John McTiernan

die hard scenes

Tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of the release of Die Hard. Know how much it made in it’s opening weekend? $601,851. Of course, that was from only 21 screens in 20 cities. Can you imagine an action movie like this getting such a limited debut today? Well, nobody saw the movie coming, at least not on the level we see it at today, though Fox also hoped the slower roll-out would spark buzz. A modern day take on the western, with a lot of allusion to drive that idea home, the first Die Hard sort of originated a new subgenre of the right place, right time (and wrong place, wrong time) hero that has the action drop in his lap. It’s a real classic, one that truly needs to be added to the National Film Registry (nominate it here), thanks to its influence on the next three decades of cinema (and beyond, since even this year we had a few more Die Hard knockoffs in Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down) as well as its own distinct craftwork (especially the team of director John McTiernan, cinematographer Jan De Bont and screenwriters Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza, along with the Oscar nominated editing by Frank J. Urioste and John F. Link and the Oscar-nominated sound and visual effects, etc…) and its perfect representation of the time in which it was made (including the reflexive significance of the building it was shot at). It’s another movie that is so […]

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John McTiernan on Die Hard set

He’s made some amazing films, he stands as an icon of a lengthy era, but I submit that John McTiernan is still an unfairly maligned filmmaker. He’s relegated by many to a position as merely a mindless action director, and maybe, yeah, Rollerball was tough to stomach, but there’s a reason why Die Hard is still used as the template in thousands of pitch meetings every year. Plus, the guy went to Juilliard (so he’s probably also an incredible dancer). Those who dismiss him do so at their own peril and have clearly never heard the man speak about the craft of filmmaking. He knows a production truck’s worth of practical information and can condense it into lessons that make sense to all of us rubes. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a man who started his studio career by having an alien attack Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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Drinking Games

The upcoming Die Hard sequel causes a range of emotions. There are joyous ones, knowing that the film will be rated R and John McClane’s famous catchphrase will be spoken without being drowned out by a gunshot. There are also less happy emotions with the knowledge that A Good Day to Die Hard is being released in February rather than in the more traditional summer months. Whether you’re chomping at the bit for the new movie or if you’re bellyaching that it will be more sanitized like the fourth film, you can still always enjoy the original. Grab your Christmas-themed drink and hop on the horse to get drunk hard.

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Over Under - Large

If one were to conduct a scientific study meant to determine what the most successful action movie of the 90s was, chances are pretty dang good that Speed would be near the top of the candidates for consideration. A success both financially and critically, this high-octane tale of a bomb on a perpetually moving bus solidified Keanu Reeves as one of Hollywood’s go-to leading men, launched the gigantic career of Sandra Bullock, and even gave its director, Jan de Bont, a success to add to his resume. All of that should be enough to solidify Speed’s place as one of the most important 90s action movies already, and we haven’t even factored in how it also managed to introduce the phrase, “Pop quiz, hotshot,” into the cultural lexicon. So, pop quiz, hotshot: Die Hard was the greatest action movie ever made, but its sequel, Die Hard 2, was a derivative bore churned out by one of the most prolific manufacturers of schlock of the last few decades, Renny Harlin. What do you do? You get the director of the original, the inimitable John McTiernan, to come back for the third film, Die Hard With a Vengeance. DHWAV, from what I can tell, isn’t hated. It’s widely considered to be the second-best entry in the Die Hard franchise, it certainly made its makers some money, and it doesn’t get derided as the death of the franchise like the belated fourth sequel, Live Free or Die Hard, does. But it doesn’t get […]

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We packed the truck that would travel to location in Palenque, Mexico a few days before we traveled via airplane. The set crew: Steve Wang, Matt Rose, Shane Mahan, Brian Simpson, Richard Landon and me. Stan Winston would be with us, supervising the set work, understanding that we would only be gone for two weeks. At least that is what our work visas indicated. Palenque, Mexico was not a location easily reached. It required one flight from Los Angeles to Mexico City, another to Villa Hermosa, and finally a long ride in a Volkswagen bus through miles of rough country until we reached our hotel that was, from what we were told, the best in the area. It sat in a large clearing, surrounded by trees; two wings of rooms branched out from a central building that housed a restaurant/bar. Later, we discovered that Arnold Schwarzenegger had taken over the entire upper conference room and had turned it into a gymnasium that was open to anyone on the crew. As we settled into our rooms we were told that there would be screening of the film the next day for the cast and crew. My understanding was that this was for the benefit of the new crew members to get a chance to catch up and understand the shots needed to complete the film. A screen and projectors were set up in Arnold’s gym.

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By now, most fans credit Steve Wang and Matt Rose for the creation of the Predator. However, in my conversations with Steve, in particular, he feels that an unfair amount of credit has been given to him; it was a team effort bringing the Predator to life, and he couldn’t be more correct. During Monster Squad, Matt and Steve, who had been responsible for the Gillman, had worked through the weekend, grabbing precious few hours of sleep, while they established and painted the final suit. On Monday morning, it stood in the middle of Stan Winston’s satellite shop in all of its amphibian beauty. Stan saw it and his jaw bounced onto his chest. He had NEVER seen anything like it. It impressed him so much, that he, literally, stopped the work in the studio, gathered all of his employees around it and heaped praise upon these two kids (Matt was roughly 21 and Steve 20…maybe?). He said it was the best thing he had seen in his career thus far. Probably not the best strategy in the world. Months earlier, he was in England with his crew working on the Queen Alien, and now he was recognizing these two studio newcomers as the best. Where most of us in the shop agreed with Stan, there was some dissension.

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There are events that define one’s existence that go beyond being learning or growing experiences. They become scars. Battle scars. They may fade in time, but they don’t go away. They persist. The memories of the events may become blurry, but every now and then, you run your fingertips along the raised, healed wound and remember. It all comes back like a punch in the nose. I had been on movie sets before and believed that I had been trained. The snarky ADs , the disinterested teamsters, the hustling, the waiting, they were all nearly second-nature to me, especially with the close of my on-set involvement with Monster Squad. However, nothing could prepare me for what I was going to face. My first location experience. My first time out of the country. My first time working set on a big budget film. My first time supervising a team. Predator would be all of those things and it would change my life forever.

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And welcome back to Commentary Commentary, our weekly scouring of the DVD shelves and all the vast film knowledge held therein. It’s time once again to listen to a feature length film commentary from one of our most beloved films and go over all the great pieces of information we learn from it. This week, we’ve got another classic, a film that sparked a whole sub-genre of other films. And, before you pitch the idea of “Die Hard on a Film Blog,” know that Joel Silver probably has three screenplays in his office with that exact same pitch. That’s right. This week, we’re cracking open our copy of Die Hard and going through the commentary. So sit back, enjoy how not Christmas-y it is right now, and drink some eggnog anyway. Hey, it couldn’t hurt.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly collector of film and television news and links that is currently working for the weekend. It certainly wants a little romance. You won’t catch it goin’ off the deep end. Da nanana na na… We begin tonight with more photos from The Amazing Spider-Man. Sony is hoping that its Comic-Con presence next week helps the webbed wonder get back into the public eye, as they’re counting on this franchise reboot to be a big earner. In the mean time, we get a few looks at a slick new costume, practical web-shooters and an intimate moment between our bloodied hero and his blond dame. All this and more in the gallery found over at /Film.

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Junkfood Cinema

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; special orders upset us to no end. So you say you like bad movies, eh? Well grab a three-layer bologna and marshmallow sandwich and your coveted copy of Ishtar and welcome to the JFC family! Every week I dissect a particularly terrible film and spread the organs of its failure onto the damp paper towel that is the internet. Whoa, Bio Lab flashback. But once the film is hollowed out and fully exposed, I will then proudly don its carcass as a hat and profess my undying affection for it. As if this frog dissection metaphor wasn’t enough to whet your appetite, I will then pair the movie with a tie-in snack food item in the hopes that by the end you won’t be able to tell if it’s my writing or your atrocious diet that has you marathon vomiting like a supermodel. This week’s dish: Last Action Hero.

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In the year of our lord 1993, when this movie was released to the world, I was 10-years old. It was a big year for me. In that summer I not only had my mind blown by Jurassic Park, I also learned a little bit about comedy from Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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decade-worstmovies

There were a lot of bad movies released during the past decade. That’s not anything that distinguishes the aughts from any other decade before it, but then most of these movies were bad in the usual, torturous ways.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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