Die Hard Collection [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (28th December 2007).
The Film

For several years now it's been a Christmas tradition to sit down with my family and watch the "Die Hard" movies. I know it's not the typical Christmas fare but we all love the movies and after all the first two in the series take place around Christmas time...I must have seen these film countless times and they never get old, tired or boring. A feat not easily accomplished as a lot of action movies tend to show their age or era very quickly, especially 80's action. You can always point out the bad hair, shoulder pads and cheesy one-liners that become tag lines for marketers and enter the pop culture zeitgeist, lines like "I'll be Back" or "If they move, kill 'em.", "Get Away from Her You Bitch!" and of course "Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker." But "Die Hard" seems ageless, (the computers seen in the background are an obvious red herring as to its era) but the style, action and likeable surly hero make for an entertaining ride, whether at the Nakatomi plaza, an airport, the streets of New York or Washington D.C. Detective John McClane will reluctantly have to clean up the mess and take out the bad guys.

Bruce Willis and the character he helped create makes up a large part about why these films are so much fun, with his attitude, presence and ability to engage viewers it's interesting to note that he wasn't the filmmaker's first choice. He was their fifth, before him they originally went to Arnold Schwarzenegger, then Sylvester Stallone, then Burt Reynolds, then Richard Gere who all passed on the film before Willis got his big break as a leading man. Having seen Willis do his thing for 19 years and spanning 4 films it's hard to imagine anyone else playing this character and he received an unheard of $5 million for the first film, unheard of because he was a TV star at the time shooting "Moonlighting" (1985-1989), TV stars hardly made a transition into their first leading role feature film with a paycheck like that. So with star (sort of) in tow, a dedicated action director in John McTiernan who proved his chops on "Predator" (1987) the production was set to go.

And in 1988 "Die Hard" exploded onto screens becoming a massive hit for Fox and the filmmaking team but more so for its star, the film catapulted Willis into the A-list action stars along side the likes of Schwarzenegger and Stallone. Only this action star didn't have ridiculous muscles. The success would continue in the second installment "Die Hard 2: Die Harder" in 1990, this time helmed by Finnish director (and former Husband of Geena Davis and later the man responsible for the devastating on all accounts "Cutthroat Island" (1995)) Renny Harlin, at a time when he wasn't considered a hack. The second film would see McClane fighting terrorists in an airport this time as they try to free a political prisoner General Ramon Esperanza (Franco Nero) as usual McClane unexpectedly and reluctantly has to saddle up again and take out some bad guys. The film on all accounts was a larger scale production, a bigger budget, which meant bigger stunts and bigger effects. This included a fight on a 747 wing and also blowing one up. The action was stepped up but the film's plot was a fraction weaker than the first. In any case the film was also a success but it would be some years later when McClane would return to kick more ass in a third installment. In the meantime Willis padded his bank accounts with starring roles in other action films and wowing audiences along with the excellent ensemble cast in "Pulp Fiction" (1994) before donning the shield once again as Detective in "Die Hard with a Vengeance" a year later and with original director McTiernan back at the helm. This time we see McClane (almost in real time) years later, a washed up cop in New York who finds himself being toyed by Simon (Jeremy Irons), a sadistic terrorist bend on revenge. Simon just so happens to be Hans Gruber's (Alan Rickman) brother, as you may recall Hans plummeted to his death in the first film. And with the aid of Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson) he must solve a series of riddles or people will die. The third film took McClane out of the Christmas environment and into summer in New York, much like the first film the terrorist turned out to be thieves, a familiar plot twist that was rather uninspired. It's a good thing the action kept audiences distracted. The subway sequence and the ship explosion being two key action set pieces that impress. The character interaction between Jackson and Willis is fun to watch, it's certainly not a buddy cop movie. Overall the third film fails to really impress but still does a damn good job at entertaining you for a couple of hours.
Like the wait between two and three the wait for a fourth installment would be long, 12 years in fact. To be honest I never expected a fourth installment but here we are starring "Live Free or Die Hard" in the face. The trailers looked exciting, but I was unsure of the casting of Justin Long and Kevin Smith, I hoped that the filmmaker's wouldn't add comedy shtick into the mix and make it some crappy "Rush Hour" (1998) like fare. I also wasn't sure about director Len Wiseman either. This is the second time I've seen the film (first time was theatrically) and I love the first half of the film, it perfectly captures McClane and gets you into the story, this time about cyber terrorist enacting a 'fire sale' taking down the Nation's computer grid, led by Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) and sexy female partner Mai (Maggie Q). McClane must stop them, protect computer hacker Matt Farrell (Justin Long) from getting killed and also save his daughter whose been taken hostage by Gabriel. All in a day's work. But the film started it's descent into silliness first with the scene involving Kevin Smith, which felt so out of place, it was like a deleted scene that didn't get deleted and then onto the highway chase and the F-35 jet in which McClane avoids being annihilated by and takes out. There were other aspects that seemed stupid (I believe this is the right word), like the hackers downloading all of America's financial information onto a portable hard drive, despite the ludicrous nature of that info hub, unless there are portable hard drives with untold amounts of space how this possible? Another aspect which seemed unbelievable was the fight McClane has with Mai at the substation, he hits her with a car, slams it into an elevator shaft and she still mages to regain consciousness and fight him while the car dangles over a massive drop. What is this chick? The Termintor?

"Live Free of Die Hard" is probably the weakest of the series but it has it's moments, and a few nice little call backs to the original, like Agent Johnson and I love the fact the filmmaker's didn't forget the type of character McClane is, as always the situation he's in literally falls on his lap, and by the end of it he's always messed-up, banged up and a little worse for weather but he always gets the bad guy.

Video

Each film is presented in their widescreen ratios of 2.40:1 and all are in 1080p 24/fps high-definition and created using AVC MPEG-4 compression. These films span 19 years so the quality varies through each film. The first film holds up quite well, the HD image is much better than previous DVD incarnations but the film does show its age, as sharpness is not consistent and there are plenty of shots that appear soft, some dirt can be seen and there's a lot of grain throughout the print. One thing I noticed with older films is that the special effects don't hold up too well, and you start to see the limitations of that filmmakers put up with, for example the compositing of elements sticks out quite a bit a good example of this is when the helicopter crashes into the building.
The second pretty much appears much like the first, with some grain and dirt, softness is also exhibited. Black levels however are nice and bold and shadow detail holds up well for the most part, but the overall image still appears a bit flat. Detail is more noticeable which bumps the clarity here compared to the DVD release.

The third film fares much better, sharpness holds up well and fine detail is also nicely balanced, skin tones sometimes appear a bit yellowish-orange a few times but this is not really a problem. Grain and some dirt can still be seen which is a bit of a disappointment but it's never really distracting.

Finally the fourth installment, being the most recent obviously looks the best. The image is infinitely sharp and detailed, colors are well balanced, blacks nice a heavy and skin tones looking good. I spotted very little grain and no compression related issues such as artifacting or edge-enhancement, the print was pristine as well not a scratch on it.

Audio

These films include audio in English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround which is presented at 48kHz/24-bit as well as standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes in English, French and Spanish. For the purposes of this review I chose to view these films with the DTS-HD soundtrack and much like the image transfers the audio was also a mixed bag that improved through the installments. All the mixes sounded aggressive, surround effects are punchy and explosions are a treat. The surround channels are put to great use especially in the third and fourth films, the first two make good use of the space but are not as active as the later films. The audio exhibits some good range from the ambient sounds to the more dynamic stuff which is always nice. Depth is achieved especially with the music in the film and the sub woofer makes a nice impact. Dialogue is ok at best on the first film and isn't as punchy but it's clear, it improves in the second and the third and fourth films are perfect. It's clear that the later two films make much better use of the 5.1 sound space but that's not to say the first two aren't good, but they certainly show their age in terms of sound design when compared to the later two.

Optional subtitles are included in English, Spanish, Cantonese and Korean.

Extras

Fox has released these films with a collection of extras that include several audio commentaries and featurettes, a documentary, deleted scenes and an alternate ending, still galleries, theatrical trailers, interviews, music video and an interactive feature. These are extras are explored in-depth below and broken down per disc.

DISC ONE:

"Die Hard" (1988)

First up we've got a feature-length audio commentary with the film's director John McTiernan and production designer Jackson DeGovia. For this track the two participants were recorded separately and the audio edited together. The two comment on their roles on the film and on sharing memories from the production and also commenting on some trivia. Director McTiernan talks about dealing with the studio and shooting a studio action movie on a relatively small budget, usually these types of films included big star power as the lead and budgets that match the star power but in this case it was not so even though Willis was paid very well. He also talks about the production, the shooting process, some of the challenges as well as comments about the other cast and crew. Production designer DeGovia as expected spends a lot of time talking about the design aspects of the film and he has some interesting things to say but to be honest I was more interested in what the director had to say.

A second audio commentary is included and it features the film's special effects supervisor Richard Edlund, Edlund a "Star Wars" (1977) veteran and highly experienced effects man takes us through the technical aspects of this film, the track does not run the entire course of the film but instead the segments which feature his comments are indexed . He comments on how the films effects were made, this is especially interesting as there was no CGI back then and all the effects elements were shot and composited. I'm a big movie geek and love hearing about various shots or complicated sequences were made so I got a kick out this track even though it was only on certain scenes.

There's a third commentary featuring members of the cast & crew, however it's not an audio track but rather a text-fact-track which features pop-up information from author Eric Lichtenfeld who wrote the book "Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie" and also features information from director John McTiernan, production designer Jackson DeGovia, screenwriter Steven E. De Souza, special effects coordinator Al Di Sarro, supervising sound editor Stephen Hunter Flick, producer Lawrence Gordon, composer Michael Kamen, editor John F. Link, stunt coordinator Charlie Picerni and actor Alan Rickman.

Following that are "Newscasts" clips which run for 7 minutes 59 seconds, throughout the film it would cut to some news footage, like the interview with the author of the book about hostages etc. These are the complete versions of those newscasts that were shot for the film.

Next up is a stills gallery clip that runs for 9 minutes 27 seconds and features some concept art and production and publicity photos taken for the film. The clip is set to music from the film.

Also included are a series of 3 theatrical trailers that include:

- "Theatrical trailer A" which runs for 1 minute 34 seconds.
- "Theatrical trailer E" which runs for 2 minutes 34 seconds.
- "Theatrical trailer F" which runs for 31 seconds.

Following that are a collection of 7 TV spots that include:

- "TV spot #1: Silver Graphic" which runs for 32 seconds.
- "TV spot #2: Inferno" which runs for 32 seconds.
- "TV spot #3: Wife" which runs for 32 seconds.
- "TV spot #4: Reluctant Hero" which runs for 32 seconds.
- "TV spot #5: Action/Comedy" which runs for 32 seconds.
- "TV spot #6: Non-stop" which runs for 32 seconds.
- "TV spot #7: Spectacular Review" which runs for 32 seconds.

Rounding out the extras are a series of bonus trailers for:

- "Die Hard 2: Die Harder" which runs for 1 minute 23 seconds.
- "Die Hard: With a Vengeance" which runs for 2 minutes 41 seconds.
- "Live Free or Die Hard" which runs for 2 minutes 14 seconds.
- "Alien vs. Predator" which runs for 2 minutes 16 seconds.

Featured on this disc is a "Personal Scene Selections" feature which allows you to bookmark your favorite scenes. Additionally this disc features "D-Box" enabled support; if you have a D-Box motion set-up this disc is compatible.

DISC TWO:

"Die Hard 2: Die Harder" (1990)

The first extra on this disc is the feature-length audio commentary by the film's director Renny Harlin. The Finnish native approaches a commentary much like Paul Verhoeven with a excitable and fast moving style. He covers many aspects of the production from initial development and how he got involved to working with the actors and the complexities of the airport set, shooting winter scenes, stunts and all manner of issues relating to the production and also the post-production as well. He shares some interesting stories, provides some cool trivia about the film and hardly takes a moment to breath. This is a great track as Harlin is clearly excited about doing it and sharing information for what is essentially the best film he ever made.

Next up are 4 deleted scenes which include:

- "Merry Christmas" which runs for 43 seconds and features a choir singing in the airport as McClane navigates through the crowd of people.
- "Down the Rabbit Hole" which runs for 57 seconds, Colonel Stuart's men kill the airport maintenance crew.
- "Marvin" runs for 2 minutes 53 seconds and is an extended version of the scene where McClane meets Marvin for the first time.
- "The Boiler Room" runs for 3 minutes 40 seconds and is another extended scene featuring Marvin helping McClane find his way to the Annex Skywalk.

Following that is a featurette which is a promotional TV special entitled "The Making of Die Hard 2: Die Harder" which is an HBO clip that runs for 23 minutes 8 seconds. Although it has a fairly decent runtime compared to most EPKs it's still a bunch a fluff which features behind-the-scenes footage edited with interviews from the cast and crew telling how great the film is and why we should all see it.

After that we've got an EPK featurette which runs for 4 minutes 6 seconds, this is a shorter version of the previous clip which covers the basics about the film and everyone involved telling us why its such a great film.

"The Bad Guys" is the next featurette that runs for 6 minutes 39 seconds and takes a brief look at the villains of this installment and the actors that play them. In effect its another EPK clip that doesn't reveal too much.

"Breaking the Ice" is a featurette that runs for 4 minutes 9 seconds and is a look at a key action sequence from the film and the challenges it posed for the filmmakers.

Following that is "Chaos on a Conveyer Belt" featurette that runs for 7 minutes 53 seconds and takes a look at the gun fight that takes place on a conveyer belt in the airport.

Shortly after that we've got an "Interview with Renny Harlin" featurette as the director comments on the exciting aspects of the film and what makes this one better than the last film.

Next we've got 3 Visual Effects Breakdowns, these look at three scenes and show a breakdown of how they were shot to final product as seen in the finished film and include:

- "Ejector Seat" which runs for 3 minutes 19 seconds.
- "Airport Runway" which runs for 1 minute 58 seconds.
- "Storyboard Sequence" which runs for 2 minutes 57 seconds and is a reel of storyboards from the Annex Skywalk action sequence.

Following that are 3 side-by-side comparisons these are sequences that present three sequences from scenes along side behind-the-scenes footage from the shooting, these scenes include:

- "Chopper" which runs for 1 minute 19 seconds.
- "Airplane Models" which runs for 3 minutes 13 seconds.
- "Wing Fight" which runs for 1 minute 49 seconds.

Next up on the disc are a collection of 4 theatrical trailers that include:

- "Theatrical trailer A" which runs for 1 minute 23 seconds.
- "Theatrical trailer B" which runs for 1 minute 34 seconds.
- "Theatrical trailer C" which runs for 2 minutes 40 seconds.
- "Theatrical trailer D" which runs for 40 seconds.

Also on the disc are a series of 2 TV spots that include:

- "TV spot#1: Beethoven" which runs for 32 seconds.
- "TV spot #2: Up To His Neck" which runs for 32 seconds.

Finally we've got more bonus trailers for:

- "Die Hard" which runs for 36 seconds.
- "Die Hard: With a Vengeance" which runs for 2 minutes 41 seconds.
- "Live Free or Die Hard" which runs for 2 minutes 14 seconds.
- "Alien vs. Predator" which runs for 2 minutes 16 seconds.

Featured on this disc is a "Personal Scene Selections" feature which allows you to bookmark your favorite scenes. Additionally this disc features "D-Box" enabled support; if you have a D-Box motion set-up this disc is compatible.

DISC THREE:

"Die Hard with a Vengeance" (1995)

Yet again we've got a feature-length audio commentary with the film's director John McTiernan, as well as screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh and former Fox head of distribution Tom Sherak. The original director returns for the third installment and this track is not different than the one he does for the first film as the other participants are also edited into the track with their comments, although Sherak doesn't add much to this track. The director talks about his involvement in this film, and screenwriter talks about how the script was not originally a "Die Hard" script but an action film called "Simon Says", the script was rewritten into a third "Die Hard" film. McTiernan takes us through the challenges of the production in this decent track which is worth listening to.

Next up we've got an alternate ending which can be viewed with optional audio commentary by screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh, in the track he talks about the ending and why it was dropped in favor of the one that appears in the film. In this ending Simon gets away and McClane eventually tracks him down and makes him play a game, this time by his rules. Simon does not win this time.

Just like the previous films we've also got a TV special entitled "HBO First Look", this featurette runs for 22 minutes and is yet another EPK clip that shows some behind-the-scenes and interviews with the key people involved telling us about the film, the stunts and their characters plus how great it all is...boring.

Another TV special is next entitled "A Night to Die For" this featurette was originally made for CBS and runs for 21 minutes 36 seconds. This special is hosted by Samuel L. Jackson and is basically another fluff piece like the previous clip. Move on...

In case you wanted more EPK fluff we've got another featurette this time shorter at 4 minutes 20 seconds, I'm starting to get sick and very bored of seeing the same footage and hearing about how awesome this film is.

"Villains with a Vengeance" is the next featurette and runs for 4 minutes 25 seconds, and takes a look at the character Simon Gruber played by Jeremy Irons, who does make quite a good villain even though his tactics are similar to the character's brother as seen in the first film.

"Bruce Willis interview" is the featurette which follows and runs for 6 minutes 22 seconds, he talks about rooting for the underdog, on the character and the stunts being bigger than ever among other things.

Up next is a storyboard sequence which runs for 2 minutes 9 seconds and is a comparison of the tunnel sequence.

3 visual effects breakdowns are next, this shows how the shots were executed with practical effects and include:

- "Blowing up Bonwit" which runs for 7 minutes 52 seconds.
- "Prepping the Park" which runs for 10 minutes 24 seconds.
- "Terror in the Subway" which runs for 8 minutes 53 seconds.

Following that we've got 6 side-by-side comparisons. These show behind-the-scenes footage of the shooting of key scenes along with the final product that was featured in the finished film and include:

- "Great Jump" which runs for 34 seconds.
- "Shimmy Down Cable" which runs for 51 seconds.
- "Jackson Plummets" which runs for 37 seconds.
- "Grabbing Crane" which runs for 37 seconds.
- "Four in Front of Taxi" which runs for 40 seconds.
- "McClane Shoots out of Tunnel" which runs for 38 seconds.

2 theatrical trailers are also included on this disc and are:

- "Theatrical trailer B" which runs for 1 minute 3 seconds.
- "Theatrical trailer D" which runs for 2 minutes 41 seconds.

Also included are a series of 10 TV spots that are:

- "TV spot #1: Best Revised" which runs for 32 seconds.
- "TV spot #2: Bad Timing" which runs for 32 seconds.
- "TV spot #3: Crushing Revised" which runs for 32 seconds.
- "TV spot #4: Events" which runs for 32 seconds.
- "TV spot #5: Jumps in Revised" which runs for 32 seconds.
- "TV spot #6: Think Fast" which runs for 32 seconds.
- "TV spot #7: Seat Belt" which runs for 32 seconds.
- "TV spot #8: Two" which runs for 32 seconds.
- "TV spot #9: Review" which runs for 32 seconds.
- "TV spot #10: Graphics Review" which runs for 32 seconds.

Finally a collection of bonus trailers is included:

- "Die Hard" which runs for 31 seconds.
- "Die Hard 2: Die Harder" which runs for 1 minute 23 seconds.
- "Live Free or Die Hard" which runs for 2 minutes 14 seconds.
- "Aliens vs. Predator" which runs for 2 minutes 16 seconds.

Featured on this disc is a "Personal Scene Selections" feature which allows you to bookmark your favorite scenes. Additionally this disc features "D-Box" enabled support; if you have a D-Box motion set-up this disc is compatible.

DISC FOUR:

"Live Free or Die Hard" (2007)

Kicking things off is a feature-length audio commentary with the film's director Len Wiseman, star Bruce Willis and editor Nicolas De Toth. This is another great track, one thing to say about these films is that all the commentaries have been quite good and this time the participants are all in the same room instead of recorded separately and edited together. Their lively chatter covers many aspects of the production from the vision of the film to retaining the classic elements of the character to the film's stunts and action sequences, Willis spends some time patting everyone's backs and thinks this is the best film since the first while editor De Toth takes us through cutting a film. It's interesting to note that the film was originally conceived as being a hard 'R' rated film but the studio wanted to release a 'PG-13' film so many changes had to be made to soften the film for that rating but still retain an intensity to the violence, they talk about all that would have been different in the more intense cut, which sadly for fans is not included on this Blu-ray release, we only get the original theatrical 'PG-13' version while the DVD gets an 'Unrated' cut! I was not pleased to hear this and that fact that they spend a lot of time talking about the harder cut only makes you feel like you're being taunted with the coolness of that version but not actually seeing it.

Commentary aside the best feature on this disc has got to be the feature-length documentary entitled "Analog Cop in a Digital World: The Making of Live Free or Die Hard" which runs for 97 minutes 20 seconds and covers just about everything from the "Die Hard" legacy to the initial ideal of making another installment, both Willis and Wiseman's involvement, fleshing out the script, reinventing the series but retaining all the classic elements that people love about it, introduces us to the new characters and the actors that play them, also looks at the stunts, the visual style of the film, the production design, the sets and locations, the practical effects and also the CG effects, editing, sound, scoring the film, color correcting and digital intermediate stage etc. It's the total package of 'making-ofs' they literally leave no stone unturned.

Next up is a featurette entitled "Yippie Ki-Yay, Mother******" which runs for 22 minutes 4 seconds and features Kevin Smith interviewing Willis about the film and the character, he talks about what appeals him to the character and making these films, to not being totally confident in making this film but having those fears alleviated after a few weeks of shooting, he also talks about not being too happy with the second and third films but loves the fourth installment and how happy he is that it turned out great among other things. This is a great clip to watch as it's candid and honest.

A TV excerpt is included entitled "Fox Movie Channel Presents: Fox Legacy" this featurette is a 6 minute 19 second fluff piece in how important this series is to Fox and what classics they've become.

Following that is a music video entitled "Die Hard" performed by the band Guyz Nite, this is a punk song that chronicles the events of the films and runs for 4 minutes 31 seconds.

Another featurette is next entitled "Behind-the-Scenes with Guyz Nite" which runs for 5 minutes 47 seconds and takes a look at the band their type of music, unless you're a real fan of these guys this can be skipped.

Also featured is the film's original theatrical trailer which runs for 2 minutes 14 seconds and is basically the same trailer you've seen on every disc in this collection.

There are also some bonus trailers included for:

- "Die Hard" which runs for 32 seconds.
- "Die Hard 2: Die Harder" which runs for 1 minute 23 seconds.
- "Die Hard: With a Vengeance" which runs for 2 minutes 41 seconds.
- "The Simpson's Movie" which runs for 1 minute 48 seconds.
- "The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" which runs for 2 minutes 5 seconds.
- "The Siege" which runs for 2 minutes 8 seconds.

Rounding out the extras is a BD-Java interactive game entitled "Black Hat Intercept!" this HD exclusive feature is a strategy game where you have to stop a virus from being downloaded into a mainframe, your objective is to take out operatives at each stage using your remote.

Additionally this disc features "D-Box" enabled support; if you have a D-Box motion set-up this disc is compatible.

Packaging

This collection includes 4 Blu-rays discs packaged in a slightly larger Blu-ray case.

Overall

Films:
Die Hard : A
Die Hard 2: Die Harder : B+
Die Hard with a Vengeance : B-
Live Free or Die Hard : C+
Picture:
Die Hard : B
Die Hard 2: Die Harder : B+
Die Hard with a Vengeance : A
Live Free or Die Hard : A+
Sound:
Die Hard : A
Die Hard 2: Die Harder : A
Die Hard with a Vengeance : A+
Live Free or Die Hard : A+
Extras :A
Overall : B+/A-

View the comparisons for these films here:
Die Hard
Die Hard 2: Die Harder
Die Hard: With a Vengeance
Live Free or Die Hard

The Film: A Video: B+ Audio: A Extras: A Overall: B+

 


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