Less a suspenseful thriller than a delicate drama that captures in whispers and patient takes all the agonizing horror and supernatural spookiness of loss, loneliness, grief, and fear. Great turns by the main four players make for many memorable scenes of dialogue (see Lynn and Cole in traffic; Malcolm and Anna at the end) that anchor a satisfying plot and a twist ending that makes sense in the best possible way. The chilly and transitional season of fall makes for a perfect setting for it all.
Retired C.I.A. Agent Frank Moses reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device. (IMDb)
After Die Hard 5 I said a protagonist has never been more annoying but Willis may have topped himself here by adding even more stupid smirks and patronizing remarks to his macho lead. Elsewhere we’re treated to a billion convenient last-second saviors and nearly as many eye-rolling villains in a mess of a plot I gave up on halfway through, while the dark humour from the first film becomes just plain disturbing (mirrored by the overload of bloodless killings). At least Marvin was still funny.
When his peaceful life is threatened by a high-tech assassin, former black-ops agent Frank Moses reassembles his old team in a last ditch effort to survive and uncover his assailants. (IMDb)
Ocean’s Eleven meets James Bond, only with badass (and slightly terrifying-“I haven’t killed anyone in years”) espionage retirees. The cast is a hoot (Mirren and Malkovich especially) and along with the great uptempo soundtrack, fun editing (love those quick zooms and postcards), and darkly comedic dialogue (see Frank and Ivan’s initial convo about Igor the Butcher) keep things lively amidst the average action thriller plot. Could’ve done without the requisite romance though (Frank’s, I mean).
John McClane travels to Russia to help out his seemingly wayward son, Jack, only to discover that Jack is a CIA operative working undercover, causing the father and son to team up against underworld forces. (IMDb)
Sorry Skip, your repeated “I’m on vacation” one-liner doesn’t cut it; John wasn’t on vacation and if he really was such a reluctant hero he wouldn’t have driven off bridges and over cars when he still had no idea what was going on. A protagonist has never been more annoying (the eye-rolling father-son dynamics don’t help), nor a plot more generic and lazily written (hello cliche Russian villains–the carrot chewing scene is unbearable). The helicopter crash at the end looked pretty cool though.
John McClane and a young hacker join forces to take down master cyber-terrorist Thomas Gabriel in Washington D.C. (IMDb)
Willis’ gruff cop and Long’s sheltered geek make a fun odd couple, but the former’s “old-school” attitude gets annoying quick, especially when the tech-ignorance gives way to blatant racism (“Kung-Fu shit” and “Asian hooker bitch”? Really?). Elsewhere, the writing is ridiculous (the bad guys can literally hack anything in seconds) and full of plot holes and the action sequences often match it (see helicopter vs. car; car in the elevator; semi vs. fighter jet). Mostly fun, but really dumb.
John McClane and a Harlem store owner are targeted by German terrorist Simon Gruber in New York City, where he plans to rob the Federal Reserve Building. (IMDb)
Darker than ever, thanks to some super high stakes (see the school bomb) and what feels like the biggest and bloodiest bad guy body count yet. The former offers some great moments of drama (see the “fire drill” at the school) but the latter makes it a little harder to swallow the triumphant “let him burn” and “yippie-kai-yay” at the end. For the most part though, Willis’ dry wit (“attention! Nils is dead!”) and action heroics continue to entertain, and Jackson proves to be an enjoyable sidekick.
John McClane attempts to avert disaster as rogue military operatives seize control of Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. (IMDb)
A solid sequel, even if it tries a bit too hard to be self-aware (both John and Holly comment on how the same thing is happening to them again) and then rehashes the famous yippie-kai-yay line. There’s still great action (the final airplane sequence is a standout) with high stakes (see the unexpected mid-movie crash) and Willis still has the same swag and dry humour (his ongoing feud with the cops entertains). The villain isn’t quite as good but the empty shells SWAT twist almost made up for it.
John McClane, officer of the NYPD, tries to save his wife Holly Gennaro and several others that were taken hostage by German terrorist Hans Gruber during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles. (IMDb)
A steadily building plot (police and FBI involvement flesh out the initial lone man vs. terrorist drama) with interesting turns (John’s ironic confrontation with Hans is a memorable one) and great characters (Al the cop adds a down-to-earth amiability to the bloody proceedings), along with Willis’ entertaining banter (“Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker”) and macho heroics throughout separate this from your standard shoot-em-up action flick and keep you engaged throughout its lengthy run-time.
A pair of young lovers flee their New England town, which causes a local search party to fan out to find them. (IMDb)
The beautiful forested island scenery dotted with hip 60s aesthetic (hello, portable turntable) paired with Anderson’s impeccable visual flair and love for detail is a match made in movie heaven. Sam and Suzy, meanwhile, lead an elope plot that is as captivating (the flood side-story adds a great sense of impending doom to the forbidden love; Desplat’s mournful score is wonderful) and tragic (the leads’ parent issues add great depth) as it is cute (see the book-reading; culminating beach shot).
In a future world devastated by disease, a convict is sent back in time to gather information about the man-made virus that wiped out most of the human population on the planet. (IMDb)
Aided by dizzying camerawork, brutal and bizarre visuals, a spine-chilling theme, and terrific turns from Willis (the troubled James) and Pitt (the manic Jeffrey), this thrilling concoction of psychological probing, surreal time-travel and future dystopia, and terrifying apocalypticism keeps you constantly on edge, never sure what’s real and what isn’t. Loaded with both red herrings and brilliant reveals (see the final rendition of the airport scene), this sci-fi would relish repeat viewings.