Bright (2017): Good Ideas Trapped in a B Movie

“Bright” is a film that is built on a wonderful idea. Take Tolkien fantasy and make it the modern day world…from here the story tells itself and it is that core idea that keeps the film from ever being bad, even though some of the writing doesn’t work at all. David Ayer also worked on “Suicide Squad,” and I honestly enjoyed this film more as the action and editing are much more solidly done and even though there are many holes in the universe in regards to magic and lore…it never stops being fun or forget what drives the core characters. This is a film that has been panned by critics and honestly doesn’t deserve the hate. I’ll explain more on why, deeper into the review.

“Bright” was directed by David Ayer (who was also one of the producers), written by Max Landis and produced by Eric Newman and Bryan Unkeless.

The story takes place in a world where an ancient Dark Lord was defeated and 2000 years later on modern day Earth, humans, orcs, elves and the other 9 races live together in a separate class structure, with the Elves as upper class, humans in the middle and Orcs as the disenfranchised outsiders. The story follows human LAPD cop Daryl Ward and the first orc cop Nick Jakboy as they investigate a mysterious cult tied to the ancient Dark Lord defeated long ago.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world is amazing, take a Tolkien level backstory with the whole 9 races and the defeat of a Dark Lord (who it implies as an elf) and now it is modern day and how the war went defined the class structure of the realm with orcs being lower class for having served the Dark Lord years ago. There cultures are really unique too, humanity is basically us but the orcs have blood honor and getting blooded as earning respect, elves are tied to magic and own the government but also have a cult tied to the Dark Lord…and there are 6 other races we learn nothing about.

The Action – This is a good action movie. Even in dark scenes you can see which people are fighting and there is constant tension that drives each scene as we have the build up post Daryl surviving getting shot by an orc. I was never bored during this scene, essentially it didn’t have the Sorceress fight from “Suicide Squad.”

Fantasy Races as an Analogy for Race and Class – Orcs live in the poor areas and the only rich orcs we see tend to be gangsters, humans walk between the different areas and there are elf only areas of town. The analogy for racism is obvious and it works, from “Orc Lives Matter,” and the graffiti in the opening…this is a movie that has a deep under current that it doesn’t need to do much to explore as the story tells itself in regards to the clash between orcs, humans and elves.

The Main Three Characters – The main reason this film isn’t awful are the three main characters have arcs that work. Each of them has changed by the end of the story and that is what I’ll go into in their individual character profiles.

Daryl Ward – Daryl is played by Will Smith and is a family man who was once admired by the LAPD but messed up later on, which is why the force put him with the first orc police officer. His arc is overcoming his prejudice and by the end he discovers he is a Bright (someone who can wield magic wands and magic) and considers Nick his partner as he discovers just how bad orcs have it and grows as a cop and person.

Nick Jakoby – Nick’s arc is embracing his role as a cop and finding a wider role in his people as when Tikka (the elf who escaped the Dark Lord cult with a wand) resurrects him after a orc gang leader kills him he is seen as their savior. His arc is learning to trust Daryl and finding his place in the force and his partner. It is really well done and I loved how earnest his character is. Edgerton did a good job in the role.

Tikka – Tikka is the Bright elf who escapes the cult she is a part of and steals the cult leader (Leilah’s) wand in the process. She is a damsel through a lot of it, which I hated, but once it is revealed to have been a ruse it is fantastic as she both resurrects Nick and saves Daryl quite a few times. She is presumed did until Daryl spots her at the end, though whether this is her or the return of the Dark Lord or something else, is left up to the sequel.

Okay: Leilah and her Cult – The cult is threatening and it is cool seeing elves fight with magic and daggers and Noomi Rapace is fun as Leilah, but her and the cult get almost no exploration. This was a shame as she and the other actors are in it are talented people…but we never got their motivation or learned anything new about the Dark Lord.

Magic Task Force – This is the FBI who arrive at the very end and cover up the events with the cult. They are lead by an elf who has a huge issue with the cultists and sees them as embarrassing to elves. He is compelling but we never get his motivation either, and the Magic Task Force is mostly useless though they work as a plot device.

The Writing – There are gaping holes in the lore and some of the dialogue is cringe-worthy. I’m not putting this as a con because sometimes it works and the world does feel lived in. But it isn’t a pro and does bring down the overall quality of the film.

The Cons: Predictability – The biggest con is predictability, I knew Nick would be brought back to life, I knew that Daryl would end up being a bright and I knew they’d have to learn to work together. I could have used a lot more twists than just corrupt cops and Tikka just pretending to need to be rescued.

Holes in the World – Who are the 9 races? We see some random ones but know nothing about them and their roles, how does magic work? Who created the wands? How did this world become as it was in the present? These are just some of the questions that keep the film from being great as the fact it isn’t fully fleshed out is the biggest detriment to the story.

This is a movie that aspired for greatness and because it did, managed to be overall enjoyable, even with the flaws. “Bright 2” has already been slated and I can’t wait to see what they do with this universe as we know nothing about the other 6 races, nothing about the Dark Lord and even how magic works. If these questions had been answered than this would have been a really good film. I still recommend this one though, it isn’t perfect, but it is a lot of fun and it is a universe I can’t wait to return back to. This is a total B movie, largely because of some of the hokey dialogue and the plot holes but it is worth seeing once.

Final Score: 7.8 / 10

Advertisements

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017) – An Unmemorable Sequel

   “The Golden Circle” is a film that really should have been about the “Statesman” (The American Secret Service of this film) or just a day in the life of “The Kingsman.” It is in the film going big and trying to recreate the magic of the first film that ends up being the biggest reason it falls flat. It isn’t a bad film by any means, but the strongest moments are the character moments, not the action and this is an action heavy film on an apocalyptic scale, just like the first film…and the writing just isn’t up to par. Before I get into spoilers, if you enjoyed the first film, you’ll probably enjoy this one, I just hope that if a third film is made that they go small and give us a more character driven story than the we got this time around.

The film was directed by Matthew Vaughn who co-wrote it with Jane Goldman and produced the film with David Reid and Adam Bohling. The series is based off the comics called the “Kingsman” by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons.

The story this time around involves the drug Kingpin Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore) attacking all the Kingsman hideouts after one of the former members helps her hack them. Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong) are the only ones left, as they follow the emergency protocol where they must team up with their American counterparts known as the Statesman to stop her and her plans.

SPOILERS ahead

First I want to get into what works about the film. The Statesman are a fascinating group and Bridges “Champ” is a lot of fun as the leader of the organization. Though, Bridges is good in everything he’s in, even when the films suck. The Statesman is based in a Kentucky Distillery and has a cowboy aesthetic to contrast with the gentlemen aesthetic. I really want a movie about them after seeing this, hell this could have been their movie and Merlin and Eggsy could have been agents sent over to help with the drug problem that drives the plot without the Kingsman being destroyed. Since the two of them are fantastic.

Merlin and Eggsy are easily once the best parts of the film. Mark Strong continues to give both warmth and the cold edge of an agent and Eggsy has embraced his role as an agent even as he still holds onto the life he had before with his friends from his past life. They don’t really have an arc in this, but seeing them as the only members of the Kingsman worked, though I wish their entire organization hadn’t been killed. For one Roxy was a great character who we will now never see in the field again.

Poppy is a villain who is a lot of fun and fits perfectly into this universe. She is a drug Kingpin who wants to legalize all drugs so that she’ll be recognized as the richest woman in the world. Her base is in South America and designed like a 50’s town, which fits her messed up mentality where she feeds people who betray her to her other minions. She also has robotic dogs that are really cool and fit into this universe really well. Her plan is to infect everyone with her drugs and give the antidote once heroin is legalized. It is a pretty great plan and she is a difficult enemy to beat.

Galahad’s arc surprisingly works. If you’ve seen the previews you know Colin Firth’s character Galahad is back and in this we learn that he was a scientist before he joined the Kingsman so his arc is reactivating his memories so he can help when the Kingsman and Statesman start losing to Poppy. It is always good to see this character and as much as I hate characters coming back, the fact that it took the entire film for him to come back, made it worth it narratively.

Now for what didn’t work. At one point Poppy captures Elton John and after that he is used as a joke and reference through the entire film. It is really annoying and grating and there was zero reason for it to be in the film. It was never funny and just distracted from the plot.

Over-dependence on action is a major problem too. I get this is a spy film but the first film managed to have a lot of great moments of reflection that we never get in this, even though Eggsy and Merlin’s friends are all dead. The movie was so focused on moving to the next action set piece that it hurt the story.

The love story with the Princess also didn’t work and there was no reason for it to exist, especially since it leads to a weird scene with Eggsy sleeping with one of the enemy’s girlfriends. The entire love story felt contrived and after that scene…it just felt awkward, unneeded and it distracted from what little of an arc Eggsy has in this film.

“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is a film I’ll recommend if you like a good action film and enjoyed the first movie. It isn’t nearly as great as the first movie, but it is a solid sequel as we get to know Galahad’s backstory, there is a great villain and the Statesman are a fun organization. I wish it had been more focused though, this is a film that could have been great as a “Statesman” film or as a mission with the entire Kingsman team in action. Sadly this was a film that failed to measure up to its own ambitions. Once again, still worth your time if you are looking for a good action film or loved the first one.

Final Score: 8 / 10

 

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) – A Good Sequel That Raises the Stakes

john-wick-2-keanu-reeves-the-sequel-to-john-wick

    “John Wick: Chapter 2” is the best kind of sequel. It raises the stakes, gives greater exploration of the world and further develops the characters. Sadly what keeps it from being on par with the first film is it isn’t nearly as tightly written and the ending could have been handled differently. I wouldn’t call it great because the cons it carries keep it from being that, it is no “Empire Strikes Back” but it is better than “Die Hard 2.”

      The film was directed by Chad Stahelski, written by Derek Kolstad and produced by David Leitch, Basil Iwanyk and Erica Lee.

     The story picks up where the last film left off with Wick taking out Viggo’s brother to get his car back so he can go back into retirement. Sadly his retirement doesn’t last long as Santino calls upon a “Marker” that had been formed between them when he helped John complete his impossible task. When John refuses he destroys his home, forcing John to fulfill the “Marker” and kill his sister, who sits on the Assassin High Table.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Premise – The premise involves John being pulled back into the world of assassins after he finishes back his car as the stakes are raised as he has to kill someone who will put an even bigger bounty on his head. I enjoy the “lose lose” of the situation that John is put into. It forces creativity and thinking outside the box.

The Opening – The opening is fantastic and one of the best action sequences in the whole film. In it we see John get his car back and make peace with Abram (Viggo’s brother) after he kills all his men and gets his car back. It is powerful and we see that John is still honorable even when others are not.

The Action – This film has a lot of action in it and because of it there is a lot of great action. From the fight in the catacombs in Rome, to the Museum fight and the car chase at the beginning…all of these run laps around the Bond films out of recent memory.

 The World – The world is intricate as we learn more about what holds the world of assassins in place. From the Continental having hotels all over the world, the High Council of 12 that runs everything and the Bowery King, and underground information broker in NY who owns the streets.

The Characters – The characters are the best part and there are a lot of great ones, though the villain is once again the least interesting character in the film…much like Viggo’s son in the first film.

Charon – Charon is the man who welcomes people into the Continental and this time he is Wick’s ally as he takes care of his dog and takes him in before the Continental excommunicates him. I hope he’ll be back for the sequel.

Ares – Ares is the deaf assassin that serves Santino. She is a great character and holds off Wick on multiple occasions. I wish we could have learned why she is serving Santino as there was clearly more there. She is the final boss for Wick before he finally ends Santino in the Continental. Ruby Rose does a fantastic job.

Gianna – Gianna is Santino’s sister and one of the members of the High Table. She kills herself rather than letting John kill her and they have a great conversation as we see that she always ended things on her terms. Like Santino she is ruthless though as our first scene with her is her shutting down someone whose land she has taken in her rise to power. We learn that her and John are friends too.

Cassian – Cassian is Gianna’s protector and Common does a great job of showing him to be the honorable assassin. He is respectful of John, even as he is trying to kill him and we see how both of their codes keep them at odds where they would be friends in other circumstances.

Aurelio – Leguizamo is back, though it is only to pick up John’s car and joke around about when it will be fixed. He is a great character though and I hope he is an ally in the next film.

Winston – McShane does an amazing job as this character. In this we see he like Cassian is bound by honor and he gives Wick a day before he excommunicates him as well as giving him the “Marker” that Santino had placed him under so he can use it to free himself someday. You see regret from Winston but also hope that Wick will survive.

The Bowery King – Fishburne plays the Bowery King, an information broker who tags pigeons with chips and microphones so he knows what is going on everywhere. He is insane but has respect for Wick for sparing his life. I hope we see him again as he mentions that Wick owes him when he hides, heals and gives Wick the gun to take out Santino.

Okay: Santino – Santino betrays Wick and there is no reason behind it. It is implied they have a history but it is never explored fully. I didn’t hate the character so I won’t put him as a con, but he could have been so much more. I wanted more history and less action and he could have been how to do that.

The Ending – The ending has Wick excommunicated and the High Table raising the bounty internationally on his head as he is running away with his dog but holding the “Marker” which maybe his salvation. I liked it but wish he had found a more creative way to end Santino. I wish he’d still had the Continental. Him having nothing makes his survival much more questionable and if they don’t kill him next film (given he has no allies) it will be difficult to take seriously. He needed some allies.

Cons: When the Action Goes Too Long – There is a ton of action in this film and at times it goes on way too long. I get this is an action movie but what made the first film better is the action had purpose and didn’t overstay it’s welcome. When Alfie Allen is taken out it is quick but here the action sequences are dragged out and it detracted from the amazing narrative that was going on.

    This is a sequel you should check out if you like action films and were a fan of the first film. The world is further developed and the stakes are raised in such a way that they could end this series as a Trilogy easily. After that I hope they don’t do anymore, they can’t raise the stakes and take anymore from John Wick, so I hope they end this series next movie. I really like John Wick and I’d hate for to be “Die Harded.” This film is a solid sequel and is once again a lot of fun in a world Keanu Reeves clearly owns.

Final Score: 8.9 / 10

John Wick (2014): An Amazing Action Flick That Shows Just How Great Keanu Reeves Can Be

john-wick

     “John Wick” is one of the best action movies I have ever watched. This is a movie that has an intriguing world, fascinating characters, amazing action and a narrative that flows. If you like action films. These are my brief spoiler free thoughts before I get into the main narrative and the details of the film, but truly, this film is worth your time.

    The film was directed by Chad Stahelski, written by Derek Kolstad and produced by Basil Iwanyk, David Leitch, Eva Longoria, Michael Witherill and James McTeigue.

    The story involves retired assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) being pulled back into the world of assassins after the son Losef (Alfie Allen) of the Russian Crime Syndicate steals his car and kills his dog leading him to go on a killing spree against the Syndicate as he finds himself pulled into the world he left.

The Pros: The idea – The idea of an assassin pulled out of retirement to go against people he used to work for is intriguing. It gives the personal touch and motivation that can easily be lost in a studio made version of this.

The World – The world is amazing! You’ve got an assassin run neutral zone that is a hotel, through which all the different organizations have a way to interact without murder…and Wick is the best of this group as of what we learn from this film.

The Soundtrack – The music is by Tyler Bates and Joel Richard and it is good at getting under your skin. You feel Wick’s conflict as well as how amazing some themes are as they are good at showing the dulled senses of a club combined with the hyper focus of an assassin on a particularity memorable sequence.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is dark but uses colors to illustrate mood and tension. Red is used a lot in the club scene and we see light used when he is with his wife and has peace living with his dog. It is truly wonderful.

The Characters – The characters are one of the strongest parts of this world and the fact that they chose great actors shows as much.

Aurelio – John Leguizamo plays the car repairmen for the different gangs and is friends with John Wick. He’s a great character as he is the first to show Losef he is in over his head and that he barked up the wrong tree and even confronts Viggo without breaking a sweat. It is a minor but fantastic role. Also I’ve always been a fan of Leguizamo.

Viggo – Viggo is in charge of the Russian Crime Syndicate and is a great overall villain as we see his respect for Wick but also his ego come into play. Wick lets him go free once and he lets it all go because he wants revenge for his bastard of a son. His death means something because of it because he tries to live honorably but gives it up for personal revenge.

 Winston – Ian McShane plays the owner of “The Hotel” and is a fascinating character as he gives protections to those who live in death and promotes it as a neutral zone. When it all goes to hell he honors that too and lets Wick know Viggo’s location and kills Ms. Perkins for killing the staff and targeting Vick. I want to learn more about this place.

Marcus – Willem Dafoe is Wick’s friend and protector in this as he joins Viggo to protect Wick and he saves Wick multiple times. IT is a great relationship and I wish we’d gotten more history as Marcus like Wick is an assassin capable of empathy.

John Wick – This is the best Keanu Reeves performance I have seen since “The Matrix” and I love that we get to see him emote and have anger, passion and the everything else this underrated star is capable of. The movie would be worth it just for Reeves. His arc involves losing everything but finding peace after revenge, which you rarely find in movies of this type where the broken person is the theme. Wick healed and we get his prime motivation in the end is justice.

The Ending – John Wick is at a Vet and rescues a dog and uses some of the medicine to heal his wounds fighting the Russian Crime Syndicate. He picks a Pit Bull and we see that even if that world of killers pulled him back in, he will always be outside of it. The dog that his wife gave him was his peace and it is once again at the end.

The Cons: Ms. Perkins – She wants to kill for money and knows John Wick? I didn’t know if they wanted to go ex-relationship route but she is a character is purely a plot device. We don’t learn about her relationship to Wick or much else, which is a shame and makes her a con.

Losef – Losef is a 2-D villain, he never grows up, shows complexity or regret…and just brings the film down. Alfie Allen is good but his character is awful. He deserved to have someone more than a plot device to up the anti for Viggo against Wick.

    The only things that really keep this film from being perfect are Losef being a nothing character who is just a coward and bully and Ms. Perkins having no motivation for wanting to take out Wick beyond money. This brings down what could have enriched the story further as she is the secondary main villain and we never learn why. Besides these two characters this film has tight writing and was beautifully filmed with some of the best action sequences I’ve seen in any film. This film is a beautiful work of art that is well worth checking out. Suffice to say, I can’t wait to watch “John Wick: Chapter Two.”

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

The “Die Hard” Films – Worst to Best

Die Hard

    Going through the “Die Hard Franchise” was an experience of both the good and bad variety. There are very few Franchises that can boast having 2 of my favorite films in them and also some of the worst films that make the “Star Wars” prequels look good by comparison. When “Die Hard” gets bad it gives us some of the worst films in existence. Maybe they’ll recover after they make the 6th film but given how the last 2 films of the Franchise went I’m not counting on anything. So without further ado, here are the “Die Hard” films from worst to best.

a-good-day-to-die-hard

5th) A Good Day to Die Hard

    Jai Courtney is one of those rare actors who has such a non-presence in most things he’s in that his being there is rarely a pro or con in a film. In this film he’s awful and we get John McClane as a super cop James Bond like character in a story that takes place in Russia (Because his son is a secret agent apparently) where the villain’s plan is so incomprehensible even after reading wikipedia I had no idea what he’d wanted to achieve. McClane isn’t McClane and feels like a cartoon character of what the studious think McClane is and most of the plot is just pointless action, bad CGI and references to the better films in the series which makes this film feel like a scam. There are zero reasons to see this film unless you want to see how not to make an action movie.

0 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2016/10/07/a-good-day-to-die-hard-2013-john-mcclane-is-not-james-bond-and-this-film-is-a-cliched-mess/

live-free-or-die-hard

4th) Live Free or Die Hard

    “Live Free or Die Hard” is really where we first have the metaphorical death of John McClane. He no longer feels like a hardened cop in rough situations and begins to feel like a Super Cop James Bond as we see him get out of situations that are impossible on his own and exist only as catch phrases and references to the other better films. There is no longer McClane working with people it is just McClane being macho and having his cool rub off on other people. This film feels like what the Studio thought the other “Die Hard” films were but misses the point of them entirely. We no longer have a mortal hero who is deeply flawed and improvises his way out of situations, we have an unstoppable cop. The villains are lazy hackers who have no real motivation or threat to them and every guy in this is a sleaze besides McClane. This was a hack film and the only reason to see it is it has echoes of “Die Hard” buried underneath all the crap, which kept it from being a 0 like the film that came after this one. This film really dumbed down the entire Franchise and was the beginning of the end.

3 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2016/10/06/live-free-or-die-hard-2007-the-dumbing-down-of-the-die-hard-franchise/

die-hard-2

3rd) Die Hard 2

   “Die Hard 2” is very much a sequel. It takes place on Christmas, McClane has to fight the local police to get anything done and the villains aren’t all that fleshed out. One thing that the film did that it could have done more with is why the U.S. soldiers joined up with the Dictator who they rescued…he has to be pretty amazing for them to be loyal to him and the fact that he was “Good at killing communists,” is a good place to start. This is a film that had the potential to be great and is still very good in it’s own right. The airport being held hostage with the planes above as the ticking clock to stop the villains is wonderful and McClane feels real and is only able to win at the end due to help from the local police in D.C. who’d been fighting against him. I recommend this film for sure. It is a solid action film and a good sequel.

8.2 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2016/10/05/die-hard-2-1990-a-good-sequel-that-could-have-been-more/

Die Hard

2nd) Die Hard

    You might be wondering why “Die Hard” isn’t number one on the list given that it is a classic, it started everything and it is one of my all time favorite films. The reason it isn’t higher is so much of what is done is done by McClane alone so we aren’t given the chance to really get to know the people he relates to. Hans Gruber is an amazing villain and I like that he presents himself as a idealist terrorist but is really just a thief. Sadly we don’t get to find out what he wants to do with the money though and that is one of the few issues I have with the film that keep it from being perfect. The focus on McClane works but it also means other characters don’t get explored (like his wife) and Hans’s motivation was a missed opportunity to give an already amazing villain more depth. I still highly recommend this film and it is a favorite and easily one of the best action movies of all time. R.I.P. Alan Rickman, you played one of my favorite characters in cinema.

9.6 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/12/26/die-hard-1988-an-amazing-and-classic-christmas-action-film/

hans-gruber

die-hard-with-a-vengeance

1st) Die Hard With a Vengeance

    “Die Hard With a Vengeance” is the perfect action film. The villain is amazing in how he’s able to manipulate situations and his motivations are fully explored. He wants money because it gives him sovereignty and power so that he and his men no longer have to answer to anyone. Jeremy Irons owns this role and has created an iconic villain in Simon Peter Gruber, a character just memorable as his brother, Rickman’s Hans Gruber. Samuel L. Jackson is fantastic as Zeus too and helps McClane pull his life together as we see “Die Hard” pull of the Buddy Cop film as well. Every character gets explored and the action and twists are amazing! I seriously recommend this film as it is the perfect action film, it takes everything that worked about the first film and does more as well as doing some things the first film was unable to achieve and gives us a fully developed cast of characters and an unforgettable action story.

10 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2016/10/06/die-hard-with-a-vengeance-1995-the-perfect-die-hard-film/

simon-gruber

Live Free or Die Hard (2007): The Dumbing Down of the “Die Hard” Franchise

live-free-or-die-hard

      There is a cliche that action movies are stupid. They are popcorn flicks where you can turn off your brain and watch people shoot and fight each other. The villains are simple and the characters are heroes and that is all it takes. This was not the “Die Hard” Franchise until this movie.  This movie is so lazy, the characters are barely fleshed out, none of the past films are even relevant to this one so it feels as if it is trying to erase history and make McClane into someone he never was and it does all the stupid romance and action cliches, where the past films managed to transcend them or give them depth. Seriously, this movie sucks and I’ll get into more of the why deeper into the reviews.

     The film was directed by Len Wiseman, written by Mark Bomback and produced by Michael Fottrell.

     The story involves a cyber-attack on U.S. infrastructure by a U.S. hacker Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) leaving John McClane (Bruce Willis) to protect the hacker Matt Farrell (Justin Long) who holds part of the code and ability to stop him.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise of a cyber-hacker is actually pretty cool. It’s a shame the villain has no charisma and no real drive. The idea of hacking a system to cause panic is really intriguing and was done beautifully in “Skyfall,” but this is no “Skyfall.”

The Stunts – Willis still does all his stunts, so credit where it is due. He is good at this stunts and good at action even if the action is pointless.

Okay: Warlock – Kevin Smith is a super hacker who actually manages to help Willis stop the big hacker. I liked the guy since he played a paranoid basement dweller who was into all the conspiracy theories. He was fun but I only put him as okay because he doesn’t feel like a full character, he feels like the idea of a character.

John McClane – McClane has become a cartoon character. He starts out beating up his daughter’s boyfriend or at least threatening the guy, we see him throw cars at other vehicles and take on a fighter jet. There isn’t a really an arc at all and his chemistry with Matt doesn’t compare to his chemistry with Zeus.

Okay/Con: Matt and Lucy – These two have the same problem and are a part of another problem. They are written like cliches. Lucy is a flirt, Matt is a bit of a creep and they only exist to ignore and later learn from McClane. Lucy eventually loves her dad because dad saves her and Matt is given courage by McClane. If this had been done creatively I’d put those as okay or pro but they are written so cliche that it is awful to watch how it unfolds.

The Cons: The Cinematography – The cinematography looks green screened and there are so many close ups of peoples’ faces. It is lazy cinematography and directing.

Becoming a Catchphrase – He ends it with “Yippee-ki-yay mother fucker,”  and shoots himself to shoot the bad guy. Yes it is as awful as it sounds. A phrase that once had meaning as him saying “Screw you,” to the bad guys after being mocked is now just existing because. McClane is a catchphrase in this film.

The Villains – They have no depth or dimension and the lead villain is only complex in that he has a lover and wants to get paid for working for the government and creating the situation in the first place where they can hack everything. He was such a winy ass that I never felt threatened by him.

Women as Objects – Matt creeps over the phone anytime a beautiful woman is talking to him, Lucy boyfriend creeps on her and McClane with his over protectiveness comes off as a creep always getting in his daughter’s space. Seriously, women only exist as objects in this.

Contrived Romance – Lucy and Matt develop feelings for each other  and it is tacked on at the very end. God I hate this script.

Pointless Action – He fights a jet, has a car chase but none of it means anything because he has ceased to be human. He’s Bond level competency and no longer a human being anymore so we know he will survive so it no longer means anything and the villain driving the action is a bad villain. He isn’t threatening at all.

McClane is not Bond – McClane is not bond. He was a schlubby cop who often times only one because he’d notice something normal and use it, like a powerline. This film misses the fact that it is McClane’s mortality that makes him compelling. He’s supposed to be a mess and trying to get his life together, not an over-competent super cop. He never was that, he was a man who would just survive and was usually the one losing up until he could finally turn things around just barely. This film forgot all of that.

  This movie is a waste, at most of the characters are safe and at worst they are caricatures. McClane was never a secret agent or James Bond like figure so this entire film takes him out of being the cop down on his luck. He’s become an action hero when before he was a man in the wrong place at the wrong time who rose to meet circumstances. Here he is fighting jets, throwing planes into helicopters. Call him whatever you want but he is no longer John McClane, the cop who has to punch and think his way out of situations. This is what happens when Hollywood gets a hold of a Franchise and misses what made it good in the first place. They replace characters with action and turn a normal guy who happened to become an action hero into James Bond. Keep Bond in Bond films and let McClane be the cop who has grown from the past films versus the static cartoon character he is in this film. This film fell so far after the perfection that was “Die Hard with a Vengeance.”

Final Score: 3 / 10

Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) The Perfect “Die Hard” Film

die-hard-with-a-vengeance

     The first “Die Hard” film is a tough film to beat in the action film genre. It has a complicated villain, great action, characters get great exploration and the stakes continue to rise throughout the film…which when combined with great cinematography and music lead to the creation of an unforgettable classic. “Die Hard with a Vengeance” does all that better and manages to add even more to create the perfect action film concoction.

     The film was directed by John McTiernan, who was also one of the producers and the guy who had directed the first “Die Hard” film, written by Jonathan Hensleigh, produced by Michael Tadross and based off the story “Simon Says” by Jonathan Hensleigh.

     The story involves John McClane (Bruce Willis) who has been suspended from the NYPD but is called back into it when a mysterious terrorist called “Simon” (Jeremy Irons) who is placing bombs around NYC and only McClane doing what he says can prevent them from being set off. After Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson) says John in Harlem, he finds himself pulled into the mysterious Simon’s plot as well.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise is pretty great! John McClane’s life has fallen apart and someone who is causing chaos and death in NYC has a personal issue with him and wants to make his life and even greater living hell. The whole idea of “Simon Says” is clever too as well as the riddles on where the bombs are placed.

The Ticking Bomb – The ticking bomb is something present throughout the film. Simon has bombs everywhere and it raises the stakes on what our heroes (Zues, John and the NYPD) have to do in order to save lives. The twist with this too is sometimes there are riddles within riddles and some bombs might be fakes. It is brilliant and reminds me of the Joker before the Joker in “The Dark Knight.”

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful and does a great job of creating tension and making open spaces around NYC feel threatening. Peter Menzies Jr. really does a  fantastic job!

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack like the cinematography is great at raising the tension and has  a great placement of “The Ants Going Marching” while Simon is robbing the New York Federal Reserve of all the money. Michael Kamen really did a good job creating an unforgettable score for the film.

The Action – The action is the best it has ever been. We have a ticking bomb in a school and on a ship that need to get  disarmed at different points, we have a car chase and a huge battle in a truck yard and countless other great action scenes.

The NYPD – The NYPD is more than just caricatures and are actually good at their job. There is Detective Joe Lambert who helps keep the school kids calm when and prepares them to get out, Connie who is the connection between events going through the city and the Police Chief Walter who works with John even though he’s a mess and is on top of every problem as it is happening and does a good job making sure Zeus and John meet what Simon says while and the NYPD work on preventing other problems Simon might be calling. Weiss, the bomb defuser also has his own arc too as we see him face his fears (this being his first time doing this with this high of stakes) in order to save the kids in the school.

Simon’s Crew – Simon’s crew is just as memorable as Hans’s crew. Both of them are a team of mercenaries who are almost like family as they are risking it all for the job and are highly professional. In the case of Simon he also has a relationship his “Dragon” and muscle Katya who kills his handler the Iranians sent to take the money and keeps the NYPD at bay. They are really awesome and it is super cool when it looks like they have won and Simon promises them buying their own nation since they’ve stolen all the world’s money that was in the New York Federal Reserve.

Zeus / The Samaritan – Samuel L. Jackson does a fantastic job as Zeus…a shop owner who saves John McClane in Harlem and finds himself in over his head. He rises to the challenge though and we see that he is a man who deals with his problems, unlike McClane and is actually able to help McClane grow and they even develop a friendship too as Zeus works through his own prejudices in it all. He really is a fantastic character and was much more compelling than McClane at the end of the day. He’s dubbed “The Samaritan” by Simon for saving John in Harlem when Simon’s trap doesn’t work.

John McClane – McClane begins the process of growing up finally! In this film he starts out a mess and is alone and isolated until Zeus helps him deal with his issues and the fact that he doesn’t communicate with people. In this he starts too and actually works with the NYPD rather than against them which ends up saving the day in the end. He learns this from Zeus who is also a bit standoffish and learns a variation on it too. The film ends with him calling his wife who he is separated from and actually talking to her as what lead to them being separated in the first place was his refusal to call her back and deal with his crap.

John and Zeus and an Ensemble Show – Together these two made a buddy cop film which was fantastic as the “Die Hard” Franchise has almost always been about just McClane and his lone wolf cowboy way of getting things done, which just makes those around him look stupid even though plotwise they shouldn’t be. Making this film a buddy cop and him working with Zeus to start with was powerful as we saw John is human and not a cartoon character who does need help. This is completed with the NYC doing their job too and showing they are competent as it takes John, Zeus and the NYPD to save the day in the end.

Simon Peter Gruber – Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber is one of the best villains in cinema. He presents himself as an idealistic terrorist who is just a thief, but does care about people as his crew is one he he is close too. Simon like Hans is a thief but he also has a huge ego and has to play mind games (like the Riddler) but also has a much bigger army who is loyal to him (like Bane) and is willing to do anything to win even if it is killing the men who claims to be close to (like the Joker and Bane) as we see him pause when saluting “Dead friends,” showing those deaths meant nothing to him. Where Hans was just greedy, Simon is a psychopath who also loves as the assassin Katya is his lover and his ambitions are greater than Hans’s too as he wants International Sovereignty through the cash, where with Hans we never found out what he wanted to use the money for beyond getting rich. After everything he puts John and Zeus through it is rewarding to see him defeated, though I was hoping he’d escape. He’s one of the greatest movie villains of all time and Jeremy Irons played him so well that to me, he is the best villain in the Franchise.

    This was the perfect action and was even better than the first “Die Hard” film. The reasons for this were the Ensemble cast who all worked to save the day in the case of the heroes or to complete the mission in the case of Simon and his men, this movie was about more than McClane and was stronger because of it as it made the film more real and made the stakes all the more powerful as John couldn’t just shoot his way out of every situation like he could in the first 2 films. “Die Hard with a Vengeance” is easily one of the best action films ever made and is one of my favorite films of all time. I seriously recommend this film to any fan of this Franchise and action films as a whole.

Final Score: 10 / 10.  The perfect action film.