Tag Archive: Die hard


Chalk up another win for director Michael Bay and another Jake Gyllenhaal that doesn’t steer us wrong.  It’s the new action blockbuster Ambulance, which arrived in theaters last month, and is now streaming on Peacock.  Part revved-up first responder celebration in the vein of Backdraft, part heist in the lane of the original Taking of Pelham One Two Three, and part ticking clock race to the end like Unstoppable, it will keep you hanging on for two hours.  A certain artistry of its own is required to get this genre just right, and Bay’s pacing, kinetic sense, and thrilling use of camera angles should have you comparing this to your favorite race and chase movies.  It doesn’t have the humor of The Blues Brothers, the grit of The French Connection, or the sci-fi of Terminator 2, but it has a compelling two-hour chase through Los Angeles that’s worth your time.

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20th century fox cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

For a century, 20th Century Fox was a production machine, churning out volumes of motion pictures annually, but never achieving the greatness seen by the likes of MGM and Paramount.  Yet its key movie star assets, its box office successes, and award-winning films were few and far between.  In 20th Century-Fox: Darryl F. Zanuck and the Creation of the Modern Film Studio, writer Scott Eyman takes movie fans back to the beginning and introduces readers to sometimes successful, sometimes not successful businessmen who built theaters and the movies to screen in them, keying in on the mergers that brought William Fox, formerly immigrant Wilhelm Fuchs, to build a corporation that Darryl F. Zanuck would take through important decades of the 21st century.  Both film buffs and historians of the era of film’s Golden Age will find a history in Turner Classic Movies/TCM’s latest film production chronicle, connected by memorable films from its first Oscar-winner, 1927’s Sunrise, to its last, 2019’s Ford v. Ferrari, telling a story of the rise and fall of a movie empire.  TCM’s 20th Century-Fox is just out from publisher Running Press and available here at Amazon.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Following up on The Toys That Made Us (previously reviewed here at borg), Netflix’s surprise hit documentary series leaning on viewers’ nostalgia with a look behind select high-profile toy lines of the past, last December the streaming provider added a new series based on the same formula, The Movies That Made Us.  The series looked at four movies in four hour-long episodes, including the modern Christmas staples, Home Alone and Die Hard.  This December, Netflix is adding two new surveys of holiday movies to the mix: Jon Favreau’s Elf (2003) and Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).  Check out a preview below.

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Die Hard board game

Looking for your next game to keep you family occupied this spring?  Gamemaker Usaopoly has a recently released board game for fans of Bruce Willis’s John McClane and the Die Hard franchise.  It’s the Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist Board Game.  While you’re sheltering at home (you’re doing that, right?) you can order the game from two good sources we found: Amazon here and Entertainment Earth here.  Bookmark this link to Entertainment Earth for future reference, because as Amazon reprioritizes shipments, it may be the quickest shipping method for the coming months for all your game and toy purchases.

The Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist Board Game is a one-versus-one, two, or three players game of stealth, combat, and action-tactics, following the story of the original Die Hard film.  The game has several components and plays out with cards and tokens in a sequence of three acts.  One player is John McClane and the rest play thieves, moving through Nakatomi Plaza, while the thieves try to stop him and break into the vault.  Thieves proceed to break six locks to get to the seventh level, when the FBI breaks in.  McClane must complete objectives to get to each new level.

Die Hard cards   Die Hard tokens

Players have shoot and punch attack actions, and McClane sneaks around the board–yep, walking through glass.  Thieves get “line of sight” to draw blood (not “first” blood, that’s a different movie).  Thieves get reinforcements, and McClane can get radio support.  The game ends when McClane dies, the thieves break into the vault, or McClane kills Hans Gruber.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Following up on The Toys That Made Us (previously reviewed here at borg), Netflix’s surprise hit documentary series leaning on viewers’ nostalgia with a look behind select high-profile toy lines of the past, this weekend the streaming provider added a new series based on the same formula.  The Movies That Made Us takes a four episode-per-season look at what someone somewhere thinks are important movies in the national consciousness.  The series arrives nicely timed, since season three of The Toys That Made Us already is showing signs the studio has run out of ideas.

Like The Toys That Made Us, the new series isn’t really about the subject of the series, instead taking viewers on a deep, dark dive into the business world of pop culture.  Like the first series, The Movies That Made Us has some fascinating gold nuggets.  It also has its problems.  The biggest issue being the odd introductory selection of movies, and the second, the glaring omission of key players viewers want to see interviewed for the stories.  As for the first issue, understandably the show is trying to appeal to a broad spectrum of viewers.  But it seems highly unlikely any single person, whether a movie buff or casual moviegoer, would put the following four movies on their list of must-see films: Dirty Dancing, Home Alone, Ghostbusters, and Die Hard As for the second problem, part of the issue is the series is too late to the table.  So many of the key players behind and in front of the camera in these films have died, like Ghostbusters writer/actor Harold Ramis, Dirty Dancing director Emile Ardolino and co-stars Patrick Swayze and Jerry Orbach, Home Alone writer John Hughes, and Die Hard actors Alan Rickman and Alexander Godunov and writer Roderick Thorp.  But people die and that shouldn’t hold up a good story, except that so many players that could have been interviewed who are living also didn’t participate.  A documentary about Dirty Dancing without star Jennifer Grey?  Die Hard without Bruce Willis?  Ghostbusters without Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver, or Rick Moranis?  And the clincher… they couldn’t get Macauley Culkin, Joe Pesci, or Catherine O’Hara to say anything about Home Alone?

It really gets to the point of audience expectation.  Movie buffs will enjoy this series’ first season even if they didn’t care for the films, simply because it’s always going to be interesting for them to watch the wheeling and dealing of the studio machine told from the people who were there.  In that regard, the episodes about Dirty Dancing and Home Alone were entertaining by virtue of their tales of odd ideas that managed to emerge like the phoenix from dead deals to become major box office successes through a lot of luck and happenstance (told nicely in the episodes).  And the same was true for The Toys That Made Us, although after nine episodes an hour of the retired talking heads of Toyland has lost its luster.  To that end, the series should be called something more accurate, like The Making of the Movies That Made Us, etc.  But even that would set the expectation that you’d see more than talking heads interspersed with fuzzy snapshots from productions of the past.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If Turner Classic Movies says that Die Hard is a Christmas movie, then the discussion is over finally, right?

It’s that time of year again and Turner Classic Movies is back showing some of the best Christmas movies from across the decades.  This year host Ben Mankiewicz is interviewing author Jeremy Arnold before and after the screening of movies Arnold has selected to feature in his new book, TCM: Christmas in the Movies–30 Classics to Celebrate the Season.  And yes, Arnold’s list includes Die Hard.  So as the British say, “end of.”  Most readers and movie fans will likely agree with at least twenty of the selections discussed in the book, and the rest are there ready for some good discussions with friends over some egg nog this holiday season.

It’s also likely this bucket list of movies has several films that even avid movie watchers may have missed.  I set up my DVR to pick up a few in the book I hadn’t seen yet and was surprised at how superb a selection Holiday Affair is.  It stars Janet Leigh, Robert Mitchum, Wendell Corey, Henry Morgan, plus young Gordon Gebert in what must be the best-ever performance by a child actor in a Christmas movie.  This is exactly the kind of value you get with a book like Christmas in the Movies–this movie will now be added to my own favorite Christmas movie list.  For each entry Arnold discusses the actors, plot, audience reception and the impact of the film, and why it’s a good Christmas season film for audiences today.

Along with Die Hard, which is smartly defended by Arnold, you’ll find the usual suspects like Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, A Christmas Story, and Elf, plus some lesser known gems, like Remember the Night, the first of four films that would pair Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, plus Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotten in I’ll Be Seeing You, and Humphrey Bogart in We’re No AngelsArnold picks up genre films Gremlins and The Nightmare Before Christmas, and even a few Westerns, including 3 Godfathers starring John Wayne.

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Another “prequel that is also a sequel” is in the works, and this time it’s for one of the action genre’s biggest franchises.  Director Len Wiseman confirmed at a Television Critics Association event that casting for both a young John McClane and young Holly Gennero will be part of a new film: Die Hard: Year One.  Wiseman is waiting for a final script from writers Carey W. Hayes and Chad Hayes.  He said that story will feature both a flashback element and a future story.  The past will focus on McClane in the 1970s.  And Wiseman said he and Bruce Willis want to be part of the process to select the actor who portrays the young McClane.

Back in 2015 when the idea for this movie first surfaced, one logical casting idea was floated:  Why not Joseph Gordon-Levitt?  Gordon-Levitt played a young McClane character in Looper, and he also has the acting chops to come back for more for such an iconic character.  No one else seems that obvious, yet Nicholas Hoult might be a good choice considering his age and significant (and critically acclaimed)action performances in the X-Men series and Mad Max: Fury Road.  Another choice that would be difficult not to rule out is Jai Courtney, who played McClane’s son in 2013’s A Good Day to Die Hard.

It also seems obvious that the script writers should look to the two pieces of source material that have already been written.  First would be the novel that inspired the film series, Roderick Thorp’s Nothing Lasts Forever (reviewed here at borg.com), the sequel to the 1966 novel The Detective, which was turned into a movie starring Frank Sinatra.  If you’re looking to get into the shoes of McClane, this would be the place to begin.  But next would be renowned writer Howard Chaykin’s own take on the same title, his comic book series Die Hard: Year One published by BOOM! Comics in 2010 (reviewed here at borg.com).  It doesn’t appear the new script writers are looking to these two books for ideas, but note the covers above to the Chaykin series have a great vibe fans would no doubt love to see on the big screen.

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The National Film Registry has grown to include 725 films this year with the addition this week of 25 films.  In accordance with the National Film Preservation Act, a film is eligible to be preserved under the registry if it is at least a decade old and recognized in the National Film Preservation Board’s view as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”  The Librarian of Congress makes the final determination, considering public nominations in the analysis.

Consistent with last year’s list, which added The Princess Bride and The Birds, the new list includes some of the best genre films of all-time: one of cinema’s best fantasies and baseball films, Phil Alden Robinson’s magical Field of Dreams, Walt Disney’s timeless animated film Dumbo, the greatest superhero film of all-time–Superman, a 1980s classic–The Goonies, and your second favorite Christmas movie, Die Hard.  The only surprise with some inductees was simply that they hadn’t been added yet to the Registry, like Elia Kazan’s memorable look at prejudice, Gentleman’s Agreement, the original Hepburn/Tracy/Poitier drama Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, the Ritchie Valens biopic La Bamba, Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus, and the 11-Oscar triumph, James Cameron’s Titanic. 

Richard Donner, who directed two films on this year’s list, Superman and The Goonies, said, “They are both special films in my life, as was the cast and crew for both.  It’s wonderful to see them listed among so many great films.”  Kirk Douglas, who celebrated his 101st birthday this past week, starred in two films, Spartacus, and the 1951 film Ace in the Hole.

Below is the full list of films named to the registry for 2017:

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As the meme goes, you either think Die Hard is a Christmas movie or you’re wrong.

Although we’re not quite sure where we’d rank Die Hard along with the likes of It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Gremlins, or Trading Places, we’d agree:  Yes, Virginia, Die Hard is a Christmas movie–as much as Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is a Thanksgiving movie.

Writer Doogie Horner and illustrator J.J. Harrison would also agree, and so Horner merged Die Hard into Clement Clarke Moore’s classic annual Christmas storybook, A Visit From St. Nicholas (the poem everyone knows that begins with the line ‘Twas the night before Christmas…”), and Harrison drew the pages of the story in the “Little Golden Book” style.  The result is A Die Hard Christmas–The Illustrated Holiday Classic, a cute little 32-page hardcover tome that will fit right nicely alongside the stocking of your favorite action movie fan this Christmas.

Of course it’s not really a children’s book.  What keeps it from a G rating is a few scenes showing bad and good guys getting killed with cartoonish blood spatter illustrations, and the single use of John McClane’s famous phrase from the film that Bruce Willis is best known for, beginning with “Yippie ki-yay,” etc.  So consider yourself warned.

For adults it’s a clever idea, executed with some love by Horner, who reports he has watched Die Hard 102 times so far.  Take this line, for instance: “Karl swept the ground floor, shooting every guard dead while visions of bearer bonds danced in his head.”

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Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies has just revealed the titles of 13 classic movies that will return to cinemas across the country during the yearlong 2018 TCM Big Screen Classics series.  They are (drumroll, please!):

January:  The Treasure of the Sierra Madre — “Badges? … I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!”  John Huston directs Humphrey Bogart and father Walter Huston.  On the National Film Registry and *six* American Film Institute “best of” lists.

February:  The Philadelphia StoryGeorge Cukor directs Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart in the classic romance comedy.  On the National Film Registry and *seven* American Film Institute “best of” lists.

March:  VertigoJimmy Stewart and Kim Novak star in one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best thrillers.   On the National Film Registry and *six* American Film Institute “best of” lists.

April:  Grease The favorite musical of the 1970s with the bestselling soundtrack.  On *seven* American Film Institute “best of” lists.

May:  Sunset BoulevardGet ready for your close-up!  Billy Wilder’s creepy noir mystery starring William Holden and Gloria Swanson.  On the National Film Registry and *four* American Film Institute “best of” lists.

June:  The Producers — Mel Brooks directs Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Dick Shawn, and Kenneth Mars in the classic comedy.  On the National Film Registry and *two* American Film Institute “best of” lists.

July:  Big — Okay, but I get to be on top.  Pull out your FAO Schwarz floor keyboard.  Penny Marshall directs Tom Hanks in the fantasy coming of age classic.  On *five* American Film Institute “best of” lists.

August: The Big Lebowski — The Coen Brothers direct Jeff “The Dude” Bridges and an all-star cast in the fan fave, cult classic, crime comedy.

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