A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

The cover to the Australian BD release of the film.

Film: I am a reviewer who cannot criticise sequels too harshly as I was brought up on them, from the original Star Wars saga to the various Friday the 13ths and Nightmare on Elm Streets I have always liked seeing further adventures of my favourite characters… which probably comes from being a fan of comics as well.

Of course in any series of films, one stands out as being the sloppy stuff that a dog pushes from its back passage… ladies and gentlemen, I give you A Good Day To Die Hard or as I will forever refer to it as A Good Day to Suck Hard.

This film was written by Skip Woods (more on him and his miserable script later) and directed by John Moore, who definitely knows how to put together an action sequence but can’t seem to get good acting out of his actors. It should also be pointed out he was responsible for the dire Flight of the Phoenix and The Omen remakes so be warned!!

A Good Day to Die Hard starts like a Bond film, with mucho shenanigans in Russia involving a political prisoner Komarov (Sebastian Koch) who has hidden evidence against politician Chargarin (Sergey Kolesnikov), which culminates in an assassination performed in a nightclub by someone who we quickly find out is Jack McClane (Jai Courtney), son of John McClane (Bruce Willis), who is immediately apprehended. John McClane, back in NYC, hears of this and makes his way to Russia to support his son at a trial where he is to give evidence against Chagarin, claiming it was him who ordered the hit, which puts him in the courthouse with Komarov.

Three men, wondering why they agree to do this film.

What we don’t know though is that Jack is actually a CIA agent in the midst of a three year operation to get Komarov to an escape point so they can get him out of Russia and to use the hidden evidence to bring Chargarin to pay for crimes he committed in the past… as expected, John gets dragged into it and we are then subjected to double-crosses, gunfire, helicopter and car destruction porn (you’ll see the Mercedes Benz emblem more in the first 30 minutes than you have ever seen in your entire life) and a father and son relationship once strained, now repaired.

I’ll start with the only positive for this film: the action sequences. These were filmed with a Hell of a lot of skill and were as thrilling as all get out and on occasion have points of shocking sudden violence that come completely unexpected. There is nothing really original here though, and in actual fact the first car chase scene in Moscow felt like an 80s styled pop music megamix of the tank scene in Russia from Goldeneye and the car chases from Die Hards 3 and 4.

Moore also used the George Lucas school of filmmaking idea insomuch that every scene in a sequel should be like a scene from a previous film, whether that be for familiarity or a lack of ideas I am not so sure, but it annoys me to no end. This film had so many homages to other Die Hard films that I felt like it was a tribute band version of a Die Hard film: all the hits and none of the misses. It replicated the ‘falling’ scene (from the first one), big explosion scene (from the third one) and many others… honestly, they could have taken scenes from previous films and clipped them together and made this film as it really was just a bunch of big scenes linked together by a loose script that stole from both Die Hard With A Vengeance, XXX and several Bond films.

Gunship porn at its finest!

The script is where the film actually falls apart. Skip Woods, who for me was a winner with Hitman and Swordfish, but taught us what ‘SUCK’ looks like with X-Men Origins: Wolverine repeats his Wolverine experience with barely even one-dimensional characters, luke-warm stereotypes and plot twists that were so obvious that Bruce Willis may as well have been holding a sign that said ‘PLOT TWIST’. What also was a problem for me was that after all the double crossing and triple crossing, the motivation for the main bad guy seemed hugely watered down, and his entire plan relied on SO much convenience that he could have opened a 7/11 store.

The other real problem for me was the character of John McClane. Bruce Willis’s iconic character was SOOOOOOOO out of his depth in this spy film that at time he seemed like nothing more than an amusing sidekick to Jack McClane’s heroics. At times John would shine though with his NYC cop instincts, but ultimately, he was just there to fire guns and wisecrack

After such a good run, and as far as I am concerned, a great modern day reboot in Die Hard 4.0, this is a miserable waste of time that exists solely to hand over the reins to a new ‘John McClane’. Imagine the ‘handover’ scene at the end of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull if it went for 98 minutes. Yeah: it’s THAT bad.

Score: *1/2

Easily the worst image of a menu screen I’ve ever taken!

Extras: As usual, a lot of this stuff could have been joined together to make one decent sized making of instead of a bunch of shorts.

Deleted Scenes as usual, glad to see the back of them because it would have made this film Die Longer.

Making It Hard to Die looks at the entire making of the film, from locations to venue the armoury the director wanted. Far too short as a making-of, but looks at a lot of stuff you wouldn’t think about in filmmaking.

Anatomy of a Car Chase directs the big car chase and looks at all the elements of it.

Two of a Kind investigates the similarities and the chemistry there had to be between Bruce Willis and Jai Courtney’s characters.

Back in Action looks at the character of John McClane.

The New Face of Evil takes a look at the baddies of the film.

Pre-vis shows the action sequences in their raw, early CGI form. They look like early Call I’d Duty or Battlefield cut scenes, but they do show how bog action sequences are blocked out and they they decide on the best shot.

VFX Sequences dies at all the visual effects plates used for various effects sequences.

Storyboards and Concept Art Gallery look at the pre-visualisation of the film.

There are two Theatrical Trailers and a commentary with Director John Moore and First Assistant Director Mark Cotone

Maximum McClane is a mega mix of McClane’s Die Hard experiences.

Score: ****

WISIA: It’s easily the least of the DH films so no, I won’t be watching it again.

The bad guys arrive!

This film was reviewed with the Australian Bluray release

After.Life (2009)

After.Life (2009)

The cover to the Australian DVD release

Film: You just have to love it when a first time director knows how to use a hammer, and hits every nail right on its head, and here, with After.Life,  Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo does just that. The director is also the co-writer along with Paul Vosloo and Jakun Korolczuk and the three of them have crafted an amazing story with some spectacular set pieces and excellent performances from the cast: not bad for the first swing at the ball.

After.Life tells the tale of uptight school teacher Anne (Christina Ricci), who is in a relationship with lawyer Paul (Justin Long) that has its problems, that is, constant fighting, and in general she just seems completely disinterested. After an argument that starts as a misunderstanding, Anne jumps in her car and has a horrific car accident, where she is pronounced dead at the scene… until she wakes up on the slab at a mortuary.

Christina Ricci as Anne

Funeral Director Eliot Deacon (Liam Neeson) is attending to her body and explains to her that he has the ability to talk to the dead, in which he feels he helps the souls of the deceased transition from their living state to one otherwise. He explains to Anne that not everyone has the same ease in their transition, and he feels that she might be one who finds it complicated.

Anne is not thoroughly convinced, and feels as though she is still alive so it takes all Deacon’s patience to help her, and being her burial is a few days later, he is under a time constraint but Anne’s concerns that she is not actually dead, and instead a prisoner keep resurfacing, and after a time, may be not so unfounded…

Liam Neeson as Deacon

Wojtowicz-Vosloo’s directorial skills lie in two main areas: cast performance and scene setting. Every scene was lit and set like a painting and put together with the kind of meticulousness that would make Dario Argento sweat, and the cast all really were able to show their stuff. Ricci’s character’s fractured personality mixed with confusion made her initially unlikable but eventually you felt badly for her plight… I should probably point out for the pervy Ricci fans that there is a little bit of nudity in this film of her as well!!! Liam Neeson played his role like a less vaudevillian Vincent Price, and Justin Long actually acted for the first time in his life, and didn’t just seem like the Mac/ PC guy.

All in all, After.Life is a delicate film with some great performances and drips with a creepiness that could only be compared to an old guy in a raincoat on a schoolbus. I didn’t know anything about this movie going into it the first time I watched it, had forgotten all about it and have to admit to being totally impressed by it. The performances of all in this film were superb and the film will keep you guessing right to the end.

Score: ****

The menu screen to the Australian DVD

Extras: The disc opens with a few trailers for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Crazies (remake) and The Collector and the only other extra is a trailer for After.Life itself.

Score: *

WISIA: This is a forgotten film that I only just remembered even existing and now I think it will enter my regular rewatch rotation.

Ricci ponders the difference between life and death

Sexcula

Sexcula

Film: It’s a wonderful thing for film fans when a lost film is rediscovered, no matter how obscure. Sexcula is probably the only known attempt at Canadian porn in the 70s, and honestly, that’s for the best.

A young girl inherits her grandfather’s house after he dies, and so she and her beau travel to see the property. The house is a renovator’s nightmare, but she reveals to her partner that somewhere within the house is her grandfather’s diary, which tells of some fascinating events involving the lovely Dr Fallatingstein (Jamie Orlando), her creation Frank (John Alexander), her sidekick Orgie( Tim Lowery) and sex therapist Countess Sexcula (Debbie Collins)…

…oh, and an oversexed gorilla (Bud Coal).

The story tells of how Fallatingstein’s creation, Frank, is fully operational, but for some reason cannot perform any sexual act as he is unable to get an erection… this is pre-Viagra… even using a resorting to using a sex robot that Orgie is constantly trying to have a go at. Fallatingstein contacts the one person that should solve Frank’s problem, the sexy Countess Sexcula.

Sexcula tries varies situations to arouse Frank, but he seems easily distracted or just not interested. Can Sexcula get Frank to… um… rise to the occasion? You’d better watch Sexcula and find out!!

So obviously, a lost legendary porno film is never going to live up to its hype, but that’s not to say that the usual trapping of 70s porn aren’t here: terrible acting, dreadful sets, horrendous acting and, well let’s just say, ordinary people rooting. Don’t expect the finely waxed landing strips of your partner either: the people in this film have more bush than a national park!

The acting is of a desperately low quality as well. I admit I am not expecting Oscar winning performance in a film like this, but an ability to deliver a line without sounding like you were reading the script off idiot cards might make the low and hairy/ scarey quality of the porn slightly more bearable.

Unfortunately, the acting and sex aren’t the only things problematic with this film. To be fair this is a ‘lost’ film, and one can’t always expect pristine hi-def quality from the providence that something like this comes from, and I don’t wish my criticism to sound like it is aimed at those who released this film. Clean up on a project such as this is definitely not going to be of a priority like, say, the James Bond collection.

There are two definite image problems here though, and they unquestionably stem from the direction. The camerawork was occasionally sloppier than the fellatio, and whilst I don’t expect the expertise of Dean Semler in a 1970s Canadian porno film, something that wasn’t occasionally like an even more amateur version of The Blair Witch Project would certainly have been appreciated. What is amazing though is that this camera issue isn’t always immediately apparent as the lighting of the sets are so murky (I imagine the idea was to make it look ‘spooky’) that you can’t quite be sure of everything the camera is doing: at one point I even though my TV had somehow turned itself off!!

Hilariously, occasionally olde school spotlights are used for dramatic effect, and fail tremendously.

It’s not all bad, though. The music soundtrack is a particular highlight, being a hilarious combination of Brady Bunch music, elevator muzak and Russ Meyer burlesque, and let me tell you, two of those don’t sit well with hardcore sex!!

Unsurprisingly, the image from this lost film is pretty poor, but that is not due to Impulse Pictures’ transfer. The film itself looks like it was mostly filmed in a basement with only Dolphin torches for illumination. The transfer is pretty good, with the film having only occasional artefact damage. The sound is presented in mono 2.0, and again, the original sound is the issue, not the transfer… it’s been a while since I heard the ‘clicketing’ of film running through a camera on a disc. Having said all that though, the presentation does add to that grindhouse feel that we all love so much.

Tragically, that is all I can say is good about the film. If it was supposed to be a tribute to Universal Horror, with its obvious winks to Dracula and Frankenstein, it failed miserably, and if the horror aspect was just supposed to be dressing for my arousal, well we had another fail. I’m a guy and I am supposed to be easily turned on, but unfortunately this received another ‘F’. Honestly, watching a documentary about a sewer treatment plant would spark movement in the underpant area quicker that this piece of tripe.

Bad acting, hairy arses, crappy wigs and substandard camerawork: yes, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to 70s porn. The film itself is somewhat of a chore to get through, especially with the dialogue being so dire (but occasionally funny) and the sex not being very sexy, but for a collectors of porn/ sexploitation history; it’s probably a must have, but certainly a once only watch. The ending also, is something that has to be seen to be believed… but not in a good way!

Score: *1/2

Extras: As far as extras on the disc go, I am afraid there is only a trailer, but there is also an essay by ‘porn archaeologist’ Dimitrios Otis and comic by Rick Tremble giving some additional insights about the film.

Score: *

WISIA: Definitely not.

My Dear Killer aka Mio Caro Assassino (1972)

My Dear Killer aka Mio Caro Assassino (1972)

The cover to Shameless’ release of My Dear Killer

Film: This film opens with the greatest murder EVER put to celluloid. I kid you not: it has to be the MOST original murder weapon any killer has EVER used in a film, and I will have no argument.

The weapon of choice?

It takes a particular skill set to murder in this fashion

A bucket digger mounted on an earthmover (they call it a dredger in the film, but that is wrong) picks up a guy by his head and squeezes until it pops quicker than a zit in a teens bathroom. My reasoning for claiming its ‘best’ status is twofold: one, the inventiveness of the killer to think ‘Mmmm, opportunity is knocking, why not answer?’ when suddenly deciding to grab the victims head, and his/ her sheer chutzpah to actually use it… I mean, it is hardly stealth, kill-in-an-alley kind of a weapon!! Color me admirable!!

This film was directed by western/ Trinity Brothers director Tonino Valerii from a script by Roberto Leoni (Santa Sangre) and Franco Bucceri (Gli Esecutori), based on a story by them, along with Velerii himself and Django co-writer José Gutiérrez Maesso (which is nodded to in a scene where Django is played on a TV).

My Dear Killer tells of police investigator Luca Peretti (giallo regular George Hilton) who is assigned to a murder case when an insurance investigator has had his head removed in the aforementioned murder. As the layers of the murder unfold though, he finds himself caught up in an older investigation which involved the kidnap and death of a young girl. Of course as the investigation gets deeper, the bodies start piling up, but can Peretti figure out who the killer is with the unusual clues he has?

Giallo killers are always perverts too

As a fan of giallos I looked forward to seeing this, especially as its male lead was in other giallos such as The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh and All The Colors of the Dark, and was much more than pleasantly surprised. Even though the story is quite detailed, it never becomes a victim of its own cleverness, nor does it becomes convoluted as some giallos do. The investigation goes from a to b without any longshot hunches that these films can sometimes contain.

There is some well played violence in the film as well, though somewhat silly at times (the killer sits and chats with one victim before searching her house, whilst she quizzically watches, for something to kill her with, and finds a circular saw!! This guy is clearly a disorganised serial killer to not have a weapon handy) and being an Italian film of its era, some stunningly gorgeous cast members.

I should also point out that this Shameless release is the first time it has been released uncut, which should add to the joy to those who like the bloodier side of things.

I think this film is a great giallo, and it is truly a shame that Valerii never made another as its direction is really solid. Also, it being a part of the Shameless collection, number 11 in fact,  gives it some collector swagger as well, with the spine of the amray making up the word ‘Shameless’.

Score: ****

The DVD menu screen

Extras: Not the greatest ever extras from Shameless on this disc. We have the trailer for the film, and a bunch of trailers of other Shameless releases, including What Have They Done To Your Daughters?, Night Train Murders, Torso (Carnal Violence), Baba Yaga: The Devil Witch, Ratman and The Black Cat.

Score: **

WISIA: Yes.

Strangled by the prices at the post office. Nothing’s changed.

This film was reviewed with the UK Shameless Screen Entertainment DVD release