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: Atlantic Rim (2013)

Also known as: From the Sea (worldwide English title), Battle of Atlantis (Japan), Attack From the Atlantic Rim (Germany), Attack From Beneath (US DVD title), Atlantic Rim: World’s End (France), 5,000 Fathoms Deep (alternate title)
Release Date: July 9th, 2013
Directed by: Jared Cohn
Written by: Richard Lima, Thunder Levin, Hank Woon Jr., Jared Cohn
Music by: Chris Ridenhour
Cast: Graham Greene, David Chokachi, Treach, Jackie Moore

The Asylum, 85 Minutes

Review:

I have never watched a mockbuster from The Asylum because all one has to do is look at a DVD cover to know how terrible these things are. But since Atlantic Rim was forced upon me in the latest season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I didn’t have much of a choice.

This was really bad. In fact, as a motion picture, it is one of the worst MST3K has ever riffed and that’s saying a lot. However, it’s badness did make bits of it enjoyable in the same way one can be amused by parts of those deplorable Birdemic movies.

It was kind of sad to see Graham Greene in this, as he was once an Oscar nominee. Also, I felt bad for Treach, who twenty-five years ago, was on top of the world as the frontman of the hip-hop group Naughty by Nature.

I don’t even know where to start with this mess, other than pointing out the obvious. This movie is a blatant ripoff of Pacific Rim, a film that exceeds this a hundredfold in every regard.

The story is shit, the acting is atrocious, the special effects are worse than PlayStation 1 graphics and the score hurt my head and required medication to recover from.

If someone asked, “Do you prefer mayonnaise or Miracle Whip?” And you replied, “I fucking hate Miracle Whip.” And then you got hit over the head and woke up to find yourself drowning in a vat of Miracle Whip. That’s pretty much what this film is like for a Pacific Rim fan. I don’t know if that analogy made much sense but I hate this film as much as I hate Miracle Whip.

No one that made this knew what the hell they were doing. And I don’t know how The Asylum is still in business, unless they just dupe grandmas into buying their DVDs for Christmas, making them believe its actually the movie that Little Danny wants from Santa.

Also, it took four people to write this. Four. And this is what this brain trust committee of writers came up with?

Rating: 1.25/10
Pairs well with: other terrible mockbusters from The Asylum, I guess. I never want to watch another one.

Film Review: The Green Mile (1999)

Release Date: December 10th, 1999
Directed by: Frank Darabont
Written by: Frank Darabont
Based on: The Green Mile by Stephen King
Music by: Thomas Newman
Cast: Tom Hanks, David Morse, Bonnie Hunt, Michael Clarke Duncan, James Cromwell, Michael Jeter, Graham Greene, Doug Hutchison, Sam Rockwell, Barry Pepper, Jeffrey DeMunn, Patricia Clarkson, Harry Dean Stanton, William Sadler, Gary Sinise, Dabbs Greer, Jon Polito

Castle Rock Entertainment, Warner Bros., 189 Minutes

Review:

“On the day of my judgment, when I stand before God, and He asks me why did I kill one of his true miracles, what am I gonna say? That it was my job? My job?” – Paul Edgecomb

After Frank Darabont made one of the greatest films of all-time when he adapted Stephen King’s The Shawshank Redemption, he couldn’t have found a more natural followup project than King’s The Green Mile. Both are prison stories and have some similar themes, although The Green Mile is closer to what people are used to from King, as it has a supernatural and magical element to it.

The story follows a prison guard named Paul Edgecomb, played by Tom Hanks with the elderly version played by Dabbs Greer. The story is told as a flashback to 1935 when Edgecomb was running a prison block called the Green Mile. While there, he met John Coffey, a man sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit but who also has special powers. Coffey is a giant black man, accused of raping and murdering two young white girls, as he was found clutching onto their bodies while covered in their blood and crying. As the story progresses, we see an intimate look into life in Edgecomb’s cell block and we also come to discover that Coffey is a gentle giant with the ability to heal the sick and to feel a sort of psychic empathy when others are in pain.

The look of the film is pristine. It has a majestic and magical quality to it while still being grounded in a sort of gritty realism. The cinematography was handled by David Tattersall, who worked on the Star Wars prequel films, as well as The MajesticSpeed RacerCon Air and several other notable films since the early ’90s. He also handled the bulk of cinematography for the entire run of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, which was one of the most impressive things to ever hit television screens in the ’90s.

Populating the visually stunning world was a myriad of talented actors. In fact, there are so many great people in front of the camera it is hard to believe that they all worked on this film. Some of them aren’t massive stars like Tom Hanks but they are some of the best people who have worked in Hollywood over the last few decades. The acting is so superb in this that you get pulled in the same way that you do with The Shawshank Redemption. Maybe it’s a testament to how good Darabont is at directing, as he got incredible performances out of every member of this film’s large ensemble. And while I love Michael Clarke Duncan, the man has never been better than he is here.

The Green Mile isn’t a pillar of perfection like The Shawshank Redemption but it is a near flawless companion piece to it.

This film is absolutely stellar in the highest regard. Maybe the running time is a bit long but there isn’t a dull moment within the film. It feels more like a miniseries than a singular motion picture but everything that happens is meticulously crafted and executed and their isn’t an unimportant moment within the film.

Rating: 9.5/10

TV Review: Longmire (2012-2017)

Original Run: June 3rd, 2012 – November 17th, 2017
Created by: John Coveny, Hunt Baldwin
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Walt Longmire Mysteries by Craig Johnson
Music by: David Shephard
Cast: Robert Taylor, Katee Sackhoff, Lou Diamond Phillips, Bailey Chase, Cassidy Freeman, Adam Bartley, Louanne Stephens, Zahn McClarnon, A Martinez, Gerald McRaney, Peter Weller, Tom Wopat, Charles S. Dutton, Graham Greene

Warner Horizon Television, The Shephard/Robin Company, Two Boomerangs Productions, A&E, Netflix, 63 Episodes, 42-72 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2015.

Longmire was a highly successful show. For some reason, A&E cancelled it after its third season. Netflix then picked it up and continued it with season four and the upcoming season five. And maybe there will be more after that. I hope so anyway.

The show is a modern western, which there can never be enough of, as far as I’m concerned. It follows Sheriff Walt Longmire, just after the death of his wife. It deals with his handling of the loss, balanced with his job of being the sheriff of a small town in Wyoming near the Montana border and a Cheyenne Indian reservation. It touches on the politics of tribal life, small town western American life and crime.

Robert Taylor plays Sheriff Longmire and it is the greatest role he has ever had. He is accented by Katee Sackhoff, Cassidy Freeman, Bailey Chase, Adam Bartley and Louanne Stephens. The actor who really nails it though is Lou Diamond Phillips as the Cheyenne best friend of Longmire. Phillips has never been better and he’s an actor I have always liked and hoped he would find his niche outside of poorly executed straight-to-video action films.

Longmire has an episodic format, which I am not a huge fan of in this day and age where we get season-long story arcs with most crime shows. However, as it progresses and you get to know the characters more, there are bigger plots that span over multiple episodes. For the most part, every episode’s crime is solved within the hour. It is the bigger backstory that is more compelling, however.

It is superbly acted, the writing is good and it has a badass vibe to it. Sheriff Longmire is the modern version of an old Louis L’Amour character brought to life. He’s a man’s man and made of steel. Sure, he has his faults and weaknesses but he handles his shit like a boss.

The cinematography is top notch and the geography of Longmire’s world is beautiful. It makes me want to move to Wyoming (although it’s filmed in New Mexico). Hell, I want to be a sheriff now.

Rating: 8.25/10