Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995)

Let's forget Die Hard 2 ever happened.

Directed by: John McTiernan (who handled the first Die Hard and The Thomas Crown Affair)

Written by: Jonathan Hensleigh

Starring: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Irons, Larry Bryggman, Graham Greene, Sam Phillips, Colleen Camp and Anthony Peck.

What it’s about: Five years after the second Die Hard, John McClane is back and at the mercy of a terrorist threatening New York City with bombings

B-Movie Alternate Title: Die Hard in New York

Movie Mash Up: It’s like Die Hard, but in New York!

What I liked: Huge fan of the Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson chemistry.  Loved the writing, which is so much greater than the second one that it makes the existence of the second one even more annoying.  Jeremy Irons makes a great foil for McClane.  It’s got great action sequences, intrigue, a playful sensibility and it isn’t afraid to be a bit different than the Die Hard formula, although there STILL is a black sidekick.  Seeing how McClane’s personal life had fallen apart so much since the second movie – while depressing – gives the film more of an authentic feel.

What I disliked: Larry Bryggman seems to be attempting to do the world’s worst Commissioner Jim Gordon impersonation.  Perhaps that’s just the direction he was given, but his character was just weak all around.  While I did say the movie isn’t afraid to be a bit different, the times it decides that it has to show that it is a Die Hard movie are some of the weaker points in the film.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Sure.  For years I was more a fan of this movie than I was a fan of the original Die Hard, but I’ve gone the other way now.  It’s a strong sequel, not just a slapped together moneymaker.

Rating: 4 / 5

Badass in black and white

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Die Hard (1988)

Guess what the next three movies I watch are going to be

Directed by: John McTiernan (really dug The Thomas Crown Affair and Die Hard: With a Vengeance)

Written by: Steven E. de Souza and Jeb Stuart adapted from Roderick Thorp’s novel “Nothing Lasts Forever” which is as Bond as a title can get

Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Reginald VelJohnson, Alexander Godunov, Bonnie Bedelia, Paul Gleason, Robert Davi, William Atherton, Hart Bochner and Mary Ellen Trainor.

What it’s about: a group of criminals stage a hostage taking of a high-rise Los Angeles building on Christmas Eve while an off-duty cop trapped in the building attempts to stop them

B-Movie Alternate Title: Christmas Eve Hostage

Movie Mash Up: Actually, Die Hard has pretty much inspired countless movie mash ups (Die Hard on a bus! Die Hard on a boat! etc.)

What I liked: For some people, it is just a loud, dumb action movie. For me, there are so many little things that make this movie great.  One throwaway line by a quickly forgotten character leads to John McClane’s (Willis) greatest pain in the movie.  The timing of the season is integral to the climax.  Those little things, so great.  The acting is far greater than you would normally expect in an action movie, from Willis’ everyman cop to Rickman’s unforgettable Hans Gruber to Hart Bochner’s Ellis defining the character of a douchebag, Die Hard gives you so much.

What I disliked: Nothing goes here.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Well not younger children, but after you hit about 13-years-old, certainly.  I’m sure kids of that age aren’t strangers to the language used, and while the violence is somewhat extreme, it’s nothing they haven’t already seen in their “Call of Duty” games.

Rating: 5 / 5

The Air Duct Shimmy

The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)

Who would have ever thought that the director of Predator would be able to pull off a classy remake of a Steve McQueen movie?  Not just a remake, but a remake where things are changed for modern audiences and it makes sense and actually benefits the finished product.  John McTiernan directed this movie based off of the original 1968 McQueen version, and changed the entire execution of the theft sequence to make it more palpable to people in these much more troubled times.  He’s also managed to make an elegant heist movie, a less dirty, Mamet-lite type film with a charismatic and attractive lead actor where throughout the entire movie you don’t really view him as the antagonist at all.  It’s not a monumental achievement or anything, but it’s noteworthy.

Pierce Brosnan stars as the titular character, a wealthy man who – to combat boredom, presumably – decides to start stealing art.  Not just art, but a Monet worth around $100-million.  Doing so attracts the attention of well, obviously the police, but an intelligent and ridiculously attractive insurance investigator, Catherine Banning (Rene Russo).  Banning knows he took the painting, Crown knows she knows, and the rest of the film is a dance, a tango where they give and take from one another in a battle of intellect and heart.

Yeah, I wax a bit romantic on the film making choices that McTiernan makes, but it works so well.  It doesn’t hurt that Brosnan is clearly a handsome man that exudes class, and that audiences would have a hard time ever rooting against the man.  Russo is at her slinky, sexy best in this film, one that gives us a glimpse, well LONG lingering stares more like, of just how attractive she truly is.  It’s a wonderful movie, no one gets hurt, and we all have a good time.

4 / 5