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RECOMMENDED

THE TO-DO LIST

Grant Park. 14A. 104 minutes.

Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Recreation stars as a virgin who resolves to get the sexual experience she requires before going off to college in this sex comedy written and directed by Maggie Carey, who proves to be more tough and unsentimental than most of the male directors who ever dipped their appendages in the genre. It's uneven but gutsy with Plaza in particular demonstrating a courageous attitude to the more outré demands of the script. ***

 

NEW IN TOWN

THE SMURFS 2

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. G. 105 minutes.

The Wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria), needing some Smurf magic, conjures up a couple of Naughties (elfin Smurf-like entities of dishonest disposition) to kidnap Smurfette (Katy Perry). Filled with Smurf wholesomeness, Smurf puns and posi-Smurf messages about "never giving up on family," The Smurfs 2 still sucks Smurfberries. ** (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

 

STARTING FRIDAY

THE CONSPIRACY

Globe. PG. 85 minutes.

This found footage-style thriller follows a couple of documentary filmmakers whose work on a 9/11 conspiracy buff takes an unexpected turn when their subject disappears and they are left with all evidence pointing to a sinister, global cabal of very real conspirators.

 

2 GUNS

Grant Park, McGillvray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A. 109 minutes.

A DEA agent (Denzel Washington) and a naval intelligence officer (Mark Wahlberg), both working undercover trying to infiltrate a drug cartel, must work together when they realize the truth about their respective missions.

 

20 FEET FROM STARDOM

Globe. Subject to classification. 91 minutes.

This documentary looks at the lives and careers of great back-up singers such as Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer and Merry Clayton, who recounts the circumstances of her famous contribution to the Rolling Stones' Gimme Shelter.

 

NOW PLAYING

The following movies have been previously reviewed by Free Press movie critic Randall King, unless otherwise noted.

 

THE CONJURING

Grant Park, McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A. 112 minutes.

Director James Wan returns with his Insidious star Patrick Wilson for an allegedly real-life haunted house story set in the '70s. Wan serves up some classic scary situations and provide a decent jolt or three, but horror audiences are more sophisticated than this story. *** (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

 

DESPICABLE ME 2

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. G. 98 minutes

This sequel to the 2010 hit sees Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) enlisted to save the world. It's a gag-filled delight from start-to-finish with more laughs in its first five minutes than Monsters University managed over its entire length. **** (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

 

GROWN UPS 2

Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A. 101 minutes.

Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Spade return as four childhood friends who reunite in the small town where they grew up for their kids' last day of school. Sandler's latest lowbrow make-work project for all the ex-jocks, jockcasters and Saturday Night Live has-beens is another pointless romp through Sandlerland -- where the women are buxom, the kids have catchphrases and the jokes are below average. *1/2 (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

 

THE HEAT

Polo Park, St. Vital. 14A. 117 minutes.

Sandra Bullock plays a super-competent FBI agent who turns into a rookie-like klutz in the proximity of tough city cop Melissa McCarthy in this female buddy comedy. It's a collection of scenes that force the stars to riff and riff until something funny comes out, which is rarely. ** (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

 

THE LONE RANGER

Polo Park. PG. 150 minutes

A ham-fisted, messy revisionist take on the legendary masked man with the emphasis on Tonto, a sidekick no more in the hands of a hammy Johnny Depp. Director Gore Verbinski and Depp should have left well enough alone with their excellent animated western Rango. *1/2

 

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY

Polo Park. PG. 143 minutes

This prequel to Monsters Inc. details the first meeting of monsters Sully (John Goodman) and Mike (Billy Crystal) at college, where their mutual enmity transforms into an unlikely friendship. There are mild laughs and amusing hijinks, but nothing uproariously funny. Where Monsters Inc. had a fly-by-the-seat-of-its pants charm that made it actually seem ad-libbed, Monsters University feels overly plotted and plodding. *** (Reviewed by Jill Wilson)

 

PACIFIC RIM

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park Imax, St. Vital. PG. 132 minutes.

When giant monsters arise from the depths of the oceans, humanity responds with giant fighting robots in a desperate (and visually impressive) bid to "cancel the apocalypse." As he demonstrated in Pan's Labyrinth, director Guillermo del Toro respects the power of myth and uses its power wisely, mixed with an outsize sense of fun, to make the best summer movie of 2013. ****

 

RED 2

Grant Park, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. PG. 116 minutes

A group of retired assassins, including Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren, go back in action to track down a purloined portable nuclear device with Anthony Hopkins along for the ride as a dotty scientist. Sequel director Dean Parisot does a decent job balancing the comedy and violence as in the first film, but the element of surprise is gone, and with it, much of the first movie's appeal. If this is a franchise, we're already seeing Red start to fade. **1/2

 

R.I.P.D.

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, Towne. PG. 96 minutes.

Ryan Reynolds plays a slain cop revived from the dead to join forces with fellow undead lawman Jeff Bridges on a special afterlife task force committed to taking down paranormal bad guys. Any resemblance to this film and Men in Black is crushingly obvious, but at least Bridges is allowed moments of surreal levity in an otherwise run-of-the-mill end-of-the-world summer movie: Apocalypse Again. **

 

THIS IS THE END

Polo Park. 18A. 107 minutes.

A Hollywood-insider-buddy comedy conjoins with apocalyptic horror to coarsely funny effect when Seth Rogen takes Jay Baruchel to James Franco's house for a party and hell literally busts loose. ***1/2

 

TURBO

Kildonan Place, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne, G. 96 minutes.

Ryan Reynolds voices a snail who has aspirations of being a racer in this animated adventure. While small children may be enchanted by this little gastropod that could, adults will be more sorely tested. For all the horsepower Turbo boasts about, the movie tends toward the sluggish -- as in slow as a slug. **1/2 (Reviewed by Roger Moore)

 

THE WAY WAY BACK

Globe. PG. 103 minutes.

A 14-year-old boy (Liam James), bullied by his mother's overbearing boyfriend (Steve Carrell) gets a job at a water park and finds an unlikely friend and confederate in the facility's outrageous manager (Sam Rockwell). A nifty blend of humour, heart and drama. **** (Reviewed by Colin Covert)

 

THE WOLVERINE

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A. 126 minutes.

The feral, adamantium-boned loner Logan (Hugh Jackman) is summoned to Japan by a man whose life he saved during the Second World War, only to find himself rendered physically vulnerable for the first time in his life. This gets points for going somewhere new in a superhero movie, where the norm is to get stuck in the fertile but familiar mud of the origin story. ***

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 1, 2013 ??65526

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