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.

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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/

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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/

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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/

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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/

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A Good Day to Die Hard (2013): John McClane is not James Bond and This Film is a Cliched Mess

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       “A Good Day to Die Hard” succeeds in meeting new lows for this Franchise. This film is lazy, continues all the problems of the last film and even adds some new ones, just in case you thought the other film didn’t have bad enough writing this film decides to add horrible CGI, a nonsensical part that doesn’t even know what it wants the threat to be in the end. This film is hands down, one of the worst films I have ever watched. I’ll get into more of the reasons why later in the review.

     The film was directed by John Moore, written by Skip Woods and produced by Alex Young and Wyck Godfrey.

       The story involves John McClane (Bruce Willis) going to Russia to rescue his son Jack (Jai Courtney) who has got himself arrested in order to help a political prisoner, Yuri (Sebastian Koch) escape Russia. They both soon find themselves in over their heads as John’s arrival puts his mission at risk.

   There aren’t any pros or okays to name in this film so I’m just going to through the list of the many ways this film didn’t work at all.

 The Cinematography – The cinematography is super lazy. It is “Terminator 3” level and looks like a made for tv movie. The CGI really stands out and there are no unique shots so it depends on the writing and the writing is awful.

The Writing – The writing is cliched and has McClane going full tough guy, which in the first 3 films he was macho but that wasn’t what defined his character. In this he is a cartoon character…even Bond is more subtle, and I’m talking the Brosnan Bond who had zero subtly.

The Action – The action is boring and predictable…the last film for being as bad as it was, at least had passable action. It wasn’t the same repeated shot…in this they fight the same helicopter fight and we never know what is going on with the villains. They take no time to develop them because they just want to get to explosions. This film makes Michael Bay films look good.

The Special Effects – There is a scene with a truck hanging out of the back of a helicopter…it looks like 90’s level special effects…and this is 2013 when the film was made. Seriously, screw this film.

The Characters – If you though McClane was a cartoon character last film, this is even worse! This is how Hollywood imagines James Bond as an everyman when he isn’t an every man and John McClane was never and never shall be James Bond.

The Villains – They are political exiles but I never knew what they wanted. There is talk about a file and Chernobyl. I read the Wikipedia page and I’m still confused about what they wanted. Scientist dad and his assassin daughter just exist as threats for the sake of being threats…

Jack McClane / John McClane Jr. – Jai Courtney puts in his most bland performance since ‘Terminator Genisys!” He is allways reacting to his dad and is daddy issues incarnate without any real explanation given John McClane was saving the world in the last 4 films. He’s a secret agent so I’m assuming he’d known that, but that is also assuming these writers aren’t hacks and going for easy drama rather than realistic drama…and that’d be too much to ask.

John McClane – It feels like Hollywood really wants him as Bond or the agent from “Taken.” McClane has never been that and will never be that and when you have him pulling off impossible feats he ceases to be a character. For all intents and purposes his name because it is profitable is tacked onto this film but the McClane that was in films 1-3 is gone.

pointless References that Insult the Audience – “Yippy-Ki-Yay,” Jack throwing the villain off the building in slow mow…it’s insulting fanservice. Hey, maybe the audience will swallow this shit if you throw in enough references to a better film…This film shows the danger of where Franchises can go where it is no longer about stories and just referencing things that were better because they actually made sense or were unique in their time and place. When you do it now…it just become parody.

John McClane is not James Bond – John McClane goes to Russia, John McClane fights a mad scientist and his assassin daughter. If this sounds like a James Bond film, well it might have worked if it was…a bad James Bond film but a James Bond film. This film doesn’t know what it wants to be and it can’t keep making McClane the secret agent when he is supposed to be the every man working stiff.

    This movie is a mess and easily one of the worst action movies I have ever watched. The entire thing feels lazy and that they just wrote a crappy Russian Spy film and just put John McClane’s name on it because they knew it would make money. There is zero reason for this to be a “Die Hard” film as the reason for McClane to be in Russia are contrived and he’s written like a cartoon James Bond. That was never the character but it feels like the version of McClane they created last film who they have hankered down on…leaving the fully formed character from films 1-3 in the dust. This film isn’t worth your time and is one of the worst films I’ve ever watched.

Final Score: 0 / 10

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

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      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

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     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.

Die Hard 2 (1990): A Good Sequel That Could Have Been More

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       With how successful the first “Die Hard” was it was inevitable that it would get a sequel. Like most films that start out strong they don’t really need a great Sequel to be promised a Franchise and this is very true of “Die Hard 2” as it is good but lacks a lot of what film does and repeats some things from the first film that weren’t what made the first film great in the first place. I’ll get into more of what I mean later in the review.

        The film was directed by Renny Harlin, written by Steven E. de Souza and Doug Richardson and produced by Charles and Lawrence Gordon as well as Joel Silver.

      The story involves John McClane (Bruce Willis) going to meet his wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) at the Washington D.C. airport on Christmas Eve when former U.S. military special forces soldier Colonel Stuart (William Sadler) takes control of the airport in order to rescue a dictator General Ramon (Franco Nero) who is being brought in for crimes of drug trafficking. From here McClane must stop them before the circling planes above run out of fuel.

The Pros: The Premise –  The premise of an airport being under siege is really cool. There are so many areas that can be explored and planes as a threat and what need to be rescued are a good ticking time bomb for the hero forcing the action to always be moving.

The Action – The action is solid, but I’d expect nothing less from a “Die Hard” film. There are a lot of great fist fights, gun fights and great use of the different areas of the airport from fighting on a plane to in the baggage area.

Ed Trudeau – Thompson did a good job in this role as you see his main deal is trying to get the planes to land and you see how in over his head he is. He isn’t an enemy to McClane but he isn’t exactly an ally either. He is all about the big picture and when the big picture is falling apart around him he doesn’t know how to react.

Sergeant Al Powell – Reginald VelJohnson makes a cameo in this! It is thanks to him helping McClane that he is able to find out that the military guys he saw are supposed to be dead and that they have something planned. It is small but I liked that bit of humanity and friendship we see between him and McClane.

John McClane – John McClane is really the heart of the film as the entire premise of the guy is a cop in over his head who has to think and improvise his way out of situations. This is fully on display here as he could care less about the politics around him and just wants to save his wife and the planes that are circling above.

The Ticking Clock – The ticking clock is that the planes will run out of fuel with the power shut down at the airport leading them all to crash. It is a powerful ticking clock too and shows the military guys at least thought that part of the operation through. It adds tension to all the events that happen after.

The Final Fight – The final fight takes place on a jet about to take off and it is pretty awesome! McClane takes on a few of the military guys, defeating one and using the other to break open the fuel so that he can blow them up from the jet engine fuel that was spraying from the engine. One of the best action sequences I’ve watched in any film like this.

Okay/Con: The Villains – I never understood the villain motivations…why were a bunch of U.S. soldiers so attached to a South American Dictator. They say it was because he was good at killing communists but we never get their plan after he is rescued. Did they plan to reconquer his country? Him being a drug trafficker is never shown to be a motivation, which would have shown them to be lying about the communist thing…so in end they are a mixture of okay and con. All the actors do a good job with what they are given but every good villain needs clear, fully explored motivations.

The Cons: The Reporter – This guy was annoying. He could have been shown to be a 3 Dimensional guy trying to get the story out of the terrorists holding up the airport but instead he creeps on women, purposely makes people panic and panics himself in the end. This man served no purpose but to cause panic in the airport. Honestly the role of the press played could have been so much more.

The D.C. Cops – The D.C. cops only hamper McClane until he saves them at the end and after he rallies them to fight the military guys. They are just there to be against McClane and later soldiers and the transition isn’t handled very well.

Holly – She is there to be rescued…that is it…simple damsel and she deserved better if they were going to have her appear again. At least Al Powell was able to get info. to McClane to help stop the terrorists.

Repeating the First Film – It takes place on Christmas Eve, outsider who no one is helping, ticking clock and things get resolved with wife once more at the end. Switching any of these up or doing something creative with it would have elevated this film to great.

    This is a good action movie that is worth checking out, but if you are only ever going to watch one “Die Hard” film just stick with the first one. This one repeats a lot of unnecessary things from the first film and the villains aren’t nearly as interesting. What makes it good though are the action sequences and John McClane is still very much a compelling everyman that keeps makes the action mean something and adds heart to a film that could have had no heart with a different star.

Final Score: 8.2 / 10

Upcoming “Die Hard Franchise” Reviews

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      It has been a while since I’ve done a Franchise review on the blog and after talking to one of my friends at work I decided to do something that is a little unfamiliar to me…the “Die Hard” Franchise. This is a Franchise where I didn’t see the first film until last year but it is a Franchise that helped define the modern action drama as well as the modern action hero that isn’t a large beefcake muscle man…as that was what was common at the time and there really wasn’t the every man action movie, unlike today where you have “The Equalizer,” “John Wick” and countless others that could really be traced back to this Franchise as giving popularity to the working man action hero just trying to make the most of a bad situation.

    Here is my review to the first “Die Hard” film that I reviewed around Christmas time as it was a request for a Christmas Film the last time I did some special reviews related to Christmas Films.

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

I hope you enjoy the ride and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these films as well. After I review them all I’ll be rating them from worst to best to finish off this segment.

Die Hard (1988): An Amazing and Classic Christmas Action Film

Die Hard

    I had never watched “Die Hard” until a few days ago. I’m glad I did. This is the movie that hits all the right notes for a great action film and a great film overall. It isn’t complicated but it doesn’t have to be, the characters…largely the main stars of the the hero and villain carry the film as we see them use different strategies to defeat one another. There stakes are always high and it never lets up.

     The film was directed by John McTiernan and written by Steven E. de Souza and produced by Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver. The screenplay was based off the story “Nothing Lasts Forever” by Roderick Thorp.

     The story involves New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) being trapped in a building where his ex-wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) is when 12 terrorists lead by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) hold the place hostage. It is up to McClane and the LAPD to defeat him.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise is fantastic! The stakes are always high and both Gruber and McClane are racing against time. McClane to get outside help to even the odds and to stop the terrorists, and Gruber to access the cash and hack the system. For this reason the stakes are always high as both are hero and villain have limits and time working against them.

The Action – The action is amazing! From every gunfight with one of Gruber’s minions, to the final battle up on top of the roof and Gruber blowing up the roof and the final scene with our heroes and villain hanging off an edge. It pulls you in and doesn’t let go.

The Soundtrack – Michael Kamen did a great job on this soundtrack. It’s visceral and captures the tension of the different situations John is in really well.

The Minions – The minions are a lot of fun. The ones who stood out the most were the blond German brothers and the tech Theo all who were clearly loving their roles. I actually cared about what happened to them as the team of terrorists were a close knit group and had more distinct personalities than most of the business people in the building they were holding hostage.

Sgt. Al Powell – Reginald VelJohnson does good work as the cop with a history who made the worst mistake one can make (mistook a toy for an actual gun) and is living with the regret. He is the heart and soul of the film who keeps John grounded.

Hans Gruber – Alan Rickman plays one of the best villains in action film. He manipulates everyone perfectly and it is only the x factor of John that makes throws off his plan. Even than he manages to hurt our hero pretty bad and I really liked how much humanity Rickman gives the character, especially when he goes undercover as a hostage to learn about John’s motivations for being there. When he is beaten it is earned and that is what makes him so fantastic outside of his fantastic mind.

John McClane – John is the everyman who adapts to a new dangerous situation and rises to the challenge, managing to eventually get outside help and defeat Gruber. He is a loner and we see a man who is lost and living in the past (his wife has moved on). It is in his conversations with Al his humanity is revealed and we see getting back to his kids is his primary motivation for all he does. We also see his kindness when Gruber goes undercover to set a trap for him and he treats Gruber with kindness when he thinks he’s a hostage. There is a humor to him too and he is like a cowboy.

Okay: Takagi – Owns the business being hostage and is killed by Gruber. He has courage though and we see him stand up to Gruber on multiple occasions and we see his compassion in how he treats McClane and his employees. I wanted to know more about what motivated him though, which is why he isn’t a pro and is just okay.

Holly – She is a damsel a bit too often once Gruber learns that she is John’s ex-wife. She could have been more of a damsel to the writer’s credit so I’m not putting her as a con, she just doesn’t have as distinct of motivations as some of our other characters though.

The Cons: The Business People – Whether it is Holly’s new relationship or the guy working with the terrorists, they were just sleazeballs and were weak as characters.

   Merry Christmas all! This is easily one of the best Christmas films I’ve seen (it all takes place over a Christmas party) and the dynamic between Gruber and McClane creates a visceral and fun action film that I cannot wait to watch again. I understand completely why this film spawned a franchise, it truly is that good of story. Nearly all the characters are in their A Game and the sleazeball business men aren’t enough to bring it down.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

Sin City (2005): The Struggle for Justice in a City with None

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Frank Miller’s Sin City Comic Series is one I have always been meaning to check out. His style is very distinct and he is good at capturing the feel of a dark noir. This was true in The Dark Knight Returns, and definitely true in this film which follows the style of the comics. A big reason that inspired my reviewing of this film, beyond wanting to watch it, is the fact that “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” is coming out and I want to see and review it as well.

The style the film was done in was also like a comic book, beyond the visuals. There is “The Customer is Always Right” Parts 1 and 2, “The Yellow Bastard” Parts 1 and 2, “The Hard Goodbye” and “The Big Fat Kill.” All are loosely connected as you see characters from “The Yellow Bastard” in “The Big Fat Kill” and “The Hard Goodbye” but that is the only connection, each story arc stands on it’s own and reveals a new part of the corruption that is Sin City. A city of corrupt cops, priests, politicians, serial killers and mobsters…with only the heroes of each of the stories to stand against them.

“Sin City” was written, directed and produced by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez, as well as also produced by Elizabeth Avellan. For the reviews I’ll do each story individually and afterwords a final score at the end, so that all of the anthology is covered.

Also, before I get into the review, I want to say this is some of the best stylized cinematography and directing I’ve seen in a film. Robert Rodriguez did a really good job creating the comic book feel in a movie and using it fully capture the tone and feel of the world.

Here is the assessment of the film:

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“The Customer is Always Right” Parts 1 and 2

“The Customer is Always Right” is how we kick off the anthology as a woman is looking at escaping and the Salesman is there to help. He kisses her and shoots her and talks about how he’ll never know what she was running from.

Part 2 picks up with an injured Becky (who we meet in “The Big Fat Kill”) is talking with her mom but stops when the salesman says her name and offers her a cigarette.

The Pros: I like the mystery behind it and also the stark cruelty of how it sets off the world of Sin City. We never know if the Salesman was paid to kill her or if she meant something different by escape.

Cons: I wanted to know more about the Customer and what her motivations were as well as her connection to the Salesman, since she recognized him when he says her name.

Final Score: 8 / 10

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“The Yellow Bastard” Parts 1 and 2

Part 1 of “The Yellow Bastard” has aging police officer John Hartington (Bruce Willis) doing one last thing before he goes. The corrupt senators son who is a serial killer named Roark Junior (Nick Stahl) from killing a young girl named Nancy Callahan (Mackenzie Vega) when he shoots Roark Junior his partner turns on him (Michael Madsen). Haritagan knocks out his partner Bob and chases after Roark Junior. He manages to reach him and shoots off his ear, hand and genitals before Bob returns and shoots him in the back as sirens arrive.

Part 2 picks up with Hartigan in the hospital being framed by Hartigan for his son’s murders and being beaten until he confesses. He refuses to confess until Roark Junior tricks him by taking one of the letters that Nancy was sending him while in prison, leading him to believe that Nancy is in trouble. He confesses and is released and finds Nancy (Jessica Alba) is now working as a dancer in the bar. The mysterious yellow bastard than arrives on the scene and over the course of the chase and eventual capture of Nancy by him we discover he is Roark Junior who was mutated in the growing back of his ears, hand and genitals. It is here Nancy keeps from screaming which prevents him from killing her and Hartigan arrives and kills him. He than has Nancy leave and kills himself so the corrupt senator Roark will stop hunting Nancy.

Pros: The Acting – Alba, Stahl and Willis do a great job in this. Each of them is so open in their roles (Alba as Nancy who fell in love with the one who saved her, Willis as the bitter cop and Stahl as the serial killer). Each of them is interesting to watch as they drive the plot forward in different ways.

The Story – I liked the story in this one, it was clear and followed the dark theme of Sin City. Hartigan only is able to win by confessing to dark crimes he didn’t commit and in the end has to die anyway to protect the woman he loves. It is also realistic in how Roark Junior becomes more crazy and Nancy becomes a fighter, who is both trained to fight and helps Hartigan take out Roark Junior.

Con: Feels almost too short.

Final Score is 9 / 10

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“The Hard Goodbye”

“The Hard Goodbye” follows the story of Marv (Mickey Rourke) and how Goldy the woman he had a one stand with, was killed the same night. He than goes on a killing spree to find the man who did it. This leads him to get help from his parole officer Lucille (Carla Gugino), whose drugs help stop him from seeing things. Eventually, after questioning he comes to the farm where Kevin (Elijah Wood) the cannibal has captured Lucille and has the heads of his past victims mounted on the wall. He and Lucille escape but Lucille is gunned down on orders from Cardinal Roark (Rutger Hauer). Marv escapes into Old Town and learns the mysterious woman is Wendy. The Prostitutes who run Old Town support Marv once they learn about Kevin and Cardinal Roark. It is than Wendy and Marv go to take out Kevin and finally Roark who says he and Kevin did it to eat away their sins. After he returns, Wendy says that Marv can call her Goldy and is there before the state executes him for the killing of the Cardinal.

Pros: The Tone – This one is the creepiest of them, as Lucille’s hand was eaten in front of her by Kevin and Kevin has long nails that cut. Rutger Hauer is a great baddy too and is completely mad. Marv not being able to escape at the end and Lucille being gunned down by the police when she was an officer herself.

The Story – I like the story, the twist of Wendy being the sister worked well and the depths of the darkness in Sin City where revealed slowly over time so that when Kevin and Cardinal Roark are revealed it has the needed effect.

Okay: The Acting – Not the best acting, Mickey Rourke is good but Wendy isn’t all that memorable and Lucille should have been given more to do. It was hard to gauge her talent in what little time we had with her. Elijah Wood and Rutger Hauer were fantastic as the baddies though, best ones in the film for sure.

Final Score is 9 / 10

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“The Big Fat Kill”

“The Big Fat Kill” begins with Shelley (Brittany Murphey) being harrased by her ex-boyfriend Jackie Boy (Benicio Del Toro) until her new boyfriend Dwight (Clive Owen) water boards him in the toilet. He than sees that they are looking for trouble so follows them to Old Town. It is there they are harassing Becky (Alexis Bledel) until Gail (Rosario Dawson) and her girls arrive on the scene and execute Jackie Boy and his friends before they can hurt Becky. It is here we learn that Dwight and Gail are former lovers. It is here they learn Jackie Boy was a Detective and that this could create war between Old Town and the Police so Dwight goes to leave the body in the Tar Pits but all are attacked by Wallenquist who Becky had gone too for protection. He plans to conquer Old Town so sent his enforcer Manute (Michael Clark Duncan). A standoff happens but ends when Dwight trades Jackie Boy’s head for Gail and armed the head to explode which leads to the mob enforcers getting killed. From here we see Dwight and Gail re-establishing their love affair and love of battle.

Pros: The Acting – This one had the best acting, minus Brittany Murphey. Clive Owen was fantastic in this role, as was Alexis Bledel, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro and Michael Clark Duncan. We get to know all their characters and can understand their motivations as their is peace in Old Town but it only hangs by a thread. We see the threat of the Mob in the background now too and the Mob knows not to mess with Old Town.

The Tone – At one point Dwight has a conversation with dead Jackie Boy, which establishes the fear factor and the race against time that Dwight is up against. It is creepy and cool, as are the scenes between Manute and Gail.

The Politics – Establishes the power brokers of the Mob, Old Town and the Police and the relationship between the three groups. With the coups and Old Town Prostitutes respecting each others areas and the Mob trying to start a war between them and capture more territory.

The Story – This one had the best of the stories in my opinion, I just wish it had ended differently. It ended with a celebration of slaughter when so much of the story had been introspective. I wish the introspectiveness had not been lost.

Okay: The Ending – The final scene on the battlefield re-establishes Gail and Dwight as a couple but goes on a bit too long. I would have liked them to have some lines to end it. I guess that is why Becky meeting the Salesman happened after, it kept that tone going.

Score is 9.5 / 10

So how does “Sin City” hold up? It is a little long at times, but for exploring the world that is Sin City, it does a fantastic job. We meet the major characters, we get the rules of this world, and most of the characters have complete character arcs (though many of the female character arcs remain incomplete). The Cinematography is also some of the best I have ever seen. After seeing it I am excited for “A Dame to Kill For” as it will help us to understand this world more and re-establish old threats while introducing new. I would say this isn’t for everyone, but if you like stylized dark noirs or mystery anthologies, this is worth checking out. Definitely one of my favorite films after today.

Final Score for the film is 9 / 10. It is solidly really good.

Four Rooms (1995): The Misadventures of a Bellhop

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“Four Rooms,” is the story of a bellhop named Ted (played by Tim Roth) as he deals with awkward situations as he is the only one left on duty at the hotel. There are four directors and each does a short story within the events of the day…each story takes place in a different room as per the title and each director covers a room. The stories are based off some of Roald Dahl adult short stories…which make sense given how strange it is and the quirckyness of Ted.

I’ll be doing the assessment of the stories individually (judging the directors by the individual work they did) and after judging it as a whole.

The Honeymoon Suite – “The Missing Ingredient” -Director Allison Anders

The premise of “The Missing Ingredient,” is a coven of witches need semen to ressurect their Goddess Diane since she was cursed 40 years ago and turned to stone and the witch who was supposed to bring it swallowed it. She has seduces Ted to get the semen and they have sex in the cauldron after she puts a spell on him.

This is  the weakest of the stories. The only compelling character is Ted who doesn’t know what to do and Tim Roth plays being the the crazy situations really well over the course of the story. None of the witches are really memorable…the only one who really  stands out is Jezebel who pays Ted to have sex with the witch. She is is as passionate in the role and gives her all for her small role as Roth does for Ted.

Forgettable in the end though and the special effects are really bad. Also way too much telling rather than showing.

Final score for this one is 4 / 10.

Room 404 – “The Wrong Man,” -Director Alexandre Rockwell

“The Wrong Man,” kicks off when a party is calls Ted for some ice but he mishears and goes to the wrong room where a couple is doing theatre where they pull strangers into their drama. Their story is that Ted has slept with the wife and the husband is holding her hostage…from there the husband kisses Ted and has a heart attack. After trying to escape and after one of the partiers in the room nearly throws up on him he manages to get off as one of the partiers is pulled into the act again.

David Broal and Jennifer Beals own this. They make the drama so real that you can’t tell if it is an act or not till the end. They switch between actors and roles deftly…which understandably contributes into Ted’s growing madness. This is one of the best of the 4 stories and Rockwell does fantastic.

Final score for this one is 8.5 / 10

Room 309 – “The Misbehavers,” -Director Robert Rodriguez

“The Misbehavers,” involves Ted being paid by a husband (Antonia Banderas) to take care of his two kids after he goes out with his wife to party. From here things devolve as he wants to avoid taking care of the kids and they discover horrible things from the last guest (a dead prostitute, a needle and open the champagne that the husband had ordered, as well as watching porn).

This one is fun, the biggest problem is that the kids are kind of blank slates so that kind of brings it down. I wish we could have got more scenes between Banderas and Roth since they have good chemistry and the husband is fine even as his room is burning as he holds his drunk wife. Not Rodriguez’s best work…though it does have the fire, blood and Antonio Banderas who and what he likes to use in his movies…as well as the fantasy elements to how crazy the situation gets.

Final score for this one is 7 / 10. It was alright.

Penthouse – “The Man From Hollywood,” -Director Quentin Tarantino

Ted wants to leave but is told to stay on duty because Chester Rush (Tarantino) is in town with his friends and that it is important that they have a good time. Ted goes to check on them and gets pulled into a bet that Rush’s friend Norman (Paul Calderon) can’t light his lighter ten times but if he loses he has to cut off Norman’s finger. Leo (Bruce Willis) is the other friend present as the events unfold. Ted is presented with a dilemma, cut off the finger for 1000 dollars if Norman fails or to walk away and for it remain a possible regret. Norman isn’t able to light the lighter so Ted cuts off his pinky, grabs the money and leaves. It has both the Tarantino abruptness, the moral dilemmas and the violence that define his style.

This is a good but not great Tarantino short. The dilemma is good, but most of the characters aren’t all that interesting. Leo is having issues with his wife so there is that at least going for the script and Rush is a twisted guy who is all about new experiences. It also leaves us wondering if Ted will continue to be a bellboy after the events or if he has had enough.

Final Score is 8 / 10. Solidly good.

What helps elevate a story that doesn’t quite flow together all that well is the music and most of the acting. With the exception of the first room, all the stories are at least alright and the directors do a good job making each scene unique minus the first director Anders. Tim Roth is good as the guy slowly going mad and we’re left wondering after if he finally snapped or if he found peace given he has his cocky spring in his step he had at the beginning of the film.

In the end I would recommend this film, and I would not call it great…and it has moments of good…but that isn’t the reason to watch it. It is worth watching to see how each director approaches their stories and how they express themselves in the work.

Final score is 7.5 / 10