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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: DTS 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English
  Extras
  • Deleted scenes
  • Teaser trailer
  • 2 Theatrical trailer
  • 2 Audio commentary - Director John McTiernan & production designer Jackson DeGovia; visual effects producer Richard Edlund
  • Featurette
  • Photo gallery
  • Animated menus
  • DVD-ROM features
  • Web access
  • Outtakes
  • Original screenplay
  • Interactive game
  • Trivia track

Die Hard: SE

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 127 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Now a genuine classic, in fact possibly THE classic of the Big Dumb Action Film (or BDAF for short) genre, Die Hard didn’t exactly have the most auspicious of births. When it was discovered that Bruce Willis, then only really known from television’s Moonlighting, was starring in the flick (based on a novel by Roderick Thorp) AND getting paid five million dollars for doing so, sarcastic tongues were wagging all over Hollywood and beyond – just what were Joel Silver and cronies thinking?

Well, to use a rather hackneyed cliché – not entirely inappropriate under the circumstances – the rest is history. It went on to storm box offices worldwide, shared audience AND critical acclaim, made Bruce Willis’ transition from wee little screens to expansive big ones relatively painless, and became beloved by action fans the world over as a genuine benchmark movie within the genre. It also meant Hudson Hawk was eventually made, but we’ll forgive them that one as this particular film is such a gem.

Actually, defining it as a BDAF isn’t entirely fair, as it isn’t really THAT dumb. Die Hard is absolutely loaded up with a perfect balance of genuine suspense, tonnes of action, suitably nasty evil dudes, a charming one-liner equipped lead and more than enough explosions and effects to keep even The Wiggles’ notoriously sleepy-headed Jeff wide awake throughout its two hour-plus running time. It almost feels pointless to bother with a plot summation as surely most everybody has seen the film at least once, but for those stragglers out there here’s a quick summation of what you’ve been missing out on all these years...

John McClane (Willis) is a New York cop on his way to LA to see his estranged wife and kids for Christmas (BDAF rule number one – it is ALWAYS Christmas). He pops by her place of employment, the Nakatomi Corporation in their shiny new and naturally not quite finished building, where their Chrissie party is well underway. Meanwhile, we’re privy to something obviously bad going down outside, as a truck full of evil-looking dudes pulls up accompanied by ominous chords and that telltale harbinger of doom, the timpani.

And evil dudes they most definitely are. Whilst the party rages upstairs, some of them systematically shut down the building’s phone system, guards and lifts, while the others wheel in their mini-arsenal of guns, bombs and other assorted serious firepower-type things that make very big booms. And all under the watchful eye of one Hans Gruber (the ALWAYS wonderful Alan Rickman), a former member of the German Volksfrei movement, and a man who is perceived as a terrorist. Actually it’s quite a lot simpler than that – the building’s vault houses $640 million in bonds, and it’s just the money he’s after, baby.

However, wheels start falling off Gruber’s seemingly well-planned and well-oiled machine, as he didn’t bank on a certain fly in his ointment – or monkey in the wrench, or pain in the... – in McClane. Managing to hide himself away as the apparent terrorists wrest control of the party (no more photocopying breasts then – sorry guys), his battle of wits against Gruber and cronies begins as he starts systematically picking them off one by one...

"Oh my god, the quarterback IS toast!"

As alluded to earlier, Die Hard is essentially the benchmark for all action films that followed in its wake - Die Hard on a bus (Speed), Die Hard on a boat (Speed 2), Die Hard with a nutball (Lethal Weapon - pick a number between 2 and 4), Die Hard in space (Armageddon), Die Hard on a plane (oh, hang on, that was actually Die Hard II) etc. Combining all the essentials – it’s Christmastime, there are bad guys with accents (luckily Rickman has a default evil-dude brogue in his native British tongue, as he falls out of his German one here more often than his henchmen plummet down lift shafts), they have mucho firepower, there’s one sussed cop (black, of course - although there’s no word of imminent retirement plans here), a veritable army of dumb cops and FBI agents, a loser nosy reporter, a gung-ho cokehead (OK, that’s not a staple, but it’s fun), some actually rather gruesome bits are entwined with genuinely suspenseful moments and over-the-top cartoon-styled action, more clichés abound than you can poke a stick at (heehee), memorable one-liners are thick on the ground and, of course, it all wraps up with a suitably happy ending.

Combine all this with John McTiernan’s snappy direction and Jan De Bont’s stylish photography and you could scarcely ask for more. That Die Hard is still an absolute thrill ride of a flick today, fourteen years after it originally came out and with a remarkable amount of attempts to emulate its runaway success in its wake, is simple testament to just how brilliant, engrossing and downright entertaining this film is.

  Video
Contract

Fox have gone back to the original source to create a brand new 2.35:1 anamorphically enhanced print for this release, and for a film that’s now fourteen years old it looks absolutely divine indeed

Sure, it isn’t entirely pristine – most notably there are a number of white speckles throughout and one or two instances of shimmer on the usual culprits such as blinds and grilles - however otherwise everything is pretty much as sharp as a tack, while colour is superb and natural looking and black levels are pretty much spot-on. The film does have a tendency to look a bit dark on occasions, and shadow detail isn’t always exemplary, however it is doubtful that Die Hard has been seen looking this fabulous since perhaps opening night at the cinema before the print got destroyed by careless projectionists.

It’s delivered to us on a dual layered disc, with the layer change reasonably placed in a still and almost silent scene. You will notice it, but it does go past quite quickly.

  Audio
Contract

Pleasingly, Die Hard comes to us with both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes – pretty much a prerequisite to give an action film such as this the necessary audio oomph. Unlike many films of such a vintage, this isn’t simply a modern-day remix job, as there were original prints around featuring a six channel version. Right from the opening seconds as a plane zooms overhead from the rear of the room you get the feeling you’re in for a treat, and the soundtrack never disappoints.

There’s plenty of enveloping surround usage, delivering both effects and also padding out the score, and some great stereo effects across the front - naturally with most dialogue sitting front and centre. It’s the subwoofwoof that really gets to shine here, conveying couch-splintering bass at some points (the expected explosions, gun fire etc), plus also some added surprises such as the rumbly thrum from within air ducts. There isn’t a world of difference between the two mixes, however certain points in the film do show off the advantages of DTS to great effect, tending to share with us a somewhat clearer and slightly better-defined sound field than the DD version.

Well-known film composer Michael Kamen provides the score, which achieves a nice balance between hyper-melodramatic tendencies and subtler ambience. There are a couple of Christmas-themed additions to the soundtrack, as well as a recurring theme involving the classic Song of Joy.

  Extras
Contract

If the fabulous video and audio aren’t enough to quench your BDAF thirst, then perhaps you’ll find some satiation within the absolute plethora of extras that have been included across this two disc set. Each disc has an animated introductory sequence which zooms into the top of the Nakatomi building (which is actually the Fox Plaza in ‘real life’), and each selection from here triggers a trip to a different part of the building before the menu comes up.

Disc One
Audio commentary – director John McTiernan and production designer Jackson DeGovia: Unfortunately not recorded in the same place at the same time, hence lacking the rapport usually attained from such things, this is well edited and ends up offering quite a cohesive, informative and entertaining commentary. The usual subjects are all covered, with McTiernan concentrating on the cast and crew and the whole production in general, and DeGovia sticking to his strengths by concentrating on the visual design department.

Scene specific audio commentary – visual effects producer Richard Edlund: Rather than make those of us just interested in the man’s comments sit through the entire film, a listing is given of those chapters which include his comments. This is absolute manna for tech heads, with much talk of how things were accomplished, working with 65mm, and all sorts of words along the lines of ‘compositing’ and ‘anamorphic’.

Text commentary – production designer Jackson DeGovia, screenwriter Steven DeSouza, special effects coordinator Al Di Sarro, supervising sound editor Stephen Hunter Flick, producer Lawrence Gordon, composer Michael Kamen, editor John F. Link, stunt coordinator Charlie Picerni, actor Alan Rickman and film journalist Eric Lichtenfeld: Utilising a subtitle track, this option presents often wonderfully informative comments from those listed, and offer a great excuse to sit through the film another time.

Extended branching version: Adding approximately one and a half minutes to proceedings, this footage extends the scene where the power to the Nakatomi building is cut off. When the movie is played from this option the additions are completely seamless, the only telltale sign that something is up is a brief effects shot that appears in black and white. If you can’t be bothered selecting this option you can always have a look at it in disc two’s outtakes section.

Disc Two
From the vault: This area presents us with three sub menus. The first is outtakes, which as well as including the complete sequence from the branching version as outlined above, also includes a fabulous little piece entitled The Vault. This is an around six-minute amalgam of bloopers, alternative takes and outright deleted scenes, and features production audio with an option for the music to be on or off.

Next is newscasts, presenting the original VHS footage as taken during production of some news desk action, and alternate takes and flubs of some of the interview sections from the film.

The last morsel in this section is magazine articles, which delivers two such beasties, one from American Cinematographer and one from Cinefex. Both feature Richard Edlund and concentrate heavily on the effects used in Die Hard, complete with occasional links to production photos and the occasional video bonus.

Cutting room: Certain to delight armchair directors countrywide, this section includes a number of features that offer a certain amount of interactivity. First up is the scene editing workshop, which allows you to direct your own version of any of three scenes by selecting from a number of alternative takes and angles. While it is a little limited in scope and can be time consuming, this is still a fun inclusion.

Following hot on its heels is multi-camera shooting. This goes into the process of how often a number of different points of view are shot when creating a film, and allows you to flip between different camera angles on the selected scenes with the multi-angle button on your remote.

Next up is audio mixing, a rather limited feature which allows you to play a little with the dialogue, score and effects levels. The only options are ‘off’, ‘high’ or ‘low’, so there isn’t a heap to do, but it does offer another chance to have a bit of a play.

And now for that which every one of those mentally-limited idiots that doesn’t understand widescreen, thinking those “annoying black bars” actually cut off vision, should be tied down and forced to watch. You never know, why letterbox? may even get through to some of them, as it is very, very well done. A comparison is shown between a scene in the original 2.35:1 ratio and what murder takes place in pan and scanning it to fill a 4:3 screen, with thorough commentary as to how the director’s vision is severely compromised, and how much is actually missed out on. Superb stuff.

Lastly, for this section at least, is a reasonably thorough and often delightfully irreverent glossary of filmmaking terms, which may even lead you to learn something, like moving left to right with a static camera is “panning”, whilst moving up and down in the same fashion is “tilting”.

Interactive slide show: None of those namby-pamby limited photo selections here folks, rather a massive collection of musically-accompanied behind the scenes and promotional stills from the film. Several feature a Nakatomi logo, which if selected branches off to piles of blueprints, additional footage and even the occasional deleted scene.

Ad campaign: Included here are three trailers - one that’s in 2.35:1 and runs for one and a half minutes, an extended two and a half minute 1.85:1 version and a 1.85:1 Song of Joy-infused teaser, all of which are anamorphically enhanced and are of decent quality visually. They all feature Dolby Digital stereo soundtracks, demonstrating just how much better the film is with six channels utilised. Also in this section is a brief, seven-minute full frame promotional featurette.

The script: An entire version of the script (there are marked differences in places to the final cut of the film) for those without DVD-ROM capabilities to wade through.

Easter eggs: Yay! The perfect opportunity for local fans of Buffy and Angel to blow up Fox Home Entertainment! It’s quite easy to find, however if you do have troubles you could always check out our Easter egg department - where you'll also find details of another hidden surprise...

  Overall  
Contract

Near perfect vision, an audio track that’s an utter treat, enough extras to keep you occupied for many, many an hour AND probably the greatest action film ever committed to celluloid – how could this release not deserve a Gold Award?

It’s “yippee-ki-yay” all around, as this release is a winner in absolutely every respect. If you’re a fan then it’s a basic no-brainer – buy it. Schnell! Schnell! Schnell!


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1415
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  •  DVD NET Gold Review List 
      And I quote...
    "It’s “yippee-ki-yay” all around, as this release is a winner in absolutely every respect..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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