Reel Critics: This 'Family' could use counseling

French director Luc Besson is known for offbeat gangster films that combine humor and a soft touch with bloody R-rated violence. "La Femme Nikita" and "The Professional" are among his credits. His new release, "The Family," has famous American stars to play major roles in this formula.

Robert De Niro made a career playing Mafia wise guys in real dramas ("Goodfellas") and silly comedies ("Analyze This"). He brings both personas to bear as the patriarch of a Brooklyn crime syndicate. He rats out his friends to get into a witness protection program that moves him and his family to France.

Michelle Pfeiffer plays his feisty wife and Tommy Lee Jones is his FBI handler. But young Dianna Agron steals the show as his streetwise teenage daughter. The screenplay focuses on the fish-out-of-water premise with transplanted New Yorkers trying to adapt to French customs.

Most of the movie is played for laughs generated in several funny scenes. But the fun is seriously tempered by realistic scenes of murder and mayhem that pop up repeatedly. This film is only for fans of this mixed message of comedy and carnage.

— John Depko


'Insidious' silly but fun

Three years ago, I reviewed "Insidious," and while it was not wholly original, it gave me genuine goose bumps. With "Insidious: Chapter 2," there were no goose bumps, but it did make me jump quite a few times in my seat. Mission accomplished.

After a heart-pounding prologue, "Chapter 2" picks up exactly where the last movie left off. Renai and Josh Lambert (Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson) have escaped their haunted house to stay with Josh's mom (Barbara Hershey). A kind psychic named Elise (Lin Shaye) had just been killed at the end of the first movie, sadly before she knew there would be a sequel.

Josh is acting strangely — did he kill Elise? Is that same evil spirit from the first movie still around, hoping for screen credit? And what's creepier — ghosts or an alarmingly skinny Rose Byrne? Too bad they couldn't have terrorized the woman into eating a sandwich.

Director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell re-teamed for this sequel, using every trick in the haunted house handbook. But like those sinister shadows at the back of the closet, don't look too closely at the plot.

With "Insidious: Chapter 2" we get exactly what we're looking for — squirm-in-your-seat frights that make us cover our eyes, giggle nervously and wish for our mommies.

— Susanne Perez

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator. SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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