Tag Archives: little bits of movies

Ready To Feel Ancient? The Matrix Is Twenty Years Old

Originally released on the 31st of March way back in the space year of 1999. The Matrix was the brainchild of Andy and Larry Wachowski the then Wachowski brothers… that’s a whole other article in itself. The Matrix changed cinema for years with it’s groundbreaking effects work. But it was not a film that was all looks an no substance, The Matrix is a flick that can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Just watch it as a kick-ass action romp and enjoy it on that level – or delve into its more philosophical elements and how it questions reality and existence.

I still remember the day I went to the cinema to watch the film. You have to bear in mind that we are talking about a film made by relatively unknowns. This was only the Wachowski brothers (yes I know, but at the time they were brothers) second film after the taught and incredibly sexy and stylish thriller Bound from 1996. Bound was very much an underground hit. It had it’s fans (I’m one) but it was hardly Hollywood blockbuster material – so expectations were low for The Matrix. Then there were the stars like Laurence Fishburne who now is instantly recognisable, but back in 1999? He was known as that guy from the Tina Turner biopic or Max from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Carrie-Anne Moss, aside from some bit-parts in T.V. shows, she was unknown and The Matrix was her big breakthrough. Hugo Weaving was perhaps even more unknown than anyone else in the main cast unless you were Australian. Joe Pantoliano had already had a steady acting carer by the time 1999 came around mainly playing bit-parts and character roles. He starred in the previously mentioned Bound… and that’s about all he would’ve been known for back then unless you were a die hard Goonies fan.

Plus it was a time when the internet was still till in its infancy, we didn’t have super-fast fibre optic broadband to watch trailers with, no social networks to spread the word, no smartphones to catch up on movie news on the go… it was a very different time.

The Matrix Cast

Oh and there was some guy by the name of Keanu Reeves. Yeah a household name now but not back in 1999, he was really only known for comedy rolls like the Bill & Ted films and small indie films. I guess the action flick Speed could be seen as his foot in the door of action cinema but he was still hardly known as an action film star afterwards in the same way he is today. It’s not as if Speed was to Keanu what Die Hard was to Bruce Willis. So really with The Matrix you had writer/directors not really know for anything with a cast of actors no one really cared about. It was not an easy film to see any merit in.

So yeah, quite honestly I had zero interest in the film. My brother called me up and asked if I wanted to go to the cinema – I had nothing going on so said yes. Didn’t see any trailers, paid no attention to who was in the film or who made it. Had no idea what I was going to watch just went along because I was bored and had nothing else to do. I went into the film 100% blind. But when I came out of that cinema? The first thought that went though my head was that must have been what it was like to have seen Star Wars at the cinema for the first time back in 1977. I felt that The Matrix was a game changer as if cinema had just taken several jumps forward not just in terms of effects work but also storytelling. I just knew then and there that The Matrix was something special, that people would still be talking about it decades later… twenty years later and here I am.

The Matrix Pills

But the big question is, two decades later, does The Matrix hold up? We live in an age where films date quickly. I’ve certainly seen films in the last decade or so that feel old only months after release. Yet some films are timeless no matter when they were made – The Matrix is one of them. Aside from some of the questionable technobabble and dated references/technology (remember when everyone wanted one of those Nokia flick phones?). The effects are still impressive, bullet time may not hold the impact it did when you first saw it, but it still looks good and just as satisfying as ever. The fight sequences are as exciting as they were back in 1999. Shoot outs are heart-pumping, that lobby scene is still one of the best shoot outs ever caught on film. As an action picture, The Matrix delivers. But it’s not just the impressive action sequences and still amazing effects work that hold up after twenty years. It’s the writing, the storytelling. It’s when you really get into the deeper aspects of The Matrix when the film comes to life.

The basic of good vs evil, human vs machine is nothing special I admit and yes the whole fulfilling a prophecy, being ‘the One’ shtick got tiresome. The love thing between Neo and Trinity was trite. Yet it’s the questioning reality, self-existence and everything that comes with it where the story excels. The multi-layered and textured story telling is fascinating and I love getting lost in the questioning of reality, the two worlds shown in the film – the simulation that is The Matrix and the real world of a desolate future where humans are dying out compliment each other perfectly. When Joe Pantoliano’s Cypher wants out of the real world by betraying his crew mates and when he is offered to be reinserted into The Matrix with a whole new life. The line “ignorance is bliss” he says speaks volumes. Seriously, given the choice of living in on a dead planet being hunted by machines, fighting a war that seemingly has no end or living in ignorance inside The Matrix is a tough call. I can’t be the only person who has often wondered if there is something better out there, something other than the life we believe is all we have?

The Matrix Gun

I’m going off on bit of a tangent here, but I quite honestly could write lengthy articles just on how deep The Matrix goes.  I don’t mean to get into questioning one’s own existence but just to look back at The Matrix after two decades and see if it still holds up. It does, very much so. Having just re-watched the film for the first time in a good few years – I still found it thoroughly entertaining. As I said earlier, it’s a film you can watch on so many levels. Yes it’s a great action flick, but it also asks and addresses much deeper themes and ideas if you really look beyond what is shown on the screen.

I’m not a fan of DVD commentaries, I find it’s usually full of nothing but overpaid people inflating their own egos by making themselves sound like cinematic geniuses. But the commentary for The Matrix is very different and highly unique. Instead of having the Wachowskis harp on about how creative and insightful they are, they decided not to do the commentary themselves. Instead what you get are two commentary tracks. One is from two film critics that didn’t like the film, while the other is from two philosophers who did. The two commentary tracks are amazingly interesting and show how one can perceive the film from two very different standpoints. The critics are negative but bring up several interesting flaws (some stupid ones too). While the philosophers, understandably get deeper into the subtleties of the story. Their polar opposite views really are interesting to hear and yet they really work together. Well worth checking out. I came out with a very different view of The Matrix after listening to the two commentary tracks.

The Matrix Kung Fu.gif

The Matrix is my generation’s Star Wars. Even two decades since it’s release, there just hasn’t been anything like it… plenty of imitators that have tired to delve into the depth The Matrix offers, countless flicks doing similar/same effects work – and yet none of them have managed to capture what made The Matrix so special, not even it’s own sequels and spin-offs.

It’s a film that is still talked about twenty years after it’s release and will probably still be talked about in another twenty, and still relevant in today’s cinema. Even films coming out soon like to throw in a The Matrix reference now and then, it seems even Keanu Reeves himself can’t escape them…

 

“Unfortunately, no one can be told what The Matrix is. You’ll have to see it for yourself.”

 

– Morpheus

Advertisements

Will Avengers: Endgame Do A Bobby Ewing?

SPOILERS ahead for Avengers: Infinity War.

It’s been a long time coming. What Marvel Studios have crafted with their shared universe is nothing short of genius. Whether you like the films or not, you can’t help but admire the sheer amount of planning, writing and overall work put into it. From separate flicks to interconnected ones and sequels. Films from so many different writers and directors all coming together to form one huge multi-layered universe. In short, it’s really bloody impressive. And everything has been leading up to to this one movie – Avengers: Endgame will see the resolve to the whole Infinity Stones/Thanos story arch that begun a decade ago and after last year’s Avengers: Infinity War which left many people with their jaws on the floor –  shit needs sorting out.

Infinity War Thanos

A lot of characters died in the last film… a lot. Some of them a shock, some of them no so much when you already know Marvel have planned films in advance… I’m looking at you Spider-Man. Still, the ending to Avengers: Infinity War has left a lot of fans theorising over exactly how the whole Thanos killing half the population of the entire universe is going to be resolved and how the many dead characters will return. And it’s one the most popular theories that is leaving me worried about Avengers: Endgame.

See this theory (click here for a full explanation) revolves around how and why Peter Parker is wearing the normal Spider-Man suit in the Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer when the film is set after the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. Because Tony Stark gave Peter the Iron Spider suit which is far more advanced… so why isn’t Peter wearing the better suit?

Well the theory goes that what is left of the Avengers will somehow reverse time (possibly something to do with the Quantum Realm/Ant-Man and Captain Marvel) to an earlier point and stop Thanos or at least stop him from collecting the Gauntlet/Infinity Stones to begin with. No Thanos means no Infinity Gauntlet, no Infinity Stones, no clicky finger thing = no 50% of the universe are wiped out. Which also means Stark never needs to give Parker the Iron Spider suit… ergo, that’s why he does not have it in the new Spider-Man film. That’s the theory anyway.

Infinity War Iron Spider

You want to hear my theory? Well Peter Parker goes on an international school trip in Spider-Man: Far From Home, an international trip that involves going on an aeroplane. Which also means going though airports and airport security. Now, which do you think would be the easier of the suits to get through airport security? The normal Spider-Man suit or the Iron Spider one? Another theory could be he does have the Iron Spider suit, but you just don’t see it in the trailer but it will be in the film. 

Of course there is one thing my theory does not explain… how the fuck is Peter Parker alive anyway when he most definitely was turned to dust by Thanos’ clicky finger thing? See this is where the turning back time thing holds some water. Again, Spider-Man: Far From Home takes place AFTER the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame and Spider-Man be dead at the end of Infinity War, but now he’s alive after these events?

Infinity War I dont feel so good

So let’s just say that yes they do turn back time and yes they do stop Thanos from collecting the Infinity Gauntlet/Stones (theory). So now everyone that died in Avengers: Infinity War can come back from the dead for (some of) Avengers: Endgame and subsequent films. I have a major issue with this because its lazy just writing. You can’t just hit the reset button after ten years of building to this entire event. All these flicks, all these characters, all these interweaving stories and plots… and they are just going to Booby Ewing it? Everything has been simmering away for a decade to reach this boiling point while Marvel have been carefully pre-planning each and every movie years in advance… only to say: “You know that whole Thanos murdering half of the population of the universe thing? Well it didn’t happen, in fact a lot of the events you have been emotionally invested in the last ten years didn’t happen… okay so technically they did but now we’re going to delete it so they didn’t.”

No, just no. You can’t do that to people who have invested hours up on hours into your movies – not to mention the cash fans have spent supporting this story line. It would be such a slap in the face if (IF) the time travel/stopping Thanos thing was the plot for Avengers: Endgame. Not just for the fans either as it’ll be cheating the characters in the film if they don’t have to deal with the repercussions of everything that happened in Avengers: Infinity War. Again, this is just a fan theory, maybe there will be no time travel at all? I hope not.

Still, I guess we’ll find out in a little over a month’s time when the film is released…

Bobby Ewing

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving Neverland… Controversial?

I’m a bit of a Michael Jackson fan, I’m not one of those die hard, won’t listen to reason, he definitely didn’t do it types. In all honesty, I’m more inclined to believe he was a paedophile than not believe it. However, I don’t have any strong feelings or opinions either way. There’s too much time past to actually prove anything and I don’t think anyone will ever know the truth. But let’s just say that (for the sake of argument) it was 100% proven that he did sexually abuse children… I wouldn’t be surprised. That’s pretty much my stance on the whole thing.

MJ Bad

I grew up listening to his music and in my opinion, Bad was his last great album. After that, I think he lost his way musically and that’s when I lost interest in him, he got too ‘preachy’ in his music after Bad. So when the first wave of allegations came around in 1993 – I just didn’t really care that much and I’ve showed little interest since then with any other allegations made after those first ones.

Which brings me to this documentary that’s dividing opinions. Some say this documentary is full of shit, others think it’s a damning indictment that proves MJ’s guilt. Honestly, I really had no desire to watch it. As I said, I lost interest a long time ago. But watch it I have, we’ll the first half anyway. I didn’t watch it to form an opinion on the subject, I watched it due to the backlash that had come about due to its existence…

So far radio stations are refusing to play MJ’s music. The Simpsons producers have pulled the episode he featured in. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis has removed all of it’s MJ memorabilia. Louis Vuitton has removed it’s MJ themed clothing from sale. As for MJ’s family/estate themselves… well let’s just say they’re not impressed. It seems this documentary has ruffled a lot of feathers. That’s why I watched because I’m trying to understand the effect the documentary is having. I mean, for big name brands pulling support and radio stations not playing his music and so on… there’s got to be something in the documentary that’s pretty concrete at proving MJ’s guilt… right?

So yeah, I went into this pretty much sitting on the fence. But maybe just leaning slightly in the he’s guilty camp, but as I said before – I don’t really have any strong feelings one way or the other.

Just a quick catch-up. Leaving Neverland is a four hour, two part documentary where Wade Robson and James Safechuck claim MJ sexually abused them when they were kids. They sit there telling their stories to the camera inter-cut with home video footage of these now grown men as kids along with MJ concert footage, etc.

Leaving Neverland Accusers

That’s all the documentary really is, just two grown men telling a story. Sometimes the families of the accusers chip in with a few comments, but it’s mainly just Wade Robson and James Safechuck telling of their relationships with MJ and how he sexually abused them over the years. This is where I have a big problem with this documentary as that’s it… just two guys telling a story. There’s zero evidence, zero proof of anything and just a case of ‘He Said, She Said’. The way both of them talk just feels disingenuous, it’s like they are reading off a script and not from the heart, as if they’ve practised and rehearsed each and every word and what you are watching is the best take of the day. Now I’m not saying that these guys and their families are lying… just that it feels ‘off’ and lacks genuine emotion.

As I said, this is a four hour, two part documentary split into two separate two hour parts and the first time any sexual abuse comes to light is around 40 minutes into the first part when James Safechuck claims MJ introduced him to masturbation. Then he goes on this soliloquy of quite unconvincing claims of various times he was sexually abused by MJ. There’s a part where Safechuck just lists rooms in the Neverland ranch and says “we had sex there” after each one. It all comes across as just being very “scripted”. I watch a few documentaries covering all sorts of subjects and I note how people often break down when they recount events from their past that have traumatised them. Here, there’s none of that. It’s really just two guys telling a story. A very emotionless and banal story. It’s a documentary with a lot of filler and not real meat to the stories being told. No need for this to be two hours long when what is told could’ve been told in 30-40 minutes.

The end of the first part just boils down to how Wade Robson became jealous when MJ befriended Macaulay Culkin (who for the record has always said MJ never abused him). That’s what this documentary comes across as, two now grown men jealous that MJ found other friends when they were kids.

If I went into this having no strong opinion but leaning more toward believing that MJ was guilty, then after watching this documentary… I not convinced of anything – innocence or guilt. Leaving Neverland has done nothing to sway me. This is why I’m not understanding the backlash the documentary is having. I don’t get why The Simpsons have pulled the MJ episode or why radio stations refuse to play his music and so on. Why are MJ’s family getting so upset when the documentary is so unconvincing? Because there is nothing here but hearsay. It’s a bad documentary that does nothing (in my eyes) to prove anything.

MJ Simpsons

As I said, I’ve only watched the first part. Maybe the real damning evidence is in the second part? Maybe that is where the meat and reasoning for this whole backlash, for the pulling of The Simpsons episode and everything else lies? The first part is two hours of sheer boredom and unconvincing stories and I just can not fathom the fallout the documentary is creating.

I’m going to watch the second part now and see if that can change my mind and help me understand why this documentary is so controversial.

Dick Miller, One Of Hollywood’s Greatest Character Actors.

I don’t have time to do a full and detailed look at the life of the recently deceased Dick Miller as I’m fully immersed in writing my novel right now. But I just had to do this, a quick remembrance from me to one of my all time favourite character actors who recently died aged 90. So I apologise in advance for the lack of material in this one, Mr Miller deserves so much better.

Dick Miller Young.png

Many people may not recognise the name, but the face is a different matter. Everyone has seen a film with Dick Miller in it… everyone. He started his career back in the 1950s with low budget horror flicks like It Conquered the World, Not of This Earth and A Bucket of Blood directed by schlock master Roger Corman. Dick also appeared in the original film version of The Little Shop of Horrors as well as turning up in The Dirty Dozen in the 60s. His career has spanned from the 1950s right up to 2018. He never really made a leading man but would always pop up in smaller roles in some of my most favourite moves ever, The Terminator, Gremlins – he even turned up in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. He would often play a character called Walter Paisley or same variation of the name, which started back in the Roger Corman days.

dickmillerterminator

Outside of his move career, Dick also had a good few strong T.V. appearances. Shows like The Flash (original version not the new one), Tales From The Crypt, Eerie – Indiana, Fame and Star Trek: The Next Generation to name just a few. As well as doing voice acting in animated movies, T.V. shows and even video games. He was a very busy man.

Dick Miller was one of the most recognisable faces in movies and T.V. even if the name didn’t ring a bell. He will be sadly missed. Dick passed away on 30th of January, 2019 aged 90.

It’s funny, looking at a picture that’s 50 years old and seeing that it hasn’t lost any of the… what’s the word? Magic, they had magic. They were cheap. They were inexpensive to make, but they’ve held up for 50 years.

– Dick Miller

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

So I fucking love the T.V. show Black Mirror, I even did a write up of every episode from the first four seasons. A quick synopsis for those who do not know what Black Mirror is.

The show is an anthology T.V. series that uses technology as it’s backbone. Each episode is self contained and yet they all take place in one unique shared universe. These are dark and depressing tales often with a sting in the tail. Black Mirror is the brainchild of acerbic and satirical writer, Charlie Brooker. If you like miserable and dreary stories – then Black Mirror is perfect for you.

Season five is set to be released late this year and it had already begun filming last year. But it was pushed back from an earlier release due to something else. That something was Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. This is a special one-off episode.

This particular tale is one set in 1984 and tells of a young gaming programmer, Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead) who comes up with and sells the idea of a video game that gives the player freedom of choice. The game is based on one of those amazing choose your own adventure books called Bandersnatch by writer Jerome F. Davies (Jeff Minter – legendary game designer). While writing the book, Jerome went mad and killed his wife.

Black Mirror Bandersnatch Stefan

Stefan sells the idea to game publisher, Tuckersoft. But as Stefan delves deeper into the book and his game, things begin to unravel and history tends to repeat itself…

So this special episode is different to any other Black Mirror episode that has gone before it. You see, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is interactive. You get to make decisions for Stefan at certain points in the story and those decisions will shape the way the episode plays out. Some choices are very mundane from choosing which breakfast cereal to eat or what music to play (mundane, but still have an effect) to much bigger and important choices that will lead to one of numerous endings the episode has.

Black Mirror Bandersnatch Music Choice.png

It has been said that there are five “proper” endings to the episode, but then there are so many branches you can take that lead to other parts that could be considered endings that even creator Charlie Brooker himself has said he’s not sure just how many there really are and everyone involved in the episode can’t agree on what constitutes as an ending, it has even been said that there are so many possible outcomes that some scenes may never be seen.

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch aired on Netflix only a few days back on the 28th December last year. Yet fans have already been scouring the episode and creating flowcharts and maps to find each and every possible outcome. The view time can vary from 40 odd minutes to a couple of hours depending on your choices and around six hours of footage was filmed to be included for each path. I’ve been (I guess) “playing” this episode for a couple of days and seen a fair bit of it and various endings… but not all of them. But is it any good?

I grew up in the late 70s through the early 80s as an avid gamer, I remember and read a load of those chose your own adventure books back then too. And I really do love Black Mirror –  so this episode is seemingly tailor made for me. It’s like an amalgamation of many things I have a strong passion for.

Black Mirror Bandersnatch

The setting is amazing, the nods and references to 80s gaming and the decade in general is stunning and I broke out a nerd smile more than once throughout this episode. So many childhood memories wonderfully recreated through Black Mirror, the attention to detail is exquisite. Even the name Bandersntach is one that is carefully chosen as it references to a major misstep by one of the most influential British gaming publishers of the 80s (one of many subjects covered in my up coming book). There are great Philip K. Dick references, fourth wall breaks, self-referential writing and all sorts going on here. In that regard, I really loved this episode. I got so much enjoyment from just finding little Easter eggs and references, little sparks that kick-started memories from me growing up.

But as an episode of Black Mirror? It’s definitely one of the lesser ones. There’s no such thing as a bad episode of the show – but there are disappointing ones and this is one of them. The story is just a bit too bland for me and the characters not as well written as in previous episodes. The whole choice thing got tedious for me and I quite honestly just got bored of it all. I “played” though the episode four times, each time making different choices and I can’t really say I enjoyed any of them. There’s an element of Groundhog Day with you “resetting” back to a point and trying again, so be prepared to see the same scenes over and over and over again as you can’t skip them even if you’ve already seen it. A lot of the choices are so mundane they may as well not be there and there’s a lot of filler thrown in to pad out this illusion of choice thing.

Black Mirror Bandersnatch Netflix Choice

There are some nice moments that made me smile, like Stefan realising someone (you) is controlling him and you can respond by telling him you are watching Netflix… which didn’t exist in 1984 when this episode is set. There are some fantastic gaming related choices that will mirror the game Stefan is creating and there are more than a handful of nods to previous Black Mirror episodes. It all gets very meta at some points (including one of the endings) and I love when writers do stuff like this. Brooker’s talent as a writer really does shine in some elements of this episode. But quite honestly, I’d have much preferred just having a “normal” episode without the choice thing with Brooker still doing all his fourth wall breaking and references.

But the story just doesn’t really do anything or go anywhere as it gets lost in it’s own gimmick. There’s no real hook, no punch as with other episodes. Give me White Bear, The National Anthem, White Christmas, Shut Up And Dance, Metalhead, Hated In The Nation or one of the other fantastic Black Mirror episodes in this format and it could’ve been something truly amazing. What you have here is a rather uninspired story that lacks the depth and whole Black Mirror ethos.

There’s a lot to find in the episode including an actual game you can play on a ZX Spectrum (you can play it another way too if you don’t have a ZX Spectrum handy) hidden away in one of the episodes. The game is Nohzdyve and it appears in the episode itself, the name of the game is also a reference to a previous Black Mirror episode too. It’s like an Easter egg inside and Easter egg. If you want to find it an even attempt to play it click here.

All in all, it’s a gimmick and one I just quickly got bored of to be honest. As I said, I “played” though the episode four times and I don’t see myself revisiting it to see the rest of the footage I missed. I saw one ending twice and the other two were just sight variations of each other. I’m really not all that bothered about seeing the rest, but I think I might enjoy it more if someone did and edit of the episode that just played out like a normal one with a defined start, middle and end.

To be completely fair, you can kind of watch it like that as you don’t have to chose anything and just let the episode pay out as is. It will select a choice for you and you’ll see a lot more scenes. But the episode will keep jumping back in time to a previous choice and select the other one to see the alternate path… it all gets a bit tedious as you watch and re-watch the same scenes over and over. As I said, I’d rather just see an edited version without the choices telling an A to Z story.

Black Mirror Bandersnatch Reference.png

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is a great idea, in places it’s brilliantly written too. But my enjoyment came from the 80s setting, the references, the nods to previous episodes, etc and not the whole interactivity thing – which I grew tired of. The story itself is one of the lesser ones in the Black Mirror library of tales. Maybe check it out for curiosity sake if you have a Netflix account, you might get a few hours of enjoyment from it.

It’s a nice little addition to whet the appetite while we wait for season five to come around. But not something I think will be revisiting.

The End Of Little Bits?

So I’m starting New Year with a possible goodbye, or at least an au revoir.

I’ve been writing this blog for a while now and enjoyed it immensely. I’m eternally grateful to anyone who has been following/reading and surprised I still get new folk following on a weekly basis.

But things are changing here at WordPress who host this platform… money things. See, I pay a subscription every year to keep this blog going and WordPress are changing what you get for your money. Basically they want me to pay the same amount but are removing features I currently get with the package I pay for – to then charge extra for those features. And after some thinking, I don’t believe what they now want me to pay to keep this site with the same features is ultimately worth it.

Money.jpg

It’s not just the WordPress greed that is forcing my hand though. Maybe the planets have just aligned at the right time? See, this blog has always been just a fun hobby for me – I didn’t expect one follower, never mind the amount I do have. 2018 saw more people reading my inane rants and views than ever before. But as I say, this was always just a hobby. My real passion lies with writing books.

Last year I shared my idea to write a book covering the best of British game developers & publishers. And by November, I’d finished the first draft of that book. I’m currently trying to sell the idea to get it published while I work on the second draft. Plus I’m two thirds the way through writing my first novel. A vigilante thriller that’s not as straight forward as it first seems. Then I’m currently writing my second short story collection as well as outlining future book ideas. Basically, I have a hell of a lot of writing ahead of me.

Old vintage typewriter

This is what I want to do – write. Last year I wrote more in those 12 months than I have the previous two years combined. So with WordPress wanting more money and my interests lying in my books – I’ve decided not to renew my current premium account when it expires on the 17th of April, 2019.

I do work full-time, have a 14 month old daughter, write books and with this blog too – I’m just spreading myself way too thin right now and something needs to be dropped.

Now this doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Little Bits of Gaming & Movies for good. I’m not going to delete the site and all my articles will still be available, plus I can still write on this blog as and when I want – I still have 20 draft articles I’ve not published. But the domain name will change as I’ll no longer be paying for it as well as some other behind the scenes stuff too that will limit my options when I drop the premium package and go the free route instead. I’ll be concentrating on my books through 2019 and this blog will just be a background thing I can dip into now and then. They’ll be fewer articles overall as I turn my attention to bigger things. But who knows what the future holds?

If my writing career kicks off, I’ll quit the day job and be a full-time writer. If that happens then I’ll have more money and more importantly, time to invest into my hobby of writing this blog. Maybe, just maybe if things work out, Little Bits of Gaming and Movies will be back bigger than ever with me able to really create something better. Maybe a whole new blog that binds my love for games, movies and my writing?

I definitely don’t want to completely close the door on this. I really do enjoy writing this blog but needs must and my dreams and aspirations lie elsewhere right now.

Thank you

But I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who’s followed me and to anyone who sits there reading my views and opinions from you folk who’ve been around for years to the ones who have only just begun following in the last few weeks or so.

Little Bits of Gaming and Movies will be hibernating for a while. Occasionally waking up with the odd article through the year, but mostly sleeping through 2019.

Die Hard Movie Retrospective

Throughout the year I’ve been celebrating 30 years since the original Die Hard was released. I’ve covered a non-existent plot-hole, taken a look at some Die Hard trivia, compared the film to the novel it was based on, looked at every Die Hard game released as well as some Die Hard rip-off movies and I have even offered my opinion on the age old query as to whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie or not. Plus I have had a few nods and references to Die Hard in numerous other articles I’ve written through 2018. Yet as this year draws to a close, there is one thing I have not yet done. I’ve not done a retrospective on the films themselves.

Well with 2018 in it’s last few days and 2019 just around the corner. I can’t really end this year long celebration of 30 years since the first film was released without taking in all the films can I? I took part in my annual tradition of watching Die Hard on Christmas Eve with a glass (or three) of Jack Daniels and I’ve watched the rest of the films between then and now to make my way through the entire franchise. So here it is, my Die Hard movie retrospective. So, come read my blog, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…

Die Hard

Die Hard

Released in mid July of 1988, directed by John McTiernan and written by Steven E. de Souza & Jeb Stuart. The film that catapulted the then relatively unknown Bruce Willis into super stardom and cemented him as one of the most recognisable action stars ever.

Die Hard tells the story of John McClane (Bruce Willis) who is an everyday cop from New York. McClane is in L.A. to meet up with his estranged wife Holly Gennero (Bonnie Bedelia) at a Christmas party held at her place of work, Nakatomi Plaza. McClane is very much a fish out of water and doesn’t mix too well with the suits of Holly’s workplace. After asking for a place to clean up, terrorists seize control of Nakatomi Plaza taking all party goers hostage along the way, all except McClane who manages to sneak away unnoticed.

The terrorists are lead by the charismatic Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) who makes the police and FBI run through the rule book – only his intentions are not exactly what the police are anticipating. As Gruber and his men unleash their plan, McClane finds himself fighting against the odds to save to hostages, his wife and even himself as all hell breaks loose.

Die Hard is an all time classic. It is a Christmas film? Yes, for me it is… but it’s also just a great picture regardless – Christmas or not. Bruce Willis is brilliant in the role and really shut a lot of naysayers up who doubted his ability to hold a film like this back in 1988 as a leading action star. John McClane became a genuine action icon after this film and went on to appear in all the sequels too. Bonnie Bedelia playing Holly is also a joy to watch, she’s a ballsy character who takes no shit from anyone, including the leader of the terrorists himself, Hans Gruber.

Hans Gruber

Speaking of which, Gruber is quite possibly one of the greatest on screen villains ever… if not THE greatest. Alan Rickman’s performance is nothing short of pure fried gold. Gruber is charming, smart and charismatic… but then he’s also ruthless and will let nothing get in the way of his plan. He’d be just as conformable talking to you about designer suits and articles from Forbes magazine as much as he would putting a bullet between your eyes. You’re not supposed to like bad guys in films, they are called bad guys for a reason. Yet, with Gruber, you can’t help but fall in love with him a bit. This was Rickman’s first movie roll after moving to America from England and I personally do not think he ever bettered it. This is Alan Rickman at his finest on screen.

Back in 88, Die Hard blew people away. You have to bear in mind that the 80s was a decade when action films were very cookie cutter, each one being hard to distinguish from the other. You had the big, muscle bound action hero who would take on an army of bad guys with a gun that never needed reloading while the hero would emerge from the battle with nothing more than a smudge of dirt on their face. McClane was nothing like that, he was just a guy and one who had to use his brain as much as his gun – a gun that would run out of bullets. The plot of Die Hard is easy to explain and yet it’s not exactly straight forward either. There are twists and turns as McClane learns why the terrorists have crashed the Christmas party. Even when you know what is going on, there are still little bumps and surprises along the way that make you try to second guess both McClane and Gruber’s next move in this dangerous game of cat & mouse.

Die Hard – Best Scene

Die Hard is a movie chock-full of action set pieces, to pick one great action scene from several great action scenes is not easy… so my favourite scene isn’t an action one at all. Mine is one much more grounded.

Die Hard Bathroom

It’s after McClane and Gruber meet face to face for the first time, after Rickman does his best American accent to pass himself off as a Nakatomi Plaza employee, after the whole “shoot the glass” bit that leaves the barefoot McClane running over broken glass in an attempt to escape. When McClane is sitting there in the bathroom pulling shards of glass from his bloody feet. He gets on the walkie-talkie to Sgt. Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) who has been supporting McClane since the shit hit the fan. McClane comes to a realisation, that there’s a good chance he’s not going to make it out of this alive. So he asks Powell to find his wife (“don’t ask me how by then you’ll know how.”) and he tells Powell, to relay a message to Holly… “Tell her that, um, she’s the best thing that ever happened to a bum like me. She’s heard me say “I love you” a thousand times. She never heard me say “I’m sorry.” I want you to tell her that, Al. Tell her that John said that he was sorry.”.

That scene is heartbreaking and for an action film, you just don’t see the hero break down like that. The hero in an 80s action film never doubted he would survive, he never asks someone to find his wife to tell her he said he’s sorry in the midst of the action. This is one of the major elements I love about the film – these human moments that show McClane as an everyday guy. The acting from Willis is top-notch too. Brilliant scene.

“I wanted this to be professional, efficient, adult, cooperative. Not a lot to ask. Alas, your Mr. Takagi did not see it that way… so he won’t be joining us for the rest of his life.”

– Hans Gruber

Die Hard 2: Die Harder

Die Hard 2

The massive success of the first film meant a sequel was a given. And 1990 saw the release of Die Hard 2: Die Harder. Reuniting several of the cast but with new director at the helm with Renny Harlin.

John McClane is back and on Christmas Eve, two years to the day after the Nakatomi Plaza incident, history repeats itself. McClane arrives at Washington Dulles International Airport to pick up Holly who is flying in from L.A. At the very start, McClane’s car gets impounded by the airport police and this is just the start of his troubles. While sitting at bar, he sees two people acting very suspiciously and decides to investigate. After getting involved in a shootout in the baggage area, McClane learns that one of the men he killed is an American soldier who was apparently already killed in action years earlier. Things just do not add up.

McClane soon discovers that ex-U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel William Stuart has taken over control of the airport along with his cohorts. Stuart wants to see the release of General Ramon Esperanza, a well known drug lord and dictator into his care. As Stuart and his henchmen do their best to disrupt the airport, McClane gets to work doing what he does best, taking out the terrorists while trying to save Holly who is still in a plane circling the airport and fast running out of fuel.

Die Hard 2 Meet

Die Hard 2: Die Harder is a very solid sequel. It’s familiar and yet fresh, it keeps very much to the staples that made the first film so damn good while also mixing thing up a bit along the way. The plot twists as it progresses and things are not as black & white as they first seem. It lacks the originality the first film has… but of course it does, its a sequel – but overall, it’s a damn good watch and for me, the best sequel in the franchise.

The cast, once more are great. Of course Bruce Willis as McClane is a joy to watch as is Bonnie Bedelia as Holly who is just as ballsy as she was in the first film. Then there is William Sadler as the main villain, Colonel Stuart. He’s no Alan Rickman, no Hans Gruber but a very enjoyable performance none the less.

The film kind of lacks that claustrophobic/enclosed setting of the original with McClane having the run of an entire airport – yet things are still restrictive. I mean, it’s not as if McClane could just walk out the front door leaning his wife stranded in the air waiting for the inevitable plane crash.

Die Hard 2: Die Harder – Best Scene

Kind of similar to the first film, my favourite scene is not one of the many action set-pieces. I’ve gone for one of the more human scenes that show McClane as just a guy. It’s after the Windsor flight 144 plane crash caused by Colonel Stuart. After McClane does all he can to try to prevent it, after he walks through the wreckage and sees a child’s stuffed toy. At that moment, he doesn’t know who’s plane it is, could’ve been his wife’s.

Die Hard 2 Windsor

It then cuts to McClane sitting there in the control room of the airport a silent, broken man. Just as with the first film, he feels useless. He did all he could and yet an entire plane full of people, including children are dead. There’s no awesome and well written line of dialogue. In fact, it’s quite the opposite and very quiet with hardly a word spoken. It’s just a man realising he is just a man and no matter what he does, it may not be enough.

“Just once, I’d like a regular, normal Christmas. Eggnog, a fuckin’ Christmas tree, a little turkey. But, no. I gotta crawl around in this motherfuckin’ tin can.”

– John McClane

Die Hard with a Vengeance

Die Hard with a Vengeance

There was a five year gap between sequels this time and 1995 saw the release of the third film in the franchise. Not only did Bruce Willis come back, but director of the original flick, John McTiernan also returned. So did the reunion create a film worthy of the original?

By now McClane and Holly are separated, she’s doing well in L.A. while he is still working as a cop in New York. When we first meet McClane in the film, he’s recovering from a hangover and on suspension from the force.  This is a John McClane on the edge with nothing no lose. Enter the mysterious Simon (Jeremy Irons) who blows up a department store in New York and specifically asks for McClane to try to stop him. Simon has McClane jumping through hoops and if he does not comply, Simon will blow up another location. While following Simon’s strict instructions, McClane crosses paths with Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson) an the two are dragged into the mad bomber’s dangerous game.

It’s latter revealed that Simon is the brother of Hans Gruber from the first film and it seems he is out for revenge over the death of his sibling who want’s McClane dead… or does he? As McClane and Carver are forced to run around New York stopping/defusing bombs, Gruber’s grand plan is revealed and it seems the apple does not fall far from the tree when it comes to the Grubers.

Die Hard with a Vengeance Simon

Okay, so I have a serious love/hate relationship with Die Hard with a Vengeance. Is it a good picture? Yes, it’s bloody entertaining. The flick literally opens up with an explosion and the action does not let up after that until the credits roll. The story is great and has twists and turns along the way. Is it a good Die Hard film though? Well that’s a more difficult question to answer. It’s got John McClane in it, it connects to the first film with the whole Gruber brother thing… but that’s about it really. They could have released this as a Bruce Willis flick with him playing a generic action hero and it would’ve worked either way.

The film just lacks something and I’m not really sure what that something is. There’s brilliant chemistry between Willis and Jackson, they honestly come across as a great coupling trough the film. The plot does a good job of not being too obvious and has some great twists. Irons is a fantastic bad guy and does feel like Hans Gruber’s brother.

But I think my main problem with the film is just how “convenient” everything is. In the first two flicks, you see and feel McClane having to work things out, you see the cogs in his head grind away. In this, things just happen and he just so happens to be in the right place at the right time. Gruber just so happens to plant the bomb in the same school Caver’s nephews attend (despite the fact Carver was never part of Gruber’s initial plan), McClane just so happens to find the most knowledgeable truck driver in the whole of New York who helps him solve a clue, The bit where McClane is shot out of the aqueduct via water pressure from an exploding bomb he couldn’t predict – and just so happens to be randomly shot out at the exact time and the exact place Carver just so happens to be driving past. Or what about the fact McClane’s buddy just so happened to use his badge number as lottery number picks and how one of the bad guys kills said buddy and takes his police badge to wear… then McClane just so happens to notice said police badge while in a tricky situation that clued him into the fact the guys he is with are the bad guys?

They could’ve called this one Die Hard with a Lot of Plot Convenience. There are other moments too where things just happen because the script says so and McClane has things work out very nicely for him along the way. Things like McClane having to be told who Simon really is, when I feel that is something he should have worked out for himself. Plus I feel this film marks the dumbing down, the decline of the franchise – something the next two sequel revel in.

Die Hard with a Vengeance – Best Scene

There is no genuine human moment in this film that shows McClane as the every day guy is. But perhaps my favourite scene is one where McClane is just being McClane.

Die Hard with a Vengeance Train.jpg

It’s just after the subway train crash via one of Gruber’s bombs. After Carver has the altercation with the rookie cop (“I have to answer this phone.”). All hell breaks loose as the bomb explodes, the subway train derails and swings out casing untold damage, people run for their lives as the subway car tips over onto it’s side and crashes to a halt and it looks like no one would’ve survived that. Then McClane just pulls himself out of the wreckage laughing to himself in disbelief over he fact he’s still alive. That laugh, that McClane laugh is just perfect and adds a nice light-hearted moment to an otherwise intense scene.

“Yeah, Zeus! As in, father of Apollo? Mt. Olympus? Don’t fuck with me or I’ll shove a lightning bolt up your ass? Zeus! You got a problem with that?”

– Zeus Carver

Live Free or Die Hard

Live Free or Die Hard

I was happy with just the three flicks, the previous one was okay and has it’s problems but still served as a satisfying end to the trilogy. But they just couldn’t leave it alone and McClane was brought back in 2007. This time directed by Len Wiseman.

McClane finds himself in Washington, D.C. with expert computer hacker Matt Farrell (Justin Long) in the midst of a major cyber attack headed up by Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) and his team of cyber terrorists. Gabriel aims to hack into government and commercial computers all over the U.S. and disable the nation’s infrastructure. Of course McClane and his new sidekick stop the bad guys.

This film has it’s fans… I’m not one of them. It’s just not Die Hard. It’s a very generic action film with none of the heart or charm of the previous ones. The plot is bland, the main villain is forgettable and McClane is just not McClane. He’s no longer the everyday cop fighting against the odds, he’s become an indestructible super hero. I mean going back to my favourite scene of the first film with McClane asking Powell to find his wife and apologise – it’s a fantastic scene that shows just how “human” he is. This film has McClane going up against a F-35B Lightning II fighter jet as a freeway crumbles around him… and winning. It’s just stupid, it’s a stupid film.

Live Free or Die Hard Jet

I said about Die Hard with a Vengeance that it marked the dumbing down and the decline of the franchise – but this film takes that to a whole new level.

Live Free or Die Hard – Best Scene

The ends credits, I could not wait for this film to end. Lets move on.

A Good Day to Die Hard

A Good Day to Die Hard

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse… it does. So he’s back once more, this time directed by John Moore and released in 2013. Oh dear…

So now McClane is in Russia where he meets up with his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney). the father and son team up to and find themselves entangled in a global terrorist plot… and I’m bored already.

The previous film was bad but it’s watchable – just barely. This is fucking atrocious. You can always tell when I really don’t like something as the paragraphs get shorter as I really don’t want to give the film any more attention.

A Good Day to Die Hard – Best Scene

There’s this really amazing scene near the end with McClane driving a truck out of the back of a helicopter. It’s a beautiful designed and shot scene that explores the depth and the McClane character… nah, utter bollocks. The film is shit with no best scene. Even the end credits aren’t worth it.

McClane

Old McClane

Well there’s yet more as the sixth film in the franchise is in production as I write this simply called McClane. To be directed by Len Wiseman who also directed Live Free or Die Hard. The plot isn’t fully known right now but it has been said this will be both a sequel and prequel in one film.

There will be present day scenes starring Bruce Willis playing an ageing John McClane, possibly retired? But the film will also flashback to New Year’s Eve 1979 and tell the story of young John McClane as a rookie cop in New York. Details are thin on the ground right now, there are no specific story details or even a release date yet.

To be honest, I’m not at all interested in this one. For me, the franchise died a long time ago. I have little interest in seeing an 60 year old John McClane and I have even less interest in seeing a 20-something version too. I’ll just stick to the first two films and depending on my mood, the third one. If I want to watch a young McClane, I’ll just re-watch Die Hard.


 

That’s me done for 2018 folks. Just want to say a big thanks to everyone who has been reading my scrawlings over the last 12 months. I do enjoy doing these articles and I hope you enjoy reading them.

New Year

Have a great New Years, whatever you get up to.

See you in 2019…maybe…