GBUK Film Classics: ‘Die Hard’

Looking at some all-time favourites…

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“I got invited to the Christmas party by mistake…who knew?”

Year:  1988

Starring:  Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, William Atherton, Reginald Veljohnson

Director:  John McTernian / Written by:  Jeb Stewart and Steven E. de Souza (based on the novel “Nothing Lasts Forever” by Roderick Thorp)

What’s it about?

Visiting his estranged wife at the Nakatomi Corporation’s Christmas party, New York cop John McClane soon finds he is the only hope when terrorists seize the near vacant Nakatomi Plaza…

In review

Launching both the career of one of Hollywood’s biggest stars and a successful film franchise, Die Hard sits comfortably at the top of many an action film fan’s favourites list.

Virtually unknown beyond a starring role in the television series Moonlighting, Bruce Willis truly made his mark here providing audiences with a memorable, likeable and relatable ‘hero’ who is just an average guy thrown unwittingly into extraordinary circumstances.  Willis makes great use of a script that is infused with dry wit and iconic one-liners as he trades verbal blows with Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber, an astute terrorist-turned thief who finds himself infuriated by McClane’s relentless ‘interference’.  If Willis gave audiences a memorable screen hero, then Rickman provided a superior breed of villain, setting a new standard for the casting of such roles.

Willis is joined by an eclectic supporting cast – including Bonnie Bedelia as McClane’s estranged wife, Holly and Reginald Veljohnson as his Twinkie loving morale support, Sgt. Al Powell.  He also gets to trade punches with Gruber’s right hand man, Karl played by the late Alexander Godunov.  Amongst all of the peril there’s some neatly placed moments of levity from limo driver Argyle (De’voreaux White), Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson (Paul Gleeson), Nakatomi Exec Harry Ellis (Hart Bochner) and News Reporter Richard Thornburg (William Atherton).

Beyond casting, Die Hard continues to stand as one of the biggest and most thrilling action films of all time.  Over twenty five years on, the extensive practical effects and pyrotechnics (not to mention some daring stunts) are still impressive and a testament to the achievements and creativity of this brand of ‘old school’ style of filmmaking.  It’s also worth highlighting that Die Hard could not have succeeded without the use of studio 20th Century Fox’s Fox Plaza building which doubles as Nakatomi Plaza – itself one of the film’s stars and integral to the whole of the film’s production.

What makes Die Hard so appealing is its successful (and seamless) combination of numerous crowd-pleasing elements: the performances of its cast, most significantly Willis and Rickman, a script that is both dramatic and funny and the thrilling and literally explosive action expertly executed by director John McTiernan – who would go on to direct 1995’s Die Hard with a Vengeance.

Whilst Die Hard is assuredly a defining moment in action cinema, it’s also essential Christmas viewing – beyond events taking place on Christmas Eve, the heart of the story focuses on McClane’s desire to reunite with his wife and children at such a special time of year, as he contemplates regrets at allowing their marriage to fall apart.  This paves the way for a satisfying conclusion, aptly complemented by yuletide favourite “Let it Snow!” which plays out as the closing credits roll.

Standout moment

After Hans Gruber’s men thwart the attempts of an armed response team to storm Nakatomi Plaza, McClane decides it’s time to give Gruber his C4 explosives back – but not in the way he might be expecting…

Three reasons it’s a classic…

  1. It’s by far Bruce Willis’s finest hour (well, two hours and eleven minutes).
  1. It set a new benchmark for quality action thrillers, which still sets standards today.
  1. It’s entertaining not just for its impressive action set-pieces but for a script that balances dramatic beats with well-placed moments of levity and dry wit.

Did you know?

The majority of the film’s scenes take place at night as Willis was committed to shooting on television series Moonlighting during the day.

If you like this then watch…

Die Hard 2 : the first (and arguably best) of the Die Hard sequels sees the action shift from the heights of Nakatomi Plaza to the snow covered landscape of Dulles International Airport, with another likeably witty performance from Willis who this time is trading quips with William Sadler’s corrupt Army man, Colonel Stewart.  Director Renny Harlin successfully delivers the expected adrenalin fuelled thrills of this superior action blockbuster.

Under Siege : once cited as Die Hard on a battleship, to simply right off this accomplished Steven Segal action flick as such would do it a disservice.  With strong production values, exciting action set-pieces and delightful villainy from Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey, it’s Die Hard’s lost cousin.

Bruce Willis make his debut as one of action cinema's most iconic characters - John McClane in 'Die Hard'.

Bruce Willis makes his debut as one of action cinema’s most iconic characters – John McClane in ‘Die Hard’.

TV Review: ‘Doctor Who’ 2014 Christmas Special “Last Christmas”

Has the Doctor been a good boy?

This review contains SPOILERS

Starring:  Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald, Nick Frost as Santa

Written by:  Steven Moffat / Episode directed by:   Paul Wilmshurst / aired in the UK and U.S. :  25/12/2014

What’s this episode about?

It’s Christmas and Clara and the Doctor enlist the help of Santa Claus himself to thwart a deadly alien threat…

Episode review

Ah…Christmas, a time to eat, drink, be Merry and sit down to watch the BBC’s Doctor Who Christmas Special which over the last decade (yes, it really has been that long) has firmly entrenched itself in the festive traditions.

The 2014 special, “Last Christmas” is the tenth Who Christmas episode and although not quite as fun as 2005’s “The Christmas Invasion” (which saw the debut of David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor) or as epic as Matt Smith’s departure in last year’s “The Time of the Doctor” it is non-the-less another entertaining festive treat that contains equal measures of atmospheric shocks and sugar-coated delights.

As we’ve come to expect over the course of Peter Capaldi’s first season as master of the TARDIS, “Last Christmas” has a dark streak with a number of ‘behind the sofa’ scares (all the more daring given the 6:15pm timeslot) presented by the malevolent alien creatures that threaten to destroy Christmas.

Largely taking place at an isolated North Pole research station, the premise of “Last Christmas” harkens back to the iconic ‘base under siege’ template of classic Who adventures and owes much to the likes of Alien and The Thing From Another World, both of which are rightfully acknowledged by writer Steven Moffat.  It infuses the otherwise festive proceedings with a tense and unsettling atmosphere as the Doctor uncovers the truth behind the appearance of Santa and the plight of the crew of that afore-mentioned research station (one of whom is played by Michael Troughton, son of the late Patrick Troughton who portrayed the Doctor’s second incarnation from 1966 to 1969).

It’s not all doom and gloom though, there are plenty of heartfelt moments between the Doctor and Clara and levity facilitated via jovial guest star Nick Frost (complete with Elf sidekicks).  The highlight of the piece however is the Doctor’s piloting of Santa’s sled, a fantastically magical sequence where Christmas truly takes over and sure to kindle the yuletide spirit in even the most cynical of the viewership.

The biggest surprise of course is the fate of Clara, just as we suspect the Doctor’s encounter with an elderly version of his beloved companion is leading toward Jenna Coleman’s rumoured exit, a twist in the mind-bending Inception-esque concept provides us with (at least partially) an answer as Clara decides to accept the Doctor’s invitation to return to the TARDIS.

“Last Christmas” sees Peter Capaldi provide another assured turn as the now not-so-new Doctor and hopefully Coleman will stick around for a while longer, with the highs and lows of their comradery being one of the main draws of this last season.  It will be exciting to see where the TARDIS lands next…

The bottom line:  The Doctor saves Christmas once again as the BBC delivers another quality festive edition of Doctor Who that’s scary, tense and magical in a way that only this iconic series could achieve.

“Last Christmas” is released on Blu-ray and DVD by 2entertain on 26th January.  Doctor Who season 9 will air in 2015.

What did you think of Peter Capaldi’s first Christmas as the Doctor?  Share your thoughts below!

The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) enlist the help of Santa (Nick Frost) in another magical festive edition of the BBC's 'Doctor Who'.

The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) enlist the help of Santa (Nick Frost) in another magical festive edition of the BBC’s ‘Doctor Who’.

James Bond to face SPECTRE in 2015

So, it’s been some months now since it was announced that Skyfall director Sam Mendes would return to helm the next instalment in the James Bond film series and this week finally saw the big reveal – Bond 24 is now titled SPECTRE.

Deriving its name from the evil SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) organisation featured in Ian Fleming’s novels and which due to legal wrangles has been prevented from featuring in the film series since Sean Connery’s departure in the early seventies, it provides tantalising hints into what may be in store for the iconic super-spy as we learn that the plot will see a cryptic message from Bond’s past sending him on the trail of the sinister organisation.

Given that the major critical and commercial success of Skyfall set the bar rather high, there’s certainly a sense that producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson are taking every step to ensure that SPECTRE is (at least) equally successful, not only by securing Mendes (who will be joined by Interstellar cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema) as director but by once again enlisting screenwriters John Logan, Robert Wade and Neal Purves.  This will give the film a sense of continuity and consistency given that both Mendes and Craig have cited that the narrative of SPECTRE will be affected by the events of Skyfall – perhaps not as direct a follow on as Quantum of Solace was to Casino Royale but it seems that there will be significant links.

The excellent Daniel Craig will be back as Fleming’s James Bond – 007 and will be accompanied by returning Skyfall cast members Ralph Fiennes (the new ‘M’), Roy Kinnear (Tanner), Naomie Harris (Moneypenny) and Ben Whishaw (‘Q’).  They will be joined by Bond girls Monica Bellucci (The Matrix) and Lea Seydoux (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) together with Sherlock’s Andrew Scott and Guardians of the Galaxy’s (and muscular power-house) David Bautista.

That leaves the most enticing and arguably most exciting casting coup of all – double Academy Award winner Christophe Waltz (Inglorious Basterds).  Of course we’ve been told that Waltz will be playing a character named ‘Oberhauser’ but would a James Bond film going by the title of SPECTRE fail to feature the head of the organisation – Ernst Stavro Blofeld (previously played onscreen by such notable actors as Donald Pleasance and Telly Savalas), surely a role suited to an actor of such incredible presence and stature?

Now, to await the announcement of who will be providing the film’s title song…

Principal photography on SPECTRE commences on Monday 8th December with locations including London, Rome, Mexico City, Morocco and Austria.  The film is due for worldwide release from November 6th 2015.

What are your hopes (and fears?) for 007’s next cinematic adventure?  Share your thoughts below!

The superb Daniel Craig will return as Ian Fleming's James Bond - 007 in 'SPECTRE'.

The superb Daniel Craig will return as Ian Fleming’s James Bond – 007 in ‘SPECTRE’.