Reel Critics: 'Draft Day' doesn't score a touchdown

There's plenty of real tension, drama and humor in the convoluted dealings of NFL teams preparing for the college football draft. Opportunities for triumph, failure and embarrassment are rampant as teams jockey for position in the annual selection ritual. Deception and strategic attacks are all part of the intense negotiation process.

Clearly, this premise could be a great basis for a screenplay documenting the nasty interplay between sports rivals. Unfortunately, Ivan Reitman's new film "Draft Day" is a pale shadow of what might have been. It's a dumbed-down infomercial for the NFL with only a few good laughs. By comparison, Brad Pitt's "Moneyball" in 2011 captured the true feel of the gritty duels between baseball team managers.

The draft day action on screen here is devoid of the real pressures and stress that should be at the center of the story. Kevin Costner works well in his role as the chief of the Cleveland Browns organization gearing up to maximize his team's prospects. But even Costner and a decent supporting cast can't transform this fluffy sports movie into the real deal.

—John Depko


Rhymes with 'Ridoculus'

"Oculus" opens as 21-year old Tim Russell leaves a mental hospital 11 years after the strange deaths of his parents. Older sister Kaylie is eager to take him back to the family home and "kill" an ugly baroque mirror she believes is responsible for the tragedy.

In the tradition of all horror movies, this is a very bad idea. And no one seems alarmed that sister has a creepy obsession with that mirror at the expense of her poor brother's well-being.

Kaylie has spent her time after their parents' demise finding the antique glass, and learning its sinister history, as a way to put her own demons at rest and get some revenge. If she had watched "Paranormal Activity" or "The Conjuring," she would know that the evil that lurks in the house will reassert itself — and possibly not just for this film but for many silly sequels to come.

If only "Oculus" could give us enough intrigues and frights to last a full 105 minutes. The cast gives it their all, and there are some great visuals to creep us out. But the kaleidoscopic jumble of past and future, at far too frequent intervals, only dampens the fear factor and ups our annoyance.

The ending is a predictable letdown. Which is too bad, since practically every horror cliché is thrown into the mix — haunting, demonic possession, murder, madness and mutilation. I got a much bigger fright doing my taxes.

—Susanne Perez

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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