Movies out today: Ghosts, deadly retirees and little blue men

Five new film hit South African cinemas today, and the full spectrum of audiences is being catered for... 

The Conjuring:
My pick of the week is this haunted house horror film based on a true story. From the director of creepy sleeper hit Insidious, The Conjuring stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as a couple of paranormal investigators summoned to a ghost-plagued Rhode Island farmhouse in the 1970s. Trailer Tuesday profile.

The Conjuring has been incredibly well received critically and commercially. Although it doesn't break new ground in the genre, it has won praise for being performance and atmosphere-driven as opposed to relying on special effects. 87% Fresh on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.


RED 2:
The original RED - based very loosely on the comic book of the same name - wasn't exactly screaming for a sequel. But here it is anyway, with the action, comedy and impressive stunts going global this time. Retired CIA agent Bruce Willis is forced to fight for his life again, alongside adrenaline-addicted girlfriend Mary-Louise Parker and paranoid former agent John Malkovich. Helen Mirren's ice-cool British assassin is back too, with Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Byung-hun Lee expanding the cast.

From the director of Galaxy Quest and Fun with Dick and Jane, RED 2 is apparently entertaining without being particularly ambitious or original. It's largely carried by its excellent cast, who are clearly having fun. 42% Fresh.

 The Smurfs 2:
Screening in 2D and 3D is this inevitable sequel to the 2011 family comedy - based of course on the little blue Belgian comic characters and animated TV series spin-off. This time, evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) kidnaps Smurfette (voiced by Katy Perry) and the action shifts from New York to Paris. Neil Patrick Harris returns as the Smurfs' frazzled human ally.

Young children should enjoy the slapstick and colourful shenanigans of The Smurfs 2. Anyone over the age of eight though is likely to find it bland if not appalling. 12% Fresh.

Midnight's Children:
An adaptation of Salman Rushdie's Booker Prize-winning novel, this magic realism tale has been adapted by the author himself. It focuses on two people who are born at the exact moment India achieved independence from Britain, but are accidentally swapped in the hospital. Although they lead very different lives, their fate is intertwined over the next three conflict-fuelled decades of Indian history.

Midnight's Children is an ambitious, faithful epic that evidently only delivers intermittently. It's solid but some may find it too slow and bloated to be truly, and consistently, impactful. 42% Fresh.

 The Paperboy:
Screening in limited release is this noir-ish novel adaptation from the director of Precious. An idealistic reporter (Matthew McConaughey) and his brother (Zac Efron) set out to prove the innocence of a man awaiting execution (John Cusack) in 1960s South Florida. Things are complicated by the presence of sensual death-row groupie Nicole Kidman.

Over-the-top and sordid, The Paperboy has nonetheless been praised for its excellent playing-against-type performances - especially by Kidman. Otherwise the film has split critics quite viciously, earning itself a 43% Fresh rating in the process.


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