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New release movie reviews - 21 March

Posted by: Jim Schembri | 21 March, 2013 - 4:39 PM
A Good Day to Die Hard

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD *** (98 minutes) M

Bearing that distinctive, refined gutteral mumble that has become his trademark, John McClane (Bruce Willis) returns for a crash'n'bash orgy of muzzle flash, exploding vehicles and crunching metal in this incredibly loud, amazingly silly and undeniably entertaining serving of action-movie franchise fodder.

The mayhem - staged on a huge, digitally enhanced scale in that frenetic, swish-pan style pioneered by Michael Bay - first takes place in Moscow, then at the ruins of the Chernobyl nuclear plant as McClane and his CIA agent son (Australia's Jai Courtney, recently seen opposite Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher) face down a series of Russian baddies keen on illegally trading uranium.

Director John Moore (Max Payne; Behind Enemy Lines; The Omen remake) takes great delight in the amount of vehicles he can flatten, toss off bridges and overturn with the help of fireballs, and amidst the chaos he does produce an extended chase sequence that is genuinely impressive for its rhapsody of destruction.

As a sequel, the film can't compare with the original Die Hard (1988, now rightly regarded as an action classic) or the near-brilliant Die Hard 4.0 (2007), which managed, against all odds, to revive the franchise after it lay dormant for 12 years.

Die Hard 5 is, however, much better than both Die Hard 2 (1990, a mess of a film) and Die Hard With a Vengeance (1995), if for no other reason than that it packs an equal amount of action into a lean, audience-respecting 98 minutes rather than over two painful, sit-there-and-take-it hours.

To his great credit, Moore appears to have a heightened awareness of just how much time people are willing to spend watching a film that is proudly and unashamedly cinematic junk food. People know what they're in for, so why waste time?  

FUN FACT: No disrespect intended, but a huge opportunity was missed by casting Jai Courtney as McClane's son and action partner. The marvellous, versatile Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who played McClane's daughter in Die Hard 4.0, appears briefly in the film. She should have been the star. Winstead proved herself a capable, credible action hero in The Thing (2011). Had the producers had the stones to make her the film's other action hero rather than going with the convention of casting yet another male, Die Hard 5 would have been awesome.

As it is the main female in the film is Yuliya Snigir, playing the usual  slice of action-movie cheesecake.

(See our special list of Die Hard 5 cliches)

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JACK THE GIANT SLAYER *** (114 minutes) M

In this spectacularly super-sized version of the old English fairy tale, director Bryan Singer (X-Men; Superman Returns) adds a mega dose of menace and fantasy-realism to the adventure.

Rather than being about one kid climbing a tree to face down a giant, the story has been extensively and expensively reimagined as a vertical war movie set in the Middle Ages. And there's not just one giant; there's an army!

After Jack (Nicholas Hoult) does his beans-for-a-cow trade, his house shoots up into the sky with the local princess (Eleanor Tomlinson) on board, where she is held captive.

With the cream of the King's men in tow, Jack climbs the spiralling vines to the netherworld. This sky-borne forest is where the giants live, apparently without access to warm running water, soap or decent dental care. They are a grotty lot.  

After a great kick-off, the film's pace does sag considerably once we get to the land of the giants, with too much plot exposition and too little movement.

A heavily made up Stanley Tucci chimes in nicely as the King's duplicitous advisor and Ewan McGregor makes a meal of his role as a giant-hating nobleman, but they can't speed up the pacing.

Saving the film, though, is the killer final reel. Thanks to the marvel of digital visual effects and the clear influence of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, Singer does a terrific job showing us just how realistic a battle set in a fantasy world can look.

The film also addresses that central plot hole in the old Jack and Beanstalk story: namely, if you chop down a tall tree that reaches into the clouds, where does it fall?

You'll find out here.

FLIGHT OF THE BUTTERFLIES *** (43 minutes) G

Beautiful, brief Imax documentary about the marathon flight path of the Monarch butterfly and the scientist who discovered it.  At the preview on Tuesday night, the 3D effect had scores of kids reaching out to touch the butterflies. It was as gorgeous a sight to behold as anything on the giant Imax screen.

THE LONELIEST PLANET *** (113 minutes) M

Thaqt old saying about the best way to really know somebody is to go on a camping trip with them is given full vent in this quiet, increasingly engrossing film. Everything seems to be going fine as engaged couple Alex (Gael Garcia Bernal) and the sex-crazed Nica (Hani Furstenberg) trek across the Georgian landscape with their guide (Bidzina Gujabidze). Then something happens where an instinctive gesture utterly changes their relationship. Writer/director Julia Loktev, a New York filmmaker born in Russia, skilfully uses stillness and the vastness of the Caucasus Mountains to frame her trio of characters in psychological quicksand.     

 

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Blog comments Your Say

  • Marie,

    As I hope you have found by now, "The Cruel Sea" is available through Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_11?url=search-alias%3Dmovies-tv&field-keywords=the+cruel+sea+1953&sprefix=the+cruel+s%2Cmovies-tv%2C293

    Hope that helps.

    John Twomey Tuesday 14 May, 2013 - 7:51 AM
  • Hello Jim Schembri, I am trying to find out where I could find/buy a DVD for my husband, the Movie was called "The Cruel Sea" with J Hawkins. This movie is his alltime favourite. I am a regular listener to 3AW. Please advise ASAP - his birthday is in May. Thanking You. Marie

    Marie Bennett Tuesday 9 April, 2013 - 2:36 PM

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