Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Movie Review: Sleepless (R – 95 minutes)

Sleepless is a new action thriller that is based on a French movie, Sleepless Night (Nuit Blanche 2011), which was directed by Frederic Jardin.  

The story is essentially the same in this remake. The movie opens with an action-packed heist. Two masked men are holding up a van. They steal a bag from the van, but not before the driver calls for backup – and the backup sees one of the masked men’s faces. After a shootout, the two get away, and the next morning, we learn that the men who stole the bag are cops, partners in fact, and Vincent, the one whose face was seen, offers that they pick up the case for investigation. Unfortunately for Vincent and his partner, Sean, I.A. officer Jennifer Bryant is also on the case.  She’s trying to bust up a large section of dirty cops in this particular Vegas precinct.

As Vincent drives over to the hospital where his ex-wife works to pick up his son and give us some character background, we learn that Dena, his ex, is about to get married to her new boyfriend, and that Vincent has been lousy about being available for his son, Thomas.  Vincent is taking Thomas to his game (honestly, we never learn what sport – so it could be anything – LaCrosse, Hockey, Water Polo, etc), he gets stopped on the road, stabbed, and the bad guys steal Thomas right out of the car.  He then gets a call – it’s from Stanley Rubino, the owner/operator of the fictional Vegas casino/hotel, Luxxus.  Well, Stanley is all upset because that giant back of cocaine that Vincent and Sean stole was on its way to Novak, a member of a big time crime family.

Novak is busy shooting baseballs at and then cutting out the tongue of his cousin, really just as character establishment, when he decides to head over to Stanley to collect the giant bag of drugs, which he has promised to his father to send to their distributors in Canada, which they badly need, because they just recently lost a shipment. It’s a little complicated.

In any case, Stanley tells Vincent to bring him the drugs if he wants to get his son back, Novak tells Stanley to get him the drugs if he wants to keep his tongue, and Jennifer is tailing Vincent very closely, making it difficult for him to get the drugs from Sean to hand over to Stanley in exchange for Thomas.  All this sets up for a very intense evening of chases, fist fights, and gunfire, during which we learn who was really the dirty cop, who was really undercover, and where exactly the drugs end up.

Having never seen the original, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this movie going in to it.  I was expecting perhaps a light action with some comedy bits.  It is not that – it is absolutely a very gritty tense little thriller that is very fast paced and very R rated.  Eventually, it all sort of works out okay, but it does take a while to get there.  This is the first American movie by Swiss director Baran Bo Odar, and I really enjoyed the speed of it.  Because it all takes place in one night, you really feel a bit worn out by the end. 
  • This is definitely a Jamie Foxx movie, as he plays Vincent, and carries the majority of the film. He is very good, and you do feel for him as he goes from determined and angry to panicked and desperate as the night goes on.

  • Gabrielle Union plays Dena, and really doesn’t get much to do aside from yell at Vincent for disappointing her and Thomas.

  • Octavius J. Johnson plays Thomas, and does a pretty god job of being kidnapped, beaten up a bit – angry at his dad, and then trying to help his dad escape.  I was mystified that he had a ‘game’ to get to, which was mentioned over and over again, but I don’t recall them ever mentioning the sport at all.  He had a huge bag, but we never saw what equipment was in it.

  • Dermot Mulroney plays Stanley, and it was fun to see him as a slimy villain when lately he’s been all nice and helpful on Pure Genius. Unfortunately for him, I will always thing of him as Dirty Steve from Young Guns.

  • Scoot McNairy plays Novak in a role that once again had me thinking, “That looks like Scoot McNairy, but I’m not sure”, which is what I think almost every time I see him.  He was downright frightening in this, creepy and nasty.

  • Tip T.I. Harris plays Sean Cass, Vincent’s partner, and there’s not nearly as much of him in the movie as I was expecting. He’s there at the beginning, and shows up to give the drugs back to Vincent, then shows up just at the end to bring him a uniform.  He’s just fine, but again, super Atlanta, and sometimes a little tough to understand.

  • Michelle Monaghan plays Jennifer Bryant, and she gets her own character development when we learn that she recently was beat up on the job, and is trying to get past it, even though everyone keeps asking her how she’s doing. She’s been working on bringing down this particular group of dirty cops for a long time, so she’s willing to break a couple of rules to get there.  I thought she was very good in this, desperately determined.

  • David Harbour plays Bryant’s I.A. partner Dennison who keeps trying to get her to stop overworking herself and maybe take a day or two off.

Overall, I enjoyed it, even though it was different than I was expecting. It’s short, fast, and intense – and worth renting for sure, maybe not seeing in the theater.

6 out of 10.  Gained points for Scoot McNairy still being hard for me to pick out.  Is he disappearing into the role, or is he just that generic looking?
Cast Interviews:

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Movie Review: Underworld Blood Wars (R – 91 minutes)

You may not believe it, but this is the fifth movie in the Underworld Series. 

In 2003, Director Len Wiseman teamed up with stuntman/microbiologist Kevin Grevioux to come up with a vampire/werewolf story basing the transformations on viruses in the blood.  In the story, way back in the day, there was one guy (Alexander Corvinus) who had two sons, one bitten by a bat (Marcus), and one bitten by a wolf (William), and their descendants carried the diseases and spread them, leading to a huge amount of vampires and werewolves (Lycans).

In the first movie, Underworld – we are introduced to Selene – she’s a “death dealer”, a warrior in a vampire clan who hunts Lycans, which is a job she loves.  The movie was a bit of a surprise, and could have been a B movie throw-away (and some might say it is), but I loved it.  The Lycan effects are all mostly practical, with some really amazing prosthetics.  The story is simple – Selene is perfectly happy killing Lycans, having been told by her adopted vampire ‘father’ Victor that they killed her family.  The vampires have decided to extend the power of their ruling family by having three elders, and having two of them in vampire-style comas while one of them is awake.  Amelia is awake, with Victor and Marcus asleep.  Spoiler alert – Selene learns that the Lycans are actually victims in the scenario, and that Victor killed her family.   Lucian, the head of the Lycans, is working on mounting a revenge mission against Victor – since he had once enslaved the Lycans, and killed Lucian’s love – Victor’s own daughter Sonja - because she dared get pregnant with a hybrid baby!  Selene encounters Michael Corvin, who the Lycans are hunting because he’s a direct descendant of the ‘Corvinus’ line and his blood will help them get stronger and win the ‘war’. 

Underworld Evolution was released in 2006, and deals with the repercussions of Selene and Michael starting up a relationship, her killing Victor, and Amelia being killed by the Lycans, but only because they were given instructions by Kraven – a vampire attempting a coup.    Only Marcus is left, and he gets woken up and is very angry about things in general. He’s also mostly bat – again, with some amazing bat prosthetics.  Michael is getting better about controlling his half vampire/half Lycan transformation, and so the two of them end up actually finding the original Corvinus (played by Derek Jacobi if you can believe that!), and attempting to evade both Lycans and vampires.

The third movie in the series is Underworld: Rise of the Lycans from 2009.  Chronologically, this one is actually first as this is the flashback movie that tells the story of Lucian’s birth, capture, romance with Sonja, and then leading a Lycan uprising once Sonja gets murdered by her father.  Honestly, this one is probably my favorite.  It has the medieval setting, and more Bill Nighy, Michael Sheen, and Kevin Grevioux himself as Raze.  It may be an excuse for these fairly big time actors to get more time to play some fun roles after they were all killed in the first movie. 

The fourth movie, Underworld Awakenings,  brings back Selene, waking up after being captured by humans who have finally become aware that this vampire/werewolf war is going on.  Michael is missing and so is their hybrid child – which she didn’t know she had!  Selene teams up with Michael Ealy to help track down her daughter, who of course some Lycans are after – to use her blood to create super Lycans – while also getting help from vampire David, but not his angry vampire father, Thomas.

That brings us up to date, and to Underworld Blood Wars.  Selene is on the run.  Her clan is gone – and since she loved being a death dealer so much, she’s really not sure what to do. Her daughter is in hiding, and even Selene doesn’t know where she is.  David is following her around, because she saved his life last movie.  Meanwhile, a new leader, Marius, has taken over the Lycans – and he’s organizing them like they’ve never been organized before!

Semira, a vampire with some aspirations to rule, has pushed her way onto the council of the Eastern clan.  She and her henchman/cunnilingus provider, Varga, have invited Thomas to the mansion/castle they all live in to ask him to get David to get Selene to come in and train the new group of death dealers to prepare for this incoming wave of Lycans.  Varga’s not all that thrilled about that idea, since he thinks he can train them just fine.  David communicates this to Selene, and since she’s got nothing better to do, she heads to the home of the Eastern clan – a huge castle-like mansion which is filled with vampires that only wear black.

Upon arrival, Selene agrees to help Cassius, Semira, and the other council members.  She begins training the death dealers, but is swiftly betrayed by Semira – who is apparently still holding a grudge about her killing Victor – even though that was like four movies ago.  

Well, Semira has Varga kill the death-dealer recruits so they can blame Selene and the council will want to kill her.  Semira attempts to drain her blood, since it’s really powerful.  David and Thomas bust in to save her, and Thomas sacrifices himself so that they can get away.

Thomas told them to go north to hide, to a Scandinavian clan of Vampires who pretty much stay out of everyone else’s affairs.  Selene and David arrive at their castle on a mountain while Alexia – an up and coming death dealer in the Eastern Clan – is secretly meeting with Marius to give him all the details of what Semira is up to.  The amount of double crosses in this movie is really tough to keep up with.  Selene and David find that this northern clan has all the white vampire clothes, which must be why the Easter clan dresses all in black.  Lena, one of these northern vampires, has some weird teleport-y type powers based on the water? I’m not entirely sure how that works.  They also have been holding on to a drop of Amelia’s blood that she left for David (did I not mention that the vampires can see other’s memories by tasting their blood?), because as it turns out – she was his mother, so he’s of the royal line or whatever.

Alexia definitely led the Lycans to the castle, and they attack – wiping out a lot of the white-wearing vampires.  Meanwhile, Selene and Marius fight on the ice outside, and we get the idea that he’s maybe been dosing himself with something, because he’s bigger and stronger than most Lycans and able to get into Lycan form, with a regular Marius head, which is very unsettling.  With Alexia’s help, Marius is able to beat Selene pretty badly, and she seems to die and slide under the ice. Alexia tastes Selene’s blood, and realizes she was telling the truth about not knowing where her daughter, Eve, is. They decide to go attack the Eastern clan.

David heads back down, proves to the council that he’s Amelia’s son and Semira is actually the bad guy. The council locks her up instead of killing her, and David gets everyone ready just as Marius and crew attack.  There’s a pretty bloody battle, and things are going badly for the vampires since the Lycans brought a cannon-type deal that is punching holes in the wall and letting the sunlight in.  Just as things start looking hopeless, Selene comes back with the newly gained teleport-y type powers, some new white-blond highlights in her hair, a brand new white coat, and all the battle-prepped white vampires from the north as backup. She corners Marius and rips out his spine, but not before learning his special powers are because he captured and killed her love, Michael.

The story ends with David and Selene in line to become the new vampire elders along with Lena as Selene has visions of Eve.  Len Wiseman has already confirmed there will be a sixth and final movie – so I would assume the last movie will be Selene hunting for Eve and then finally ending the war?

This one is directed by Anna Foerster, who has directed episodes of Outlander, Madame Secretary, and Criminal Minds.  She started her career as a director of photography for Roland Emmerich, and there are definitely some sweeping large shots that have an Emmerich-type feel in this movie. I will say that it was really heavy on exposition, vampire family drama, and double crosses.  There were also a lot of characters to keep straight, some new and some old.  It felt a bit choppy throughout, jumping from scene to scene really quickly.  All that considered, I still really enjoyed it, but I’m partial to these movies. I love when everyone in it seems to be having a really good time doing something silly.

  • Kate Beckinsale is back as Selene in her black leather to hunt Lycans.  She has said how much she loves doing these movies, playing a bad-ass werewolf hunter.  She’s perfectly capable, and hey – if I looked that good in a leather jumpsuit, I would wear it all the time.

  • Theo James returns as David, doing his very best to assist Selene while dealing with the revelation about his mother.

  • Tobias Menzies plays Marius. He’s definitely a guy you recognize from Outlander, Game of Thrones, and The Night Manager. I first noticed him in Rome.  Here, he does a good job of being an obsessed Lycan who finally gets all these werewolves together with a goal, but really, the werewolf body with his head was weird.

  • Lara Pulver plays Semira, and I recognized her most from Sherlock, where she played Irene Adler.  She’s just the right touch of vampy evil in this. Her costumes do half the work, but she sasses through the movie.   

  • Charles Dance plays Thomas for a little while, until he sacrifices himself to let David and Selene escape. He’s elegant and always has a touch of evil around him, but he’s pretty fun in this. Again – the wardrobe does half his work.

  • James Faulkner plays vampire council member Cassius, and his job is really just to be gloomy and glowery until David shows up to prove he’s royalty.

  • Peter Andersson plays Vidar – the head vampire of the northern clan who has a whole bunch of pertinent exposition secrets on hand for a guy we are just learning exists five movies in.
  • Clementine Nicholson plays Lena – and while I may not understand how the whole water-burial-gives-me-teleporty-powers thing works, she’s very interesting and has a great outfit – very Viking.

  • Bradley James plays Varga, and his main job is to hang around and roll his eyes.  He was a bit of a tool until he betrayed Semira at the end and tried to help David.

  • Daisy Head plays Alexia, and her double cross was so unexpected to me since we had already had a double cross.  I’m also not sure it did her any good, since letting the Lycans into the Eastern Clan’s castle really wiped everybody out.

Overall, it was not great, but I really enjoyed it. Funny how that can work sometimes!  The werewolves are less practical then they used to be, but they still look pretty good. The vampires are still really goth, hanging out in their castles and believing that they are better than everybody else around them.  I’m really looking forward to the next one, can’t wait to see what Eve has been up to and who has been double-crossing her.

6 out of 10 – gained points for the introduction of a new vampire clan. Lost points because they still refuse to wear any color.  Here’s hoping the next movie introduces a clan of vampires that wear all the colors.

Cast Interviews; 
Bonus - Cinema Sins - Everything wrong with Underworld...but be sure to watch all of them, I'm only putting one here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Movie Review: Assassin’s Creed (PG13 – 115 minutes)

Assassin’s Creed began as a video game series from Ubisoft that debuted in 2007.  The first one is set during the third Crusade in the Holy Land in 1191.  The Secret Order of Assassins – which are based on the Hashshashin sect (you can Wikipedia them for more details – they have a long history) – is battling the Templar Knights (they also have a long history that you can Wikipedia).  The quickest way to sum up their beef is that the Assassins fight for peace through free will, while the Templars want peace through control.

When playing the game, you play as Desmond Miles. In present day, Desmond gets kidnapped by Abstergo Industries and forced into their ‘Animus’, a machine that lets you relive the lives of your ancestors – essentially allowing them to monitor your genetic memories.  Desmond’s ancestor, Altair Ibn-La’Ahad was a senior member of the Assassins.  He had ruined a mission to retrieve an artifact from Robert de Sable, so throughout the course of the game, Altair has to redeem himself by taking on various assassinations, gradually earning back his gear in the process, (“Here’s your wrist blade”, “Now you’ve earned back your sword”, etc.).  The reason Abstergo is after these memories through Desmond is to find the “Apple of Eden”, a relic that may possess god-like powers.  Eventually (spoiler alert) you find out that Abstergo is the Templars, which then rolls into the second game as Desmond is rescued and goes into another animus to his ancestor Ezio Auditore da Firenze during the Italian renaissance.  I actually successfully played the first game all the way through the end, and started the second one (which is my favorite), but am currently stuck in a church in Venice. I struggle with the running along the walls part.  I am currently playing the one set in France (Unity) – I honestly forget what number they are on!

Since the game is essentially playing a guy who is visiting his ancestor’s memories through a machine, I figured if they ever turned it into a movie, they would probably drop the memory part to focus on the parkour-loving assassins.  However, this movie sticks pretty close to the gameplay. 
The movie follows Callum Lynch, who we meet in 1986 as a bit of a daredevil, jumping his bicycle off a roof.  He comes home to find his father standing over his dead mother with a knife, telling him that ‘they’ have found them, and Cal needs to run.  We then meet up with Cal thirty years later as he’s about to be executed in a Texas prison for killing a pimp who tried to mug him.  Strangely, he wakes up after his execution to find that he’s been taken by the Abstergo Foundation to their facility in Madrid.  Dr. Sophia Rikkin, their head scientist (her father Alan is in charge of the foundation), puts him in the animus, to get his genetic memories of his ancestor Aguilar de Nerha.

Aguilar and his partner Maria were rescuing Prince Ahmed de Grandad – the son of the Sultan Muhammad XII.  Templars kidnapped the boy to get the sultan to reveal where the Apple of Eden is hidden. 

Outside the animus, Cal starts to befriend some of the other inmates in the facility – who all seem to be assassin descendants that Abstergo is using to find the Apple.  However, some of them seem to still be ‘on the clock’ so to speak and know a lot more about what is going on than Cal.  He seems pretty shocked by the whole thing.  After all, they’ve been working as assassins, and Cal would have been, had he not spent the last 30 years away from his parent’s assassin upbringing.

Eventually, Alan reveals that Cal’s father is there at the facility – hoping that Cal will kill him and join their side because after all, he has a board to report to and he’s promised them the Apple.  However, Cal’s father reveals that he and Cal’s mother were both assassins, and he killed her to prevent Abstergo from putting her in the animus.  Swayed, Cal follows through Aguilar’s memories, and learns that Aguilar and Maria basically failed in their mission, but that Aguilar did get the Apple, and gave it to someone, who then hid it – however, the Rikkins do get this information and grab the Apple to take to the board.  

But, by this point, Cal has come to realize who he is, and has helped free all the other assassin descendants in the facility – a few of them head to the Templar gathering to steal back the Apple, and begin a new war with the Templars.

Since my favorite part of the games is the look and the lush open world environments where the play takes place – I was hoping to see that in the movie, and it did deliver on that.  Here the memories take place in Spain during the time of the inquisition (1492), between the events of the first and second game.  Directed by Australian Justin Kurzel, the movie blends the current and flashback portions quite well.  It starts with an intense action sequence, then goes through a ton of exposition, but definitely builds to a great climax.  The last half hour or so was great, and I was on the edge of my seat.  They did a great job of translating the complicated nature of the genetic memory action of the game to a movie, but I’m not sure it will read for those who are unfamiliar with the game. It could get confusing. The action was great, the parkour was good, however, since it is such a key part of the game, I did want a little more of it.  Parkour (or free-running) is amazing to watch, so I wanted it shot from farther away and with fewer cuts so that you could see the work the stuntmen were doing.   I was pleasantly surprised with the cast.
  • I was not sure how Michael Fassbender would do with this movie, I don’t really think of him as an action guy – despite the bit in 300.  However, he pulled off Cal’s disbelief early on, and then his progression towards believer as the story progressed.  In terms of the Aguilar memories, he barely looks like himself, so those were pretty great too. 

  • Marion Cotillard plays Dr. Sofia Rikkin, and she did a good job in convincing Cal to help her get what she wants. She at first seemed that she might side with the Assassin’s, but then, just at the end, it seems pretty clear that she’s going to become a big time Templar and really start hunting them down.

  • Jeremy Irons plays Alan Rikkin, who basically is all about the Apple all the time.  He wants the Templars to keep giving him money, so he’s willing to go to almost any lengths.  Including showing Cal a knife, handing it to him, and then pulling it away just as he’s reaching for it to set it on a table in front of him. Really?

  • Brendan Gleeson has basically a one-scene cameo as Cal’s father (and yes, that is his son Brian Gleeson playing him in the 1986 scene).  He provides the final push for Cal to forgive him and realize his assassin potential.
  • Charlotte Rampling plays head Templar (Queen Templar?) Ellen Kaye.  In this, she’s just the pure embodiment of evil – there’s not a ton for her to do aside from walk around and look derisively at everyone else, which she does very well.

  • Michael K. Williams plays Moussa, whose ancestor was an assassin named Baptiste.  He realizes pretty quickly what Abstergo is trying to do with Cal, and starts putting things in motion to assist with the big escape and uprising.

  • Ariane Labed plays Maria, Aguilar’s assassin partner.  She’s pretty great and gets a ton of impressive action sequences.

  • Callum Turner plays Nathan, another imprisoned assassin descendant who gets lippy with Cal about the Apple pretty quickly, even before Cal has any idea what is going on.

Overall, I really enjoyed the movie – far more than I expected to.  The action was spectacular, and the back and forth between present day and memory was done pretty well.  I really enjoyed the build to the end, and potential sequels – and I will say that I do hope they get a sequel, because I want more from Cal and Moussa out on assassination patrol to protect/destroy the apple.
8 out of 10 – gained points for Michael K. Williams begin awesome. Lost points for Jeremy Irons setting the knife on the table after teasing that he was going to hand it over.

Bonus – cast interviews

Bonus – Assassin’s Creed Fan Made Parkour!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Retro Movie Review: Die Hard (1988 – R – 131 minutes)

The debate over whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie has long ago been rendered moot – it’s absolutely a Christmas movie, and in my family’s house, it’s our favorite Christmas movie. Now, there are others to enjoy (Elf, Trading Places, Jingle All The Way), but this is the one we watch every year.  In my opinion, it’s also the greatest action movie ever made.

Released in 1988, the movie was based on the 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp – which itself was a sequel to his 1966 novel, The Detective.  The Detective was actually made into a 1968 hit movie starring Frank Sinatra. 

Joe Leland was the private detective introduced in that story, who then in the sequel “Nothing Lasts Forever” visited the forty-story office headquarters of the Klaxon Oil Corporation in L.A. on Christmas Eve where his daughter Stephanie Gennaro worked. While there, German terrorists take over the skyscraper, and Leland he has to take them out one at a time to rescue his daughter and the other employees.  Barefoot and aided only by LAPD Sergeant Al Powell, he fights off the terrorists.

In the movie, on Christmas Eve, New York police officer John McClane arrives in Los Angeles to spend Christmas with his wife and kids. His wife has moved out to L.A. months prior, having been offered a great job at the Nakatomi Corporation in their brand-new still-being-constructed skyscraper headquarters.  This move caused them to be slightly estranged, and they are both hoping they can reconcile some of their differences while he’s visiting. 

McClane is picked up at the hotel by limo-driver Argyle, who gives him some quick information about the company, and agrees to wait in the building parking garage until McClane lets him know if he’ll need a hotel or not.  McClane goes up to one of the top floors - where the company is holding their Christmas party – they are the only people left in the building.  McClane freshens up in Holly’s office after meeting her boss Joseph Takagi, and her co-worker Harry Ellis – one of the most 80s douche-iest guys ever put to film.  Holly goes to give a speech to the coworkers, leaving John alone in her office. While there, German terrorists, led by the frightening Hans Gruber, break into the building and take everyone in the party hostage. McClane escapes, and heads to a different floor in the building, attempting to build a plan.

After he pulls a fire alarm, he defeats one of the terrorists, and begins to build a tally of how many of them there are. He steals a walkie-talkie, and uses it to call for help. After at first believing McClane to be a Christmas Eve prankster, the police send Sergeant Al Powell to the scene.  He realizes the threat is real and so calls for additional backup.

Eventually, the area outside the building fills up with LAPD, and SWAT – while McClane goes through the building, attempting to take out one terrorist at a time to rescue Holly and the other hostages.  We learn from Hans Gruber, the head of the terrorists, that their true plan is to distract the law enforcement with the hostages while they steal the millions of dollars in bearer bonds that are in the company safe.

Eventually, McClane takes out just about everyone, while the majority of the law enforcement outside proves to be somewhat useless – including FBI Special Agents Johnson and Johnson (no relation). Watch again for the one storming SWAT officer who runs into a difficult rose bush.  

In fact, they play right into Gruber’s hands as the shut down the power and send in armed helicopters.  Only Sergeant Powell is really there to support McClane and keep him appraised of what is happening outside.

It’s a very simple story – regular guy versus big time bad guys to save his lady, but for some reason – it works.  The climax is unbelievably satisfying when (spoiler alert) Gruber falls to his death from the skyscraper, McClane rescues Holly, Powell defends them from Karl, and Argyle shows up just in time to drive Holly and John home for Christmas.
Because Christmas features so heavily into the plot (it’s the reason he’s there in L.A., it’s the reason the holiday party is happening, it’s the reason Hans and crew choose to rob Nakatomi at that time) it makes sense to consider this a Christmas movie.  Directed by action specialist John McTiernan (who also did 80s action spectacle Predator) the movie is fast-paced, easy to follow, and action heavy.  And of course, since it’s from 1988, it has one PTS.  What I really love about it is the care taken in crafting the movie.  Nothing is wasted – every moment of exposition and ‘set-up’ in the beginning of the movie comes back into play later on.  From McClane being told by the guy on the plane to make “fists with your toes” when you arrive to Argyle dragging relationship details out of McClane, to Takagi mentioning how the top floors of the building are not yet done – everything comes back into use.  Even the story Powell tells McClane about being given a desk job plays into the final sequence.  A lot of movies can be described as exposition heavy, but this is one that will teach you how to use every single moment –exposition or otherwise - to enhance the story.

The cast is absolute action movie perfection
  • Bruce Willis was still shooting the TV comedy Moonlighting when production began. He shot Die Hard at night and Moonlighting during the day. His exhaustion actually resulted in the script being adjusted to give some of the supporting characters more screen time – which is part of what makes this movie a classic.  Willis is better in this movie than he is in almost anything else (except for maybe Fifth Element, which is really just future McClane) and he does have an ‘everyman’ quality that makes this movie more fun than if it had been one of the other larger than life action stars of the day.  He’s quotable and relatable as a cop who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and tries to do the right thing.  

  • The movie really does belong to Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber.  Slickly charming and brilliantly evil, he steals every single scene he is in and set the bar exceptionally high for every other action villain to come after.  No one comes close – except maybe for Jeremy Irons in Die Hard 3.  He’s so polished and suave, you can understand why someone so regular and blue collar as McClane drives him a bit crazy.  And yes – he did a short fall onto a mat for the fall at the end, and they dropped him on “two” after telling him they would drop him on “three” – so that iconic look he gives is, in fact, genuine surprise.

  • Reginald VelJohnson plays Sergeant Al Powell, in a long line of his career of comforting cops.  He’s the only one who is one McClane’s side, who believes in him and tries to support him – all while only communicating with him via walkie-talkie.  They connect so completely due to the fantastic performance by VelJohnson, that the moment at the end of the movie where McClane finally gets to meet Powell in person will often bring me to tears. Also – check out the price of gas at the station when Powell is first introduced buying twinkies (yes, this movie is the reason you know the ingredients of Twinkies “Yellow dye no. 5!”) - $.74.

  • Paul Gleason plays Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson – and basically is the same role that he perfected in Breakfast Club and Trading Places.  He’s a government stooge, there to try to steal the glory.  His ineptitude, which is pointed out perfectly by VelJohnson, is the source of much of the humor in this movie.  “I think they’re shooting at the lights!”

  • Bonnie Bedelia plays Holly Gennaro McClane.  She’s pretty great for a 80s action movie lady – she’s not nearly as helpless as some of them, and she tries her best to stand up to Hans and his crew when they shoot her boss.  Once she realizes that John is loose in the building and trying to eliminate the hostages, she hides that he is her husband, so as to not be turned into a weapon to be used against him.  However, once the tool of a news reporter reveals her family – Hans swiftly collects her as his own private hostage.

  • Speaking of the tool of a news reporter, William Atherton plays Richard Thornburg, the pompous 80s tool that he perfected in Ghostbusters and other movies.  He will do anything to get a big story, including threatening Holly’s nanny with deportation to get the kids on the news and reveal that she and John are married.  Her final encounter with him where she punches him in the face is very satisfying!

  • Hart Bochner plays the epitome of 80s excess (“hookers and blow!”) in this movie, Harry Ellis.  He’s just the absolute worst from his first appearance, doing cocaine in Holly’s office, then bragging about the Rolex they gave her (the payoff on that is huge), then deciding he can negotiate with the terrorists.  Cocaine is a hell of a drug.  He’s the reason Hans finds out John’s name, but either through delusion or intelligence (I’m going with delusion), he doesn’t reveal Holly’s connection to John – Thornburg takes care of that.

  • James Shigeta plays Joseph Takagi who welcomes McClane to the party, and then attempts to refuse to give Hans the password to the vault, so Hans kills him.  He’s not around very long, but the scene where Hans goes through the crowd looking for him, listing off his various accomplishments is such a tense sequence enhanced by Shigeta’s stillness and quietly contained panic.

  • Defected Russian ballet dancer Alexander Godunov plays Karl – the number two terrorist.  He’s quickly established as a bit of a hot-head and brother to one of the other terrorists.  After learning McClane killed his brother, he starts to push back against Hans’s leadership, caring more about his own personal vendetta than Hans’s goal.  He’s an exceptional counterpoint to McClane – all European efficiency to McClane’s American reckless enthusiasm.

  • De’voreaux White, who was also on Head of The Class, plays limo driver Argyle.  He basically spends the night partying in the limo in the parking garage, but then begins monitoring the situation on the CB radio once he becomes aware of what is happening.  This allows him to have a huge hero moment at the end of the movie to eliminate Theo.

  • Clarence Gilyard Jr. – from Walker, Texas Ranger – plays Theo, easily the most annoying member of Hans’s crew.  But, like he says, they didn’t bring him along for his sparkling personality.  He’s basically the hacker of the crew, before hackers on the crew were a thing.

  • All the terrorists are pretty fun - but special shout out to actor/stuntman Al Leong (Genghis from Bill&Ted) who has a moment with a Crunch bar that really enhances the comedy in a tense scene.

Overall, the movie is just wonderful, simple, straightforward, fun, and action-packed.  It's probably the best use of Beethoven's Ode to Joy.  It’s so iconic that it promptly became the way to describe the countless rip-offs that came afterwards (“it’s Die Hard on a boat!”  “It’s Die Hard on a train!” – and those are just the Under Siege movies!).  And, since the Nakatomi Plaza Building is actually the Fox Plaza Building, be sure to visit it the next time you are in L.A; 2121 Avenue of the Stars.  When they shot the movie, the top floors were still under construction so that they could use real explosions on the top few floors.  This Christmas, gather your family around (okay, not little ones – it is rated R), and enjoy the best Christmas movie ever.

10 out of 10 – perfection.  Quotable perfection.  “This is Agent Johnson…no, the other one.”  “If this is what Christmas is like, I got to be around for New Years!”

Bonus - ScreenJunkies Honest Trailer - 

Bonus - Making Of Special!