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: Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987)

Also known as: Death Wish IV (working title)
Release Date: November 6th, 1987
Directed by: J. Lee Thompson
Written by: Gail Morgan Hickman
Based on: characters by Brian Garfield
Music by: John Bisharat, Paul McCallum, Valentine McCallum
Cast: Charles Bronson, Kay Lenz, John P. Ryan, Perry Lopez, Soon-Tek Oh, George Dickerson, Dana Barron, Danny Trejo, Tim Russ, Hector Mercado, Irwin Keyes

The Cannon Group, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Who the fuck are you?” – Rapist, “Death!” – Paul Kersey

As I said in early Death Wish reviews, the film series starts to fall off after the third movie. However, this installment was actually better than what I remembered. Maybe that’s because I hadn’t seen this one in a really long time and because I am a Cannon Films junkie that just needs unapologetic, high octane, violent, ’80s action pumped into my veins on a regular basis.

That being said, Charles Bronson still brings his fucking A game in this one.

Now the plot is kind of a disjointed mess with a swerve as to who the real villain is and while I like that in the noir films of the ’40s and ’50s, it isn’t done in a very clever way. It’s also kind of predictable and you see it coming once the guy who is presented as the big bad is killed with about a half hour to spare.

But all that means is that you get a final showdown between Charles f’n Bronson and John P. Ryan, another man’s man and old school action film badass. In fact, Ryan has a fate that is very similar to the baddie of Death Wish 3.

Now out of the first four films, this one is the weakest. I definitely remember the fifth being the worst, despite boasting the talents of Michael Parks, as its villain. But this was still a satisfying movie that gives you just about everything you want in a Death Wish or Cannon Films motion picture. But nothing could have followed the last twenty minutes of the third film, which is the best balls out action sequence of the 1980s and maybe of all-time.

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown still shines though. Plus, not only does it feature Bronson and Ryan but it also gives us a young Danny Trejo, Tim Russ before he was Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager, Soon-Tek Oh as a dirty cop and Hector Mercado as a drug dealing shithead.

Sure, the film could have been better with a more fluid narrative but do you really care that much about that stuff when watching a Chuck Bronson murder festival? I don’t. I just want to see the scum of the Earth meet violent ends. In Death Wish 4, like its predecessors, that’s exactly what you get.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Death Wish movies and the Dirty Harry film series.

Film Review: Spaceballs (1987)

Also known as: Planet Moron (working title), Spaceballs: The Video (video box title), Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs (Germany)
Release Date: June 24th, 1987
Directed by: Mel Brooks
Written by: Mel Brooks, Ronny Graham, Thomas Meehan
Music by: John Morris
Cast: Mel Brooks, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman, Daphne Zuniga, Dick Van Patten, George Wyner, Joan Rivers (voice), Michael Winslow, John Hurt (cameo), Jim J. Bullock, Ronny Graham, Leslie Bevis, Rudy De Luca, Dom DeLuise (voice), Stephen Tobolowsky, Robert Prescott, Rick Ducommun, Tim Russ, Tony Cox

Brooksfilms, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 96 Minutes

Review:

“What’s the matter, Colonel Sandurz? Chicken?” – Dark Helmet

I’ve been on a Mel Brooks kick, as of late. I’ve also been irritated with modern Star Wars shit. So I figured I’d go back and revisit Spaceballs, as it is a much better Star Wars movie than anything we’ve gotten in the last few years.

Well, it isn’t really a Star Wars film, it is a parody of the Original Trilogy, as well as some other sci-fi franchises like Star TrekAliens and Planet of the Apes, but it feels more consistent with the things I love about Star Wars than anything Disney has done, except for Rogue One.

Mel Brooks was the master of parody and he arguably lost his touch after this film but he was still on his A-game when he crafted this.

The thing that this film really has going for it is the cast. Brooks was perfect as always but it was cool seeing him ham it up with Rick Moranis and the inclusion of John Candy was great. Bill Pullman really stood front and center and carried the picture on his back. And that’s not to take anything away from the comedic actors, again, they were superb. Pullman had a certain panache and command of the screen when he was center stage and he’s really the star of the picture.

I also liked Daphne Zuniga as the princess and Joan Rivers as the voice of her robot sidekick, essentially a female C-3PO. You also have a lot of cameos and small parts for other well-known comedians and Brooks regulars, all of whom leave their mark.

This movie is hysterical if you love Brooks, Candy and Moranis. It’s certainly ’80s mainstream humor and it does feel a bit dated but it is a comedy classic in the same vein and style of Brooks’ Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles.

Plus, if you are a fan of the massive sci-fi franchises of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, then you’ll enjoy this even more.

This is a solid example of how to do a parody film, which in this day and age, seems like a lost art.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: The original Star Wars trilogy, as well as the Mel Brooks classics: Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles.