Hoods & hitmakers 

Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror
Xenon Pictures

Finally a cryptkeeper that has actually rolled with Crips! Snoop Dogg presents a three-installment anthology of cautionary tales calculated to send fershizzles up your spine. Up front you should know that none of this is actually scarier than the video for "Thriller" or even Soul Plane and the most violent sequences — including one where a child is hit in the face by a stray bullet — is rendered in highly stylized graphic novel animation a la Kill Bill. In drab contrast, the first yarn unfurls like a ghetto after-school special with a lesson and big bucket of blood at the end of it (and especially bloodless Billy Dee Williams looking like he's just failed his own Colt 45 smoothness test). But the second tale, about a spoiled Texan oil dynasty heir and his Paris Hilton-cloned girlfriend playing slumlord to a bunch of black Vietnam vets, injects some much needed Tales From the Crypt-style levity that thankfully carries over to the last tale, about a rising rap star who has a big future in selling records posthumously (insert ironic Snoop smirk here). Weirdest cameo? Jason Alexander as an Australian record exec. If he did more than watch a minute of The Crocodile Hunter to prepare for the role, he worked too hard. Spoiler alert! If you hear Snoop's "Welcome to the Hood of Horror" before watching, he gives every major plot twist away. Snitchizzle away ma nizzle, but the game should be sold, not told. —Serene Dominic

 

Tokyo Trash Baby
Kino Video

With a title like Tokyo Trash Baby, you'd think this is a movie about Japanese back-alley abortions or strung-out junkie hookers. Hardly.

Miyuki is a waitress whose obsession with grungy musician neighbor Yoshinori has her digging through his trash — wearing only a tank top and skivvies — looking for anything that might give her insight into his life. She unearths cereal boxes, cup o' noodles, old clothes, used condoms and little else.

Despite a great moment when Miyuki uses her "stolen" knowledge of Yoshinori to ward off a persistent ex-girlfriend of his, she just comes off as a sad, deluded kook. When her rubbish-filled bubble bursts and Yoshinori is shown to be nothing more than a struggling musician with a stiffie for groupies, it's hardly a revelation, and it does nothing to generate sympathy for Miyuki.

By the end you'll be groaning as Miyuki literally lugs her trash around like an emotional ball and chain. What could have been an interesting examination of consumerism or self-identity yields nothing. What's there to conclude? That we're all disposable? That we need to ditch our emotional garbage? All of this is too nebulous for the thin characters of Tokyo Trash Baby, which is billed as "an examination of the difficulties of contemporary urban romance." If you need a real emotional cleansing from your trash, watch a Clean Sweep episode on the Learning Channel. —Paul Knoll

 

Spin
Vivendi Visuals

This is the first-ever exploitation film for Reggaeton, the latest Latin hip-hop hybrid from Miami never mentioned once by name in this movie, sort of like how no one ever said "the Beatles" in A Hard Day's Night. Mostly, Spin's characters hype the singers in the flick, their crossover appeal and their inevitability as stars, but no one's promising you'll never hear Gloria Estefan's music again. Here's something about inevitability: When you cram a month's worth of soap opera histrionics and 20 minutes of music into a cautionary tale about success in the entertainment industry, you get a 90-minute montage with all the gritty realism of the Human League's "Don't You Want Me Baby." One minute Inez and Dolores are waitresses in a burrito barn dreaming about the record biz, next minute they're in the record biz, next minute Dolores the singer is telling her husband she can't have dinner with him because she's filming her reality show and Inez the record exec is drinking more than she should, espousing truisms like "That's showbiz, Dolores, the uglier the better." Valle de las Muñecas, anyone?

There's plenty more of cheese for that burro too, especially from Dolores' jealous husband-manager Theo, played by Fernando Carrillo with all the slow burn of a crock pot. Shortly before whupping a guy's ass, he quietly tells Inez, "The thought of working with Carlos Rivera again makes me sick. (long Latin pause) It's killing me." And for the classic dumb utterance that sums up the whole film in one neat tagline a la Mahogany, you have Dolores telling an emotionally drained Theo, "I want you to love me whether I'm a star or at Nadia's serving arroz con pollo." Frankly, the only truly likable person in the movie is vet TV actor David Selby (Falcon Crest, Dark Shadows), who plays the world's nicest record company CEO. In this pool of sharks, he could probably use some Barnabas Collins fangs; instead he sits back and makes a Franciscan monk seem pushy.

In short, three 10-year-old girls with Bratz dolls could've concocted a more realistic story; you'll come away from Spin feeling the wrong three 10-year-old girls were picked. —Serene Dominic

 

Hostage
Koch Lorber Films

Based on a 1999 Greek bus-jacking by an Albanian man — not the 2004 Greek bus-jacking by two Albanian men — Constantine Giannaris' Hostage is one realistic kidnapping film. Sadly, its realism comes from the fantastic job it does evoking the likely truth behind many hostage situations. Though punctuated by moments of sheer terror (did he really just pull the pin on that grenade?) and pathological poignancy (if only he had gotten along better with his parents!), these drawn-out, claustrophobic nightmares are fairly boring. A whole day on a bus with a half-dozen strangers and an unbalanced mama's boy with a machine gun may sound tense, but Giannaris' languid story arc, jarring flashbacks and amateur camerawork, along with the cast's glazed-over acting, make it seem more numbing than horrifying. By the film's end, you're relieved that it's over, but for the wrong reason. —Jason Ferguson

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