The New Die Hard Film and The Rest of This Week's New and Specialty Screenings Around Town.

A Good Day to Die Hard.
Director:
John Moore.
Writers: Skip Woods, Roderick Thorp.
Cast: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch.

Hey! Our old friend John McClane (Bruce Willis) is back for yet another glass-filled, in-over-his-head, using-a-car-as-a-weapon-against-a-helicopter adventure! This time, he's off to Russia with love to save his son, J. McClane Jr. (Jai Courtney).

Those darn kids these days, always getting themselves in trouble with CIA espionage missions gone awry. Like father, like son, I always say.

Now in his fifth film since we first met our wife beater-wearing, wife-saving hero 25 years ago in 1988's Die Hard, we're long familiar with McClane as the “Average Joe New York Cop” who just happens to be the guy unwittingly entrusted with saving the day. He has no real secret agent expertise (unless you count ass kicking) nor any formal training to speak of (again with the ass kicking) compared to his cinematic colleagues, Bond and Bourne. Instead, McClane's skills are his resilience and resourcefulness. As the Russian title of Die Hard fittingly tells us, he's A Hard Nut To Crack.

But, then again, James and Jason ain't got nothing on John, really. And though this film may feel at times like 24: Jason Bond, that much only serves to contrast our hero with his surroundings. Credit director John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines, Flight of the Phoenix, Max Payne) and the script from Skip Woods (The A-Team, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Swordfish) for that. What they capitalize on in A Good Day to Die Hard is McClane's great fish-out-of-water charm.

Willis now plays McClane like you wear an old, perfectly fitting leather jacket. And when you place that guy into scenarios that are bigger than he is and you get to watch him react with serious self-awareness to his situations and surroundings (i.e. how ridiculous or unbelievable they may be), the results are pretty fun, for sure.

The whole franchise is basically based on this idea — something that only becomes more clear once you consider the fact that A Good Day to Die Hard is the sole film in the series what was actually written as Die Hard movie.

(The first Die Hard was based on the book Nothing Lasts Forever and not written originally as Die Hard, but intended rather as a sequel to Commando. Meanwhile, Die Hard 2 was based on the novel 58 Minutes by Walter Wager, Die Hard: With a Vengeance was originally titled Simon Says and written as the third film in the Lethal Weapon franchise, and Live Free or Die Hard was originally titled Tears of the Sun and written as a wholly different action flick altogether. Tears of the Sun, not so coincidentally, was later used as the title for a different Bruce Willis film.)

Personally, I've always felt it odd this franchise went beyond a single film. The concept of Die Hard was really a stand alone idea. But it's Bruce Willis as John McClane that carries these films — even if, on the page, they don't seem like films in which you'd find his popular character.

Still, this time through, Moore and Co. make sure to throw McClane into the gauntlet, including a balls-to-the-wall car chase that would make Michael Bay have an explosion in his pants. Moore is a master of visuals and at directing action — so skilled, in fact, that this film features some of the franchises' best action set pieces to date. Unfortunately, car chases and explosions and gunfights are just bright shiny toys that run out of batteries when they don't have a great script and dialogue to tie them together.

It's not that Woods' screenplay is horrible, per se. It's just not up to the snuff of the rest of the film's offerings. Between schmaltzy father-son dialogue and exposition-heavy exchanges, it's A Good Day to Die Hard's script that flatlines its fun in the end.

Still, something tells me John McClane can take a lickin' and keep on tickin'. That something, I'll have you know, is the Internet, which recently broke the news that Willis has already announced he signed on for a sixth Die Hard.

Yippie Ki-Yay? Sure, why not?

Rating: 6 out of 10 bald-headed heroes.

Safe Haven.
Director:
Lasse Hallstrom.
Writers: Leslie Bohem (screenplay), Dana Stevens (screenplay), Nicholas Sparks (novel).
Cast: Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel, Cobie Smulders.
Where's it playing? Everywhere!

The new big screen adaptation from author Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook) centers around a mysterious woman with a secretive past who flees to a small town and falls in love with a widower — only to have her past catch up to her. That sounds absolutely nothing like Sparks' last adaptation, The Lucky One, which centers around a mysterious man with a secretive past who flees to a small town and falls in love with a widow only to have his past catch up to him.

Beautiful Creatures.
Director:
Richard LaGravenese.
Writers: Richard LaGravenese (screenplay), Kami Garcia (novel).
Cast: Alice Englert, Viola Davis, Emma Thompson.
Where's it playing? Everywhere!

The latest teen-focused supernatural love story made for the big screen attempting to cash in on the Twilight craze centers not on vampires or werewolves but witches, warlocks and incubi. What happened to the time when high school movies focused on good, old-fashioned repressed sex? Nerds need loving, too, y'know.

A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III.
Director:
Roman Coppola.
Writer: Roman Coppola.
Cast: Charlie Sheen, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray.
Where's it playing? Angelika Dallas and Plano!

After suffering through a break-up, a ladies man slips into a trippy spiral of fantasies, fever dreams and nightmares. It's as if Wes Anderson and Michel Gondry had a baby and that baby was a documentary about a full-grown, aged Charlie Sheen!

Groundhog Day (1993).
Director:
Harold Ramis.
Writers: Danny Rubin (screenplay), Harold Ramis (screenplay).
Cast: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott.
Where's it playing? Friday and Saturday at midnight at The Inwood!

This week (February 12th) marked the 20th anniversary of Harold Ramis' comedy classic, starring Bill Murray as a weatherman faced with a waking nightmare of living the same day over and over again. You should celebrate by watching it over and over again. It's what Punxsutawney Phil would have wanted.

The Playroom.
Director:
Julia Dyer.
Writer: Gretchen Dyer.
Cast: John Hawkes, Jonathan Brooks, Alexandra Doke, Olivia Harris.
Where's it playing? Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Texas Theatre.

Four children make up a fantastic story while hanging out in their attic hideaway. Meanwhile, downstairs, their parents weave a drunken intrigue of their own. This North Texas-made film will have feature filmmaker introductions and Q&A sessions at all three shows. At the 3:30 p.m. screening on Sunday, a filmmakers super-panel will feature the film's DP, editor and designers.

The Master in 35MM.
Director:
Paul Thomas Anderson.
Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson.
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams.
Where's it playing? Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Texas Theatre.

If you missed your chance to see Paul Thomas Anderson's sordid tale of bromance and soulmatery, then I highly suggest you check it out in glorious 35MM. You can thank me later. In this life or the next.

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