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The latest JJ Abrams production, from director Dan Trachtenberg (the shorts “Kickin’” and “Portal: No Escape”) and the screenwriting firm of Josh Campbell & Matthew Stuecken and Damien Chazelle, is more of a sci-fi-mystery cousin to 2008’s “Cloverfield” than a true sibling (meaning it is decidedly not a sequel to that surprise hit). What the new movie does though is traffic in the notion that there are monsters all around us; sometimes they are the root of the crisis that drives us, while other times, they are merely locked inside us, waiting to escape. As a young woman caught up in a scenario that seems to borrow from the psychological concerns of “Room,” Mary Elizabeth Winstead faces off against a series of conventionally escalating fears, proving once again that she can do the Sigourney Weaver shtick (having already gone down this road in the remake of “The Thing”), but she’s unable to add any new layers or textures to the material.




When we first encountered Sacha Baron Cohen, he lived inside the goofy character of Borat, a naïve Eastern European enamored with Western culture. In the characterization, there was a hint of sharp wit (reminiscent of Peter Sellers) and a big open heart. Since that character’s feature film appearance, which earned Cohen and his team an Oscar nomination for the writing, Cohen has wandered down a considerably darker, more mean-spirited alleyway. And now, hitching up with director Louis Leterrier (a Luc Besson acolyte), “The Brothers Grimsby” plumbs the grimy depths, seeking baser ways to shock us, as if actual humor has somehow gone out of fashion. What is sad to see, moreso than the disappearance of the antic grace that Cohen once displayed, is the ever-game Mark Strong debasing himself in this tripe.




Terrence Jenkins, former E! News anchor and mainstay of the current black rom-com movement (the “Think Like a Man” franchise and “Baggage Claim”), takes and admirably holds center stage in this Bille Woodruff-directed advertisement for upscale buppies (I know, the term is dated, but that’s who these characters are). As Charlie, he plays the professionally successful lothario with artistic longings who accepts a challenge from his boys to attempt to settle for one woman (Cassie Ventura) and the possibility of love/heartache. The movie perfectly renders its fantasy and will serve as a strong match for audiences unencumbered by concerns for anything other than an escape from real emotional complexity.