The Conjuring

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Well, now we know what happened to Peter from Office Space: he changed his name to "Roger", got married, had five lovely daughters, got an honest job driving a truck, moved to a big old isolated house which just happened to be haunted by one of the nastiest spirits you'll see.

Just kidding. Ron Livingston, according to the IMDB, has had a flourishing acting career since Office Space. Just not much in anything I'd seen.

Anyway, Peter Roger and wife Carolyn (Lili Palmer) bought this house at auction. Everybody likes it OK except Sadie, the sensible dog, who won't come in. Unfortunately, her perception is not heeded, let alone rewarded. Eventually, even Roger and Carolyn start to heed the dire signs of malevolent supernaturalism, and seek out help from Lorraine and Ed (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson), who are actual Ghostbusters.

Well, actually that's a little frivolous. They're quite religious, and see their spiritual-cleanup efforts as part of their calling. And (somewhat to its credit) the movie plays this part absolutely straight, without condescension or skepticism. Things escalate to a pulse-quickening climax.

One problem: there is no way to keep five young daughters straight. There's the cute one, the other cute one, the somewhat older cute one, the very young cute one, and one more cute one. Which one will the evil spirit target? I forget, and you probably will too.

The Wolverine

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

There's a special place in my heart for actors who take on superhero roles. They have to (often) wear silly getups, deal with ludicrously dire situations, utter silly dialogue and make it believable. It takes a special talent to deliver a recognizably human performance on top of all that. Hugh Jackman is one of the people who can pull that off, so good for him.

Mr. Jackman returns to his role as Logan, aka The Wolverine. In the opening scene he's in the wrong place (Nagasaki POW camp) at the wrong time (August 9, 1945). His powers allow him to survive and save a camp guard, Yashida, who's very grateful.

Cut to the present-day, in the X-Men alternate universe. Logan is leading a bitter hermit's existence in the Yukon, having renounced any superheroic aspirations. However, he's tracked down by a red-haired Japanese girl, Yukio, with psychic skills. Yashida, it turns out, went on to become a high-tech gazillionaire mogul; now he's dying, and wants to summon Logan to his deathbed.

Alas, if it were that simple, it would have been a relatively uneventful movie. Yashida's dying wish is for Logan to watch over lovely granddaughter Mariko. Who is in deadly peril from nearly everyone. Oh, and also for Logan to transfer his healing powers to his failing body. Pretty soon the claws are out.

Besides Hugh Jackman, every other major role in this movie is Japanese. You'd perhaps think it was mostly filmed in Japan, but according to IMDB, most scenes were shot in Australia. I assume complex financing schemes, tax dodges, and international market appeal lie behind these decisions.

Consumer note: It really helps to have seen the X-Men movies plus Wolverine's "Origin" movie first. Also: there's a short next-movie appetite-whetter hidden in the credits, you don't want to miss that.