Die Hardfans who have been waiting 12 years to see the return of Bruce Willis as New York cop John McClane are likely to be relieved to hear that they'll get what they expect from Live Free or Die Hard. The movie, writes Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post, "seeks to remind viewers of the simple, nostalgic pleasures of watching stuff get blown up and bad guys get smoked." Or as Gene Seymour puts it in Newsday: As long as you understand that Live Free or Die Hard is nothing more or less than a three-ring festival of intricate stunts and pyrotechnic effects, punctuated with clown routines, you may not mind that it's about a half-hour longer than it needs to be." Chris Kaltenbach in the Baltimore Sun agrees. "The thrills are still there," he writes. But, as can be expected after 12 years, the star has changed, and so has his character. "McClane is still a New York cop, but he's an old, embittered New York cop," he observes. That's just fine, so far as Jack Mathews of the New York Daily Newsis concerned. "The fun ofLive Free is surprising to me because I found nothing to like in the first three films, least of all Willis' look-at-me-I'm-a-movie-star performances," he writes, "But Willis has aged well and grown on me. He's still saying, 'Look at me,' but here, he bears the weight and humility of age." Lou Lumenick in the New York Postcalls the movie "solidly crowd-pleasing." Richard Roeper in the Chicago Sun-Timesrefers to it as "two hours of pure adrenaline." To Manohla Dargis in the New York Times, the film's "a goof -- an unexpectedly funny goof, at that, despite everything, including the mayhem and somewhat creepy plot." But Claudia Puig in USA Today says that the movie is "diverting enough" but "as a convincing techno-thriller, it doesn't really work." Similarly Bob Longino in the Atlanta Journal-Constitutionwrites that while it's "mostly watchable," it's "almost entirely forgettable after its final bang."


A controversial animated film by two Iranian filmmakers that drew complaints from Iranian officials when it was screened at the Cannes Film Festival last month -- but nevertheless went on to win the Jury Prize -- has been removed from the Bangkok Film Festival. The film, Persepolis, directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, which tells the story of a nine-year-old girl growing up in Iran under fundamentalist restraints, had been expected to open the festival on July 19. However, Chattan Kunjara na Ayudhya of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, which is sponsoring the festival, said today (Wednesday) that he was asked to meet with officials at the Iranian embassy about the film "and we both came to mutual agreement that it would be beneficial to both countries if the film was not shown." Chattan did not indicate how Thailand would benefit from the decision to withdraw the film, saying only, "It is a good movie in artistic terms, but we have to consider other issues that might arise here." Kiriangsak Silakong, the festival's chief programmer, appeared upset over the censorship, telling the Bangkok newspaper The Nation, "It's too bad Thai people won't be able to see this film." And Reuters led off its report on the development by commenting, "Thailand has caved in to pressure from Iran...."


Despite boosting budgets and engaging some of the country's top stars, Indian films are struggling at the box office this year -- in sharp contrast to last year when Bollywood produced record results. Reporting from Mumbai (Bombay), Reuters observed today (Wednesday) that during the first half of 2007, the world's biggest film industry has failed to produce a single blockbuster, and in fact, overall ticket sales amount to only a quarter of what they were at this time a year ago. The wire service quoted Bollywood trade analyst Komal Nahta as saying, "Where are the good stories? You can't get away with only star appeal and foreign locales. ... If you have a good script, chances are you will have a hit, stars or no stars." Another analyst, Taran Adarsh, told Reuters: "Once again, it has been proved that big names will not guarantee a hit." On the other hand, films from the U.S. have become big hits this year, with Spiderman 3outgrossing Titanic to become the highest-grossing Hollywood film ever distributed in India.