Tag Archives: 7/10

Die Hard 4.0: Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

“Wow, I know that tone. It’s just weird hearing it come from someone… with hair.”

Cast: Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant

Die-Hard-4It’s 12 years after we last saw John McClane on our screens saving the day, and how things have changed. Die Hard 4.0, or Live Free or Die Hard as it’s also known, feels very different to the previous films in the franchise. With a plot more reflective of modern society, which is rather inevitable, the Die Hard franchise has been completely refurbished.

When an online terrorist organisation starts systematically shutting down the United States, McClane is asked to go and pick up young computer hacker Matt Farrell and bring him in for questioning. Arriving at Matt’s flat, McClane finds himself at the end of a lot of gun fire, someone obviously wanting this guy dead. Barely escaping with their lives, McClane and Matt make their way back to the station.

Die Hard 4.0 follows McClane and Matt as they try to locate the Internet-based terrorists and shut them down before they completely close all online and technological aspects of the United States, which would send America ‘back to the stone age’, apparently.

No white tank top, no hair and no cigarettes, who is this man we once knew as John McClane? Bruce Willis has reprised his role of McClane most probably as a way to cash in, lets be honest. With the new glossy tone and somewhat censored action sequences, Die Hard 4.0 doesn’t feel like a Die Hard movie at all. Where are the gritty scenes that encompassed the first three films? And when your main character, who is known for saying one line and one line only, isn’t allowed to say it fully due to the film’s certification, there is no way it can be classed as a Die Hard film: “Yippi-ki yay mo-” just doesn’t do the trick.

Nope, John McClane isn’t the guy he once was. Another thing seriously letting down the film was the main bad guy, Thomas Gabriel, played by the most monotonous actor ever, Timothy Olyphant. Compared to the likes of Hans Gruber, Gabriel just seems to be an annoying man who is a bit bored. There is no real motivation or evil within him, and it makes the whole movie feel a bit flat in the good vs bad department. Even when he has McClanes daughter in his hands, the worst he does is give her a little slap. Pathetic!

As with the previous Die Hard films though, Live Free or Die Hard doesn’t fail to match their inclusion of slightly out-there and questionable scenes, however it does seem to tip it into a degree of ridiculousness. Two scenes in particular spring to mind – one involving a massive truck, and the other a helicopter and our very own Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Die Hard 4.0 is a real let down and doesn’t really deserve to be part of the franchise we have all grown to love. With John McClane now an old man, and the original aspects that made the films so loveable a mere memory, it would seem this was a last ditch attempt at squeezing out as much money as possible from the franchise. Unfortunately, someone thought this was a good idea and what we have is a very poor excuse of a Die Hard film.

Star rating:   5/10

Directed by Len Wiseman.

Running time 128 minutes.

Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)

“Oh man, I can’t fucking believe this. Another basement, another elevator. How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?”

Cast: Bruce Willis, William Atherton, Bonnie Bedelia

die_hard2

It’s Christmas Eve and a group of rogue military officials have seized control of Dulles International Airport in Washington DC. Taking thousands of people hostage by gaining control of the airborne planes and their flights paths, their aim is to rescue a drug lord from justice. However their plan comes under strain when John McClane rears his head and goes back to doing what he does best: kicking ass.

Die Hard 2, or Die Harder as it is more affectionately known, is a great sequel to the first instalment of epicness we see from John McClane. With his wife on one of the planes, combined with his do-good,
hero-esque attitude, there is no way he is going to sit out of this one.

Bruce Willis comes back as McClane with more force and vigour than ever. With his character already established he can jump straight into action with this guy and give us more of what we fell in love with the first time. Armed with his tank top, his cigarette and his pistol, there is no doubt that we have our rough and ready cop back to save the day.

In the same manner as Die Hard, Die Hard 2 gives the baddies just as much screen time as the goodies, which again makes for a good story well told. William Saddler plays Colonial Stuart, a ruthless leader who is easily influenced by money, trying to help this notorious drug lord to escape from the hands of justice. His portrayal is great and he does well as the face of evil in this one. What we also see with Die Hard 2 are the lines between good and bad blur, and it’s always a bit up in the air which side of the fence a few people sit on; it makes for a more interesting film though and allows for a few twists to be thrown in toward the end.

It should also be said that there isn’t much variation on the formula between the first Die Hard and this one, but why fix something that isn’t broken? It’s another fast paced, bullet ridden, action packed film that has you on the edge of your seat from the outset. It never slows down with its efforts to entertain the audience and keep them interested, and it certainly pays off.

There is also an arguably better feature in Die Hard 2, and that is its location. By taking place in a more open space, there is more freedom with the events and sequences that unfold. Rather than being confined to one building, McClane has the run of the airport and the buildings surrounding, so we get to see a bit more of everything. There are still some very questionable scenes though, more so than in the first Die Hard, but really, it just goes to show that John McClane is even more badass than we previously thought. I wouldn’t criticise this aspect too much as this is just something we have to accept, it makes the movie more fun anyhow.

If you liked Die Hard, which I am going to assume you did (I’ve not met anyone who didn’t) then you will like Die Hard 2. It’s a great sequel and extremely enjoyable to watch. While there isn’t much difference apart from where the events takes place, it still does the job right, that being a high paced thriller that satisfies our need for something entertaining, exciting and explosive.

Star rating:  8/10

Directed by Renny Harlin.

Running time 124 minutes.

My Week with Marilyn (2011)

“People always see Marilyn Monroe. As soon as they realise I’m not her, they run”

Cast: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne and Kenneth Branagh

In the summer of 1956 Colin Clark set out to make his way in the film business, finding work as a lowly assistant on the set of ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’. During his time there Clark kept a diary, ‘The Prince, the Showgirl and Me’, which was published nearly 40 years after the film. One week was missing (though published a few years later), ‘My Week with Marilyn’ tells the story of that week.

While I’m way too young to have known Marilyn Monroe when she was around, she has always fascinated me. Her short-lived life was filled with drama and intrigue and has left her an icon among the people. Surprisingly Monroe hasn’t been portrayed in a full-length feature film before (apart from made-for-TV drama ‘Norma Jean & Marilyn’), so My Week with Marilyn is one to set the bar.

Initially, the biggest issue surrounding the film was who was playing Monroe. When Williams was cast though, there was no doubt in my mind she could pull it off. Her gritty, indie vibe really allows her to get into character and rather than portraying this bigger than life, blonde sex-kitten we are all too familiar with, we instead see a complex, layered and vulnerable woman who just wanted to be loved. Everything, from her mannerisms to her internal conflict and wants to be accepted, was spot on.

Redmayne was also very impressive. His character is arguably the heart of the film and as the timid, star-stuck Colin, his talents really shine. Spending a week with Monroe and showing her the beauties of England, he falls in love with her – not the showgirl who entertains but the woman beneath. This relationship is wonderful to watch blossom as in this time, Monroe is stripped of her fame and troubles and is just a regular woman – something the world often forgot she was.

We also see appearances from Judi Dench and Emma Watson, adding further dimensions to how Monroe was received by other people – naive, troubled, sexualised, promiscuous, renowned – and lessening the focus of Laurence Olivier’s volatile and strained attitude towards her, which at times was sad to watch.

My Week with Marilyn is a great watch. You won’t get the sexualised, blonde bombshell normally portrayed but you will see fragmented bits and pieces of the iconographic woman she became in the public eye. Portraying the woman behind the facade and giving more substance to Monroe than just the typical caricature the world likes to display, this film still only just scratches the surface. I have no doubt there will be more to come in the future, but My Week with Marilyn is the first film to show us the girl behind the name.

Star rating:  7/10

Directed by Simon Curtis.

Running time 99 minutes.

The Help (2011)

“No one had ever asked me, what it felt like to be me. Once I told the truth about that, I felt free.”

Cast: Emma Stone, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer

It really that wasn’t long ago.

When a young, white, wanna-be journalist decides to write a book about black maids from a notoriously dangerous and racist town, she doesn’t realise the real extent of what she’s getting herself into. Set in 1960s America when there were massive amounts of segregation, The Help is a beautiful story that deals with the hostility and unbearable strife that black people faced – especially that of the maids – in Jackson, Mississippi.

Having read the book I was really excited about watching the film, albeit a bit apprehensive. Films often tend to miss capturing the true emotion conveyed in a book but The Help was not a disappointment and with the amount of awards it has collected, I’m definitely not the only one who thinks this.

The first thing that has to be said about the film is how great the performances were. Viola Davis in particular was a favourite. Her portrayal of Aibileen, one of the main focuses, was really brilliant. It’s exactly how I imagined her to be and she really manages to convey some real heartfelt emotion. The next actor who had me really impressed was Emma Stone who plays Skeeter, the journalist who really wants to see a difference in society. Having been raised by her maid rather than her mother, Skeeter has a real care for these women and the way they are treated. She is a bit naive in terms of how serious the issue of writing the book is and how threatening the consequences will be if she’s discovered. Stone does a great job and it’s fantastic to see her in a more serious role rather than her usual comedic one – even though she does bring a few laughs with her.

There were other great performances from Bryce Dallas Howard as Hilly Holbrook and Jessica Chastain as Celia Foote. They all leave a lasting impression and really do manage to capture the feelings that were around in those times, although occasionally it seemed a bit lackluster or fickle. While in some cases they could have been stronger in their performances, it seemed the script was really holding them back. I have no doubt that they had it in them to play their roles more in line with the true mentality of white women at that time, but then it’s the director who really has the last say. Other notable roles came from Sissy Spacek as Mrs. Walters and Allison Janney as Charlotte Phelan, their roles as older women meant their behaviour was more inclined to be racist and less open minded, they both did a great job with this.

The things that I felt could have been changed to increase the quality of the film are probably what Hollywood voted against. Even though it is a whopping 2 hours 20 minutes, I felt they missed out some of the story or glossed over some of the more tackling issues. Some of its racial themes were merely brushed at surface level and in some cases, not given the attention they should have been. It’s things like this that needed attention to really secure it as a serious film that dealt with racial issues. Instead I think they were trying too hard to make it a commercial success. So either it could have been longer to fit in these qualities and risked becoming too lengthy, or it could have been tighter and more concise in its script. However the length it sits as was good in terms of the audiences attention span and interest, my minor annoyance isn’t really about the length, it’s really to do with overall content.

The Help is a great film that tries to show its audience the other side of things. While it seems to care more about commercial success rather than content in some cases, this, just like the amount of attention given to its more serious racial themes, can be looked over. Davis and Stone are fantastic and if you’re given the opportunity to watch it, I’d say don’t miss it.

Star rating:  7/10

Directed by Tate Taylor.

Running time 137 minutes.

Winter’s Bone (2010)

“I’d be lost without the weight of you two on my back. I ain’t going anywhere.”

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes and Garret Dillahunt

This must be one of the hardest games of hide’n’seek ever.

Ree Dolly is on a mission to locate her father, a deadbeat druggie who has declared his house as his bail-bond. With a severely depressed and unresponsive mother and 2 younger siblings to look after, Ree has struggled to keep her family intact, especially with no income. Now with the threat of being kicked out of their house, Ree must find her father and persuade him to make his court date otherwise they’re out on their heels.

Winter’s Bone is a truely unfinching and harsh film. Set in the Ozark Mountain’s, this hillbilly/ horror/ drug type genre takes no mercy. As Ree searches from one place to the next place, each less inviting than the one before, we are shown the lengths that these ‘clients’ of her father will go to, to keep Ree from finding the truth. It ain’t pretty. Ree is stubborn and tough, especially for a 17 year old, which often leads her into dangerous situations, but this is when we see her honest and true love for her family and their welfare shine through.

John Hawkes, who plays the terrifying Teardrop, does so with an ease and excellence. Maybe my favourite role in the film, he’s unforgiving, intense and completely nuts. Jennifer Lawrence also pulls off what I believe to be her best role yet. The connection between Ree and her 2 younger siblings who she’s having to raise is so natural and honestly a complete joy to watch. This little family is so tightly knit and has so much potential, the scene where Ree is teaching them how to shoot a crossbow is my favourite. The three of them were cast perfectly and this scene is a prime example of this.

Winter’s Bone, while in places seems slow paced, is full of a vibrancy intertwined in its dull setting. The stark background, out in the country and lacking the technology that seems to overwhelm modern day films, really does it a favour. It allows the story to be told boldly and nothing distracts from its harsh facts, the winter background is the perfect fit.

While it won’t be for everyone, you can’t deny this film does a great job. From the story to the setting to the casting of some great actors, Winter’s Bone is a fantastic film that allows Lawrence to shows us her stuff. Hopefully we’ll be seeing much more of her in the future.

Star rating:  7/10

Directed by Debra Granik.

Running time 100 minutes.

Horrible Bosses (2011)

“You can’t win a marathon without putting some bandaids on your nipples”

Cast: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis

After another night at the pub bitching about their bosses, 3 best friends Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis all fantasise about how much easier their lives would be if they could just kill their bosses. Quitting is not an option and so with the help of ex-con Jamie Foxx, this hypothetical world soon turns real. Turns out killing your boss isn’t as straight forward as you’d think.

Bateman, Day and Sudeikis carry the film. They’re the leads so obviously it’s their job. Pulling their camaraderie to the forefront though and letting it play out was the best thing that director Seth Gordon could have done. While the story falls thin in some places, this bond and friendship between the 3 – which according to the outtakes must stretch past the workplace – holds the film together.

As individuals the trio all do their bit. They each have their own quirks and they all muster laughs throughout. They are all known to be funny guys though so it came as no real surprise that they performed well and got what they needed from the audience.

Farrell plays a sleazy, drug addict who is the son of Sudeikis’ previous boss. With his non-existant work ethic and power mad attitude, he is a nightmare to work for. I’m still trying to get over his horrendous combover and pot belly – both attributes that  Farrell suggested his character should have. Farrell does a fine job in this role. Though all he had to do was look spaced out and act as a sleazebag for most of the film, he does it well.

Aniston really surprised me. I’m so used to her being typecast in good girl roles (thanks to her Friends days) that when she appeared with a potty mouth and no shame, I was taken totally off-guard. It was nice to see this change of pace and it definitely allowed for her to act outside of her comfort zone.

Spacey is great as a creepy, paranoid freak Dave Harken. Between having a pretty wife at home who he believes is having an affair and running a massive business which he is both President and Vice President of, he always is full of suspicion about things that could threaten his position both in and out of work. Spacey plays Harken well and I did like him in this role, though he’s always been good at being a bad guy.

While some areas of the script could have been tighter and it slightly loses it’s focus towards the end, Horrible Bosses is a fun film that gives space for a trio of good comedic actors and many laughs along the way.

Star rating:   7/10

Directed by Seth Gordon.

Running time 98 minutes.

Body of Lies (2008)

“It is a fallacy that prolonged war will weaken an occupied enemy. It most likely will make your enemy stronger.”

Cast:  Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe and Mark Strong

Body of Lies

Leonardo DiCaprio is Roger Ferris, a member of the CIA on a mission to locate the head of a jihadist terrorist organisation, al-Saleem. While he works in Israel, Ferris must communicate with his CIA superior in America, Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) as well as the head of Jordanian Intelligence, Hani Salaam (Mark Strong). He soon discovers that cooperation between such authoritative agencies isn’t as straight cut as he first anticipated.

With the war on terror being depicted in film on an increasing basis, I enjoyed the change of pace in Body of Lies. By following one character throughout there was a clear focus to the film and the objective was always a something that was foregrounded.

DiCaprio and Crowe are fantastic in their roles. Obviously they are both great actors but with such a concise script they transcribe a very realistic portrayal onto our screens. There were sub-plots weaved throughout and little twists and turns adding to the levels of action and entertainment in the film, but also enforcing the message that corruption occurs at all levels of authority.

In the film the CIA used highly advanced spy equipment to track people, this level of big brother intrusion was quite unnerving. There is no doubt in my mind that technology like this exists, especially when Google Earth is available to anyone. The use of this spy equipment was very eye opening in showing a glimpse into the power that the government have, and that’s just the things we know of.

Though I really enjoyed the film I was a bit disappointed with how it began to shape into a typical espionage thriller. The end also seemed a bit rushed with no real sense of conclusion. I suppose this was to give the most realistic outcome to a film with terror at its core though. Just because they have this technology available doesn’t necessarily mean they can always catch the bad guy. It’s easy to draw conclusions between al-Saleem and Osama in the film, so I think this ending was deliberate.

Regardless of the increasing James Bond-esque action scenes, I really enjoyed the film, especially the cinematography which was fantastic. From the back alleys and crammed markets of Israel to the suburban, picturesque shots of America, the film made sure to draw a stark contrast between two places that are so closely related.

Apart from it slipping into areas of Hollywood blockbuster predictability, I think Body of Lies is a great film that depicts the on-going war on terror.

Star rating: 7/10

Directed by Ridley Scott.

Running time 128 minutes.