Archive for Sequel

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016)

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

(** out of ****)

 JR2

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.

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Friday the 13th (2009)

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

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

FridayThe13th2009

(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.