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Die Hard – Five Star Collection

Reviewed by: Brad Tobin
Genre: Action/Thriller
Video: Widescreen anamorphic - 2.35:1
Audio: English (DTS)
Language: English. French
Subtitle: English. Spanish
Length: 2 hr 12 minutes
Rating: R
Release Date: July 10, 2001
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Commentary: Yes. Scene-specific audio commentary with director John McTiernan and production designer Jackson DeGovia. Screen-specific audio commentary with visual effects producer Richard Edlund. Subtitle commentary with cast and crew.
Documentaries: None
Featurettes: Promotional featurette
Filmography/Biography: None
Interviews: On the promotional featurette
Trailers/TV Spots: 3 Theatrical trailers and 7 TV spots
Alternate/Deleted Scenes: Yes. Extended branching version with additional "power shutdown" scene edited seamlessly back into the film. Deleted and extended scenes.
Music Video: None
Other: 2 Disk set. THX Certified. Interactive Menus. Full-length screenplay. Interactive slide show. Interactive magazine articles. "The Cutting Room" workshop: gives you the ability to re-edit and re-mix scenes. "From The Vault" deleted scenes, outtakes and newscast footage. DVD-ROM Features: Complete screenplay with scene access. Game demos.
Cast and Crew: Bruce Willis. Alan Rickman
Screenplay by: Written by: Jeb Stuart and Steven E. De Souza
Produced by: Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver
Directed By: John McTiernan
Music: Michael Kamen
The Review: John McClane is a New York cop on a trip to California in an attempt to patch up his marriage. He arrives at the Californian high rise where his wife works, but unfortunately a group of terrorists also arrive and they take control of the building. They have everyone locked up on the 30th floor, that is, everyone but McClane, who makes it his duty to be the fly in the ointment. John single-handedly takes on this small army of terrorists, will he come out victorious, that’s for you to answer. (Keep in mind, there are two sequels and rumors of another on the way) “Die Hard” is the mother of modern action and, in my opinion, the greatest film of all time. I have watched the film literally hundreds of times and it never bores me. It is the one perfect film that has ever been made, the only film that I cannot find fault with. It was the first film to ever have the power to make me sit for two hours without blinking, and to this date, no other film has that power. Bruce Willis makes the character a thoroughly real person, he gives the penultimate “one man army” performance, making John a fully developed, 3D character, not just your average “against the odds” hero. Alan Rickman shows what being a classy villain is all about, he brings Shakespearian depth to his role and he gives the performance of his career. The production, the directing, the script… All spot on. Everything in the film paved the way for the action genre. The storyline, the good guy, the bad guy, all of it has been redone over and over again (Die Hard on a Plane “Passenger 57” and “Air Force One”, On a Boat “Under Siege” and “Speed 2”, even In a Hockey Rink “Sudden Death”), but none have bested the original. McTiernan really seems to have wanted to make the Ultimate action movie, as far as I’m concerned… He most certainly has.
Image and Sound This is the 5th version of “Die Hard” That I have purchased in my lifetime, it is also the ultimate version. Unless some long lost alternate ending turns up somewhere, it ain’t going to get much better. Released along with “Die Hard 2: Die Harder” and “Die Hard With A Vengeance” in 1999, the first DVD version of “Die Hard” looked as good as DVD could look at that time. All previous video versions of the film always exhibited a slightly worn out look that 20th Century Fox seemed to have corrected with the DVD. The only problem was that the transfer wasn't anamorphic. But now, two years later, Fox has improved upon that original DVD ten fold, with a brand new anamorphic transfer that blows all the other Die Hard disks out of the water. Colors are vibrant with natural looking flesh tones and no over saturation, while blacks are deep and solid. Jan DeBont's top-notch photography shows the visual flare he exhibited much later in his directorial efforts “Speed” (Or Die Hard on a Bus), “Twister” and “The Haunting”. Also, being a DVD, you get picture perfect pause, so I challenge you to spot faults in the gunfire and squib use (Hollywood talk for the blood bags that substitute for bullet wounds). Like he did with “Predator”, McTiernan reached unparalleled levels of realistic violence that looks flawless even under the scrutiny of perfect pause (There was only one point where I caught the squib cap flying off, see if you can spot it). Presenting the soundtrack on this DVD in both Dolby Digital (at 448kbps) and DTS (at 754kbps), the DVD does a great job improving the soundtrack. Michael Kamen's grandiose score pours from every speaker with a lush presence that still brought chills. In addition to the Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 tracks, 2.0 surround tracks are included in English and French, with subtitles in English and Spanish and Closed Captioning in English. It is also important to note that all of the added features in widescreen are anamorphic.
The Extras “Die Hard” fans rejoice as all our Christmases have come at once. 20th Century Fox have been very kind to us in the extra features department. Last year, Fox created a new line of special edition DVD’s to honor films they felt worthy of lavish treatment that would be second to none. "The Five-Star Collection" has, after only a few titles, already established itself as a true benchmark of the format. Die Hard is the newest title to receive the Five-Star treatment and it's hard to deny that it is absolutely worth the wait. First off, we get an extended branching version of the film that restores the "Power Shutdown" scene deleted from the original film. In a great idea and something I'd like to see Fox do more often, as the scene is actually seamlessly edited back in (unlike “X Men” when there is severe loading time). The footage is presented in anamorphic widescreen, yet you will notice a single shot that appears in black and white because the effects were never finished. The other features on disk one are the commentaries and a script to screen feature accessible by those with DVD-ROM drives, we are also treated to awesome menus on both disks which allow you to navigate your way around the Nakatomi Plaza rooftop. On disk two, the first stop is "From the Vault," where you'll find a few interesting items. The Outtakes are actually broken into two, the first is the deleted scene that is included on disc one via the seamless branching feature. The second section is for The Vault, a collection of deleted footage, bloopers and alternate takes. You can watch this montage of clips either with production audio and music or with production audio only. Running time of The Vault is just over six minutes. Another eight minutes of alternate takes and bloopers are found with the collection of Newscasts. These are the full-frame VHS recordings of some of the news footage shot for the film to be played back on different TVs within the film. Also in the same section are the reprintings of two 1988 magazine articles. Richard Edlund is the primary focus of both the American Cinematographer and Cinefex articles contained here, and both include pictures that can be highlighted to get closer looks at his work and additional information. Next we go into "The Cutting Room," where you'll find items of a more technical nature to stimulate your senses. The first is a scene-editing workshop that allows you to cut your own short scene based on shots you choose. When you go in, there are three short scenes to choose from. After viewing three different takes for each shot (sometimes containing different dialog) you choose the take that you want. After all of the shots have been decided, the player will cut them together for you seamlessly and allow you the opportunity to cut your own short scene from Die Hard. This is an awesome feature, pulled off better here than it was in the “Men in Black – Limited Edition” DVD. Next up in the cutting room is Multi-Camera Shooting. A short paragraph explains that sometimes scenes are filmed from more than one angle for a variety of purposes ranging from cost to safety or just to capture the spontaneity of the actors. With this feature, you can select one of several angles to see three different shots from the film. Using the angle button on the remote will change cameras and also offer information on the lenses used for the shot on screen. This is a feature I hadn't seen before and is certainly unique. The Cutting Room also includes Audio Mixing, which gives you the opportunity to mix the dialog, music and effects levels for a scene from the film to your taste. Each of the three options can be set to off, low or high and after you've made your selection, the scene plays out based on the levels you've chosen. The “Why Letterbox?” segment attempts to answer that same question with probably the best visual explanation I've ever seen, they actually pan and scan a scene from the film to show why the practice should never be considered an acceptable form of transferring films to video. Show this one to the friends and parents who don't like widescreen and they'll have little to argue about without sounding unintelligent! The final area of the cutting room is a thorough glossary of technical film terms. One of the best features of the set is the Interactive Slide Show. This is a moving montage of stills set to score that gives an insider's look at the making of Die Hard. The best part is, when the Nakatomi logo appears in the lower right hand corner, hit enter and you will be taken to addition material on that still. This ranges from blueprints of sets and vehicles to test footage and additional deleted scenes. Just how much is in there? Let's just say it took me thirty minutes to get through a nine-minute still montage. This is definitely one of the best parts of the disc. The entire script is also included in DVD-Video form for people without DVD-ROM drives. Interestingly, there are quite a few different lines and situations presented in the original script that either didn't make it to the final cut or were changed before shooting. Within the Ad Campaign section you'll find three theatrical trailers, seven TV spots and the original seven-minute promotional featurette that was included on the previously released DVD. The final feature of the set is DVD-ROM features including game demos and weblinks. Now, if you are still not satisfied… Give me your name and address and I will personally come to your house and beat some sense into you.
Commentary Director John McTiernan and production designer Jackson DeGovia give a screen-specific audio commentary. The two men have not been recorded together, but a fair amount of effort has gone into editing the two into a cohesive whole. McTiernan focuses on the overall production and the cast and crew while DeGovia explains in detail the look of the film from a design standpoint. The track can be a bit dry at times as McTiernan isn’t the most excitable guy on earth, but I've been waiting the best part of two decades to hear a commentary for this film and I wasn’t about to let a little thing like that spoil my time. A second scene-specific audio commentary features special effects supervisor Richard Edlund. This one is labeled "scene-specific" because Edlund doesn't speak throughout the entire movie, only during sections where his opinions are warranted. The disc includes chapter listings detailing where to find his comments. Edlund is quite informative and I'm glad that Fox didn't try to milk a feature length commentary out of him. A third "commentary" also included is the subtitle commentary by various cast and crew. This track appears as a written subtitle throughout the film with transcribed comments from participants including screenwriter Steven E. DeSouza, supervising sound editor Stephen Hunter Flick, composer Michael Kamen, producer Lawrence Gordon, actor Alan Rickman, analysis by film journalist and historian Eric Lichtenfeld and several others. The comments move fairly quickly, yet not to fast that you miss anything, and are quite informative. All in all, these three commentaries alone add up to hours of fun for Die Hard connoisseurs and hours of boredom for the Uninitiated.
Final Words: A perfect film gets a perfect DVD release. “Die Hard – Five Star Edition” is to Die Hard fans what the Holy Grail is to Indiana Jones father. Action fans rejoice, McClain is back, in the DVD he so richly deserves.

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July 10, 2001