The Founder takes us back to the high stakes world of fast food. McDonald’s is the single most successful fast food burger franchise on Earth. I doubt there’s a person alive who hasn’t eaten at McDonald’s. From the Big Mac to the french fry, you can never go wrong with the cheap, simple, and extremely easy to find option. It was my favorite fast food place growing up. By this point I’ve tried everything on the menu at least once. I even made a Happy Meal box in my Senior art class. So I was very intrigued to see a movie about how McDonald’s became what we all know today. Before the playplace and even before Ronald McDonald, McDonald’s was just a humble burger stand. In 1954, milkshake salesman Ray Kroc happened upon the opportunity of a lifetime. McDonald’s stood out for its speedy service, on the go option, and friendly clientele. Back when the menu only consisted of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries, Coke, and shakes. The cost ranged from 10-20¢. Michael Keaton is burgerman. I never knew just how underhanded the formation of McDonald’s was. Ray Kroc can certainly come off as a greedy jerk. Especially for his treatment of the original McDonald brothers. Yet he was such a good businessman. He personally ensured every franchise stuck to the menu. Persistence was key. The result is the tastefully done McMovie The Founder. Ba Da Ba Ba Bah, I’m Lovin’ It!
Jumanji: The Next Level seemed like a replay of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, but somehow it’s just as hilarious and action-packed the second (third?) time around. Even though the story of kids getting sucked into a video game and winning seemed pretty closed, a nearly billion dollar box office haul begged the differ. Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, and Jack Black all return looking exactly the same. The biggest difference being who ends up as who. Jumanji: The Next Level picks up with the four kids now attending college and reuniting for Christmas break. Only one of them misses who he was in the game. So he foolishly rebuilds Jumanji. Unbeknownst to his friends, two more people accidentally end up in the game. Danny DeVito becomes Dwayne Johnson and Danny Glover becomes Kevin Hart. Both are hilarious playing even more against type than before. Karen Gillan stays the same, but Jack Black is now the black jock. Making the body swap humor all the more wacky. This time their adventure takes them to burning desserts and snowy mountains. Another addition is the inclusion of two new avatars. One is Awkwafina as a crafty burglar and the other is a horse. Nick Jonas does return, so you can probably guess who ends up in what body. Although everyone does eventually end up back in their original avatar. The funniest scenes are sort of similar to what came before. Jumanji: The Next Level sticks with what works, but adds enough to pack a punch.
Preceded by: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
A Good Day to Die Hard is what happens when a beloved action franchise dies… hard. The first warning sign was the ridiculously dumb title. “A good day to die” doesn’t sound better by sticking “Hard” to the end of it. Live Free or Die Hard was a much cooler title. Their mistake was not repurposing an existing story. Without an already established work to fall back on, the writers prove just how uninspired they can be. Detective John McClane in Russia. That’s about it. The second warning sign was the incredibly cheesy tagline “Yippee-Ki-Yay Mother Russia.” The action packed trailer was the only thing that made it look promising. Until the worst Die Hard movie ever made actually came out. A Good Day to Die Hard now centers around McClane’s other briefly seen child. His son whom he thinks is a criminal in Moscow, Russia. He’s actually an annoying CIA agent protecting a whistleblower. So McClane helps his estranged son fight off a far less memorable group of terrorists. Most of the action doesn’t stand out and those that do are completely illogical. It’s clear that Bruce Willis just doesn’t care anymore, but that’s no excuse to give Jai Courtney the spotlight. He can’t hold a movie to save his life. Still, Willis is practically sleepwalking through his performance. There’s no sincerity behind his famous catchphrase anymore. The self contained Christmas classic seems so long ago now. It may have brought back the R rating, but A Good Day to Die Hard is the furthest thing from a Die Hard movie.
Preceded by: Live Free or Die Hard
Live Free or Die Hard brings legendary Detective John McClane into the 21st century. Which meant kicking the action into overdrive. It also unfortunately meant giving it a PG-13 rating. Despite the franchises R rated roots and McClane’s very R rated catchphrase. He still says “Yippee-Ki-Yay,” but it has to be cut off. Yet Live Free or Die Hard is a rare example of a sequels rating change working out. Since it was an unexpected blast. Even though Bruce Willis is older and balder than before, McClane is just as battle ready as ever. This time he’s more out of his element than ever. Instead of Christmas, Live Free or Die Hard centers around Independence Day. It’s title begins the new tradition of attaching “Hard” to phrases that end with “Die.” Instead of a book or screenplay, the plot was based on a magazine article titled “A Farewell to Arms.” It detailed a cyberterrorist plot to seize control of nationwide electronics through a method know as a “fire sale.” In hopes of disabling American infrastructure. So the old fashioned police officer has to team up with a young hacker in order to stop them. McClane now travels around the country encountering the most insane action set pieces. He launches a police car into a helicopter, fights a jet on a freeway, and narrowly avoids a car being flung towards him. The climax ends with McClane having to rescue his daughter who’s been taken (just 1 year before). It’s over-the-top in a way that works. Even Kevin Smith as a fellow hacker isn’t too cheesy. Live Free or Die Hard is a modern spin on an old favorite.
Die Hard with a Vengeance turns Detective John McClane into a run of the mill action star. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. No matter what critics might have said. In order to avoid repeating themselves, Die Hard with a Vengeance doesn’t take place during Christmas, isn’t confined to one location, and allows McClane to work closely with someone else. All of which would become the norm moving forward. Despite the changes, John McTiernan still returned to direct after not directing Die Hard 2. Like the other movies though, the story is repurposed from an unrelated work. The first unproduced script was too similar to Under Siege. So they instead went with one titled Simon Says (after Lethal Weapon rejected it). Die Hard with a Vengeance finally shows McClane’s police headquarters in New York. After falling on hard times. He’s divorced, fired, and drunk, but a new terrorist threat brings him back. Let’s just say McClane’s past comes back to haunt him when the terrorist Simon gives him orders, or else face the destruction of New York landmarks. One particularly risky order puts him face to face with Zeus. A very reluctant Harlem shopkeep who’s forced into this “Simon Says” mess. If the nonstop city wide action doesn’t help, then Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson’s chemistry definitely does. They work off each other well, whether they’re allies or enemies. Jeremy Irons can’t compete with Alan Rickman, but he comes awfully close. Although it originally had a far less climactic ending, the actual ending is just as explosive as ever. “Yippee-Ki-Yay” indeed. Die Hard with a Vengeance is all about the action.
Die Hard 2 (sometimes with the ridiculous subtitle Die Harder) takes all the action to an airport. Yet again taking place near Christmas. Detective John McClane proves to be the unluckiest guy in the world when he once again faces a terrorist situation in a confined space. Just like Home Alone, it’s a bit hard to believe that something like that would happen two times in a row. Bruce Willis and all the important characters return as well. His wife, police officer VelJohnson, and even that sleazy reporter. Just like Die Hard, Die Hard 2 is very loosely based on an unrelated book. 58 Minutes is also about a New York City cop trying to stop terrorists at an airport on Christmas Eve. It may sound like it drew inspiration from Die Hard, but it was actually published 1 year before the first movie was released. McClane is waiting at Washington Dulles International Airport for his wife to arrive from L.A. Until a former U.S. Special Forces Colonel hijacks the airport and deactivates their landing systems. In hopes of rescuing a drug lord/dictator. Since his wife is on one of the planes, McClane knows the drill. Even with other cops trying to intervene, he’s the only one who can fight them off one-by-one. It goes without saying that Die Hard 2 isn’t as exciting in an airport. Plus McClane is wearing shoes. The main source of tension actually comes from a blizzard. While the craziest action scene involves McClane escaping an exploding plane in an ejector seat. Die Hard 2 may not hit as hard as before, but there’s more than enough explosions to make up for it. “Yippee-Ki-Yay Mr. Falcon.”
Die Hard is the most action packed Christmas movie ever made! Some might even call it the best Christmas movie period, but that depends if you consider it to be one or not. Merry Christmas everyone! Today I thought I’d surprise my readers by reviewing one of the most unconventional Christmas movies out there. Die Hard closed off the 80’s with a bang. Just one year after blowing everyone away with Predator, John McTiernan brought us one of the most influential action blockbusters of all time. This time with a far less likely protagonist. While the 80’s was loaded with hulking muscle men, along comes Bruce Willis. A mostly comedic TV actor with an average physic. It was a risk that more than worked out. Effectively launching Willis’ Hollywood career. Surprisingly, the same can be said for Alan Rickman. Can you believe this was his first movie? What people might not know is that Die Hard is actually based very loosely on a book titled Nothing Lasts Forever. Both are about a lone police officer trapped in a building overrun with terrorists. It’s a premise that’s been duplicated countless times, but nothing compares to the original…
Die Hard is considered to be a Christmas movie, because it centers around a Christmas party. New York Detective Lieutenant John McClane is an easy going cop with a penchant for not following orders. He comes out to the coast in Los Angeles where he gets together with his estranged wife hoping to have a few laughs. Yeah right! Next thing he knows, a group of terrorists infiltrate the building. Holding all the party guests (including his wife) hostage. Leaving McClane alone in the high rise of Nakatomi Plaza. The terrorists are lead by Hans Gruber. A charismatic European villain that steals every scene he’s in. Of course his group is after large quantities of money. When McClane’s attempts to alert the police fail, it’s up to him to fight off all the terrorists one-by-one. Carrying only his gun and a walkie talkie. Wearing an increasingly dirty tank top and going completely barefoot. A clever detail that adds an extra layer of tension to every fight scene. The walkie talkie allows him to communicate with Gruber directly. Due to his lone gunslinger act, Gruber refers to him as Mr. Cowboy. So McClane responds with one of the most badass lines in action movie history, “Yippee-Ki-Yay Motherf***er.” When he’s finally able to get police attention, McClane also talks to America’s favorite cop Reginald VelJohnson. Die Hard has awesome action that’s never hindered by its one location. Even when he’s crawling through the air ducts. Mclane effectively takes out each terrorist and even gets a hold of a machine gun (“Ho-Ho-Ho”). Even his wife cleverly outwits the terrorists. Until a brainless reporter gives her away. Building to a thrilling conclusion that sees McClane leap from an exploding rooftop. Coming face to face with his enemy, McClane still has another trick up his sleeve. Or should I say, tapped to his back. Die Hard has an unstoppable lead, threatening villains, is endlessly quotable, humorous, and pushes the envelope like all the best R rated 80’s action flicks. I didn’t see it at a young age, but a couple of viewings made it an instant favorite. Needless to say, I’m a Die Hard fan. I hope everyone has a very Merry (and action packed) Christmas!
Followed by: Die Hard 2
Noelle is a jolly invitation into the exciting new landscape of Disney+. It’s not enough that the streaming service includes just about every Disney property ever made, there’s original stuff on it as well. So as soon as it launched my brother and I binged everything new first. High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, The Mandalorian, Lady and the Tramp, and Noelle. The latter being the only true original of the bunch. Noelle is the latest Christmas offering from Disney. It’s about the Santa Claus that we all know and love passing his title on to a successor (that old chestnut). Only this time Santa has a son and daughter named Nick and Noelle Kringle. With their father’s passing, an unenthusiastic Nick becomes next in line. Leaving his extra cheerful sister Noelle to see that he fulfills his duty. Until he runs away, with her trying to get him back in time for Christmas Eve. Noelle is not even close to being an annual Christmas classic. Even with the infectious Christmas spirit of Anna Kendrick. While it is refreshing to see such an innocent G rated Christmas flick, it’s still nothing I haven’t seen many times before. Some of its interpretations are a bit unimaginative too. Like the elves looking like full grown people with pointy ears. Obviously you can see the ending coming from a mile away. I wasn’t overly bothered by it, since there’s like a hundred different interpretations of Santa. Noelle is just good cheer in an average package. Merry Christmas Eve!
Arthur Christmas is Christmas with a British twist. After converting to computer animation with Flushed Away, Aardman Animation once again went the CGI route with Arthur Christmas. This time with Sony Animation distributing instead of Dreamworks. It’s just a bit hard to tell, since it’s the only Aardman film that doesn’t bare their usual character designs. Santa has been interpreted so many ways in media, but Arthur Christmas might be the most unique. The North Pole is more like a military compound. The elves are like soldiers and Santa is like a general. Probably the most interesting change is that the sleigh is now a giant flying saucer. The title of Father Christmas is like a mantle passed down for generations. With the current Santa growing increasingly weary, his militaristic oldest son Steven is ready to take over. Only he’s a bit too structured for the job. His younger brother Arthur who answers all the kids mail, is much more qualified. He proves this after it’s discovered that a child’s been missed. So Arthur and his grandfather take the original sleigh and reindeer to get that one girl’s bike under her tree. What follows is a big hearted adventure where everyone’s Christmas spirit is put to the ultimate test. Although it’s been hailed as an instant Christmas classic, I’m sorry to say I wasn’t immediately won over by it. It was funny at times, but I guess I found it to be a bit too non-traditional. I probably just need to rewatch Arthur Christmas, because I’ve grow to appreciate the moral. That it doesn’t matter how a present is given, it only matters that someone cares.
Home Alone: The Holiday Heist goes the Home Alone 3 route of focusing on a random kid we don’t care about. This movie was made just to be part of ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas. Obviously, since there’s no other reason for it to exist. Just trying to squeeze a little more nostalgia out of Macaulay Culkin’s Christmas classic. The kid this time is an even less memorable kid named Finn. He thinks his new house is haunted. Wait is this 25 Days of Christmas or 13 Nights of Halloween? The house isn’t haunted, it’s just being ransacked by the worst set of disposable criminals yet. A girl complaining about her break up, a Snoop Dogg look alike, and Malcolm McDowell who for some reason agreed to be in this. They’re searching for a priceless painting or something. I kind of zoned out. Yes, Finn does wind up home alone, but his older sister isn’t far behind. All the other movies are referenced in some way. Yet that doesn’t help it standout. The traps are just juvenile at this point. Home Alone: The Holiday Heist proves there’s only so many times we can tolerate a kid being left home alone.
Preceded by: Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House