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Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Willis’

Please note this is not a review of Olympus Has Fallen but is does contain plot spoilers.

When I saw the lazy and lamentable A Good Day To Die Hard back in February I suggested the filmmakers take a look at the original classic Die Hard from 1988 to remind themselves what made it so great. Now two months later I have seen a film made by people who have clearly spent a lot of time watching Die Hard, so much so that at times it felt like a remake. It also had the benefit of a decent director in the shape of Antoine Fuqua. Although he has never recaptured the heights of Training Day (2001) he has made some good dumb fun like The Replacement Killers (1998) and Shooter (2007).

Olympus Has Fallen or Die Hard in The Whitehouse

So with all this going for it Olympus Has Fallen must be a great film? Sadly it isn’t. at risk of damming with faint praise, it isn’t terrible. The problem, going far beyond the confined setting of Nakatomi Plaza/The Whitehouse, the movie totally lacks originality and actually takes key plot points from Die Hard. Including the failed helicopter assault, the hero bumping into one of the terrorist (who is pretending not to be a terrorist), and not forgetting the twist, where the terrorists motives are revealed to be different to what they first appeared to be.John McClane and Mike Banning

Then we move onto Die Hard’s greatest asset, the villain, not only is Hans Gruber one of the best (and best written) villains in movie history, but he is played with relish by Alan Rickman, a great actor who was born to play the role. Rick Yune, isn’t terrible, but he lacks the menace of Rickman’s Gruber as well as an underwritten part.Hans Gruber and Kang

Bruce Willis has become an action hero and is often mentioned in the same breath as fellow 80’s action stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, what is often forgotten is Willis only earned this reputation because of Die Hard, prior to that he was best know as the star of TV romantic comedy drama. This everyman quality was one of the things that made John McClane agreat character and more importantly, Die Hard a great film. Casting the man best known for playing King Leonidas prevents any possibility of any everyman quality to Olympus Has Fallen, but it would have been so easy to solve this problem. Simply swap the casting around and making Aaron Eckhart the action hero and Gerard Butler (who also produced) the President.Olympus Has Fallen aaron eckhart and gerard butler

So while I can’t condemn a filmmaker for following my advice of making a film more like Die Hard, I equally can’t praise them for remaking Die Hard. My plea, please come up with some original ideas. And this leads me to a final thought; last week I was left wondering how Oblivion would compare to the similarly themed After Earth due out later this year, Olympus Has Fallen isn’t the only White House under attack movie this year. White House Down is due for release in the summer, given that it is directed by Roland Emmerich, I suspect the American landmark will get even more trashed.

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Following Frank Miller/Robert Rodriguez’s neo-noir 2005 Sin City a sequel based on another of the Sin City graphic novel series “A Dame to Kill For”. Originally mooted for release in 2007 it has been constantly pushed back until around 2010 when it looked like it would never happen. In accordance with the new Hollywood bylaw stating that Josh Brolin must be cast in all new movies he has taken the part of Dwight McCarthy replacing the departing Clive Owen. Other changes Devon Aoki (who is pregnant) Michael Madsen (who dropped out), Brittany Murphy and Michael Clarke Duncan have sadly passed away. Josh Brolin Clive Owen A Dame to Kill For Dwight McCarthy

Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin) is called by femme fatale and former lover Ava Lord (Eva Green) asking for his help to get away from her abusive husband. It soon becomes clear there is far more going on than Dwight bargained for. For the film to work the casting of Ava Lord is crucial. The first name mentioned back in 2006 was the seemingly perfect Angelina Jolie. It was even suggested that the original delay was caused by her pregnancy. After she dropped out Rachel Weisz was reported as a replacement but the film never got off the ground. Over time Salma Hayek, Rose McGowan (who was dating Robert Rodríguez at the time), Michelle Williams, Helena Bonham Carter, Scarlett Johansson, Anne Hathaway and Jennifer Lawrence have all been linked or rumoured for the part but Eva Green has finally been confirmed in the role.Eva Green Ava Lord Sin City

As with the first film, it is split into sections, it appears they are based on A Dame to Kill For, Just Another Saturday Night and two new stories, The Long Bad Night and one as yet untitled. Other returning cast includes: Mickey Rourke as Marv, Jessica Alba as Nancy Callahan, Powers Boothe as Senator Roark, Rosario Dawson as Gail, Jaime King as Goldie and Wendy, Bruce Willis as John Hartigan with new cast including Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Johnny, Ray Liotta as Joey and Juno Temple as Sally. North American release is set for October, European dates are yet to be announced but are sure to be soon after.Sin City A Dame to Kill For new and retuning cast

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A few thoughts on A Good Day To Die Hard: Die Hard 4.0 (2007) aka “Live Free or Die Hard had its problems but it also had its charms. The wisecracking Justin Long fulfilled the roll taken by Samuel L. Jackson in the superior Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995). While Mary Elizabeth Winstead playing John McClane’s daughter performs a similar role to McClane’s wife, Bonnie Bedelia in the classic original Die Hard (1988). These two elements combined with a half decent antagonist played by Timothy Olyphant and a few good action set pieces to make the movie watcahble if inferior to its predecessors. A Good Day to Die Hard (2013) tries to combine the two archetypes into John (aka Jack) McClane Jr. (Jai Courtney) but this is the least of the movies problems.A-Good-Day-to-Die-Hard

There is a scene in the movie where the McClane’s drive from Moscow to Chernobyl in little more time than the villains fly there in a helicopter. As we walked out of the movie last night, the friend I had watched it with mentioned that Chernobyl is six or seven hundred miles from Moscow across the border in The Ukraine. Ten to twelve hours drive. As I said at the time, if the movie was any good he wouldn’t have noticed or at least wouldn’t care. But how did our heroes end up at Chernobyl? To put it simply it was the conclusion of a thin but convoluted plot that borders on xenophobia.A_Good_Day_To_Die_Hard_poster

Filled with big action scenes but lacking any fun or excitement. A car chase puts the protagonist in peril or perceived danger, this creates excitement, by taking that danger out of the movie removes the viewers involvement and interest. While we know that John Mclane isn’t going to get badly hurt in a Die Hard movie, we still need a glimmer of realism and a sense of danger to keep us on the edge of our seat and keep us interested. In this new Die Hard movie Bruce Willis’ character crashes spectacularly twice before changing vehicle and carrying on unharmed, and all this is within the first act. How far have we come from our hero running, barefoot over broken glass in the Nakatomi Plaza. An there begins the start of the success of the original Die Hard, the Nakatomi Plaza, and what the confines of one building brinks to the story. No one gets in, no one gets out, one man against a group of bad guys. With limitations comes creativity and that’s what we got in Die Hard, that and one of cinemas greatest ever villains, Hans Gruber played to perfection by Alan Rickman. It is also worth remembering the way Die Hard rewrote the rulebook of the action movie by casting the “everyman” Bruce Willis who at the time was best known for the TV show Moonlighting. After the success of their previous movie Predator (1987), it would have been easy for director John McTiernan and producer Joel Silver to cast Arnold Schwarzenegger or someone like him in the role, they very nearly did. It was reported that Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Richard Gere, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson and Frank Sinatra (long story) all turned the part down. Robert De Niro, Don Johnson and Richard Dean Anderson were also considered.Stirb langsam

In the ultimate copout of the genre/franchise the distributors cut the movie to achieve a 12a certificate. This is the kind of cynical filmmaking where the bottom line comes before the artistry of the movie. Many of the problems can’t be blamed solely on the director, John Moore, but the poor pace and lack of vigour certainly can be. Not nominally one for character assassination, however Moore doesn’t exactly have a strong track record: Behind Enemy Lines (shameless rip-off of Bat*21), Flight of the Phoenix (crappy remake), The Omen (crappy remake) and Max Payne (terrible video game adaptation). At a time when the Bond franchise is hiring Sam Mendes and Star Trek has been taken over by J.J. Abrams, it shows a lack of ambition at best.

Where can the franchise go from here? It could be that its time to call it a day, alternatively like the character in an action film the producers may look for redemption. If they are going to have another stab at it, they need a great and hopefully original concept, a good script and a talented director. In short they need to do what John McTiernan did twenty-five years ago.

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There is a huge buzz about an all female version of The Expendables with a suggestion that the film may have already been given the green-light. Who would fill Stallone and Statham’s boots in a female version? The main charters in The Expendables 2 are played by: Sylvester Stallone (66), Jason Statham (44), Jet Li (49), Dolph Lundgren (54), Chuck Norris (72), Terry Crews (44), Randy Couture (49), Bruce Willis (57) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (65). Who are the contenders for a female version? I have included ages for comparison:

Top of the list has to be Sigourney Weaver (62) who thanks to the Alien movies is probably the most credible female action star. She would be closely followed by Linda Hamilton (55) from the first two Terminator movies. Cynthia Rothrock (55) is probably the female Dolph Lundgren, in that she doesn’t necessarily have the acting ability but more than makes up for it with a long list of direct to video action movies in the 80’s. Former Mrs Stallone, Brigitte Nielsen (49) is worth considering based on her appeared alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in Red Sonja (1985). Star of Coffy and Foxy Brown, Pam Grier (63) is probably the oldest contender, although I have heard Helen Mirren (67) mentioned. She isn’t someone I would have thought of but her appearance in Red does give her a certain credibility. Michelle Yeoh (49) has been an action star since the mid 80’s, she found mainstream fame in the west with Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2002). Anne Parillaud (52) only made one action movie (two if you include horror comedy Innocent Blood (1992)) but considering that film was Nikita (1990) she gets my vote.

A decade ago I wouldn’t have considered Uma Thurman (42) as an action star but thanks to Kill Bill (2003) she is jumps towards the top of the list. Two people who you probably would have thought about for an action movie a decade ago are Jennifer Garner (40) and Jessica Alba (31) thanks to their TV shows; J.J. Abrams’ Alias and James Cameron’s Dark Angel respectively but their movie careers seems to be going in other directions. Garner looked like she was going to be an action star with Daredevil (2003) but the spin-off Elektra (2005) probably destroyed her chances and she has been a fixture of rom-coms ever since. Alba may be moving back towards action with Machete (2010) and its sequel due out next year. The star of 90’s TV show Xena: Warrior Princess, Lucy Lawless (44) is back in the popular consciousness thanks to Battlestar Galactica and Spartacus.

As the 90’s came to an end they gave us one of cinema’s most iconic action characters, Trinity in The Matrix. Played by a virtually unknown (despite a career spanning the previous decade) Carrie-Anne Moss (45). The next action star to emerge was Michelle Yeoh’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon co-star Ziyi Zhang (33) who also starred in Hero (2002) and House of Flying Daggers (2004). From there the floodgates seemed to open . Despite not looking like an action star Angelina Jolie (37) made two Tomb Rader movies (2001 and 2003) Mr. and Mrs Smith (2005), Wanted (2008) and Salt (2010), a film originally intended for Tom Cruise. Tomb Rader’s video game derived rival Resident Evil (2002) has spawned four sequels to date (the most recent due out later this month) and a sixth and possibly final film in the next few years. All the films star Milla Jehovah (36) who had already stared in The Fifth Element (1997) (along side Expendables star Bruce Willis). Michelle Rodriguez (34) has appeared and Resident Evil and The Fast and the Furious (2001) and her character is been brought back from the dead in both franchises. With Girl fight (2000), S.W.A.T. (2003), Avatar (2009) and Machete (2010) she is one of the most credible action stars on this list. Skinny, self-confessed chain smoker Kate Beckinsale (39) is an unlikely action star but with Total Recall (2012) she has reinforced what she did in Underworld (2003) and its sequels. Other contenders include Rhona Mitra (37), the star of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009) and Doomsday (2008). And Maggie Q (33) from Naked Weapon (2002) and the new TV incarnation of Nikita.

 

It does all go to show that to be a action star, if you have the look, the attitude and a good DP and fight choreographer, anyone can become an action star. But then there are the woman who can do it for real: Zoe Bell (33) is best know as a stuntwoman, but she has made some movie appearances, most notably Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof (2007). With her starring role in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire (2011) former mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano (30) has become and overnight action star.

Here is a suggested line-up female alongside their male counterparts:

Sylvester Stallone – Sigourney Weaver

Jason Statham – Gina Carano

Jet Li – Uma Thurman or Carrie-Anne Moss

Arnold Schwarzenegger – Linda Hamilton

Dolph Lundgren – Cynthia Rothrock

Bruce Willis – Michelle Yeoh

Terry Crews – Rhona Mitra or Michelle Rodriguez

Randy Couture – Zoe Bell

Chuck Norris – Pam Grier

Who have I overlooked?

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