Friday, December 30, 2016

Die Hard: A Few Thoughts

Image result for die hard
Yea I know this is late but what the hell.  Die Hard, oh boy.  Since this thing has been analyzed to death by many many people that are all much smarter than I, all I have to offer are these small number of items I noticed upon re-upping this past Christmas season.  And by the way, it really is possibly the best action movie ever made.  It’s not necessarily my top favorite but it certainly has such tremendous presence and near flawless execution that I can’t help but feel like a wide eyed excitable little kid every time I throw it on.

Alright enough of that shit, here are some pointless thoughts:

  • McTiernan and de Bont’s camera movements are really crazy at times.  The camera is very graceful with easy flowing maneuvers, even during the action scenes.  The movie feels big and the way it was shot has a ton to do with that.  But the movements never call attention to themselves.  They interact beautifully with the actors, the tone of the scene, the sets, etc.  It’s hard to give examples on this in writing but just keep this note in the back of your mind next time you watch.

  • There’s a lot of lens flare in this film and honestly I’m not really a fan.  It may not be J.J. Abrams (Star Trek Into Darkness) level but there’s a whole bunch.

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  • Two of the bad guys survive this fiasco.  Of course we know Theo gets knocked the fuck out by my man Argyle (De’voreaux White (Trespass (1992))).  But there’s also the guy that gets knocked to the ground spilling bonds across the floor by McClane right before he faces Gruber.  I bet those two assholes went to jail.

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  • When Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson (Die Hard 2)) is checking out the lobby of Nakatomi there’s one shot where he starts to walk down the hallway to the elevators but stops because he figures he’s seen enough.  On the left side of the screen there’s a blurry image of one of the bad guys holding his gun waiting for Powell.  I never noticed this nice detail before.  Maybe it was because of the pan and scan VHS tape I had all these years and this time I saw it on glorious Blu Ray where now I have the full frame?  I dunno.

  • Ellis is a coke man.  He not only does coke but he also drinks a Coke when he attempts to negotiate with Gruber.  I’m sure I’m not the 730 millionth person to pick up on that shit.

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  • Gruber hums Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” while riding in the elevator with Joe Takagi which plays later at full blast when they finally break into the vault.  And in that same scene when Gruber comments on Tagaki’s handsome suit he mentions that he hears (Yasser) Arafat buys the same brand.  At this point in history it’s an interesting dated reference.

  • This year I got around to reading “Nothing Lasts Forever” by Roderick Thorpe which Die Hard is based on.  Admittedly it took me a little while to get into it but I have a hard time reading fiction in general.  About a third of the way through though I was captivated.  The similarities and differences were fascinating to uncover.  This isn’t going to be a book review or comparison of any sort but I do wanna point out that this picture owes everything to Thorpe’s novel.  Not only the basic premise but numerous details were taken from the book including bare feet, “now I have a machine gun”, Christmas, dumping a dead body out the building, tossing plastic explosives down an elevator shaft and a lot more.  I think I have to agree with practically everything the film changed though, which was a good goddamn chunk of stuff.  The movie is more fun with a lot of humor that was added and a lot of horrifyingly brutal deaths being left out.  The book gets very political as well but in sort of an ambiguous way.  Thorpe throws so much out there for you to ponder with regards to the actions the characters take without making a clear judgment.  But if you’re as big a Die Hard fan as I am (and I think you might be if you read this far into the piece) I would recommend picking the book up.

Image result for nothing lasts forever roderick thorp cover

Well we made it through another year guys.  Not sure about you but it was a weird one for me.  Anyway, I hope you had a good holiday and that New Year’s is a blast (please be safe, don’t rob a money train or nothin’).  I’ll catch you on the flip side.  Take care now.  Bye bye.  See ya.  Later.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Jack Frost & Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman

Image result for jack frost 1997Jack Frost

Jack Frost is a captured serial killer that’s being transported on the road when they crash into an experimental genetic chemical truck.  The new substance gets all over Jack and his DNA bonds with the snow so now he’s an evil snowman on the loose.  He can melt and refreeze at will which means he can get under doors and into most places.  He can also shoot icicles from his body impaling his victims.  Frost takes his revenge on the town where he was eventually captured, Snowmonton (love that name), by killing everything in sight.

This is a pretty relentless movie that has a high body count.  All of the deaths are kinda gruesome with one of the worst being handed out to an innocent woman.  Jack smashes her face in glass ornaments with some rubbing around to make sure all the shards tear her the fuck up.  He then wraps her in lights and shoves her in the Christmas tree.  Damn.  Everyone else this thing murders is an asshole of some sort but this woman hasn’t done shit.  In fact all she was doing was grieving over her lost son (who Jack killed earlier!), so what the fuck gives movie?

Image result for jack frost 1997But don’t get me wrong, overall there’s a fun time in here.  I saw this when it came out in 1997 and it’s goofier but also more cohesive than I remember.  The story is tight, there’s a huge effort to cram as much Christmas shit in here as possible, the kills are varied with some inventive ones (death by freeze rape?) and how the townspeople take out Jack is really clever.  The filmmakers also made sure to put a snowman somewhere in every scene, practically every shot.  It may be a decoration, a toy, an ornament, a Pez dispenser, an actual snowman, whatever, they found a way to do it.  Bravo.

Image result for jack frost 1997One thing I didn’t remember though is that this picture is low budget as shit.  They clearly filmed this someplace not cold because you don’t see anyone’s breath and the fake snow is well, absurdly fake.  Some of the actors kick up the edge of the flap of the “snow” lying on the ground a few time.  And the killer snowman comes alive mostly through editing and a few bits of puppetry.  They must not have been able to afford to make an animatronic I guess.  There are also the typical trappings of a low budget production like bad dialogue, bad acting, nonsensical behavior, not the best cinematography, etc.

But hey if you want a Christmas horror movie that’s proud of who it is, what it’s trying to accomplish and is pretty off the wall this might be for you.

Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman

Image result for jack frost 2I guess a few people liked ol’ Jack so here we are.  This time scientists bring him back (we never find out why by the way) and he escapes to get his revenge on the Snowmonton sheriff that bested him a year earlier.  They eventually duke it out on a tropical island where the sheriff and his wife are vacationing for Christmas.  That’s right, they went tropical for number two which puts this film in such illustrious company as Weekend at Bernie’s II, The Hangover II, Speed 2: Cruise Control (this one doesn’t exactly fit but it’s close enough) and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure.

Image result for jack frost 2Surprisingly Jack isn’t in this as much, at least as we’ve come to know him.  His first five or six victims are attacked while he’s in a melted state with the ability to form ice to deliver the deathblow whenever needed.  So first off the filmmakers seemed to make him more powerful than before because he’s essentially invincible as deadly water that can go anywhere (even across oceans).  In the original he couldn’t really do much when he was melted.  His mobility was somewhat limited and he had to refreeze fully to actually kill someone.

But the other thing is we’re introduced to new creatures that take over the mayhem for the last half hour.  They’re snowball critters that, like Jack, can’t be destroyed by almost anything, including heat.  Their affinity for destruction, the sheer number of them and their silly behavior makes them fairly strong Gremlin rip offs.  I wanna say this is supposed to be an homage because of how overt it is.  If it’s not then that’s kinda bad. 

Image result for jack frost 2I also don’t know if the snowballs were a way to cut back on Jack for budget reasons (the snowballs are static figures in many shots) or if it was purely a creative decision.  Either way these things are mostly annoying, although I appreciate the effort to try to change it up.

I can’t recommend this one.  It’s harder to watch than the first in every way.  The budget is seemingly lower, they went for more laughs (unsuccessfully in my opinion), the script is much worse, the effects are sorta bad overall and the deaths are stupidly comical.  Please don’t see this.