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.

Con Air – Do Not Get on That Plane week

This is Do Not Get on That Plane week. Con Air is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Con Air (1997) – Rated R for strong violence and language.

“When the government puts all its rotten criminal eggs in one airborne basket, it is asking for trouble. Before you can say, “Pass the barf bag,” the crooks control the plane, led by creepy Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom (John Malkovich). Watching his every move is the just-released Nicolas Cage, who would rather reunite with his family. The action climaxes with an incredible crash sequence in Las Vegas.”

“Make a move and the bunny gets it!”

“What if I told you insane was working fifty hours a week in some office for fifty years at the end of which they tell you to piss off; ending up in some retirement village hoping to die before suffering the indignity of trying to make it to the toilet on time? Wouldnt you consider that to be insane”

Okay recommending this movie I realize that I should have a category for Guilty Pleasure. For everything it gets right, it gets something wrong.

This is the first film directed by Simon West. None of his other films so far have been any good (Tomb Raider? The Generals Daughter?) and yet this one is chock full of great action and sort of great performances (more on that later).

We are not even five minutes into the movie when Cameron (Nicolas Cage) is attacked by three thugs who threaten his wife, deface his uniform, and beat him. Clearly they deserve the smackdown. Of course Cameron, a former Army Ranger, allows them to surround him in a rainy parking lot and begin beating him down without initially fighting back which seems quite odd.

The action is fun and pretty much non-stop. The acting is the real reason to watch this movie. They got a great cast and Simon West appears to have told each of them that they should go flat out with their acting. The actors do not seem to interact so much as they try to outdo each other.

Nicolas Cage overacts his heart out. His performance will leave you cringing at times but it does give him a certain charisma. They also take plenty of opportunities to show off his pecs and abs. Even his hair is given plenty of screen time and real estate.

Our other hero is a sandal-wearing U.S. Marshal, Vince Larkin. He is played by John Cusack who is clearly having a lot of fun here. He continually twits rival DEA agent Duncan Malloy played by Colm Meaney (Chief OBrien on Star Trek TNG/DS9 – his keychain has a Star Trek ornament on it).

We know that Malloy is not a hero because the first thing he does is arrive in a very expensive sports car and park in the handicap spot.

Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs was such a part of the cultural zeitgeist by this point that they base not one but two of the felons on his character (Cyrus and Garland).

Cyrus is our main villain and is overplayed to perfection by a scenery-chewing John Malkovich. He is riveting and stands out above the other overactors. His number two is Ving Rhames as Diamond Dog.

Even the minor villains are all chosen for their flamboyance. Comedian Dave Chappelle plays Pinball (humorously of course). The excellent character actor Danny Trejo plays rapist Johnny 23. M.C. Gainey plays white trash Swamp Thing.

Strangely the only actor in the whole movie who seems restrained (and that is only in comparison to the other actors) is Steve Buscemi who gives a delightful performance as Garland Greene.

The actresses are actually restrained (literally in one case). Rachel Ticotin plays a guard and Monica Potter is the love interest, patiently waiting for Cameron to come home. Neither is given much to do – perhaps because they did not overact?

The action is fabulous and almost as over-the-top as the acting. Almost every airplane trope is covered here – emergency takeoff, crash landing, fight in flight, body falling from airplane, landing gear stuck, etc.

I have to say a few words, but only a few, about the plot. The plot is utterly ridiculous – any description of it reveals plenty of plotholes. The dialogue is alternately wonderful and cringe-inducing. The film steals liberally from Flight of the Phoenix, Silence of the Lambs, and others but definitely has its own sense of identity.

I did like that almost the entire movie takes place on Bastille Day.

Con Air was actually nominated for two Academy Awards. Diane Warren was nominated for best song for “How Do I Live”. Con Air was also nominated for Best Sound. Unfortunately it ran into the juggernaut that was Titanic.

I cannot in good conscience call this a good film but I do recommend it because it is a huge amount of fun.

People watch: Powers Boothe does an initial voice-over showing love for the Rangers.