I have always been a big admirer of the first two Die Hard films. They managed to combine a real sense of fun with a pretty sharp, enjoyable script. Die Hard: With A Vengeance, the third effort, was still entertaining but the rot had started to set in. Twelve years passed and the fourth entry, Live Free Or Die Hard, was eminently forgettable. So we fast-forward to 2013 and A Good Day To Die Hard. Policeman John McClane (Bruce Willis) is forced to head to Russia when he discovers that his estranged son Jack McClane (Jai Courtney) is stranded there. So the grizzled former New York cop turns up only to discover that his son is actually a US spy, working to prevent a nuclear weapons heist. Despite the fact that Willis looks significantly older than he did in the first three, A Good Day To Die Hard starts quite encouragingly. But it doesn’t take long before the wheels fall off the car. What made the first two exceptional action films was a strong script and some well-conceived villains. Despite the absence of a decent villain in the third one, there were some nice touches in the script and a  good chemistry between Willis and his reluctant sidekick, played by Samuel Jackson. The problem here is that any wisecracking is kept to a bare minimum and the action is too relentless to give the viewer any time to breathe. Also, there is almost zero chemistry between father and son and the plot feels like a discarded 1980s James Bond film idea. It has a very short running time of only 90 minutes and it is obvious that they are looking to replace Willis with Courtney for a sixth outing of the Die Hard franchise. Let’s hope that they give it a little more thought than this one. A Good Day To Die Hard is a tawdry exercise in explosive stunts and unmemorable villains, which is just about watchable but continues the slow decline of one of the better mainstream Hollywood cash cows…


I went to see The Expendables last week at Empire, Leicester Square in London’s West End. I admit that I was a sucker for some of those stupid Eighties movies starring Stallone and Schwarzenegger, so I was hoping that perhaps the film may have provided a little bit of unchallenging entertainment. Stallone, while not the world’s greatest director, has made a few solid films in the past and is a competent if unremarkable actor. The Expendables of the title are a group of mercenaries who go around the world battling villains like Somali pirates and evil South American dictators. Stallone leads the group which also includes Dolph (Punisher) Lundgren, Jason Statham (Crank, Transporter and Death Race) as the humourously named Lee Christmas and Jet Li (Hero, Romeo Must Die). Also part of the group is Mickey Rourke as their mechanic, the imaginatively-named Tool. So the group is hired by Mr Church (a cameo from Bruce Willis) to take out General Garza, the tyrant who runs fictional Central American island Vilena. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger has a small on-camera appearance. So cue soft-rock and long lingering camera shots of a plane over the sea. The Expendables isn’t the worst film you’ll see this summer as it rarely outstays its welcome with a tight 90 minute running time but the problem is that it takes itself far too seriously, Stallone looks a little weird and Rourke looks stranger and more freakish with each film he appears in. Only Statham and Li work here and they’re significantly younger than Stallone and Lundgren, who is as wooden and stiff as he was in his Eighties heyday. This is a film that will come and go pretty briefly at the cinema and is only really worth watching on a Saturday night with a few beers on satellite TV.


I haven’t been to see many films at press screenings recently but there were two I saw in the last couple of weeks and so here are my reviews of them.
First up is The Soloist, a drama directed by Brit Joe Wright (Atonement) and starring Robert Downey Jr and Jamie Foxx. This is a film that is already on DVD in the US and they have been waiting for a slot to release it in the UK. Based on a book by Los Angeles Times journalist Steve Lopez, The Soloist is about that journalist, played here by Downey Jr, who befriends a homeless man Nathaniel Ayers (Foxx) with a secret past. Ayers was a Julliard student who dropped up and now lives on the streets of Los Angeles. Wright is a very accomplished director, considering that this is only his third feature as director, Downey Jr is likeable on screen while Foxx brings real power to his performance but The Soloist feels like it’s trying a little too hard to be important and relevant. It’s not a bad film but it lacks real impact for the viewer and it makes you think that perhaps it would work better in its original written word form and something has been lost in its translation to the big screen. The script can’t help but portray journalist Lopez as the cliched well-meaning but flawed character, complete with estranged ex-wife. So it’s a film that does keep your attention but nothing would be lost if it was seen on DVD rather than the big screen…
Surrogates is based on a Top Shelf graphic novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Wiedele and I’ll be posting a full review of it up on the TRIPWIRE website. But I’ll give you a little mini-review here. Starring Bruce Willis, Surrogates posits a world where everybody has an artificial avatar or surrogate made of metal and plastic and most of society live their lives through these surrogates. Willis is decent value on screen as ever but it feels like a pilot for a TV series that will never be made…