February 24, 2013
Fans of Bruce Willis' "Die Hard" franchise won't find anything missing from the latest entry, "A Good Day to Die Hard," where John McClane travels to Russia to track down his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), whose sister is worried about his wellbeing.
As Willis has aged, McClane's adult children have added youth to the aging franchise, starting with his daughter Lucy in the much-panned "Live Free or Die Hard."
"A Good Day" does a better job of living up to the original 1988 "Die Hard" which featured the franchise's best villains in Alan Rickman and Alexander Godonuv.
I try not to include spoilers, especially on new movies, so I won't say much about the villain in "Good Day," but he provides a nice plot twist for this otherwise pretty straightforward franchise.
McClane catches up with his son just as he has staged an explosives-laden break-out of Komorov (Sebastian Koch), a political prisoner who has the dirt on a powerful Russian politico, Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov).
McClane joins in a chase through the traffic-heavy streets of Moscow involving an armored troop transport that lays waste to just about every car in its path. My husband loved the chase. I thought the armored vehicle just made it too easy, but you had to admire the unbelievable chutzpah of putting a family SUV up against one of those behemoths and letting it win.
The action moves to the nuclear meltdown site of Chernobyl, where all the secrets are buried, and gives the audience plenty of the pyrotechnic entertainment they expect from "Die Hard," including a nice and bloody riff on Rickman's death scene in the original.
Willis' trademark lopsided grin was firmly in place here, but we have to wonder how much longer he can keep up the rough-and-tumble that must be involved in this film, even with plenty of CGI and a platoon of stuntmen.
But Willis is working more than ever these days. A new "Sin City" neo-noir piece is in filming now and his name is attached to two more films in pre-production, "Kane & Lynch" and "American Assassin." He's put out some interesting films outside the action genre in recent years, including 2012's "Moonrise Kingdom" where he played a love-sick police officer and "Lay the Favorite" where he was a professional gambler its least glamorous form. He's scheduled to make an appearance in the next "GI Joe" film and was one of the chiseled-jaw action heros who came together to cash in with the "Expendables" and "Expendables II."
StrongOn DVD: The Dalles fans crowded into the Eagles Lodge last week to watch get a glimpse of revived professional Portland wrestling, something people in my age group remember as popular TV fare on Saturday nights (or was it Fridays?).
Seeing pictures from the event reminded me of the film "The Wrestler" with Mickey Rourke. These guys were no spring chickens and neither was Rourke, playing an aging wrestler doing whatever he can to hang on to the only thing he really knows how to do.
I missed it in the theater, but caught up with it late last year on cable. I admit, I'm not much of a wrestling fan, but I'd heard so much about Rourke's Golden Globe-winning performance that I decided to take the plunge.
And I have to say, I should have remembered it when I was listing my sports favorites, because it is a gritty movie definitely worth a watch, both poignant and triumphant at the same time.
All Rourke's character, Randy "The Ram" Robinson, knows is wrestling. He hit is apex in the 1980s and has been sliding into oblivion ever since, propping up his body on steroids just as he carefully as he stitches his threadbare costumes back together after each weekend performance.
He is preparing to have a rematch with his most famed opponent "The Ayatollah" when he has a heart attack during a match and must have open heart surgery.
Over and over, Robinson struggles outside the ring, trying to create a relationship with an aging stripper and rebuild his connection to an alienated daughter, but always coming up short.
Rourke's performance is compeling and honest. The audience is left to make up its own mind about a man who has brought much of his despair upon himself.
Sports fan or not, this is a human journey that shouldn't be missed.