Click here to learn more about anamorphic widescreen!
Go to the Home Page
Go to The Rumor Mill
Go to Todd Doogan's weekly column
Go to the Reviews Page
Go to the Trivia Contest Page
Go to the Upcoming DVD Artwork Page
Go to the DVD FAQ & Article Archives
Go to our DVD Links Section
Go to the Home Theater Forum for great DVD discussion
Find out how to advertise on The Digital Bits

Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 3/25/99
updated: 7/12/01




The Die Hard Trilogy

review by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

THX-certified

Die Hard: Five Star Collection

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Encoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround
Die Hard
Five Star Collection - 1988 (2001) - 20th Century Fox

Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): A/A+

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): A-/A

Specs and Features

Disc One: The Film
132 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, THX-certified, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:11:24, in chapter 32), double Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary (with director John McTiernan and production designer Jackson DeGovia), scene specific audio commentary by visual effects producer Richard Edlund, text commentary, extended branching version with extended scene, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (55 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 and DTS 5.1) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Disc Two: Supplemental Material
From The Vault (with outtakes, bloopers, deleted footage and the "Turning Off the Power" extended scene, isolated newscasts, text articles from American Cinematographer and Cinefex magazines), The Cutting Room (with scene editing workshop, multi-camera shooting demonstration with alternate angles, audio remixing lab, a video examination of letterboxing versus pan and scan and glossary of filmmaking terms), Interactive Slide Show (with production stills and numerous hidden video clips including work print dailies, extended version of "Twinkie" scene, building blueprints, deleted lines and sequences from the film, behind-the-scenes footage, deleted dialogue sequence and alternate corporate logos), Ad Campaign (with 3 theatrical trailers, 7 TV spots and EPK "making-of" featurette), interactive screenplay and DVD-ROM (including game demos), animated film-themed menu screens with sound


Die Hard (original) Die Hard
1988 (1998) - 20th Century Fox

Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C-/A-/C-

Specs and Features

132 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), THX certified, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:11:20, late in chapter 17), Amaray keep case packaging, 3 theatrical trailers (for the Die Hard series), featurette, cast & crew bios, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (30 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and Spanish, Close Captioned



Die Hard 2: Die Harder - Special Edition

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Encoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround
Die Hard 2: Die Harder
Special Edition - 1990 (2001) - 20th Century Fox

Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): A/A-

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): A-/A

Specs and Features

Disc One: The Film
124 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, THX-certified, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 49:54, in chapter 12), double Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary with director Renny Harlin, THX Optimode test signals, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DTS 5.1, DD 5.1 & 2.0) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Disc Two: Supplemental Material
Die Harder: The Making of Die Hard 2 documentary, EPK "making of" featurette, Villain's Profile featurette, 4 deleted scenes, video interview with director Renny Harlin, 2 behind-the-scenes vignettes, storyboard sequence, 2 visual effects breakdowns, 3 side-by-side comparisons (featuring final footage and behind-the-scenes footage of stunt sequences from the film), 4 theatrical trailers, TV spot, animated film-themed menu screens with sound


Die Hard 2: Die Harder (original) Die Hard 2: Die Harder
1990 (1998) - 20th Century Fox

Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/A-/C-

Specs and Features

124 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), THX certified, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:08:17, late in chapter 15), Amaray keep case packaging, 3 theatrical trailers (for the Die Hard series), featurette, cast & crew bios, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and Spanish, Close Captioned



Die Hard with a Vengeance - Special Edition

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Encoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround
Die Hard with a Vengeance
Special Edition - 1995 (2001) - 20th Century Fox

Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): B+/A-

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): A-/A

Specs and Features

Disc One: The Film
131 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, THX-certified, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 56:07, in chapter 11), double Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary (with director John McTiernan, writer Jonathan Hensleigh and former Twentieth-Century Fox President of Marketing Tom Sherrick), THX Optimode test signals, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (26 chapters), languages: English (DTS 5.1, DD 5.1 and 2.0) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Disc Two: Supplemental Material
Alternate ending with optional commentary from Hensleigh, Behind-the-Scenes: Die Hard With a Vengeance HBO documentary, A Night to Die For CBS TV special hosted by Samuel L. Jackson, EPK "making of" featurette, 3 behind-the-scenes vignettes, storyboard sequence, video interview with Bruce Willis, Villain's Profile featurette, 7 special effects and stunt breakdowns, 2 theatrical trailers, 10 TV spots, animated film-themed menu screens with sound


Die Hard with a Vengeance (original) Die Hard with a Vengeance
1995 (1998) - 20th Century Fox

Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/A-/C-

Specs and Features

131 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), THX certified, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 56:07, at the start of chapter 11), Amaray keep case packaging, 3 theatrical trailers (for the Die Hard series), featurette, cast & crew bios, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (26 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and Spanish, Close Captioned


Die Hard Trilogy Box Set (original)Die Hard: The Ultimate Collection Box Set (new)

The original Die Hard Trilogy box set (left) and the new
Die Hard: The Ultimate Collection box set (right).

When Die Hard first exploded across movie screens in 1988, audiences didn't know what to think. But when the buzz finally died down, every action film that followed was more of the same: Die Hard on a [fill in the blank]. I really would have liked it if Die Hard hadn't spawned it's own sub-genre, because even though it's still the king of that genre, all the clones that followed diminished the original somewhat for me. Still, let's take a look at the Die Hard series film by film, and the new Die Hard: The Ultimate Collection DVDs (as compared to the original releases).

Die Hard

Die Hard stars Bruce Willis who, until he popped up on movie screens in Blind Date, people knew exclusively as David Addison on the TV series Moonlighting. At the time, he was charming, funny and only starting to go bald. It's been easy for critics to dismiss Bruce as being a one-note actor, but he's really shown himself to be a very talented performer. Not that you'd know that by his performances in 1998 with Armageddon, The Siege and Mercury Rising. But take a look at him in Twelve Monkeys, Pulp Fiction, The Sixth Sense, In Country and yes... even Die Hard. I think you'll see an actor who can grab your attention and run with it.

Die Hard took a straight formula and turned it on its end. Take a look for yourself. Die Hard is nothing more than a simple heist flick, really, at least story wise. It's about a group of supposed terrorists, who take over a high-rise office tower with the sole intent of robbing it of $600 million worth of U.S. bonds. If the film focused on the criminals, it would be just like any other heist film of the 60s and 70s. Who are these guys, what's their agenda really and will they get out? But Die Hard took that formula and made it more about the cops trying to foil the plan. In this case, there is one cop - John McClane. McClane, as played by Willis, is a tired man. He's separated from his wife and kids, he's sarcastic and stubborn... really he's the perfect New York cop. He's fresh off the plane in Los Angeles, on his way to catch up with his wife at an office party at the Nakatomi building, headquarters for the Nakatomi Corporation.

His reunion with his wife is less than sweet, and turns out to be pretty damn short, because at that exact moment, the building is taken over by these so called "terrorists", led by the nefarious Hans Gruber (played with scene-stealing charm by Alan Rickman). So McClane (clad only in a wife-beater tee) is by himself and taking matters into his own hands, trying to stop these criminals from killing his wife and her coworkers. The movie is expert from writing to direction, and right on down to each and every performance. Willis is great, Rickman is wonderful and De'voreaux White and Reginald VelJohnson steal the movie in their supporting roles as Argyle and Sgt. Al Powell, respectively. I have to say that there isn't one complaint that I have for the film. I love it... and I know a legion of you out there do as well.

Fox initially released a very poor DVD version of this film a few years ago. This is what I had to say then: "It's alright. I liked it better on laser. The DVD is a bit washed out and very grainy. It looks a little better than my video copy, but that's about it. The video is just not as good as almost any other DVD you compare it to. The sounds are top notch, however. Your bass will rumble, and your couch will shake. No complaints whatsoever in that area."

Does my view change with the new Die Hard: Five Star Collection DVD release of this film? Abso-frickin'-lootley. Since the first release was non-anamorphic, pretty much anything would have been an improvement. But the picture quality on this new disc is awesome. There's no distracting film grain, no digital artifacts and no edge enhancement. The widescreen is anamorphic, the colors are rich and accurate and the blacks are solid and detailed. It's a really, really great picture presentation. If you have the original disc, you should just sell it, trade it or trash it for the improved video on the new disc alone.

Thankfully, the sound on the new edition remains excellent, and is improved further by the addition of a new DTS 5.1 track, in addition to the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (strangely, a Dolby 2.0 Surround option listed on the box is missing from the disc). Both 5.1 tracks feature ever-present bass, almost a bit too heavy. I had to adjust the control on my sub to regulate it down a little. But if you like lots of low frequency audio, when this film explodes... you definitely feel it. Dialogue is tight and centered, there's plenty of action in your surrounds and the music is nicely blended in the mix.

Saying that the first DVD release of this film was lacking in extras would be an understatement. There wasn't a commentary track with McTiernan or Willis. There wasn't a full form documentary on the making of some of the wild special effects. There WAS a photo gallery, a very short promo featurette and the three trailers for the films in the Die Hard series. The pictures were very laserdiscesque, with weird and distracting boarders. The featurette looked old and blurry, and the trailers... well, at this point they're so expected on DVDs that they're hardly considered extras anymore.

But this new Five Star Collection disc... now this is a spicy meatball! Disc One features not one, not two, but THREE commentary tracks. The first audio commentary stars director John McTiernan and production designer Jackson DeGovia. They're recorded separately, but their comments flow so well back and forth on the subjects at hand that a few times it'll fool you. McT talks about his reservations on the film, its origin and how it went from being a bad script to maybe one of the most perfect action films ever made. DeGovia sheds light on his profession as production designer, one we don't hear much about on DVD. There's also a "scene specific" audio commentary by visual effects producer Richard Edlund. He talks about what's going on on-screen, and it's pretty wild. There a few too many gaps, but it's worth listening to. The last one is a text commentary, that focuses on some of the things not talked about in the other two tracks. There's some editing stuff, a lot of film history and trivia notations (like the musical odes to Kubrick) and a bunch of other neat references. Reading the track takes some getting used to. I personally feel that it goes by too fast in spots - they could have paced it better. But once you get a hang of it, you'll keep it on and watch it all the way through. Finally, Disc One features an "extended branching" option, where you can watch a version of the film with an extended scene. Note that this scene is also available separately on Disc Two, and you can't listen to any of the commentaries while viewing the extended version. Oh... and I should also mention that all six discs in this set feature individual and film specific animated film-themed menu screens that are very sweet.

Moving on to Disc Two, we get the From the Vault section, which includes a reel of deleted lines and sequences from the film, that aforementioned extended scene "Turning Off the Power", all of the isolated newscasts and text articles on the film from American Cinematographer and Cinefex magazines. We get the entire screenplay, for all you budding Hollywood types who want to learn how it's done. You also get what I think is one of the best DVD features I've seen in a long time - an interactive stills gallery with lots of behind-the-scenes video footage hidden within it. As you move through the photos, a little icon will pop up occasionally. Click on it, and you'll find pieces of work print dailies, the extended version of the "Twinkie" scene, a few outtakes, reams of building blueprints, behind-the-scenes footage from the production, a deleted dialogue sequence and alternate corporate logos. That's a ton of stuff, and it actually makes the stills gallery worth looking at (which is rare on a DVD). It was a little odd at first, but the more I watched, the more I liked the concept. For you folks who like your DVD interactivity game-based, there's The Cutting Room, which is essentially a scene editing workshop. Packed in as well is a multi-camera shooting demonstration (with alternate angles from different cameras used during filming), an audio remixing lab, a video examination of the benefits of letterboxing versus pan and scan (bravo, Fox!) and a cute glossary of filmmaking terms. Rounding out the second disc are 3 theatrical trailers for the first Die Hard, along with 7 TV spots, an EPK-style "making-of" featurette and the requisite DVD-ROM materials and game demos.

The Die Hard: Five Star Collection should be owned by every DVD fan. It really rocks. But for you serious Die Hard fans out there, Fox didn't stop with overhauling just the first film on DVD.

Die Hard 2: Die Harder

I must confess, I'm not a huge fan of Die Hard 2. It's a tired retread of the Die Hard formula, but instead of a train or a ship or a building, we're on a bus. Oh, wait... that's Speed. No, this time we're in an airport. It's Christmas Eve one year later, and poor old John McClane is picking up his inbound wife. He's also having a pretty bad day. His car is towed, he can't get to a phone, and two guys just tried to kill him under the baggage claim. Naturally, the airport isn't willing to shut down so they can find out what's going on, so it's up to McClane to stop a rogue army from freeing a foreign dictator who's under American custody (and en route to the U.S. via airplane). What's John gonna do? If the man isn't freed, the arrant military group will crash planes one by one, and his wife is up there. I don't know what I would do, but I do know it would have nothing to do with flares, guns or exploding planes. I'll leave that to John.

Die Hard 2, as I said, is pretty tired. Yes, it's action packed and yes, it's a fun ride. But it's pretty much the same flick as the first film, just more spread out. Plus, it's hard to believe that McClane is unlucky enough to always around around when terrorists strike. Give us a break.

The video quality of the first DVD release of this film, although non-anamorphic, was surprisingly good. The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound quality was very good. There were basically no extras, but since I don't like Renny Harlin much as a director, I was okay with that. There was a short featurette, which was uninformative, more of those annoying production stills and, of course, the standard trio of Die Hard trailers you got on all the original discs.

This new Die Hard 2: Die Harder - Special Edition isn't as good as a Five Star Collection disc, but it's pretty damn good for what it is. The picture and sound quality is a big improvement. The video is anamorphic widescreen, which looks every bit as good as the video on the new Die Hard: Five Star Collection. And the audio is equally improved, available in Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1 and the Dolby 2.0 Surround. Again, the quality is comparable to that of the Die Hard: Five Star, so I won't repeat myself raving about it. Just know that this film sounds great, whichever audio option you select.

On the extras side, we get (gasp!) an audio commentary track with Renny Harlin on Disc One, which wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. The last few years have been pretty ego soothing for Renny, so he's starting to look back gracefully. He's also flying solo on this track, which makes for a nice narrative flow - very informative and pretty much non-stop. There's also a THX Optimode feature on the disc to help you tune your set like the pros.

Disc Two is all about featurettes. There's a documentary called Die Harder: The Making of Die Hard 2 (which was made for the FOX network), an EPK-style "making of" featurette, a neat Villain's Profile featurette, 4 deleted scenes (that don't amount to much in terms of necessity), a video interview with Harlin, 2 behind-the-scenes vignettes, a storyboard sequence, 2 visual effects breakdowns, 3 side-by-side comparisons (of some stunts compared to the final film footage), 4 theatrical trailers for Die Hard 2 and a TV spot. Most of this is fluffy stuff, but the stunt and special effects stuff is pretty neat. Again, if you're a fan of this series, this second DVD overhaul is well worth picking up.

Die Hard With a Vengeance

Die Hard With a Vengeance features good old John McClane at the bottom of his game, so to speak. He's a drunk, he's been kicked off the force and (because the production most likely couldn't get actress Bonnie Bedelia to come back) he's estranged from his wife. Poor, poor, John. But as bad as things are, any fan of this film knows that they're about to get a lot worse. When a high end boutique in downtown New York blows up, the police get a call from one "Simon", who pulling a "Simon Says" bit that ends with Willis standing on a street corner in Harlem, wearing a sign that says something very derogatory about African Americans. This kinda pisses off one Zeus Carver, a local store owner played by Samuel Jackson. The remainder of the film focuses on McClane and Carver, as they try to solve riddles left by Simon. Of course, the riddles get progressively more impossible to solve, and things start to blow up, including a train, much of Wall Street and even a ship in the Hudson - no kidding.

I'll be honest again - I love Die Hard 3. It's completely silly, it's got a nice twist and the bad guys are pretty frickin' cool. Lead by the terrific Jeremy Irons, the baddies in this flick really are bad - there's not one redeemable characteristic in any of them. The movie does teeter precariously when our two heroes get on board that ship, but still, for what the movie is up until that point, I have to give it some solid props.

The original DVD release again had video that failed to please. It was non-anamorphic, and seemed to have excessive ringing going on - lots of edge enhancement, as it was probably transferred originally for laserdisc. Yet the colors were bright and solid, and there was good contrast. On the audio side of things, the original Dolby Digital 5.1 track was very good. There was plenty of rumble in my sub, and the surround sound seemed more evenly distributed throughout my speakers. Extras were the same as the other two original discs: a featurette, stills and a trio of trailers.

The new Die Hard With a Vengeance: Special Edition blows the original DVD edition up, kicks it across the room and then pisses all over it. And I mean that in a good way. The new anamorphic widescreen video quality is quite good and much improved over the earlier release (although it isn't quite on par with the other two new special editions). It looks a little soft and muddy on occasion - a problem with the source print no doubt. Still, it's completely serviceable. Since I like this film as much as the first flick, I watched them back-to-back. The quality matches smoothly enough that I felt like I was watching a 5 hour cut of Die Hard.

The new Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is even better than the original DVD's was, and while the new DTS 5.1 track is a little less bassy than the comparable audio on other new DVDs, it'll still rumble your belly but good. Once again, you also have a Dolby 2.0 Surround option if you want it.

The extras on Disc One include an audio commentary with director John McTiernan, writer Jonathan Hensleigh and former Twentieth-Century Fox President of Marketing Tom Sherrick. They were all recorded separately, and most of the good stuff comes from Hensleigh, so it's not the best commentary you've ever heard. But there are some great Hollywood stories to be told, and the listening experience gets better as the track progresses. You'll also find THX Optimode test signals for tuning.

Disc Two gives you more video-based features, the best of which is an alternate ending with optional commentary from Hensleigh. It's a great scene, and would have made a hypothetical fourth film in the series necessity (and very different from the others). Picture McClane as the terrorist this time - that's all I'm saying. You'll also find a standard HBO documentary (Behind-the-Scenes: Die Hard With a Vengeance), the God-awful CBS special A Night to Die For hosted by Samuel L. Jackson, an EPK-style "making of" featurette, 3 behind-the-scenes vignettes, a storyboard sequence, a video interview with Bruce Willis, a Villain's Profile on "Simon", 7 special effects and stunt breakdowns, 2 theatrical trailers and 10 TV spots. As with the Die Hard 2: SE, the Disc Two material is a bit fluffy in spots, but it's interesting throughout and is well worth having.

So there you have it - all new DVD editions of the Die Hard series. Die Hard set a standard in cinema action, and it still ranks as one of the best of its particular genre. Bruce Willis showed the world he was a bankable box-office super star, Alan Rickman gave us one of the most dashing villains too ever grace the screen and John McTiernan showed us he was more than a one-hit wonder after the success of Predator. Die Hard 2... well, it made money and kept the ball rolling for Vengeance. Having all three on DVD is a good thing, and these new 2-disc editions make that even more true. Although you can buy them all separately, they're also packaged together in this new Ultimate Collection (see artwork above), which is a good (and slightly cheaper) way to build up your library. And a nice touch I haven't mentioned yet, is that all three of these new DVDs have matching spines (even though only one is a Five Star Collection edition), so they'll look great together on your shelf. Just throw away the previous releases and go with this new set. You really can't go wrong with John McClane on your side. Especially when he's anamorphic, features DTS sound and has extras out the wazoo. Yippie-Ki... ah, forget it.

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com


Die Hard: Five Star Collection


Die Hard 2: Die Harder - Special Edition


Die Hard with a Vengeance: Special Edition


Die Hard: The Ultimate Collection Box Set


E-mail the Bits!


Don't #!@$ with the Monkey! Site designed for 800 x 600 resolution, using 16M colors and .gif 89a animation.
© 1997-2002 The Digital Bits, Inc., All Rights Reserved.
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com