A Good Day to Die Hard Review (Robert Harding)

A Good Day to Die Hard Poster

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

Starring Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Directed by John Moore

A Good Day to Die Hard marks the 5th installment, yes I said 5th, in the Die Hard franchise. Bruce Willis reprises his role as John McClane with Mary Elizabeth Winstead coming back in a small role as his daughter Lucy. Then there’s new cast member Jai Courtney who is playing the role of Jack McClane ie. John McClane’s son.

Having reconciled his relationship with his daughter in Die Hard 4, John McClane has apparently been searching for his son.  He manages to find him in Russia and quickly boards a flight from New York. He eventually finds out that Jack is an undercover CIA operative working to prevent a nuclear-weapons heist. Of course now the two McClanes must team-up against underworld forces.

A Good Day to Die Hard 1

Much like Live Free or Die Hard, this film deals with reconciliation between John McClane and one of his children. While his relationship with his daughter was saved because she simply “needed her daddy”, this film tends to do a better job of portraying the father and son relationship and its bond. Sure it’s cliche and predictable but at least it makes sense and you can see the progression throughout the film.

Unfortunately, fans of the Die Hard franchise looking for classic John McClane might be a little disappointed. In previous films it has always been John McClane, guy in the wrong place and the wrong time, against a mad man (and his team). There is a back and forth almost comedic relationship between our hero and his new found enemy. This is severely missing from this new film. Not only is John not the only good guy but there are several bad guys.  Missing is the typical cat and mouse game with witty banter only to be replaced by a certain foreign hybrid. And the classic lines you come to expect from a Die Hard film seem forced and out of place.

Those out there who are just looking for a good action film should be warned. Die Hard has many many flaws that don’t take a vast knowledge of film to notice. The most obvious would be the absolutely terrible dialogue.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this film generated some fun drinking games. How many times does McClane say he’s on vacation again? Less obvious is some really bad editing.  This is the kind of editing that has people saying stuff but you never find out to whom or why. Seems the film is more concerned with creating hectic jump cuts and less with letting the viewer know what’s going on.

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A Good Day to Die Hard does have some good big budget action sequences.  There is a fantastic car chase sequence and plenty of gun play but unless that’s all you care about, the film will seem quite hollow in comparison to the rest of the franchise. In fact, with all the poor pieces of filmmaking, the film might not only feel hollow but might leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.  I’m not saying you should avoid the film but I do think you should know what your getting into before you decide to shill out your hard earned money.

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The Expendables 2 Review (Kirk Haviland)

The Expendables 2 (2012)

Starring – Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Liam Hemsworth, Nan Yu, and Scott Adkins with Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Written by Richard Wenk, Sylvester Stallone, Ken Kaufman and David Agosto based on characters created by Dave Callaham and Sylvester Stallone.

Directed by Simon West

Sylvester Stallone returns with his group of fellow action film heroes known as The Expendables for another bombastic cinematic outing in Expendables 2. This time out Sly passes over the directing reigns to Simon West and brings along Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Scott Adkins, Liam Hemsworth and Nan Yu for the ride, with extended contributions from Willis and Schwarzenegger. So is the second time a charm for this action franchise?

We catch up with our gang as they invade a Middle Eastern country stronghold in search of a Chinese diplomat/businessman who has been kidnapped. Barney Ross (Stallone) along with his compatriots Lee Christmas (Statham), Yin Yang (Li), Gunner Jensen (Lundgren), Hale Caesar (Crews) and Toll Road (Couture)  barge into the compound with guns a blazing and destroy everything in sight. After an unexpected run in with competitor Trench (Schwarzenegger), the crew grabs their target and escapes with the help of the newest member, sniper Billy the Kid (Hemsworth). Once airborne over mainland China they parachute out the target with Yang attached (Li was only available for a limited amount of shooting days) and head back home. But there is no rest for Barney and crew as they are sent back out by Church (Willis), as a means for repaying the lost revenue from the antics of the first film, to retrieve a special package from a crashed plane. Saddled with an expert for the retrieval named Maggie (Yu), the group heads out, but as with all missions from Church, nothing is as it seems. Ambushed by Jean Vilain (Van-Damme) and his crew, including the equally menacing Hector (Adkins), the crew loses one of their own in the process and vows to avenge their fallen comrade. Along the way hundreds die, we meet the “Lone Wolf” Booker (Norris), and even Trench and Church themselves get involved in the fray as they all vow to take down Vilain.

The Expendables 2 is a lot more fun than its predecessor, utilizing an over the top, tongue in cheek attitude that was lacking from most of the first film. Expendables 2 knows it’s going to be silly and violent with deaths galore and rehashes of all of your favourite 80/90’s catchphrases. The script contains some utterly ludicrous dialogue, but that’s not what you are seeing this for, is it? Stallone and crew deliver exactly what you’d expect them to, with a little more character development, but not enough to slow down the explosions. Schwarzenegger is around for pretty much an extended cameo this time around, spouting competing catchphrases with Willis gleefully and blowing away bad guys with a gun liberated from Crews’ Caesar.  New additions Hemsworth and Yu have little to do here as the main good guy crew is already established from the first film and they never manage to fully integrate into the line-up. Jean-Claude is deliciously evil as the antagonist of the film, he’s a real joy to watch on screen, and Adkins is very menacing, while his final fight with Statham is fantastic. But now we come to the real reason to watch this film – Chuck Norris.

With all his scenes probably clocking in at a total of 15 minutes, Norris’ Booker is a complete bad-ass and his presence is mesmerizing. It’s fantastic to see the man who once fought Bruce Lee back onscreen again and his character immediately harkens back to some of his more bad-ass characters from the 80’s, like the “implicated” Lone Wolf McQuaid. Director Simon West keeps the action turning and delivers a crisp film that keeps up the pace throughout. A step up behind the director’s chair from Stallone in the first, perhaps due to the acting/directing split duties, West really delivers here and we can only hope for his return in the inevitable part 3.

Knowing what it is from the beginning until the very end, The Expendables manages to remain loud and bombastic throughout and thoroughly entertaining in the process. The Expendables 2 is a definite recommend for those who love a good action flick.

The Expendables 2 open in theaters nationwide Friday August 17th.

Till Next Time

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Moonrise Kingdom Review (Nadia Sandhu)

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Starring Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Edward Norton, and Bruce Willis

Directed by Wes Anderson

I worry for Wes Anderson, I really do.  With the spectacular decline in originality that has befallen Tim Burton, that other uber-stylized auteur of our times, one can’t help but wonder when Wes Anderson’s day will come.

Those thoughts are quickly put aside as Moonrise Kingdom sweeps viewers along on a surprisingly fast-paced journey through impending adolescence in 1965 New England.  What is at first glance a simple tale of young lovers against the world seamlessly interweaves at least five other related subplots with surprisingly well realized character arcs.

The film opens on Suzy.  Suzy lives in a doll house and her family dynamics and interactions are filmed exactly that way – by removing the outer wall.  Despite her family strife, Robert Yeoman’s 16mm cinematography imbues the story with a warm fuzziness – just like our own memories of youth.  Suzy’s knight in khaki armor, Sam, has concocted an elaborate scheme to whisk her away from her unhappy home, and as it turns out, his own tragic tale of woe.

Moonrise Kingdom continues to dominate the “specialty box office”‘ and rightly so. The performances from our young leads, Jared Gilman (Sam) and Kara Hayward (Suzy), are superb, and Edward Norton’s charming dufus scout leader steals every scene he’s in.

This is an uncomplicated film and while our young lovers Suzy and Sam sound cynical, there is an optimism in their faith that true love will conquer all- even if the lovers are just 12 years old.  And that’s the thing, whether it is loneliness, abandonment, neglect or betrayal, true love really does conquer all in this film.

I dare you not to think back on your first innocent forays into love.

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