“Insidious: Chapter 2” (PG-13): Back in 2011, The Family Filmgoer judged the first “Insidious” to be a “lame” occult thriller, OK for most teens, but not very interesting. This film is way better, but has more and scarier violence that will be too intense for a lot of middle schoolers.
Set shortly after the first movie ends, “Insidious: Chapter 2” sends its characters up and back in time, and between the worlds of the living and the dead in mind-bending ways that far exceed the first film in twisty-turny fun. It starts with the usual spooky clichés – squeaky doors, ticking-clocks – but it goes beyond them.
When the first film ended, Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) had just rescued his older son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) from a demon that had snatched the boy’s spirit into the netherworld, leaving his physical self in a coma. Josh’s wife Renai (Rose Byrne) suspects that Josh became possessed while in the other dimension, and murdered the medium Elise (Lin Shaye) who helped him get there. After a long prologue reprising key parts of the first film, the sequel begins with the shell-shocked Lamberts going to stay with Josh’s mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey). Josh now acts distracted and oddly menacing, and Dalton again hears voices and has bad dreams. So Lorraine calls in the late Elise’s assistants – Carl (Steve Coulter), Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (co-scriptwriter Leigh Whannell). They discover that this haunting began when Josh was a child. Now it’s back and after his family.
The demonically possessed Josh goes after his wife and kids with knives and bats in intense moments but with no fatalities. A late-developing subplot involves a serial killer and an abusive mother who creates gender confusion in a child. We see a roomful of corpses. The lack of profanity and sexual content, apart from a couple of mild swear words, mirrors the first film.
“Riddick” (R): When Vin Diesel, as escaped convict Richard B. Riddick stranded on a boiling desert planet, screws a piece of protective armor directly into his leg, you know you’re in for an example of a genre The Family Filmgoer will call “sci-fi macho.” Parents may deem the film’s violence, profanity and crude sexual innuendo too intense for most under-17s, and we’d agree. The first film in the series, “Pitch Black” (R, 2000), was a nifty example of sci-fi macho. The second, “The Chronicles of Riddick” (PG-13, 2004), coming after the first had spawned video games and animated DVDs, was bloated.
As for “Riddick,” it’s overlong and murkily plotted, full of bulging muscles and roid rage, yet it has moments of low comedy and high action that are galvanizing. The endless first half-hour shows Riddick on his own, in loud and gory close-ups fighting off the planet’s giant pincered serpents and flesh-hungry hyena-dingo hybrids. He catches one of the latter and tames it into a pet. In muddled voice-over narration, Riddick tells us he was tricked out of a cushy gig on another planet and dumped here. He sets off an emergency signal that attracts two ships with rival teams of bounty hunters after his head, then plays them off one another.
This film earns its R with numerous bloody impalings by creatures, as well as bone-breaking human-on-human fights, shootings, stabbings and a graphic beheading. The profanity features many F-words and very crude sexual language. A flashback that implies a group-sex situation includes nudity.