Notes from the back row 

A PG-13 John McClane

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Entertainment Weekly, in a recent issue, named the original Die Hard flick as the best action movie of all time, and Bruce Willis’s tough guy everyman character, John McClane, as the primo action hero.

While some people (myself and Chuck Norris for instance) might think that’s taking things a bit far you can decide for yourself this week with Live Free or Die Hard , the fourth film in the franchise, now playing at the Village 8.

In the first Die Hard a claustrophobic atmosphere prevailed as McClane battled terrorists for control of a highrise building. In the second it was an airport; the third, an entire city. This time around McClane must save his entire country from an evil disgruntled ex-government employee computer terrorist (Timothy Olyphant) planning a “fire sale”, which is techno-babble for the shit hitting the fan and all hell braking lose on the country’s top networks.

McClane must pick-up/rescue another hacker played by Justin Long ( Dodgeball, those Mac ads) who is implicitly involved in the plot (unknowingly of course) and, by the end, probably involved with McClane’s daughter too. She’s kidnapped at some point because it just wouldn’t be Die Hard if McClane’s family wasn’t threatened.

Live Free or Die Hard is rated PG-13, the first of the series to carry anything but an R rating. While the violence (much of it True Lies influenced), blood and carnage remain mostly intact (some fancy editing keeps jumping away at the last second) the most noticeable PG-ness of things is when they start messing around with McClane’s, “Yippee ki ay Mutha….” Catchphrase. (But executions and punching women in the face are perfectly PG- acceptable.)

For the most part though McClane, billed as “an analogue player in a digital world”, does plenty of ass-kicking, car crashing, explosion dodging and bad-guy beating (plus there’s some rad kung-fu and parkour by the baddies). The series’ tongue-in-cheek attitude remains and realism goes out the window from the get go, making this a decent night out at the cinema, if you can get past director Len Wiseman’s love affair with cold, blue-tinted lenses and some of the crappiest green-screen car-driving shots made in the last 30 years. All in all, not too bad for PG.

  Keeping with the family theme is Ratatouille , the latest from the Pixar studios and a surefire winner, if you’re into those well-crafted, well written, beautifully animated kids flicks that adults will enjoy as well.

Remy is a rat with a keen nose and dreams of becoming one of the greatest chefs in Paris (the city, not the Hilton). Of course, since he’s a rat (rats and food service just don’t jive) he has to hide in the hat of an idiot named Linguine and puppeteer him by tugging on his hair. Including villainous chefs and a snobby food critic as well as a bit of a sous-chef love story, this Rat tale is pretty sweet.

Beautifully animated (the city of lights never looked so good, and digital rain hasn’t either) and eye-popping enough to keep your interest (even at almost two hours) Ratatouille also has a nice racism/tolerance message and enough comedy (mostly slapstick physical stuff) to keep the whole family entertained. Better than Shrek 3 , that’s for sure.

On a closing note, I watched A Mighty Heart in Vancouver, and the new Angelina film about the true-story kidnapping and murder of journalist Daniel Pearl is very dramatic, intriguing, well shot, well acted, and pretty damn sad. Director Michael Winterbottom’s journalistic style and the real Pakistani locations make for a very authentic looking film. And it contains dozens of close-up glory shots of those lips. Yippee Ki Ay Mutha…..

AT VILLAGE 8 June 29-July 2: Ratatouille, Evan Almighty; Live Free or Die Hard; Shrek 3; Knocked Up; Pirates of the Caribbean; 1408; Surf’s Up; Ocean’s 13; Fantastic Four. July 3-5: Transformers; Ratatouille, Evan Almighty; Live Free or Die Hard; Shrek 3; Knocked Up; 1408; Ocean’s 13.

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