FOX has released the most recent "DIE HARD" film, individually and as part of a complete "DIE HARD COLLECTION." While the latest film looks and sounds great on blu-ray, what "will" almost certainly blu-ray fans off, is FOX's decision to release the "unrated" version of "DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE" only on dvd, meaning only the "PG-13, watered down" version is available on blu-ray!
Certainly the most dated of the four films, in virtually every aspect, is the original "DIE HARD." In this original entry to the series, audiences are introduced to John McClane, the tough New York City cop, moved to California, to be with his recently promoted wife, in an upper management corporate position. It's Christmas eve, and he's trapped in a tall building during her company Christmas party, while terrorists have taken over the building with some extremely maniacal plans afoot. It's up to McClane to "almost" single-handedly take out the bad guys, and the taught direction and well-written script help make the unbelievable seem possible, throughout the entire duration of the film.
Fox has provided a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer with the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio. While colors are generally solid, fleshtones veer towards oversaturation at times. Contrast is fine, but blacks aren't deep enough to provide great depth during darker scenes. Worse, virtually the entire film appears flat. There isn't any scene that actually coming to mind, wherein the image has that "jump off the screen" type of detail, we've grown accustomed to with blu-ray. There is also a surprising amount of grain and artifacts present.
Fox has provided a DTS-HD Lossless mix for this and all the films in this collection. Unfortunately, "DIE HARD" has the most dated mix of the four films, with limited dynamic range and a notably processed atmosphere, wherein surrounds come to life on occasion, but without the kind of discrete impact and utilization, most are accustomed to in superior mixes. Fidelity can be wanting at times and bass is low-key, for the most part, not a good thing in an action film! Dialogue is always intelligible, but with less sustained prominence than one typically expects.
Extras for this film, include 3 separate audio commentaries, only the one with Director John McTiernan, being worthwhile. There are also trailers in 1080p, a still gallery and fake newscasts.
While most seem to disagree, this reviewer thinks the sequel, "DIE HARD 2: Die Harder" is the best of the four films! Not being a fan of Director Renny Harlin, it's even more surprising that he's managed to generate even more tension than there was in the first film. This time out, McClane finds himself at an airport, battling terrorists, working to crash planes all over the skies, as part of a huge extortion scheme. The production design is more elaborate than in the earlier film, and the snowy setting works wonders in scene after scene, sometimes, with near miraculous results. It's just a gripping and fun film from beginning to end!
While the 1080p image for this entry is improved upon over the original film, it still lacks the depth one expects, with the great majority of the film coming across as flat. Contrast is slightly improved. Colors are solid, but fleshtones are still problematic at times. None of the artifacts plaguing the earlier film are at hand, but there is some excessive grain at times.
The DTS-HD lossless mix for "DIE HARD 2" is a major disappointment. Not only is it "not" aggressive, but it's actually restrained! When surround effects are utilized, it gives a great impact to what's at hand, but these instances are few and far between. Dynamic range is notably more limited than in the first film, and dialogue is less balanced, necessitating one to adjust the center channel volume at various times, for clarity.
FOX has included some extras including a terrific, must-listen, commentary with Director Renny Harlin. No matter what one may think of him, he provides one of the best commentaries we've heard in years!
Also included, in standard resolution, featurettes, promotional interviews and deleted scenes. Theatrical trailers are offered in full 1080p.
Until having seen "DIE HARD 4," this reviewer believed "DIE HARD 3: Die Hard with a Vengeance" was the weakest of the series. After a promising beginning, wherein a scene plays out with a daring style and resolution to a classic song, things start going down hill fast. A maniacal villain sends McClane on death defying missions, including, get this...wearing a sign with "I HATE N--ggers" written in big letters in the middle of Harlem! This is supposed to be a bold and original twist on the series??? It, along with most of the film plays out like a tired, uninspired rehash of everything that made the earlier films work. By the time McClane gets to his standard "yippie-ki" line, one is numb to its potential impact, rather than inspired by it, or verbalizing it along with the main character as it's obvious Director John McTiernan wants viewers to be doing. Even Samuel L. Jackson can't save the film, although he does prop up the plodding narrative with some of the film's few decent scenes.
FOX has provided a impressive transfer for "DIE HARD 3: DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE." Colors are better balanced, along with fleshtones, without any signs of oversaturation. More importantly, there's great depth in virtually every scene, and the film rarely looks flat! Unfortunately, there is some intrusive grain and artifacts appearing sporadically.
FOX has made great use of the DTS-HD Lossless mix here! Finally, the mix is aggressive and gives a lot of punch to some of the film's few great scenes. Discrete and panning effects are used creatively, and bass is well used during the opening and various other scenes, needing it. Dialogue is well balanced throughout. A really impressive mix!
Director John McTiernan is back for another great audio commentary, but its the other guests, edited in for this extra, that are most interesting, specifically the underused writer, Jonathan Hensleigh.
Various featurettes, split-screen comparisons and interviews are included in standard definition. The best extra is the alternate ending, although one wishes it had been cleaned up for high-definition.
Trailers are included in full 1080p.
It's a sad state of affairs when because a bad film "UNDERWORLD" makes some profit, the director is then given even more praise. The director of that mediocre(at best) film is at the helm for "DIE HARD 4: LIVE FREE OF DIE HARD." The script is the worst by far, the villains, least imaginative, and Bruce Willis, for the first time, seems completely out of shape and unconvincing for the role at hand. Tim Olyphant(recently responsible for the worst actor of the year in "HITMAN) is the main villain, a nutcase out to reshape America with his own vision, by collapsing it, attacking its infrastructure, cracking into the country's main storage and technology warehousing. It's up to McClane(of course) and a geek,(thrown into the plot without any believable necessity)to save the day, and McClane's recently kidnapped daughter! The only few minutes of any value to the film involve a totally out of touch moment with Kevin Smith, providing a few seconds of creative humor in a completely uninspired film. One can't overstate how bad this film is! With all "DIE HARD" films, one obligingly throws realism out the window, much in the same way as in an "INDIANA JONES" film, but due to the ineptitude of the director, writer and Willis, this is the first "DIE HARD" film where one can't help but notice every scene seems phony, because there's nothing on the screen to carry the viewer away. It's just horrible, and one hopes the final nail in the coffin for this over-extended series.
FOX has provided the best looking transfer for "LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD." WOW! From beginning to end, this is a "reference quality" transfer! Every single scene has the effect of jumping off the screen quality! The production design is incredible, offering great inspired color schemes, that are perfectly rendered here. Detail is flawless, and the deep blacks and grays allow for wonderful depth in the darkest scenes. Terrific!
FOX has provided the best soundmix for this film. It's aggressive throughout, with surrounds, panning and discrete effects, providing sensational impact to virtually every scene, wherein the narrative fails to! The dynamic range is great, and the frequent bass effects are among the best available on any blu-ray release so far! Dialogue is perfectly balanced, and always intelligible. ABSOLUTE REFERENCE QUALITY!!!
There are loads of extras for this title, including a commentary with Director Len Wiseman, Willis and the film's editor. Unfortunately, a lot of their commentary speaks of their intent for an "R" rating, with overly violent moments and language. That version should've been included here. Why it wasn't can only serve to stupify blu-ray owners!
A lengthy documentary, music video and more are also included.
The stand alone blu-ray offering of "LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD" offers the exact same image and sound transfer as the one included within the boxed set, along with the same specified extras. So, why anyone would want to intentionally purchase the weakest of the four films by itself, is beyond reason.