Archive for Die hard

My Favorite Holiday Films (Updated)

Posted in list with tags , , , , , , , on 11/12/2014 by Kevin Entrekin

A few years back I wrote an article listing my five favorite Christmas films, and in review it was a combination of bad writing and lame choises. I included Home Alone and It’s A Wonderful Life in that list. And if I’m honest, as enjoyable as those films are, I will survive each year without viewing either of them. Because I don’t really enjoy most films with a heavy focus on the holidays, more the ones that just happen to take place during the season. So here is my updated, true, five six or seven favorite X-Mas films. And maybe they’ll be aides in your survival of the holidays as well.

  •  Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

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If I could choose only one film to consider essential personal viewing during the holidays, I’d choose Shane Black’s genre-blending Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. What more could you want? Murder. Mystery. An inept Robert Downey Jr. Val Kilmer as a gay private eye. And femmes Michelle Monaghan and Shannyn Sossamon round out an even more expansively talented cast in a modern, comical noir. Black’s name has more provenance since last year with his sophomore directing effort, a little indie flick called Iron Man 3. And he wrote another film on this list, but more on that later. But this film, clever and underratedly brilliant, is still one of my favorite films.

  • Die Hard (1988)

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I have only ever seen two Die Hard films. The original McClane classic and then the terrible A Good Day to Die Hard. And I’m fine with that. The original has a plethora of fun and mayhem to satisfy each repeat viewing. You get a primed and smart-ass Bruce Willis facing off against wicked Alan Rickman set in Nakatomi Towers. There is an unmistakable 80’s aesthetic without straying too far into a cliche or becoming formulaic. Think of it like this: A crappy Christmas party you were invited to, but exciting and fun. Well, that’s the plot. You get the comparison though, right?

  • Trading Places (1983)

jlc4Time to buffer that action with some comedy, and what better way to do that than with this classic John Landis 80’s Pauper-adaptation. It has many great actors at the height of their careers. Eddie Murphy is hilarious yet sincere as a poor black man given a job as a stock trader. Dan Aykroyd is equally entertaining as snooty stock trader turned poor white man. And Jamie Lee Curtis, whom (no secret) I very much adore, is charming as a smart prostitute with a heart of gold. Trading Places has that special Landis charm and whit that combined with this cast makes for an heart-warming comedic romp.

  • Lethal Weapon (1987)

lethal-weapon-2I love the Lethal Weapon films. They’re a guilty pleasure that I don’t really feel guilty about. It’s odd to me, that modern action films shy away from such a brilliant formula as these films. Yeah, you get to switch off and just watch, but not like now where people have to wipe away dribble from their lips at the end of a Michael Bay film. Did LW get a little ridiculous? Better believe it. I mean, a guy gets killed by a flying surfboard in the sequel. But there was some intelligence to these films, something to keep you lucid and connected. Before Gibson went nutty and Glover was actually too old for anything, they were one of the best buddy cop duos around. Well, they still are. And that Shane Black guy mentioned earlier? Yeah, he wrote it.

  •  National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

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A December nary passes the Entrekin household before watching Clark Griswald’s decent into middle-class holiday hell. To this day, this comedic observation of those quirky people we call family is still relevant. Considering that this film comes from the Lampoon’s, a studio that pumps out about fifteen films a year and the last one that was of any relevance was… Christmas Vacation, that’s quite impressive.  Most everyone has a Eddie in the family, albeit a good bit more racist. Most everyone has heavily medicated grandparents that just stare at the tele and have the age-old conversation of how “the good ole days are gone”. And most everyone has strung out parents just trying to hold everything barely together.

  • Batman Returns (1992)

batmanbatman1I mean… Keaton as Bats. Pfieffer as (the quintessential) Catwoman. DeVito as Penguin. Gloomy neo-gothic Gotham. Can’t go wrong. I’d even go ahead and throw in the original Batman film as a warm up to Returns as well. It also has a winter drabness and why not have a mini-marathon of the Tim Burton masterpieces? It’s also a nice reminder of simpler times, pre-Marvel and Zach Snyder CGI projectile spewing.

Yeah, the holidays can be hell sometimes. The haze of Christmas lights and seasonal scents and corporate greed sends some into a sedated existence. And then there are the Christmas social media defenders. You know, the ones who get really worked up and hateful when underprivileged people point out inequality in America. The type you mostly wonder why you added them to your Facebook in the first place.  The ones who like to share a “IT’S MERRY CHRISTMAS, NOT HAPPY HOLIDAYS” photo everyday. Screw those grinches. Anyways, this time of year can get pretty heavy for a lot of people. So spike that egg nog just a bit more, kick back with these films, and drift away from Grandpa Ulysses’ snoring.

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I Saw A Film Today… A Good Day to Die Hard

Posted in Film Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 28/02/2013 by Kevin Entrekin

27x41Die Hard is, undoubtedly, one of the best action films of all time. It has a relentless and exciting pace, a relatable common man hero with a smart mouth, and of course, explosions. Is it a little cheesy? Mildly. Has it aged well? Not entirely. But will I watch it every time it comes on tele? You bet! As for the sequels that followed the original, I haven’t really taken the time to watch any of them outside of the second long ago.

John McClane (Bruce Willis) is back once again with his own brand of destruction, but this time he makes it a family affair. His son, Johnny junior (Jai Courtney) lands in some hot water when he assassinates some stereotypical rich guy in a club. But things are not as they seems as Jr. is actually a government agent trying to sneak a high-profile target out of the motherland.

When the extraction goes wrong though, both Johns are left with the task of escaping with the most wanted man in Russia. Now the two McClanes must improvise an escape if they want to see a day outside East Europe.

One of this years trends seems to be action stars past their prime disregarding their age and trying to go back to the glory days. Schwarzenegger had… what was his called again? The Last Stand, that’s right. And Stallone had… wait, what was his called again? A quick IMDB search says Bullet to the Head. Completely forgot. And now, Bruce Willis has joined this club.

Which is fine to be honest. Willis is one of the few of this bunch of walking wrinkles that has gotten better with age in some aspects. He’s still in shape. Not steroids in shape like the other two. Which brings us to what his distinction is: Willis has an average Joe demeanor. Nothing particularly special about him until the action starts.

But as for A Good Day to Die Hard, this is a poor entry into the Die Hard franchise. It is a dull film with occasional bits of gun fire and death-defying stunts that would kill not only the average person but frankly any person. The plot itself is outdated and rather predictable. Although I didn’t see a visit to Chernobyl in the cards here, but none-the-less it happens. Then again, looking back, maybe I should have.

There are other distracting plot holes as well. Now, I don’t extensively know policing procedures in and around Russia. This much is true. But I’m guessing if a military grade helicopter was blasting round after round into a very high-end hotel, I would guess one or two rozzers would respond to the scene. But alas, they don’t. Really, I only remember one instance of a copper showing up. He’s killed regardless.

But the most disappointing and annoying thing about A Good Day to Die Hard was the cinematography. I don’t normally point out this area of a film. But cinematographer Jonathan Sela is so terrible, it bears mentioning. What Sela attempted to recreate here is the over used Bourne-style of gritty, shaky camera work. But Sela takes it to a level that is only distracting and contributes to the film in no way. But I don’t really expect much out of the man who the director of photography for such classics as Soul Plane and Max Payne.

As stated earlier, one the very few positive aspects of this film was Bruce Willis. He still has the McClane touch, just a little older and slower. Jai Courtney is a meat head who is really good at yelling stuff so by today’s standards, he’s pretty okayish. As for the rest of the cast… well honestly I don’t remember what they look like or their names. No memorable impressions. Except for the talented Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who plays daughter McClane for a whole two minutes. Great utilization.

Clocking in at just roughly 98 minutes, A Good Day to Die Hard is short, boring, and just a waste of money.

Verdict: Skip it!

* Rated R for Violence and Language. 98 minutes. Directed by John Moore.

** Poster by Daniel Norris