A Good Day to Die Hard Bruce Willis reprises his role as action hero John McClane in this unnecessary but not unwatchable entry in the Die Hard series. Slick but efficient, the film opens in Russia with protests over Komarov (Sebastian Koch), a political prisoner’s upcoming trial. When John’s estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney) is arrested, Papa heads to Russia with no love for his son. As Jack plans a daring escape attempt from the courtroom–to keep Komarov safe–John turns up and ruins things, but he does prompt an exciting, extended car chase through the streets of Moscow. Such dynamic set pieces are at the heart of A Good Day to Die Hard, which fills in the gaps between shootouts and action scenes with unconvincing father/son ribbing, bonding, and macho posturing. The stunt work is as impressive as the exploits are outrageous, and the pulse-pounding music only emphasizes the film’s absolute lack of subtlety. By the time the film gets to Chernobyl, where the grand finale unfolds in over-the-top fashion, viewers may feel overloaded from the spectacle of explosions. But Jack and John just keep going….
Happy People: A Year in the Taiga Werner Herzog continues to chronicle man vs. nature in this spectacularly photographed documentary about trappers in remote Siberia. The film was edited down by Herzog (who also supplies the narration) from a four-hour film directed by Dmitry Vasyukov. Happy People shows how these self-reliant men eke out a life in the wilderness with only a few modern conveniences, such as chainsaws and snowmobiles. They have no electricity, and only dogs for companionship. Early episodes, set in the spring, capture them setting traps, carving out skis and a canoe, even making their own insect repellent. Herzog deftly captures how these men work hard under harsh conditions–in the winter, a thermometer shows the temperature is 33° below 0. The men find happiness and freedom living off the land; when one trapper goes off to be alone for the winter, he claims, “I am my own man.” It is hard not to admire their tenacity. The cinematography is magnificent, showcasing the beautiful snowy landscape, aquatic life, or the weathered face of an old indigenous woman. One remarkable sequence has a dog killing an animal. Like many of Herzog’s films–fiction or non-fiction–Happy People is an inspiring survival story. It is also a fascinating film best suited to viewers who appreciate nature documentaries or travelogues to places they would never go themselves.
Beautiful Creatures Yet another Twilight wannabe. Young lovers, witches, and special effects dominate this supernatural romance starring Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert.
Safe Haven Josh Duhamel and Juliane Hough co-star in this romantic mystery adapted from Nicholas Sparks’ novel.
Escape from Planet Earth An animated sci-fi film about aliens who need to, um, escape from planet Earth.