DIE HARD 2: DIE HARDER

R, 1990, 124 minutes, closed-captioned, CBS Fox, $94.98.

"Die Hard 2: Die Harder," with Bruce Willis, zooms along like a roller coaster tanked with jet fuel. It's a rambunctious return to the world of John McClane, the Everycop who outmaneuvers yet another technologically superior force of evil geniuses. Based on Walter Wager's novel "58 Minutes," the thriller begins when Dulles Airport is taken over by an elite mercenary group at Christmastime. Led by the fanatical Col. Stuart (William Sadler), the soldiers of fortune aim to block the extradition of a Latin American strongman for prosecution on drug charges. Though Dulles dispatches its own airport police and the Army a team of commandos, only McClane can penetrate the crafty plot. The mercenaries strike as McClane waits for his wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), to arrive on an inbound plane. In a swift and smooth operation, they take over the tower's communications, tell the controllers to stack the incoming traffic and promise a terrible retribution if they are interfered with in any way. While the airport police chief, tower control and the Army quibble over tactics, McClane uses his common sense to save the day, sort of. Though it's not as easily digested, "Die Harder" retains the strengths of the original -- its homespun humor and heroic ingenuity. -- Rita Kempley

THE FRESHMAN

PG, 1990, 102 minutes, closed-captioned, RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video, $91.95.

In writing "The Freshman," director Andrew Bergman must have felt that he'd come up with the genius stroke of his life. He'd write an urban comedy in which a Mafia leader bearing an uncanny resemblance to Marlon Brando's Don Corleone in "The Godfather" is at the center of a farcical conspiracy -- and somehow get Brando to play the part. Wouldn't that be wild? Wouldn't that be great?

No, it's not great, and for a great number of reasons. First off, only an actor with complete disdain for his art would agree to do what Brando has done in "The Freshman." His impersonation of himself here is deft, but not particularly impressive. But the performance Brando gives is anything but a good-natured goof on himself. This isn't self-parody, it's self-desecration. The story is typical Bergman: A young innocent -- in this case Clark (Matthew Broderick), who comes to New York from Vermont to enter NYU Film School -- is plunged into a baffling, alien world where people do strange, inexplicable and (sometimes) funny things to him. The instant Clark arrives in the city, he's accosted by a hustler (Bruno Kirby) who steals all his clothes. Actually, the theft is part of a larger scam to get Clark to run an errand for the hustler's uncle, Carmine (Brando), who is a respected figure in the community. You know, a businessman (wink, wink). The job involves a Komodo dragon, and beyond that you don't wanna know. Bergman's nonsensical bits are offbeat in an over-insistent way. Plus, there's something square about his brand of eccentricity. It's forced hilarity. -- Hal Hinson

THE LEMON SISTERS

PG-13, 1990, 93 minutes, closed-captioned, Warner Home Video, $92.99.

"The Lemon Sisters" are aptly named losers, everyday casualties of their own grand ambitions and limited means. Buddies played by Diane Keaton, Carol Kane and Kathryn Grody, they would be a girl group, but their Supremes dreams are dashed on the reedy realities of their voices and profound ineptitude. Losers, like "The Honeymooners," can be wonderfully entertaining, but these three are as irritating as sand flies, a gabby bunch who spend much of the time standing by, talking about or leaning on equally inept men. Keaton, stammering and twitching, is Eloise, a woman obsessed with her late father's memory and therefore unable to accept the affections offered by C.W., an affable cabdriver (Ruben Blades). Franki (Kane), the most gullible of the three, is encouraged by her lover-manager (Aidan Quinn) to go off on her own when Nola (Grody) and Eloise refuse to buy her a nightclub with the money they've made selling their family businesses. Nola loses her money almost immediately anyway when she allows her husband (Elliott Gould) to expand the family's saltwater taffy company. It fails the day it opens, as the casino up the boardwalk has started giving taffy away. Joyce Chopra of "Smooth Talk" fame and "Bright Lights" infamy directs from Jeremy Pikser's screenplay, a kind of "Mystic Pizza" for middle-aged scatterbrains. -- Rita Kempley