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Bettie's Box Office: The Conjuring & Red 2

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 04:13 PM CDT

Take one part Paranormal Activity and one part The Exorcist. Mix fairly well, and you have The Conjuring.

When you buy a centuries-old farmhouse in the middle of the woods, you expect to have some problems - but not like this. The Conjuring is based on the true story of two renowned paranormal investigators. They're called in to help a family of seven who move into this farmhouse, only to find the people who used to live there haven't exactly moved out. 

The movie uses all of the traditional tricks- sudden loud noises, unexpected appearances, following characters from behind as they go into dark basements– and this time it all works. What sets The Conjuring apart is the restraint used to tell this well-crafted story. It doesn't depend on gore to make you squirm in your seat.   

The only really interesting characters are the mom (Lili Taylor from Six Feet Under) and the paranormal investigators (Patrick Wilson from Watchmen and Vera Farmiga from Up in the Air). Ron Livingston (Office Space) is wasted talent as the father who has to spend a lot of time on the road. 

I'd say The Conjuring is worth a matinee-priced ticket because if you're looking for a scare, and zombies aren't your thing, it's just about the only thing in theaters right now. The Conjuring opens July 19 and is rated R for sequences of disturbing violence and terror. 

Meanwhile, the sequel summer surges on. We've had Grown Ups 2, Despicable Me 2, Fast and Furious 6, Iron Man 3 and Hangover 3, not to mention White House Down (wait - you mean it's not a sequel to Olympus Has Fallen?) Now comes Red 2. It reunites Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren as aging agent assassins who aren't quite ready for retirement. 

This time around, Frank (Willis) is married to Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker from Weeds). Frank's enjoying a normal, boring life when his old friend, Moses (Malkovich) pops up and turns his world upside-down. They end up running around the world, trying to clean up some unfinished business from the Cold War. 

There's some new star power from Anthony Hopkins as an addle-brained scientist and Catherine Zeta-Jones as a sultry Russian operative, but for the most part, this is a remix of ingredients from the first film. I'd hold off on Red 2 until it comes out on DVD; that way if you haven't seen the first one, you can make it a double-feature. 

Red 2 opens July 19 and is rated PG-13 for pervasive action and violence including frenetic gunplay, and for some language and drug material.




Bettie's Box Office: The Conjuring & Red 2

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