Posts Tagged ‘John McTiernan’

The Die Hard franchise, four action films that began with Die Hard way back in 1988. They are centered around the character of John McClane. The films have been imitated the world over, there’s also been several video games based on them as well as a comic book series.

In between producing and writing, I’ve put together my thoughts and comments on the Die Hard film series…

Die Hard (1988)

Director John McTiernan’s Die hard is the archetype hostage action flick, often imitated rarely surpassed. It’s the sleeper hit that made Bruce Willis a star and remains sinisterly great fun to this day.

It captures that Christmas feeling perfectly with a distinguished score from the late Michael Kamen and some fine cinematography by the then unknown Jan de Bont (Speed Director).

The supporting cast are all first rate and include William Atherton, the late Paul Gleason, Bonnie Bedelia and the excellent Reginald VelJohnson as the typical cop Sgt. Al Powell. Alan Rickman, probably in his finest performance, is the heist leader Hans Gruber. His un-stereotype bad guy has oddly become a stereotype after being copied in countless action films.

Packed with compulsory 80’s one liners, over the top action and a well written script, Die Hard remains a great piece of entertainment.

Die Hard 2 (1990)

Bruce Willis is back as everyday man and cop John McClane in Die hard 2, Yipee-ki-yay! Renny Harlin follows John McTiernan’s original with the same action packed spirit.

Willis is again on witty top form and the story quite meaty for an action, wisely based on Walter Wager’s novel “58 Minutes” giving it a back bone. A team of terrorists is holding the entire airport hostage, as they plan to liberate a drug lord. Its an adventure with a a nice little twist. And it good fun watching McClane tries to outwit the terrorists.

There are some great action scenes and admittedly it has some comedy, but what makes Die hard 2 interesting is the snowy night setting, Wilis’ desperation, it’s dark, it’s edgy, there’s a lot of atmosphere, more characters and its not a rehash heist film of the first. In addition, there are some parts where the lead fails, making it a less predictable ride.

Willis is again on top form as the character that made him a film star. Both William Atherton, sleazy paparazzi and Bonnie Bedelia, as McClane’s wife return for a second stint. William Sadler who is in profound physical shape is the prefect bad guy. He really brings weight to the role. John Amos deserves a mention and the rest of the supporting cast are clearly dedicated, the acting is of a high standard. There’s also cameo from Twinkie eater Reginald VelJohnson (it a shame they couldn’t have fit him in the other sequels). Robert Patrick shows up very briefly prior to ‘T2’ fame.

Once again Michael Kamen provides an excellent and fitting score, Director Harlin delivers as solid well constructed squeal regardless of some dated effects and far-fetched moments.

All in all it’s a strong follow-up and has been often imitated like it’s predecessor.

Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995)

I missed the Christmas feeling of the first two instalments in this summer set blockbuster and some of the characters of the first two films.However, on reviewing the first thing that hit me was the sad echoes of real life 9/11 and one wonders if the film would ever have been given the green light now.

That aside the film is very enjoyable as hungover John McClane and Samuel L. Jackson as Zeus, play witty duo, as they run around New York undertaking tasks set out by Simon played by heister Jeremy Irons.

Die hard fans will find the icing on the cake is the direct link to the first film and for everyone else there’s the banter between the leads and action scenes. The story is more complex than most action films and Irons bad guy has a little more depth than the usual villain.

John McTiernan proves once again he knows how to direct and pace a film while Bruce does McClane blindfolded.

Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

Underworld director Len Wiseman directs the fourth instalment of the Die Hard film series. With a story line that over focuses on today’s technology reliant world we live in, 4 is still an entertaining ride.

Almost everything is there, witty one-liners, great action scenes, however, like the third it lacks the connection to the first two films, even though it includes a picture of Holly Gennaro.

Marco Beltrami score is fine and despite Willis getting on in years he puts plenty of life into John McClane. Cliff Curtis is excellent as FBI Deputy Director, action starlet Maggie Q is magnificent and the supporting cast include Kevin Smith and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Justin Long however, appears out of place and possibly miscast.

Redeemably Timothy Olyphant’s bad guy Thomas Gabriel is perfect. He’s calm and less animated than some stereotypes. I feel that without Olyphant’s performance and Willis efforts the film would have been less fun. There’s some ‘free running’ action and the effects are great, but the jet scene was an unnecessary piece of superciliousness. In addition, it feels preachy, McClane’s son is nowhere to be seen and the end feels very rushed.

Yeap, it’s a mixed review, certainly watch for Olyphant’s performance, Wiseman’s slick direction and Wilis in his best role. Don’t expect too much and no doubt you’ll enjoy.

A New York cop John Mclane and his son Jack finds themselves caught in a dangerous Russian conspiracy.
 
Thankfully director John Moore delivers A Good Day to Die hard as an exceptionally fun ride, which goes from one breathtaking action set up to the next.
 
Although in wrong the place, at the wrong time element has been imitated countless times as one of the henchmen say, “It’s not 1986 anymore” and the franchise has had to move with the times. As a result the subtleties and focus on John’s character as in the first two Die Hards has been lost with Willis having a hand full of lines and comedy quips albeit why we fell in love with him and what brought Roderick Thorp character Joe Leland (renamed and reworked John Mclane) from novel “Nothing Lasts Forever” to life. The action packed sequels drifted away from Maclane with him prominently having Samuel Jackson and a hacker sidekick respectively arguably diluting the Die Hard ‘feel’.
 
Here writer Skip Woods doesn’t give Willis enough meaty dialogue, but its not just a case of the Hollywood star picking up his pay cheque, to Willis’ credit he gets plenty to do as he chews on a few great one liners with one or two genuine laugh out moments. Of course Woods gives the obligatory Die Hard twist but at least some effort had gone into adding another surprise.
 
Jack Reacher’s bad guy Jai Courtney is a good addition as Jack McClane and Mary Elizabeth Winstead returns in cameo as daughter Lucy. Only Holly is missing but this is about an absent father, which is only touched on but do you expect depth from a sequel to a surprise 80s action hit? Cole Hauser has a bit part and Sebastian Koch is exceptional with Yuliya Snigir making acceptable focal character. Notable is Radivoje Bukvic as Alik who is as memorable as Alexander Godunov’s Karl in the original.
 
Marco Beltrami is on form, with a few familiar music cues and A Good Day’ has plenty of atmosphere thanks to Jonathan Sela’s cinematography of Moscow, this coupled with fantastic stunts and Moore’s slick fast paced direction ensures a solid visual package.
 
It may not have the charm of the MTV generation original and clearly panders to high-octane, energy drink, disposable film goer – But that’s the beauty of this instalment and what the critics are overlooking A Good Day to Die hard infiltrates and becomes current, it’s probably no coincidence that old rockers Rolling Stones most recent track ‘Doom and Gloom’ closes the film showing Mclane maybe over the hill but he is just a relevant as ever.
20th Century Fox hit gold with 1987 The Predator…

I don’t usually use the word cool but in 1987 that’s what the Predator was; sleeker and more equipped than any other E.T that had been seen before. The movie and its sequel lead to an array of spin offs, good and bad novel’s, comic book’s, toys and video games. I’ve chosen to include the Alien vs. Predator films that combine, with no surprise, the Alien creatures from the Alien film series. Here are my comments on the Predator feature films…

Predator (1987)

A team of commandos find themselves hunted by an extra-terrestrial hunter… John McTiernan directs the perfect cast including the likes of Carl Weathers, Bill Duke and Jesse Ventura who are just right in this action orientated alien film. Arnold Schwarzenegger is armed with some great one liners but packs in a good performance with some subtler moments. Apart from The Thing like shot at the very beginning, it’s and original piece that deservedly started a franchise.

To be picky only some of the editing and effects let the film down. Those aside, the music by Alan Silvestri is fitting with it jungle beats building up apprehension and suspense throughout the film. This film could have easy fallen into B movie territory, but the great Cinematography, creature effects and costume design keep it grounded.

The film builds up in true monster fashion by holding back the Predator’s reveal. Not since Alien has there been such hand iconic creature which Kevin Peter Hall wonderfully brings to life. John McTiernan notches up the tension in the final showdown and writers Jim Thomas & John Thomas give us a brave bold ending.

One of the most enjoyable rounded sci-fi films ever.

Predator 2 (1990)

The Predator is the star of this troubled sequel with its array of weapons a spear, pincers, Frisbee blade and net.

With editing re-cuts, budget issues and no Arnold Schwarzenegger its not all bad. The lead rogue cop played by Danny Glover and alien expert Gary Busey are fine. While the story is entertaining and there are some nice idea’s scenes and set pieces, setting it in the then future of 1997 was unnecessary and its credibility suffers. The film is let down further by the almost comical overacting sub-characters and it losses the semi-realism of the first.

It’s packed with Predator action graphic decapitations, shootings and mutilated bodies. The practical effects, accessories and costumes from Stan Winston look great, and Kevin Peter Hall as the Predator is once again out of this world. The music score is excellent and carries the same themes from the first, as to are the sound effects.

For fans an Alien skull show up on the wall of the Predator’s trophy room (to entice an AVP) and a tremendous thought provoking ending. Stephen Hopkins gives an enjoyable sci-fi but the film just let down by it’s Verhoevenesque future, hammy acting and over-the-top stereotypes.

There’s very little that is subtle in the 108 minutes, still its Predator and you can’t help but like it.

AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004)

It shouldn’t have been mixed, Paul W.S. Anderson’s AVP: Alien vs. Predator was more so unjustly panned by critics and fans due to the hype and anticipation. It has the feeling of an Alien film, a great premise, stunning cinematography, some amazing effects and a fine score.

Paul W.S. Anderson is successful in bringing the franchises together, respecting ideas from both Alien and Predator movies. I haven’t seen a bad film that he’s made and I’m not sure why there is such a geek gang hatred against the mans work. The ever-improving Uwe Boll he is not!

The strong leads include Sanaa Lathan as the heroine and Raoul Bova,, however unfortunately actors Carsten Norgaard as Rusten Quinn and Tommy Flanagan as Mark Verheiden are killed off far too early. Overall the acting is good, Lance Henrikson show up as the ‘real’ Bishop but some of the characters lack development and the editing feels choppy in places.

The Predators and Aliens look great apart from some badly executed CGI. It not Ridley Scott or John McTiernan, but Paul Anderson pulls off the almost impossible task of putting these to aliens together on screen.

If there was not an Alien or Predator film prior to this it may have been haled as a science fiction adventure classic, but alas that’s not the case.

AVPR: Aliens vs Predator – Requiem (2007)

 Every day folk in a sleepy town get caught up in a fight for survival when a crashed spaceship releases Aliens on earth and a Predator is dispatch to clean up the mess.

It was always clear that the franchises should never have been mixed. Nevertheless, they’re here to stay and I have to say, even with their faults, their not too bad. Overall, AVRP appears have less CGI and more practical effects which is a good thing. There are plenty of nods to both Alien and the Predator movies, and the focus is more on the Predator in this instalment.

Shane Salerno’s story is fine but the script isn’t meaty and the characters are not gritty enough, the acting isn’t bad but it’s the clunky teen driven segments of script that bogs the cast and viewer down. Steven Pasquale is a strong enough lead, John Ortiz is not given much to do and limited screen time. Ariel Gade is a good enough actress but too reminiscent of Ripley’s character. The rest are a miss-mash bag of collective stereotypes.That said, there are enough set pieces and surprises to keep you entertained until the rushed ending.

At times the music distracting as it uses memorable themes from both series. Also there far too much shaky and dark camera work and you feel as if you’re not getting to see enough. Credit to directors Colin Strause and Greg Strause both Predator and Alien look fantastic and it’s nice to see that the film is more adult orientated.

Overall, the movie fails to satisfy.

 

Predators (2010)

Predators has been a long-time in coming, and any quality Predator film is a welcomed addition in my book. The story is that of a group of elite humans are hunted by members of a merciless alien race.

Things looked extremely positive with Robert Rodriguez as one of the producers with the excellent and talented director of Vacancy Nimród Antal at the helm. However, Predators really feels like a remake of the first film. Which isn’t a bad thing, however, there are just too many unnecessary on liners from the franchise which at times is distracting. The kills are too fast and there are other problems… Predators seems rushed, appears choppy and there’s just no characters you want to care for, they don’t have to be likable but you still want someone you root for.

There’s too much effort to put in new things like the bigger species Predators to excite the audience. The screen-play the actors have to work with is bland and lacks depth. That said the costume, set design , locations and effects are mouthwatering, it’s an atmospheric sci-fi complimented by John Debney’s reworking of the original score and fantastic sound effects.

The actors are first-class, notably new comer Alice Braga performance as Isabella. Broday carries the weight of the film and cult actor Danny Trejo puts in an appearance. ‘Arnie’ like Oleg Taktarov and Mahershalalhashbaz Ali stand-out. Sadly, Laurence Fishburne is wasted and Topher Grace is just out of place as a doctor who doesn’t tend to anyone. Nevertheless, the story is great and it nice to see the old style Predator in there played by Derek Mears of the Friday the 13th remake.

All in all it’s a good film but just isn’t great, let’s hope a sequel corrects this.

That’s all folks…