Reel Critics: The devil made me do it

It's a little-known fact that a good scary movie can reap health benefits.

It sets heart and mind to racing (cardio!), adrenaline coursing through the veins and allows one to consume massive amounts of snacks (carbo-loading!). But, because the metabolism is revved up (see cardio, above), the body burns up the extra calories.

Finally, the lights come on and you can sit back up in your seat (good posture is so important), and you have achieved Zen. Life is good — but you never want to eat anything covered in red sauce again (reduction in appetite = weight loss!).

So you see, "The Last Exorcism" is a great way to unwind on the weekend, even if it is a rip-off of "Rosemary's Baby," "The Blair Witch Project" and of course, 1973's "The Exorcist."

This newest incarnation actually starts out fun. Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) is a smug Louisiana preacher who admits his exorcisms are fakes. But he's tired of the sham, and decides to get a film crew to videotape him performing one last ritual.

Angel-faced Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell) is scared she may be killing farm animals in her sleep. Cotton uses all the tricks in his bible-thumping toolkit to drive that pesky demon out, collect the cash from her alcoholic daddy, and head for someplace with air conditioning. Good triumphs once again.

Or does it? Nell gets repossessed — uh oh, do I smell refund? And then things get all medieval just as we hoped for. There's a gruesome twist of an ending that leaves more questions than answers. As they say, the devil is in the details.

Take this crime film to jail

"Takers" is another tedious version of the modern cops and robbers movie. It features a complex caper organized by a large group of players. They use military tactics to pull off million-dollar heists with slick precision. When not working, they relax in their ritzy nightclub or lounge about their expensive high-rise digs.

Nothing in this story depicts the real lifestyle of any actual criminals. Of course, their final crime doesn't go down as planned. Unforeseen consequences arise with a nasty double-cross. The mandatory shoot-outs are frenetic and grow more preposterous as the movie goes on. The action features total overkill, with thousand of rounds of ammunition expended. But the PG-13 rating prevents the R-rated graphic depiction of the violence that would make it somewhat real.

It ends up being a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. Endless gun battles go on and on in slow motion in heavily populated buildings. But somehow, police never arrive to stop the carnage. The special effects represent expensive silliness with grandiose pretensions. Matt Dillon adds a little weight to the mostly unknown cast. But it's all been done before and much better by others.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a financial services company.

JOHN DEPKO is a Costa Mesa resident and a senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office.

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