How can the same shit happen to the same guy five times? A Good Day To Die Hard review

When I saw Live Free or Die Hard (that’s part 4) I had no hope for it. By the time the first action sequence came along I perked up. It actually felt like a Die Hard movie despite the PG-13 rating, the downgraded sidekick, and the boringly American bad guy. I was all in, at least until McClane fought a fighter jet and somehow emerged victorious. Either way, I managed to enjoy it more than part two, which was always my least favorite of the series.

Until now.

John McClane finds out his estranged son has been arrested in Russia. So he does what any New York cop can surely afford to do: he books the first plane to Moscow and takes a week or two off work. His daughter (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, again) drives him to the airport and asks him not to blow anything up while he’s gone. McClane does his squint-eyed thing, flies to Russia, and meets a cab driver who would have made a much better subject for the film than any of the other characters. It seems McClane is in Russia for five minutes before things explode and a car chase ensues.

This car chase, by the way, is the best thing in the entire film. Cars flip and bounce around like Hot Wheels. An armored truck defies the laws of gravity. McClane manages to completely total two vehicles and walks away from both of the horrifying accidents after grunting a bit.

The rest of the action sequences are boring shootouts. McClane and his son Jack do an awful lot of shooting while standing completely still. The bad guys are such bad shots it sometimes reminded me of the Rambo parody in Hot Shots Part Deux. What’s all the commotion about? The same thing every lame 80s and 90s action film was about: the bad guys want a file. Thankfully, it’s the first time I’ve seen such a MacGuffin that wasn’t on floppy disk or CD. Yeah, there’s more to it than that and I won’t spoil it for you even though you’ll see the “twist” coming from a mile away.

The biggest problem is Bruce Willis seems to think we go to see Die Hard movies to see Bruce Willis. This is true of Arnold Schwarzenegger films, but the main draw of a Die Hard picture is seeing John McClane. This just isn’t the same guy who crawled around ventilation ducts with a burning Zippo and wrote “Now I have a machine gun HO HO HO” on a dead terrorist’s sweater. And what of the one-liners? Yippe kay aye, mother fucker? Try this: McClane rams the back of a bad guy’s vehicle and shouts, “I wasn’t through talking to you!”

That’s the worst one-liner I’ve ever heard in my life. And yes, I did see Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. In fact, that sounds like something the old lady in that would say.

Then there’s the excruciating subplot in which John and Jack attempt to reconnect. I take criticism pretty seriously and my vocabulary’s usually larger than this, but I find the best way to describe it is BAD. Die Hard 5 is apparently the rare film that attempts to please action hounds as well as soap opera fans. Whereas the other films were exciting even in between action sequences, this one just stops dead. It’s because they keep forcing this father-son shit on us. It didn’t work for Indiana Jones, either. While I don’t know what else the actor portraying Jack has done, I’m going to go out on a limb and say he was probably a wrestler. If they think they can reboot the series with this guy, Hollywood producers must be crazier than previously thought.

I’d also like to know why military helicopter pilots only fire through windows. The bullets are nearly the size of human fists—do the pilots really think a wall is going to stop them? “Get down!” just isn’t a surefire option when it comes to 40mm aircraft cannons.

Are you still there? Good. Because despite all the complaints, it’s not nearly as terrible as the score on Rotten Tomatoes (currently 16%) suggests. In the way True Lies is a movie that’s worth watching for its climax alone, Die Hard 5 is worth watching for the car chase. Too bad it happens early on and goes downhill from there.

At the end of the day it’s a generic Bruce Willis film rather than an honest Die Hard. Not enough foreign terrorists and walkie-talkie chatter for my liking, but I didn’t absolutely hate it. I even had a few good laughs, just not during the one-liners. Should you pay to see it? No. Should you watch it when it hits Netflix? Sure, but don’t put it at the top of your queue until you’ve seen Skyfall.

The second still of the Ender’s Game movie is here

Wow! Looks like Starship Troopers with kids, huh? Ender’s Ansible has a deeper analysis of the picture. Check it out. 

I never understood the appeal of Ender’s Game. (I didn’t really enjoy Dune all that much, either, until I finally got around to re-reading it earlier this year. I must say now I understand what all the hype is about.) In before the torches and pitchforks: there was absolutely nothing I disliked about Ender’s, it just wasn’t something I connected with. I think it has something to do with the fact I read the novella it was based on first, which was part of the collection First Meetings, a book I bought for a dollar and tax. You should know I loved Speaker for the Dead, though. 

I’m also excited for the movie version of Ender’s Game. And I never have hope for a Hollywood adaptation of a science fiction classic. Perhaps it’s because I’m not in love with the source material, though.
What do you think about the big Hollywood version of Ender’s Game? Leave a comment below. 

Just another update

I’m still working on my novel. I’ve been busy. I only post on my blog when I feel like it and lately I haven’t felt like it.

I’m working on a script, too. Not sure if that’ll get shot soon or not. I need lights, a better sound recorder, and people willing to act in a movie for free. Ain’t cheap and it ain’t easy.

Here’s a picture of a cat:

Never mind. Send the cat back.

Russia’s meteor event convinces me to finally watch Deep Impact

The recent impact event in Russia tickled me to pieces. Whereas world news has been mirroring dystopic science fiction all too often lately, it was an improvement to see it mirror doomsday science fiction for a change. The event also reminded me there’s a movie I never watched all the way through that I should have seen by now. That movie is Deep Impact. I’ve been dreading my decision to watch it for fifteen years.

proof that all disaster movies are indistinguishable

In the interest of transparency you should know I hate Hollywood disaster movies. The Towering Inferno, Armageddon, The Day After Tomorrow, Earthquake, Twister, The Core, Volcano, Dante’s Peak–the list goes on and on even when I don’t account for the alien-related disaster films like the severely stupid Independence Day. My dislike for the genre certainly isn’t due to false advertisement; each of these movies are as disastrous as the literal disasters they depict. All you need is a weak understanding of natural occurrences, a bunch of boring chatter between men in suits, a few crumbling landmarks, and scenes in which people run down streets.

The more puke-inducing tropes of a disaster movie are the thick melodrama, the Hallmark moments (see: Armageddon’s oil workers singing Leaving on a Jet Plane a capella), the constant destruction of the Statue of Liberty, and the absurd lack of science. If you want a good disaster film you can’t do any better than WarGames and The Day After, both of which came out in 1983 and were about nuclear war. Why do disaster movies suck time and time again? It’s not because of the subject matter. It’s because Hollywood is so used to exaggerating otherwise mundane action and suspense, they don’t know when something’s well enough to leave alone.

Case in point: the opening of Deep Impact features a kid (Elijah Woods) who discovers a strange object in the sky. Even though the scene reeks of disbelief, that’s actually kind of cool, not to mention fairly accurate—amateur astronomers really are invaluable to the field and always have been. His astronomy club submits the finding to a full-fledged telescope observatory. The stereotypical scientist working that night keys the discovery into his computer and realizes there’s an object that’s barreling towards our planet. That alone is interesting in itself, but somehow it leads to a cliff-side car wreck that has the scientist’s vehicle exploding in an enormous fireball, in midair no less.

spoiler alert: the comet hits Earth!

Cut to one year later and Téa Leoni, playing Unbelievable Reporter #1, thinks she’s hot on the trail of a scandal in the White House. It turns out that her information is inaccurate. She’s not looking for a mistress named Ellie, but a government cover-up, the code word of which isn’t even a proper code word, it’s just an acronym: E.L.E. or “extinction level event.” Yes, I know the United States government can be pretty incompetent at times, but that’s on a level of using the code word “U.F.O.” to cover up an alien crash landing.

Morgan Freeman plays the American President. He personally asks Unbelievable Reporter not to tell anyone about the comet that’s going to destroy all life on the planet. Unbelievable Reporter kind of shrugs and says, “Okay,” and then two days later The President reveals the information to the public himself. As if by magic he freezes national wages and product prices to prevent profiteering and panic. Can you imagine Obama announcing that he was going to freeze wages? Do you really think the republicans would let him get away with it? Yes, it’s another disaster film in which the President’s political affiliation is ambiguous.

So the President reveals a group of astronauts (and one cosmonaut) who will fly a massive space ship to the comet in an attempt to destroy it with nuclear weaponry. The senior astronaut, played by Robert Duvall, was the last man to step foot on the moon. The younger astronauts resent the senior astronaut, a guy who has landed on the fucking moon. How many astronauts do you know who would show no respect to a moon walker? If the filmmakers felt they needed some kind of conflict among the group, it would have been a lot wiser to set it up between the Americans and the single Russian aboard the ship. After all, it was a joint mission between the two countries—why is Russia so unrepresented on the mission itself?

As the ship is on its way to the comet, Unbelievable Reporter is promoted to an even less believable news anchor. I know anchors are known for being stiff, but Leoni could make even robots wince. I don’t care how professional he is, Dan Rather would have been hopping up and down in his chair when he reported the end of the world was nigh. Other than that, the space scene really is good. Yes, there’s sound where there shouldn’t be any and most of the suspense is drained by the fact that the poster and trailers for this film have already given away the fact that the mission fails, but this chunk of the movie is really spectacular.

Predictability aside, the rest of the movie is much better than the first forty minutes or so. Lesser movies show complete mass hysteria in the face of such a threat. I just never bought the idea that the whole of humanity could go from zero to murderously crazy at the drop of a hat. This movie doesn’t buy complete hysteria, either; in typical Hollywood fashion you can still hail a cab within seconds of raising your hand. I’d say they’re doing pretty well on the society front.

Every once and a while the movie is effective, particularly when it isn’t trying to be. When Leoni meets with her mother, the older woman says she actually feels relieved she won’t survive the impact. She even quit smoking and donated some of her more valuable belongings to the government’s effort to preserve culture through antiquities. That scene unexpectedly moved me, despite the severely miscast Leoni being in it. A lot of armchair philosophers and conspiracy theorists love to talk about how shitty humanity is, but if we were all that bad we never would have gotten to where we are today.

Deep Impact is a lot like a newborn calf. There’s a lot of wobbling in the beginning, but eventually it learns to walk on its four legs. Sort of. It’s one of the better disaster movies, but is that really saying much? Do yourself a favor and read The Hammer of God or The Forge of God instead.