Die Hard With a Vengeance (1995; USA; Technicolor; 131m) ∗∗∗½ d. John McTiernan; w. Jonathan Hensleigh; ph. Peter Menzies Jr.; m. Michael Kamen. Cast: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Irons, Graham Greene, Colleen Camp, Sam Phillips, Anthony Peck, Larry Bryggman, Nicholas Wyman, Kevin Chamberlin, Sharon Washington, Stephen Pearlman, Aldis Hodge, Mischa Hausserman, Michael Alexander Jackson. John McClane and a store owner must play a bomber’s deadly game as they race around New York while trying to stop him. Third in this highly entertaining, if increasingly preposterous, series. The byplay between Willis and Jackson adds to the winning formula. Action and destruction on a huge scale. Followed by DIE HARD 4.0 (2007). 
Die Hard 2 (1990; USA; DeLuxe; 124m) ∗∗∗∗ d. Renny Harlin; w. Steven E. de Souza, Doug Richardson; ph. Oliver Wood; m. Michael Kamen. Cast: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, William Atherton, Franco Nero, Reginald VelJohnson, William Sadler, John Amos, Dennis Franz, Art Evans, John Leguizamo, Fred Dalton Thompson, Tom Bower, Sheila McCarthy, Don Harvey, Tony Ganios. John McClane, officer of the LAPD and hero of the Nakatomi Hostage Crisis, attempts to avert disaster as rogue military officials seize control of Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. Effective follow-up is another entertaining action thriller with Willis again excellent. Airport and winter setting is well-used and the set-pieces are well executed. Based on the novel “58 Minutes” by Walter Wager. This film was originally titled DIE HARD 2: DIE HARDER. Followed by DIE HARD: WITH A VENGEANCE (1995). 
Die Hard (1988; USA; DeLuxe; 130m) ∗∗∗∗½ d. John McTiernan; w. Jeb Stuart, Steven E. de Souza; ph. Jan de Bont; m. Michael Kamen. Cast: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Alexander Godunov, Reginald VelJohnson, Paul Gleason, William Atherton, Hart Bochner, James Shigeta, De’voreaux White, Bruno Doyon, Andreas Wisniewski, Clarence Gilyard Jr., Joey Plewa, Lorenzo Caccialanza. An NYPD detective tries to save his wife and several others, taken hostage by German terrorists during a Christmas party. Spectacular action-thriller was heavily influential in spawning many copies and sequels in the action film genre. Willis is superb as the wise-cracking reluctant hero and McTiernan directs with style, pace and aplomb. Rickman makes for an excellent villain in his film debut. Based on the novel “Nothing Lasts Forever” by Roderick Thorp. Followed by four sequels beginning with DIE HARD 2 (1990). 
RED (2010; USA; DeLuxe; 111m) ∗∗ d. Robert Schwentke; w. Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber; ph. Florian Ballhaus; m. Christophe Beck. Cast: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Karl Urban, Mary-Louise Parker, Brian Cox, Richard Dreyfuss, Rebecca Pidgeon, Ernest Borgnine, James Remar, Julian McMahon. When his peaceful life is threatened by a high-tech assassin, a former black-ops agent reassembles his old team in a last ditch effort to survive and uncover his assailants. Flashy visuals and overly choreographed action sequences along with an interesting cast are the main draws to this otherwise superficial story. The stars all have fun with their eccentric roles, but a lazy script and a bland jazz-rock score do not help. Based on the comic book by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner. Followed by RED 2 (2013). 
Eiger Sanction, The (1975; USA; Technicolor; 123m) ∗∗∗ d. Clint Eastwood; w. Hal Dresner, Warren Murphy, Rod Whitaker; ph. Frank Stanley; m. John Williams. Cast: Clint Eastwood, George Kennedy, Jack Cassidy, Thayer David, Vonetta McGee, Heidi Bruhl, Reiner Schone, Michael Grimm, Jean-Pierre Bernard, Brenda Venus, Gregory Walcott, Candice Rialson, Elaine Shore, Dan Howard, Jack Kosslyn. A classical art professor and collector, who doubles as a professional assassin, is coerced out of retirement to avenge the murder of an old friend. Lame spy story is not one of Eastwood’s best efforts but is rescued by spectacular and thrilling mountain-climbing scenes. Eastwood did all of his own stunts. Based on the novel by Rod Whitaker (as Trevanian). 
Fog, The (1980; USA; Metrocolor; 90m) ∗∗∗∗ d. John Carpenter; w. John Carpenter, Debra Hill; ph. Dean Cundey; m. John Carpenter. Cast: Adrienne Barbeau, Hal Holbrook, Janet Leigh, Jamie Lee Curtis, John Houseman, Tom Atkins, Nancy Kyes, Charles Cyphers, George “Buck” Flower, Jim Haynie, James Canning, Ty Mitchell, John F. Goff, Regina Waldon, Darrow Igus. A Northern California fishing town, built 100 years ago over an old leper colony, is the target for revenge by a killer fog containing zombie-like ghosts seeking revenge for their deaths. Creepy, atmospheric and with more than its fair share of shocks. Carpenter nicely ratchets up the tension and a game cast keep the viewer engaged. Eerie score by Carpenter heightens the fear factor. Remade in 2005. 
Last Man Standing (1996; USA; DeLuxe; 101m) ∗∗½ d. Walter Hill; w. Walter Hill; ph. Lloyd Ahern II; m. Ry Cooder. Cast: Bruce Willis, Bruce Dern, William Sanderson, Christopher Walken, David Patrick Kelly, Michael Imperioli, Karina Lombard, Ned Eisenberg, Alexandra Powers, Ken Jenkins, R.D. Call, Ted Markland, Patrick Kilpatrick, Luis Contreras, Leslie Mann. A drifting gunslinger-for-hire finds himself in the middle of an ongoing war between the Irish and Italian mafia in a Prohibition era ghost town. Cartoon violence abounds in this tale of cross and double-cross. Willis is effective, but it is difficult to connect with any of the characters. Re-working of Akira Kurosawa’s YOJIMBO (1961) (story by Ryûzô Kikushima and Kurosawa), which in turn was remade as FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964). 
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve got through a few films with a Christmas theme. Most of them were chosen by my wife, but I did manage to sneek a choice of my own…
DIE HARD (1988, 20th Century Fox, USA, 131 mins, DeLuxe, 2.35:1, Dolby, Cert: 18, Action Thriller) ∗∗∗∗∗
Starring: Bruce Willis (Officer John McClane), Alan Rickman (Hans Gruber), Bonnie Bedelia (Holly Gennaro McClane), Reginald VelJohnson (Sgt. Al Powell), Paul Gleason (Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson), William Atherton (Richard Thornburg), Hart Bochner (Harry Ellis), James Shigeta (Joseph Yoshinobu Takagi), Alexander Godunov (Karl), Bruno Doyon (Franco), De’voreaux White (Argyle), Andreas Wisniewski (Tony), Clarence Gilyard Jr. (Theo), Joey Plewa (Alexander), Lorenzo Caccialanza (Marco).
Producer: Lawrence Gordon, Joel Silver; Director: John McTiernan; Writer: Jeb Stuart, Steven E. de Souza (Based on the novel “Nothing Lasts Forever” by Roderick Thorp); Director of Photography: Jan de Bont; Music: Michael Kamen; Film Editor: John F. Link, Frank J. Urioste; Production Designer: Jackson De Govia; Art Director: John R. Jensen; Set Decorator: Philip Leonard.
Tough New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) finds himself in a tight situation when an office building in Los Angeles is taken over by terrorists. Apart from himself, everyone else in the building – including his wife – is held at gunpoint while their captors spell out their demands. The F.B.I. are called in to survey the situation, but John McClane has other plans for the terrorists.
Highly influential action blockbuster was the kick-start to Willis’ big screen career. It’s a thrill ride that runs on adrenalin with stupendous actions sequences brilliantly directed by McTiernan and edited by Link and Urioste. A film like this is not about the performances, but Willis displays a laconic charm and dishes off one-liners with aplomb. Rickman is hugely entertaining as the villain of the piece. Bedelia injects some warmth into the role of Holly, McClane’s estranged wife.
The film rattles along at such a pace that the rather extended running time flashes by. A number of sequels followed with the law of diminishing returns coming into play, but there is no doubting the towering achievement of the original and the influence it had on the action thriller genre.