ANNIHILATION: I had a physics professor in college who had profound ideas in his head that he couldn’t convey with his mouth. I feel much the same way about this movie that strives to be intelligent but only winds up being incoherent with a lack of narrative structure. Most of director/writer Alex Garland’s (EX MACHINA) screenplay is set in a creepy, otherworldly zone called “the Shimmer” that’s heavy laden with biological and botanical wonders and where only one person (Oscar Isaac) has ever come out alive albeit with uncontrollable bleeding from his mouth. Entering into this eerie field are a quintet of intelligent females with varying skills headed by Isaac’s (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS) biologist wife (Natalie Portman) who we know by flashback will be the only one who’ll make it out of “the Shimmer” alive. As a result, the primary tension becomes the clichéd “slasher” film convention of how badly the other four are going to die and whether they’ll all be driven insane in the process. Multiple gross-out visual effects reminiscent of John Carpenter’s THE THING (1982) run amok including a cellularly transformed giant alligator and bear plus what looked like a really large possum with very prominent incisors. There are even flowers that turn humans into shrub “statues”. In a way, it’s sort of appropriate that the recurring line of dialogue one hears throughout the film is “I don’t know”. If “the Shimmer” originated from the heavens to re-create life on Earth, is it from God or extraterrestrials? I don’t know. What is the significance of what seems like a rather pointless subplot where Portman (BLACK SWAN) has an extramarital affair with a colleague (David Gyasi)? I don’t know. Why does the entrance to “the Shimmer” look like a giant soap bubble? I don’t know. I don’t mind films with open-ended conclusions without total resolutions…especially if they stimulate thought. But in this instance, you have a movie that quite simply doesn’t know what it wants to say. CRITIC’S GRADE: C

CLOSING CREDITS: Here are my fearless Oscar predictions on who and what movies will win Academy Awards on Sunday night.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: COCO

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: A FANTASTIC WOMAN, Chile

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

BEST FILM EDITING: DUNKIRK

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: GET OUT

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Allison Janney, I, TONYA

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Sam Rockwell, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

BEST ACTRESS: Frances McDormand, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

BEST ACTOR: Gary Oldman, DARKEST HOUR

BEST DIRECTOR: Guillermo del Toro, THE SHAPE OF WATER

BEST PICTURE: THE SHAPE OF WATER