"Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" (PG-13, 95 minutes, Sony): A goofy, gonzo thrill ride, "Vengeance" is a bad movie sequel that's almost a great bad movie. It's still a silly mash-up of comic book and quasi-religious "prophecy" about a motorcyclist who sold his soul to the devil, who transforms into a flaming avenger hurtling out of hell when the need arises.
But this time around, Nicolas Cage and everybody else on board is in on the joke. In "Vengeance," the "Rider" (Cage) is haunted by the life he now leads. But a boy borne of the devil needs the Rider's help.
A wine-swilling biker-angel and the boy's mother are all that stand between the devil and the boy who "completes" Satan's Grand Design. Cage is hilariously wound-up throughout this sequel - manic, motor-mouthed and bug-eyed.
The co-directors augment this with jump-cuts that make the Rider move with the supernatural jerkiness of a Japanese ghost. And the jokes? A lot of them land.
"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" (PG-13, 129 minutes, Warner): Victoriana buffs will not be amused by this film, but it's a modest improvement on bad-boy director Guy Ritchie's first tweaking of Arthur Conan Doyle's iconic detective.
This sequel is just as profligate as its 2009 predecessor, with explosions, anachronisms and quick cuts. But the dialogue is a little sharper, and Holmes gets a worthy opponent in Professor Moriarty. It seems a diabolical mastermind has begun a series of bombings and assassinations, hoping to spark a "world war."
Robert Downey Jr. plays Holmes as brainy yet highly physical and keen on dressing up. Jude Law returns as Dr. Watson, Holmes' famous sidekick. "A Game of Shadows" draws here and there on Doyle's tales but relies more on Hong Kong's hyperactive 1980s new wave, as filtered through "The Matrix" and Quentin Tarantino.
The game here is action farce, and that's better played with swagger than intellect.
"In Darkness" (R, 145 minutes, in Polish, German, Yiddish and Hebrew with English subtitles, Sony): The Polish Jews of Lvov suffer mightily under Nazi brutality in this fact-based tale about a group of fugitives from the Jewish ghetto who find refuge in that city's sewers.
The powerful and moving film centers less on the refugees than their unlikely savior, a virulently anti-Semitic sewer worker and petty thief.
When Poldek, as he's called, stumbles upon the bickering, unruly and desperate group fleeing through the sewers one day, he's faced with a choice: turn them in to the Nazis for 500 zlotys a head, or charge the group that same amount per day not to.
Poldek morphs, slowly but believably, into something of an Oskar Schindler, as protective and altruistic of his charges as that German war-profiteer-turned-hero. "In Darkness" also is filled with nail-biting suspense, a thriller in every sense of the word.
Also released Tuesday
"Tyler Perry's 'Good Deeds.'"
"Too Big to Fail" (HBO)
"Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Eighth Season"