Die Hard 4

Swanner: Bruce Willis is back playing John McClane in the fifth Die Hard installment. When the first Die Hard came out in 1988 I never thought I’d be seeing Willis still playing McClane 25 years later. This time around he travels to Moscow to find out what his son is doing since he hasn’t heard from him in quite a while. It’s takes McClane all of an hour to turn Moscow upside down. John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines) directs.

Judd: I loved that after exiting his cab from the airport, he confronts his son who he thinks is in trouble but turns out is actually a US spy, then immediately steals a truck and engages in a high speed chase. A high speed chase worthy of a Bond movie, if I do say so myself. When the Russians finally capture Jack, the son played by Jai Courtney, they don’t seem the least bit phased that John, a NYPD officer, is with him. In fact, they treat him like he’s been part of the mission all along. He’s one hell of a cop.

Swanner: That’s how you have to look at these movies. You can’t be a stuffy movie critic and expect these movies to make sense. It’s one big stunt show starring Bruce Willis. I was exhausted after the first chase and the ending certainly delivers. The script written by Skip Wood (The A-Team) moves well and doesn’t force any romance or too much sentiment down our throats. If all that isn’t enough the film comes with a 97 minute running time.

Judd: Speaking of sentiment, I liked the way they handled the touchy-feely father-son stuff. In the beginning of the movie John and Jack don’t get along, so kicking Russian ass is a bonding exercise for them. I liked that whenever the bullets stopped flying for 5 minutes, your stereotypical conflict came to its stereotypical conclusion with Cliff’s Notes like efficiency. Pow-pow-pow! “You were never around, Dad.” “I tried my hardest. I was always working to provide for you.” “I guess you aren’t as bad as I thought, then.” Bang-bang-bang!

Swanner: That’s how a good action flick should be. Bad guys die and the good guys say funny things after they shoot up the bad guys and we got that here. The Die Hard movies are supposed to be fun and A Good Day To Die Hard is. I also think it’s a movie theater movie. There is a ton of action on screen and you need that theater sound to hear all those car crashes, bombs exploding and guns being fired.



Beautiful Creatures

Swanner: The new film Beautiful Creatures looks like someone wants to be the new Twilight. A young attractive cast with some veteran actors to give the project validity but the difference here is that the younger members of the cast can actually act and the romance really works. Based on the book of the same name from writers Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, with 4 books in the series, if I was a 12 year old girl I would love this movie.

Judd: Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert are our star-crossed lovers, Ethan and Lena. Ethan is a charming southern boy and Lena is the weird goth girl the rest of the town thinks is a Devil worshiper. The movie’s star power comes from Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum and Emma Thompson. As Lena comes closer to her Sweet 16, she learns that she is going to be claimed as a Good Witch or a Bad Witch by powers beyond her control – or are they?

Swanner: I mention the comparison with the Twilight series because it has teen angst centered around a supernatural theme. Director/writer Richard LaGravenese script is funnier and smarter than the Twilight franchise and the characters much more interesting. I love the locations from the withered plantation to the road leading to the freeway that the town kids see as their escape. He paints a world that looks lush and beautiful but then packs the town with ugly haters ready to pull out the torches and pitch forks at a moment’s notice

Judd: While I won’t say I enjoyed the movie, the characters are much better than Twilight. Unlike Bella, who was an uncharacteristic lump throughout the series until the last movie, Lena starts out as an indistinguishable blob but finds herself before the movie is over. Additionally, the Ravenwood/Duchannes family is much more interesting than the pretty and pallid Cullens. Even Ethan, your stereotypical Southern charmer, is well played without being cheesy by Ehrenreich.

Swanner: It was really unexpected. When the film started you hear Ethan narrating and I thought this is going to be a very long movie. I didn’t like his accent and he wasn’t the most handsome leading man but buy the end I was totally team Ethan. LaGravense’s cast and crew had won me over. I’ve always liked witches better than vampires anyway. Now I’m just hoping it does well so they make the rest of the books into films.

Judd: I agree. Between this and the Hunger Games as the next “Big Tweenage Franchise” I’m looking forward more from Ethan and Lena than I am from Katniss and Peeta.

Judd: ½

Identity Theft

Swanner: February gives us hope that the bleak winter is over and good things are coming to movie theaters. If Identity Thief is any indication then the ground hog was right and spring is here. Identity Thief follows Jason Bateman, a man who has had his Identity stolen by Melissa McCarthy, who must find her and bring her to justice before she completely ruins his life. Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses) directs from a screenplay by Craig Mazin (The Hangover II)

Judd: I want to warn those who like sweet, gentle movies that Identity Thief is not one of those. Like Horrible Bosses, Identity Thief is built around awful people doing awful things to each other – which, for most normal people, is fun to watch. However, Identity Thief is also like The Hangover II, it strives to be more than it is and doesn’t quite hit the mark. Needless characters and some awkward staging detract from the wonderful performances delivered by Bateman, McCarthy and Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet.

Swanner: There are secondary storylines are very distracting because they just disappear while the third act plays out. The film is rated R so the language is bad and there is a raunchy sex scene between McCarthy and Stonestreet that is very funny. It’s a very broad comedy so it should be a crowd pleaser but most critics will hate it. It’s not a perfect movie but it is an entertaining one. It still comes down to the performances by Bateman and McCarthy. He’s a great straight man and she know how to be funny.

Judd: Not only does she know how to be funny, but she can dial it back and play to the emotions as well. Identity Thief has several moments where McCarthy gets to stretch a bit and it’s genuine. Other comics without the depth would play the sentiment for laughs, but she manages to make the scenes work at the emotional level which makes the audience like a person who should be completely unlikeable.

Swanner: That’s very true. She starts off being very unlikeable and all of a sudden your rooting for her. It shows that she has the stuff to be a leading actor and breakout of the supporting actress doldrums. I know the premises is silly and the story gets a bit scattered but I laughed a lot and I didn’t think I would.

Judd: I would definitely say those that liked the Downey/Galifianakis Due Date, and I know there weren’t many, that they are going to like Identity Thief. The humor is very similar. While I wouldn’t say this is theatre ticket worthy, it will definitely be worth a rent.

Swanner: ½
Judd: ½

Bullet to the Head

Swanner: When I got the invite to a screening of Bullet to the Head staring Stallone I was thinking a bullet to the head was probably a good idea but I was pleasantly surprised. Stallone plays a hit man who teams up with an FBI agent after they both lose their partners to the same crime boss. Director Walter Hill brings the same kind of fun and camp he brought to the screen in The Warriors. Not as far over the top as The Warriors was but Stallone certainly tries.

Judd: While you were dreading Bullet, I was looking forward to it. After a December consisting mostly of 3 hour long “Oscar Movies”, I was looking forward to something lighter, trashier and SHORTER! At 93 minutes, Bullet to The Head hits the sweet-spot of runtime, violence and paper thin plot. It’s a throw away movie; a fun waste of time. The movie also stars aging and expanding Christian Slater, Jason Mamoa, Jon Seda and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. I guess the casting director thought that we wouldn’t notice how old and fat they’ve all gotten next to 70 year old Sylvester Stallone.

Swanner: Based on the graphic novel Du plomb dans la tête by Alexis Nolent, screenwriter Alessandro Camon keeps the action fast, loud and bloody. I love the way Stallone just goes for it. He’s always knows his limitation so he finds roles that are enough like him that he doesn’t have to stretch to be good. I thought it was funny how the thugs all look & act like characters from Dick Tracy. Actually Stallone’s multiple face lifts have left him looking a bit cartoonish himself…we’re very snarky today

Judd: The movie wasn’t good, but it was fun and I think our snark fit well into the theme. The one thing I want to mention is the amount of racism there is against Sung Kang. He gets called everything from Kato to Oddjob and Confucius. I’m actually surprised Hop Sing wasn’t thrown out there. I couldn’t help but think that if the actor was any other race, these joke would cause an uproar. Of course, we’ll see what happens after the release.

Swanner: I’ll agree that the film is fun but I think it’s a good solid film for its genre. This is one of those films that will work on home video as well as it does on the big screen. The 93 minute running is really refreshing. It’s a tight little action picture that’s not trying to win any awards. It wants to be entertaining and that it does.

Swanner: ½
Judd: ½