Batman: The Killing Joke, A Huge Misfire for WB Animation

Directed by: Sam Liu
Category: Animation

As you may know, this new entry in the Batman animated film franchise had a large push behind it, more so than any other I can recall. In the geek community, the rumblings were big and loud. Just the idea that they were finally going to make something out of Alan Moore's iconic 80's Batman story was something to really, really get excited about. Then they announced, shockingly, that this film would be getting a special theatrical screening courtesy of Fathom Events for 2 Nights Only. So automatically, the excitement got kicked up considerably since this is the first time they've done this. It can only mean that this is something incredible, right?

Wrong. I don't even know where to start. First of all, if you recall, the graphic novel was very short to begin with, so you have to expect a lot of liberties to be taken and fluff added to stretch out the running time to feature length. And that's where a lot of the film's problems come from. They begin the film by having the president of WB Animation introduce the film, talking about how great the film is, how incredible the cast is, and how groundbreaking the comic it's based on was. It took a few minutes, and a good half the audience seemed annoyed, but it was short. Then they give us "another" intro, this time with Mark Hamill discussing how he got started on Star Wars and how he's now known for voicing The Joker and his inspiration and yadda, yadda, yadda. That little bit was about a good 15 minutes or so I think. Again, people were getting restless, but less so because it was Luke Skywalker after all.

Then the film started, and we are immediately treated to a 30 minute story about Batgirl, chasing some villain, with Batman periodically jumping in to save the day. This half hour story, which is actually part of the film, has nothing to do with the rest of film whatsoever. They never connect in any meaningful way, made all the more obvious when you actually forget that you're watching a film based on Batman: The Killing Joke. It's sole purpose is to add some padding to stretch out the short running time.

So finally, that weird unimportant 30 minute story about Batgirl is done, and the real story begins. Immediately, you sense a huge shift in tone, which just goes to show you how out of left field that Batgirl story was.

As a Batman animated film, it's okay. The animation is just okay, and the story, well, it's just okay. And that's the biggest problem with this film. It's just okay, never going as far as you expect it to go for a film that got such a huge push. Of course the voice work by Hamill and Conroy are on point, with even Ray Wise coming on board as Commissioner Gordon, but that's not enough to justify the mediocrity of this little film. And guess what? When you take the Batgirl story out of the picture, it's less than an hour long. So suddenly all those intro's and the Batgirl story make sense, they needed fluff to stretch out the film to justify charging $11 per ticket.

When the film showed it's last frame, and the credits rolled up, I shit you not, there was a really uncomfortable silence, followed by very loud "that's it?", "huh?", or "whaaat?". Let me tell you folks. It was weird and most people walked out of that theater complaining, mostly mumbling under their breath. And let me remind you that it's a very safe bet most, if not all, of them have actually read the comic book.

I've had time to process the experience, and I've come to the conclusion that I just did not like it for a variety of reason. For one, it's a good comic that just didn't translate well to the screen. While using the Killing Joke as a base, they could easily have gone further with it. It never seems to go as far as you expect it to. They did stay faithful to the book, but sometimes that's just not enough.

The animation is another issue. For all the advances we've had throughout the years on a technical level, I think everyone, including myself, was surprised at how sub-par the animation detail was. Again, for a film that got this big push for a special theatrical screening, you'd think the animation department would have upped their game a little. It came off as a bit too cartoony, and not dark and menacing. They "kind of" stick to the Brian Bolland aesthetic, but it's easy to see they wanted to appeal to the masses and in that sense, it's very straight-forward.

I'd like to end this by saying that all in all, this was a huge misfire. It's not terrible, but it's not memorable either. It's worth a rent, but nothing more.


How Do I Screen Films In A Public Setting For FREE?

Can anyone tell me how to go about screening a film in a small public gathering? I understand there are copyright and legal issues, but if you're not charging a fee for people to see the film, what other factors are there to consider? Any information would be extremely helpful and much appreciated.


Ghostbusters 2016 Film Review

Directed by: Paul Feig
Category: Comedy

I'll be honest, I was 100% against this film. Not because of the female angle, since I happen to really love all of the actresses involved, but just because personally, I feel Ghostbusters is "still" a perfectly made comedy that does not need a remake. And considering it's been 32 years since that original, that's saying a lot. But it's true. You can throw on Ghostbusters 1984 today and it's still astonishing as the day it was first released all those decades ago, even down to the effects work, which, by the way, are still vastly superior to most big budget CGI crap coming out today.

And then that first trailer came out, and dear gawd, it was awful. I've since read that that was most other's feelings as well. I think Kevin Smith even publicly chided the person responsible for editing the trailer together, saying he should be fired. I do have to admit, he's not completely wrong. It is a terrible feeling trailer and after having finally seen the film, I can attest that it does not do the film justice at all.

Verdict: I enjoyed Ghostbusters 2016, a lot. In fact, it's so much better than I was expecting it to be. While it won't replace my love for the first 2 films, it is still a very fun, enjoyable, and downright funny film in it's own right. We both found ourselves laughing, chuckling, and smiling through pretty much most of the film. That first trailer did not seem to capture the flow, magic between the costars, or the feel of the film at all. Some of the scenes that were shown were cut so oddly that they lost all of their impact. And truthfully, that's what I was expecting going in. But rest assured, that is not the case. All the funny bits and jokes hit their mark, and above all else, you just cannot deny the sheer amount of talent in these ladies, Kristen Wiig in particular. I know everyone's been going nuts over Kate McKinnon, who was just fantastic and pretty much stole the show, but for my money, it's Wiig who anchors the whole team together and her spot-on delivery and timing is what makes it all work.

I have to hand it to writer/director/producer Paul Feig. He has taken the brunt of the backlash from this project from the get-go, and while I admit that initially I was just against the idea, he did an outstanding job putting this film together. This reboot, remake, re-imagining, or whatever you want to call it, takes a lot of the elements that made the first film work so well, and utilizes them in a new way, making it it's own little beast altogether. And let me tell you, it's a lot of fun.

The casting of this thing easily could make or break the whole film. Luckily, Feig and company knows a thing or two about comedy, and lined up an insanely stellar cast, most of which got their start on SNL. They all bring their own unique flavor to each role, and all deliver the goods. Of course, the big surprise for most, including myself, was Chris Hemsworth playing a dimwitted beefcake secretary. I have to admit, the guy was hilarious, and who knew he could be funny? Of course all the humor is directed at his stupidity, but it works and watching how each character, especially Wiig's Erin Gilbert, is something to see. Now, being a film that is taking a lot of inspiration from an original so well loved, you can expect a healthy dose of cameo's. Reading a lot of recent reviews, it seems that a lot found them pandering, but I didn't. Outside of the little nods to the older films, I found them to be a bit refreshing in this new universe.

I'll admit, I had reservations, but curiosity got the better of me, and I learned a few things about this experience. For one, I shouldn't judge a film solely on the success or failure of a single trailer, and while I'm just not a fan of remakes, reboots, or re-imagining's in general, they're here and they're here to stay. Nothing is going to stop studio's from wanting to bring an old film or franchise back to life, even if it doesn't need it. It's going to continue to happen whether we like it or not. 32 years is a good distance to have between films, and even though, for some strange reason, Ghostbusters doesn't feel like it needed or warranted one, even 3 decades later, I am glad that it fell into the hands of a team as competent, capable, and passionate as Paul Feig and his talented cast and production crew.


Ricochet Film Review, and Director Russell Mulcahy's Roller Coaster Ride in Hollywood

I've always been a big fan of Russell Mulcahy as a director. While most filmmakers are hit or miss in their careers, I can't think of anyone else who deserves the "hit or miss" title more than this guy. For someone who exploded onto the scene in the early 80's and who has turned out some certifiable genre classics in his time, he has also, regrettably, given us a large number of forgettable, and just plain terrible films.  Let me put some of his career in perspective really quick. Starting out as a music video director, he blasted onto the scene with the Australian horror/thriller Razorback in 1984. 2 years later he would deliver another cult classic, Highlander in 1986. Though Highlander became an instant classic, he would not direct another film for 5 years, and that would be for his sequel to Highlander, Highlander II: The Quickening. But wait! Not only did he deliver another classic in my humble opinion with his sequel, but he also gave us this severely underrated detective/thriller classic Ricochet the same year. That's right, Mulcahy delivered a one-two punch in 1991 with Highlander II and Ricochet. Sadly, the remainder of his career could never reach this level of awesome, as anyone who knows his work can attest that his "quality" of work has been on a steady incline ever since.

Nick Styles (Denzel Washington) is an up and coming beat cop who ends up taking down criminal mastermind Earl Talbot Blake (John Lithgow), thus skyrocketing his career. Years later, he's now a famous attorney with a family and life couldn't be better. That is until Blake escapes from prison, hell bent on revenge and terrorizing Styles.

There are so many things that work so well here, that it's hard to break down specifically why Ricochet is so badass. The film as a whole, never skips a beat. There's never a dull moment, or long stretched out sequences that could have been cut shorter. Nope, not here. The pace moves along swiftly, with enough things going on at any given moment that keep you invested. Of course, the best scenes are any with John Lithgow, who excels at playing a bad guy. While I've seen him play the villain quite often, I don't think I've ever seen him as ruthless as he is here. How badass is he? Let's just say he has a sword fight with Jesse "The Body" Ventura and kicks his ass. But the entire casting is pretty great, and it's kind of bizarre seeing such a young and buff Denzel playing a cop out to clear his name, when you consider today he's such a respected actor in the film world, but not one who shy's away from a good action film like The Equilizer, or even the soon to be released Magnificent Seven remake. The guy knows a good film when he see's one.

On the surface, there's nothing about Ricochet that stands out from the countless other cop thrillers of the 80's and 90's, of which there were many. But it's the insanely talented production that kicks this many levels up above cookie-cutter. One of the first things you'll notice immediately is the killer score by Alan Silvestri. Immediately, you'll notice a very strong Predator vibe, and it only does wonders for a film that normally wouldn't warrant such a big and thunderous score. It's awesome. While Silvestri's score over the opening credits already have you in a trance, you'll start seeing names pop up that, if you're at all a fan of action, will kind of blow you away. The "story" is by none other than Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps, Monster Squad), with the "screenplay" by 80's and 90's action legend Steven E. de Souza (Die Hard, 48 Hrs., Commando, Die Hard 2, The Running Man, Judge Dredd). It's produced by mega producer and action genre legend Joel Silver (Action Jackson, Predator, Commando, Lethal Weapon, Die Hard). Right there, it's just about an action fans dream. But add to that Russell Mulcahy's rather impressive visual eye candy, right at the peak of his creative talents, and everything just comes together so much more impressive than you would ever expect from a film like this.

I'll admit that it's been far too long since the last time I revisited this. I've always loved it, and have always considered it one of Mulcahy's best films, but it often gets lost in the flood of films I try to consume on a yearly basis. That is until I revisited Highlander II recently, reigniting my interest for some of Mulcahy's better films. Truthfully, you can count his best films out of his entire career on a single hand. Much like Renny Harlin, the best stuff was early in his career. It's hard to pinpoint why it happens, but there's always a "shift" in quality, a moment in their career where it all changes so drastically and it never recovers. It's happened to a lot of my favorites; Renny Harlin, John McTiernan, Albert Pyun, Stuart Gordon, and Mulcahy most certainly falls into that category. It's sad and frustrating.

Following this film Mulcahy gave us a forgettable heist film with Kim Basinger and Val Kilmer called The Real McCoy, and then The Shadow, a film that should have reignited his career and shot it into the big budget stratosphere with the big league boys, but as you know, that's not what happened. The Shadow, while not all that great of a film, didn't manage to muster up much interest and did poorly. Visually, The Shadow is pretty to look at, I'll give it that, but it just seems to be lacking substance, or anything to keep you really interested. It constantly feels like it's missing something, never going as far as you feel it should. After that he's pretty much stuck to television and direct-to-video work, with the occasional big budget film from time to time.

Ricochet isn't mentioned nearly enough as being an essential piece of Badass Cinema. Which is rather surprising when you take into consideration that every single person that I ask about this film loves it to death. So why is not considered more of a classic? I can't explain it myself. It's damn near a perfect cop action/thriller and just a great film all around. As of 2016, it's been 25 years since it's release and to date, we've only gotten a very bare bones and sub-par DVD release, where I believe the transfer was taken from a Laserdisc. It's grainy, old, and not in true widescreen, but rather a Letterbox crop. It's such a shame because the film itself looks incredible. It really begs a new cleaned up transfer and upgrade to Blu ray. Until then, you can get the DVD insanely cheap, and for now, that's the best we're going to get.


The Invitation Film Review: Get Ready to Scream at Your TV

Directed by:
Category: Thriller

I went into this one knowing absolutely nothing about it, other than my wife telling me that it was getting some praise in one of her Facebook horror groups. So that's really all I knew, and the fact that it was on Netflix made it an easy choice for a Sunday afternoon.

A man is invited to a dinner party by his ex-wife and group of friends, who he has not seen in 2 years. Hesitantly he accepts, accompanied by his girlfriend, only to discover that all is not what it seems. 

WARNING: Minor Spoilers Ahead:
I should start off by saying that for the most part, The Invitation, on a technical level, is made really well. I found the camera work and shot compositions to be done competently and artistically. The acting from the large ensemble cast was also really well done. While the majority of the cast was made up of faces and names I'd never seen before, there were a few in there that you will recognize. And that's pretty much all the positive praise I can give it because ultimately, I found this to be a dull, tedious, boring, and frustrating experience. 

For starters, the film is just too damn slow for it's own good. Literally nothing happens for such a huge chunk of the running time that I found myself constantly checking the clock to kind of gauge how much time was left in the film. And while the film was shot nicely, it was also incomprehensibly dark and poorly lit for the most part. Why is everything so dark? Why are there never any lights on? In virtually every single shot, there might be a lamp on in the corner, and that's it. It may have been to give off a specific mood, but it also made it painfully hard to tell what was going on most of the time. 

But that's really chump change compared to how infuriating you'll be watching things play out. If you are someone who values logic and common sense, then this could be one of the most painfully annoying experiences you'll ever have watching a movie. You'll constantly be screaming at the television because the choices made by so many people defy any real sense of logic. It's maddening!

"How or why did they let it get this far?!"
"Why doesn't anybody else sense the danger?!"
And most importantly, "Why didn't he just fucking leave?!"

When things finally become revealed in the last act, the pace is picked up considerably. While that was a nice change structurally, a lot of what happens in that final act only beg more questions with no answers, leaving you even more confused, frustrated and annoyed. I might be in the minority with this one though. Looking online and in some other groups, I can see that it get's a healthy dose of praise, especially in the festival circuit where, apparently, it created a lot of buzz. But honestly, it's a tiring experience, and while the performances were good, the film thinks that it's too smart, and the viewer is dumb enough to eat anything they dish at us. 


One Man Force Film Review

Directed by: Dale Trevillion
Category: Action

Much like myself, I'm sure you came across this VHS back in '89 at your local video store, maybe even when it was moved to the "Action" section later on during it's shelf life. I know I did. Like me, you probably passed on it numerous times, for no real reason in particular. Recently though, as I feed my "low-budget action" addiction, I was somehow reminded of this title, and when I did some digging, I found out that outside of VHS and Laserdisc, a very low-grade poor quality DVD release in full frame was all that was available. Thankfully for me, a brilliant and generous person uploaded the entire film to YouTube.

I can't believe I hadn't seen this film until now. I was vaguely aware that John Matuszak was a former football star, but I don't think I was aware though at the time that he was also Sloth in The Goonies. But I've always been a fan of action, even more precisely, low-budget action, so the fact that I never gave this a shot until now still baffles me.

One Man Force is awesome. Let me just make that clear first. OMF is just the kind of low-budget balls-to-the-wall action flick I live for. I hoped it would be good, but I didn't expect it to be this good. In terms of entertainment value, OMF delivers the goods tenfold. Why? Because intentional or not, this renegade cop flick is so over-the-top, and so cliche, that you'd swear it was a parody, only it's not. It's all played straight and for that, this film kicks ass.

In terms of plot, just think of the most typical and contrived plot you can think of in an action film, and it's probably this. Cop with a bad attitude goes out for revenge after his partner is killed in the line of duty. Constantly butting heads with his captain, he goes rogue, trying to find the people responsible, only his investigation leads to dangerous territory. Same old story you've seen countless times. Except, in this case, it's so......"in your face" that it's almost comical.

There is nothing more satisfying for me than to come across an unexpected action gem like this and to be totally surprised. If there's one thing OMF has going for it, it's that it delivers on the "rogue cop" stereotype and runs with it head on. It's like writer/director Dale Trevillion watched every 80's cop film he could find, copied every single cliche, every single archetype of this very specific genre, and dialed it up to 11:
Angry cop with a bad attitude: Check.
Cop butts heads with his boss: Check.
Cops partner gets killed so he goes out for revenge: Check.
Cop uncovers a larger more sinister conspiracy at play: Check.
Cop is virtually indestructible: Check.
It's all here and it's fucking fantastic.

John Mutaszak is such a badass in this. How badass is he? The dude physically lifts regrigerators and coke machines and throws them agains bad guys. That's how badass. His performance in this is so "on point" that it's almost a caricature of the one-man-army rogue cop. It's hilarious! He alone makes this film as great as it is and had he lived, he could easily have been one of THE premier action heroes. I was so sad to learn that here he finally was given his own starring role, after having numerous supporting roles and bit parts, in his very own action film, only to pass away unexpectedly that very same year at the young age of 38. The guy never even had a chance to enjoy any real kind of mainstream success. I don't know if that was necessarily in the cards or not after this film, but just from this film alone it's painfully
apparent that this guy had a presence. A huge presence. He was a natural, more so than most guys who do end up having some form of success in this field. For someone who was only 38 years old, he comes off much more mature than that. And with a 6'8 height and muscular frame, the guy is a hulk, and fiercely intimidating. When he's angry, it's scary. When he's gentle, he's like a big teddy bear. I'll bet the guy could easily have gone on to bigger and better films later on down the road, even outside of the action genre. If this film is any indication, the guy had enormous potential. It's a shame his demons had a tight hold on him, as his death was attributed to an accidental overdose. He was always candid about his battle with addiction throughout his life. I guess he just couldn't beat it after all.

Despite it being cheesy as hell and so entertainingly over the top, OMF also sports a killer and better than I expected supporting cast of notables like Sam Jones (Flash Gordon), Charles Napier (Rambo II), Richard Lynch (Invasion USA), Ronny Cox (Robocop, Total Recall), and a few others whose faces look awfully familiar. It's always fun to watch something like this, and to see all these familiar faces. It makes the experience all the more enjoyable and comfortable.

I honestly can't praise this film enough, if you're into this particular genre. It's got it all, and continuously pushes the envelope throughout. It's no Oscar winner, but in the realm of Badass Cinema, this is damn near close to a work of art.


Leviathan Blu ray Review

George P. Cosmatos' underwater sci-fi/action/thriller finally got the blu ray treatment back in 2014 courtesy of Shout! Factory. As you know, while they do a great job finding hidden gems and cult classics that never saw a release beyond VHS or Laserdisc, they also release a lot of mainstream stuff, which is great too of course. But if you follow these releases, and the reviews that soon follow, then you are aware that the quality of some of their releases, even the higher profile ones like Escape From New York for example, vary greatly from one release to the next. But one thing you can always count on are great Special Features in nearly every release.

It took me a few years, but I finally caved and bought this release, even though I'd been wanting it since it's release. I don't know why I just didn't buy it immediately. So here we are and here are my thoughts on the blu ray release of this cult classic.

The transfer to blu ray is flawless. I didn't notice a single grain or speck anywhere in the film. The blacks are a dark solid black, and the film in general, which carries a light blue tint throughout, is stunning to put it frankly. Every frame pops with vibrancy, and it's as clear and gorgeous as it's ever looked. Simply, it's never looked better.

One of the highlights of this release, besides the stunning transfer, is the excellent doc found on the Special Features revolving around the makeup and special effects for the film. Legendary effects artists Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr, under the supervision of Stan Winston at the time, go in depth, along with other's, on the making of the film, working with passionate director George P. Cosmatos, the idea's behind the final monster makeup, as well as the film's initial luke-warm reception and cult status. It also goes deep into their working relationship with Stan Winston, and Winston's tumultuous relationship working with Cosmatos. It's really a great doc and well worth the purchase of this release alone.

I've always loved this film. Sure it's essentially just a mixing pot of The Thing, Alien and a slew of other bigger better films before, but it's just so much damn fun. There's no denying that. Whenever I introduce this to people, I just tell them it's basically a big budget B-Movie. It's got an incredibly talented ensemble cast, led by Peter Weller, and shows once again George P. Cosmatos' (Cobra, Tombstone, Rambo: First Blood Part 2) ability to be an even-handed director with just the right amount of flash. For a film that takes place primarily in an underwater station, Cosmatos gives it a slick and stylish aesthetic. The nice build-up of tension, the killer cast, the great practical effects work, and the films visual eye candy make this a treat.

Anyway, I hope this helps anyone out there who's on the fence about buying this. When it comes to blu ray's, I always do my fair share of research before a purchase because most studio's tend to just repackage and re-release previous titles, or new companies don't take the time to actually "fix" the print when converting it to HD. I'm happy to report that in the case of Leviathan, it's simply stunning and one of my best blu ray purchases.


Quick Shot Review: The Funhouse Massacre

Category: Horror/Comedy

It's always a treat to discover little gems like this. I hadn't heard anything about it beforehand, never even knew it existed until I came across it while browsing a Redbox machine. But still, I passed on it because I didn't know enough about it to warrant taking a chance. Then the other day an instagram friend posted how she really enjoyed it, so that piqued my interest. I proceeded to ask a few questions and when she used the term "cheesy gory fun", I was sold. I hit my local Redbox that very night and hoped for the best.

A group of mental patients/killers escape and take over a funhouse/haunted house on Halloween. 

The Funhouse Massacre hit all the right notes for me. It's cheesy, it's gory, it's fun, it's funny, and it's surprisingly well made and competent. It's not serious, or even scary for that matter, but it's not trying to be. It's simple story/premise let's you know right away, and while there have been countless horror movies centered around a haunted house/funhouse theme, I can't remember one that was as entertaining as this one.

One of the highlights for this, for me anyway, was the better than you expect ensemble cast. It's a large cast, with each of them being a good enough actor to not come off as annoying, something that seems to be the norm these days with young actors in horror films. On top of that, they pepper the film with a healthy dose of horror cult icons like Robert Englund, Clint Howard and Courtney Gains to name a few. But really, the entire cast is pretty solid, where it really could have gone the other way and easily ruined the experience.

I've read a number of online reviews where people were just flat-out hating on this, and for the life of me, I can't understand why. It's a fun horror film, simple as that. It's not trying to prove anything and it's not trying to reinvent the wheel. It's a slasher that takes place in a funhouse with fun over the top gore and shot competently for the most part. Really, what more could you ask for in a low-budget horror film?


Looking Back on Renny Harlin's Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Released 26 Years Ago This Week

It's really hard to love the entire Die Hard franchise. Let's be honest. After 3, they've all just gone downhill in terms of quality and entertainment, with the character of John McClane turning more into an un-killable superhero rather than an average man thrust into chaos. There are countless reasons why the last 2 films are just terrible, with Part 3 just barely skirting that edge, but retaining enough of the original 2 film's luster to keep it in check. Even then, it doesn't always look and feel like a Die Hard flick, and for that, I rarely ever revisit it.

But Die Hard 2: Die Harder is different. Released only 2 years after the original blew us all away and redefined the action genre, while also creating a whole new sub-genre, Die Hard 2 was pretty much what was expected of sequels back then, giving us a lot of the same, while throwing in a little bit of new. Director Renny Harlin, hot off the success of A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, was in the middle of directing the Andrew Dice Clay vehicle The Adventures of Ford Fairlane when producer Joel Silver was so impressed with the daily's he was getting back that while the film was still shooting, he immediately hired him to direct the next Die Hard film. Working on both films simultaneously didn't faze Harlin as he was young, thirsty and hungry for work. Harlin could do no wrong. Once upon a time he was one of the hottest directors on the planet, and the most successful Finnish film director to date. Sadly, it would only take a film a few years down the road to see this rising star crash and burn hard. That film was 1995's Cutthroat Island, one of the biggest flops in history, and his career has never fully recovered.

Of all the Die Hard films, I find myself revisiting this one the most. Sure the first one is a game-changer, and one of the most thrilling, well-made, inventive, and badass action films ever made. Not just from the 80's, but "any" decade. Watching it nearly 30 years later and the film still holds up better than most current action films made today. The same can be said for Die Hard 2. Sure it's a lot of the same old thing; John McClane must once again tackle a group of terrorists on Christmas Day, only this time he's in Washington, DC, stuck at Dulles International Airport. And trust me, they're completely aware of the absurdity of this. There's even a now famous line that was the spotlight of the teaser trailer, "How can the same thing happen to the same guy twice?!", though a completely different take was used for this in the final film. But you know what? That's fine. I liked the familiarity. I like when Bruce Willis looks and acts like John McClane, something that would start to change starting with Part 3, before Parts 4 and 5 totally overhaul the character into someone almost unrecognizable. But for me, this film takes a lot of the same elements that made the first one so great and dials it up a few ridiculous notches, resulting in a sleeker, cooler, and more fun film experience in general.

A lot of what happens in this is highly ridiculous, totally unplausable, and from time to time, nuts.
But that's what makes this so great! It's the perfect example of "why fix it if it ain't broke" kind of action cinema. Harlin and returning screenwriter Steven E. de Souza up the ante numerous times, and the death toll, with one sequence where an entire plane full of people goes down. Hell, even Michael Kamen's iconic score seems more prominent and boisterous this time around. And that's what I love about this. Everything is bigger, louder and better.

While Renny Harlin deserves a lot of the praise for how great this film looks aesthetically, he can't take all the credit. Here he re-teams with his Ford Farlaine cinematographer Oliver Wood (Face/Off) and the result is a sleeker, very "90's" looking action film. I wish Harlin stuck with this style. He began drastically changing the "look" of his films starting with Cliffhanger, and he's never looked back, which is a shame because of all the films he's made, I have to admit that Die Hard 2 and The Adventures of Ford Fairlane are his best looking films to date.

One of the things I love seeing every time I revisit this one are all the familiar faces, especially in the group of terrorists. I think this is where John Leguizamo and Robert Patrick might have even gotten their start. Nearly every one of them have moved onto bigger things, and it's kind of surreal to see them play terrorists with little screen time and for the most part, not a single line of dialogue. But this is Bruce's show and once again, he shines as John McClane. I've always loved Willis, but his output, especially around this time, was erratic to say the least. Moving from genre to genre, sometimes even making 4 films a year, all with varying degrees of success, it's nice to see him at his most animated, snarky, and smartass best. That began to change with Part 3, where he became a more serious and beat-down McClane. And I don't even recognize McClane in Part 4: Live Free and Die Hard. That's the moment the franchise completely lost me.

Die Hard 2 doesn't get the love and credit it deserves. It's a much better film than history gives it credit for, and one of the best sequels ever in the ever-popular short list of good sequels, because you know, most of them suck. Die Hard 2 is slick, never once slowing down long enough for you to gaze over at the clock, throwing blood, mayhem and violence at you at a breakneck pace. The visual artistry alone is worth the watch. This was made at a time when models, miniatures, squibs, matte paintings and green screen were still utilized to their full extent. And again, it all looks better and more realistic than 99.9% of the CGI garbage we still continue to get, even in 2016.

If it's been a while, I implore you, please revisit this classic. It's so much fun, so absurd, and one of the most stylish looking action films ever made. Everyone involved brought their A-Game to the table here, and while the rest of the franchise did a steady decline in quality and entertainment immediately following this entry, at least we'll always have the first 2 films as a reminder of the promising start to one of the best action franchises ever made.