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.
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