Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Good Day To Die Hard: Old Habits N' Such...

This is probably the saddest review I've ever had to write.  There are only a few film series that I genuinely love.  There will always be soft spots in my heart for the Lethal Weapon films, the original Star Wars, the Back to the Future trilogy, and The Evil Dead series.  But, there is no set of films I love more than the Die Hard movies.  The original Die Hard redefined the action genre.  It humanized its action hero and pitted heroes against beautifully written villains.  Without Die Hard we wouldn't have most of the classic action films that we love today.  Under Siege is Die Hard on a ship.  Air Force One is Die Hard on a plane.  Speed is Die Hard on a bus.  And the upcoming Olympus Has Fallen is Die Hard in the White House.  There is no other action series than can say it has contributed so much to the future of movies.  So, you can understand why I had higher expectations than usual for the fifth film in the franchise.  And why my heart was shattered when I left the theater feeling betrayed.

What I've failed to understand is why no one seemed to give a shit about this movie.  No one.  The studio didn't give a shit who wrote it or who signed on to direct it.  The writer didn't give a shit about the previous films.  Bruce Willis didn't give a shit that he was in it.  And no one will give a shit after it is over.  In a time when reboots reign supreme, you'd think that in order to not disappoint avid fans, they'd put a little effort into the film.  The Mission: Impossible movies weren't exactly films that most people considered amazing or ground-breaking.  However, with each sequel they signed bigger stars, they attached competent directors, and each new director at the helm added their own reputable flair to the films.  John Woo took over for Brian DePalma, J.J. Abrams took over for Woo, and Brad Bird took over for Abrams and now Mission: Impossible has staked its claim as being respectable films.  The same goes for the James Bond films.  For awhile, each film would be the same recycled action crap up until Daniel Craig took over.  Then, they hired Academy Award winning writers, got some highly esteemed directors, and somehow in the last decade 007 has turned into a dignified franchise.  So, why did no one give a shit about putting any of the effort into the newest Die Hard?

This newest entry into the franchise, and possibly the last entry, leads John McClane (Bruce Willis) to Russia to help his son Jack with whatever contrived, and monotonous mission he's failed to complete.  Honestly, it was a clusterfuck of boring information that was more or less confusing than intelligent and pretty much led to more plot holes than solid movie paths.  Now, here's the deal with the Die Hard films: there are certain rules one must adhere to when making a proper Die Hard film.  One, remember that John McClane is human, not super-human.  What's appealing about McClane is that he's the everyman cop.  He's the guy who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  In the first film, we learn immediately that he's afraid of flying.  He had to remove his shoes and rub his feet on the carpet in order to settle his nerves.  Because of this, during the firefight with the German baddies, he's not wearing any shoes.  His feet get cut to shit and he has to adapt to the situation whilst losing massive amounts of blood.  By the end of the film, the man is hardly alive.  The same could be said with the next two.  A little bit of disbelief had to be suspended for the fourth film, but it was still relatively within the same context.  Apparently, this trope has been tossed completely out the window.  John McClane is now a robot incapable of feeling human pain.  He'll get tossed around like a rag doll in a car, by a car, out a car, etc. and stand up as if he just tripped over his shoelace (however, a guy his age, that would probably hurt like hell).  His main motivation in the first film is to make sure that his wife is safe and he does literally everything he can to keep it that way.  He's a human, with human feelings and human emotion.  At least he was.

Two, there must be a proper villain with a complex plan that is somehow foiled by McClane's antics.  The villain, for all intents and purposes, would have succeeded without fail had it not been for John.  The villains are somewhat sophisticated and highly intelligent.  Hans Gruber in the first film, Simon Gruber in the third film are the cream of the crop of main villains that have opposed McClane.  Col. Stuart and Thomas Gabriel from the second and fourth movies respectively, were weaker villains but were still personified opposing forces to McClane.  Apparently, there's no need for a villain in the newest entry.  Apparently, anyone with a Russian accent sounds scary enough and will serve as opposition to McClane well enough.  In a time where Christopher Nolan has proven to us that audiences love a great villain, you'd think there'd be a little more thought put into the writing of the film.

Three, there is always a counterpart to McClane that will help him along his journey that can bounce witty and amusing banter back and forth.  This character is softer than McClane and generally brings the lighter side out of him.  They soften the hard candy shell around the exterior of the man.  Sgt. Powell in the first two movies.  Samuel L. Jackson in the third film and Justin Long in the fourth.  Each of these characters filled the aforementioned criteria and made each film that much better for it.  Apparently, a hollow TV actor cast to play Jack McClane is good enough of a foil to John.  Sure, I guess he brings out the softer side, but their conversations have no substance to them.  We get it.  They're estranged.  But, one could really create one hell of a drinking game with how many times they have to remind each other they're family.  The dialogue is so stale, I feel like it's been in my cupboard without a sealed lid for months.

And lastly, four, under no circumstances whatsoever is a Die Hard film ever, ever, EVER boring.  How could it be?  It's Die Hard!  It's the greatest action franchise in history!  But, alas, this film is boring.  There's nothing to care about.  There's no deep threat.  Once you figure out what exactly the McClanes are fighting for, it's redundant and pointless.  There's nothing new introduced into the film and hackneyed.  There should be no reason to leave the theater with almost no recollection or care of what you've just watched.  If I've learned anything over my career as a student studying screenwriting, it's that writing action is hard.  I've primarily considered myself a comedic writer, but I'm an avid fan of action films (more specifically 90s action).  So, I decided that I was going to try my hand at writing an action movie in the same vein of the films I've come to love.  However, there is no action movie if there is no villain motivation.  Villain motivation is what drives the action, creates the conflict and the danger.  Without it, no action movie exists... or so I thought.  Somehow, A Good Day to Die Hard fell through the cracks and was made.

My deepest fear is that this will be the end of the era.  The end of John McClane.  Live Free or Die Hard wasn't a perfect movie, and was significantly weakened by the studios trying to reap more profit from making it PG-13, but it still felt like a Die Hard film.  This movie isn't even good enough to be considered a retarded cousin to Die Hard.  I really hope that one last film is made, the apology film (much like Ocean's 13 to Ocean's 12) in order for avid fans, like myself, to have the closure I've always wanted.  Until then, I have to see a wolf in McClane's clothing prancing around pretending to be a part of something better than it is.


Friday, February 15, 2013

The Best and Worst of Upcoming 2013 Spring/Summer Releases

So, January and February suck for movies.  I haven't seen a single trailer for a film in the last few weeks that has made me want to spend my admission fee and get me to the theater.  It's the dumping grounds of shitty movies from big studios.  Yeah, there are some semi-entertaining movies out right now that I'll probably eventually see like Parker, Bullet to the Head, and even A Good Day to Die Hard (Please God don't let it suck).  But, right now, the screens are full of filth.  I'm more inclined to go spend my $10 on watching Django Unchained again. However, do not fret eager moviegoers, there are films on the horizon that will make you want to enter the cineplex and have a good time.  Of course, there are also some more less than desirable films on their way as well.  So, this is what I believe will be worthwhile and what should be avoided in the near future.

Best Upcoming:

March 8: Stoker
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska
Dir: Chan-Wook Park 

Stoker looks like a weird little indie thriller that I'm not sure will actually be a good movie based on its premise or trailer, but I have faith in it due to its cast as well as its director.  Chan-Wook Park, director of the foreign film Oldboy has shown his directorial chops.  If Stoker can harness even half of the suspense or energy of Oldboy, then it's sure to be a fun time.

March 8:
Oz: The Great and Powerful
Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams
Dir: Sam Raimi

I'm hesitant to label Oz as being one of the best because it is perplexing.  I love the cast and just as Stoker, I have a high respect for the director, Sam Raimi, but the trailer is a little disconcerting.  If handled unjustly, it will have the Tim Burton Alice In Wonderland effect where story has been overlooked in favor of some really strange and over-the-top CGI.  If it's just a CGI-fest, then I'll eat my words, but as of right now I will put my faith into the director and cross my fingers that this film will actually be decent.

March 22:
Olympus Has Fallen
Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman
Dir: Antoine Fuqua

This is where I lose all credibility, don't I?  My opinion comes into question after the last few "best upcoming" descriptions.  Chances are one or two or all of these movies are actually going to suck.  Given Gerard Butler's track record as of late... there's a huge chance it is going to suck.  However, Olympus Has Fallen is essentially Die Hard in the White House.  Regardless of how "good" the movie turns out to be, there's no doubt in my mind that it will be unbelievably entertaining.

March 22:
Starring: Paul Rudd, Tina Fey
Dir: Paul Weitz

Now, hopefully, you'll trust me a little bit.  Watch the trailer.  It's a Focus Features indie-esque comedy featuring two comedic actors we know for a fact can be extremely funny and given that Focus Features rarely, if ever, provides bad films, there are chances that this movie will be a delightful little gem to get you by the dredges of March.

March 29:
The Place Beyond the Pines
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper
Dir: Derek Cianfrance

This is pretty much a no-brainer.  It's Ryan Gosling, folks.  You show me a bad movie he's been in in the last five years and I'll retract everything I've ever said about him.  Bradley Cooper has finally showed his acting chops.  It does look a little over-dramatic, but I'm willing to bet this is an Academy Award worthy film with Academy Award worthy performances.

April 5:
Evil Dead
Starring: Jane Levy, Jessica Lucas
Dir: Fede Alvarez

READER BEWARE: I have embedded the RED BAND trailer to this film.  Why?  Because it's the trailer that convinced me that this remake wasn't actually a total waste of time.  I seriously LOVE the Evil Dead trilogy.  They're the most fun movies you could ever watch in succession.  Remaking the first one is, for all intents and purposes, a pointless mistake.  However, after seeing the red band trailer, I am now convinced this could be one of the best Horror movies to be released, as well as one of the best remakes to be released, in the last few years.

April 12:
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford
Dir: Brian Helgeland

This is legitimately the first (presumably) good movie that I'm excited for in the next few months.  It's sad that April is the month that brings the first respectable movie, but it's closer than awards season at the end of the year.  The story of Jackie Robinson, no matter who is at the helm of the film, will most assuredly be a great baseball film about a great man.

May 3:
Iron Man 3
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Guy Pierce, Don Cheadle
Dir: Shane Black

I know for a fact that this movie is going to be the best of the three.  Bold statement, perhaps?  Yes.  Here's why.  Shane Black wrote the movie and directed it.  Shane Black is my favorite screenwriter in all of Hollywood.  His track record is nearly flawless: Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.  There's something unique about these films- they both have a sharp eye for wit and dialogue and they all have stellar action.  Tony Stark, a snarky little sharp-tongued action star is the perfect vehicle for one Mr. Black.  This movie will not suck.  I promise.

May 17:
Star Trek: Into Darkness
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Simon Pegg
Dir: J.J. Abrams

Yeah.  This is also going to be a great film.  Abrams knows what he's doing when it comes to sci-fi.  The previous film was a perfect reboot for the franchise and it looks like they're going balls out for the sequel.  I, for one, am deeply excited for this popcorn flick, and I'm not even that much into science fiction.  Plus, Cumberbatch as the villain looks truly magnificent.

Upcoming Worst:

Well, unfortunately, that seems to be it on the spectrum of decent movies coming out until Summer officially starts.  And though there will be movies headed out that seem neither great nor terrible, these next few are the one's I'd watch out for and, most likely, avoid at all costs.

Feb 22:
Dark Skies
Starring: Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton
Dir: Scott Stewart

Vague title.  February release.  Keri Russell.  Yeah.  You know you're not going to have a hit when people start guffawing in the theater when this trailer is played.  Check it out below.  When Keri starts banging her own head into the sliding glass door... try not to giggle and maybe you'll be okay seeing this film.  Awful.

March 15:
The Call
Starring: Halle Berry, Abagail Breslin, Morris Chestnut
Dir: Brad Anderson

Watch the trailer below.  Good.  Have you finished it?  Good.  Now... that's it.  You've seen the whole movie.  You've seen the chick die at the beginning.  You've seen the new chick get kidnapped.  You've seen the two dudes who try to help get killed.  You've seen her try to escape.  You've seen her returned back to the creepy dude's house.  You've seen Halle Berry run there to save her.  The end.  That's literally the whole movie?  Want your two minutes back?  I don't blame you.

March 15:
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Starring:Steve Carrell, Jim Carrey, Steve Buscemi, Alan Arkin
Dir: Don Scardino

This one hurts the most to put on the worst list.  There is nothing that doesn't sound funny about the premise of this movie as well as the stars of the film itself.  However, because the expectations are going to be high, with a cast this funny, but a release date this early, and the fact that the trailer does nothing but make me worried... I have a sad, but strange feeling this movie is going to turn out to be incredibly underwhelming.

March 29:
Tyler Perry's Temptation
Starring: Who Cares?
Dir: Duh.

Do I really have to say anything about this?  "He gon' send you straight ta Hell!"

(I'm also not including a trailer because that would be giving it views.)

April 12:
Scary Movie 5
Starring: Charlie Sheen, Ashley Tisdale
Dir: Malcolm D. Lee

This movie is literally going to be so bad that it doesn't even have a poster.  This is a fan-made poster.  It comes out in less than a month and there is no poster for it.  Posters aside, do you remember the good old days of spoofs and parodies?  I'm talking Airplane!, The Naked Gun trilogy, Hot Shots, Mafia!, Wrongfully Accused, etc.  Then, the Movie movies started.  It killed the parody.  All it did was recreate the exact same scenes the originals used, added a fake celeb cameo, fart joke, or bang on the head.  There's no more cleverness in parody anymore and it has ruined what used to be one of my favorite genres.  Zucker brothers rest in peace.

April 19:
Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko
Dir: Joseph Kosinski

I could be totally wrong about this one.  However, it's Tom Cruise, it's a little too early for a summer release and it actually kinda looks like crap.  Other than the one scene we get a peek at Morgan Freeman's character, every time I see this trailer I feel more and more disconnected from this movie.  Maybe Cruise has just lost all his star power or appeal or whatever, but I am inclined to believe this is going to be a major flop.

April 26:
The Big Wedding
Starring: Robert DeNiro, Diane Keaton, Susan Surandon, Robin Williams
Dir: Justin Zackham

I'd like to point out on the poster that this movie was scheduled for an October 26 release back in 2012.  It was pushed back to Christmas then subsequently moved to mid 2013.  That's not good, folks.  Due to poor test screenings of average joes going "seriously... this movie sucks donkey turds" instead of saying screw it, they change some stuff, edit some stuff out, add more Robin Williams.  Yeah, it's gonna blow.

May 10:
The Great Gatsby
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire
Dir: Baz Luhrmann

Chastise me all you like for this one, but this movie is going to disappoint you all.  Sure, there are the few out there that think this book is the greatest American novel of ours or any time.  But, that doesn't mean it's going to translate well into film.  Let me tell you, folks, I've read the book.  There's not a lot that actually happens.  It's a slower book.  But, they're trying to make it seem in the trailers like there's murder, intrigue, people stabbing people in the back left and right and all this crazy hoopla, when really.... meh, not so much.  I realize that DiCaprio has an outstanding track record, and I'm sure he'll be excellent in it... I just think this movie is going to disappoint more than its going to excite.