Die HardThe Die Hard Series on Blu-ray Disc

Just in time to cash in on the video release of Die Hard 4 comes this terrific, four disc boxed set that gives you all of the Die Hard movies in one swell foop.

Bruce Willis became a true action hero star in John McTiernan's Die Hard, with his portrayal of John McClane, a NYC cop visiting his wife in Los Angeles for Christmas. In the first movie, a group of high tech thieves takes over the high rise office tower in which McClane's wife (Bonnie Bedelia) is an executive. McClane just happens to be there, waiting out her company Christmas party when the bad guys arrive.

And isn't it handy that he's there?

Die Hard kicked the series off very well, with a satisfying action flick in which Willis is cast perfectly. His McClane is the next generation of his "Moonlighting" TV persona, tougher but still cocky as all get out.

Director Renny Harlin's Die Hard 2: Die Harder sees McClane again in the wrong place at the right time, or is it the other way around? This time he's in Washington, hanging out at a major airport just as the bad guys take over the place in an attempt to spring a drug lord. There's action and exploding stuff a-plenty and some pretty neat aviation effects in this one. And if you're following the 2008 U.S. presidential election, you might enjoy seeing Republican candidate Fred Thompson here stretching his acting chops.

Die Hard with a Vengeance, also directed by McTiernan, is more of a buddy movie than the previous two outings. It brings Samuel L. Jackson into the mix as a civilian drawn reluctantly into the action as the brother of an old nemesis (Jeremy Irons) holds the city hostage and puts McClane and his civvy buddy onto a merry-go-round of tasks they must perform in order to prevent even more havoc from being released.

Live Free or Die Hard, the latest installment of the series, sees McClane ordered to deliver a geeky hacker to the authorities in Washington as a massive "fire sale" computer attack on the U.S. infrastructure threatens to shut down the entire country. It's a smart movie, loaded with unbelievable stunts and extremely convincing special effects, a good leavening humor and about all the action you can stand. Director Len Wiseman drags the series kicking and screaming into the 21st century with a movie that's true to the series, but also completely up to date.

The Live Free or Die Hard Blu-ray release includes the PG-13 rated theatrical version of the film (as opposed to the unrated version available on DVD) and all of the plus D-Box motion sensor capabilities, several high-definition trailers and the exclusive high definition BD-Java multi-level strategy game "Black Hat Intercept!".

All four movies feature excellent picture quality in their Blu-ray incarnations, though 1 and 2, being the oldest, look the worst. But they still look very good - just not as great as the best Blu-ray discs. Live Free And is the sharpest (it's really, really sharp), and also features the best audio.

Live Free Or Die Hard has a dark look overall, but it's still a great film to showcase Blu-ray technology (though Spidey'll give it a run for its money). The anamorphic widescreen picture is very detailed (you can count Willis' pores if you're so inclined) and the colors are rich and deep.

Audio is 5.1 DTS HD Lossless Master Audio and as you might expect it gets better with successive films, too. Not that it's ever a slouch, but they're getting better at recording now - and at reproducing sounds. This means your home theater will get a nice workout, from sharp and detailed highs to good subwoofer action on the many, many explosions and the like that pepper these films.

And there's an abundance of extras as well.

As is often the case, the first movie is the best, with four being a close second, but all of the Die Hard movies are well worth a look.

The Die Hard Series, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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