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Archive for the ‘Bruce’ Category

Death Becomes Her

Thursday, September 8th, 2022

“She’s dead, sir. They took her to the morgue.”
“The morgue? She’ll be furious!”

On July 31, 1992 we come to another one of those odd happenings that caused me to label this as Weird Summer. This is the time when an A-list director became enamored of a cynical black comedy and turned it into a big summer movie starring Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis. Writers Martin Donovan (the Argentinian filmmaker who directed APARTMENT ZERO, not the guy from the Hal Hartley movies) and David Koepp (co-writer of APARTMENT ZERO – this was his movie after TOY SOLDIERS) saw it as a low budget indie, and then it got made with a budget bigger than ALIEN 3, and groundbreaking digital effects by Industrial Light and Magic. The effects ended up winning an Oscar and Koepp’s next gig was writing JURASSIC PARK.

Director Robert Zemeckis had put his name on the blockbuster map with ROMANCING THE STONE in 1984, and then triple circled, highlighted and put stars next to his name when BACK TO THE FUTURE was a surprise smash hit the following year. Since then he’d made my favorite of his movies, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT (1988), followed by the BACK TO THE FUTURE sequels (1989 and 1990). Those were all rated PG, and most of them were produced by Steven Spielberg, so Zemeckis was generally thought of as that kind of family friendly whiz bang popcorn movie guy. And now here he comes with this mean-spirited PG-13 movie aimed at adults, its wider appeal coming from the genuinely envelope-pushing ways it depicts gruesome bodily mutilations. (read the rest of this shit…)

Bruce

Wednesday, March 30th, 2022

I’m sure most of you have heard about the retirement of the one and only Bruce Motherfuckin Willis – a.k.a. Bruno, a.k.a. Walter B – due to a diagnosis of aphasia, a disorder which interferes with the ability to comprehend speech. I saw a tabloid story quite a while ago which claimed he was struggling with early onset dementia, and it’s unclear to me whether that was a misunderstanding about this, or whether that was true and this is a further development. Either way, it explains some of what has been going on with him in recent years, which honestly people have been pretty unkind about. But now they know.

I don’t need to tell you what Bruce means to me and everything we do here, but here’s a brief summary: I idolized him as a kid because of Moonlighting, DIE HARD is kinda my favorite movie, my first Usenet post was about DIE HARD, many people are kind enough to associate me with DIE HARD and refer all DIE HARD related news items to me, Titan Books associated me enough with him that they got me to name my review collection after him, also there was a famous incident in the Ain’t It Cool days when Bruce himself unexpectedly logged in as a talkbacker to respond to my concerns about LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD being rated PG-13. To my left as I write I have a beautiful framed Thai DIE HARD poster that I look to for inspiration. Three days ago I bought The Return of Bruno on vinyl.

One of my favorite things I’ve written was the piece about DIE HARD from a little after my dad died. If you’ve read that you know how much my feelings about DIE HARD and Bruce are tied in with memories of my dad, who I lost to Alzheimers. I see alot of my dad in myself and fear inheriting his fate; also I have always looked up to aspects of Bruce and aspired to be like him. So obviously it hit me hard on a number of different levels when I first heard about this. Since I always believed the story it didn’t come as a shock to read the confirmation today, but the emotions came at me like a flood. And I know it’s the same for many of you.

I just feel for him and his family and I hope they’re able to enjoy their time together. Let’s all celebrate Bruce and send good thoughts to him and his family and friends. Also, which Bruce movies is it a shame I haven’t reviewed? I’ve done the big action ones, but surely there are some gaps.

The Last Boy Scout (revisited)

Tuesday, January 12th, 2021

I reviewed THE LAST BOY SCOUT (1991) once already, 15 years ago. Though I think I described some things about it pretty well, I was at somewhat of a snooty wiseass stage in my critic’s journey, and I was more dismissive of it than I should’ve been. Despite that I remembered it being a pretty good movie, and I’d been wanting to rewatch it for a while, so this last November, when BWolfe asked in the comments, “Can you re-review this? I feel like you’d give it a much better shake now,” I knew he was right.

(Bruce)

This Joel Silver production is a collaboration/clash between director Tony Scott (coming off of DAYS OF THUNDER) and screenwriter Shane Black (after being replaced on LETHAL WEAPON 2). Those guys making a Bruce Willis movie is about as all-star action as it got in 1991, and had Bruce and Silver known how the release of HUDSON HAWK was gonna go earlier in that year they would’ve been even more eager to sow they could still blow people through the back walls of theaters. (read the rest of this shit…)

Once Upon a Time in Venice

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

About 12 miles and 48 years from ONCE UPON A TIME …IN HOLLYWOOD lies ONCE UPON A TIME IN VENICE. In this 2017 DTV joint, Bruce Willis is the center of a sunny, quirky, comedic crime tale ensemble. Though the story is narrated by his dorky new assistant John (Thomas Middleditch, THE KINGS OF SUMMER), it revolves around Bruce’s low-life private eye Steve Ford. As you do in these movies, a pan through his office shows us some of his history through the medium of props. For example, some photos and a surfboard tell us he’s a surfer. There’s one touch that made me laugh, but maybe wasn’t supposed to: we learn he’s a disgraced ex-cop from an article that calls him “disgraced” in the headline. Why would he frame that and put it on his wall? It’s not even an important piece of exposition.

Anyway, Steve has two small time cases:

1. Find a missing woman named Nola (Jessica Gomes, “KSI Spokesmodel,” TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION)

2. Find the graffiti artist painting obscene murals of real estate developer Lou the Jew (Adam Goldberg, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, voice of Flealick in BABE: PIG IN THE CITY) on his buildings (read the rest of this shit…)

Glass

Monday, January 21st, 2019

Like many of you I was a pretty big fan of M. Night Shyamalan’s UNBREAKABLE when it came out in 2000. It was a different time. One year after THE SIXTH SENSE, the idea of Shyamalan as a master of suspense was not a punchline, and quiet, sad Bruce Willis characters were fairly new territory. It had only been about a month since the very first X-MEN movie came out, and would be years before Batman began and the Marvel Cinematic Universe followed, so when we were blindsided by the opening title card of oddly useless comic book statistics, and Samuel L. Jackson (THE SPIRIT)’s character proceeded to make grandiose generalized proclamations about the comic book mythology, it was semi-forgivable. The ads gave no hint of this, but the movie took the idea of super powers and put them in a grounded suspense thriller context that felt like a pretty new combination of flavors at the time.

Sixteen years later Shyamalan had been a laughing stock far longer than he’d been a respected auteur, and the popularity of SPLIT counted as a comeback. Though I found the “oh, this was actually a super villain origin story” ending a little anti-climactic, I thought most of the movie was effectively creepy and I was really impressed by James McAvoy’s playful turn as the many personalities of “The Horde.” And of course I enjoyed the wacko reveal at the end that it was I DON’T THINK THIS IS A SPOILER ANYMORE taking place in the same universe as UNBREAKABLE.

Now, finally, Samuel L. Jackson is… GLASS. Except he gets a “with” credit. McAvoy gets top billing, because he does the most acting, by many different meanings. (read the rest of this shit…)

Armageddon

Tuesday, July 24th, 2018

July 1, 1998

“There was some criticism that I made NASA look dumb in certain places. In fact if you heard some of these asteroid theories of what they are thinking of doing, it just sounds asinine.” –Michael Bay

ARMAGEDDON is Michael Bay’s third movie, but in some sense it’s the one where he revealed his true face to the world. There were plenty of examples of his style and character in BAD BOYS and THE ROCK, but it was ARMAGEDDON that first presented the full breadth of his trademarks: awesome awesome macho bros, pretty pretty sunsets, government employees portrayed as insufferable weiners even though they’re in the right, spinning cameras, haphazard editing all over the fucking place, chaotic mish-mashes of explosions and sparks and machinery and debris and smoke and crap, beautiful shots of people in various locations around the world, weirdly hateful characters presented as cutesy comic relief, an army of highly qualified writers seemingly locked in a cage and forced to duct tape a bunch of dumb ideas into the most unwieldy structure they can come up with that has a running time at least 30 minutes longer than the story has earned, and of course an ensemble of talented actors improvising jokes with no regard for any sort of desired rhythm or tone of storytelling. (read the rest of this shit…)

Die Hard

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

tn_diehardBI don’t like to say I have a favorite movie. There are too many great ones that I love for too many equally meaningful-to-me reasons. But if I had to choose one, like if you had to register your favorite movie with the government or something, maybe it would be DIE HARD. I wrote a piece about it before, but that was 16 years ago, I was a different person then, and it’s embarrassing to me. So let me try again.

Many of the reasons I love DIE HARD are self evident. By now most people have caught on to the fact that it’s an extremely well made, ridiculously entertaining popcorn masterwork. The story is so perfect and elemental that it became a template, a name for a reliably entertaining subgenre of action movies. This is a testament to the genius of the setup by Roderick Thorp in his novel Nothing Lasts Forever, its remolding by screenwriters Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza, and its precise cinematic execution by director John McTiernan, cinematographer Jan de Bont, editors John F. Link and Frank J. Urioste, composer Michael Kamen, etc. They crafted a pitch perfect introduction of this character (based around the charm and humor of Bruce Willis) and unrolling of the sinister plot he’s about to crash head first into. And then it escalates into spectacular crescendos – the explosion in the elevator shaft, the desperate leap from the roof and bare-foot-kicking-through of the window – that, in their somewhat grounded context, continue to feel enormous even after movies (including its four sequels) have gotten bigger and bigger for nearly three decades. In retrospect it wasn’t the amount of C-4 but the placement of it that caused the ads to vow it “WILL BLOW YOU THROUGH THE BACK WALL OF THE THEATRE.”
(read the rest of this shit…)

Die Hard With a Vengeance

Monday, June 1st, 2015

tn_dhwav

RELEASE DATE: May 19
RELEASE DATE: May 19

“But I thought this was a currency exchange!”

In kicking off my summer of 1995 retrospective I made the grave error of skipping a May 19th release that very likely is the movie of that summer, one that is widely loved (especially around here) but sometimes forgotten in the lists of great films of the ’90s. Of course I don’t have to remind you guys about DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE, you know about it. But I neglected to remember that my reviews of the original DIE HARD trilogy were written 15 years ago when I was taking the first steps on my journey to cinematic enlightenment. In other words I was kind of a dummy. So I owe it to myself and to society to try again.

The main thing that makes WITH A VENGEANCE stand out from the other DIE HARD sequels is the strong filmatism of director John McTiernan at his peak. The opening two minutes is a perfect sample, like when the one guy in the coke deal lets the other guy dip his finger in and taste the product. We see the Brooklyn Bridge on a summer day. Then the words “DIE HARD” whoosh onto the screen. This is DIE HARD but it’s a new location, new time of year, new time of day. Then the words fly away and are replaced by a much larger” WITH A VENGEANCE,” slamming across the screen, then shooting right at us. This is a sequel that’s aware of the power of it’s title, so it’s unashamed to smash it into our eyes with a sound effect, to cockily fill the whole screen with it.

Then we get a beautiful montage of New York City set to “Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful. The sun glimmering on reflective buildings. Sidewalks filled with people walking to work. Cars and buses and delivery trucks. These look like real commuters. Documentary footage. An accurate representation of regular people starting their day. A nice day, too. But abruptly, mid-lyric, a department store explodes, sending clouds of dust and wreckage into the street, flipping over cars and trucks parked in front. (read the rest of this shit…)

My new Bruce Willis essay on The Village Voice

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

tn_bruceohshit

Check out my new Bruce essay on The Village Voice websight (web exclusive – they tried printing it on paper but my writing was so hot it caught on fire). This is basically my response to the anti-Bruce sentiments a few weeks ago when he was in the news for dropping EXPENDABLES 3 and a couple other incidents. Apparently this piece has turned out to be more of a bummer than I intended, and the headline does sound a little harsh. But really I’m just trying to illustrate how much of Bruce’s power in DIE HARD comes from not being a standard action guy, and therefore it makes sense that he’s grown restless with being pushed into the standard action guy slot. It’s a celebration of his talents and unique place in action movie history.

Happy 25th Anniversary, DIE HARD

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

diehardgame

I can’t vouch for this game, but I bought this card for it because I like non-likeness paintings of John McClane. He’s so iconic he doesn’t even need his face. Happy silver anniversary, big guy!