Reel Critics: Reluctant psychic in complex tale

Clint Eastwood continues his successful run of directing first-rate movies that keep breaking new ground. "Hereafter" is a meditation on the profound changes that alter anyone's life when the sudden death of someone close to us occurs. The story follows several people dealing with this haunting reality in very different cultures and situations.

Matt Damon delivers a noteworthy performance as a reluctant psychic able to contact the dead. He doesn't know what to do with his powerful gift. But as his personal drama unfolds, the lives of people thousands of miles away begin to slowly intertwine with his own. Bryce Howard and Cecile de France are well cast as stunning women who become unexpected players in this unusual drama.

Peter Morgan wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplays of "Frost/Nixon" and "The Queen." He brings his mature talent to bear in this subtle and reflective story. The movie plays out slowly like the intricate developments of a good novel. It only reveals its hidden treasures as the complex tale unfolds. It's not for the action-hungry crowd. But it should generate some serious attention from the Academy.

They're Baaack!

I went to see "Paranormal Activity 2," thinking it was going to be totally lame, as most movies with a "2" in the title are. After last year's hit, I knew what to expect — no way it could be as scary, right?

Wrong. Dead wrong.

Kristi (Sprague Grayden) is the new mother of cute baby Hunter. When their home is ransacked, husband Daniel (Brian Boland) installs a surveillance system throughout, including the baby's room. In spite of the nanny's warnings, he doesn't believe there are evil spirits in his home.

Boy, was he wrong. Dead wrong.

Director Tod Williams is smart to keep the mood low-key as we again watch and wait for scary things to happen. It's also very clever to bring back Katie Featherston from the first movie, playing the same character — who also happens to be Kristi's sister.

Repeated shots of a quiet home at 3 a.m. only serve to heighten our anticipation of scary things to come, and there are plenty of shockers here to make us jump, cover our faces and mutter "no…no!"

As the Cowardly Lion once said, "I do believe in spooks…."

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

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

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