Bruce Willis

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

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I knew that the reviews had been bad, but wow – they didn’t prepare me for just how bad A Good Day to Die Hard actually was.

It’s a lumbering, brainless, mean-spirited hulk of a movie (it would be misogynistic as well if it even bothered to have any significant female characters in it) and a desecration for all those who – like me – loved the original Die Hard movies. While there had been a gentle decline in the quality of the franchise over the years, this one completely jumps over the cliff edge. It makes the previous entry (Die Hard 4.0 a.k.a. Live Free Or Die Hard) look like a heartbreaking work of staggering genius by comparison.

Where once Bruce Willis’ John McClane was a quick-witted funny guy, a personable everyman with guile and a simple determination to do the right thing, save his family and face down the bad guys no matter how badly he’s outnumbered, here he’s like a punch-drunk fighter who can’t wait to get in the ring and start swinging, shouting, hitting and shooting people even before he has any clue of who’s who, what they’re doing or what’s going on. He’ll go halfway round the world to get into this latest scrap, and when anyone looks like saying, “Okay, that’s enough, we should stop now,” he’s the one urging them on to the next act of mass destruction rather than simply sticking to trying to get himself and his loved ones out alive. Read the rest of this entry »

Die Hard 4.0 (2007)

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I am a huge fan of the original Die Hard movie starring Bruce Willis, which came out while I was at university and with which I was pretty obsessed at the time as it was a whole new, different type of action movie. None of the inevitable sequels have matched up to the original of course: I tended to like the second one (Die Hard 2: Die Harder) better than most people did and the third (Die Hard With A Vengeance) slightly less, but that just closed the gap between them rather than actually changed their respective rankings.

Nonetheless, I was still very disappointed to see just how abjectly poor the reviews of the latest instalment (the inanely-titled A Good Day To Die Hard) have been, in which practically all the hallmarks of the series have apparently been stripped away and forgotten. And one of the damning reviews of the new film especially caught my eye with its extra sideways swipe against the previous film in the franchise with its comment that as poor as the new film was, “it’s better than 4.0” – which gave me pause. I remembered liking that film; again, no match for the original film and still the last among sequels until the 2013 instalment, but in my mind’s eye I still thought of it as a decent action film and a solid franchise entry that hadn’t done too much harm to the John McClane character.

Had I been wrong? Only a couple of hours with the DVD would be able to tell… Read the rest of this entry »

Looper (2012)

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Contains medium-level spoilers, so please read with caution!

It’s been well over a year since the last time that I went to the cinema to see a new release film, but the positive reviews for Rian Johnson’s Looper made me stir and head off into town for a change. Maybe that led to too-highly raised expectations for the film, because while it’s a solid three-star piece of entertainment it’s also rather flawed, frustrating and ultimately disappointing compared to what it could have been.

The premise of the film is that criminals from 30 years in the future send their victims back to 2044 to be disposed of by hired guns called ‘loopers’ such as Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). One day he realises that the victim he’s been sent to kill is his future self (Bruce Willis), and he botches the assignment leading to him being hunted by the big local crime boss, Abe.

So far so good; it’s a good idea with lots of possibilities. The film even has its cake and eats it with regards to time travel, clearly establishing early on that time is fluid and changeable by events in the present which neatly means that almost any script flaws and inconsistencies can be dismissed as unintended consequences of the time changes. The film even has not one but two characters warn us not to think too hard about any of this stuff: “This time travel crap, just fries your brain like a egg,” says Jeff Daniels, playing Abe.

This is even dramatised early on, first with the unsettling fate of Seth (Paul Dano) which sets up the stakes for Joe, and then we apparently see Joe himself killed as a result of his own failure to complete his self-terminating assignment. But that means he can’t be alive in the future to be sent back to spark the events in the first place; so the film cuts to an alternate timeline in which Joe succeeds in his task, lives his life, ages into Bruce Willis and gets sent back after all … where he once more escapes the attempt on his life by his younger self. It’s a temporal paradox, and the film cleverly establishes the situation in which time itself seeks to find the best-possible workaround from this impossibility even if it means using bits and pieces from mutually incompatible futures. This approach might not make an awful lot of sense in practice but since we don’t know what time travel would mean if it actually existed, it’s as believable as any other theory. In the film’s scenario it’s set up well enough to make possible an ending which would otherwise mean that the entire film could not have taken place at all. Read the rest of this entry »

Sin City (2005) – Blu-ray

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I remember watching Sin City on DVD for the first time in 2007, and being really quite overwhelmed by it. Not always in the best way, it has to be said: not having been familiar with Frank Miller’s graphic novel/comic series that Robert Rodriquez and Miller himself have adapted, I was at times completely confused by it all and just had to go with the flow.

For this Blu-ray outing I decided to try the option of watching the four intertwining stories separated out into their constituent parts; whether it was this choice or perhaps the fact that it was a second viewing and I was therefore more familiar with the world and the characters, and what the film was seeking to do, the experience was a lot less confusing and far more satisfying than before.

Separating the four stories out enables the viewer to see how each part has its own very definite personality. There is the revenge thriller of Mickey Rourke’s strand where he is a monstrous, unstoppable Terminator-style figure who only stops when he’s dead (and there’s a visual throwback to the T-800 at that moment which suggests the Terminator feel was no coincidence.) Rourke’s character of Marv is perfectly matched against the enigmatic serial killer Kevin (Elijah Wood) who is as silent and fleet-footed as Marv is crashing and thudding.

The Clive Owen strand is wildly different, and provides almost all of the humour of Sin City. Everyone’s playing for laughs and most of the scenarios are of the richest, blackest comedy, and viewed on its own it works quite wonderfully as a difference take on the Sin City universe – whereas for my money, the wildly different tone just makes the sequences jarring when mixed into the single theatrical cut, which makes the scenes feel jarring and odd compared to the seriousness of the rest of the movie.

The real heart of the film is provided by the Bruce Willis segment, which is a real classic film noir tale and doomed love story beautifully played by Willis with Jessica Alba and a grotesque Nick Stahl in bright yellow makeup. The only strand that doesn’t work as a stand-alone segment is Josh Hartnett’s hit man tale – but it’s only about 5 minutes long so that’s no surprise. Moreover, the first half of it is so very clearly a scene-setting teaser/title sequence for the film while the second half is a coda to the Clive Owen segment that it makes no sense to see it out of order.

Otherwise, the separation of the strands works brilliantly and even the little cameos of characters from one strand in another are clearer and work better for the clarity. It even makes more sense of some of the odd unresolved plot strands, such as the lack of a final come-uppence for the real Mr Big behind it all – he just peters out and gets lost in the theatrical cut.

If ever there was a film to see in hi-res, this is surely one of them. Shot completely on a green stage and with the world computer generated around them (a ground-breaking technique at the time which has now caught on with the likes of 300) its a pin-sharp stylised image almost wholly in black and while with occasional splashes of yellow or blood red carefully introduced at key moments). The generous extras show just how far the film has gone to faithfully recreate the graphic originals.

It’s never going to be a film for everyone, obviously. Like me, you may prefer to try out the stand-alone strands to help get to grips with it at first. But overall, this is an impressive, gripping and enjoyable film that I can see myself revisiting and re-watching many times down the line – in both separate and intertwined formats.