There are few action characters as iconic as John McClane, yet through all the years of Die Hard, it is notable that McClane’s adventures have never been without a sidekick. With the exception of Die Hard 2, McClane has been flanked by important supplementary casting that has for the most part, complimented Bruce Willis’ almost one-tone McClane. From good hearted beat cops (Reginald VelJohnson’s do-good Al in Die Hard and Die Hard 2, albeit briefly) and tech wizzes (Justin Long in Live Free or Die Hard) to the ever present Samuel L. Jackson in Die Hard With A Vengeance, McClane’s theatrics has come accompanied by characters that tend to fill in the gaps.
In the fifth installment of the series, McClane is teamed up with his son, John “Jack” McClane Jr., whose character has been absent since the first. Played by Australian Jai Courtney, Jack is unlike many of John’s previous partners- he is very much like his father. Interestingly then, it is a one-one punch through the movie, opening with the older McClane on a trip to Russia to see his son, who he believes to have been caught up in unsavory business. What is soon discovered is that the younger McClane takes after his father; into the business of saving the world, more so intentionally than not.
As both McClane’s find themselves caught up in Russian political chess games, we are assaulted by frequent action sequences that would make Michael Bay proud. Packed with more explosives than a Transformers movie, A Good Day to Die Hard does not hold back on the histrionics; cutting back on exposition and development in favor of breakneck car chases, slow motion falling helicopters and exploding buildings. In between, we are peppered with Jai Courtney flexing his action chops while Willis is left with secondary gunfire and constantly reminding the bad guys (and us), that “he’s on vacation”.
The story itself is a throwback to 80s action fare- crazed Russian scientists, nuclear weapons and attractive Russian women- all with plot twists and goofy American-themed Russian one-liners. There isn’t much time to develop a fondness to the relationship with the two McClanes the way audiences were able to genuinely attach themselves to the bond between McClane and Samuel L. Jackson’s Zeus in Die Hard With A Vengeance. We are just not given enough to really feel the hurt Jack has harbored for his absentee Dad all the years growing up- just a lot of his refusal to call John “Dad”.
The latest is also the shortest of all Die Hards, clocking in at a measly 97 minutes, leaving it rather rushed. It also feels the most narrow in scope- and while Die Hard has flourished in the past with its limited locations (Nakatomi Plaza, Dulles Airport)- it really started to expand with its use of New York City and the Eastern seaboard in the following films. Russia on the other hand, feels very cardboard and lifeless and very small in comparison. On a side note, there is a brief moment that pays homage to Hans Gruber’s death scene which is a nice touch.
Directed by John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines, Flight of the Phoenix) on a screenplay written by Skip Woods (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The A-Team), A Good Day to Die Hard isn’t as good as any of the first three, and is probably not as good as Live Free Or Die Hard, but it’s still got some good punch. The film feels in a way, a small passing of the torch from one McClane to another. Willis has said he’d like to do Die Hard 6 before calling it a day, and if that is the case, this film could be just an extended precursor to a great finale. If anything, it’s great that after more than a decade absent, the bad guys are Russian again.
A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD
Directed by: John Moore
Written by: Skip Woods
Cast: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney
Released by: 20th Century Fox / Dune Entertainment
Spider-Man: Far From Home is a splendid coda to the Avengers
Save the world, save the girl?
Where do you go after Avengers: Endgame? The finale to an 11-year journey was always going to be a heavy exhale. But with much of the story finding conclusion, it was only natural that the next chapter would be something a little lighter, less fraught but still tense with importance. The question of responsibility and the burden of carrying it has been a fundamental principle of being a superhero in this universe, a burden that only continues in the final film of this phase. So where does the Marvel Cinematic Universe go after Endgame? Well, on holiday of course. Spider-Man: Far From Home is not only a splendid film but a nice coda to the biggest cinematic undertaking we’ve seen in recent history.
You can find Spider-Man: Far From Home nestled in the cinematic landscape somewhere between Iron Man 3 and National Lampoon’s Vacation. Peter Parker (Tom Holland, really solidifying himself as this generation’s best Spider-Man) is Clark Griswolding himself across Europe to chase the heart of MJ (Zendaya). As a bumbling 16-year-old who only wants to find the girl, his romance is cut a little short by the expected Marvel cinematic tomfoolery we’ve come to expect from our arachnid hero. Jake Gyllenhaal’s turn as Mysterio is a concerted effort; a cross between Tony Stark’s wise but too cool tutelage and Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin (take that how you will). As the carnage across Europe unfolds, the film becomes a well-balanced juxtapositioning of the kind of humor we’ve found appealing within in the MCU and action and adventure that doesn’t become overly burdensome or heavy. Far From Home keeps things light and breezy, but you never forget the stakes or think that this is just a tacked on fling after the events of Endgame.
The cast are well rounded and the addition of Marvel players we’ve come to love (Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan, Spider-Man sidekick Ned, and both Nick Fury and Maria Hill) makes it hit with almost the same gravitas as the previous films. But more importantly, they never make the film feel like an overstuffed mess that plagued outings like Age of Ultron. The pace is engaging, and as the story unfolds amongst the smoke and mirrors, you can’t help but feel a kind of comic book happiness that you felt through Homecoming. It’s charming, it’s earnest, it’s funny, and at times, doesn’t take itself too seriously (Spider-Man video game in-joke included!). Plus it has those little moments that while may have been written for fans, will appeal to anyone who enjoys a good laugh, a touching moment, and good filmmaking. While the death of Tony Stark looms large within the narrative of the film, it doesn’t become baggage- but rather the catalyst for growth within Parker and helps propel the story to its conclusion.
However, one can’t help but feel that the continued presence of Tony Stark, and the reminder that he is gone, really does give this universe a sense of finality. If you stay for the end-credits (both scenes), you’ll know that Marvel has plans both big and small in the coming years. Far From Home is both the end and the beginning in a sense. It’s a nice coda to Endgame, and for some, probably a good place to step away from the past 11 years. Far From Home is also continued proof that heart and the desire to do good doesn’t always have to follow the same tired script. Save the world, lose the girl? Maybe not this time.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is in cinemas now.
SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME
Directed by: Jon Watts
Written by: Erik Sommers, Chris McKenna
Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jake Gyllenhaal, Samuel L. Jackson, Colbie Smulders, Marisa Tomei
Distributed by: Sony Pictures
Run time: 129 minutes
Film Review: Murder Mystery
Murder Mystery is a pretty crap film.
Murder Mystery is the next film in the long line of terrible Adam Sandler films distributed by Netflix. At this point we’re not sure that Netflix actually watches these movies before they put them on their service but here we are. Murder Mystery, like many of the recent Sandler-helmed flicks, seem less like movies than they do lavish holidays that Adam Sandler and friends go on where filming of random skits tied together loosely by some semblance of narrative occurs. Much of the film is slapped together with the kind of duct-tape storytelling you’d find in all those mediocre SNL movies.
There is star quality though. Jennifer Aniston is back, after working alongside Sandler in 2011’s equally terrible Just Go With It, and they’ve roped in some pretty prominent names, including Luke Evans (Fast & Furious series, The Hobbit), Gemma Arterton, and a happily cashing in his check Terrence Stamp. What happens can be best described as stupid Cluedo, or more blatantly, a dumb Murder On the Orient Express where Sandler and Aniston’s characters, a bumbling New York cop and hair dresser, stumble upon a high-stakes inheritance-grab murder mystery where absurd things happen. It never makes much sense but the biggest problems with these movies are not so much the cartoony skits (Sandler’s cop is so bad at shooting his gun that when he does, it’s a cartoon-like hail of bullets missing their target), but just the insanely unbelievable characters that fill these movies. It’s OK to suspend belief, but at this point, you don’t believe for one second any of the characters would exist in real life or that any of them act like actual humans do. There is also no shortage of cartoon bozos: Fat New York cop sidekick? Check. Buffoony Inspector Clouseau French detective? Check. Overly Spanish Spanish guy? Check. Ali G Indian guy? Check. Even Gemma Arterton’s Jessica Rabbit-esque character would make Jessica Rabbit shake her head in disbelief. At least Rob Schneider isn’t in it.
Is it funny? No, but there are actually some moments worth a chuckle. And that’s already better than Sandler’s previous Netflix outings. Murder Mystery’s jokes are mostly at the expense of the exaggerated caricatures and Sandler’s goofy self, but for the most part, its pretty bereft of humor. To make matters worse, the film has that cheap Netflix sheen to it that makes it even more of a TV movie than it already is. In the end, the movie is such a blatant Murder on the Orient Express rip-off that the end scene literally shows the Orient Express train. Unironically too.
Netflix’s has a serious movie problem- one that we’ve talked about before. Murder Mystery, is no different. You can’t fault Sandler for continuing down this path. Same goes for Aniston. Both have more than established their craft over the years that at times, you can’t help but feel envious of the position they’re in. So what if they just want to put their feet up, cash in a nice pay check, and enjoy the nice sights? Who wouldn’t?
Murder Mystery is a pretty crap film, but it’s what happens when we’ve given this much clout to Netflix. Spielberg had a point when he said Netflix movies shouldn’t be competing for Oscars. It is not only because they eschew theatrical traditions, but it should also be because they’re crap. And not even in the Spielberg Artificial Intelligence sense of being an average movie- but in the Lifetime channel level of crap. So really, when you think about, Murder Mystery is all our fault.