Reel Critics: 'Chernobyl Diaries' a disaster of a horror flick

From the team that produced"Paranormal Activity"comes another scary film that takes the well-worn path of horror movie clichés.

"Chernobyl Diaries"follows a group of young adults seeking a serious adventure vacation. They get much more than they bargained for on this trip to Russia.

They hire an underground guide who takes them to a radioactive ghost town near the site of the Chernobyl disaster. Once they arrive, menacing forests, deserted buildings and growling beasts provide the predictable background. As they explore dangerous places, dark stairways and hidden chambers, you know nothing good is going to happen to them.

Director Bradley Parker utilizes all the standard fright tricks with lots of shaky hand-held camera scenes. Jumping shadows, creepy noises and images of terrified humans fill the screen. The scary monsters stalking the stupid tourists are never quite fully seen.

By the time we figure out what the real danger might be, it's hard to care about the unfortunate outcome for all concerned.


Third time's a charm for 'Men in Black'

Do we need a"Men in Black III"? It's been 10 years since "MIB 2" — does anybody remember it?

The answer is "yes and yes." Reuniting Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, director Barry Sonnenfeld and a plethora of cool aliens has produced something surprisingly fresh and fun.

The first half hour is pretty bland: mainly reintroducing us to the secret government agency that keeps aliens from getting hostile. Agent J (Smith) is still cool and Agent K's (Jones) crinkled deadpan so frozen he now looks like an alien.

But then something wonderful happens — Agent J takes an illogical, literal leap of faith back in time to 1969 to save the world and the life of Agent K, now wondrously played by Josh Brolin.

Brolin nails Jones' clipped drawl and sly humor, and it's a delight to see this third man in black as a much more carefree guy.

The '60s vibe has the self-assured slickness of an episode of "Mad Men," but casually reminds us of an era when a sharply dressed black man in a convertible stood out for the wrong reasons.

There is also a gentle alien (Michael Stuhlbarg) who can see varying versions of the future, one of which got me quite misty-eyed.

I need one of those MIB neuralizers to wipe out that embarrassing statement.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

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

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