Reviews


I hope you’ll forgive me as I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus with this little gem of a blog. The holidays, combined with building a new house, and resurrecting my opera career (yes, I’m a classical/opera singer) has left me less than motivated to keep the NIRV up and operating.

Also, in speaking with occasional NIRV contributor and Aiepathy for Technology blogger Wolfman, I’ve thought that perhaps my focus has been too broad. Covering all of entertainment is a daunting task for one guy, especially when I’m not particularly interested in ALL aspects of entertainment. Nor are you, I should think.

So, the idea here will be to focus. Dwindle the topics down to those I am truly interested, in the hopes of attracting readers and commenters of similar stripe. Simply put, entertainment geeks.

So, I’m gonna attempt to be your one-stop blog for the following subject areas and topics:

Movies: Sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero films
TV: “Lost”, “Battlestar Galactica”, and “Heroes”
Games: XBOX 360 news and reviews
Books: Sci-fi/fantasy genre

Along the way, I hope to add to this list (depending upon your interests), as well as occasionally talk about my personal life down here in sunny Houston.

I welcome and cherish each and every hit and comment I get here at E-NIRV. I think it has the potential to be a little something special, a filled niche for the genre lover in all of you.

Thanks for listening!

— RebRob, Editor-in-Chief

On Saturday, I had the privilege in watching the next phase in filmmaking, when I attended a screening of Beowulf.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story, it’s a song told of the hero Beowulf, a Geet warrior come to Denmark to rid the land and its king of Grendel, a horrific and tormented monster. Beowulf’s legend is as big as his ego, but as Babe Ruth said, “it ain’t bragging if you can do it.” And Beowulf can most definitely do it. For Beowulf though, the curse of Grendel reaches far deeper than anyone knows, a curse that threatens to consume his very soul and that of Denmark.

Although this tale has been told for centuries, I will leave the rest of the particulars to your viewing pleasure. And this film is sheer viewing pleasure.

First off, the acting. And although this film is done through animated motion capture CGI (think Gollum from Lord of the Rings), believe me when I tell you that the actors performed every bit of what you see on screen. First off is the title character himself, Ray Winstone as Beowulf. He brings a fierceness to the character that is of course necessary for such a larger than life figure, yet he portrays Beowulf’s false bravado and insecurities with amazing finesse. He comes to aid King Hrothgar, portrayed by Anthony Hopkins. Hrothgar is the stereotypical King asleep at the wheel, too drunk and too foolish to see his kingdom stands on the edge of disaster; all the while it drinks itself to death. Robin Wright Penn plays his queen Wealthow, a young beautiful woman, devoted to her king, but revulsed by his past. Crispin Glover voices Grendel, a misshapen, tortured beast who must destroy all that hurts him. Finally, Angelina Jolie plays Grendel’s mother, a mythical creature, beautiful yet terrifying. All do a great job here.

Next, the story. Zemeckis culls just the right amount of material from the legend, with changes a bit here and there. The alterations do well to make “Beowulf” more of a personal tale, balancing the action and violence (of which there is plenty). Zemeckis’ Beowulf is a tragic hero, full of bravado and tall tales, but inwardly inadequate and unsatisfied. As his stature as a legend grows, his emptiness grows as well (almost like a balloon inflated to bursting). He knows no other way, though. He must succeed, no matter what the cost. When he dispatches Grendel, his mother offers Beowulf a choice. Give in to her and be a hero forever, or pass out of knowledge and memory from her wrath. Herein lies the quintessential idea behind the film; what is the cost of being hero, both for the hero himself and for the society that champions him? Is it worth risking tragedy and mayhem in order to have something or someone to celebrate? In the end, it is not Beowulf who must decide, but all of those who believe in him.

Lastly, the special effects. I did not see Zemeckis’ holiday film “The Polar Express”, but I saw enough clips to marvel at the level of complexity CGI realism had. CGI has been around for more than a decade thanks to Pixar, but almost always as an extension of the cartoon world (Toy Story, Incredibles). Here, “Beowulf” strives to be as realistic as possible. The facial expressions are truly amazing. I often had to stop myself from believing that these weren’t the real actors performing live. Angelina Jolie’s first appearance on screen is SO real looking, I had to convince myself that it was still CGI. Anthony Hopkins gets the most subtlety out of his character, a tribute to the screen legend’s talent.

“Beowulf” is the first mainstream CGI film to be truly targeted for adults. The level of complexity and nuance opens a lot of doors towards making similar films in this genre. Interestingly enough, I found myself more willing to be sucked into this fantasy world than that of live action (Lord of the Rings included). This isn’t to say it’s a better movie, or better acted. The CGI simply wills itself to be more engrossing in its fantasy. It’s a remarkable achievement, and a very worthwhile film.

You won’t believe this, but there was once a time in Hollywood where you made one film’s story and went onto another project. A sequel to a film was relatively unheard of (outside of the comedy movie realm, such as the Andy Hardy movies, and the famous Bing Crosby/Bob Hope “Road” movies). Later, Sergio Leone made his “Man with no Name” trilogy of films with Clint Eastwood, ushering in the western’s submission into serialized cinema. The first sci-fi/fantasy film to buck that trend was “Planet of the Apes” in the late sixties.

Nowadays, the sequel is a forgone conclusion for a blockbuster. If it makes more than $200 million and there’s a story to be told, a sequel will be made. And if there’s enough hype, you’ll get the mother lode. A trilogy.

So, what are the great trilogies in film? This is why you have E-Nirv. Here now is the E-Top for this week: the five best trilogies.

#5. (Tie) The Matrix/Pirates of the Caribbean. They make it into the top 5 on the basis of their first installments. The original Matrix was so original to American cinema and left the door open with such potential, it ranks as one of the best sci-fi films ever. Its combination of pure action and deep thinking philosophy made it a sleeper hit in 1999, and spawned a billion dollar franchise. The next two installments, however, while flashy and brilliant to look at, did not impress to the extent of the original.

The “Pirates” franchise falls into a similar mold. A quality swashbuckling buccaneer film has too long been absent from theaters. When word got out that Disney was making a full-length feature film based on an amusement park ride, critics were understandably skeptical. The result was one of the more enjoyable action films of the last decade. All thanks to Johnny Depp. His portrayal of the always flamboyant but equally addled Jack Sparrow (“CAPTAIN” Jack Sparrow) made this film sing with character. The next two chapters seemed to get too big for their britches and the story too weighty and complex. Still, Depp made these films entirely watchable.

4. Indiana Jones Trilogy. For now, it’s still a trilogy, though a fourth installment will be released next summer. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” was revolutionary. As sci-fi flicks (E.T., Star Trek, Star Wars) dominated the cineplexes in the early ’80s, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Harrison Ford brought to us something new, or rather something old. Inspired by the Saturday morning serial films of the 1930s, Lucas created Indiana Jones, a battle weary treasure hunting professor doing battle with the Nazis, an Indian Cult, and still yet more Nazis. The dialogue snappy, the plots compelling, and featuring a hero who occasionally gets the snot kicked out of him, the films’ staying power is undeniable.

3. The Godfather Trilogy. The first two Godfather films should rank in the top 25 of anyone who considers themselves a movie fan. They are both filled with such memorable images and themes, hardly a week goes by when you don’t hear a quote from these films. The first and only film and sequel each to earn an Academy Award for Best Picture. Conversely, the Godfather III is a flawed yet still serviceable film. Sophia Coppola’s “performance” ruins her scenes with unmitigated bad acting (word was Winona Ryder or Julia Roberts were both wanted for this movie…just imagine). Still, the film is effective in showing Michael Corleone’s final descent into personal hell. For all of the power he wielded and his ability to “pull the strings” in an effort to preserve a future for his family, he sees too late that which really matters in life, and dies old and alone, perhaps the worst death a mobster can have. There are some great moments in this film, and if you can shut Sofia Coppola out, it’s a nice finish to the trilogy.

2. Original Star Wars Trilogy. What makes the first three Star Wars so fantastic is their simplicity. The downtrodden rising up to usurp their oppressors. A galactic battle on a huge scale, told through the eyes of three individuals: Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo. Luke, the naive boy suddenly thrust into a King Arthur like role. He is the chosen one, yet must learn on the run as his enemies attempt to destroy him and all that he loves. Princess Leia, the eternal optimist and conscience of the Rebellion. She is the weathervane for the resistance. Eloquent and battle fierce at the same time, Leia engenders loyalty from all around her. Han Solo represents the cynic in all of us. He’s given up wanting to change things by the time the first film begins. Instead of fighting the system, he skirts around it, carving out his own niche as a smuggler. His is a tale of learning how to trust and believe again.
Finally, the Star Wars trilogy came upon its brilliance really through the use of Darth Vader. The uber-evil and mysterious leader of the Emperor’s forces is among the most intimidating of any movie villain. He can kill with a thought and often kills without thought. His minions mean nothing to him, merely means to an end. Through one of the truly surprising moments in cinema, he reveals himself as Luke Skywalker’s father in the second film. From there, the trilogy becomes about something more than just earning freedom. It becomes a story of redemption. Luke believes there still to be good in his father, even when no one else does, even Vader himself. Luke’s perseverance earns that redemption for Vader, and here Lucas ties the liberation of an entire galaxy into the redemption of one man. Great, mythic stuff.

1. Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Making JRR Tolkien’s epic series into films was once thought impossible. The books are too detailed, the characters too numerous, the plot too confusing. But Peter Jackson proved them all wrong. The story about the least among us being the savior of all is not original, but it is told in fantastic fashion as Frodo Baggins and best friend Samwise Gamgee alone enter Mordor to destroy the Ring that could destroy everything. Jackson masterfully edits Tolkien’s opus into a brilliant three acts, while taking away little if any of the wonder that Lord of the Rings generates. The films are perfectly cast and acted, the scenery of New Zealand as Middle Earth breathtaking, and the effects and sets mind-blowing. The trilogy earned more than 20 Oscars, with a record-tying 11 for the last film alone. Wonderful film making and a truly special experience.

Happy Friday from E-Nirv!

The last great Western was “Unforgiven”, with “Tombstone” running a close second. Why has the genre so left our consciousness as an entertainment form? It could be because we (this author included) have recently been obsessed with comic books and adapting them for the silver screen. Westerns aren’t flashy. They don’t have CG explosion, flying beings of fire and silver, hot hi-tech jets, and adamantium claws. Westerns are gritty, they’re faded, they’re real. At least the good ones are…

So, along comes “3:10 to Yuma”, not only a Western, but a remake of a Western based on a short story by Elmore Leonard. It stars Christian Bale and Russell Crowe, and it is one hell of a great movie, Western or not.

Russell Crowe as Ben Wade

Russell Crowe plays Ben Wade, ringleader for a gang of outlaws. Wade is charsimatic, educated, but above all a skilled killing machine. However, sometimes being the best makes you complacent. And Wade makes a mistake following a stagecoach robbery that gets him caught.

Christian Bale is Dan Evans, once a sharpshooter in the Civil War (but which side???), now transplanted to Arizona to etch out a living as a farmer. He is trying to buy the land he works on, but has come upon hard times. With no money in hand and none in the foreseeable future, he stands to lose his stake. Evans is in many ways (physically but more important mentally) a broken man. His two sons look upon him as a coward. His wife won’t look upon him at all. Yet still he does what he thinks it will take to keep his family afloat.

Dan Evans (Christian Bale)

Through a set of circumstances (highly plausible but ones I won’t divulge), a posse is assembled to take Ben Wade to the jail in Yuma via a train that leaves the town of Contention (a day’s ride away) at 3:10. Ben is given the chance to join the posse and earn the money needed to buy his land.

I won’t give any more of the plot away because I truly feel the best part of this movie is watching how the story unfolds.

“3:10” is a great movie about the struggles a man faces as he tries to redeem himself, to his family and to himself. What exactly constitutes a hero? What obstacles will you not allow to stand in your way? What obstacles will you decide are too difficult to overcome?

Also, for Crowe’s character, what is the nature of evil? Are people truly good, or truly bad?

Great performances by both lead actors make “Yuma” a movie not to be missed. A fantastic Western. A fantastic movie.

Rating (out of 10) – 10

— Geeksinger

As a shoutout to fellow blogger and best bud Keith, this week’s E-Top is all about Bruno. Bruce has had a great career, continuing to reinvent himself while still staying consistent (a hard nut to crack).

Growing up, one of my favorite shows was “Moonlighting”. It was just such a departure from the standard private-eye dramedies of the time. It was way too hip for the room, and its hipness was due to Bruce Willis. He always made that show feel more like a movie than a TV series. It was only logical that he make the jump to the big screen, leaving chronic complainer and eternal nag Cybil Shepard in the dust.

Anyway, without further ado, I give you Bruce’s best.

10. Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995).

Following the rather lackluster sequel to the original Die Hard masterpiece, the third installment got the franchise back on track. This one features John MacClane back on his home turf of NYC, trying to bring down Simon Gruber, brother of Hans (killed by John in Die Hard). What really makes this film work though is the interaction of Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, in one of his first “co-starring” vehicles following his “Pulp Fiction” success. Good buddy flick.

9. The Jackal (1997).

It kills me not being able to rank this film higher, but I have to remind myself that Bruce is only a supporting character here. The Jackal is really a Richard Gere movie. Excellent film, either way. Willis stars in the title role of The Jackal, a brutal assassin contracted by the Russian Mafia to exact revenge on the American government. Along with Gere and Willis, great performances by Sidney Poitier and Diane Venora. Even Jack Black has a great role as a 2-bit criminal. Willis shines here by being quite understated, a vicious killer always in control and always a step ahead of everyone else.

8. 16 Blocks (2006).

A simple but riveting story about an aging, about-to-retire cop Jack Mosely(Willis) assigned to escort a motormouth witness (brilliantly played by Mos Def) 16 blocks to the courthouse to testify. Unfortunately, some of Jack’s colleagues can’t afford for that to happen.

7. The Siege (1998).

Another film where Bruce supports the action, this time with Denzel Washington. “The Siege” is an all-too-real story about terrorist cells operating in New York City. When FBI Special Agent “Hub” Hubbard (Washington) can’t seem to stop the bombers, the military is called in to institute martial law. They are led by General William Devereaux (Willis), a man who sees the military as a last resort but doesn’t hesitate to go full force when called upon. “The Siege” is a great commentary on wondering just how far we’re willing to go with our freedom to be safe. Excellent cast including Annette Bening and Tony Shalhoub. This was the first DVD I ever owned. At the time, 3 years before 9/11, I thought it just a cool action movie. I had no idea how prophetic it was.

6. 12 Monkeys (1995).

In this futuristic thriller, Willis plays James Cole, a convict sent back in time to gather info on a man made virus that wiped most of the population. It’s a mindbender of a film, full of quirks. Most quirky is Brad Pitt, who as mental patient Jeffery Goines, seems to either know too much or be completely bonkers. Great flick on the political and moral consequences of time travel, as well as degrees of sanity, nature of reality.

5. Sin City (2005).

This mindblowing film is a graphic novel, written by Frank Miller, brought to life by Guillermo del Toro. It tells the story of three characters (Hartigan-Bruce Willis, Marv-Mickey Rourke, and Dwight Macarthy-Clive Owen) caught up in the violence of Basin City. While three separate stories, they are linked together in horrifying detail. Willis’ Hartigan is a rugged cop, giving up everything to rescue the little girl and woman he loves.

4. Pulp Fiction (1994).

A truly classic, groundbreaking film by Quentin Tarentino. One of the first to feature intertwining stories that leaped back and forth timewise to tell a story. This is another flick where Bruce Willis is not the star, but rather lends support as Butch Coolidge, a run-down boxer working for the Mob. When asked to throw a fight, he refuses, leading to certain…ah…complications. Bruce seems to have a knack for finding genre benchmark films, and Pulp sure is one of them.

3. The Sixth Sense (1999).

In his first of two M. Night Shymalan movies, Willis stars as Dr. Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist attempting to help a Cole Sears (Haley Joel Osment) overcome some frightening visions. Problem is, Malcolm is struggling with some demons of his own, as Cole is his first case back after being assaulted by an unstable former patient. With one of cinema’s all-time great plot twists, this film is one of two that Willis will forever be remembered.

2. Unbreakable (2000).

In his other M. Night vehicle, Bruce Willis does his best acting in “Unbreakable”, in my opinion. In it he plays David Dunn, a college security guard who just happens to be the only survivor of a horrific train wreck. Not only does he survive, he walks away without a scratch. Samuel L. Jackson co-stars as Elijah Price, an invalid who realizes the value of Dunn’s “power”. It’s a great allegory on superheroes vs. real-life heroes. Elijah’s speech about the nature and value of comic books is priceless. An OUTSTANDING film, and for me, the best M. Night movie.

1. Die Hard (1988).

Bruce’s best movie is “Die Hard”, no question. Not only is it one of the great action movies ever, it redefined the genre by having a hero who didn’t have all the answers. A hero that screws up. A hero that forces the issue rather than let plot dictate his actions. He IS the plot. Willis stars as John McClane, a NY cop visiting his estranged wife and family in LA for Christmas. While attending his wife’s company business party, the building is taken over by terrorists, led by Alan Rickman. Rickman plays Hans to perfection, injecting the villain with a great sense of humor and intelligence. The interplay between the two, combined with fantastic action, and Bruce’s wonderfully profane wit allow this film to hold up, even 20 years later (has it been 20 years since Die Hard??? Good Lord…)

Well, there you have it…this week’s E-Top. Would love to hear your thoughts on Bruce’s best. Talk to ya soon!

I’ve rewritten the introduction to this review six times now, and I still can’t come up with a way to kick it off. It shouldn’t be that hard, right? A movie review? About a kid’s book? I mean, it’s not “Lord of the Rings”, is it?

Is it?

Moneywise, the “Harry Potter” movie franchise has been THE most successful franchise in history, garnering nearly $3 billion worldwide with the first four installments. The fifth film, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”, opened yesterday. And being the huge Potter fans we are, my wife and I went.

I’ll dispense with the preamble and get right down to it: “Phoenix” is not only the best of the Harry Potter films to date, it is in my opinion one of the best films I’ve seen in the last 3 years, dating back to “Return of the King”.

Three pieces of this film work to near perfection: the directing, the casting, and the screenplay.

First, the directing. Potter first-timer David Yates steps in to “Phoenix” as its fourth director (Chris Columbus having done the first two, followed by Alfonso Cuaron and Mike Newell). Yates takes a transitional storyline in “Phoenix” and translates it into something truly riveting. Even though this film is the shortest in the series, it somehow feels full of excitement and tension. The camera shots are less of the panorama and fantastical that we’ve been treated to previously and feels much more grounded, and somehow more real. The lighting and special effects really create the feel of a society on the brink of a war.

Casting next. Series co-stars Rupert Grint (Ron Weasely) and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) do well with the screen time they have, although they are mainly background for the plot. Who really shines here is Daniel Radcliffe as the title character. With the focus on Harry’s psyche more than ever, Radcliffe brilliantly portrays this teen struggling with a truth no one else seems to want to accept. The years of near-death escapes and torture has visibly taken its toll on Potter. One of the things I always liked about the books is that even though Potter is the hero, author JK Rowling doesn’t portray him as the proverbial white knight. Harry is troubled, moody, depressed, antagonistic, sometimes bordering on disturbed. All this is wonderfully brought to the screen by Radcliffe (nod again to director Yates on this one as well). All of the other regulars do fine jobs, tip of the hat to Alan Rickman (who always does a great job as Snape), Jason Isaacs (wonderfully evil as Death Eater Lucius Malfoy), and Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid).

But highest kudos belong to two of the new cast members, Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) and Imelda Staunton (Delores Umbridge). Lynch is PERFECTLY cast as the flighty yet loyal Luna. While accurately showing the vacant, wandering expressions and conversation of Luna, Lynch really captures the true depth of the character. She serves as Harry’s sounding board, someone who can comment on what he’s seen from a third person point of view, yet knows the mentality accompanied by one who has suffered and lost much. Ron and Hermione, best friends though they may be, don’t truly know what he’s going through. But Luna does.

Imelda Staunton is beyond a doubt one of the scariest villains I have ever seen in films. The best “bad-guys” aren’t the ones who outlandishly flail weaponry and scream calamity, but those that keep it on a slow boil under the surface, that metaphorically stab you in the back with a smile on their face and a twinkle in their eye. And brother, does Staunton nail it. As Delores Umbridge begins to assert more and more power over the Hogwarts, you can see the wheels turning, the acknowledgement of power building. I am not the only one who is thinking Staunton could be in line for an Oscar nomination (crazy for a Harry Potter movie, I know, but I’m telling you she is THAT good).

Finally, the screenplay. Admittedly, a lot of material from the book has been removed. The inner workings of the Order of the Phoenix, Ron Weasely’s joining of the Quidditch team, the true nature of the “Prophecy” as pertains to both Harry Potter and friend Neville Longbottom, and so on. But, as an avid Potter reader, I not once felt cheated. Everything vital to the story is included and seamlessly put together. At its heart, this is a film about Harry feeling isolated (a “darkest before the dawn” type of scenario). From friends, from family, everyone. It’s a feeling all teenagers have at one point in their lives; that no one understands them, that no one cares. Except for Harry, the stakes are much higher. Lives are at stake, lives have already been lost. The film doesn’t just solve Harry’s emotions in a cookie cutter like way; in the end, you really see what friendship means.

Finally, I just wanted to offer some personal feelings based on what I’ve seen. It may seem folly by some of you to attach some real-world significance to a fantasy film. But frankly, I’m not sure I care.

This story concerns a society, highly successful and quite content, being told that it’s way of life is in jeopardy. That evil looks to destroy from outside and within. How do you react? Well, a few courageous ones like Potter and company decide that they want to fight. But many don’t want to admit that there is a threat, deny the existence of that evil, even forget evidence that such things ever existed. Here is the basic struggle in “Phoenix”. It wasn’t merely that Voldemort has returned, in fact in this story, it’s more of a sideline. The real threat here is by a government (Ministry of Magic) trying to convince its citizens that nothing is wrong, trying to hold together the fragile pieces of the blinders they have been wearing. It’s not hard to see a connection between Voldemort’s forces and terrorism. It’s also not hard to see a connection between the society of wizards and witches and our own societies in the US and Europe. I would love to continue in this discussion, but after all, this is just a movie review. Suffice to say that “Phoenix” makes you realize that there are causes worth fighting for, worth dying for.

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” is truly a fantastic movie. I heartily recommend it.

It’s been almost 20 years since “Die Hard”, a film that reinvented action movies to be more character driven, less serious, more flawed. I mean, John McClane makes mistakes, something you never saw in an Arnie or Stallone action film in the 80’s. The villain had a sense of humor, a REAL one. It’s the first action film I remember thinking “How in the world can he get out of this one?” I mean, he spends the entire movie fighting terrorists in his bare feet.

Now, I know some of you will say that since “Lethal Weapon” came first it was really the pioneer. I can’t say as I disagree with your point of view. However, I think of “Lethal” as more of a cop buddy film, less about the action.

Back to “Die Hard”

I’ve loved both sequels to varying degrees and for different reasons. Die Hard 2 was more of a pure action piece where as Die Hard 3 was more about Willis and Sam Jackson. By then, the action formula pioneered by the first film had been done to death; and while DH3 was very entertaining, it was starting to show its age as a franchise.

Earlier this year, Stallone captured the hearts of many a critic with “Rocky Balboa”. It was a sequel (#6 actually) that went back to its roots in its simplicity. It focused on the characters and less on boxing. If you haven’t seen it, I heartily recommend it.

With that in mind, it seems as though Bruce Willis and Director Len Wiseman are trying to go back to basics with “Live Free”.

Bruce is back as Detective John McClane, still a NY police officer, and struggling with a life of alienation. His career of saving the world time after time has taken its toll on his personal life. Divorced, alienated from the rest of the cops, his friends, and his family. McClane is basically alone. He’s taken to stalking his daughter to find out what she’s doing because she won’t answer his calls. She’s dropped his last name in a final act of defiance and desertion.

Anyway, McClane is charged with bringing a computer hacker named Ferrell (played well by Justin Long) to Washington to answer questions regarding his role in a massive cyber attack on the United States. The attack is known as a “fire sale”, basically a wiping out of computerized transportation, economic, and safety controls all across the country.

You get the idea. McClane gets kid, terrorists want kid dead, McClane takes them all on.

So how does it play?

The Bad:
1. A PG-13 rating kills the tension in this movie. It just never seems to excite more than the occasional explosion or chase scene. The studio apparently wanted to reach a larger audience with the more gentile rating. It saw the competition it would be up against and decided to clean it up to try to rake in the bucks. It doesn’t work here. “Die Hard” movies always had a gritty feel to me. That was part of its appeal. Even Willis’ trademark line is mostly sacrificed to make a more pristine film. Why the PG-13? Everyone who has seen the Die Hard franchise is either over 21, or WAY over 21. It doesn’t work for the character of McClane, doesn’t work for the film.

2. The villain. Timothy Oliphant plays Gabriel. I won’t say much more about him so as not to give the plot away, but he was really flat as a character. There was just nothing about him that struck fear, awe, or even a crooked smile. He has a very boyish look, seeming more like a guy trying to steal his dad’s car keys than shut down the country.

The Good
1. Bruce Willis does his level best to give us a great performance as a PG-13 McClane. You can almost see him struggling internally as he says lines like “Jackass!”, “Jerkoff”, and lots of “freaking”‘s. Still, you like McClane because Willis is so darn likable.

2. Justin Long does a good job as the sidekick in this film. He has some nice comedic timing, and can pull off the dramatic moments fairly well.

3. Maggie Q plays Mya, Gabriel’s chief henchwoman. The action scenes with her and Willis are pretty “freaking” good.

4. The plot. This one is actually a “Good” and “not so good”. First off, the PG-13 again just kills the story. While a sense of urgency is there, it never seems serious enough to drive the story. What would shutting down the traffic systems and power really look like? It’d be more than just one big traffic jam. Still, the message behind the plot is well-founded. It’s actually a statement on our post 9/11 world. With the magnificently integrated technology web of services we’ve created for ourselves, we could actually be in very serious trouble if one of the playing cards was removed from the metaphorical house we’ve constructed.

5. McClane’s explanation of why he does what he does. I won’t say anything else, other than to say it’s a good speech about what heroes REALLY are.

Overall, I’d give this movie a solid 6, maybe a weak 7. It doesn’t ring true to me as a Die Hard movie, more like a supplement to the series, maybe an appendix.

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