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

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The Nice Guys (2016): A Solid Action Comedy That Celebrates Absurdity

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   Shane Black is a great director…he is most in his element when he is doing buddy cop type comedies like Tony Stark in “Iron Man 3” being forced not to use his suit as an out, “Kiss, Kiss, Bang Bang” had the everyday guy in over his head in a bigger conspiracy and forced to work with someone opposite of him and that film is a classic and one of my all time favorite films…”The Nice Guys” follows that same sort of deal and is one of the greats of this year because of it.

     The film was directed by Shane Black who co-wrote it along with Anthony Bagarozzi and the film was produced by Joel Silver.

    The story takes place in 1970’s Los Angeles and follows hired muscle Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and corrupt private P.I. Holland March (Ryan Gosling) as they are forced into working together and  following up on a missing person’s case related to the porn industry and a porn film where all the cast members are getting killed.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world of the 70’s and how it is presented is wonderfully sleezy and corrupt, which is the perfect character for our main leads to inhabit as they are a part of that same corruption but have enough of a heart to shine a light on it. It’s really beautifully presented.

The Cinematography – Philippe Rousselot does a great job presenting very tightly paced scenes that give tension to even conversations between characters as everyone feels confined, even when they are running. This helps raise the tension which compliments the action.

The Action – The action is fantastic! There are quite a few gun fights and fist fights and each of the fight has stakes. Even Crowe’s Jackson who is an enforcer has a hard time sometimes which shows how strong the government agents are. It isn’t easy for these guys even when they are in their element.

The Writing – The writing is fast, witty and funny and presents the absurdity of our characters’ lives and situations. This is really what makes the story so fun as like “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” we are waiting to see if the characters will win despite their own flaws and everything else and this film presents that beautifully.

The Comedy – The comedy is solid and due to the absurdist nature of so much of what is going on we have jokes that are created out of the strange situations are characters find themselves in and how broken and absurd their lives are.

Holland – Gosling plays this P.I. scumbag who comes around in the end. His core question is “Am I a good guy?” Which his daughter answers with a resounding “no” at the beginning, but by the end he proves he is capable of it. A lot of the empathy for the character comes from Gosling’s strong performance as he’s an overall despicable person through most of the film.

Jackson – Crowe is the enforcer with a heart of gold as we find that his best moment was standing up and protecting people and throughout the film he is given the choice to kill or save and dealing with his core nature of being good or bad as well. Crowe is hilarious in how genuine he is in everything, even though he is a hardened killer.

Holly – Holly is the heart of the film as she is the one who inspires Jackson and Holland to be good. She also helps solve the case too as she is one of the few who knows what is going on a lot of the time or happens to be in the right place at the wrong time.

Okay: Amelia and her Activist Group – We gets bits and pieces about what they are fighting for but we never know the full corruption of what the Car Industry and Government were doing and most of the characters, including Amelia die until we can ever get to know them.

The Cons: The Villains – There aren’t really any good villains. The Doctor is interesting in that he seems to be a serial killer but they never really go into that and Amelia’s mother is just an unknown factor as are her agents. The Porn Enforcers are just sleezbags so at the end of the day the villains really bring the film down. None of them stand out on why they are fighting for what they are fighting for.

   What really brings this film down in the end is we don’t really get to know or come to care about Amelia. We know she is an activist and her bringing down the corrupt relationship between the Government and Car Industry is cool but we never get to know her as a person or get more about her relationship to her mother, who is the big bad. This film is seriously worth checking out though! This is Shane Black in his element and Crowe and Gosling have hilarious chemistry that really carries the film as each of their dysfunctions brings humanity to them. Check this film out.

Final Score: 9.3 / 10

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