Quick thoughts on some films I watched recently:
Die Hard 4.0. Okay, I'm of the school of thought that says they should have stopped making Die Hard films after the first one as they're never going to improve upon it. So I tried to view this less as a Die Hard sequel and more as the continuing adventures of John McClane. That way I'm not constantly judging it against one of my all-time favourite action films. (Yes, I'm aware that this is a bullshit rationalization that only makes sense inside my own mind but it's my mind so I can do what I like in there.)
Good things about the film: Justin Long is a likeable sidekick, and his presence isn't just shoehorned into the film like Samuel L Jackson in the previous film. The FBI chief isn't a complete moron like most authority figures in action films; he actually comes across as good at his job, it's not his fault that the villain is even better at his. And, most importantly, Maggie Q looks great in her slinky black outfits.
Bad things about the film: Kevin Smith's dire cameo. The increasingly ludicrous action scenes -- I'd be watching them thinking, "Yeah, that's great, just stop there and that'll be a pretty cool scene. No, seriously, stop 'cos if it goes on any longer ... okay, they've ruined it." And Bruce Willis's invulnerability -- there's one bit where Willis and one of the bad guys receive almost identical injuries yet the villain dies and Willis just gets a flesh wound.
Hot Fuzz. To be fair I was a bit tired when I watched this but my initial reation is that it's nowhere near as good as Shaun of the Dead. Too much stunt casting. Not enough decent jokes. All the supporting characters are caricatures. The hero is too uptight to actually do anything to get the audience to sympathise with him -- and if he's such a wonderful supercop why does it take him so long to unravel such a simple case? The references to action movies are blatantly signposted and are used as a substitute for characterization. The shift in tone from Heartbeat to Midsomer Murders to generic action flick never really convinces. I could go on but I can't be bothered. Now that my hopes have been dashed I might watch it again and enjoy it on its own terms but right now I can't help but feel that Pegg, Frost and Wright just pissed about while making this film, relying on the good will from Shaun to produce good box office.
X-Men: The Last Stand. After the panning this film got from the critics I'm surprised how much I enjoyed it. Granted, it's no masterpiece and it's riddled with plotholes and bad acting but it never seemed to become truly awful. Yes, Cyclops is criminally underused yet again. Yes, Vinnie Jones cannot act to save his life. Yes, Magneto's characterization veers inconsistently from one scene to the next. Yes, the film has not one but two cop-out endings (watch right to the end of the final credits). Yes, it expects you to care about characters who have bugger all screentime (the Beast, Angel, Kitty Pryde, Collossus and a cast of what seems like thousands). But somehow it captures the spirit of the comics better than Singer's efforts. While Singer made the better films they felt more like SF films than X-Men films. X3 feels more like the comics. Not the best of the comics to be sure but it did capture that sense of leading inexorably to a massive super-battle that is pretty much the cornerstone of superhero comics -- "We're dealing with complex ethical issues here which should be discussed in a mature and rational ... oh, sod this. FIGHT!!!"
Admittedly, from what I understand Singer was planning to take X3 in a similar direction anyway and he probably would have made a much better job of it than Brett Ratner. And I'm pretty sure X3 won't stand up to repeated viewing (I've already had someone point out a major plothole that I hadn't spotted) but it was kind of fun at the time.