departed, but life could seem so long to the living.")  The overall pace of What You Need is sometimes slow, but it's also an enjoyable slice of life from three distinct lives.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch


Yvonne Craig 1937-2015

Actress Yvonne Craig passed away two days ago.

While Craig took on numerous and varied roles, she became most famous as a "geek sex symbol" in the 1960s.  Her most famous role was that of Batgirl/Barbara Gordon in the third and final season of the 1966 television series Batman:

She achieved almost as much fame as the green-skinned Orion slave girl Marta in the Star Trek episode "Whom Gods Destroy:"

While she worked steadily after that, no other roles were quite as successful or memorable; and she eventually left acting to  work in real estate.  In 2000 she published her biography From Ballet to the Batcave and Beyond (and I hope to find a copy of it one of these days):

While I wasn't a fan of the Batman show, I really enjoyed Yvonne Craig on it: She was enthusiastic, kicked butt, and was amazingly sexy; she was also the first female comic book hero brought to life (followed in the 1970s by Linda Carter as Wonder Woman).  Yvonne Craig was an icon of women as superheroes, and she will be remembered fondly.

Written by James Lynch



The past has a way of catching up with the present -- and sometimes it can be devastating.  This is the basis for The Gift, a psychological drama revolving around three people.
Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are a seemingly idyllic married couple.  They just moved from California into a beautiful new home, Simon is advancing at his new job, Robyn is working from home at her old job, and they're hoping to have a baby.  While out shopping, they run into Gordon "Gordo" Moseley (Joel Edgerton, who wrote and directed The Gift), who went to school with Simon.  They exchange polite pleasantries, and arrange to meet up.

The dinner is nice, even if Gordo is socially awkward.  Afterwards, he keeps leaving small gifts at the couple's house.  Robyn likes him and feels a little sorry for him, while Simon -- who remembers him as "Gordo the Weirdo" from high school -- wants him out of their life.  Then Gordo's behavior seems to become more extreme, strange things begin happening around the house, and Robyn begins investigating what happened between Simon and Gordo back in high school -- and what her husband is really like.

The Gift is a more subtle and effective thriller-drama.  The tension and mystery comes not from violence and dead bodies, but rather from how the characters interact and reveal themselves.  Jason Bateman is terrific, gradually transforming the ambitious, determined husband to a domineering bully (in high school he was known as "Simon Says" because everyone did what he wanted) who tends to steamroll his wife as much as Gordo.  Joel Edgerton does well making Gordo somewhere between likable, creepy, and very possibly dangerous.  And Robyn Hall fills out the cast nicely, as her Rebecca begins as damaged and grows stronger as her sympathy for Gordo parallels her growing suspicions about her husband.

The ending of The Gift may be slightly anticlimactic, but the movie manages a slow, effective build of tension and a mystery that is more realistic than many thrillers.  It's definitely worth seeing.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch



 First, let me say that Night of the Grand Octopus from Iello Games is clearly about H.P. Lovecraft's mythos.  The Grand Octopus is Cthulhu --from the physical description to being imprisoned under the sea -- the library resembles Arkham University, and one of the Components is a Silver Key.  It's clearly Lovecraftian.  Anyway...

In Night of the Grand Octopus, 3-5 players are playing Cultists, gathering four different Components to summon the Grand Octopus and win the game (and, presumably, get eaten last).  Each player gets a Cultist Pawn (which goes on the gameboard), an Offspring (which resembles a giant evil Teddy Bear), a token that goes on the Dagger of Power to show how many Cultists a player has (everyone starts with the number of players plus one), and a Command Clock (with the rooms on the gameboard and two dials).  The gameboard has several locations, each connected by pathways and containing their own Components (Skulls in the Crypt, Grimoires in the  Library, and so on); each location has a number of Components equal to the number of players minus one.  There's also an Exterior Location (one of four available), which has a Silver Key and an unique ability.
On each turn, players secretly use their Command Clock to select destinations for their Cultist and Offspring.  (Players can also select the same destination for both, which Sends the Cultist to the Exterior Location and keeps the Offspring from going on the board).  Once everyone is set, the players reveal their Command Clocks and move their Cultist and Offspring to their Locations.
If a Cultist is alone in a Location, they can collect a Component (if they didn't already have that one); if at the Exterior Location, they can use its ability.  If Cultist winds up in a room with an Offspring, they can collect no Component and lose a Cultist (and get eliminated from the game if they have no Cultists left).  And if multiple Cultists wind up in the same Location, they have no negotiate: Everyone can agree that no one gets anything, one player can Dominate and be the only one to get a Component, or everyone loses a Cultist.  At the end of each turn, if a player has four different Components and at least one Cultist left, they win!

Night of the Grand Octopus is fun, quick, and a bit simple.  While the game is easy to learn and a quick play, the strategy consists almost entirely of anticipating/guessing where an opponent's Cultist will go and sending the Offspring there, while trying not to be as predictable themselves.  Night of the Grand Octopus is enjoyable, but it's a quick little game that's best played before a "feature" game.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch