A Bad Day To Die Hard

I have a huge love for the original Die Hard. The second movie has its moments as well. The McClane character was still intact at that point. Part three felt like a great follow up to the first. Part four was really the beginning of the end but performed well having been edited down to a PG-13 rating.

This time around John McClane is back in all his R rated glory. Or is he? The movie is about John going to Russia to find his estranged son. When he gets there he finds more than he bargained for when he barely steps of the plane and is involved in a car Chase through Russian streets while chasing Tue people chasing his son. The cavalier attitude Bruce Willis shows as McClane amidst all this destruction is seriously disconcerting. This is the man who didn’t even want to let Hans Gruber die at the end of the first movie. Now he’s driving around in a foreign country destroying cars and presumably injuring their drivers in the process.

This is the new jaded John McClane. And that is not an improvement. He used to be someone we rooted for, someone we could relate to, someone we could have a beer with. Now he’s this larger than life Superhero that doesn’t connect with the audience.

I will give writer Skip Woods a small bit of credit when it comes to the script. He tried to bring the feeling of the first film back by trying to add some heart to the story. It didn’t work but at least he tried. Willis didn’t seem like he was trying at all. He seemed morose and bored through most of it.

The story was also very weak, the directing was technically good but there seemed to be a disconnect there…and not in a good David Fincher sort of way. Even the action scenes were bad. At one point I actually said out loud in the theater “You HAVE GOT to be kidding me!”

This movie is my new least favorite Die Hard film. I feel bad for Jai Courtney who hopefully will recover from this and still get hired for movies in the future. He was the only real bright spot in a film that was bogged down with nods to the previous films but done in a such a manner that you wanted to punch Bruce Willis.

One last thing before I finish here – I have a bad feeling 20th Century Fox is going to look at lower returns and think it is due to the R rating and not because it sucked. So I just want to say this to Fox – this movie sucked. It would have suck just as bad, if not worse, if it had been PG-13. I know Bruce Willis wants to make another one. If you are dumb enough to let him at least get John McTiernan back to direct and give him full creative control because he seems to be the only who understands the John McClane character.

This movie should get no stars. Yes I really disliked it that much. But I fear it’s partially due to my feeling about the Dying Hard franchise. So I’m going against my better judgement and giving it 1 1/2 stars.


Thoughts Of Past And Future

Here we are, just a few short months after I started this blog, and we have one short film nearly ready to show, another starting next month and The Gorram Nerd Hour has recorded nearly 20 episodes. All of that in just a few short months. When I started this blog I was talking about the features Brian Smith and I have been writing. We got detoured…but for good reason. We needed something to showcase our talent. We were a little arrogant to think that two writers with no credits to their names could get someone to give them money to produce and direct a movie of their own. Now we’ll have two things to show.

Since I was a boy I have loved movies. I would sit and watch an action movie like any little would. I loved Commando, Lethal Weapon and Die Hard. I also had an affection for every other type of film. I didn’t care. If someone made I wanted to see it. Science Fiction, Horror, Romantic Comedy, Sappy Melodrama, Musicals. I just loved movies. What I took away from all of that was that it was what I wanted to do. I wanted to make movies of my own. At first I thought I wanted to be an actor until I took a drama class in High School and my teacher had me direct something for the first time. That’s when my passion made itself crystal clear. I loved the behind the scenes aspect of things. 

I always enjoyed writing. It has been a passion of mine for as long as I remember. What I wrote was always weird. I would go off and write a sequel to Romeo & Juliet in iambic pentameter or a western about aliens hiding among the townsfolk and planning on destroying the town with radioactive lima beans. So when Brian and I sat down to write Lepus I suggested we write the whole thing in Klingon save for the killer’s one line which would be in German. 

Sometimes I need to be reigned in.

We decided not to go with Klingon. But we kept Brian’s line in German. There is not one good reason for it other than it made us laugh. Lepus is a comedy, after all. We started off goofy with our next short film and decided to go darker once we started writing. Terrestrial will be a different side of our writing. It’s tone is more serious while still being quirky. 

As I write this we are only a couple days away from the open casting call for Terrestrial. I couldn’t be more excited about who we have coming in to read. a couple of our Lepus cast members are coming in for it – Jai Yunae and Randy Robinson. I loved working with them on Lepus. I can’t wait to see what they bring to this audition. We also have some other really talented people we didn’t cast for Lepus coming in for another go. Wilman Vergara II was someone I was really impressed with and just couldn’t find a good place to put him last time. This time he’s coming in to read for the lead in Terrestrial and I think he’s got a great shot at it. Adam Boggs is another up and comer I really liked and he’s coming in to read for us again. I was impressed with both of them so much. I’m glad they want to come in and try for this one. 

We’re still not at a point where we’ve been able to pay anyone for their work. It’s all just copy and credit basically. I’m amazed by the talent that has been willing to work with us for nothing. Hopefully by the time we get started on the next two parts of Lepus we have a budget…something to pay these amazing people for their time. 

Back to Lepus for a moment – The rough cut I saw a while back is good. I was really happy with how it turned out. It was a very rough cut with no score, no effects, no foley. But it was great, great enough for Walter Reuther (aka Scarlet Fry) to tell me it was his favorite in the anthology horror DVD we will be included on. And he directed all the other shorts. 

David Sabal, our wonderful renaissance man (DP, producer, editor) just got the score back from the composer. I asked for something similar to a score from the 80’s scifi and horror movies I loved so much. I wanted something like an old John Carpenter score. From what I hear the composer delivered. Hopefully I will hear it in the next few days. 

Now on to The Gorram Nerd Hour. We have been having a lot of fun recording our show every week. Brian and I love working on it. We are talking about re-tooling the show a little. The first twenty or so weeks have been about finding out what works and what doesn’t. We’re gonna be trying a few new things in upcoming episodes that could prove to be a lot of fun. We are also going to be spending the weekend of February 8-10th at the Bloody Hero International Film Festival at the Phoenix Convention Center. We will be recording our podcast, conducting interviews and serving on the jury. This is a big deal for us. I know I’m really excited about it. We may have another fun surprise for our listeners that weekend too. This will be a part of the re-tool of the show. Let us know what you think.

One last thing before I wrap this up. We had a friend from our Abnormal Entertainment family in town last weekend. Camm Harston, co-host of Raise Your Spirits with Camm and Kevin. While he was here Brian and I both guested on their show. We had a lot of fun and everyone should go listen.

Here;s hoping 2013 proves even better for Robot Vampire Productions than 2012. We’re already off to a great start.


You’ve Been Back Enough. Now I’ll Be Back – Expendables 2 Reviewed

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s was a wonderful time for action movies. I loved watching Stallone and Schwarzenegger films. Then Bruce Willis came along with Die Hard. I remembering watching Chuck Norris, Jean Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, and even Cynthia Rothrock and Jeff Speakman movies and loving them. I even used to imagine my own movie starring all of them when I was a kid. I thought how cool it would be to see them all share the screen together. No matter how late the dream came true with The Expendables it was worth the wait. I had a lot of fun with the first film. Needless to say I was very excited about the sequel.

To get such heavy hitters in the action genre together in a movie is always fun. Stallone, Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Willis and Schwarzenegger all together. Count me in. Plus, this time they added Norris and Van Damme and gave Willis and Schwarzenegger expanded roles. The overall product was decent and fun. Van Damme was a good villain. The story was simple but effective. It worked.

There were a few things, however, that bothered me. First of all, how many stupid jokes where someone is practically winking to the camera do we need in this film? Honestly, I don’t need references to Rambling, Die Hard, and Schwarzenegger’s “I’ll Be Back” catchphrase. The only one that worked had to do with Chuck Norris and a cobra. That was hilarious.

The other thing that bothered me was something that shouldn’t. I just couldn’t stop thinking about it though. They were in Russia at a soviet spy training town made to look like America during the Cold War. The Cold War ended before the American post office changed its symbol. They didn’t change to the new sleeker eagle image until the Soviet Union had collapsed yet in this America Town they were hiding in we see a mailbox on the street with the new eagle symbol on it. I couldn’t stop myself from wondering if the Russians ever stopped training spies. Maybe the FSB took over after the collapse and kept going with it. Maybe it was just an oversight on the production designer’s part. I don’t know. All I could do was think about this and wonder if it was a small hint of things to come in Expendables 3.

Okay, I got way off track there. I am supposed to be reviewing the movie not talking about my anal retentive attention to detail. The movie worked in some respects. The great thing about the first film was the personal journey of the characters. Stallone turned his back on his mission to what was right. Lundgren betrayed his friends and later redeemed himself and was later welcomed back into the fold. Mickey Rourke’s character had an awesome monologue midway through. That is what made the first movie good. This one got close a couple times but never found the magic of the first movie. Instead, it settled on making jokes and amping up the violence.

I still enjoyed in the movie very much. It just fell short of the first. Hopefully they can pull it together in the next one. We will see. 3 1/2 out of 5 stars. It would have been less but I don’t want Chuck Norris to come after me.

Let Things Die, Hollywood!

There is a long history in Hollywood of beating that dead horse. Whether it is on television or in movies it’s always the same – milk it till it’s dry. Some things we loved very much have been tarnished by the studio’s refusal to let go.

When I was in high school I was immediately drawn to a new series on Fox. It looked to be dark and moody. It had people investigating monster, aliens and the paranormal. It was right up my alley. Nine years later I was angry with the series and Fox for keeping it going. That show was The X-Files, obviously. The show couldn’t survive without Mulder and Fox shouldn’t have tried.

In television and movies it is usually the genre work that gets beat into the ground. There are movie series like Halloween, Friday The 13th, Children Of The Corn, Hellraiser, The Prophecy, Highlander, and A Nightmare On Elm Street. But sometimes comedies and action movies overstay their welcome. Look at Police Academy. It had seven movies, a cartoon and a failed live action series. Die Hard is about to make its way back to the big screen with a fifth entry. Even throughout the 70’s and 80’s we had a number of movies in the Death Wish series and Dirty Harry.

There are too many times that studios and networks refuse to close the book on something when they should. Thankfully some people understand this. Christopher Nolan closed his Batman series with three. Kevin Smith decided to retire Jay & Silent Bob a little late but understood those characters were wearing out their welcome and moved on.

Going back to the well on a repeated basis is an easy thing to do, even for a filmmaker. Don Coscorelli has had a very hard time finding money to make anything other than Phantasm movies in his career. Rather than hand the franchise over to someone else he made four of them to keep from letting someone else ruin his creation. But he wants to make other things.

Don’t get me wrong, I always wish for more just like most people when they like something. The key is to know when to exit. Even know, as my writing partner and I are writing our slasher movie, we have more story than can fit into one film. Before we finish we will have enough material left to write a sequel. But if that is all there is as far as story goes for us we walk away. We certainly don’t want to have the movies become like Saw 3D or Freddy’s Dead. There needs to be an exit point. Hopefully Hollywood understands that at some point.

Mad Max: Fury Road Is Actually Happening

I’ve said it before – I don’t like remakes. I’m okay with sequels but when a sequel comes 20 years later and the main character is recast I can’t help but feel a bit of trepidation. Sure, I like Tom Hardy and I can’t wait to see what he does as Bane but I don’t know if I want to see him play Max.

The post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max has always been a cool one. I enjoyed all three movies in the original run of the series. George Miller created a fascinating world for the characters to play in. Since he stopped making these films he’s gone on to do more family friendly cinema like Babe and Happy Feet. I wonder if he’s got what it takes to come back to such a dark and violent film series.

When I think about how a fourth Indiana Jones didn’t work or how other belated sequels just seem to flounder I wonder if it is a good idea at all. I love Ghostbusters but I’m grateful to Bill Murray for constantly saying no. I don’t want another Lethal Weapon or Die Hard for that matter. I just want Hollywood to move on and do something original. As I say this I may change my tune when I see the new Mad Max or Die Hard…but I doubt it.