The Truth About A Good Day To Die Hard

Alasdair Stuart Is A Reviewing Genius
Alasdair Stuart Is A Reviewing Genius

It’s not a Die Hard movie. Don’t worry this isn’t the lazy ‘God someone has paid me to sit on my arse and watch a movie and it’s SUCH A DRAG because it wasn’t a heartbreaking work of genius’ bullshit that some critics are especially prone to. A Good Day To Die Hard features Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney and the woman with the most anime initials ever, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as various members of the McClane family. There is punching. There is hitting. There is a tremendous amount of shooting and explosions. Blood is spilled. F bombs, 12A be damned, are well and truly dropped. It’s, some wobbly CGI aside, massive fun.

But it’s not a Die Hard movie.

It’s a Mission: Impossible movie.

And I can prove it.

Exhibit A:The Garden Ring

A crucial plot point in the movie is the lousy traffic in Moscow. You get a nice little exchange between McClane and Pavel Lychnikoff as a taxi driver about this, and how the Garden Ring is always crammed with traffic. Later, McClane realizes someone else is lying when they tell him they got somewhere quickly by using the Garden Ring. Hence, traffic saves the day.

But why is it so slow? There’s a throwaway line about how the road’s being renovated in the movie but, why is it being renovated?

Oh that’s easy.

Because of the explosion at the Kremlin in Mission:Impossible:Ghost Protocol.

The Kremlin is at the centre of the Garden Ring and it makes perfect sense that the huge destruction wrought there would still be being cleaned up. It also goes a long way towards explaining the belligerence of every Russian driver we see. They’re driving as fast and as hard as they can because they’re far too used to the city being under attack. Or asteroids falling from the sky…

Exhibit B: The Extraction

The mission Jack carries out is vintage IMF; he’s arrested and works a deal with the authorities to get near the man he’s supposed to be extracting. It’s classic IMF operating procedure for three reasons:

-Misdirection-IMF agents specialize in hiding in plain sight and taking bold, decisive action to stamp an apparent identity on the op. That’s exactly what Jack does, making no effort to cover his face, or lose a papertrail. He’s working to get caught, just like Ethan in Ghost Protocol.

-Using the system. Jack cuts a deal to be put on trial at the same time and place as Kamarov. This way, suspicion is moved away from in two ways; firstly by the fact he’s already in custody and secondly by the fact the decision to place him in the room isn’t in his hands. Oh certainly he manipulates the authorities so they have no choice but to put him there but it’s still their call, or at least, they think it is.

-Reduced Circumstances. The safehouse Jack is forced to reroute to through the interference of his father is staffed by precisely one agent. CIA would have extensive assets in the city, far more than one safehouse, one extraction point and one backup agent. IMF, still reeling from their temporary dissolution, would still be operating out of temporary safe houses like the train in Ghost Protocol and the abandoned house here.

Exhibit C: The Tradecraft

Jack McClane is a ghost, a man clearly trained to disappear into the Russian infrastructure and he does so, more than once. Over the space of the movie we see him set up a hit plausible enough to be real but without any real danger to it, lay down an escape route at minimum 24 hours before he needs it, raid a Chechen thug’s car because he knows it contains weapons and most tellingly, use a Plan C when we’ve been expressively told there is not one. Jack’s back entrance to the safehouse smacks of something only he knows and that self-reliance is absolutely what we’ve seen IMF agents without a field team demonstrate time and again.

Exhibit D: The Lack of a Field Team

We’ve already talked about how the CIA would have more assets on the ground, but IMF traditionally operate in units too. With the Kremlin disaster still fresh in their minds, Russian authorities are understandably clamping down hard on spies in town and as a result the IMF have minimal resources to deploy. Hence Jack is either operating alone, or with a CIA handler.

Exhibit E: The Target

Yuri Komarov isn’t the normal Die Hard villain by any means. He’s not a thief, exceptional or otherwise, a drug lord, a former special forces officer or an unbalanced intelligence analyst. He’s an oligarch, a Russian billionaire who got rich not just off exploiting his fellow Russians but actively killing them. He left  a scar on the Earth’s ecosystem thanks to his actions at Chernobyl and his choice to follow up on that and retrieve the weapons grade Uranium shows he’s fully prepared to do it, and worse, again. Komarov is that perfect storm; a clear and present threat to anyone he feels like. An impossibly unpredictable foe. A perfect target for the IMF.

Also, bear in mind how Mission: Impossible 3 revolves entirely around the frantic attempts to secure the Rabbit’s Foot, even though no one knows what it actually is. The IMF, much like Global Frequency, are in the business of diffusing unexploded bombs from the last century, and you don’t get much bigger than uranium from Chernobyl.

Exhibit F: Jack McClane

Jack McClane is the most insanely well trained CIA field operative in recent fictional history. We see him plan and execute a hit, construct an exit strategy, locate weapons and resources in the field, gather intelligence, engage in offensive driving, hand to hand combat, close quarter battle, fire small and heavy calibre weaponry and speak fluent Russian. He’s also clearly in extraordinary physical condition.

He’s not CIA. Or at the very least not the level of CIA he claims he is. Because whilst it’s possible that Jack is a CIA attack dog, it’s far more likely he’s an IMF pointman. After all, that exact same set of skills, and mind set, is one Jack shares with another famous fictional spy; Ethan Hunt. Of course you could also make an argument that, given his background, he’s an offshoot of one of the more humane Treadstone derivatives from the Bourne movies but that’s a whole different column…

A Good Day To Die Hard is a Mission:Impossible movie, or at least, it could be. It’s one of the things I love about modern fiction, its malleability. Die Hard and Mission:Impossible could happen in the same universe as the Bourne movies, which, in turn, take place in the same universe as David Mamet’s various dabblings with espionage fiction, Alias, and of course Chuck as well as some other unusual IMF ‘consultants’. Then on the other side of the Atlantic there’s the legacy of George Smiley, kept alive through the various Ms, the 00 section, D Section, the inimitable Harry Pearce and Tara Chace of Queen and Country. It’s the thing no one remembers about spies. They’re all so busy hiding in the shadows, none of them realize they’re all hiding in the same shadow…

Looper Blu-ray Review

Looper Blu Ray Cover

Looper arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on 28th January 2013 (in the UK) covered in countless 5-star reviews and glowing superlative-heavy review quotes. Starring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt, and directed by Rian Johnson, it is a time-travel action thriller mystery something-or-other that is both genuinely original in places, and stultifyingly dull in others. Let’s consider the plot:

“In the year 2044 time travel has not yet been invented. But in 30 years it will have been…” (there’s some Hitch-hiker’s Guide time-travel grammar for you to grapple with!). Joe (played by actor-of-the-moment Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a Looper in 2044, a man whose job is to wait for people to be sent back in time by crime bosses, and to shoot them dead. Apparently in the future it is impossible to dispose of people/bodies hence the crime bosses using time travel to send the poor mooks back in time to be offed. This all goes swimmingly well until a Looper is sent his future self to kill, with an appropriate retirement bonus, of course. When Joe’s future self is sent back everything goes awry, with future Joe (a grizzled but still on-form Willis) doing a runner and on the hunt for a child who will grow up to be…well, let’s not ruin too much of the plot. Suffice to say Joe has to try to hunt down future Joe, while being hunted himself by his own crime boss for reasons which are never really made all that clear.

So that is the film in a few sentences. It is quite hard to review the film without spoiling it for others, not because any of the twists are all that unexpected or original, but just because there is an actual pleasure to watching the film and working it out as you go (usually about 20 minutes before the director reveals the twist). Looper is an eminently enjoyable film, a nice balance between traditional thriller and SF spectacle. The world-building is handled well, albeit without recourse to explanation. 2044 is a violent dystopia, a perfect backdrop to the Looper activity. We learn little about why it is how it is, and even less about what occurs in the 30 years that follow. But this works, lending some mystery to the world we watch, while allowing us to accept the random and very public violence on display.

The time-travel mechanic feels as though it makes sense, a clever idea (if a tad similar to Timecop) which is at the heart of the story but never used as a deus ex machine…there is time travel, accept it! Admittedly the return of future Joe to 2044 and his subsequent actions do set up any number of paradoxes which may or may not hold up to scrutiny, and by the end of the film enquiring minds will be screaming out for someone to explain just how one paradox can lead to a logical conclusion while all the others are seemingly overlooked. But then, this is a movie, not reality and so story comes before mathematics, probably!

Looper has been hailed “The Most Exciting Film of the Year” (Shortlist) and given 5 stars by Empire, Total Film, SFX and FHM…but is it? OK, it certainly doesn’t disappoint in the same way as Amazing Spiderman or The Dark Knight Rises, but it is far from the most exciting film of the year. I suggest these reviewers expand their horizons to the Far East where, in 2012 alone, there were numerous movies made that outstrip Looper in the excitement stakes. This isn’t to say that Looper isn’t exciting, far from it. For approximately half the film’s running time there is plenty of excitement, fights, chases, guns, night-clubs and prostitutes. It is all very thrilling in a sub-Bladerunner style. Everyone is very tightly-wound, yet the film doesn’t come across as overly dark or angst-ridden. But half way through it comes to a resounding halt as we are offered some time to reflect on the timey-whimeyness of the plot, the intense emotional impact of the character’s individual stories and experiences, and watch as the director and writer cleverly place their pieces in preparation for the third-reel action-fest! JUST GET ON WITH IT!

Away from the interminable dullness of the middle of the film the director does good things with his characters, all of whom feel hyper-real but grounded. There is some very good casting of secondary parts here. Which is good, because they couldn’t have got a more wooden leading man if they’d tried? I apologise to the rest of the world, all of whom seem to think Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the next coming of the acting messiah, but I find the guy dull, flat, lifeless and one-note. His face is almost, but not quite, as frozen in place as Kristen Stewart’s. Throughout Looper he plays a perpetual mannequin. I suppose he is ‘acting’ dispassionate, detached, high on the eye-drop drugs his character takes constantly. Fine, great, wonderful. But it gives us one of the least-likeable leading characters in recent history. I just didn’t care about him or his plight. When, later in the film he takes refuge on a farm run by Emily Blunt’s character, he has the opportunity to bring the role to life with empathy and warmth, but the fact is he remains as stolid and wooden as ever. It doesn’t help that he is out-acted by a 10 year old (the stand-out actor in the film in my opinion). Now, to be fair to Levitt, he is supposed to be a younger Bruce Willis, and Willis’ future Joe is, well, Bruce Willis in grizzled action-hero mode. Yes, it is the Willis we all know, the stoney-faced, slightly laconic, wry and world-weary veteran pulled back in for one more go on the merry-go-round. Great stuff, it is what we love about ol’ stoney face (oooh, Willis as Dredd…it could have worked, you know?!) But where Willis pulls off subtle facial expressions and his eyebrows out-act two-thirds of Hollywood’s leading men, Levitt just looks plastic, frozen, botoxed to within an inch of his life. But then I didn’t see why he was considered the standout talent in Inception either. Maybe my Joseph Gordon-Levitt filter has been pre-set too high?

Emily Blunt does an admirable job playing the “seen it a thousand times before” grizzled, world weary single mother farmer with weird young kid. You can see her arc a mile away, but she plays it well and offers a well-rounded performance. Looper also offers us another chance to enjoy Jeff Daniels playing slightly off-kilter, loopy dangerous bad guy. It is always a pleasure to see Daniels in these more off-beat roles. He is counter-culture in so many ways, so seeing him playing against type is great, and of course, he does it with style and subtlety…a truly frightening bad guy.

The stand-out performance in the film comes from 10 yr old Cid, played by Pierce Gagnon. I can’t say too much without spoiling the film for you, but focus on this kid whenever he is on screen because there are some serious acting chops on display. Guided well, this kid could become a very big thing in acting. I just hope he is given the opportunity to continue with this style of honest, interesting and powerful acting. Believe me, the Cid character could have been played with far less intensity and power by many other child actors, congratulations to Rian Johnson for choosing Pierce and allowing him to perform the role this way.

So, all that said, is Looper worth your time and money? It certainly isn’t the messiah of movies from 2012, and is definitely isn’t the most exciting film of the year by a long chalk. But it IS a good film, it does dabble in time travel mysteries in a new and occasionally original way. It offers interesting world-building and tantalising near-future SF. Bruce Willis is good value for money, and young Pierce Gagnon is a brilliant revelation. There are faults and paradoxes, the film falls flat on its face halfway through, and the ending is far less powerful a statement than the film-makers intended. But it is a great example of a director and writer aiming for the stars, and while not quite reaching them, making something entertaining and far-different in tone and style from the big-money Hollywood blockbusters. Looper is a worthy addition to your collection if you value subtle SF-driven thrillers that try to do something new, entertain you and make you think.

The Blu-ray edition which I reviewed looked vibrant and detailed, with only occasional brightness issues. There was a slight issue with the audio mix, like so many recent BD releases, the dialogue in quiet scenes was exceptionally quiet, to be followed by explosively loud action scenes. Fiddling with your audio settings will help fix this (increase front centre and decrease rear speakers) but it is a slight shame the mix couldn’t be a little more balanced. Beyond that it is another great looking and sounding BD. Extras include commentary by the director and stars, featurettes on the making of and composing, deleted scenes, trailers, a science of time travel feature and some additional featurettes. Quite a decent package. Sadly, once again, the release price for the BD is a staggering £24.99 or £25.99 for the pointless steelbook edition. Even the DVD is RRPing at £19.99 – so keep your eyes out for good deals at the likes of Sainsbury’s or Tesco’s because these manufacturer RRPs are outrageously overpriced and not good value for money.

A Good Day To Die Hard

Like Father, Like Son, Like Hell

A Good Day To Die Hard Teaser Poster
My ultimate date movie will be out on Valentines day next year.

A Good Day To Die Hard is the 5th movie in the Die Hard series.

Bruce Willis returns in his most iconic role as John McClane – the “real” hero with the skills and attitude to always be the last man standing. This time the take-no-prisoners cop is really in the wrong place at the wrong time after traveling to Moscow to help his estranged son Jack. With the Russian underworld in pursuit, and battling a countdown to war, the two McClanes discover that their opposing methods make them unstoppable heroes.

A Good Day To Die Hard is released in UK cinemas 14 February 2013 from Twentieth Century Fox.

A Good Day To Die Hard Trailer

A Good Day To Die Hard Teaser Trailer

Die Hard 5 - First Movie Still

Looper on DVD And BluRay

Looper Blu Ray Cover

Looper – is available to pre-order now in advance of its release in February 2013.

One of 2012’s biggest box-office hits, the futuristic action thriller which took audiences by storm with a tantalising twist on time travel will be available on DVD and Blu-ray early next year.

In the year 2044 time travel has not yet been invented. But in 30 years it will have been…

In director Rian Johnson’s hotly anticipated action thriller, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) works as a looper, a futuristic assassin who eliminates targets sent back in time by a criminal organisation. The only rule is that you do not let your target escape – even if that target is you.

The rules are put to the test when Joe is called upon to “close his loop” and assassinate his future self (Bruce Willis). In failing to pull the trigger, so begins a desperate race against the clock as Joe begins to unravel his own future and older Joe’s past.

LOOPER stars Bruce Willis (Die Hard), Joseph Gordon Levitt (The Dark Knight Rises), Emily Blunt (The Adjustment Bureau), Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine), Piper Perabo (The Prestige) and Jeff Daniels (State of Play).

The Expendables 2 Review

The Expendables 2 Poster
Stallone. Statham. Schwarzenegger. Willis. Van Damme. Norris. Lundgren. Li. Crews. Couture. Somewhere, Steven Segal is sitting looking at his phone, still waiting for it to ring.

The Expendables 2 is a deeply, deeply stupid movie in which any problem that cannot be solved with a gun can be solved by using a bigger gun. It’s also a very smart movie, that uses the fact that you already know what the movie is going to be and delivers it.

I’m going to mostly avoid spoilers, however the movie is as predictable as the McBain films from The Simpsons. The character who, twenty minutes in, you just know is going to die at some point? Yeah, of course they die. Because it’s that kind of movie. And you know it’s going to happen pretty much the first time you see them. But that’s fine, because what The Expendables 2 is selling is predictability.

If you’ve seen the first movie, you’ve more or less seen this one. Some bad guys take over a place, and Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis and…well, lots and lots of action stars commit unspeakable acts of violence until everything is okay again.

The main difference between this one and the last is that they’ve stopped even pretending to be taking it seriously. Any of the ‘dark’ scenes are done with tongue planted so firmly in cheek that they were getting some of the biggest laughs in the audience. It’s a film in which even the vehicles appear to have tattoos with phrases like ‘Lock and Load’ on them. It’s a film in which, as seen in the trailer, two major action stars get into a small electric car and fire machine guns out of the windows. It’s a film in which Jean Claude Van Damme kicks a knife into someone.

We also get to learn a little more about some of the characters, and the same easy charm continues from the last film. The stuff we learn doesn’t really mean anything, but that’s not important.

The biggest trick they really use is to use what we know about the actors as a short-hand for character. Stallone plays Stallone. Arnie plays Arnie. Chuck Norris plays Chuck Norris, along with jokes about Chuck Norris Facts. Dolph Lundgren plays Dolph Lundgren, even to the point of making jokes about his chemical engineering qualifications.

Is it a good movie? No, not at all. It’s stilted, it’s predictable and it’s deeply stupid and bordering on sexist. But is it fun? Yes. It’s a lot of fun, in exactly the same way as the McBain movies are. Imagine a film-length version of them, except with many more film actors other than an Arnie character. Then you’ve basically got The Expendables.

Nobody is going to see this expecting it to be anything other than what it is. And in terms of delivering what you expect, it succeeds perfectly. The opening scene is more over the top than anything from the previous movie. And there’s a lot of meta-humour going on. And the violence is dealt out in an entertaining way, and the new cast members mesh well with the returning ones.

So, if you liked the first one, this is more of the same. If you didn’t, it’s silly enough that you may prefer it, but it’s probably going to annoy you in the same way.

The Expendables 2 Comic Con Retro Poster

Comic-Con Exclusive Poster

The Expendables are back and this time it’s personal…

Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren),Toll Road (Randy Couture) and Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) — with newest members Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) and Maggie (Yu Nan) aboard — are reunited when Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) enlists the Expendables to take on a seemingly simple job.

The task looks like an easy paycheck for Barney and his band of old-school mercenaries. But when things go wrong and one of their own is viciously killed, the Expendables are compelled to seek revenge in hostile territory where the odds are stacked against them.

Hell-bent on payback, the crew cuts a swath of destruction through opposing forces, wreaking havoc and shutting down an unexpected threat in the nick of time — six pounds of weapons-grade plutonium; enough to change the balance of power in the world.

But that’s nothing compared to the justice they serve against the villainous adversary who savagely murdered their brother. That is done the Expendables way….

The Expendables 2 releases 16th August 2012 from Lionsgate

The Expendables 2 Trailer

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The Expendables: DVD and Blu Ray

The Expendables

Loving the old action heroes showing that they have still got it in this huge action film that doesn’t take itself too seriously

Expendable: capable of being sacrificed in order to accomplish a military objective.

Living life on the fringes of the law, The Expendables are a team of hardened mercenaries, led by Ex-US Special Forces agent Barney Ross (Stallone).

Consisting of former SAS blade expert Lee Christmas (Statham), hand-to-hand combat specialist Yin Yang (Li), long barrel weapons specialist Hale Caesar (Crews), demolitions expert Toll Road (Couture), and precision sniper Gunner Jensen (Lundgren), the team take on what appears to be a routine assignment: a covert, CIA-funded operation to infiltrate the South American country of Vilena and overthrow its ruthless dictator.

But when their job is revealed to be a suicide mission, the men are faced with a deadly choice – one that might redeem their souls?or destroy their brotherhood forever.

THE EXPENDABLES IS RELEASED ON DVD, BLU-RAY AND SPECIAL 3 DISC ‘BULLET PROOF’ LIMITED EDITION COLLECTOR’S STEELBOOK ON DECEMBER 13TH.

EXTRAS:

BLU-RAY
Audio Commentary with Sylvester Stallone?????????
BonusView? The Expendables: Ultimate Recon Mode
From the Ashes: Post Production Documentary
Gag Reel?????????????
Deleted Scene?
Promo Gallery – Theatrical Trailer / TV spots??

DVD
Audio commentary with Sylvester Stallone?????????
“Before the Battle” – The Making of The Expendables????
Deleted Scene?
Gag Reel?????????????
Promo Gallery – Theatrical Trailer / TV spots????

THE BULLET PROOF LIMITED EDITION STEEL BOOK ?

Includes DVD and Blu-ray with all the extras included on the single formats and a third disc -? a DVD featuring an exclusive 90 minute documentary: Inferno – The Making of Expendables

Surrogates

Bruce Willis
Bruce Willis

FBI agents (BRUCE WILLIS and RADHA MITCHELL) investigate the mysterious murder of a college student linked to the man who helped create a high-tech surrogate phenomenon that allows people to purchase unflawed robotic versions of themselves ? fit, good looking remotely controlled machines that ultimately assume their life roles ? enabling people to experience life vicariously from the comfort and safety of their own homes. The murder spawns a quest for answers: in a world of masks, who?s real and who can you trust?

COMPETITION

We have 2 goodie bags to give away, including a Surrogates laptop bag, USB charger and jacket.
We are running this one a little differently – This will be a Twitter Comp.
To enter just tweet your answer to this question @scifind
What Frank Miller comic book movie did Bruce Willis appear in 2005?
Click Here for a quick entry and just add your answer. (you will need a free twitter account)
Winners will be chosen after the 5th October 2009. UK Only – no cash alternative and usual rules apply.

Competition Prizes are illustrated below.

Jacket Competition Prize
Jacket Competition Prize
Laptop Protector Competition Prize
Laptop Protector Competition Prize
usb charger Prize
usb charger Prize