Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Good Day For Die Hard - Five Times!

My buddy Shaun sent me a message - and when I opened it - this is what I saw:

Shaun sent it around to his circle of friends with the question "Who's in?"

The answer he got from me was: "Me!"

I already had plans to see the new Die Hard, and adding the first four movies to the mix just made it better. I guess these marathon deals have been working - they did all the solo superhero movies leading up to The Avengers; all of the Christian Bale Batman movies up to The Dark Knight Rises; and all the Lord of the Rings movies leading up to The Hobbit. I missed all of those - but here was one I wasn't going to miss!

I got the day off work weeks ahead - and spread the word to my buddies Ray and Lorne to see if they would join me. Both indicated they would.

Sadly, as the work week started on 2/11/13, both Ray and Lorne begged off - as neither was able to get out of work for the day.

I spent the morning of the 13th getting a haircut and running some errands, then arrived at the theater at about 11am. The marathon was scheduled to start at 12 noon, and I was hoping to get my ticket, then grab a fast lunch at the restaurant next door to the theater. As I approached the box office it was obviously not open yet. One of the workers was about to go in - I asked when the box office would open - he said "I think 11:30." So off to lunch next door.

Cute waitress! Score one! I ordered a Black Forest sandwich on German pretzel bread and fries. Here's lunch in all its glory:

I wrapped up at just about 11:30 on the nose and headed over to the theater. The ticket for all 5 movies was $25 - not bad for a brand new movie and four older flicks!

I stopped off at the concession stand for a large popcorn and large Coke Zero - both of which were available for refills - and headed in to the theater at about 11:40am.

There were three people in there already - a lone guy and a couple. The couple was up in the nosebleed seats, so I barely registered them. The guy, however, was in my first choice of seats - one row up from the handicapped row/middle aisle and dead center. *sigh* So I went with my second choice, one of the seats on the handicapped row. (For the record, when I sit there I am always prepared to move at a moment's notice should the seats be needed by someone in a wheelchair.)

Movie time!

Die Hard  (1988)

I first saw this movie at the Saluki theater in Carbondale Illinois back in 1988. (The same theater building where I'd seen Friday the 13th 8 years previously.) It was so good I coaxed my parents out to see it over the Christmas break a week or two later.

I had actually just watched this on Blu-Ray a few weeks ago - catching my movie buddy Ray up on the series to prep us to see the fifth movie. We cut off after the first movie when this marathon came up - so it was the only one I'd seen recently - it was still awesome to see on the Big Screen again - first time in 25 years! The movie rocks from first frame to last - and what an incredible cast. Great to see Al Leong among the terrorists - plus Andreas Wisniewski from The Living Daylights - he's the first guy Bruce kills with feet smaller than Bruce's sister's. I like the terrorist who looks like Huey Lewis - and I really hate it that the incredibly obnoxious Theo (the safecracker well played by Clarence Gilyard Jr.) actually survives the movie - he gets decked by Argyle and presumably hauled off to prison. I really wish he would have bought it - and having Hans Gruber land on him at the end would have been perfect. It's also cool to see Robert Davi and Grand L. Bush as the two FBI agents - as they worked together again on the 007 movie Licence to Kill the next year!

After the first movie ended it was a quick run to the lobby for a restroom break and a refill on Coke Zero and popcorn - and at 2:35 the theater darkened again:

I first saw this movie in Merrillville Indiana - not sure of the theater's name - but it was a multiplex right outside the Merrillville Mall on Route 30. It was terrific to see it on the Big Screen again - as I think it's pretty much as good as the first movie. The highlights of this one for me - Fred Dalton Thompson as Airport Honcho Trudeau; glimpsing Robert Patrick and John Leguizamo among the bad guys; and the way that the film builds on the playing area of the first film's high rise building - expanding out to an entire airport and the surrounding neighborhood, while still keeping the film's laser focus turned inward for the run of the movie, so that the movie still feels like it's taking place in a finite area. Well done all around.

This movie wrapped up a little after 4:30pm. I ran my phone out to the car to charge up through the third movie, refilled the popcorn and soda again, and plopped down to wait for 5:00pm and the start of

Die Hard

I saw this movie here in Wilmington at the Cinema 6 on Oleander Drive. I was a little leery of adding the secondary character played by Samuel L. Jackson as McClane was a loner in the first two movies - but the movie won me over on that count in short order. Bringing in some really cool actors as McClane's police colleagues - Larry Bryggman - who'd been on some CBS soap opera for about a hundred years at this point - Colleen Camp - Graham Greene - excellent support on the good guy side. The bad guys don't have any future stars lurking this time, but they are led by a grinning Jeremy Irons, throwing on his German accent to play Hans Gruber's brother - back for revenge...or is he?

Having this one widen out now to a whole city - again - terrific build on the previous movie's playing area - and the cat and mouse game with the puzzles thrown in to the usual gunplay and explosions - marvelous. I actually prefer the theatrical release's (re-shot) ending - having watched the original as a YouTube clip - I think the original, while interestingly dark in tone - is too much of a downer ending. So the reshoot helped the movie, to me.

This one ended a little after 7:00pm. I retrieved my phone and went back to the snackbar for another Coke Zero - and it was time for dinner. Here's what I went with:

The Dinner of Champions - slider hot dogs - with ketchup, mustard, and relish added - and nachos. YUM!

At 7:30 we went fourth with the next movie in the series:

I had skipped seeing Live Free or Die Hard in the theaters - as I had doubts they would get another good movie out of the then 19 year old series. Plus, the PG-13 rating didn't make me happy. Then I watched the Unrated cut on DVD - and liked it just as much as I had ...with a Vengeance. So I was thrilled to get to see this one on the Big Screen for the first time. I was a little disappointed that as expected it was the PG-13 cut - and after the frenzy of F-bombs that were bandied about in the previous movie this movie's more restrained swearing and bloodletting was very noticeable- but still a terrific action movie. It's also the fourth straight movie in the series to play its action out on an ever-larger playing field - first a building. Then an airport. Then a city. And this time the entire Eastern Seaboard. Well played, Die Hard filmmakers!

Movie #4 wrapped up a little after 9:30pm. One more popcorn and Coke Zero refill and I was planted back in my usual seat waiting for 10:00pm and the start of the new movie. (Sadly, no title card pic for this one!)

As soon as A Good Day to Die Hard started - little alarm bells went off. After four straight ultra widescreen movies in 2:35:1 - NOW they're going to drop back to a regular movie 1:85:1? In other words - watching the first four movies on your widescreen TV there will still be black bars at the top and bottom - but this movie will fill the screen. And that's NOT a good thing. It seems cheap after the big budget action of the other movies.

The movie starts a little roughly - with now-grown son Jack McClane in the middle of some kind of political drama in Russia. Then we see John McClane - in a cheap scene set at a shooting range where some guy we've never seen before comes in and briefs him on the trouble Jack has gotten into over in Russia. This was a missed opportunity to bring in SOMEONE from any of the previous movies to give this briefing - Powell is working for the State Department now, or Argyle. I don't care if it's silly - it's still cool. Maybe Leslie - the little airport guy from 2 - or even someone new but played by a cool character actor like Robert Forster or Wings Hauser - anyone other than this generic unknown actor.

John McClane and Jack McClane - friends to the end

Next up McClane is on the way to Russia - and thank goodness Mary Elizabeth Winstead stops in for some small tidbit of continuity in a cameo as Lucy McClane from the fourth movie.

Once McClane arrives in Russia the movie takes another downturn as he and Jack have a contentious relationship EXACTLY like dad and daughter in the opening of Live Free...plus McClane is either poorly written or Willis is having trouble finding the character again as McClane rather goofily follows his son across whatever Russian city they're in trying to talk to him - and pointedly ignoring the Die Hard style action going on with vehicles chasing each other and massive machine guns and explosions going off. It's almost like he can't see this stuff - John Magoo instead of John McClane. Compounding this ragged section of the movie - director John Moore starts channelling mid-60's Mario Bava and goes batcrap crazy with the zoom lens - letting the camera fly all over the place, zooming in and out wildly before briefly finding and settling on the action in shot after shot after shot. I wanted to punch him in the throat about twenty minutes in to this movie. He's really used his entire career's allotment of camera moves in this flick.

Now, once they settle after this frenetic fiasco of a first third of the movie - and the plot kicks in, and the boys start working together - and someone apparently saw the dailies of the earlier scenes and broke their foot off in director Moore's ass so the camera calms down a lot - (although I can't deny that it's possible I was simply getting used to it and not noticing it as much - and if that's the case a double dumbass on Moore for inuring me to his awful filmic style) - well, at this point the movie got on track and was pretty entertaining for the rest of the run - though there are still some wtf moments - instead of having to be the hero because he's the only one who can - so he's reluctant but effective - here at one point he grabs a cannon sized machine gun and says to Jack "Let's go kill some scumbags." (!) Not let's go save your friend, or let's go stop them (from whatever villainous plan is going to cause the deaths of innocents) - no - he's here and ready to go and simply slaughter people. Another misstep, but not as bad as the first thirty minutes. This is also the first movie that doesn't really build on the playing field - we're in some city for a while - then we're in a big facility. And the movie doesn't manage the cool 2+ hours running time that all the others handled with ease - and clocks in at an almost apologetic 1 hour and 37 minutes.

However, one undeniable positive about this movie - Yulia Snigir.

All in all - this is the Die Hard I was dreading when I skipped seeing the fourth movie in the theater - the one that shows the cracks in the formula and disappoints. I'm not usually one to give star ratings to movies - but I think this will best sum up my feelings on the series. I'll use Leonard Maltin's four star scale -where 4 stars is a classic; three stars and up is a good to very good to great movie; two stars is mediocre but watchable, and the next step down is BOMB - unwatchable crap.  So here's the series rated and where this fifth movie falls on the quality ladder:

Die Hard  ****
Die Hard 2   ***3/4
Die Hard with a Vengeance   ***
Live Free or Die Hard   ***
A Good Day to Die Hard  **

So there you go. It's not terrible, but it's a big step down from the other movies.

Despite the last movie tanking a bit - I did have a blast doing this marathon - and might try one again one of these days...

Until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!


  1. Holy fuck! A Die Hard marathon! In a theater! So, so awesome. Wish I couls have been there.

    Love the first three ones, and seen the countless times because Austrian and German TV stations played them over and over.

    Seen the 4th one only 1 time and hated it. Too 'polished', too over the top. No interest in seeing the 5th one. Already read tons of negative reviews, and yours isn't exactly positive either.

    1. No - it is a big step down - but overall the series is still exemplary - and watching them all in the cinema in a marathon was truly a blast.

  2. Haven't seen it yet because I found the scorched earth reviews a little unsettling. Will catch it on a cheap matinee one of these days just cuz it's John Fu---- McClane! Appreciate your honest review. And that Marathon had to be so epic! One and Three happen to be my favorites :)

    1. I really hated John Moore's flying camera directing style - but there's still some great big scale action and crazy stunts - it should work fine as a cheap matinee flick for a series fan. Thanks for coming by, Matty!

  3. love, love, love it! what a great way to spend $25...even if the last movie isn't so much... :D

    1. You're exactly right Stephanie! Thanks so much for coming by!

  4. I really dig these movies especially 1, 2 and 3. I'm hoping to get to see 5 in theaters. I admit to being disappointed in 4, but this new one looks exciting. Especially the male eye candy playing his kid. ;)

    1. I think your optic sweet tooth will get a nice fix from that young man!

  5. Nice write-up of an event we both enjoyed. You did much better than I did when it came to food, all I had to eat that day was one bucket of popcorn and some Jello when I got home.

    That "kill some scumbags" line is definitely indicative of how far Bruce Willis is from being the McClane character in Good Day. He has hardly any investment in the situation, yet he's cruel and bloodthirsty and even says he's having fun. So much wrong with that movie on every level.

    But boy, those first three movies are great.

    - Cody