At the Movies

Michael Tackett/New Line Cinema/Warner Bros. Pictures/Associated Press

Lili Taylor portrays Carolyn Perron, right, and Kyla Deaver portrays April in a scene from “The Conjuring.”

New in Theaters

R.I.P.D.

(Playing at the Gaslight Cinema. In standard format and digital 3-D with surcharge.)

Red 2

(Playing at the Gaslight Cinema)

Scheduling the release of a summer movie isn’t exactly a science. It clearly isn’t an art, either. It’s more akin to a contact sport:

Seize the advantageous position, sustain as little damage as possible – and score.

All of which makes this weekend’s opening of both “Red 2” and “R.I.P.D.” a little like sacking your own quarterback. Both films are action-thrillers. Both are about over-age law enforcers (in “R.I.P.D.,” some are so old, they’re dead). And both make a virtue of their, shall we say, mature stars.

Those stars include Bruce Willis (58), Anthony Hopkins (75), John Malkovich (59) and Helen Mirren (67) in “Red 2” and Jeff Bridges (63) and Kevin Bacon (55) in “R.I.P.D.,” which, by the way, stands for “Rest in Peace Department.”

It may not make a huge difference at the box office, but both films also feature the less-than-prolific Mary-Louise Parker, who has a solid base among discriminating male viewers but is better known for her work in cable TV’s “Weeds.”

Add to all this the fact that Robert Schwentke, the director of Universal’s “R.I.P.D.,” had directed the original “Red” of 2010 from Summit Entertainment and for whatever reason (Schwentke didn’t want to talk about it) lost the sequel to director Dean Parisot.

True, “R.I.P.D.” pairs Bridges with 36-year-old former Sexiest Man Alive Ryan Reynolds, but as summer films go, the movies share notable audience overlap – and on two fronts, says box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian.

“These films skew older due to the presence of Jeff Bridges in “R.I.P.D.” and the older cast of “Red 2,” he said. “And the bigger similarity is that they are both action crime comedies.”

Assuming there’s no ill will involved, a lot of coincidences are in play here, said distribution consultant Richard Abramowitz, who teaches film production at New York University and runs the film company Abramorama. “It seems like too big a mistake to be a mistake.”

But the “Red 2”/”R.I.P.D.” collision may simply be a symptom of the state of Hollywood. There have been very few weekends since May that haven’t been dominated by a big-budget, major-studio release – a so-called “tent-pole” picture. There was “Iron Man 3” on May 2, “The Great Gatsby” on May 10, “Star Trek Into Darkness” on May 15, “Fast & Furious 6” on May 24, “After Earth” on May 31 and so on.

Tellingly, when studios chose to expand a debut weekend with a weekday opening – “Iron Man 3” was on a Thursday; “Star Trek” was on a Wednesday – a rash of movies seemed to rush in to fill the Friday void. In fact, the Fridays following “IM3” and “STID” were among the more crowded of the summer, with 15 and 11 openings, respectively.

But the idea that studios have that kind of flexibility in picking a release date is really a fallacy: Releases are set as early as possible, sometimes even during pre-production, and when a film of a certain stature grabs a date, everyone else starts jockeying for position.

And there are only so many positions.

“R.I.P.D.” had already announced a July 19 release when Summit parent Lionsgate decided to move “Red 2” onto that same date, said Universal spokeswoman Kori Bernards. “You’ll have to ask them what that was about.”

Lionsgate had no comment for this story, but insiders say Lionsgate and Universal seem to have realized their movies had a better chance against each other, despite having to share the same older audience, than against a summer blockbuster like next weekend’s “Wolverine,” for instance. And neither one of the films was big enough to scare the other off the date.

The result is a faceoff between two pictures going for the same demographic, and in a way, that’s too bad, especially for audiences looking for a break from robots, spacemen and Johnny Depp wearing a dead crow on his head.

“Any studio that targets the under-served adult audience is smart,” said Anne Thompson, who writes Thompson on Hollywood for Indiewire.

So we have two studios well aware of that and their two movies playing chicken in a game where it’s very expensive to blink.

“It’s very, very rare that a release date gets postponed,” said Robert Bella, who has supervised post-production on such films as “Lincoln,” “War Horse” and “The Help.” “Anything can be done if you have enough time and money, of course, but those release dates get set as far in advance as possible and it’s always a mad dash the closer you get to the target date,” he said.

“Some movies can tell you a year from now or two years when they’re going to open, and then everyone else starts reacting,” Bella said. “I bet it won’t be long before the next ‘Star Wars’ announces its date.”

At which point producers of other films eyeing that same date will no doubt scurry to their calendars and start looking for alternatives.

John Anderson, For The Associated Press

The Conjuring

(Playing at the Durango Stadium 9)

As sympathetic, methodical ghostbusters Lorraine and Ed Warren, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson make this old-fashioned haunted-house horror film something more than your average fright fest. In 1971, they come to the Perrons’ swampy, musty Rhode Island farmhouse – newly purchased from the bank – to investigate the demonic spirit that has begun terrorizing the couple (Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor) and their five daughters. Lorraine is clairvoyant, and Ed is a Vatican-sanctioned demonologist. They’re best known as the married, devoutly Catholic paranormal pros whose work with the Lutz family served as the basis for “Amityville Horror.” The film is built in the ’70s-style mold of “Amityville” and, if one is kind, “The Exorcist.” Does it live up to it? More than most horror films, certainly. But as effectively crafted as it is, it’s lacking the raw, haunting power of the models it falls shy of. “The Exorcist” is a high standard, though: “The Conjuring” is an unusually sturdy piece of haunted-house genre filmmaking. The director is James Wan, who’s best known as one of the founding practitioners of that odious type of horror film called “torture porn” (“Saw”). Here, he goes classical. Though it comes across as a self-conscious stab at more traditional, floorboard-creaking horror, Wan has succeeded in patiently building suspense (of which there is plenty) not out of bloodiness, but those old standbys of slamming doors and flashes in the mirror.

“The Conjuring,” a Warner Bros. release, is rated R for “sequences of disturbing violence and terror.” Running time: 112 minutes. HH½ out of four.

Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer

Turbo

(Playing at the Durango Stadium 9. In standard format and digital 3-D with surcharge.)

In delivering a film about a garden snail that dreams of winning the Indy 500, it’s as if the makers of “Turbo” had been pressed to come up with the most extreme underdog tale they could think of. Or else animators really are running out of ideas for original new characters. An attractively designed but narratively challenged, one-note film, “Turbo” skews younger than the norm for big animated features these days and has limited appeal for little girls.

“The sooner you accept the dull, miserable nature of your existence, the happier you’ll be,” worldly-wise snail Chet (Paul Giamatti) advises his younger brother Turbo (Ryan Reynolds) after yet another day scouring a garden tomato patch. Turbo spends all his downtime watching VHS tapes of professional car races, especially the many won by his hero, Guy Gagne (Bill Hader, amusingly assuming a French-Canadian accent).

Of course, the message of the film is that no dream is too big, you can do anything if you set your mind to it, etc., etc. Unfortunately, the real embedded lesson of Turbo is that, if you’re too small or weak or otherwise incapable of greatness, you have a shot to win if you’re juiced.

Turbo needs a sponsor, which he finds in the form of Van Nuys taco truck driver Tito (Michael Peña), a wild dreamer himself who argues endlessly with his more practical brother Angelo (Luis Guzman) about the merits of promoting their forlorn business – Dos Bros Tacos – with a snail. Joining in is a rainbow coalition of smart-mouthed supporting snails and neighboring business owners voiced by the eminent likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Michelle Rodriguez, Snoop Dogg, Maya Rudolph, Ben Schwartz, Richard Jenkins and Ken Jeong.

The ultimate destination – Indianapolis – is inevitable but it takes a long time to get there. Once the gang arrives and begins overcoming the obstacles that might prevent a snail from entering a car race, the hitherto genial Guy Gagne suddenly becomes a villain, feeling so threatened by the now-mighty mollusk that he goes to all lengths to prevent an eternally humiliating defeat.

“Turbo,” a 20th Century Fox/DreamWorks Animation release, is rated PG “for some mild action and thematic elements. Running time: 95 minutes.

Todd Mccarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

Still Showing

Durango Stadium 9

(Next to Durango Mall, 247-9799, www.allentheatresinc.com)

You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet. (Wednesday only.) A French film in which a group of actors attending the reading of a late playwright’s will watch themselves perform in the man’s play on TV and soon re-enact their theatrical youth. Not rated.

Pacific Rim. (In standard format and digital 3-D with surcharge.) Just a few years into the future, Guillermo Del Toro would have us believe that we’ll be operating 25-story killer robots to save humanity from monsters or robots or some hybrid of the two. Rated PG-13.

Grown Ups 2. If you hated “Grown Ups,” just wait ’til you see “Grown Ups 2.” Rated PG-13.

Despicable Me 2. (In standard format and digital 3-D with surcharge.) The Steve Carell-voiced Gru completes the transformation from supervillain to good guy when he’s recruited by the Anti-Villain League. Rated PG.

The Lone Ranger. Johnny Depp is Tonto, who tells the tale of how mild-mannered John Reid (Armie Hammer) became the famous masked man. Rated PG-13.

The Heat. Melissa McCarthy can make anyone – even Sandra Bullock – look funny and the R rating is icing on the cake. Rated R.

World War Z. It’s safe to call this the first installment in a new franchise that has Brad Pitt battling for his life against a planet full of zombies. Rated PG-13.

Back Space Theatre

(1120 Main Ave., 259-7940, www.thebackspacetheatre.org)

Frances Ha. A New York gal lives more inside her own mind than the real world, but she seems happy about it. Rated R.

Gaslight Cinema

(102 Fifth St. Next to the railroad depot, 247-8133, www.allentheatresinc.com)

The Lone Ranger. See above. Rated PG-13.

Ted Holteen and Associated Press

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