The "Die Hard" series is approaching it's 20th birthday in 2008 and what better way to celebrate that event than with the high def release of the "Die Hard" collection.
Die Hard Collection - Die Hard, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Die Hard: With a Vengeance, Live Free or Die Hard (1988-2007, Blu-ray)
Directors: John McTiernan (Die Hard, Die Hard: With a Vengeance), Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2), Len Wiseman (Live Free or Die Hard)
Features: * Commentaries * Documentaries * Featurettes * Trivia Track * Trailers * BD Java Game * Deleted Scenes * Alternate Ending * DTS-HD 5.1 Lossless Master Audio
Bruce Willis ... John McClane
Die Hard Collection Blu-ray Review
I remember a Saturday afternoon on which I watched all three "Die Hard" films with my parents. It was a great, gory, R-rated good time. I was probably fourteen or fifteen at the time. Whenever I watch the "Die Hard" films, I think back to that fun filled day.
The "Die Hard" franchise is great action series. It's full of fun characters, awesome action and one of the greatest heroes of modern cinema, perfectly played by Bruce Willis. Ever since the third entry was released many years ago, I've been chomping at the bit, waiting for Bruce Willis to step back into John McClane's shoes (if he has them). Finally, in 2007, he did, but it was a disappointment for me. Gone was the hard R-rating and much of what once made John McClane great. I did enjoy the film a bit more than "Die Hard 2", but it was a far cry from the original film and the second sequel, "Die Hard: With a Vengeance."
The "Die Hard" series is approaching it's twentieth birthday in 2008 and what better way to celebrate that event than with the high def release of the "Die Hard" collection.
This is the classic film of the bunch. It's inspired so many "Die Hard-on-a" movies, I can't even begin to think of all of them (Steven Seagal is in about half of them though). Bruce Willis captures the wayward spirit of the bruiser everyman that is John McClane and it's a marriage that has made Willis a star today. The movie is simple enough--a guy is trapped in a building with terrorists must fight his way out. But it's not the story that makes this film classic, but the characters and the interactions between hero and villain that make this film shine. It's a great union of popcorn, no-brainer action and thieving film noir. The film is aided by colorful supporting characters and a tense feeling of claustrophobia. If you haven't seen this film, go out today and buy it.
You can read Jay's DVD review of "Die Hard" here.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder
The second "Die Hard" outing does what a lot of sequels do--it takes the basic premise of the first, mirrors it but adds more gore and even more over-the-top action. The film is fine, but it doesn't quite mesh with the characters we saw in the original film. The film's biggest problem is that it neuters the character of John McClane almost from the beginning of the film. Willis still gets the job done once the action starts, but he's just too nice. It makes sense in the film, sort of, but it's just out of character for him and it's a flaw that's ratified in the third film. The villain is also boring and cliche. He rarely interacts with McClane and when he does, it's less than engaging to say the least.
Die Hard: With a Vengeance
Willis states in an interview on the "Live Free or Die Hard" disc, that he never really cared for the second or the third film. Well, Mr. Willis, I beg to differ. In many ways, "Die Hard: With a Vengeance" is the best "Die Hard" film. It's far more complex than the others and a lot of fun to watch. John McClane returns to his bruiser antics and the result is an uneven character teetering on the edge of insanity. What makes the third entry work is it's setting. Instead of just imitating the ideas from the first film, it evolves the plot threads into a new story altogether. This time McClane isn't isolated in a building. He's running from terrorists all over New York City. Some have argued that the film lost it's sense of claustrophobia, but in many ways, it's more prevalent here than in the second installment. Most of the action sequences (minus the car chases) take place indoors in very tight environments (the elevator shoot out, the train bomb and the aquaduct sequence immediately come to mind). Fans of the series have grown to love this entry and with good reason. Now if only Bruce Willis would give the third film a spin...
You can read George's review of "Die Hard: With a Vengeance" here.
Live Free or Die Hard
This is easily the most problematic "Die Hard" entry in the series, but it's also very entertaining--the film's sole saving grace. Willis seems to have forgotten what made McClane work and plays him like a caricature of what once was. The villain is boring as well, with Timothy Olyphant dialing in another wooden performance. And like "Die Hard 2", this film seems like a bigger version of it's predecessor, which is in the case, "Die Hard: With a Vengeance." The action isn't isolated to a building, though it remains claustrophobic and the stuntwork is of a much larger scale than the last entry. If only the film wouldn't have turned John McClane into an illogical superhero with almost superhuman powers. At one point, McClane jumps and lands, nearly bareback, onto the rear of a hovering jet only to leap, some 50 feet, off the jet onto to solid concrete, slide down it with a gassy fireball chasing after him and only walk away with a few scratches and a slight limp. Wouldn't the rear of the jet be fiery hot? Wouldn't McClane have broken something? His neck? His legs? Anything? That's the sort of illogical nature that the fourth entry wrestles with.
A note about the Unrated Version (only available on DVD): The same problems exist in this version that exist in the PG-13 version of the film. The film does add back in all of the f-words (roughly 30- 40) that got cut and a bit of additional CG blood and gore. It feels more organic with the franchise, but honestly, the material is a bit soft compared any of the previous "Die Hard" films and doesn't make the film any better, nor does it totally mesh with the comicbook style and tone of the film. Fans will be enormously disappointed to learn that the Blu-ray edition of the film does NOT contain the Unrated Version of the film. Hopefully Fox will revisit this title in the future and ratify that mistake.
You can read my original review of "Live Free or Die Hard" here.
Who knows if Detective John McClane will return for a fifth entry in the franchise, but like most fans, I'll be lined up, ready and waiting to see one of the greatest action heroes do what he does best yet again--kick ass.
This is a review of "The Die Hard Collection" on Blu-ray disc. All of these films are available in one slimline boxset and are also sold separately.
20th Century Fox presents all four films in glorious 2.40:1 widescreen and 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video on dual-layer BD50 discs.
The oldest and murkiest of the transfers, "Die Hard" has not aged very well over the past twenty years. It was shot with that muddy, cloudy stock that plagued most of mid-80s films. Sometimes the image is crystal clear with sharp contrast and great color detail. Other times, the print is cloudy and saturated, riddled with grain and edge halos. Compared to the latest DVD release of the film though, this transfer is much better.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder:
I expected that this film would look much better than the first seeing that it had a larger budget, but again, the transfer is inconsistent at best. Black levels are fairly solid but textures seem a bit muted and the film's overall palette is again very flat and murky. The film does have spots of occasional sharpness particularly during some of the snowier sequences, which looked terrible on DVD, but other sequences just lack the detail I've grown to love on high def.
Die Hard: With a Vengeance:
Now here's a film that just looked terrible on DVD. For some reason the DVD transfer was plagued by edge halos and other digital grain. Thankfully, most of those issues are completely gone with this transfer, making this one the best of the older films. Sharpness is much better and thanks to a lively city atmosphere, textures and colors are a much more vibrant. I thought the film looked a bit over-saturated at times though, but it looks about the same on my old DVD. Some edge halos still peak though, but they are hardly noticeable.
Live Free or Die Hard:
The newest film is easily the best of the series in terms of video quality. Director Len Wiseman annoyingly chose to go with his token monochromatic blue-toned style with this film which doesn't make it fit with the palette of the rest of the series, but this disc does a splendid job at preserving the overall look and style of the film. Black levels are consistent which is good as this is a very dark looking movie and color textures are spot-on. This is a great transfer, near reference, but I'm really getting sick of "tech" movies using the blue overtone style.
Fox presents each film in DTS HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio.
Again, the oldest of the bunch gets the weakest audio mix. Surrounds are well mixed, but some feel inorganic and tinty. Dialog is well placed, but the overall sound feels a bit over-mixed as though this wasn't organically a 5.1 mix and it differs very little from the DVD audio presentation.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder:
As with the video, again, "Die Hard 2" is not much better than it's predecessor despite being a much larger budgeted film. Surround placement is a bit more organic here though, but it sounds a bit too robust often drowning out the center during the more intense action sequences.
Die Hard: With a Vengeance:
Every time I got a new surround sound unit, I'd pop in the third "Die Hard" flick and give the first few minutes a listen, then I'd skip over to the scene in Harlem where a car passes from the rear channel to the front with a bumping stereo blasting the entire time. It was a great workout for all the channels. That same presentation is here, only it sounds better than ever. Everything is just a bit clearer, particularly the surrounds I speak of. This is a terrific mix and well worth going on your catalog title reference disc list.
Live Free or Die Hard:
Again, the newest flick provides the best presentation, but again, some odd, new sound effects (namely gun shots and punching sounds which had a token ring to them in the older films) make this one feel inorganic with the rest of the series. Regardless, this is hands down, the best presentation of this film I've seen. It actually manages to best the theatrical presentation. Placement is dead-on and very organic. The center channel is crystal clear and blends well with the surround effects, and there are plenty of them. If "With a Vengeance" is a reference catalog title, this is a reference new release for sure.
Most of the supplements from the expansive, but somewhat shallow two-disc releases are found here with the major deletions being on the first disc, "Die Hard."
While most of the supplements from the original DVD are ported over (in standard def), some of the cooler features are not. Gone are the editing suites, the essays and the extended cut of the film. My guess is that Fox is prepping a profile1.1 version of this film for it's 20th anniversary next year. But that's just a thought and not gospel.
What we do get are two audio commentaries, a text commentary, a stills gallery, trailers and the raw newscasts seen in the film. I found the two commentaries to be the best supplements on the disc as they offer up the most detail on the making of the film. But where's the retrospective documentary? You'd think Fox could have chalked something like that up with the recent release of the new film and members of the cast and crew wondering around the Fox lot.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder:
Again, all of the supplements from the old two-disc DVD set are found here. Thankfully, there are no deletions this time around and this set actually features some dated, but informative making-of material. The supplements include:an audio commentary, four featurettes, deleted scenes and trailers. Again, the commentary is most informative of the bunch, but the TV special covering the making of the film is also worth a watch. I found the deleted scenes to be pretty watchable, but needless to the film itself.
Die Hard: With a Vengeance:
Again, of the classic films, this one's got the most informative supplements of the bunch. I did, however, wish we could have seen some new supplements with Willis explaining what made this experience so rough for him as the supplements we see here, it looks like Willis is having a great time shooting this film. Perhaps his memory isn't what it used to be.
What we get with this set are: an audio commentary, several making-of featurettes and interviews, an alternate ending, trailers, a green screen comparison featurette and a storyboard sequence. The commentary is the best supplement again, but it was a delight to finally get to see the alternate ending. When I was young, I had read the novelization of this film before seeing it and was confused when the ending ended up being different. I do recall Willis discussing that he had a hard time ending the film are several versions of it were shot. Ultimately, the alternate ending is worth a look, but the theatrical ending is much more satisfying.
Live Free or Die Hard:
And again, Fox provides the best supplements for the new release, all presented in standard definition. First up, there's an audio commentary with director Len Wiseman, Bruce Willis and editor Nicholas de Toth. This is a lively track that shows off just how much these guys love this movie. At least someone does. Willis sort of annoyed me here as again, he slams the previous films and proclaims this one to be the best. This is a trend that will be strung through the entire disc.
Next up, we're treated to a fantastic documentary entitled, "Analog Cop in a Digital World." Running nearly 100 minutes, and split into several smaller featurettes and viewable separately or via a 'play all' function, this is quite a documentary. However, after watching, I actually liked the film less as I grew more and more annoyed by the sheer level of incompetence that director Wiseman displayed. It's not surprising that he was allegedly fired from the next two projects he was attached to after this one--this guy just didn't know what the hell he was doing and almost all of the creative choices I hated about the film shot right back to him, from set design to shooting style to music and how the character of John McClane acted. It really is a miracle that this film turned out as entertaining as it was.
After the documentary, give the Kevin Smith, Bruce Willis interview, "Yippie Ki-Yay, Mother******" a spin. It runs nearly thirty minutes and covers a variety of subjects, but again, be warned that Willis comes off a bit crass about the former sequels. I love how Willis talks about how sequels were just cranked out year after year and that "Die Hard" 2 and 3 were victims of that process, then Smith points out that "Die Hard 3" came out some six years after the first film proving that Willis' point was invalid. I did find Smith annoying here though as he's obviously pandering to the rants of old man Willis, not wishing to stir the water at all. As an interviewer, Smith is only fair, but he's no Jon Stewart.
Rounding out the set is a hilarious music video by Guyz Nite that's nearly worth the price of the disc alone, trailers and two quick featurettes, one that's essentially a commercial for the "Die Hard" films and the other's a featurette for the guys who made the music video. Skip both of them.
Finally, I must comment on the biggest deletion between this Blu-ray disc and the DVD. The DVD is presented in an Unrated Version, with the theatrical version as a branching supplement. Why this wasn't included here is just beyond me. Fox said that the Blu-ray release would have been delayed by a month or two if this supplement were to be included so the decision was made to bypass it. I say, wait that month or two, Fox. Why would Fox do such a thing? Fans want the Unrated Version and may not buy this edition because it's not here. The score for the extras would be an 'A' if the Unrated Version were here, but it's deletion costs this disc some major points.
Disappointingly, there's not much here for high def folks. All of the above special features are presented in standard definition, so there's not even that.
What we do get is a rather stiff, slow moving video game of sorts, developed by Kevin Smith that's attached to the fourth film. It's called "Black Hat Intercept!" and it's fairly amusing, but just doesn't work well on most players, expect the PS3. I would have loved trivia tracks or extended versions of the films, or even a retrospective documentary covering all four films.
HD Content: C-
The "Die Hard" legacy is riddled with ups and downs. The odd films tend to be better than the even ones, but even those aren't that bad. The Blu-ray presentation of the film's is somewhat stellar and somewhat disappointing, mirroring the up and down nature of the films. I can't shake the feeling that a more expansive Blu-ray double dip is in the cards for this boxset. If if isn't though, this is a great set to own, but fans might want to keep their two-disc set of the first film and pick up the Unrated Version of "Live Free or Die Hard" on DVD.
Blu-ray Collection Report Card:
An average of the set as a whole.
HD Content: D
Overall Value: B+
On Blu-ray disc: November 20th, 2007
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----R. L. Shaffer