August 29, 2013

Here's Hoping That A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD Marks The End Of John McClane


"I kinda thought we would just wing it, you know?  Running in, guns blazing.  Make it up as we go."
A few weeks ago I had the great privilege of traveling to New York City in order to not only attend, but actually officiate the wedding of my two dear friends Rob and Kristina.  Rob and I met sixteen years ago on the first day of freshman year of high school.  At the end of the previous year, the admissions department had assigned every eighth grader an incoming freshman that they were supposed to call during the summer to answer any questions the new student might have, and so that the new kid would know at least one person when they got to school.  I didn't know any of this at the time, but when I happened to start talking to some guys at orientation and eventually introduced myself, Rob turned to me and said, "Oh hey, I was supposed to call you this summer and answer questions or something."

"Don't worry," I answered.  "I wasn't really home all summer so you probably wouldn't have gotten a hold of me anyway."

"Good." Rob said.  "If anyone asks, I totally called you."

That's how we got to be friends.

Kristina was a girl who went to Emerson with me and actually ended up living with another friend of ours from high school.  I suppose I can claim some credit for helping to bring Rob and Kristina together, but then again if Rob hadn't attended USC then I never would have met Jamie.  I guess that makes us even.

The wedding was on a Friday night, which meant I had to be there on Thursday for the rehearsal.  Fortunately the trip from Boston to New York is fairly painless, so Jamie and I took a Thursday morning Bolt Bus out of South Station.  If you're unfamiliar, the Bolt is a fairly inexpensive bus service that provides free wifi on board as well as an electrical plug for each passenger.  The wifi usually isn't very fast and the chances that your power outlet will be fully functional are probably about 70/30, but at least it's not as likely to break down and/or flip over like the Fung Wah.

Rob is a big fan of action movies, so when I cleaned out my local Redbox in anticipation of the trip, A Good Day To Die Hard somehow seemed appropriate.  The Die Hard franchise is an odd duck.  The first movie is a classic, the second is an uninspired retread, the third is exceptionally entertaining (mostly because of Sam Jackson) and the fourth is an overblown mess of action that's really a Die Hard movie in name only.  The fifth entry seemed like a bad idea from the start, so it's fair to say my expectations were pretty low.

Not low enough, apparently.

At this point I'm baffled that the entire franchise doesn't have a stake through its heart.  Hopefully this Russian non-adventure will finally be the last straw.  Willis looks downright bored at this point, and his John McClane is barely even a character anymore.  He's just a guy who shows up in the wrong place at the wrong time and is forced to shoot stuff before tiredly muttering "Yipee-kayee" at the end.  McClane is interesting in the first and third films because he's got a flawed backstory, separated from his wife and a borderline alcoholic who's ill prepared for the shitstorm he's thrust into as well as being physically incapacitated in some way.  (In Die Hard he has no shoes and in With A Vengeance he's perpetually hungover.)  It's not that I have a problem with McClane as a family man, and substituting his now grown kids for his wife Holly does alleviate a certain degree of repetition, but all of the wisecracking asshole has been sanded blasted out of McClane and it's becoming increasingly clear that the only reason that Willis keeps making these movies is because someone at Fox is dumb enough to keep paying him just for showing up.

After the initial success of the first Die Hard, there was a glut of pretenders to the thrown, with every other producer in Hollywood pitching "Die Hard on a boat" (a.k.a. Under Siege), "Die Hard on a plane" (a.k.a. Passenger 57), or Die Hard on a bus (a.k.a. Speed).  This past year, we got not one but two movies that are essentially "Die Hard in the White House" in the form of Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down, or as I like to call them White Olympus Has Fallen Down.  Tragically I missed both in the theater, (I'm planning on a double feature once they both hit DVD) but by all accounts they were each better Die Hard movies than A Good Day To Die Hard, a film whose only redeeming quality is that it makes Live Free Or Die Hard look brilliant by comparison.  At this point, I've decided that I'd much rather watch a dozen movies starring Channing Tatum or Ryan Gosling that riff on the basic structure and premise of Die Hard than watch Bruce Willis shuffle around with a shotgun one more time.

It's no fun anymore.  Now it's just sad.

We arrived in New York and hopped a train to my friend SJ's apartment in the Bronx.  We had time for a quick drink with her and her boyfriend Travis before it was time to head out again.  The cab ride over to the rehearsal was filled with the sounds of an ultra-Christian call in show, which is ironic considering that I'm a devout atheist and was on my way to practice officiating a wedding with a ministry certificate I got over the internet.  Dinner was a lot of fun, held at a cute little Italian restaurant near the wedding venue in Manhattan.  Late in the evening I was goaded by Rob's dad into saying a little something, which I drunkenly tried to conclude by toasting with my water glass.  I immediately abandoned the gesture as bad juju, and instead took up my wine glass, which was predictably empty.  I ended up toasting with an entire carafe of wine instead.

Classy, I know.

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Title: A Good Day To Die Hard
Director: John Moore
Starring:  Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Rasha Bukvic, Sergei Kolesnikov, Yuliya Snigir, Cole Hauser, May Elizabeth Winstead
Year Of Release: 2013
Viewing Method: Redbox DVD (Laptop on a bus)