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Movie review: Can another horror sequel conjure up big box office bucks?

First "A Quiet Place: Part II," now "The Conjuring" franchise continues.
Credit: AP
This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Vera Farmiga, left, and Patrick Wilson in a scene from "The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It." (Ben Rothstein/Warner Bros. Entertainment via AP)


The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is not an extended version of a Flip Wilson punch line. (Boomers, that one's for you.) It is the third in "The Conjuring" film franchise... the eighth if you count the "Annabelle" spinoffs, "The Curse of La Llorona" and "The Nun." Full disclosure: "The Nun" is the only one of the eight that I'd seen until now. So, I'm either the worst or the best person to assess the latest.

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are back as real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. Yes, these movies are based on true cases. This one, set in 1981, opens with the exorcism of a possessed boy. The boyfriend of the boy's sister begs the devil to take over his body instead. Big mistake. Before long, he murders his landlord. The Warrens convince his attorney to base his defense on demonic possession. And there you have the title!

Is it worth seeing? I went in with low expectations and was surprisingly entertained, thanks in great deal to the chemistry between Wilson and Farmiga. ('Variety's' Owen Gleiberman calls them 'the Ward & June Cleaver of the dark side.' Boomers, that one's for you, too.) And this is the first instance I can think of when a demon appears from inside a waterbed.

I'm told the movie is watered down from the first two, as well, and not nearly as jump-out-of-your-seat scary. You might chalk that up to a different director. Michael Chaves is in for James Wan, who's still a producer. It's also grown from the confines of a haunted house into a full-blown procedural.

That said, it does make me curious to watch the first two. In other words, I may be a Conjuring convert. Just don't tell the devil!

Warner Bros. - Rated R - Running Time: 1 hr. 52 mins. in theaters - also streaming on HBO Max

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Spirit Untamed

Now to an entirely different kind of spirit! If you've raised kids, you might remember the 2002 Dreamworks animated movie Spirit: Stallion of Cimarron with Matt Damon voicing the thoughts of the horse. Two decades later, we have "Spirit Untamed." In between, there was an animated series on Netflix called "Spirit Riding Free." The storyline of this new movie is based on that series. Got it?

Set in the Old West, a girl named Lucky has been living with her grandfather in the city. She heads out with her aunt (voiced by Julianne Moore) to a frontier town to visit her estranged father (voiced by Jake Gyllenhaal). There she befriends a wild mustang.

A group of bad guys want to break him in and sell him, but Lucky has other ideas. Joining her on her antics and adventures are two friends, voiced by North Texans Marsai Martin and McKenna Grace.

"Spirit Untamed" is also by Dreamworks. The animation is not as fine as the original "Spirit," nor the story as thoughtful. Still, it's a sweet movie about friendship, especially for all those pony-loving girls out there. So, it's a 'yea,' not a 'neigh' for me. Just don't expect a classic.

Dreamworks - Rated PG - Running time 1 hr. 37 mins. in theaters only