This Week at the Movies

'A Good Day to Die Hard' is a weak entry in the action series, while Chile's 'No' is an engrossing political thriller.

“A Good Day to Die Hard” offers wall-to-wall violence with virtually no context whatsoever.

The picture, which is the fifth entry in the popular action series, finds New Jersey cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) taking a trip to Russia on a vague mission to locate his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), who has been arrested for shooting a guy in a bar for reasons unknown.

No more than five minutes after his arrival and following a Russian cab driver’s rendition of “New York, New York,” McClane is in the midst of some heavy firepower aimed at a court where Jack and a high-priority prisoner await trial.

From there, it’s one shootout, car chase or series of explosions after the next. It’s not until the film’s finale that we actually figure out why everyone is shooting at everyone else, and the explanation is still a little opaque.

Willis does his best with the material, but he’s given little to say, spending much of the film dodging bullets, shooting some of his own or muttering the occasional one liner.

Courtney is on-hand to mostly pout, sulk and look stern. At least, we have McClane’s backstory from the previous four “Die Hard” films to have some sense of who the humans are amidst the carnage.

“A Good Day” is the weakest entry to date in the popular series and evidence that the franchise has run out of steam.

Pablo Larrain’s Oscar-nominated “No” is a fascinating film that is often a sly satire, but also a riveting political thriller.

In the film, Gael Garcia Bernal plays Rene Saavedra, a Chilean advertising executive who is asked to come up with a campaign to defeat Augusto Pinochet during the 1988 referendum.

One of the more interesting facets of the picture is how Rene is not so much motivated politically, but by the desire to tackle a challenging assignment.

Most of the other members on the campaign believe that the election will be rigged and, therefore, want the ads they create to be loaded with references to Chile’s “disappeared” and video footage of protesters being beaten.

However, Rene wants to play on the power of advertising. He insists on a positive message in the commercial, a mention of the concept of “happiness,” musical video attributes and the appearance of a mime, which is a running joke throughout the film.

For those not in the know, the referendum asked voters to vote “yes” to legitimize Pinochet’s reign, while a “no” vote called for him to step down. The catch was that many voters feared recriminations for voting against the general.

It’s debatable how politically conscious Rene becomes during the course of the campaign, but it’s clear that he comes to a better understanding of the consequences of opposing a dictatorial regime. The film ends with a curious shot of Rene’s face as he ponders the future of his career.

“No” was shot on video to make it appear it was shot in the late 1980s. This may come across as a gimmick, but Larrain’s film is an engrossing look at a particularly dark chapter in his nation’s history.


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