12:15pm: Die Hard
A woman in back screams out, “Why isn’t there a projectionist up there? How long is this going to take?” I turn around and the woman is the wife/mother of the father & son in line for concessions. IT’S MAMA CONCESSION and you don’t wanna piss off Mama Concession! She continues to yell at this powerless old man. He answers, “We don’t have projectionists, these all run on their own.” Mama Concession yells out “When it’s a $25 event, you should have people up there.” I sink in my seat. I understand her frustration, but people like Mama Concession only make everything worse.
The movie starts 10 minutes late at 12:25pm, and everything is going smoothly...BUT THEN near the end of the movie all hell breaks loose. Right after Alexander Godunov is wrapped in chains by Bruce Willis and Willis is shooting his gun in the air to get the hostages off the roof, the lights in the theater go up and the pre-show countdown music starts. We watch Die Hard with audio about powering down our cell phones and buying Cinemark gift cards for a couple of minutes before the movie’s sound kicked back in. Just like f-in' Saigon, hey, Slick?
To Be Appreciated: Die Hard is a great movie, so instead of stating the obvious I want to point out one thing in particular I love about it that is never seriously talked about.
Die Hard is one of the best depictions of a budding male friendship ever put on screen. It gets a little weird at times (“That’s a date…bring the ice cream”), but isn’t it nice to see a camaraderie and respect develop between two complete strangers who are grown men? They rib each other, but it’s not macho bullshit like we see in so many other action movies. These two dudes genuinely care about each other, and John McLane would not necessarily have become a screen icon if not for Al’s character in the first movie. Al brings out elements of John’s personality that inform the character we, as movie audiences, root for in later installments, such as his vulnerability and weariness. The two of them are the heart and soul of an otherwise excellent action movie.
7 Word Review: Die Hard is perfect. Better every time.
2:40pm: Die Hard 2
The break in between the two movies was also when the theater put out the free A Good Day to Die Hard posters for marathon attendees. I did not get there in time to get one, which is fine, but it was pretty annoying seeing people coming in with 4 or 5 posters for themselves. Savages.
The movie started on time and there were no problems UNTIL, near the end of the movie (when Holly McClane’s plane is landing), the lights in the theater go up and the pre-show audio kicks in again. This time we got to see Holly’s flight land to the rhythms of Latin Pop music!
Better Than I Remember: I have always liked Die Hard 2, but never shared the love I have of the original with the sequel. It’s odd, because Die Hard 2 is very similar to Die Hard. It’s pretty close to what The Hangover II did unsuccessfully with its overrated original.
But in Die Hard 2, there are a lot of quirky and interesting things happening that I never paid much attention to. It’s almost an F This Movie Fest 2 reunion with Bruce Willis, Robert Patrick and William Sadler all showing up. The movie has some kind of weird B-plot about good journalists (the woman who looks like a bird) vs. bad journalists (William Atherton, who is only in this movie to give Bonnie Bedelia something to do). There are a lot of fun character actor performances in this movie from the likes of Dennis Franz, Art Evans, Django and John Amos. There are TONS of people with mustaches in this movie (in part 3 it’s the same thing, but with glasses). There’s a fascinating little detour with a horny Budget Rental Car worker (the scene ends with the great-bad pun “Just the fax m’am. Just the fax.” as Willis shows her his wedding ring). Lastly, it has an icicle-to-the-eye death. At this scene, I thought "What is it with the early '90s and ice deaths…didn’t they have one in Cliffhanger?" I then remembered both movies were directed by Renny Harlin. Now I am thinking about him on the set of Cutthroat Island yelling into a bullhorn ”Ice death! Find a way!” If there are any other Renny Harlin ice deaths I’m forgetting, please leave a comment.
My only gripe with the movie - which is better than I remember - is the plane crash that happens about halfway through. Times have changed a lot since 1990, and I have trouble watching a sequence like this today (especially since they show the passengers before the crash). They play it seriously, but it goes on way too long and is unnecessarily cruel. The filmmakers could have made the same point with something less nauseating.
7 Word Review: It’s like a Die Hard goodie bag.
4:55pm: Die Hard with a Vengeance
The Goonies Derivation: I used to LOVE Die Hard with a Vengeance. It was released in 1995, when I was just about 13 years old. At the time, it was my favorite Die Hard movie. I had a lot of nostalgia for the movie, because I saw it the night I had my Bar-Mitzvah (it was a celebration movie after my big shindig). I also used to love this movie because I convinced my high school German teacher that it had significance as German cinema and he played it in our class -- for 20 minutes, until he figured out I lied to him. Why did I think of doing this? Because he had a German poster for this movie hanging in our class room. It was called Stirb Langsam Jetzt Erst Recht. In English, this translates to Die Slowly: Right Now OK!
This was my first viewing of the movie since probably the late '90s. Boy, was I wrong about it being great. This movie is really unpleasant. It is almost wall-to-wall arguing. Instead of the weird journalism beats in the second movie, we get weird racism elements which add nothing. We know McClane is not a racist from the first two movies, and Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson) is a racist, but that part of the character never pays off. It’s just there because the filmmakers think it’s funny. That would also explain the weird shot of people in an office building eating popcorn while they look at the aftermath of a terrorist bombing. It’s even worse than the plane crash in Die Hard 2, because now it’s played as a joke.
Also, why make McClane a drunk? And why is he now divorced? Did Holly not appreciate being saved twice from terrorists by her husband? Is he just really bad in bed?
About halfway through Die Hard with a Vengeance is where I hit my wall with the marathon. It was all downhill from there.
The middle of Die Hard with a Vengeance features the stretch where the series jumps the shark. What I mean is, John McClane is no longer a regular guy. He’s an action figure that you can throw around without any injury. The jump-the-shark moment happens when McClane survives the flooding of the underground dam. After that, there’s the cable drop down to the ship. In Live Free or Die Hard, there are those flipping taxis that almost hit McClane -- not to mention that whole bullshit with him surfing a jet. The entire movie of A Good Day to Die Hard is implausible in terms of realistic action.
Die Hard with a Vengeance is by no means terrible. Jeremy Irons is good and the movie has a real sense of setting, but it is certainly where the series begins to take a tumble.
BTW..the water jug riddle in Die Hard with a Vengeance is a total cheat. They cut away! How did they get the two gallons of water in the three-gallon jug? They just said they have to be precise. What the hell?
Seriously, if you get the water jug thing, leave a comment.
What A Difference 5 Years Makes: Depressed after my experience with Die Hard with a Vengeance, I was really not in the mood to watch any more Die Hard movies, but I soldiered on. I liked Live Free or Die Hard in 2007. I thought it was the best they could possibly do restarting the franchise. Watching it now, I don’t know what I was thinking.
In all fairness, the movie is so-so and my gripes are kind of silly. I just could not get past all the obnoxious tech-speak in this movie. For example, “Link into the old sac-comms!” “The warlock is a digital jedi.” “Give me the go codes!” “Prep the video package!” “Power down my gear.”
The movie also is shot in an obnoxious blue tint most of the time.
There are some nice moments. I like the speech about being a hero in which McClane says one thing that happens when you’re a hero is that you eat meals by yourself -- not something you usually hear in an action series. The performances are mostly good. The action is shot well.
Lastly, why does McClane’s daughter hate him? He saved her mother from terrorists! TWICE! He should have a lifetime pass from his kids for that.
7 Word Review: Honest to blog, movie -- please stop talking.
10:00pm: A Good Day to Die Hard
I’m 50% Russian and I 100% Hated this Movie: I don’t have the energy to write a review other than this top ten list. It’s terrible. Don’t see it.
Top Ten Reasons A Good Day to Die Hard Blows
10. John McClane is now an ugly American in Russia.
9. John chats with his daughter on the phone during a high-speed chase.
8. Bruce Willis is now playing second fiddle to Jai Courtney…in HIS OWN SERIES!
7. Slo-mo action sequences with lots of CGI. I caught myself saying ‘No’ aloud at one point.
6. They go to Chernobyl.
5. Terrible villains. One eats carrots and dances? WTF?
4. Why does his son hate him? Is saving his mother TWICE and his sister once from F-ING TERRORISTS not enough? I feel like we’re missing a scene of John McClane stomping on his kids’ toys or hitting on his daughter’s friends.
3. The photography of the movie is either that awful blue tint again or overexposed like we’re looking at the glowing suitcase in Pulp Fiction.
2. The action is terribly composed -- shaky cam, random zooms, Tom Hooper close-ups. For the first time in the series, the action is incompetently shot.
1. It is basically a 90-minute f-you to all fans of the series with no understanding of what made the earlier entries work in the first place.
11:51pm: Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker! It’s over! I’m so tired. Thank you for being over. Oh geez, I have to drive home now? And I have how long until I have to wake up for work? 6 hours? I feel like crap. Look at all this garbage food I ate. Was attending the Die Hard Marathon a mistake?
Watching five Die Hard movies in a row was more exhausting than any Music Box Massacre I have ever attended, and those last 24 hours. This was only 11 1/2. Then again, as Patrick Bromley once said (I’m paraphrasing), "At F This Movie!, it’s not worth doing unless you’re exhausted by the end of it.”
If you yourself are exhausted and a little disgusted after reading this column, then I have succeeded in making you feel like you were there.
Maybe it would have been a better day to Safe Haven.