This week: Live free, die hard, and eat your garbage

Carly at the Movies column by Carl Larsen

Which new film to see this week – big-bang blow-up spectacular or Pixar’s animated rat? “Live Free or Die Hard” or “Ratatouille?” I solved the problem by seeing both of them, and my indecision paid off big time.

Let me tell you, Bruce Willis has still got it. The 57-year-old tough-guy icon, appearing in his fourth “Die Hard” movie, can still kick butt with the best of them. It’s been 12 long years since his last turn as no-nonsense detective John McClane, but it was worth the wait.

To tell the truth, I normally fall into a light sleep (normally called “zoning out”) when the car-chase scene pops up in a cop-movie action thriller, but this one kept me tingling on the edge of my seat throughout. A fresh director (Len Wiseman) and a hip script from screenwriter Mark Bomback combined with a dead-on perfect cast for what is definitely the best action thriller of the year, so far.

In this one, McClane has to stop the nefarious plot of a disgruntled internet terrorist/computer geek to numb down America and rescue his own daughter along the way. And save us all from a fate worse than death: no ‘ectricity and no television. Yoicks!

The aging, grizzled police detective (Willis) is tough as always, and aided by some super-spectacular special effects and a brilliant supporting cast, manages to (Spoiler Alert!) save the day.

In previous Die Hards, he’s clashed with such classy villains as Alan Rickman and Jeremy Irons, and in this one he meets Timothy Olyphant (who was totally terrific as the sheriff in HBO’s great “Deadwood”). Our hero’s designated sidekick is played by busy young Justin Long, who seems to be the casting choice du jour for Computer Nerd in every movie made. To boot, Kevin Smith makes a hilarious cameo, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is perfect as Willis’ daughter – she’s tougher than nails and mean as a sack of wet wildcats.

If you need a little Die Hard catching up, “Die Hard with a Vengeance” (1995) is on the Encore Action channel tomorrow, and the original 1988 “Die Hard” (with Alan Rickman as the villain) plays on More Cinemax on the 4th of July.

They’re all really a lot of fun, and I’m happy to report that the latest one has no drop off in either the jaw-dropping effects or the gritty, slightly-amused persona of Willis himself.

And now let us consider “Ratatouille,” that incredibly delectable computer animated film from writer/director Brad (“The Incredibles”) Bird and the gang at Pixar/Disney. Only their collective genius could make anyone fall in love with a French, turquoise, gourmet-cooking creature from the disgusting species Rattus rattus. But fall you will, I guarantee, for a little guy with a great big dream.

I mean, normally when you think of rats you think of the Black Plague, not the Chocolate Mousse. And despite his dad’s suggestion that he just “shut up and eat yer garbage,” he discovers he has the olfactory gifts and instincts of a true chef. In Paris the rat befriends a pathetic busboy at a famed bistro and, hiding beneath his hat, manipulates the youngster’s movements and mastery over the pots and pans.

Although it’s absolutely the most charming animated feature to hit the theaters this year (in a year that, so far, is among the best-ever in that genre), I am not sure it is so terrific for kids. There’s a lot of action, to be sure, but it is only intermittent. The whole mystique surrounding the French and their solemn idolatry of the culinary arts is at the heart of this film, and its spoofery is something adults will savor more than the action meat and potatoes.

For grownups, it’s an extremely satisfying gourmet meal. The voiceovers are stellar, topped perhaps by Peter O’Toole as the Parisian food critic called Anton Ego. But the little hero rat, Remy, is nicely handled by Patton Oswalt, who in turn is aided by the likes of Ian Holm, Janeane Garofalo, Brian Dennehey and a veritable tureen of others.

So there you have it: two very good films, playing nearby, to keep busy whilst trudging through the Independence Day holiday. Have a blast.

Meanwhile, Back at the Dixie:

Big fan of TV’s “The Office?” Chances are you agree that the most likeable character in the show is Jim, played by John Krasinski. Catch him in his first real starring role in “License to Wed,” the first-run feature now at the Dixie in Staunton. He co-stars with Mandy Moore and Robin Williams in a light, summery let’s-get-married comedy.

Carl Larsen is a regular contributor to The Augusta Free Press. Look for his At the Movies column on Mondays.



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