Last month, the fifth film in the Die Hard franchise was released upon theaters. As the minutes of the run time clicked away, it became painfully clear that A Good Day to Die Hard didn’t actually feel like a Die Hard movie. Sure, it again starred Bruce Willis as John McClane, and indeed he was taking on a fresh crop of bad guys. However, from a fundamental story standpoint, it felt miles apart from the original film, and we don’t just mean that in the sense that it took place in Russia.
Then came the first trailer for Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen. In the movie, a lone secret service agent is the only one who can step in to save the president when The White House is besieged by terrorists. Every inch of that trailer would suggest that Olympus has Fallen is merely Die Hard in The White House. There’s even similar sounding dialogue that suggests similar villain misdirection; “who said anything about negotiating” versus, “who said we were terrorists?” This got us thinking about some of our favorite, and weirdest, instances of the Die Hard model being applied to other narrative setups.
Die Hard on a Bus: Speed
1994’s Speed is probably the most well-known of this lot of Die Hard rip-offs, but it’s also the one that boasts the most direct shared heritage. Jan de Bont made his directorial debut with Speed, after making a name for himself in Hollywood as a cinematographer on such films as Cujo, Ruthless People, and, oh that’s right… Die Hard. Interesting note: the airplane into which the bus crashes at the end of the movie is labeled Pacific Courier — the same company brandished on the side of the truck that brought the terrorists to the Nakatomi building in Die Hard.
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Die Hard at a Rock Concert: Command Performance
There is usually one scene in every Die Hard movie in which John McClane takes on someone much bigger than himself; keeping him relatable to the audience even as he establishes himself as an action hero. However, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone much larger than Dolph Lundgren, and yet he assumes the John McClane role for Command Performance. In the film, Lundgren plays the drummer of a rock band who happens to be performing in Russia when a group of kidnappers invade the concert. They are hoping to abduct the Russian president and his daughters who are there to see America’s number one pop star. The movie is totally absurd, but wildly entertaining despite itself. Not to be missed is the scene wherein Dolph takes down a foe with the sheer power of rock n' roll.
Die Hard on Ice: Sudden Death
Another of Willis’ Expendables 2 co-stars, Jean-Claude Van Damme, gets his chance at inhabiting his own John McClane-type character in 1995’s Sudden Death. Terrorists take hostages in the premier private suite during the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, and it’s up to one unfortunate ex-firefighter to save the day. The parallels to Die Hard here are evident even from the nosebleed seats, as is the fact that Sudden Death was originally written to be a comedy. There is actually a scene, played with deathly seriousness in the final cut, wherein Van Damme engages in a brutal altercation with a woman in a giant penguin costume.
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Die Hard at a Beauty Pageant: No Contest
As it turns out, ripping off Die Hard is an equal opportunity enterprise. In 1995’s No Contest, a Die Hard scenario breaks out at a beauty pageant, and it’s up to the hostess of the show — who, incidentally, is also a kick-boxer — to save the day. Adult film star Shannon Tweed stars as the stone in the collective shoe of the sinister gangsters who take the prospective beauty queens hostage. The gang is lead by none other than controversial standup comedian Andrew Dice Clay. One direct connection is the fact that Robert Davi, who played one of the two Agent Johnsons in Die Hard, appears in No Contestas, get this, an authority figure on the outside looking in.
Die Hard with a GPA: Toy Soldiers
You’re never too young to be yippee-ki-yay your way to action hero status. In 1991’s Toy Soldiers, a private boarding school, attended by the children of a number of prominent, wealthy citizens, is taken over by terrorists. A group of rambunctious young pranksters decide to put their skills to good use and make trouble for their uninvited guests. Sean Astin, Samwise Gamgee himself, stars as the leader of the collective teenaged McClane here. In this abridged clip, we see that part of Astin’s plan for foiling the terrorists even involves crawling through air ducts. Now, who else do we know who does that?
[Photo Credit: Film District]
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Last year director Garry Marshall hit upon a devilishly canny approach to the romantic comedy. A more polished refinement of Hal Needham’s experimental Cannonball Run method it called for assembling a gaggle of famous faces from across the demographic spectrum and pairing them with a shallow day-in-the-life narrative packed with gobs of gooey sentiment. A cynical strategy to be sure but one that paid handsome dividends: Valentine’s Day earned over $56 million in its opening weekend surpassing even the rosiest of forecasts. Buoyed by the success Marshall and his screenwriter Katherine Fugate hastily retreated to the bowels of Hades to apply their lucrative formula to another holiday historically steeped in romantic significance and New Year’s Eve was born.
Set in Manhattan on the last day of the year New Year’s Eve crams together a dozen or so canned scenarios into one bloated barely coherent mass of cliches. As before Marshall’s recruited an impressive ensemble of minions to do his unholy bidding including Oscar winners Hilary Swank Halle Berry and Robert De Niro the latter luxuriating in a role that didn’t require him to get out of bed. High School Musical’s Zac Efron is paired up with ‘80s icon Michelle Pfeiffer – giving teenage girls and their fathers something to bond over – while Glee’s Lea Michele meets cute with a pajama-clad Ashton Kutcher. There’s Katherine Heigl in a familiar jilted-fiance role Sarah Jessica Parker as a fretful single mom and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as the most laid-back cop in New York. Sofia Vergara and Hector Elizondo mine for cheap laughs with thick accents – his fake and hers real – and Jessica Biel and Josh Duhamel deftly mix beauty with blandness. Fans of awful music will delight in the sounds of Jon Bon Jovi straining against type to play a relevant pop musician.
The task of interweaving the various storylines is too great for Marshall and New Year’s Eve bears the distinct scent and stain of an editing-room bloodbath with plot holes so gaping that not even the brightest of celebrity smiles can obscure them. But that’s not the point – it never was. You should know better than to expect logic from a film that portrays 24-year-old Efron and 46-year-old Parker as brother-and-sister without bothering to explain how such an apparent scientific miracle might have come to pass. Marshall wagers that by the time the ball drops and the film’s last melodramatic sequence has ended prior transgressions will be absolved and moviegoers will be content to bask in New Year's Eve's artificial glow. The gambit worked for Valentine's Day; this time he may not be so fortunate.
Skewering the politics of the left--and Michael Moore in particular--is not a terrible idea for comedy but American Carol doesn’t do it very successfully. Using the hackneyed uninspired approach of spoofing Dickens’ A Christmas Carol director David Zucker’s version has the Ghosts of John F. Kennedy (Chriss Anglin) General George S. Patton (Kelsey Grammer) and George Washington (Jon Voight) visiting a liberal documentary filmmaker named Michael Malone (Kevin Farley) in order to set him straight and teach him not to hate America but to embrace it in all its glory. Their goal is to stop him from helping a group of Islamic suicide bombers make a new recruitment film. In a series of gags American Carol presents Malone as a man who uses the medium to bash his country. He is portrayed as sympathetic to Nazis and Hitler responsible for 9/11 in bed with Middle Eastern terrorists--wrong on every possible issue and overweight to boot. After pointing out all his perceived evil the ghosts try to get Moore er Malone to see the light and change his ways. Apparently David Zucker--aware most of Hollywood leans to the left--got a list of actors known to be supporters of the GOP and hired them all. Voight Grammer James Woods Kevin Sorbo Dennis Hopper Robert Davi ET’s Mary Hart country singer Trace Adkins and even Zucker veteran Leslie Nielsen signed up to bash Moore using a sledgehammer approach as a substitute for the lack of a clever script. Occasionally thanks to an inspired casting choice here and there Carol is kind of amusing such as in a scene in which Malone and Rosie O’Connell (get it?) guest on the O’Reilly Factor. With Bill O’Reilly playing himself (and doing it well) actress Vicki Browne really nails Rosie who is presented as so far left she makes Moore look like Ronald Reagan. As Malone Farley (younger brother of the late Chris Farley) looks reasonably like Moore but doesn’t really get the mannerisms right. It’s not enough to try and get by just by putting on a baseball cap and glasses and hoping for the best. Of the rest Grammer comes off well as Patton delivering his lines with a lot more panache than they deserve. You know what kind of movie you’re watching when even Gary Coleman and Paris Hilton turn up for a bit. Zucker--whose films Airplane! and the The Naked Gun series specialize in inspired sight gags--seems to have forgotten how to make this style of throw-it-to-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks style of comedy work. Surprisingly the jokes are mostly verbal in this outing and the whole comic soufflé falls flat. Also the events of 9/11 are still too close to serve as a gateway for a few of the gags employed here. The premise is promising but the Michael Malone/Moore character is so far out he doesn’t resemble reality much less the famous Moore. Blaming him for all the ills of the world may be cathartic for the ultra-conservative base Zucker is apparently aiming An American Carol at but there needs to be more than just a kernel of truth to make these jokes zing. Instead what could have been an amusing riff looks more like a propaganda film out to destroy Moore rather than spoof him.
Patrick Stewart, who has played Starship Enterprise Captain Jean-Luc Picard for almost 16 years now, said the events of Star Trek: Nemesis are appropriate closure for The Next Generation crew, Reuters reports. Stewart was in London for the European premiere of the film, the 10th installment in the Star Trek movie franchise. "I'm sure this is our final curtain," Stewart said. "All of us are sensitive about not wanting to outstay our welcome." The British actor added that there is no reason for the franchise should not go on indefinitely, but noted, "certain of us will fade out and move on." Although Nemesis opened to disappointing box office figures in the United States, the 10 movies have grossed more than $1 billion at the box office.
Elizabeth Hurley turned down the yearly payments of $159,900 her former beau, millionaire film producer Steve Bing, offered to shell out for their baby boy until he reached 18, Reuters reports. Hurley responded in a statement, "The money is not wanted or welcomed. Damian and I are managing very well by ourselves." After learning of Hurley's response, a spokeswoman for Bing said, "Stephen will make the payments into a trust for his son if Miss Hurley refuses to take them."
Bette Davis' Best Actress Oscar for the 1935 film Dangerous sold at an auction by Sotheby's in New York last weekend for $207,500, The Associated Press reports. The statuette was among the memorabilia sold by the Planet Hollywood restaurant chain, which has emerged from bankruptcy protection. The company will use the $1.2 million the auction generated to pay off a lender.
Rap entrepreneur Sean "P.Diddy" Combs will open boutiques for his Sean John label in malls nationwide with a flagship store in Manhattan, the New York Post reports. The line has been in hot demand since it was launched in 2000 in Bloomingdale's department stores. Combs has been nominated for the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards for the past three years.
Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon and Danny Mozes, her boyfriend of 15 years, welcomed their second child Monday in New York, People.com reports. The boy, Charles Ezekiel Mozes, weighed 7 lbs. 10 oz. A spokesperson for HBO said everyone is doing fine, including Nixon, who is currently on hiatus from the show.
Sopranos star James Gandolfini is in negotiations to star opposite Ben Affleck in Surviving Christmas for DreamWorks. According to Variety, the film follows a wealthy young man (Affleck) who, stricken with a variety of neuroses that prevent him from having a normal family life, hires a family with which to share the holidays. Gandolfini is set to play the family patriarch.
The 1984 "mockumentary" This Is Spinal Tap is one of 25 films that will be preserved this year by the National Film Registry, the AP reports. Others films on the list include the children's classic The Black Stallion, the surf classic The Endless Summer and the sci-fi groundbreaker Alien. The registry now contains 350 films, which are recognized for their importance in American film and cultural history. Making the list ensures that the films will be preserved for all time either through the library's preservation program or through collaborations with other archives, motion picture studios and independent filmmakers.
Warner Bros. Pictures will start production on its first Chinese-language film, Turn Right, Turn Left, on Dec. 26 in Taiwan and then continue in Hong Kong and mainland China, Variety reports. The film is based on the best-selling illustrated love story of the same name by author/artist Jimmy Liao. Warner Bros. will distribute the picture, which stars Takeshi Kaneshiro, worldwide.
Liza Minnelli and her husband David Gest are going ahead with a $10 million lawsuit against cable music channel VH1 over the cancellation of their planned reality series, Liza & David, Reuters reports. The suit, which also names Viacom and its unit MTV Networks, alleges that VH1 breached their contract to do the show and that an anonymous Viacom employee defamed Gest in an interview. In October, the network said in a statement it was canceling the show because "we were not given the cooperation and access that we were promised."