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Len Wiseman
Bruce Willis, Timothy Olyphant, Justin Long, Maggie Q, Cliff Curtis, Jonathan Sadowski, Andrew Friedman, Kevin Smith
Writing Credits:
Mark Bomback (and story), David Marconi (story), John Carlin (article, "A Farewell to Arms"), Roderick Thorp (certain original characters)

Yippee Ki Yay Motherf*****! - John 6:27

"The best of the best is back and better than ever" (WNYW-TV) in the latest installment of the pulse-pounding, thrill-a-minute Die Hard action films. New York City detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) delivers old-school justice to a new breed of terrorists when a massive computer attack on the U.S. infrastructure threatens to shut down the entire country over Independence Day weekend.

Box Office:
$110 million.
Opening Weekend
$33.369 million on 3408 screens.
Domestic Gross
$134.527 million.

Rated NR

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 110 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 11/20/2007

• Audio Commentary with Director Len Wiseman, Actor Bruce Willis and Editor Nicolas De Toth
• “Analog Hero in a Digital World: The Making of Live Free or Die Hard” Documentary
• “Yippee Ki Yay Motherf*****!” Featurette
• “Die Hard” by Guyz Nite Music Video
• “Behind the Scenes with Guyz Nite” Featurette
• “Fox Movie Channel Presents Fox Legacy” Featurette
• Trailers


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Live Free Or Die Hard: Collector's Edition (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 19, 2007)

Maybe we shouldn’t count out the aging action heroes. People scoffed when they announced a new Terminator movie. However, 2003’s Terminator 3 became a financial success and earned reasonably good notices as well. It’s not as highly regarded as its two predecessors, but it certainly wasn’t the disaster folks expected it to be.

People scoffed when they announced a new Rocky flick. However, 2006’s Rocky Balboa turned into the series’ most effective effort since the 1976 original. It wasn’t a tremendous financial success, but it exceeded most expectations.

People scoffed when they announced a new Die Hard film. It’d been 12 years since the last one, and folks thought Bruce Willis might be too long in the tooth to play action hero again. However, 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard earned pretty good reviews and took in a perfectly solid $134 million at the box office. No one mistook Free for the series’ creative peak, but it showed some life in the franchise.

Free involves us in the world of computer hackers. Under the guidance of Mai (Maggie Q) and her boss Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant), these folks break into the FBI Cyber-Security Division. The Feds decide to interview every guy who could’ve done this, so they use local authorities to round up all the possible suspects and bring them to DC.

Our old buddy Detective John McClane (Willis) gets a simple assignment: he needs to pick up digital whiz Matt Farrell and transport him from New Jersey to the District. Of course, the reality isn’t quite so easy. Gabriel prefers to eliminate all traces of the evidence, so he blows up the hackers he uses. Thanks to McClane, this attempted murder doesn’t take, but it leaves him and Farrell with a tough path. The movie follows McClane’s attempts to stop Gabriel’s complicated plot to bring down society – and to save his daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a college student who gets involved in the action.

As soon as Free hit the screens, many folks declared it to be the best one since the original. Would I agree? I’m not sure, really. I liked 1990’s Die Hard 2 and 1995’s Vengeance, but both had their weaknesses.

The same holds true for Free. In many ways, it feels like an amalgam of DH2 and Vengeance. It uses the same “sidekick” premise and open-ending setting of Vengeance, but it presents a villain with a social agenda ala DH2.

Unfortunately, a negative association with DH2 occurs due to the dullness of the baddie. Granted, after the first film’s Hans Gruber – a seminal movie villain – it became tough to reinvent that particular wheel in DH2 but not seem repetitive. The movie’s answer was Colonel Stuart, a single-minded semi-patriot without much personality. Sure, he was different than Hans, but he left a big hole at the film’s center.

The same occurs when we consider Gabriel. For Vengeance, the series went back to the Gruber well with Hans’ brother Simon. While not as interesting and enjoyable to watch as Hans, at least Simon provided a good contrast to the dishwater dull Colonel Stuart.

Gabriel seems cut from the same cloth as Stuart. He does what he does in his view of the country’s best interests, and he displays absolutely no personality whatsoever. Olyphant might be a fine actor in other parts, but he seems wrong for this role since we never view him as much of a threat. Granted, we know that McClane will beat anyone he faces, but at least his other enemies came across as more formidable. Gabriel just feels like a spoiled kid who didn’t get what he wanted from his trust fund.

At least Free works better in terms of its sidekick. Since Vengeange gave McClane a partner, I feared that Farrell would be little more than a nerdy white version of the prior flick’s Samuel L. Jackson character. To some degree, both serve the same purpose: exposition. Farrell acts as McClane’s - and the audience’s entry into the arcane technological issues, and it often doesn’t have much else to do.

Nonetheless, I like the loose chemistry between Willis and Long, and Farrell eventually does enough to justify him as a character and not just a plot device. No, he wouldn’t exist if we didn’t need him to explain the computer topics, but he does so in an entertaining manner and becomes a likable personality in his own right.

Winstead’s Lucy is also a fun addition to the film. While she doesn’t get a lot of screen time, she makes the most of her few moments, and she definitely delivers on a performance that allows us to view her as a younger, female McClane. Winstead boasts good toughness in the part, a factor that means she doesn’t feel like the standard helpless damsel in distress. No, the movie isn’t creative enough to let her save the day – audiences would riot if McClane himself didn’t end up as the hero – but at least Lucy gets her own personality.

On the negative side, the story is something of a mess. It’s so technobabble heavy and convoluted that we don’t just get lost – we eventually don’t really care. We just want to see McClane kick some butt and blow up a bunch of things.

In that regard, Free does pretty well for itself. I don’t think anything here competes with the innovative action of the original, but it compares favorably with the big scenes from the other sequels. As always, they stretch credulity, but they create some good excitement and thrills.

And isn’t that really all we want from a Die Hard movie? I don’t want to try to judge its place in the series’ pantheon, as I think it’s too early. I’ve seen the other three many, many times, while this was only my second screening of Free. That said, I do like the flick and think it stands as a worth entry in the series.

Note that this DVD presents an unrated cut of Live Free or Die Hard. The theatrical “PG-13” version actually runs five seconds longer than the unrated one. What changes occur? I would guess the violence is a little more graphic in the unrated cut, and I know that it sports more profanity. While only one “F-bomb” pops up in the “PG-13” take – and barely qualifies, as the signature line never quite finishes - McClane spews plenty of his favorite term in the unrated one. This doesn’t substantially change the experience - Free works just fine in its “PG-13” edition – but I do think the more profane version feels more like a Die Hard flick, so it’s the preferred cut.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A-/ Bonus B+

Live Free or Die Hard appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Free presented a strong picture.

Sharpness seemed immaculate. I never noticed any signs of softness or fuzziness. Instead, the movie looked nicely crisp and detailed at all times. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and only a smidgen of edge enhancement seemed apparent on rare occasions. I noticed no signs of print flaws, as the image looked clean.

Free presented a highly stylized palette. Most of the movie leaned toward a metallic blue tint, with a few quiet greens and ambers thrown in as well. At no point did the film offer tones that seemed remotely natural. However, the DVD replicated them accurately, as its hues represented the flick’s design well. As for the dark elements, they were deep and dense. I thought blacks seemed nicely replicated and presented clear, taut textures. Low-light shots came across extremely well. They looked very well-defined and delineated and made the movie quite attractive. Free gave us a fine transfer.

Similar praise greeted the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Live Free or Die Hard. As I expect from an action picture, the soundfield offered a lot of activity throughout the film. Guns, vehicles, explosions and other connected elements zipped all around the room in lively but natural manner. The elements formed a fine sense of setting and immersed us in the action. Music showed good stereo presence as well, and even used the surrounds at times. The soundfield seemed broad and engaging.

No issues with audio quality materialized. Despite a lot of looping, speech was natural and concise, with no edginess or other concerns. Music sounded dynamic and full, while effects followed suit. Those elements were accurate and impressive, with crisp highs and rich lows. All in all, the audio proved to be very satisfying.

For this two-disc release of Live Free or Die Hard, we get a mix of extras. On DVD One, we begin with an audio commentary from director Len Wiseman, actor Bruce Willis and editor Nicolas De Toth. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. The track starts with a discussion of ratings issues and then progresses through story, script and characters, stunts and action, cast and performances, sets and locations, editing and cut/altered scenes, and a few other production areas.

The prime problem that mars this track comes from dead air. Especially in the movie’s first act, we get an awful lot of gaps between comments. This does improve as it progresses, though, and the track eventually becomes reasonably informative. It gets into nuts and bolts issues in a satisfying way and throws out enough fun stories from the shoot to become enjoyable. At no point does it threaten to turn into a great commentary, but it delivers enough goods to merit a listen.

With that, we head to DVD Two and start with a documentary called Analog Hero in a Digital World: The Making of Live Free or Die Hard. The show runs one hour, 37 minutes and 15 seconds as it meshes movie clips, shots from the production, and interviews. We hear from Wiseman, Willis, De Toth, stunt coordinator Brad Martin, production designer Patrick Tatopoulis, visual effects supervisor Patrick McClung, special effects coordinator Michael Meinardus, visual effects producer Joe Conmy, special effects general foreman Anthony Simonaitis, digital intermediate producer Des Carey, director of photography Simon Duggan, digital intermediate colorist Siggy Ferstl, sound recording mixer Anna Behlmer, sound re-recording mixer Andy Nelson, sound designer Cameron Frankley, composer Marco Beltrami, and actors Maggie Q, Kevin Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Timothy Olyphant, and Justin Long.

Across its 11 parts, we start with some reflections on the original Die Hard and what drew various participants to Free. From there we learn about the new take on the franchise and what different folks brought to it, script, story and characters, cast and performances, production design, stunts and action, editing and effects, digital intermediate work, audio and score.

Though “Hero” feels fairly dry much of the time, it does manage to capture the various aspects of the production. Actually, it starts a little slowly, as the first few chapters don’t seem particularly involving, but it picks up after that. “Hero” gives us a good nuts and bolts view of production specifics.

Next comes a featurette entitled Yippee Ki Yay Motherf*****! It runs 22 minutes, 39 seconds and presents a chat between Willis and Smith. Willis talks about his reticence to do another Die Hard and related concerns. He also gets into reflections on the Die Hard series and other aspects of his career, and thoughts about Free.

Smith acts as interviewer here and shows his usual openness. That makes him a good person to talk to Willis, as he asks the kinds of questions we’d like to hear. Oh, there’s still some smoke blowing, so don’t expect a hard-hitting conversation. However, it’s still pretty low on fluff and a lot more honest than usual. Smith helps make this an enjoyable chat.

Two elements relate to a song in the flick. We find a music video for “Die Hard” by Guyz Nite. The pop-punk styled song uses its lyrics to recap all four movies while we watch scenes from them. The tune is moderately clever, but the video is a dull dud.

Connected to the video, Behind the Scenes with Guyz Nite goes for five minutes, 47 seconds. If they made an unsubtle version of Spinal Tap, they’d call it Guyz Nite. A band meant to spoof various rock excesses, they’re not nearly as funny as they think they are. Even the notes about “Die Hard” come in a comedic vein, so don’t expect anything interesting here.

Another featurette lasts six minutes, 19 seconds. In Fox Movie Channel Presents Fox Legacy, Fox’s Tom Rothman talks about Willis’s casting, the choice of the Nakatomi Plaza location, the series' impact, and aspects of Free. Rothman throws out a few decent notes, but the promotional side of things dominates.

Lastly, we get a few Trailers. We get the theatrical ad for Free as well as clips for Mr. Brooks, 24 Season 6, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and The Last of the Mohicans.

Many groaned when Fox announced a fourth Die Hard film – especially given the 12-year gap since the last one. Happily, Live Free or Die Hard managed to suppress most of those groans, as it provided an erratic but usually exciting and enjoyable adventure. The DVD offers excellent picture and audio along with a few solid extras. This is a quality release that earns my recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6 Stars Number of Votes: 20
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