Die Hard

A Christmas Top Ten

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We’ve finally arrived at that part of the year where even I, as curmudgeonly as they come, can no longer deny that the festive season is upon us and that it’s time to start buying gifts and writing cards in preparation for the holidays. In blog terms that means we are about to enter …. the Christmas Content Zone.

xmas-iconThe traditional way of starting this off would be to have a nice list of my all-time top ten Christmas staples, but sadly I’m a bit deficient in this area and have never really gathered together a collection of festive favourites. I’ll happily indulge in Christmas specials of TV programmes, but when it comes to films I find the saccharine sweetness of Santas galore just too much for my delicate constitution.

Fortunately I happen to know someone who was surely born with tinsel flowing through his veins and doubtless found as a newborn under the Christmas tree merrily playing with the baubles, so my thanks to John Hood of Generation Star Wars for bailing me out of my Top Xmas Films quandary with this fine and well-informed selection for your delectation and delight… Read the rest of this entry »

Olympus Has Fallen (2013) [DVD]

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Terrorists breach the White House and only one Secret Service agent remains alive inside to save the President and his young son.

It’s not often these days that you can summarise an entire film in a single sentence, but those 22 words are more than enough to fully describe the plot of Olympus Has Fallen. It’s promoted on the DVD case as “Die Hard in the White House” and it really is exactly that – in fact it’s astonishing just how completely it appropriates every single major story beat from the 1988 film, with any remaining plot supplied by a quick rummage through the cupboards marked In The Line of Fire and Air Force One – so much so that sporting a credit for original screenplay feels a bit rich. Watching the brief but solid special features after finishing the film, it’s amazing to see everyone excited about the “… in the White House” aspect of things as a new and original component in the mix, which makes you think they’ve never heard of a series called 24 which did exactly this premise five years ago – and it wasn’t even new then, as “Transfer of Power” author Vince Flynn would quickly confirm. At least they got out into cinemas before the identically-premised White House Down though.

In Olympus Has Fallen the part of Jack Bauer, sorry, Mike Banning is played by Gerard Butler, one of a small number of modern day leading actors who actually looks very physically convincing as a elite Secret Service agent. While Butler has also done his fair share of light comedy roles, you won’t find him deploying any of the John McClane-style quips here that so elevated Die Hard above the competition of the day: this is a film that clearly regards humour and emotion as inappropriate once the bullets start flying, so any such leavening is restricted to the first five minutes and then firmly cast aside for the duration. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »