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58. Die Hard – Christmas 2017 (#122)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Ciaran Mooney, Gerry Mooney and Helen Mooney, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, a Christmas treat. John McTiernan’s Die Hard.

Travelling across the United States to reunite with his estranged wife, New York cop John McClane finds himself embroiled in a high-stakes hostage crisis on Christmas Eve.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 122nd best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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My 12 for ’13: Gravity & Good Old-Fashioned Simplicity

This is my annual countdown of the 12 movies that really stuck with me this year. It only counts the movies released in Ireland in 2013, so quite a few of this year’s Oscar contenders aren’t eligible, though some of last year’s are.

This is number 4…

One of the more interesting aspects of blockbuster cinema over the past decade or so has been the way that bigger movies tend to have become more complicated and ambitious in their storytelling. This isn’t a bad thing, by any measure. The Dark Knight is a plot-driven blockbuster with no shortage of plot complications, reversals and reveals. However, not every blockbuster is as deftly constructed.

There’s been a surge in overly complicated and excessively convoluted blockbusters over the past few years. It’s not enough to have good guys and bad guys and spectacle. There’s a sense that there needs to be more crammed on in there. Double-crosses and triple-crosses, betrayal and redemption, shock reveals and game-changing twists. Bad guys no longer plan to simply destroy the world or kill the good guy, everybody has competing agendas, and big epic blockbusters often struggle to smooth those into a cohesive narrative.

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From this year, for example, Star Trek Into Darkness – while still an exceptionally enjoyable film – suffered from an over-complicated plot and a surplus of villainous motivation. The Wolverine featured a fiercely convoluted middle act where it seemed like half-a-dozen bad guys were all trying to kill our hero for different reasons. G.I. Joe: Retaliation featured an evil plot that was not only brilliantly stupid, it was also unnecessarily convoluted.

Gravity serves to buck the trend, offering something of a sharp contrast to this convoluted storytelling. Gravity is a celebration of old-school visual spectacle, guided through a decidedly old-fashioned plot.

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Non-Review Review: Die Hard

I know it’s a bit cliché at this point, but Die Hard really is my family’s ultimate Christmas movie. The season hasn’t truly started (or, if we’re delayed, truly ended) until all of us have sat down on the couch and indulged in the seasonal spectacular. Even if you don’t quite buy into the “Die Hard as Christmas movie” argument, it’s still impressive how tall John McTiernan’s action movie stands when compared to the bulk of eighties action films. Like Nakatomi Plaza itself, it towers over the competition – and it’s not because it does anything especially or novel or innovative in a genre that has always been fairly conservative. Instead, I’d argue, Die Hard succeeds because it executes all the conventional action movie beats exceedingly well, and because it doesn’t treat any of its plot points as necessary items on a check list.

Jump-starting Bruce Willis' action career...

Jump-starting Bruce Willis’ action career…

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Die Hard and the Rule of Escalating Threat…

Bruce Willis has started talking about Die Hard 5 (maybe that should be Die Hard 5.0, but I digress), and has suggested that the next logical step for John McClane is to save the world. Think about it. In Die Hard, he saved a building full of people – not bad, you might say. In Die Harder, he saved an entire airport and the planes in the sky – impressive, you might agree. In Die Hard With A Vengeance, he saved New York from a mad bomber – maybe a little outside of his pay grade, you’ll possible argue. In Die Hard 4.0 (or Live Free and Die Hard), McClane pretty much single-handedly (because nerdy sidekicks don’t count) saved the United States of America. The remark that McClane is porbably going to save the world – while probably a bit of a joke on Willis’ part – got me thinking: is the rule of escalating threat necessarily a good thing?

More sequels, less hair...

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