Review: A Good Day To Die Hard

Die Hard 5
Bruce Willis and Jai Courtney in A Good Day To Die Hard.

Bad, Bald and Balderdash

Rating: *

Given that Hollywood executives look at film franchises as cows and try to milk as much as possible, Die Hard 5 aka A Good Day To Die Hard is insanity. And well before the release of Die Hard 5, the studio has already considered Die Hard 6 for the year 2015. If this is the way to go with franchises, I suggest they move to Direct-to-Video. The reason being the tireless storylines that all lead back to the first Die Hard – one good guy against a hundred baddies. The downfall began with the titling. Die Hard 4 was called Live Free or Die Hard, and the latest one is called A Good Day To Die Hard. Both sound kiddish and do not respect Bruce Willis’ action hero stature that the first three films had established.

Is it necessary to explain John McClane’s hatred towards technology in every Die Hard film. If I’m correct, Die Hard 4 was based on that. I can easily visualize the studio meeting for Die Hard 4. One executive would say “McClane hates terrorists and technology. Can we do something with that?” An anticipated screenwriter gets a spark “Imagine USA under attack by a group of cyberterrorists.” And that gave birth to the movie, coupled with a few wild stunts and some one-dimensional characters.

In Die Hard 5, studio execs have pitted McClane against USA’s most admired enemy, Russia. But, why would an US cop go to Russia? The motive would have to be strong, and they have harbored on McClane’s son, Jack. In Die Hard 4, you met McClane’s daughter, Lucy. And in the first two Die Hard films, we’ve established that John and Holly McClane have a daughter and a son. Hence, it’s obvious to introduce the son, who we come to know is a CIA operative working on an undercover mission, until Papa McClane jumps into the epicenter. All hell had already broken loose in the first two Die Hard films, and what’s left of it broke loose in the next two films, making Die Hard 5, a sober action film. There isn’t enough of anything in this film. Not enough action, not enough catchphrases, and not enough Willis.

Die Hard 5 in a few ways reminded me of the 2012 action film The Cold Light of Day where Willis played a retired CIA agent who is soon killed and his son (played by Henry Cavill) fights till the end. There’s the aging father figure who still likes to take a shot, there’s the courageous son who likes to play with fire, and there’s a menacing antagonist who just wants to kill everyone.

The action in Die Hard 5 is juvenile when compared to the first two films. One defect can be less body count. And with Die Hard 6 in the loop, god save the victims of John McClane.

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2012 – The Best of Hollywood

The following is my list of the best movies that released in 2012.

Ben Affleck in Argo.
Ben Affleck in Argo.

Argo – Arguably the best film of the year, Argo is a nail-biting film that adds a good amount of fiction to the Canadian Caper, a CIA mission to rescue six US consulate workers from Tehran. As an entertainer, Argo is no surprise as Ben Affleck is well-known for directing two other edgy films – Gone Baby Gone and The Town.

Bradley Cooper, Jacki Weaver and Chris Tucker in Silver Linings Playbook.
Bradley Cooper, Jacki Weaver and Chris Tucker in Silver Linings Playbook.

Silver Linings Playbook – This comedy-drama is about a bi-polar man trying to fit back into the world he wrecked. Featuring several prominent actors such as Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Tucker and India’s own Anupam Kher, Silver Linings Playbook hurls a grenade filled with emotions with well-scripted scenes and finely acted characters.

The Dark Knight Rises
The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises – A fitting sequel to  The Dark Knight and a marvelous adieu to Nolan’s vision, The Dark Knight Rises has all the ingredients to be one of the best superhero films of all time.

Daniel Craig's James Bond and Sean Connery's Aston Martin in Skyfall.
Daniel Craig’s James Bond and Sean Connery’s Aston Martin in Skyfall.

Skyfall – 50 is just a number, and the aging James Bond proves it in Skyfall. A smartly written, old school Bond film, Skyfall left out several key ingredients, but compensated with a Bond and M we have never seen or heard of.

L-R: Ezra Kramer, Emma Watson and Logan Lerman in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
L-R: Ezra Kramer, Emma Watson and Logan Lerman in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – A bravado if any, The Perks of Being a Wallflower infuses comedy and drama with childhood trauma, and dishes out a fine coming-of-age story for today’s youngsters.

Denzel Washington in Flight.
Denzel Washington in Flight.

Flight – As an alcoholic, drug-addled pilot, Denzel Washington plays the badass character of the year, I’ve wanted to see. From flying a plan upside-down to stealthily mixing drinks on a no-alcohol flight, Washington makes it easy for the Academy if they were wondering on who should take the Best Actor Oscar. With a whirlwind first hour and a tense second hour, Flight is Robert Zemeckis’ comeback to making hardcore cinema.

L-R: Billy Murray, Frances McDormand, Eddie Norton and Bruce Willis in Moonrise Kingdom
L-R: Billy Murray, Frances McDormand, Eddie Norton and Bruce Willis in Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom – Set in 1965, this smart comedy drama revolves around two teenagers who elope. The starry cast includes Billy Murray, Frances McDormand, Eddie Norton and an enigmatic Bruce Willis.

Review: The Expendables

Stallone, Li, Couture, Crews and Statham in The Expendables

Crack! Bam! Pow! You’re dead buster!

The Expendables (R)

Director: Sylvester Stallone

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Eric Roberts, Steve Austin, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren, Gisele Itié, Charisma Carpenter and Mickey Rourke

Rating: ***

The Expendables can be well defined as a gruesome action film. It has the necessary blood, bones and deaths to make it one of the best action films in recent times. However, the recycled story is a letdown. We’ve seen The A-Team, The Losers and now The Expendables. Although the former two are different from the latter in terms of plot, it’s the ensemble action entertainer tagline which makes them fly under the same sky. The Expendables much like the other two films, is a pseudonym for a group of mercenaries who do things, the government cannot. Leading them is Barney Ross (Stallone), who seems to teach his fellow actors like Statham and Li, a few lessons in manly action, like beheading a soldier with a huge knife, or how to create a blood waterfall by stabbing another soldier below the throat. The pity is that I was reminded of Antony Minghella’s The English Patient, where Ralph Fiennes makes a reference to that part of the body.

Stallone can be described as a director who gives everyone their own space but doesn’t allow them to encroach in his. Statham has his own action piece in the basketball court. Li and Lundgren fight it out in a warehouse. Couture and Austin, two professional wrestlers, fight it out while trapped in a ring of fire. If Stallone and Lundgren fought, it could have been a classy Rocky IV revival. However, Stallone fights less and shoots more. The typical gunslinger isn’t he. As John Rambo, he blew up a sporting goods store with an M60, as Barney Ross, he blows up bodies into red sausages. There is often place for humor and drama in action sagas, and in The Expendables, it is Mickey Rourke who helms the hat for projecting uncanny humor and tearless drama. Why oh why was a dramatic sequence included in this kill, kill, kill film? Rourke recounts his Bosnian War experience, holding tears in his eyes, and playing it easy for Stallone to get back on track. Rourke also provides humor in that humor-intended scene where he talks about tattooing a Charlotte’s Web on Statham’s head.

Gisele Itié tries to impress us with her native looks, but, lacks the charm. I’d consider that as a bad casting call. Charisma Carpenter, at the same time, underplays in her two-scene appearance as Statham’s unsteady girlfriend. Stallone is a gifted writer who makes big impacts out of small issues. Rocky and First Blood were created in such a manner. In this film, the opening action piece takes Somali Pirates as the victims of bloodshed.

Between kinetic displays of knife-throwing, Statham excels by showing mischievous humor. He introduces himself and Barney as Buda and Pest. There are also many references made in the film, which reflect one’s character. In the scene where the three eternal action heroes of the 80s come together, Schwarzenegger hands over the mission to Stallone saying “He likes to spend time in the jungle.” Lundgren sarcastically calls Li “Happy Feet” due to his short stature. The funniest reference comes when Stallone mentions to Willis about Schwarzenegger’s attitude “He wants to be president.”

Fuelled with action, The Expendables is an old school action reverie. For me, it felt like going to a restaurant I frequented during my childhood, only to find that the it wasn’t the same again. However, Stallone serves a dessert in the form of a closing sequence where the action heroes ride off in their respective bikes and choppers as Thin Lizzy’s The Boys are Back in Town plays in the background. Well, let’s just hope for a better sequel.

Review: Surrogates

Bruce Willis in Surrogates
Bruce Willis in Surrogates

Virtual Reality Invades Silver Screen

Surrogates (PG-13)

Director: Jonathan Mostow

Cast: Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell and Rosamund Pike

Rating: **

I agree. I love virtual reality. Whether its Virtual Pets or simulations like flying a F22 or driving a car in New York City or a virtual character as in Grand Theft Auto game series, I’m totally hooked up to virtual reality. This film gave me a whole new depth of virtual reality. But, it doesn’t live up as a well made one.

The best scene in Jonathan Mostow’s graphic novel adaptation is the climax where FBI Agent Tom Greer (Willis) shuts down the surrogates, hence, resulting in an abrupt ending to the state of mind causing the surrogates on the road to collapse and die. Surrogates driving cars and trucks smash against each other and a huge traffic jam is caused in reminiscent to I Am Legend.

The story goes like… In 2017, mankind depends on surrogacy to do their jobs and chores. But, a mysterious killer is found within the world of surrogacy and the weapon he possesses may destroy the human race. FBI agents, Tom Greer and Jenny Peters unravel the mystery with much complacent attitudes. The rest is assumed to be the crux of the graphic novel which never made business as a bestseller.

In Neil Blomkamp’s District 9, we have an alien world and a human world. The alien world has a sign which says ‘No Humans Allowed’. In Mostow’s Surrogates, there’s a human world and then the surrogate world. The human world has a sign which says ‘No Robots Allowed’. Surrogates boasts as an intelligent sci-fi thriller but it fails to bring it onscreen.

The cast is led by a tired Bruce Willis, a half-enigmatic Radha Mitchell and a radiant Rosamund Pike. The film’s technical crew deserves to be applauded. Oliver Wood’s cinematography however is a carbon copy of the Bourne series. The shaky camerawork during the chase sequences certainly annoy the viewer. The Makeup and Hair department have also worked well to give Willis a younger look. Sadly, his surrogate dies soon and you see an old, bald and bearded Willis throughout the rest of the movie.

Surrogates may amuse you but it certainly will not give you the satisfaction you yearned for. It can be avoided for some other popcorn flick.