Archive for the Sequel Category

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016)

Posted in Action, Sequel, Thriller with tags , , , on May 23, 2017 by The Confused Critic

(** out of ****)


Plot: The trials and tribulations of stoic Major (ex-Major, actually, as he will remind you countless times throughout the film) Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) continue as he innocently stumbles his way into a nefarious conspiracy involving the military, Taliban, missing guns, and an endless supply of private security firm goons. Teaming up with (current) Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) and a young teen who may or may not be his daughter (Danika Yarosh), Reacher must uncover the truth beneath this ghastly plot before he can peacefully return to his brooding drifter lifestyle.

Review: The first Reacher movie was a mildly amusing, if not mindless, attempt to bring the character to life on the big screen. There was nothing outstanding about its plot, characters, or set pieces, and it mainly served as reminder that Cruise can secure an impressive budget for even the most unremarkable of projects. It was a chance for action-hounds to whoop and holler over a few broken bones and growled one-liners. Never Go Back, the second in the series, fails to move on beyond this simple blueprint, instead turning the movie into one long chase scene. Its story is silly, simple, and implausible – factors that can usually be ignored by all but the most refined cinephiles when a film is willing to demonstrate at least a modicum of self-awareness.

Despite the presence of a talented cast, there is nothing interesting or unique about any of the characters in Jack Reacher II: The Search for More Masculinity. These no-nonsense archetypes deprive the film of the bombastic excitement and winking humor that would enable its success. The sparseness of the story saps them of backgrounds, pathos, or relatability. Likewise, the action sequences are carried out with such an indifferent ho-humness that the proceedings are rendered bland and pedestrian. Only an all-too-brief sequence involving a New Orleans Halloween parade gives 2 Jack 2 Reacher any sort of color or pizzazz.

What we are left with is a tedious slog through routine mediocrity. Cruise misses the opportunity to exhibit the charismatic thrills that have made his Mission: Impossible franchise so successful over the years. Unlike Ethan Hunt, Reacher is an overly serious bore that tries too hard to embody the quintessential cinematic badass. Unfortunately, these films have neither the stylish flamboyance of John Wick nor the over-the-topic, exploitative glee of Taken that could excuse such flaws. Given Hollywood’s inability to curtail Cruise’s omnipresence, do not be surprised if we see another one of these in two years.

Confused Take: I have never read any of the books by Lee Child, so it is tough to say whether or not this film faithfully captures its source material. While my review may be overly harsh, this movie is not the worst way one could spend a rainy Sunday afternoon. Stream this one or catch it on cable when it rolls around, but refrain from spending your money if possible.


Star Trek Beyond (2016)

Posted in Action, Sci-Fi, Sequel with tags , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2016 by The Confused Critic

(**1/2 out of ****)

Synopsis: After traversing the vastness of the galaxy for an indeterminate period of time, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and the USS Enterprise gang seek retreat and relaxation on the Yorktown space station. Upon landing, they are approached by Kalara (Lydia Wilson), an alien being requesting the crew’s help in rescuing her ship, which is currently stranded on a planet within an uncharted nebula. As would be expected at this point, the rescue mission is not as straight-forward as initially suggested and the Enterprise soon finds itself up against its newest foe, Krall (Idris Elba).

Review: Is third time a charm for the Star Trek franchise? For the most part – yes. Star Trek Beyond eschews the shamelessly familiar plot points that its predecessor, Star Trek into Darkness, insisted upon. This time around, we get a livelier script that smartly breaks the crew of the Enterprise into a handful of subgroups in the second half of the film. Such plotting allows the actors a greater opportunity to give their characters range and distinctive personalities. The film’s best moments occur between a bickering Bones (Karl Urban) and Spock (Zachary Quinto), while the lost in translation relationship between Scottie (actor and co-writer Simon Pegg) and series newcomer Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah provides much needed lightness and comic relief. Beyond succeeds best in its quieter, more character-driven moments that punctuate its lengthy and bombastic scenes of chaos and destruction.

As could be said about the previous two entries in this series, the likability of the cast and their comfort with one another elevates this movie above standard summer action movie fare. Their ability to embody the core qualities of their original series counterparts without completely aping them remains a strength of this franchise. Quinto’s gentle, if not slightly aloof, Spock continues to be a standout, as does Urban’s Bones, who provides a majority of the laughs in the film. As far as antagonists go, Elba does what he can in his portrayal of the vindictive Krall. Like other actors who have portrayed villains in this series (Benedict Cumberbatch and Eric Bana), his acting is undermined by his character’s convoluted plans and motivations. Ultimately, Krall is an average, mostly unmemorable threat to our heroes.

Unlike the previous two entries in the series, Justin Lin has assumed directorial duties in place of J.J. Abrams, who is now heavily involved in the new Star Wars trilogy. Lin employs the same hyperkinetic direction that he utilized to reenergize the Fast and the Furious franchise to mixed results. While it is hard to deny that he has injected some serious adrenaline into the picture, this may not have necessarily been the missing ingredient in the first two Abrams movies. The camerawork here is overactive and dizzying, making it difficult for the viewer to comprehend the visual geography of a fight scene or space battle. Furthermore, though many criticized Abrams use of lens flares, Lin’s constant barrage of Dutch angles and upside down camera shots is far more distracting. That said, both the cinematography and the decision to mix practical effects and CGI whenever possible allow for a visually pleasing experience.

It still feels as though this series wants to be a viable Star Wars alternative rather than a true Star Trek franchise. The cerebral concepts and ethical debates that made the original series and (most of) its ensuing films so memorable are nowhere to be found here. Instead, viewers are given endless action sequences that dull the senses and seriously detract from the more human aspects of the story. Although this film does an admirable job of further developing a few of its characters through its dialogue-driven scenes, it also introduces some character side-plots (e.g. Spock and Uhura) that it is unwilling to explore beyond a surface level. All in all, the studio does not seem to have much faith that audiences will buy into a character-based Star Trek film. Like its reboot predecessors, Star Trek beyond skates by on a likable characters, a passable story, and nostalgic callbacks to the legacy of the original series.

Confused Take: Have you ever sat through a movie and enjoyed it well enough, but then struggled to precisely articulate what exactly it was that you liked about it? That was what happened to me here. Although I generally liked the action of the movie and laughed at its humorous bits, the whole viewing experience felt like a bit of a blur. As the story took a serious backseat to overblown action sequences, I numbed out and, perhaps, shut down the critical process that are normally at play in my brain when watching a movie. There was nothing I particularly loved or hated about this film. Going forward, it would be great to see a Star Trek movie that is heavier on story and character development, as this is truly where the fun of the series lies. It would also be nice to switch things up and have a smaller scale threat with more-focused and comprehensible action sequences. Not every movie in this franchise needs to center around a planet-destroying, world-shattering plot device.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Posted in Horror, Sequel with tags , , , , , on July 10, 2014 by The Confused Critic

(*1/2 out of ****)


(Originally written for The Boston College Heights on 5/3/2009)

One, two, a new remake’s coming for you … three, four, this one is quite the bore … five, six, you won’t find any new tricks … seven, eight, you could call it second-rate … nine, ten, never trust anything Michael Bay touches again.

Springwood. A nice town where children are punished for the sins of their parents. Years after the town’s adults tracked down and murdered Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley), a preschool custodian believed to be a child molester, teenagers begin having dreams about a clawed man in a green and red sweater donning a fedora. As these teens begin violently dying in their sleep one by one, it soon becomes clear that these are no ordinary nightmares. Hmm, do you think there’s a connection between these characters and why they are all having the same nightmares?

A remake of Wes Craven’s 1984 film of the same name, Elm Street falls short of the original in just about every aspect, though most noticeably in character development. None of the lead
protagonists are even remotely relatable, let alone likeable. Nancy (Rooney Mara) is not the typical virginal heroine of the slasher genre – instead she is an annoyingly angsty painter who fails to smile once throughout the course of the film. Her pseudo boyfriend, Quentin (Kyle Gallner), is a pill-popping head case who looks like he is attempting to fill the vacant spot in Fall Out Boy. Although it would be a stretch to say the audience truly wants to see these characters suffer, it would also not be unreasonable to suggest that they might begin grinning a little bit when Edward Scissorhands’ cousin is seen lurking behind the brats.

One would think that the film would have at least been able to approach the original in terms of special effects, given the 26-year gap in technology. Unfortunately, an overreliance on computer generated effects removes any appearance of realism from the movie, instead looking cheap rather than advanced. Attempts to recreate scenes from the original, such as the sequence where a teen watches his girlfriend meet her demise while levitating above her bed, do not look nearly as impressive as one would hope. It is frustrating that a low-budget film that is over two decades old looks more realistic than what is being churned out today. Clearly, computer effects will never look as good as actual stunt work. Once again, it would appear that money cannot buy everything.

Elm Street’s biggest problem is that it spells out every little detail for the audience. At one point in the film, one of the characters, in a revelation of ingenious proportions, exclaims, “You die in your sleep, you die in real life!” Since this is the film’s central plot gimmick, it should be assumed that audiences would be able to understand this premise from, oh, maybe the first five minutes. Instead, scriptwriters insult viewer intelligence by worrying that the audience will be too dense to pick up on the not-too-subtle context clues sprinkled throughout the film.

Furthermore, in the original film, the exact nature of Freddy’s crimes against young children was left up to audience interpretation. Conversely, this remake insists upon an unpleasant pedophilia subplot that hurts the film’s chances of simply being an entertaining thrill ride. Why sink the film, already dark enough with its abundantly violent content, into a realm of exceedingly uncomfortable subject matter?

Nevertheless, Elm Street does have some minor bright spots. The film’s strongest aspect is Haley, who manages to reinterpret the Freddy Krueger persona to match his creepy brand of character acting, much akin to what he did with the Rorschach character in Watchmen. Although many longtime fans will never accept another actor in the role besides Robert Englund, the man who played Freddy for the franchise’s previous eight movies, it is hard to deny that Haley has fashioned a terrifying revision of the character. Gruesomely deformed and gleeful over any opportunity to inflict pain, Freddy Krueger is once again a villain horrific enough to make anyone want to give up sleep.

At best, Elm Street reestablishes the creepy vibe that had been missing from the franchise for years. Gone are Freddy’s cringe-worthy one-liners and the cartoonish dream sequences that had been associated with this series since the late 1980s. However, this update does not really offer anything new beyond the typical conventions associated with such films. If you truly have a hankering to spend quality time with Krueger, you are better off just renting the original – at least you will get to witness a performance by a young Johnny Depp, years before it was evident that he would become a Hollywood legend.

Friday the 13th (2009)

Posted in Horror, Sequel with tags , , , , , on July 10, 2014 by The Confused Critic

(**1/2 out of ****)


(Originally written for The Boston College Heights on 2/16/2009)

Little has changed at Camp Crystal Lake in the past 30 years since the original Friday the 13th hacked its way into theaters across America. College kids still like smoking weed, having pre-marital sex at the worst possible moment, possessing an undeserved sense of youthful invincibility, and annoying a certain hockey-masked townie with anger issues.

Friday the 13th, the 12th entry in the franchise, attempts to return the series to its roots by placing a group of dumb, attractive characters at a house in the woods, at the mercy of a deformed killer. This means no more jaunts into New York City, outer space, or Elm Street, which is a wise decision. Remakes may be a plague on the movie industry, but sometimes they help to undo the desperate sequel gimmicks introduced along the way.

For those unfamiliar with the back story of the Friday the 13th series, antagonist Jason Voorhees drowned back when he was a camper at Crystal Lake. To exact revenge on the negligent counselors, his mother went on a violent killing spree that ended with her decapitation. While it seemed like the trouble was over, it turns out young Jason inexplicably was not dead and witnessed his mother’s death. Thus, the cycle of revenge continued.

The film opens with a group of twenty-somethings traveling to Crystal Lake in search of a large crop of pot rumored to grow nearby in the woods. Within the first 10 minutes, they are dispatched by Jason. That’s right my friends; no subtle buildup or tension is going to be found here. Whereas the old films waited a good half hour for the initial bloodshed, this one slices at the jugular before we can even blink.

Shortly after the demise of the first set of nondescript characters, we are introduced to a new batch of soon-to-be corpses who are partying at a house on the lake. This cast of reject Abercrombie models contains a nice grocery list of horror movie character cliches: you’ve got Trent (Travis Van Winkle), the un-faithful, confrontational frat boy, Bree (Julianna Guill), the nubile ditz, and Clay (Jared Padalecki), the brooding motorcycle rider investigating his sister’s disappearance, just to name a few. Additionally, former “I Wanna Be Bad” pop star Willa Ford plays blonde bimbo #2. One by one, characters are killed off gruesomely through the use of machetes, axes, and bear traps. The plot really doesn’t go too much more in depth than that if you had not yet guessed.

Friday the 13th excels at promoting exploitative entertainment that one has come to expect from the series. Blood, nudity, and inane dialogue abound, which, dependingon your definition of a good time, will influence your amusement quotient. Let it be said: This is not an objectively good movie…at all. However, the people making this movie appear to acknowledge that they are not creating a profound piece of art. They succeed at giving fans of the genre a gritty, unrelenting piece of celluloid. Additionally, there is enough humor (both intentional and unintentional) to counterbalance the otherwise disturbing tone.

Pinpointing everything that is wrong with this film would be excessive and completely obvious. Without seeing the movie, one could easily predict each of the plot twists, stereotypically impractical decisions, and when a jump scare is about to occur. Though it may sound like a lazy excuse, the Friday the 13th series was never about intelligence or innovation. According to the screenwriter of the original film, the only real motivation behind the production of the movie was to mimic the success that Halloween had achieved. Therefore, when assessing the quality of a movie like this, it seems necessary to compare it to other films of its own ilk rather than attempt to explain why it is not Oscar-worthy material.

The major question raised by Friday the 13th is whether or not these kinds of simple slasher flicks can elicit a substantial reaction from an audience anymore. While the movie certainly delivers the gory violence it promises, the effect of the grisly on-screen murders does not shock viewers in quite the same way that it would have back in when the original premiered. The pervasiveness of violence in movies as well as our growing sense of familiarity with Hollywood special effects renders the shock value, the only notable feature most of these films have going for them, unsuccessful. While the Friday the 13th franchise was the touchtone for disturbing horror in the 1980’s, it now feels just a tad tamer with the existence of movies like Hostel, which belongs to a genre ever-so-creatively titled “torture porn” by film critics.

One’s enjoyment of Friday the 13th hinges on one’s attitude going into the theater. If you loathe horror films and are aggravated by nonsensical character reactions, then just stay away. However, if you are seeking a carefree, brainless thrill ride then you might just want to give Jason a visit this weekend.

Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)

Posted in Horror, Sci-Fi, Sequel on July 10, 2014 by The Confused Critic

( ** out of ****)


(Originally written for The Boston College Heights on 9/24/2007)

Movies based on video games have a long history of bombing at the box-office. Super Mario Bros., House of the Dead, and Street Fighter were all disasters among critics and fans alike. Therefore, it is surprising to find the Resident Evil series on its third entry. Although none of the movies are masterpieces or critic favorites, viewers have not yet tired of watching Milla Jovovich go to battle with hoards of flesh-eating zombies.

Resident Evil: Extinction find’s Jovovich’s Alice at an interesting point in her life. The world she once knew has been overrun by the T-Virus, a contamination that turns humans into zombies and erodes all the plants and bodies of water that it touches. Alice has escaped from the Umbrella Corporation, the culprits who created the T-Virus. Wandering a post-apocalyptic desert straight out of a Mad Max film, she faces the dual threat of the living dead and Umbrella scientists (the evil British type who have that maniacal grin down perfectly), who want to experiment with her DNA, which may or may not hold the secret to the T-Virus. Along the way she meets up with a convoy of survivors and helps them look for a safe location where they can set up a new society.

RE: Extinction pales in comparison to its two predecessors. The plot is significantly thinner and the pace is annoyingly uneven. The desert location dominates a majority of the film’s running time, setting a bleak, static tone for the events that unfold.

Nevertheless, there are a few great scenes of zombie rampages, which, although heavy on cheap jump scares, manage to create an effectively frightening environment. The special effects are impressive, perhaps due to the fact that the filmmakers did not rely too heavily on CGI. Besides, any movie that has zombie birds can’t be all that bad, right?

Although the acting in the movie is passable, the script does very little in terms of fleshing out sympathetic characters. Jovovich more or less goes through the motions here, playing the same robotic, science-fiction butt-kicker that she did in The Fifth Element and Ultraviolet. She has very little dialogue throughout the film and when she decides to speak up, it is usually just to deliver a predictable one-liner. Ali Larter’s Claire is stiff and lets her sunglasses do the talking, constantly reminding us that she’s not just some piece of eye candy. Thankfully, Oded Fehr adds humor to the otherwise bland script, much like he did a few years ago for the Mummy franchise. With his character, it feels like there’s someone worth rooting for.

Director Russell Mulcahy struggles to determine how he wants the audience to view the female protagonists. Much like Paul WS. Anderson, who helmed the first two installments, Mulcahy initially portrays the women as empowered fighters but then goes on to objectify them with skimpy outfits and compromising camera angles that will appeal to the male audience. After a while, it gets a bit tiring – we get it, you have very attractive women in your movie!

RE: Extinction’s biggest fault is dipping into a vat of endless clichés, the worst being the character L.J. (Mike Epps), who returns from the previous film. Epps shamelessly indulges in his tired, socially insultingly stereotype routine, complete with the phrase, “Aww,hell naw!” In terms of genre cliches, there is the guy who gets bitten by a zombie, yet decides not to tell anyone because he believes he is somehow above being infected. None of the characters never seem to figure out that you can only kill the zombies with head shots. All the scientists have ambiguous motives, in this case a desire to domesticate the zombies. This would have been a clever idea if it hadn’t originally been done in George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead. Is it a homage or rip-off? That’s for you to decide.

There’s nothing to be lost or gained by seeing Resident Evil: Extinction. It is a middle-of-the-road popcorn flick that should be viewed by someone looking purely for a thrill ride or a fan of the series. Unless this film bombs, it is safe to say that the Resident Evil franchise will be seeing at least one more chapter.

Hannibal Rising (2007)

Posted in Horror, Sequel on July 7, 2014 by The Confused Critic

(** out of ****)


(Originally written for The Boston College Heights on 2/12/2007)

It could have been great. That’s right. Hannibal Rising could have been a great movie. All the right ingredients were present: The actors and actresses were impressive, the cinematography was beautiful, the score was riveting, and the screenplay was written by Hannibal Lecter’s original creator, Thomas Harris. Unfortunately, none of this can change the fact that the story insists on being a mediocre revenge tale that dips into predictable slasher conventions.

The prologue, which is also the film’s most powerful segment, introduces us to young Hannibal Lecter as he is fleeing with his parents and sister from the family’s castle in Lithuania. Faced with the dual menace of approaching Nazi and Russian troops, the family is forced to take refuge in a small cottage. Both of his parents are killed in the resulting crossfire, and Hannibal and his sister are taken hostage by ravenous Nazis. With no food to be found, the soldiers resort to cannibalism. After witnessing his sister’s demise, Hannibal escapes half-alive and mentally scarred.

Eight years later, we find Hannibal breaking out of an orphanage to track down his remaining relatives. While trekking across Europe, he encounters his deceased uncle’s Japanese bride, played by the beautiful Li Gong. After she provides him with spiritual guidance on the subject of loss, Hannibal decides to enroll in medical school. While there, his continuous flashbacks come to a boil, and Hannibal decides to seek revenge against those who were responsible for his sister’s death.

Hannibal Rising is a grisly film that wallows in ugliness and despair. Its unrelentingly violent and morally ambiguous tone leaves viewers without any characters with which they can identify. The film paints Hannibal as a vigilante hunter that kills for the sake of punishing barbarians who were not brought to justice for their crimes. However, there is no explanation as to how Lecter would eventually become an unrelenting psychopath who indiscriminately murders for no purpose.

The movie is filled with characters that are obviously marked for death. Even most of the auxiliary performers meet a repellently gory demise. This sort of attitude is insulting toward the viewers, who naturally want good to conquer evil. The brief attempts at recapturing the famous in-depth psychoanalytical tendencies of Lecter are elementary and unsubstantial. Perhaps more emphasis on a varied story instead of routine slash-and-stalk sequences could have saved this movie.

While Frenchman Gaspard Ulliel is certainly a gifted performer, his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter does very little to advance the character that was first portrayed by Brian Cox in 1986’s Manhunter and then made famous by Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. Although his ever-present demonic sneer is creepy and intimidating, Ulliel fails to create a believable origin to the infamous cannibal. The nature of the part itself is emotionally static and dull. Additionally, it is never quite clear whether Hannibal is meant to be a protagonist or a villain. Perhaps imitating Hopkins’ performance would have provided a smoother sense of continuity between this film and the rest of the series.

At the end of the day, Hannibal Rising is not a horrible film. It looks great and boasts a talented ensemble of actors. Nevertheless, the movie’s overall mean streak and fixation on unnecessary, gratuitous violence really leaves a bad taste in the viewer’s mouth (pun intended). The producers recently commented that they were considering using this film as a starting point for a new franchise of prequels. Unless they plan to bring Hopkins back for a concluding chapter, there is no need for the Hannibal Lecter character to grace the silver screen ever again.

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

Posted in Action, Sequel on March 7, 2013 by The Confused Critic

(*½ out of ****)

A Good Day to Die Hard

Halfway through the magnum opus of chaos and destruction known as A Good Day to Die Hard, John McClane asks his son, “What’s my thing?” after being told that discussing feelings has never been his forte. “Fucking killing bad guys! That’s your thing!” bellows his precocious son in the midst of a gun fight. Such eloquent dialogue reminds us that this is what happens when you hire the screenwriter responsible for penning the A-Team and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Where is Family Matters’ Reginald VelJohnson (aka Carl Winslow) when you need him? I’ll even settle for Justin Long at this point…

The latest profit-seeking endeavor in the Die Hard franchise finds tireless Mr. Clean understudy McClane (Bruce Willis) venturing to Moscow to locate his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), who has been arrested for assassinating a high-ranking Russian government official who we learn nothing about. In order to reduce his sentence, Jack, an undercover CIA agent, agrees to testify against Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch), a political prisoner being forced to stand trial by a corrupt politician. Naturally, the elder McClane shows up right as terrorists blast their way into this hackneyed mess and force the father/son duo to reunite in a partnership for the ages. “Some kind of vacation…” and “I’m too old for this shit” jokes, a jaunt to Chernobyl, and boring CGI carnage ensue for 97 teal and orange lens tinted minutes.

The fifth in the series, A Good Day to Die Hard lacks all of the charm, excitement, and suspense of its predecessors. Essentially one long continuous chase sequence, it fails to establish a creative story or characters that draw us in. Whereas past entries in the series had notoriously hammy villains portrayed by the likes of Alan Rickman and Jeremy Irons, we get nothing of the sort here. Rather than establish one head honcho, the film delights in an endless stream of reveals as to who the “true” villain is. Unfortunately, the script fails to provide enough character development for any of us to care or even feign a sense of surprise.

What truly dooms this sequel is the fact that the character Willis plays no longer bears any significant resemblance to the John McClane in the original film. Sure, he is still sarcastic, surly, and rough around the edges, but the original McClane reacted with fear and self-doubt in the harrowing scenarios he faced. Here, instead, we get an indestructibly cocky robot that seems rather ho-hum about blowing away hoards of terrorists with an oversized machine gun. Gone is the flawed family man who would walk barefoot across a floor littered with shards of glass to protect his loved ones. Conversely, we get a McClane who taunts his son after he is impaled by a metal beam in his side, mockingly asking him if he’d like to cry. Rather than being the self-deprecating protagonist who once infamously questioned how the “same thing can happen to the same guy twice,” we now find a jaded character who appears to have bought into his own legend and turned into a generic, one-note superhero.

Willis has reportedly stated that he would like to do one more Die Hard sequel before retiring the series for good. Whether he made this decision after viewing the disappointing final cut of this movie is unclear, but let’s hope that the people over at 20th Century Fox devise a better game plan the next time around. For starters, don’t hire a director whose credits include Max Payne. Second, develop believable stunt sequences that provide an actual sense of exhilaration rather than the notion that you are viewing a videogame cut scene. Lastly, make the entire cast and crew watch any of the first three films in the series so that there is a better understanding of why people wanted to see these movies in the first place.

The Confused Take: Despite all the negative press that this movie has been receiving, I went into the theatre feeling optimistic that I could at least find some redeeming qualities that others had missed. After all, I was sufficiently entertained by the oft-maligned Live Free or Die Hard, so I thought that perhaps this entry would provide an equivalent level of brain-dead enjoyment. Unfortunately nothing here works. The overblown, nonstop action quickly becomes dull, especially when it is soon apparent that none of the characters are going to be subjected to any real injury. Not even a shoe-horned Mary Elizabeth Winstead cameo as McClane’s daughter can bring any integrity to this mess. As a faithful fan of the Die Hard series, I sought out this movie for a sense of completion but left wondering whether Sylvester Stallone’s Bullet to the Head would have been a more productive use of my time.