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Fact and fiction in tale of terror

The Conjuring 2 (15, 134 mins)

By Damon Smith

In 1976, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) go into self-imposed exile following a visit to the Amityville house.

They intend to devote more time to their teenage daughter, Judy (Sterling Jerins).

The church compels the Warrens to return to active service to investigate claims from a terrified single mother, Peggy Hodgson (Frances O'Connor), that her house in Enfield is in the grip of a dark force.

Fact and outlandish fiction are repeatedly smudged in James Wan's film, but the four screenwriters are content to use one family's real-life terror as a foundation for the usual array of horror tropes: creaking floorboards, a child speaking in tongues, inverted crosses, and ghostly figures emerging from the darkness.

Wilson and Farmiga ease back into familiar roles, while youngster Wolfe is impressive.

McCarthy has recipe for laughs

Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy) becomes America's 47th richest woman until her dubious ethics result in a five-year prison sentence for insider trading.

She emerges without any friends to greet her. Her bodyguard Tito (Cedric Yarbrough) has abandoned her and long-suffering personal assistant Claire Rawlings (Kristen Bell) has a daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson) to nurture. In desperation, Michelle turns up unannounced on Claire's doorstep and takes up temporary residence on a temperamental sofa bed.

From this low-rent headquarters, Michelle rebuilds her empire by creating a flourishing chocolate brownie business from Claire's moreish secret recipe.

The Boss is a pleasant, fleeting diversion that fulfils the most basic requirement of a comedy: it makes you laugh. McCarthy barrels through every frame with gusto and Bell dutifully plays the straight woman caught in the eye of the tornado.

The ebullient leading lady strains every sinew in her single-minded quest to milk laughs from pratfalls.

The Boss (15, 94 mins)

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