Die Hard (1988)


Now I Have a Machine Gun.  Ho Ho Ho.

Die Hard (2012)I found myself at a loss on Christmas last year.  I felt like I should review a Christmas movie, but I wasn’t really able to think of any Christmas movie that I liked in any real way.  So, in lieu of a Christmas movie, last year I reviewed the Harry Potter series.  Small parts of those movies take place on Christmas.  This year I really thought about it.  What is my favorite Christmas movie?  I considered the Grinch, I considered Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, and I of course considered Jingle All the Way, but none of those really stood out.  And then I thought of it.  A movie that takes place on Christmas and always fills my heart with cheer.  There could be no greater Christmas movie than Die Hard, based on a novel by Roderick Thorp, written by Steven E. de Souza and Jeb Stuart, directed by John McTiernan, and starring Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson, Paul Gleason, William Atherton, Hart Bochner, Alexander Godunov, De’voreaux White, Robert Davi, Grand L. Bush, and James Shigeta.

On Christmas Eve, NYPD detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) arrives in Los Angeles with hopes of reconciliation with his wife, Holly Gennaro (Bonnie Bedelia).  McClane is greeted by a limo driven by Argyle (De’voreaux White) and is taken to Nakatomi Plaza, where Holly is attending an office Christmas party.  While McClane changes in Holly’s office, the festivities are interrupted by the arrival of Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and his heavily armed group of goons, with intentions to steal $640 million dollars in bearer bonds from the vault.  Turns out that there’s only one person in the world oozing with enough badassitude to stop these guys, and he’s shoeless in the building’s duct system.  Yippee Kay-Yay, mother fucker.

This movie has well earned its classic status.  This is a fantastic Christmas movie.  And a fantastic action movie as well.  I guess most people would probably be more comfortable calling it an action movie, but it takes place in Christmas times, there’s some Christmas music in it, and McClane writes “Ho Ho Ho” on a corpse in the movie.  I think I rest my case.  And I don’t think it’s even worth bothering to argue this movie as an action movie.  I think I actually appreciate this type of action movie more than most others in some ways just because of the main character.  As much as I like a good, over-the-top, superhero action movie, there’s something special to a movie about a regular, everyman kind of character overcoming insurmountable odds with nothing more than some ingenuity and some massive balls.  John McClane is just what a man should strive to be.  He’ll fight terrorists and walk over glass barefoot just to do what’s right, even if it isn’t technically his problem because he’s way out of his jurisdiction.  And he keeps that mentality even if the LAPD that should be helping him is so ridiculously stupid that one should be more surprised that they got their shoes on the right feet when leaving the house in the morning than the fact that they weren’t willing to help McClane.  The FBI came off like frat boys that just wanted to shoot something and the Deputy Chief of Police was so dumb that I half expected him to be occupying himself in the background with a paddleball like Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles.  The look of the movie worked much better than one might expect from an 80’s movie, even if the look of people getting shot can most closely be compared to someone throwing Jell-O squares at people’s chests.  The action is also always enjoyable, and rarely too far away.  Once the movie gets started with the action, it doesn’t get sidetracked any more than it has to.

What is there to say about the performances?  Bruce Fucking Willis.  The end.  Bruce Willis is so amazing in this movie that I find it difficult to put it into words.  He plays the everyman very well; almost as well as he plays the badass.  He seems just as comfortable with a wry comment as he does with an SMG.  Alan Rickman could also be well-served with having his middle name replaced with “fucking.”  He’s exactly the badass villain to counter the badass hero that is John McClane.  He’s charming and intimidating, sometimes simultaneously.  Bonnie Bedelia wasn’t the biggest part of the movie, but I found that what she did had some resonance.  She seemed like exactly the kind of tough chick that would attract a John McClane, while also being the kind that wouldn’t put up with his shit, and also exactly the kind that would eventually get divorced from a John McClane.  Reginald VelJohnson is also very likeable in this movie as the one member of the LAPD with a heart and a brain.  They also had two fantastic douche nozzle performances in this movie from Hart Bochner as Harry Ellis, the douche druggie who’s scheming on McClane’s lady, and William Atherton as the piece of shit reporter who doesn’t understand where to draw lines when involving people’s families into stories.  I had prior history with Atherton as I already hated him so much from his time in Ghostbusters, but I think Bochner might actually take the douche crown from him in this movie.  I was very surprised when anyone in that office was at all a.) surprised that his scheme would eventually get him killed and b.) saddened when he died.  My reaction would probably be more along the lines of, “Yeah, well that’ll happen, I suppose.”

I’m well aware of the fact that there is no point in reviewing a movie like Die Hard.  Everyone has had more than ample time to find out that this movie is awesome.  I really only chose to review it as a Christmas present to myself.  The story isn’t the most spectacular thing ever, but it’s probably upper echelon when compared to typical action movies, and there’s not a lot more satisfying than being able to relate to the hero of your movie because he’s just a regular guy, but then choosing not to pay attention to the fact that you would be nowhere near as awesome if you were in the same situations.  Great movie.  Watch it.  Own it.  Merry Christmas.  Die Hard gets “You throw quite a party” out of “It’s gonna need a paint job and a shit load of screen doors.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Judge Dredd (1995)


I AM THE LAW!

Strangely enough, I had never gotten around to seeing today’s movie, even though it’s one of the classic representations of a big dumb action movie.  It wasn’t recommended or anything, but I know it would’ve been as soon as one of my readers thought of the movie again.  I decided to jump the gun.  When I was reminded of the movie by Kevin Smith and Ralph Garmin on Hollywood Babble-On, I decided that I should watch it post haste.  This is a movie based on a comic book that I’ve never read, so I’m going into this movie clean.  So here comes my review of Judge Dredd, based on a comic book created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, written for the screen by William Wisher and Steven E. de Souza, directed by Danny Cannon, and starring Sylvester Stallone, Armand Assante, Jurgen Prochnow, Max von Sydow, Diane Lane, Rob Schneider, Joan Chen, Balthazar Getty, Joanna Miles, Mitch Ryan, and James Earl Jones.

As in most things from the future, Earth has gone uber-shitty and humanity is living in walled off Mega-Cities.  Justice is maintained by an elite group of police officers/judges/jury/executioners known as Judges.  One of the best of these Judges is Judge Joseph Dredd (Sylvester Stallone).  He shows up to end a riot and save Judge Hershey (Diane Lane).  He also ends up arresting the recently released hacker, Herman Ferguson (Rob Schneider), even though he wasn’t actually involved in the riot.  Rico (Armand Assante), a former Judge that went nuts, escapes from prison, dons a counterfeit of Dredd’s Judge uniform, and guns down a news reporter (Mitch Ryan).  This murder gets pinned on Dredd, but his mentor Chief Judge Fargo (Max von Sydow) intervenes by retiring in order to grant Dredd leniency.  Instead of death, Dredd gets life in prison.  On his way to jail, he reconnects with Leo Getz … I mean Fergee, in order to keep the audience nice and annoyed, then their ship gets shot down and Dredd and Fergee get captured by a group of cannibals, the Angel Gang.  Meanwhile, Judge Griffin (Jurgen Prochnow) works with Rico to create a lot of chaos and get the other council members to activate the Janus project to genetically engineer the perfect Judge, which in this case will be Rico because of his interruption.  I bet Judge Dredd is going to have something to say about that.  And it’ll probably be dumb.

For a big dumb action movie, this movie was acceptable.  Of course, “acceptable” for a big dumb action movie is pretty shitty for a movie in general.  The idea and the story of this movie are good enough, but the greater majority of the dialogue sucked.  I can’t really knock the movie for having a pretty typical dystopian future setting because (though it’s played out) I’ve liked some movies that use a similar setting, so I have to be fair to the ones that aren’t that great in those settings.  I also like the idea of them making the justice system more efficient by making their cops the judge, jury, and executioners.  The rest of the story was okay as well, with the whole cloning thing and the betrayal in the government thing.  This stuff is probably all taken from the comic books, so I give them no credit.  The dialogue is something that I imagine they wrote, and it mostly sucked.  90% of the things people said was, “I AM (insert any word here).”  “I AM THE LAW!” was the most popular, and they said it a lot.  Of course, there were many other things that were really stupid.  Take, for instance, when Dredd turns his gun to grenade mode (without the barrel changing size at all, somehow), and shoots a door five feet away.  One of the accompanying Judges applauds him with, “Nice Shot!”  Apparently, this other Judge is such a bad shot that hitting the broad side of a barn from five feet away is spectacular.  It’s okay, he gets killed shortly after this.  I felt better.  Later, when Dredd is fighting a robotically enhanced member of the Angel gang, and very angry because he just stabbed his mentor, he ignores the guns laying around the room, ignores the gun he was just holding, and chooses to fight the guy with a stick.  Of course, it’s unfair to assume Sly would do something intelligent.  Later still, Judge Griffin shoots himself in the arm with a pistol to make it look like Dredd attacked him, even though Dredd was carrying a shotgun and no one seemed to care anyway.  So he just shot himself in the arm for no reason whatsoever.  And near the end of the movie, Rico activates the clones to attack Dredd and Hershey.  The clones pop out of their containers to frighten people a time or two, and then are completely forgotten.  No one ever dealt with the clones!  They completely forgot to tie up that part of the story!  They didn’t even have Fergee and Hershey run in and say, “Oh man, it sure was difficult killing all of those clones while you fought Rico, but we did it.  You should’ve been there!”  The movie does look good though.  The graphics were way better than I would’ve expected from the movie.  I especially liked Rico’s robot body guard.  It had a nice look, but it never moved in a smooth manner.

The greater majority of the performances in this movie did not impress, but the other ones were plain awful.  So they have that going for them.  Sylvester Stallone was … in the movie.  Thankfully for him, the character he was playing was stiff and emotionless, so he didn’t have to try and fail at acting.  He was mostly there to deliver horrible lines and throw punches at people.  That mostly worked out for him, but at one point, when he was fighting Armand Assante, he threw a punch that was so ridiculously high so that Armand could duck under it that I thought he would dislocate his shoulder.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a movie with Armand Assante in it before, so I can’t compare the uber-hammed up performance he gave here to any of his other ones.  And oh boy was it over the top.  It couldn’t even see the top from where it was.  Even the music was confused by him.  When we first saw his character in prison, the music swelled up as he turned around as if we were supposed to have any idea who this guy was.  It’s like, “BUM bum BUM!  This is how you should feel now!  We’ll explain later!”  Diane Lane was pretty good in the movie, and attractive as always, but didn’t do that much.  She did get in a fight with another really attractive girl, Joan Chen (I wouldn’t have thought I’d have reviewed two things with her in them), and it made me wonder why a trained Judge was having such trouble fighting some random Asian lady.  Rob Schneider was the Leo Getz of this movie, and by that I mean that he was a failed attempt at comic relief that wouldn’t shut up, but still had to be around for almost every scene.

Judge Dredd isn’t a great movie, but it’s a fair enough distraction for two hours.  The premise is good, the story is fine, the writing is awful, and the performances are what you’d expect.  At least the thing looked pretty good.  Because it can’t be streamed from Netflix, I cannot, in good conscience, recommend you go through any trouble to find this movie.  If it was on Netflix streaming, and you had nothing better to do, I would recommend it as background noise, or something to make fun of, if you only had to click a few times to get to it.  But as it is, no real reason to watch this thing.  Judge Dredd gets “It’s better than prison” out of “Emotions … there ought to be a law against them.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.