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Friday movie roundup: Scary good, or funny-bad?

Published July 19, 2013 9:36 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Get ready to get scared silly or get shot at, without getting drenched in fake blood.

This weekend's likely box-office champ is "Red 2," the gun-heavy sequel to the 2010 hit. Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren and Mary-Louise Parker return for this tale of retired assassins (Willis and Malkovich), this time having to bounce around the globe to clear their names in regards to a Soviet nuke plot. Byung-hun Lee ("G.I. Joe"), Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins join the cast, but there's a lot less fun this time around. (There is a ridiculously high body count for a PG-13 movie, though.)

"The Conjuring" is an old-school haunted-house thriller, made with a lot of care and not very much gore by director James Wan ("Saw," "Insidious"). When a family reports strange doings in a Rhode Island country house, it's up to real-life demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) to figure out what's going on. The chills are well-paced, and the performances by Farmiga and by Lili Taylor (as the family's wife and mom) are affecting.

The last studio option is "R.I.P.D.," a jokey and derivative action comedy – starring Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds as dead cops keeping the world safe for the living. It wasn't screened until Thursday night, so a review will appear online later today. (Semi-interestingly, "R.I.P.D." marks the second film of the weekend for Reynolds, who gives a voice in the animated "Turbo," and for "Red 2" co-star Parker, who shows up here as Bridges' and Reynolds' no-nonsense boss.)

The best movie on this week's art-house slate is "The Way, Way Back," a funny and observant coming-of-age story. It centers on Duncan (Liam James), a 14-year-old on a summer vacation in a beachside town, dealing with Mom's new boyfriend (Steve Carell) and finding his tribe when he takes a job at a nearby waterpark. Writers and first-time directors Jim Rash and Nat Faxon ("The Descendants") employ authentic detail and a sharp cast to produce a warm, humorous look at adolescence. (Read The Cricket's interview with Rash and Faxon.)

"Laurence Anyways" is a brash and exuberant drama from Quebec, about a couple whose relationship is tested when the guy (Melvil Poupaud) tells the gal (Suzanne Clément) that he wants to become a woman. Director Xavier Dolan produces a rich tableau of color, augmented by a strong '90s soundtrack and wrenching dialogue, to produce an emotional wallop.

Kristen Wiig is the reason to see "Girl Most Likely," an occasionally ludicrous comedy with a lot of heart. Wiig's character, a once-promising playwright whose life has hit the skids, is rather reminiscent of her role in "Bridesmaids." But Wiig's honest performance, and the solid pairing with Annette Bening as an obsessive-compulsive mom, make it worth a look.

Lastly, there's "Only God Forgives," the less-than-enthusiastic reteaming of "Drive" director Nicolas Winding Refn and star Ryan Gosling. It's a dreary, self-important look inside Bangkok's underground, with Gosling as a drug smuggler reluctant to seek revenge on his brother's killers.