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Terror and Probably Terrible: Some Movies To See This Weekend, June 10, 2016

Friday, June 10, 2016 Rob Samuelson

Sometimes franchise filmmaking can be excruciatingly devoid of ideas and sometimes it can be soulful and extend an original film’s ideas to suit totally new situations. This weekend may bring us examples of each of those. There’s also another big would-be franchise hitting theaters that has so far tracked very poorly.

The Conjuring 2
Director: James Wan
Writers: Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, James Wan, David Leslie Johnson
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Madison Wolfe, Frances O’Connor

First up, the most exciting one. The Conjuring, released in 2013, is one of the best movies of the decade, full stop. There are no caveats about it being “just a horror movie.” Mood, tone, pacing, performances, camera movement, sound design, you name it and The Conjuring does it as well as it can be done. Director James Wan (Saw, Furious 7) and the Hayes twins, who wrote the first film, reunite with stars Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson to bring another case from the files of the paranormal investigating Warren family to the big screen.

This time, Lorraine (Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Wilson) travel to London in the mid-1970s to help a family dealing with a haunted house. That’s about as standard a horror setup as you can get, but the setup barely matters with a creative team this talented. Wan’s camera always floats around sets like it is a ghost itself and the atmosphere bursts through the screen. The Catholic mysticism of the first film is likely to carry over, especially after the climax of that movie revealed Ed to have a newfound mastery of the art of exorcism. It’s spooky as can be. Heck, it's rated R, not because it is gory or full of foul language or sex, but because it is literally so scary.

Now You See Me 2
Director: Jon M. Chu
Writers: Ed Solomon, Pete Chiarelli
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Daniel Radcliffe, Lizzy Caplan

And now for a sequel of a film that didn’t light the world on fire, either financially or critically. But it made enough money to warrant another installment, this time involving the heist-performing magicians bringing Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, into the fold. There does not appear to be much to the thing outside of some CGI magic tricks, which pretty much defeats the purpose of the sleight-of-hand that makes real-world magic special and fun. But hey, it’ll probably make some more money and everyone will promptly forget about it for a few more years, then the studio will trot out another one.

Director: Duncan Jones
Writers: Duncan Jones, Charles Leavitt, Chris Metzen
Starring: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell

It’s been several years since Duncan Jones has released a movie. The Moon and Source Code director is one of the most exciting up-and-coming sci-fi and fantasy filmmakers today, but it certainly seems like he has made a gigantic CGI mistake with Warcraft, an adaptation of a video game that does not have much in the way of a story -- you build a colony of magical beings and fight other colonies until you win, and that’s that. In the movie, humans and Orcs and other creatures wage wars with each other, until a centuries-old grudge must be overcome in order for an alliance to form against a greater threat.

Critics thus far have savaged the movie, but we critics are a segment of the population that can be wrong, sometimes laughably so, when you look back on things. You might be into the movie. After all, Jones has an excellent track record so far.

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