Video Game Review: Die Hard (NES)

This game is really fun to play but it is also kind of infuriating, as it’s never really clear what the hell you’re supposed to be doing.

Sure, the game gives you clues about things you need or steps you need to take but it’s all really vague and you still have to figure it out with trial and error but the game also has a time of sorts working against you.

I didn’t beat the game because I couldn’t get passed a certain point and I couldn’t go to the floor I needed to go to because there were hostages.

So I aimlessly wandered around, after killing every terrorist, trying to pick up items and looks for ones I missed but it got me nowhere.

Could I have read a walkthrough or watched a video? Sure. But if I was playing this back when it came out, I wouldn’t have had that luxury.

So fuck this game. It was fun until it wasn’t.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: other bird’s-eye-view action games for the NES.

Film Review: A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

Also known as: Die Hard 5 (working title)
Release Date: February 6th, 2013 (Seoul premiere)
Directed by: John Moore
Written by: Skip Woods
Based on: characters by Roderick Thorp
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Rasha Bukvic, Cole Hauser, Yulia Snigir, Mary Elizabeth Winstead (cameo)

Giant Pictures, TSG Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, 98 Minutes, 101 Minutes (Extended Cut)

Review:

“Let’s go kill some motherfuckers!” – John McClane

Well, not all Die Hards are created equal but at least three were great and another one was really good. This one, the fifth and final (at least for now), was the worst film of the lot.

That’s not to say that this is a bad movie, it just isn’t on the level of the four other pictures that share the Die Hard name.

In fact, take Die Hard out of the title and this is just another random Bruce Willis action film from the ’00s or ’10s that gets lost in the shuffle and just sort of blends in with the rest of them. It’s mediocre, uninspiring and pretty generic with only one real high point worth mentioning.

That one high point is the final battle with the helicopter. It’s a pretty cool sequence and well thought out and executed. However, it is somewhat ruined by shoddy CGI effects and the film being visually drab, overall.

There are other big action sequences but none of them are very memorable.

Part of the problem with the film is that it doesn’t feel Die Hard level in scale. Each film sort of felt like it got bigger than the one before it in some way. This actually feels like the smallest film in scale since the first one. While this takes place primarily in the streets of Moscow, it just lacks the energy and intensity of the third and fourth films, which took place in the streets of two major American metropolises.

I think this problem is due to the visual tone and the drabness of the picture. It definitely went for that modern action film aesthetic and it makes it look cheap and generic. The thing I loved about Die Hard With a Vengeance was that it didn’t resort to noticeable film filters or gritty digital enhancements, it just threw you in the middle of New York City and it felt like you were there.

This film feels like you’re looking at a video game that takes place in some generic European city. There just isn’t any life to it. And that’s not a knock against Moscow because I’m sure there is really cool shit that could’ve been captured on film there. This is more a criticism of the director, the cinematographer, the location scout and the obvious lack of creativity in trying to give this film an authentic lived-in world.

From a creative standpoint, this felt like the most half-assed Die Hard film and that the producers just kind of assumed that people would love it just because it featured the character of John McClane.

Additionally, the story was also generic and weak. In fact, this felt like they took a script for a cookie cutter, straight-to-DVD action flick and just repackaged it with the Die Hard name once they were able to lock down Bruce Willis.

Still, if you’ve got just under two hours to kill and you haven’t seen the film, it’s still a good time waster. Granted, if you haven’t seen any of the other four, watch one of those instead.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Die Hard films, as well as other Bruce Willis action films.

Film Review: Live Free Or Die Hard (2007)

Also known as: Die Hard 4.0, Die Hard 4, Die Hard: Tears of the Sun, Die Hard 4: Die Hardest, Die Hard: Reset (working titles), WW3.com (original script title)
Release Date: June 12th, 2007 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Len Wiseman
Written by: Mark Bomback, David Marconi
Based on: A Farewell to Arms by John Carlin; characters by Roderick Thorp
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant, Cliff Curtis, Maggie Q, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kevin Smith, Tim Russ

Cheyenne Enterprises, Dune Entertainment, Ingenious Film Partners, 20th Century Fox, 129 Minutes

Review:

“You know what you get for being a hero? Nothin’. You get shot at. You get a little pat on the back, blah, blah, blah, attaboy. You get divorced. Your wife can’t remember your last name. Your kids don’t want to talk to you. You get to eat a lot of meals by yourself. Trust me, kid, nobody wants to be that guy.” – John McClane

When this came out, I liked it but it didn’t quite blow me away in the same way as the original trilogy of films did. I haven’t seen this since it was in the theater, however, so I was pleasantly surprised by it this time around, as it was better than I remembered. I still wouldn’t put it on the same level as the first three but it is a much better action movie than the majority of action flicks since the turn of the millennium.

One thing that I like about this series, besides the awesomeness that is Bruce Willis, is that each film takes place in (or around) a different major city. The majority of this picture is set in Washington DC It gives it a fresh look but at the same time, it has the same problem that a lot of the more modern action flicks have and that’s that it looks too polished.

While metropolitan DC is cool, it is kind of a sterile and generic looking city when away from the famous monuments and iconic government buildings. Also, I don’t think that the film really utilized how batshit crazy DC’s streets are in that there are big diagonal avenues that cut through the standard grid system that most large American cities have.

I typically get annoyed by Justin Long after about five minutes. However, there are a few films where he is really good and this is one of him. While he starts to grate on you pretty early on, he grows as a character and you end up really liking him. But like other Die Hard characters, he’s sadly a one-off and doesn’t ever return to fuck shit up with John McClane again.

Side note: I’d love a spinoff of John McClane sidekicks meeting up at a John McClane sidekick convention that is taken over by terrorists and they have to team-up without McClane there. That’ll never happen but a kid can dream. But if anyone ever gets the comic book publishing rights to the Die Hard franchise, this should be a miniseries.

Anyway, Timothy Olyphant is a decent villain but he just isn’t on the level of the villains from the three previous films. I actually found Maggie Q’s character to be more interesting and engaging but she’s sort of just thrown away in the second act, which is just used as fuel to make Olyphant go over the edge and sort of self-sabotage his own plan due to wanting revenge specifically on McClane.

Additionally, as good as most of this film is, it jumps the shark once John McClane has to fight a fucking F-35 fighter jet around a maze of bridges. Is it badass? Sure, but it is also so far removed from the rest of the picture that it’s no longer grounded in reality and feels more like some bonkers Michael Bay bullshit. Then I also remembered that this was directed by the guy behind the Underworld films, which really feels like a weird fit when you think about it.

Still, this is a good, solid way to waste a few hours with some mindless action and a character that has become beloved in American culture.

This is definitely weaker than the three previous entries but that doesn’t make it a bad movie. It’s really good, has a good pace and just gives you more of John McClane being an absolute badass.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Die Hard movies, as well as other Bruce Willis action films.

Film Review: Die Hard With a Vengeance (1995)

Also known as: Die Hard 3, Die Hard: New York, Simon Says (working titles)
Release Date: May 15th, 1995 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: John McTiernan
Written by: Jonathan Hensleigh
Based on: Simon Says by Jonathan Hensleigh, characters by Roderick Thorp
Music by: Michael Kamen
Cast: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Irons, Graham Greene, Colleen Camp, Larry Bryggman, Sam Phillips

Cinergi Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, 128 Minutes

Review:

“Yippie-kai-yay motherfucker.” – John McClane

The original trilogy of Die Hard films might be the greatest trio of action films ever made. While the solid Die Hard brand would become diluted with sequels, over a dozen years later, this third (and once final) film closes out the trilogy with a fucking bang!

This also teams up Bruce Willis with Samuel Jackson, one of the actors he has worked best with over the years due to their chemistry and both men’s energy and charisma. The film also pits them against Jeremy Irons in one of the greatest roles he’s ever played, as the terrorist brother of the first film’s Hans Gruber (played by the great, late Alan Rickman).

Irons’ Simon Gruber isn’t just looking for revenge on Willis’ John McClane, he is also using the opportunity to steal the gold from New York City’s branch of the Federal Reserve. There are a lot of layers to the plot but this film does a great job of telling its story, slowly revealing new layers and twists as it rolls on and escalates from scene-to-scene.

This calls back to the first film, a legitimate masterpiece of the action genre. But it doesn’t just do that by using a villain that is the brother of the original film’s, it also brings back that film’s director, John McTiernan. For those that don’t know, McTiernan is the heavyweight champion of cinematic action storytelling between his two Die Hard films, Predator, The Hunt for Red October and Last Action Hero, which has been unfairly crapped on since it came out. Maybe I’m in the minority but I love that film. We should all ignore his Rollerball remake though.

Anyway, this film is literally a non-stop action bonanza that is able to balance those sequences with a good, layered plot that isn’t predictable and provides some real surprises.

Setting this in the middle of New York City also propels it to a new level of scale when compared to the two films before it. The entire island of Manhattan is the playground for the movie’s villain and it’s incredible watching John McClane and Zeus Carver constantly race against time, rushing from location to location in an effort to prevent as much collateral damage as possible. And the whole time, the game is a ruse to cover up what the criminal’s real plan is. Furthermore, his plan also doesn’t align with all of his allies and that just leads to another great plot shift.

This is a superb movie on every level. While it isn’t on the same level of perfection as the first, it’s pretty damn close and it should satisfy those who have loved other chapters in this five film series. But I would say that this is the last of the great ones.

I’ll review the final two in the near future, as I haven’t seen four since it came out and I’ve never actually seen the fifth in its entirety.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Die Hard movies, as well as other Bruce Willis action films of the era.

Film Review: Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)

Also known as: Die Hard 2 (simplified title), 58 Minutes (working title)
Release Date: July 2nd, 1990 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Renny Harlin
Written by: Steven E. de Souza, Doug RIchardson
Based on: 58 Minutes by Walter Wagner, characters by Roderick Thorpe
Music by: Michael Kamen
Cast: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, William Atherton, Reginald VelJohnson, Franco Nero, William Sadler, John Amos, Dennis Franz, Art Evans, Fred Thompson, Tom Bower, Sheila McCarthy, Vondie Curtis-Hall, John Leguizamo, Robert Patrick, Mark Boone Junior, Colm Meaney, Robert Costanzo

Twentieth Century Fox, Gordon Company, Silver Pictures, 124 Minutes

Review:

“Oh man, I can’t fucking believe this. Another basement, another elevator. How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?” – John McClane

Why the fuck do people shit on this movie? It’s a solid action flick with a solid action star that also boasts one of the manliest casts ever assembled for a motion picture not named The Expendables.

I love this movie and while I can recognize that it isn’t a perfect masterpiece like its predecessor, it is still a fine motion picture that helped to make the original Die Hard Trilogy one of the greatest trilogies of all-time. That was all undone and fucked up once Hollywood went back to the cow to milk the tits off of the franchise years later but I still consider the first three Die Hards to be a trilogy and that’s that.

John McClane is back and honestly, that’s all you really need. However, they set this one at Christmas, once again, and then padded out the rest of the cast with some of the coolest male actors of the time: Franco Nero, William Sadler, John Amos, Dennis Franz, Art Evans, Fred Thompson, Tom Bower, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Robert Patrick, John Leguizamo, Mark Boone Junior and Colm Meaney. Not to mention that they also brought back Bonnie Bedelia, William Atherton and Reginald VelJohnson in a cameo.

There is so much testosterone in this picture that it is hard to see the movie sometimes as it’ll spill over the top of the screen and ooze down the front of it. If that’s not what you’re looking for in an action flick circa 1990, then go watch Fried Green Tomatoes with your Aunt Millicent!

This film grabs you from the get go and doesn’t let go until the credits roll. It’s packed full of action and when shit isn’t blowing up or getting shot at, we’re treated to solid scenes between the solid cast and thus, there isn’t a dull moment in this entire picture.

I love the chemistry between just about everyone in this film. Bruce Willis, at least in this era, could work with anybody and bring the best out of them. While the guy has unparalleled charisma, it always seems to carry over and rub off on anyone he works with. I absolutely loved his banter with Dennis Franz and I also loved his camaraderie with Art Evans.

Looking at another tandem that’s great in this picture, I have to tip my hat to Bonnie Bedelia and William Atherton. This is their second time playing these characters that are at odds with one another but they work so well together that it kind of sucks that they never came back for any of the other films.

Look, it is hard to top perfection, which is what the first Die Hard was. But, man, this is a really good attempt at trying to follow it up and just give the fans more of what they wanted.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other Die Hard movies, as well as other Bruce Willis action films of the era.

Film Review: Die Hard (1988)

Release Date: July 12th, 1988 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: John McTiernan
Written by: Jeb Stuart, Steven E. de Souza
Based on: Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp
Music by: Michael Kamen
Cast: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Alexander Godunov, Reginald VelJohnson, Paul Gleason, De’voreaux White, William Atherton, Clarence Gilyard, Hart Bochner, James Shigeta, Al Leong, Robert Davi, Rick Ducommun, Mary Ellen Trainor

Gordon Company, Silver Pictures, 20th Century Fox, 132 Minutes

Review:

“This time John Wayne does not walk off into the sunset with Grace Kelly.” – Hans Gruber, “That was Gary Cooper, asshole.” – John McClane

I ended the year and the holiday season on a bang, as I got to see Die Hard on the big screen. I saw the second and the third ones in the theater but seeing the original on a 3o foot tall screen wasn’t something I got to experience when I was nine years-old in the summer of 1988. I’m glad I got to rectify that injustice, as Die Hard is purely perfection.

Yes, I know that using a word like “perfection” is pretty bold but Die Hard made a bold statement when it came out in a time when the action genre was ruled over by the two kings of the ’80s: Stallone and Schwarzenegger.

Bruce Willis was a nobody in 1988, other than being Cybill Shepherd’s sidekick on TV’s Moonlighting and for playing a good villain in one episode of Miami Vice. This is the film that made him a star and a household name, almost instantly.

This film has a pretty amazing ensemble cast as well. You have two of the ’80s biggest weaselly character actors with Paul Gleason (The Breakfast Club) and William Atherton (Ghostbusters and Real Genius). You have the ’80s and ’90s quintessential lovable cop, Carl Winslow himself, Reginald VelJohnson. You’ve also got Robert Davi as an FBI agent and Al Leong as an evil henchman, which was his modus operandi back in the ’80s.

The two biggest parts, after Willis’ John McClane, are Bonnie Bedelia, as his wife, and Alan Rickman, as the German terrorist Hans Gruber. As great as Rickman always was and even considering his iconic run as Snape in the Harry Potter films, this, to me, was always his greatest role. Having just seen this again, I still feel that this was the greatest and coolest role that Rickman ever had. He played it so well, even with his fairly funny scenes faking an American accent.

While the 1980s gave us the best action movies of all-time, many of them have flaws and a certain level of cheesiness to them, especially now, three decades later. Die Hard, however, still brings it. And while it has its funny lines and moments, they never got cheesy. It all still works and works well. The plot is solid, the action is amazing, well thought out, well executed and there are a lot of layers to the film that all weave together in a sort of brilliant way that you just don’t see in straight up action flicks.

Die Hard is perfect. And the reason why is that it is damn near impossible to pick it apart and to try and figure out a better way to make it work. It doesn’t feel dated and it should when looked at within the context of when it came out and what the standard was at the time. The vast majority of Stallone and Schwarzenegger’s movies feel dated but somehow, Die Hard feels truly timeless. It’s a smarter and better executed film than one would probably assume at first glance. It is greater than the sum of its parts and all the elements of the film come together seamlessly and impeccably.

Rating: 10/10