The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox – 1988, 1990, 1995, 2007
MPAA Rating: R, PG-13
Feature running time: 132/124/131/129 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1, 2.40:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Alexander Godunov, Reginald VelJohnson, William Atherton, Dennis Franz, William Sadler, John Amos, Jeremy Irons, Samuel L. Jackson, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant, Maggie Q, Cliff Curtis
Directed by: John McTiernan, Renny Harlin, Len Wiseman
Music by: Michael Kamen, Marco Beltrami
Written by: Jeb Stuart, Steven E. deSouza, Doug Richardson, Jonathan Hensleigh, Mark Bomback
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: January 29, 2013
Celebrate 25 years of Bruce Willis playing John McClane with this 5-Disc Collection featuring the first four Die Hard films and an all-new bonus disc, Decoding Die Hard. It's the ultimate tribute to the tough-as-nails cop with a wry sense of humor and a knack for explosive action. Wrong place. Wrong time. Right man. Yippee ki yay!
Die Hard: Bruce Willis stars as New York City cop John McClane, Off-duty, and visiting his wife in L.A., McClane find himself back in the line of fire when a group of terrorists seize an office building, trapping him, his estranged wife (Bonnie Bedelia) and dozens of party-goers insider. As hostages are rounded up, McClane slips away and, armed with only a service revolver, launches his own one-man war.
Die Hard 2: Die harder: On a snowy Christmas Eve in the nation's capital, off-duty cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) battles a team of terrorists who have taken over a major international airport, while he copes with an inept airport police chief, the stubborn head of the army's anti-terrorist squad, and the knowledge that his wife is trapped in a plane circling overhead!
Die Hard with a vengeance: New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) is now the personal target of a terrorist determined to blow up the city if he doesn't get what he wants. Accompanied by a reluctant civilian (Samuel L. Jackson), McClane engages in a tense battle of wits with a psychopathic genius in this thrill-a-minute adventure that grabs you and doesn't let go!
Live free and die hard: In the latest installment of the pulse-pounding Die Hard films, New York City detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) delivers old-school justice to a new breed of techno-terrorists when a massive computer attack on the U.S. infrastructure threatens to shut down the entire country over Independence Day weekend.
I am most definitely a Die Hard fan. I saw Die Hard in the theater back in 1988 and was instantly hooked. Back then action flicks were predominantly led by larger than life characters with muscles to spare and enough glitz to power a city. Enter John McClane, a seemingly affable everyman with a non-imposing physique and bad habits. Prior to Die Hard my experience with Bruce Willis consisted of catches glimpses of him on TV’s Moonlighting and a movie (comedy) called Blind Date with Kim Basinger. I didn’t have a problem seeing him in a role such as this but honestly wasn’t expecting much. Of course my expectations were far exceeded. Die Hard was edgy, clever and dynamic as it plied us with engaging action, wonderfully integrated heart/humor and an iconic character that would go on to reshape the genre and spawn three (soon to be four) sequels and the enduring devotion of hordes of fans the world over. Filled with classic lines and memorable moments it felt so fresh/entertaining and left audiences hankering for more.
Fast forward two years and the release of Die Hard 2: Die Harder. I eagerly looked forward to it but left the theater feeling let down. The plot and many of the secondary characters felt rehashed/shallow, the bad guy (s) miserably failing to compare to those in Die Hard, and the sidekick (s) might as well have not existed. Lastly I found that the action correlated with the remaining elements in that there was little that distinguished itself. I didn’t care much for the clunky “Rocky” type ending as John sifted staggered around the planes landing site yelling “Holllly…!!”
When Die Hard with a vengeance was announced I reluctantly went to see it but held out hope that the return of John McTiernan would bring the spark back, and it did. I wasn’t so sure about the whole revenge angle but of course as the story pressed on you discover that is more of a cherry on top of a larger cake. I liked the concept along with the plot’s well placed narrative twists and much larger canvas that they played out on. I really enjoyed the integrated sidekick spin and thought that Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson made a great pair. The infusion and slickness of the action proved fun and in Jeremy Irons and his cohorts (especially the crazy female) we got a decent cache of villains.
By 2007 Bruce Willis was over 50 but still managing to hit the mark in films. I wasn’t sure what Live free or die hard had in store but I was primed and ready for more of my man John McClane. He didn’t disappoint of course as we got an updated plot that featured a cyber based terrorist threat at the hand of Timothy Olyphant, another personal favorite, who had not trouble stepping into the villainous role. The action was over the top but incredibly fun and we got a host of secondary characters that thematically integrated quite nicely. On the sidekick front Justin Long had big shoes to fill and while he came up short wasn’t bad at all.
I love the Die Hard series (Die Hard 2 notwithstanding) and have my favorite lines, villains and sidekicks from each. My favorite villain is Hans Gruber. Hands down Alan Rickman owns this character and is one of the contributing factors that make Die Hard so good. My favorite sidekick is Zeus (why do you keep calling me Jesus!?) Carver. Samuel L. Jackson is among my favorite character actors and his sharp delivery and pitch perfect off handedness is spot on. Among my favorite lines are, ”Welcome to the party pal!”, ”You just killed a helicopter with a car…I was out of bullets” ”That’s gonna wake the neighbors”, There's a difference between not liking one's brother and not caring when some dumb Irish flatfoot drops him out of a window
Of course there are many more to go along with some of the most entertaining action/adventure moments to come to the big screen.
Here are my ratings of each of the films individually which is reflected in the combined rating at the top of this review:
Die Hard 2: Die Harder:
Die Hard with a vengeance:
Live free or Die Hard:
Each of the Die Hard films has been previously released on Blu-ray and this 25th Anniversary Collection contains the same releases. What you do get here is an attractive hardcover book style keep case (with a matching hardcover slip jacket) with a waxed sleeve (page) that houses each disc which includes a shot of Bruce Willis taken from each film. Additionally there is a bonus disc titled Decoding Die Hard that presents a soup to nuts perspective on the series including recent insights from cast members, writers, producers and directors.
As a fan I am pleased to add this to my collection although those that already own the previous releases might be less inclined to purchase it simply for the above referenced extras/new packaging. Either way it’s a great warm up for the upcoming release of A good day to Die Hard which will be released in theaters later this month.
These films contain strong violence and pervasive language.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
The Die Hard 25th Anniversary Blu-ray Collection comes to Blu-ray Disc from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound. Die Hard, Die Hard 2, and Die Hard with a vengeance have an average video bit rate of approximately 27 Mbps. Live free or Die Hard has an average video bitrate of 31 Mbps. Die Hard, Die Hard 2, and Die Hard with a vengeance have an average audio bitrate of 3.2 Mbps and Live free or Die Hard has an average audio bitrate of 3.8 Mbps.
In looking at the first three films these high definition presentations offer satisfying image quality that presents them in a positive light. Overall fidelity remains intact and while Die Hard with a vengeance looks minimally better than the earlier installments the variation isn’t such that it makes for a marked difference. In examining the quality of the source prints these are primarily in very good condition. Grain is intact throughout and primarily appears to be undisturbed. Rendering is occasionally inconsistent however this isn’t attributable to the encoding and rarely rose to an objectionable level. I was impressed with the reproduction of fleshtones as complexions have good tonal depth, delineated highlights and lifelike texture.
Color balance is excellent as both primary and secondary appear warm and natural. Colors aren’t overly vibrant but are cleanly rendered with a pleasing level of saturation and depth. Blacks appear punchy with appreciable dynamic range that makes them pop while onscreen with both light and dark elements. Resolution and clarity is estimable although sharpness can be a bit inconsistent, especially in the first two films. In most instances this appears innate and rarely infringes upon the perceivable fidelity of these presentations which make it less glaring. Shadow detail isn’t always definitive but depth of field and low level transitions are generally perceivable which enhances dimension. I didn’t see any overt signs of the application of unwanted noise reduction or excessive manipulation. Images are well resolved with discernible definition and fair rendering of fine detail during close up and mid level camera pans. I noticed some low level background noise here and there but otherwise saw no obvious signs of video related artifacts. These presentations don’t have the polish of newer releases that come to Blu-ray which is to be expected. I did find the overall quality of the presentations to be fair but nothing that a re-mastering couldn’t improve upon.
Live free or Die Hard being the newest release looks appreciably better in high definition offers excellent video quality. I decided to comment on it separately from the others for audio/video. Blacks are inky, stable and gradationally satisfying. Colors are visually pleasing with crisp texture and dynamic highlights. Resolution is strong as image penetration is deep with discernible subtle refinement and long range acuity that is visually revealing. Images onscreen appear nuanced, sharp and dimensional. I didn’t notice any signs of video related artifacts or extraneous noise and felt the video had a pristine quality.
The high resolution DTS-HD MA audio mixes do a nice job rendering the 20 + year old soundtracks in this collection (Live free or Die Hard notwithstanding). Dialogue has discernible intonation, with distinctive clarity and above average room penetration. These are more or less front oriented presentations that make effective use of the entire system to deliver the action based components which are highlighted by solid impact, defining clarity, and the memorable music. Dynamic range is good, a bit more so in the two newer films although the limitations inherent in the original recordings are noticeable but not defining. Surround activity isn’t constant but when applied can be copious as discernible spatial ambience and discrete sounds fill the listening area.
The LFE channel is similarly used to punctuate sound effects like explosions, gunfire and roaring flames. The soundtracks run the gamut and contain a variety of audio cues/spatial dimension that extend the soundstage. This includes the envelopment provided by the music as well as the discrete placement of sounds that travel from one side of the soundfield to the other. Imaging across the front is definitive while front to rear integration isn’t quite as cohesive. I noted that especially in the two older films sounds mixed to the rear channels tends to be a bit more prominent which occasionally skews balance. The overall effect doesn’t prove overtly distracting though.
Live free or Die Hard takes thing to another level entirely. The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on this Blu-ray Disc is a sonic tour de force and is of reference quality. My subs crank out an abundance of clean, powerful, and room filling bass that has palpable extension. By design this mix is intended to be bombastic and aggressive. Gunfire and explosions has tactile and dynamic impact that can be felt from any point in the room. The rich and immersive quality of the audio enhances the experience and proves quite engaging. If you want to drive your entire system to demonstrate its capabilities this DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is the ticket.
Audio/Video ratings for Die Hard, Die Hard 2: Die harder, Die Hard with a vengeance: Video rating = 76 Audio rating = 80
Audio/Video ratings for Live free or Die Hard: Video rating = 92 Audio rating = 96
It should be noted that each disc contains the legacy supplemental features originally included therein. I will forego a breakdown of those features and below will summarize the contents of the newly released Decoding Die Hard bonus disc.
- (HD) Origins: Reinventing the action genre – 19 minute featurette
- (HD) John McClane: Modern day hero – 16 minute featurette
- (HD) Villains: Bad to the bone – 20 minute featurette
- (HD) Sidekicks: Along for the ride – 19 minute featurette
- (HD) Fight sequences: Punishing blows – 7 minute featurette
- (HD) Action: Explosive effects – 14 minute featurette
- (HD) Legacy: The right hero for the right time – 9 minute featurette
- (HD) Trailers – All four plus A good day to die hard
Here is the official trailer:
Die Hard is a beloved and highly successful film franchise with a timeless appeal that has endured over the 25 years since we first met John McClane. The first film in the series remains my favorite but each (perhaps even Die Hard 2) prove entertaining on various levels and give genre fans that particular thrill that keeps us coming back for more. Die Hard: 25th Anniversary Collection comes to Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring satisfying overall high definition video quality, complimentary DTS-HD Master Audio surround sound, legacy bonus material, and a brand new soup to nuts look at the series titled Decoding Die Hard which makes for an excellent companion to all four films.
Those who already own the previous high definition releases and aren’t interested in the new bonus features can probably skip this. If you are interested in the entire collection as well as the new bonus features this five disc offering is the way to go. It should be noted that with the upcoming release of A good day to Die Hard a future release containing all five films may be in the works. Of course there is no telling when that may be. In the meantime I am perfectly content to add this gem to my collection.
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Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS55 3D Ready 1080p High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6 Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Onkyo PR-SC5508 THX Ultra 2 Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-103 Universal Disc/3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Panasonic DMP-BDT310 3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" Series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package