Bruce Willis – Expendables week

Bruce Willis only had a glorified cameo in The Expendables. I’m hoping that they give him a little beefier role this time around. Meanwhile here are some Willis action flicks on Netflix streaming.

12 Monkeys (1995) – Rated R

“In the year 2035, convict James Cole (Bruce Willis) volunteers reluctantly to be sent back in time by scientists to discover the origin of a deadly virus that wiped out nearly all of the earth’s population decades earlier. But when Cole is sent mistakenly to 1990 instead of 1996, he’s arrested and locked up in a mental hospital, where he meets a psychiatrist (Madeleine Stowe) and the son (Brad Pitt) of a famous virus expert (Christopher Plummer).”

12 Monkeys is not an action film but a fascinating science fiction film. Both Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe and Brad Pitt are wonderful here. Brad Pitt was nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role and Julie Weiss was nominated for a Best Costume Design Oscar.

The Fifth Element (1997) – Rated PG-13

“In this imaginative sci-fi epic, a 23rd-century cabbie finds himself involved with a fetching alien who may hold the key to saving the world. But it’s curtains for planet Earth unless the duo can stay a step ahead of a demented villain named Zorg.”

Instead of a science fiction movie with some action like 12 Monkeys, The Fifth Element is an action film with science fiction trappings. Luc Besson fills the screen with energy and Gary Oldman is positively manic as our chief villain.

The Siege (1998) – Not rated

“Martial law is imposed in New York when U.S. military zealots abduct a Muslim religious leader and an army general cordons off Queens to form a detention camp. Two FBI agents team with a CIA operative to save the day in this action-packed thriller.”

The Siege is a very thoughtful film about terrorism that still manages to be entertaining. The stars are Denzel Washington and Annette Bening but Bruce Willis has a juicy supporting role as does Tony Shalhoub.

Tears of the Sun (2003) – Rated R

“Bruce Willis stars as Lt. A.K. Waters, a Navy SEAL sent to the jungles of embattled Africa to rescue a doctor (Monica Bellucci), arriving only to realize he must also save the refugees in the doctor’s care — even if it places his military career in jeopardy. Tracked by heavily armed guerillas, Waters and his men must guide 40 injured Nigerian patients to the Cameroon border in this epic action drama directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day).”

This is another entry in the White People Solve the World’s Problems genre. There are some good action sequences but I cannot really recommend it overall.

Set Up (2011) – Not rated

“A diamond heist goes horribly wrong, and the group of friends who sought to make a fortune must instead fight for their very survival. Bruce Willis, Ryan Phillippe and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson bring the firepower in this thriller.”

I have not seen this so I cannot comment on how good a thespian Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson is. Perhaps half a dollar’s worth?

Die Hard 2 – Second Verse Same as the First week

This week I have decided to cover the unjustly derided vehicle known as the sequel. This is Second Verse Same as the First week. Die Hard 2 – Die Harder is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Die Hard 2 (1990) – Rated R for adult content.

“Bruce Willis reprises his role as John McClane, an off-duty cop gripped with a feeling of déjà vu when on a snowy Christmas Eve in the nations capital, terrorists seize a major international airport, holding thousands of holiday travelers hostage. Renegade military commandos led by a murderous rogue officer (William Sadler) plot to rescue a drug lord from justice and are prepared for every contingency except one: McClanes smart-mouthed heroics.”

A character in Scream 2 argues, ironically, that sequels are by definition inferior products. I do not believe that to be the case. Many sequels surpass their originals in part because they do not have to waste so much exposition time. However I will grant you that most sequels are inferior to their originals.

Unfortunately this is guilty confession time. I saw Die Hard 2 and liked it better than Die Hard. Die Hard 2 is by no means a better film but I saw Die Hard 2 under the ideal circumstances (a theater) and Die Hard on VHS in a room with a bunch of my friends chatting. So clearly environment was a factor. It was only much later that I realized how wonderful Die Hard was.

Renny Harlin takes over the directing reins from John McTiernan. His first big film (his previous film was Nightmare on Elm Street 4) is chock full of action and wonderful setpieces obviously inspired by the Hong Kong films of John Woo.

Die Hard 2 is based on the novel 58 Minutes by Walter Wager with the events altered to fit and, in some cases, shoehorn in the Die Hard characters. The screenplay was written by Steven E. De Souza and Doug Richardson. The script and events are exciting but quite a bit more over the top than Die Hard. Not having read 58 Minutes, I am unable to tell if that is the author or the screenwriters.

Bruce Willis reprises his role as wisecracking cop John McClane. Die Hard made Willis an action star and he would reprise this role twice more. He manages the fine line of being witty while performing daring feats of fighting and marksmanship.

Unfortunately they stretch incredulity by not only having Holly McClane (Bonnie Bedelia) in one of the airplanes circling Dulles but also having Richard Thornburg (William Atherton) on the same plane. My eyes did roll when John McClane needs to get help (again) from Sgt. Powell (Reginald VelJohnson).

Since our villains were unlikely to return for a second film, we have William Sadler as Colonel Stuart and, in a brief role, Franco Nero as General Ramon Esperanza.

Dennis Franz essentially plays a cross between his cop in Hill Street Blues and his cop in NYPD Blue but he is always fun to watch. John Amos rounds out the cast as Major Grant.

I heartily recommend Die Hard 2 for Bruce Willis as John McClane and some wonderful over-the-top action. It is definitely not the classic that Die Hard was, in part because it trod the same ground and in part because Alan Rickman was incredible in Die Hard.

Trivia: There is a great scene in one of the trailers for Die Hard 2 that is not in the movie. John McClane is crawling around some ducts with a light and mutters “This is how I spent last Christmas”. There is a somewhat sim ilar line used in a different place in the movie.

People Watch: Wow a veritable smorgasbord of later known actors in small parts. Colm Meaney (Chief OBrien on Star Trek TNG & DS9) is the pilot of the Windsor plane. Robert Patrick (Terminator in T2) plays OReilly. John Leguizamo (Sid in the Ice Age movies) plays Burke. Last but not least yes that is Senator Fred Thompson lending gravitas to the role of troubled airport controller Trudeau.

Lazy Weekend Musings – The Expendables

Before sitting through the somewhat painful Clash of the Titans, we thoroughly enjoyed the previews. A lot of the films showed promise but one was a real standout. It did not standout because of the trailer but because of what the director had pulled off with the cast.

Sylvester Stallone has written and directed a film for this fall called “The Expendables”. He has roped in what I must call the ULTIMATE action movie cast. It is simply mind-blowing.

The Expendables is about a team of mercenaries on a suicide mission. The mercenaries are Sylvester (Rambo) Stallone, Jason (Transporter) Statham, Jet (Hero) Li, Dolph (Universal Soldier) Lundgren, former UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture, Terry (Idiocracy) Crews and Stone Cold Steve Austin.

That alone wowed me but The Expendables also stars Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts and features character actor Danny (Machete) Trejo and DTV action star Gary (Tekken) Daniels.

Because of this and the upcoming Actionfest in Asheville April 15-18, I will be featuring instant Netflix movies based on the cast of The Expendables this week.

People Watch: I would not have mentioned this but the trailer completely gives it away. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis have cameos in the film as well.

Christmas week – Die Hard

This week’s theme is Christmas. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of quality Christmas movies on instant Netflix so we’ll broaden the theme to include those movies that take place during the holidays.

Die Hard

WATCH: Die Hard (1988) – Rated R for brief nudity, graphic language, and graphic violence

“NYPD cop John McClane’s (Bruce Willis) plan to reconcile with his estranged wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), is thrown for a serious loop when minutes after he arrives at her office, the entire building is overtaken by a group of pitiless terrorists. With little help from the LAPD, wisecracking McClane sets out to single-handedly rescue the hostages and bring the bad guys down. This classic John McTiernan actioner launched Willis into superstardom.”

“Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho”

Early in our marriage, my wife and I went on vacation alone. My in-laws graciously offered to watch the children so we could do this. When we returned from vacation, our eldest daughter (7? 8?) told us that she had seen a Santa Claus movie. When we asked her about it, she said that Santa was dead in the elevator! We had a good chuckle when we finally realized what movie she meant and ever since I’ve thought of this as one of my favorite Christmas movies.

In Die Hard, Bruce Willis successfully transitioned from TV star to action movie star. He makes a great reluctant everyman hero. He is athletic without being overly muscled like his action star contemporaries Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger (who both turned down this role). Bonnie Bedelia is quite good as our savvy and pretty fearless damsel in distress.

Every great action movie (and this is one of the all-time best) needs a great villain. Alan Rickman’s debut performance as Hans Gruber is a revelation. Witty, urbane, and comic yet full of menace and unhesitating violence, Rickman is a delight to watch. Alexander Godunov gives a performance that is full of repressed (and not so repressed) rage as the undervillain. Clarence Gilyard Jr. provides some nice comic relief and the other villains are good as well. There’s a wonderful bit of product placement for Nestle Crunch bar.

The script has quite a number of great twists and turns (many not in the source novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorpe) and the action direction is wonderful. The script has a bunch of great quotable one-liners and they are really good in context – unlike the out of place over-the-top groaners we see in later action films. The film is wonderfully paced and leads to a very exciting conclusion (and a less exciting and somewhat ‘huh?’ post-conclusion).

People watch: Okay not a person but the teddy bear that McClane has for his kids is the same teddy bear that Jack Ryan has for his kids in John McTiernan’s The Hunt for Red October. Quintessential butthead William Atherton (Ghostbusters, Real Genius) again plays a butthead in this film and reprises his role in the sequel.