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Introduction
Let me start this review by offering my apologies to Fox for the length of time it's taken to for the review to appear on the site. Unfortunately I recently had my DVD player and most of my discs stolen, so you can imagine the difficulty I've had in contributing anything to the site over the last few months. Anyway, it won't happen again and all that...

The Die Hard series is chiefly responsible for catapulting Bruce Willis into the spotlight, firmly establishing him as an action superstar. I don’t quite understand how it happened, but before I got my hands on this box set the last time I saw one of the films was probably over five years ago! Hopefully this will afford me a little objectivity when reviewing the films. With that said, it’s on with the reiew – Yippekiay muddyfunkster!

Die Hard/Die Hard 2
Films
There can’t be too many of you who haven’t seen the films, so I’ll dispense with a lengthy review. For those who have forgotten what the films are all about, a brief recap can be found below. Suffice to say, these are two of the best action flicks out there, combining action and humour to great effect.

The original Die Hard finds New York cop John McLane en route to California at Christmas time to meet up with his estranged wife. Annoyingly, but rather predictably, things don’t go according to plan when the building in which John’s wife works is taken over by a group of terrorists led by Hans Gruber (the fantastic Alan Rickman). John takes on the terrorists single-handed, trying to stay alive long enough to save his wife and the hostages. Much gunplay and an awful lot of one-liners follow in this fantastic action picture.

Die Hard 2: Die Harder is again set at Christmas, but this time McLane doesn’t even make it out of the airport before the trouble starts. A group of mercenaries plans to liberate a South American general who is on his way to the United States to stand trial. The mercenaries manage to take over the airport, leaving John to once again step in to prevent disaster. With more action and even more jokes, this is a very worthy sequel to the original.

Video
Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, both films look very good for their age, with strong colours and good black levels. Shadow detail is also fine. Both films feature a certain amount of grain, with the original Die Hard suffering more than the sequel, but it’s nothing too distracting. I did notice some instances of dirt and scratches, but agin this is nothing that will spoil your enjoyment. Overall both films feature very pleasing transfers, but Die Hard 2 edges just ahead of its predecessor in the image stakes.

Audio
Sound comes courtesy of both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. The mixes for both films capture the excitement and pulse-pounding pace of the action perfectly. Both tracks are fine, but I found the DTS audio experience a little clearer than the Dolby equivalent on both films, especially where dialogue was concerned. Both movies deliver plenty of surround action and deep, growling bass. No matter what format your equipment supports, be it Dolby or DTS, you’re in for an audio treat with these films.

Extras
Both films both films feature a fair amount of extra material; enough it would seem to warrant an extra disc apiece. The material looks like this:

Die Hard
Aside from  commentar tracks from director John McTeirnen, production designer Jackson DeGavia and visual effects producer Richard Edlund on disc one, the second disc provides access to the bulk of the extras. The first of the available sections, ‘The Vault’ leads to a submenu containing outtakes, newscasts and magazine articles. When you select ‘Outtakes’ you are taken to yet another submenu, which allows you to watch a collection of deleted footage, bloopers and alternate takes, presented in anamorphic widescreen video of variable quality and Dolby 2.0 sound. These can be viewed with either production audio and music, or production audio only. At only six minutes in length this section is a little disappointing, but it does raise one or two smiles from time to time.

Also available in this section is scene called ‘Turning off the Power’. This is a deleted scene that elaborates on the process of turning off the Nakatomi building’s power. Although shot, a key special effects sequence was never finished, which means that it appears in black and white here. This scene can also be reinserted into the film on disc one by means of seamless branching.

‘The Newscasts’ is a collection of footage culled from the VHS footage shot for the television news scenes during production. This runs for just under eight minutes, and is quite interesting to watch at least once. There are also some amusing instances of the actors fluffing their lines, and the male newscaster making himself sound more of an arse than he does in the film.

‘Magazine Articles’ are just that – articles that appeared in ‘American’, ‘Cinematographer’ and ‘Cinefex’ around the time of the film’s release. These are navigated in a similar way to most stills galleries.

Back on the main menu, the second option entitled ‘The Cutting Room’ holds perhaps the most interesting features on the disc. This section gives access to a scene-editing workshop, similar to the one found on ‘Final Fantasy’. You are able to rearrange three key scenes from the film, to create your own versions. This is fun for a while, but ultimately proves a little boring. There’s only so many ways to rearrange each scene, and they only work a certain way. Next we have a segment on multi-camera shooting. This allows you to watch three scenes from the film from different angles by using the multi-angle function of you DVD. Again, this is interesting for a while, but I soon lost interest in seeing the same scene in a slightly different way.

Die Hard/Die Hard 2
‘Audio Mixing’ is a slightly more interesting feature. It allows you to listen to a scene from the film with isolated dialogue, music or sound effects. After you’ve done this you can move on to the mixing suite, which allows you limited control of the levels for each element. It’s not exactly the real thing, as you can only select hi or low for each track, but it does give you some kind of feel of what audio mixing entails.

My favourite bit of this section, and in fact the whole disc, has to be the short featurette entitled ‘Why Letterbox?’ This featurette, narrated by DVD producer David Prior and Larry Yore, basically demonstrates why widescreen is superior to pan and scan when viewing movies at home. Examples of both widescreen and pan and scan are given, and it’s interesting to see just how much of the image is sacrificed in order to get rid of those ‘annoying’ black bars… Prior makes no secret of the fact that he hates pan and scan, and has some interesting comments for people have been weaned on VHS. Finally in this section we have a glossary, which should help newcomers to the world of DVD understand just what the hell all the technical jargon in this section actually means!

Next on the list of features is an interactive slideshow, weighing in at just over nine-minutes. This shows a series of publicity and behind the scenes stills. Every now and then a symbol appears on screen, indicating that you should press enter on your remote. Doing so leads you to a short presentation that elaborates on the slide.

The ‘Ad Campaign’ features three trailers and a seven-minute featurette. The trailers are fine for what they are, but you’ll probably only watch them the once. The featurette contains interviews with most of the principal cast members, interspersed with clips from the movie.

Finally on this disc we have the entire script for the film. I don’t know about you, but I never really have the urge to sit down and read this sort of thing. Still, it’s there for those who want it.

Die Hard 2: Die Harder
Like the first film, Die Hard 2 features a commentary from the director (Renny Harlin) on one disc and a second dedicated extras disc. The extras here are a little more conventional that for the first film, but that’s not a bad thing.

First up we have a twenty-three minute television special and a four-minute featurette. These are pretty standard Hollywood fare, nothing that will particularly stick in your head after you’ve finished viewing.

Trailers do exactly what it says on the tin, and four are included for your viewing pleasure. Next come the deleted scenes, four of them to be precise. The scenes are entitled "Merry Christmas", "Down the Rabbit Hole", "Marvin" and "The Boiler room".

Continuing we come to a couple of short behind the scenes featurettes and some storyboards. The behind the scenes sections are reasonably interesting, but I’ve never been a fan of storyboards. That said, these are little more interesting than most, as production audio and clips from the movie are included in addition to the boards themselves.

The last section on the disc deals with visual effects, and allows you to watch visual effects storyboards and green screen sequences, and then compare them with the completed sequences. Not a bad inclusion, and one that can be quite interesting if you like this sort of behind the scenes look.

The extras are a mixed bag. While they are plentiful enough, I have to question the value of many of them. That said, the commentaries are good, and a number of the special features are genuinely inventive, if not something you’d return to time and again.

Die Hard/Die Hard 2
Overall
I have no problems recommending this collection, especially to action movie fans. Both films are very enjoyable, especially the first, and offer a constant stream of thrills and spills. As a set it’s not without its flaws; some of the extra material feels a little gimmicky and it lacks the third film in the series. Still, the excellent audio and video make up for this, and the inclusion of DTS tracks for both films is especially welcome. Highly recommended to action fans.


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