'A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD'
2 1/2 stars = Average
"A Good Day to Die Hard," the weakest of the five "Die Hard" movies, aspires to be all action all the time, and it is that.
Directed by John Moore, it dispenses with pesky backstory, like why John McClane (Bruce Willis) has lost touch with his adult son, Jack (Jai Courtney). Jack is imprisoned in Moscow, awaiting sentencing and lucky to get life.
The news sends McClane to the airport with a farewell plea from his adult daughter (Mary Elizabeth Winstead): "Try not to make an even bigger mess of things."
Darned if that doesn't happen when he arrives in Moscow and gets in the middle of an undercover CIA operation involving his irate son and a prisoner, Komarov (Sebastian Koch, "The Lives of Others"), who holds the fate of a malicious politician in his hands.
In no time, father, son, Komarov and others are in one of the wildest, most extensive and destructive car chases put on film. Although most of the movie was filmed in Budapest, much of that action was shot on Moscow's Garden Ring and everyone and everything seems impervious to injury. It builds to a climactic confrontation at Chernobyl, or what passes on film for the home of the 1986 nuclear power plant disaster.
What "A Good Day to Die Hard" lacks is a villain of the sadistic stature of Alan Rickman or Jeremy Irons. As it aims for that all-important international audience, McClane's feats take him overseas and it's harder to relate to the action antics, but you have to hand it to Mr. Willis. He has the moves and box-office draw of a much younger man.
2 stars = Mediocre
"Identity Thief" banks on our affection for Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy.
He is Sandy Bigelow Patterson, a Denver husband and father of two with a third child on the way who earns $50,000 a year working in accounts processing for a big investment firm.
His identity is stolen by Diana, a Floridian who spins elaborate tales for strangers and is happy to treat an entire bar to tequila, even if it means a bar tab of $2,148. It's not her money, after all.
Her use of Sandy's name and credit cards comes at the worst possible time as he's starting a new job. When, due to the identity theft, he's implicated in a drug investigation and the cops turn up at his office, Sandy decides to take matters into his own hands and head to Florida.
Finding his financial impersonator isn't hard; keeping track of her and trying to get her to Denver is. Turns out she sold some credit cards to the wrong guy and he's ordered a hit on her, and if that weren't drama enough, a skip tracer (sort of a bounty hunter) is on her trail, too.
"Identity Thief" starts off on a harsh, ugly note -- Sandy launches objects at diminutive Diana's head, she kicks him in the crotch and punches him in the throat -- but turns into a road-trip comedy filled with R-rated mishaps and then a buddy picture with tears, transformations and lessons all around.
This tepid comic fantasy, which makes repeated jokes about Sandy's virility and includes a lusty, noisy motel interlude, borrows a bit from director Seth Gordon's "Horrible Bosses," which featured Mr. Bateman as a browbeaten employee who couldn't say goodbye to his dying grandmother.
In the end, "Identity Thief," which also stars Amanda Peet as Sandy's pregnant wife and Eric Stonestreet as a stranger the travelers meet in a bar, is a mildly amusing, utterly forgettable, all over the map comedy.
TV on DVD
'Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season'
3 1/2 stars = Very good
The title of this release is a bit confusing because in the past AMC has referred to the show's final 16 episodes as "the fifth season" even though that season was broken into two batches of eight episodes, half included on this DVD set ($55.99 DVD, $65.99; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), the other half unspooling on AMC beginning Aug. 11.
Whatever name Sony chooses to put to it, this box set offers an opportunity for late-to-the-party fans to play catch up before those final eight episodes debut. For others, this box set offers a treasure trove of extras, including audio commentary tracks, audition footage, extended and deleted scenes and a gag reel.
The set also promises an "exclusive new scene," the 7-minute "Chicks 'N' Guns," which a 7-minute making-of feature reveals was instigated by Sony Marketing.
Given the impetus for the scene, it comes as little surprise that "Chicks 'N' Guns" doesn't do much to further the plot, though it does offer some explanation on character motivation.
This new scene is set during Episode 508, "Gliding Over All," and helps fill in the blanks to reveal how Jesse went from leery about Walt's actions to actually afraid. The scene features Jesse (Aaron Paul), Skinny Pete (Charles Baker), Saul (Bob Odenkirk) and a topless stripper (hey, it's a DVD extra, they can get away with that).
-- Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV writermoviereviews