Tag Archives: Adventure

Die Hard: perfect action perfect Christmas

MV5BMTkwMjg3ODgzNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjE5NzAyMQ@@  V1 SY317 CR10214317  202x300 photoI sometimes feel that I should avoid discussions of favourite Christmas / holiday movies. While I love LOVE movies – especially during the December holiday season – I have never really considered myself a fan of Christmas movies. Yes, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is probably the best of that particular series. Of course, the original Miracle of 34th Street (not the remake) is still a charming classic. A Christmas Story remains as lovely as ever (as does, one might argue, Black Christmasif only as it offers a different take on the season; Bob Clarke also directed both movies). It’s a Wonderful Life remains essential any time, month, or season.

But if I have to pick my all-time favourite Christmas movie (and this hardly an original pick), there’s no question or debate in my mind. My pick is the 1988 Bruce Willis Holiday classic – released that summer of course – Die Hard.

I mentioned Die Hard in a recent post on thrillers from the 1970s. And while I am uncomfortable repeating myself here, I felt this burden necessary after a  conversation with my colleague Sarah.  SHE HAS NEVER SEEN DIE HARD.

I swear, my left eyelid started twitching. I thought we had already hit barrel bottom when she admitted to have never seen any of the Alien movies. But this…

PYRPAS0150 207x300 photo…okay. First things first: Bruce Willis rocks. Before Die Hard, we really only had the television show Moonlighting. I remember it being a fun, quirky show – but Moonlighting Willis was never an action hero. That changed, of course – but this was something we should have picked up long before. I think that I remember a Quentin Tarantino quote on Willis (I might have this wrong but I don’t think so) suggesting that Bruce Willis embodies many of the tough guy qualities of the many tough guy actors from 1950s Hollywood. Think Robert Mitchum or Ralph Meeker or Sterling Hayden or Glenn Ford.

I believe there is something to this – all kinds of fine directors continue to use him correctly – but Willis in Die Hard pushed this tough guy thing further. Before Die Hard (at least in 80s cinema), action heroes came in the Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone variety. Don’t get me wrong here: some of these movies are pretty good. But these movies were superhero action movies. You had to have muscles like Stallone or Schwarzenegger to be an action hero. Die Hard shifted this with Willis as the every-man-action hero. His John McClane is just an off-duty cop, in the wrong place at the wrong time. Any actor afterwards could play that credible action star. And now it seems like EVERY actor wants to play that credible action star. Nick Cage became an action star! It was heady time.

And this every-man-action-hero was given the perfect action film to be heroic in. I cannot think of a single false step, bum scene, or wrong-note performance. Indeed, Alan Rickman’s villainous Hans Gruber stills remains one 1988 202x300 photoof cinema’s best-ever villains. Die Hard is such perfect action that it completely changed what action movies should be. Suddenly everything was “Die Hard on Something Different Than a Tall Building”. So, we got Die Hard on a Boat or Die Hard on a Train, Die Hard on a Mountain or Die Hard on a Plane. Some of these movies were good, but most were terrible. Action movies seem to exist within periods of time. The Die Hard epoch lasted over ten years, until I would argue the release of The Matrix.

So yeah, Die Hard is a perfect genre-defining, action-icon creating film that is also (I haven’t forgotten) a wonderful Christmas movie. John McClane is a New York cop travelling to L.A for Christmas. The bad guys have taken over Nakatomi Plaza during the company’s Christmas party. After dispatching his first bad guy, McClane offers his first quippy quote: “now I have a machine gun …ho ho ho.” Sticking still with the bad guys, main baddie Gruber suggests that “Christmas is the time for miracles” – especially when there is a safe that needs crackin’. The film’s score is littered with references to Christmas caroles and jingles. And what says Merry Christmas more than saving your loved ones from helicopters crashing into buildings?

I love this movie.

Down-to-Read with Daniela: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

**SUMMER SHORT LIST PICK**

Cloud+Atlas+Film+Tie+In photo

 

Genre:
Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure, Mystery, Science Fiction, Social Commentary, Suspense

Summary:
Six stories intertwine through time and space in this mind bending suspense novel from acclaimed author David Mitchell.

Disinherited composer Robert Frobisher, genetically modified clone Sonmi-451, cynical publisher Timothy Cavendish, sea sick voyager Adam Ewing, high-minded journalist Luisa Rey and guilt-ridden islander Zachry are about to discover the almost imperceptible threads that enjoin each and every one of us.

My Thoughts:
Spanning 1850 to a postapocalyptic Hawaii, Mitchell’s ambitious novel tackles some profoundly moving themes: life, love, power and the meaning of our existence.

Cloud Atlas is a very clever novel. I certainly won’t do it justice with my brief review, but I will say that patience and persistance pay off with this 509 page long novel.

I slogged through the first few pages with an unclear sense of where it was going. But by the end of the first segment I had the feeling I was onto something great. This is one of those books that takes some time to get into. But you’ll be happy you made the investment!

Mitchell’s acute attention to detail and intricate weaving of multiple storylines is a style not easily duplicated. Surely one of the future classic novels of our generation!

Borrow Cloud Atlas from your local Vaughan Library today! And don’t forget to add yourself to the waiting list for Cloud Atlas the movie!

Canada Day Special: My Favourite Canadian Book

flag photoI love making lists of favourites: favourite horror movies, favourite black metal albums, what have you.  As long as we accept that these lists are malleable and subject to constant revision (I revisit my top ten favourite musicians list regularly and if a band breaks up – they’re off the list), then I have no issue proclaiming anything as the best of whatever it is.  So here goes, on my list of favourite Canadian books, my favourite is…

…okay, before I say it, I want to admit that I realize that my pick might, possibly be accused as being a not-so-clever and none-too-subtle attempt at pandering.  I mean I am writing this AT THE PIERRE BERTON RESOURCE LIBRARY.  Whatever, I’ve given this a lot thought this past week (this is kind of thing I think about as I fall asleep or as I wait for a streetcar).  I am just finishing my first pass through Mordecai Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz so I started thinking that I should pick Richler’s final book – Barney’s Version.  I think Richler went out at the height of his acidic, hilarious powers.  Or maybe anything from Robertson ScottPilgrim 200x300 photoDavies’ The Cornish TrilogyI first read it when I was twenty years old, in Edmonton and I could hardly wait to move to Toronto.  Many years later, I re-read it in Toronto and its power still holds.  Or perhaps I can get all hip-guy and select Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim vs The World graphic series.  I only read it last year but I can see why all kinds of teens and twenty somethings adore it.  It perfectly captures those not-a-teen but not-yet-a-real-adult years.  I’m past that, I suppose, but it was wonderful to return.

klondike photoNope.  My favourite Canadian book is Pierre Berton’s Klondike : the Last Great Gold Rush, 1896-1899.  If I’m ever on some deep space colonization mission and I can only bring one Canadian book – Berton’s retelling of the Yukon Gold Rush is coming with me.  My father told me to read it when I was something like fourteen years old.  He had a few of those old-school Berton books on his book shelves (the newer versions have these slick pictures on the covers) that every self-respecting book collection should display.  I probably grabbed something like The National Dream or The Last Spike and asked my father if I should read it.  He said “no.  If you want to start reading Berton, you gotta start with Klondike”.

He was righ3208170224 8be9471925 b 195x300 photot.  It blew my mind.  You see, I was a weirdo ‘boys adventure” kind of kid.  I adored cowboy and western comics (the library has a few newer ones that I haven’t read, but I am totally going to check them out now – although they seem quite different from the Kid Colt and Two-Gun Kid comics from my childhood).  I collected and devoured every Hardy Boys book I could find (and I still have them).  Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs could never go wrong.  The adventures of either  Huckelberry Finn and/ortailcapGs 300x213 photo Tom Sawyer?  Absolutely.  I idolized Davy Crockett – the woodsman and not the congressman I suppose – and thought that living that kind of frontier life would have been just the best.  I asked for, received as a gift, AND ACTUALLY WORE a coon-skin cap for a time.

So I was ready for Berton and the Yukon Gold Rush.  Sure it is bookimagesCASK9UVO photo learnin’ ’bout Canadian history and all that, but this is a vastly entertaining read.  It is full of rogues and scoundrels who’ll do anything to get their piece of the action.  You meet all sorts of prospectors and all varieties of stampeders, desperate for their stake of the Klondike ss queen goldrush 300x189 photogold.  I loved Berton’s vivid descriptions of the – all equally treacherous and foolhardy – trails and passages (over mountain, by river or over land from Edmonton) into the Yukon that claimed hundreds of lives.  And I think – best of all – I loved reading about the North trail 300x208 photoWest Mounted Police, starting with Charles Constantine then to Sam Steele, who maintained much needed peace and order.  This is Canadian history and Canadian history is neither dry nor boring.  I fell in love with this book when I was fourteen and I return to the Klondike every few years or so, just to scratch this adventure story itch.