Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Movie Review: The A-Team

Let me start by saying that I'm a huge fan of "The A-Team" TV show, so this is going to be part review and part comparison. Which, if you're making a movie from a TV show, you'd better be prepared to have happen.

When I say that I loved the original A-Team, I'm not exaggerating. My friends and I had our own A-Team GANG. (I was Face, because even then, we all believed in truth in advertising.) I own seasons 1 & 2 on DVD, and I watched the show all 5 seasons it was on. Well, I watched it religiously for seasons 1 & 2, hopefully for seasons 3 & 4, and then backed away when the show jumped not only the shark but all of Sea World in the last season...you know, when suddenly the team was "working for the government" and added on a semi-cute Hispanic guy to bring in absolutely no viewers? Yeah, I've tried to block that season out, too.

One of the great things about the TV show, at least its first two seasons, was that there was a girl in the mix, and she was, while pretty, a normal person. The way everyone acts, you'd think that only the male half of the population were watching the show, but that's not reality -- women and girls liked this show, too. In part because of the Amy character.

Somewhere in contract negotiations for season 3, apparently the producers decided cute and normal had to go, and dumped Melinda Culea (who every female viewer was attached to) for some chick whose name I cannot recall. New Chick was very curvy and sexy and was possibly my first introduction to the concept of why the "hottie" chicks are hard to buy as brilliant. She stank up the place, and I can't recall now if she even lasted the full season, but by season 4 it was just all dudes.

All dudes was okay, but it wasn't the SAME.

Which brings me to the movie. (I know, finally. Well, I did warn you.)

The casting for the movie was great, and I'm grateful for it. Liam Neeson isn't George Peppard, but he channels Peppard as Hannibal, while updating the character to make him a lot more badass (I know! But yes, it's possible!) and a lot less campy (trust me, that was definitely possible).

Bradley Cooper isn't Dirk Benedict, but in the 80's they never let Dirk take his shirt off, and in the new millennium teens we get to see Bradley's most awesome pecs and abs...not once, not twice, but at least three times. This movie was in the "win" column for that alone. But I digress...

Bradley does a fine job as Face. True we don't see him do a lot of what Face does best -- con people -- but he does enough, and the storyline didn't allow for more. Maybe in A-Team 2.

Sharlto Copley was epic as Howling Mad Murdoch. I really wasn't sure that someone could hang in Dwight Schultz's crazy tennies, but Sharlto came through big time. His cute little accent wasn't a distraction, either, because, hey, he's crazy, and Murdoch used accents all the time in the TV show.

The one casting decision I wasn't worried about from Day 1 was Quinton "Rampage" Jackson as B.A. Baracus. He's no Mr. T -- but then again, who IS? (and, yes, I agree, Mr. T looks like he's been in a cryogenic chamber for 20 years, and considering the health issues the man fought through and survived, there's your real life hero) -- but he did a great job in the role as I'd known he would.

And now, to the chick. What the movie people apparently "get" that the TV people forgot is that women like a character they can relate to. Jessica Biel did a fine job, possibly my fave role of hers yet. I'm not thrilled with the implications that Face's ex-but-really-we-want-to-be-TOGETHER-girlfriend will be "the" chick for the movie series, but I'll take her over no chick at all. And she's given a position of authority -- she's an Army Captain (then demoted, then promoted again!) working for the Department of Defense.

As for the plot -- stuff blows up real good! Which is true, but somewhat unfair. We get an origin story for how the team formed, we get to see them together and see the bond. In the show, while Hannibal and Face had the father/son thing, B.A. and Hannibal were more like pals, equals despite the differences in rank, and Murdoch was the crazy aunt in the basement. In the movie, Hannibal's a father figure to the other three, and I liked that a lot. It was vital to the storyline, but it also makes the characters a little more real to me -- for B.A. and Murdoch in particular, until they run across Hannibal, their lives aren't going where they want. With Hannibal leading them, they really become a team and therefore a family. My Three Kickbutt Sons, if you will.

But those kinds of meaningful things are implied, because more than anything what the A-Team name promises and this film delivers is action. It's almost nonstop and it's good. I could buy even the ludicrous because, hey, they're all Army Rangers, and so happy to BE Rangers that they all have the badass Ranger tattoo on their arms. So I could suspend the ol' disbelief and I enjoyed it all. Except for one thing.

Standard Handheld Camera For Action/Fight Scenes Rant: Really, Hollywood, can someone there get it through their thick heads that we want to SEE who is hitting who and what is blowing up WITHOUT getting seasick at the same time? Good lord, when will this trend end? EVER?

The movie has an intricate plot that's still easy to follow, satisfying bad guys and situations set up to ensure that our heroes are going to HAVE to escape to the Los Angeles Underground where, hopefully soon, someone will have a problem that no one else can help with and they'll find and hire the A-Team. And also hopefully, Face will be naked or semi-naked several times again, just 'cause.

A note about the cameos: First off, Mr. T is not in it, so don't even hope for that. He's not in it because his passion really IS protecting children. The TV show set that up and kept that up -- not only did you know that B.A. was a big grizzly who'd turn into a teddy bear at the sight of a kid, and then right back to grizzly to protect said kid, but the violence was all 'safe'. The A-Team really was a live-action cartoon (and I say that with love, because, let's remember, I watched said live-action cartoon). Cars flipped, bombs exploded, bullets flew, and the most that ever happened was a flesh wound to B.A. that happened off-screen. No one ever got hurt, and the most "action" any of the guys saw was a semi-tongue kiss.

Not so with this movie. People die, as they should when that many bullets are flying about. There isn't a lot of sex, though there is a lot of sexual tension between Face and D.O.D. Chick. But there is pain and injury and death. It's fine for the movie, after all, thing are different 20+ years later, but I can see why Mr. T opted out.

Before I get to the other cameos TV show fans care about, there were two cameos I particularly enjoyed. Henry Czerny, who played the C.I.A. boss in "Mission: Impossible" (the first movie) was here as the D.O.D. boss. If that was supposed to be an in-joke that he's the boss of two agencies in two movies made from two TV shows, I got it. If not, I still enjoyed his presence. LOL.

Jon Hamm of "Mad Men" fame is also in there as a C.I.A. operative, and I suspect he'll be back for the next movies, at least I hope so.

Now, onto what the TV fans care about, cameos-wise. George Peppard has, of course, been acting on the heavenly stage for many years now. But Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schulz had cameos. If you want to see them, sit through the credits, because that's where they are.

Now, before you get righteously wrathed, you can tell from the scenes that they were shot to be IN the movie. And once you see them, you'll thank God the director put them after the credits.

Why? Well, yes, Dirk looks old. Dirk IS old, and he had a lot of health issues he fought through (this show had a lot of illness related to it), and the miles are showing, but still, it's not that. Dwight was almost unrecognizable -- he's actually aged well, but his face has somehow become almost rectangular. He still SOUNDS like Murdoch, but he sure doesn't look like him any more.

Both their scenes were funny. BUT...both their scenes would have ruined the movie. Why? Because they instantly pulled me out of the film. Instantly. I wasn't thinking, "Oh, wonder what's coming now." I was thinking, "My God, is that Dirk Benedict? How old IS he? That old? Well, looking good for that old, I guess. Hell, which one is Dwight Schultz? That can't be him. That IS him!" And so on. This kind of audience reaction does not a successful film make. And everyone still there at the end of the credits was having it.

I'm sure both actors are disappointed to be after the credits (but their scenes ARE worth waiting for), but it was the right choice. The movie has to stand on its own, with the new actors interpreting the roles. In my opinion, it does a great job, and is a success. I'll be buying the DVD as soon as it comes out.

Just hoping there's a "Bradley Cooper's Naked Outtakes" section.


Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Movie Review: Hamlet 2

A friend of mine, Amber (of The Amber Scott Project fame), has been insisting to me for ages that I had to watch "Hamlet 2". I hadn't felt the need when this flashed in and out of theaters, but since it's on DVD and, since Amber brought it to me, and also since you don't hold onto your pals' fave DVDs without watching them, I so watched.

And. Oh. My. God.

It's hilarious.

Now, it's probably not the best movie ever made, though it's certainly the funniest one made about people in Tucson. The movie stars Steve Coogan, he of the Ben Stiller Gang, aka the Director in "Tropic Thunder", the Roman General in the "Night at the Museum" movies, and so on. And he's brilliant. But so is the rest of it.

It's your standard "teacher inspires" movie crossed with "Fame" and with a hearty helping of "Midsummer Night's Dream", and, of course, "Hamlet", and a lot of scatological and sacrilegious humor tossed in -- then turned on its ear and pulled inside out. (Those in the creative arts will particularly find a lot of relatability to the characters, embarrassingly so.) It takes shots at racism, fundamentalism, arts funding cuts that have removed any and all arts from schools, the ACLU, and more, all while managing to show that the power of dreams will ultimately win out.

Like the "teacher inspires" movies it's poking fun at, Coogan is a drama teacher. Unlike those other movies, he's rather pathetic and the one in need of saving. Like "A Midsummer Night's Dream", the truly hilarious portion is at the end, when the play that our intrepid drama teacher and his class of misfits are trying to put on actually hits the stage. But all the 3/4 of the movie prior is not only funny, it's all necessary to get the full pee-your-pants laughs out of the last 1/4.

The kids are mostly unknowns, the adults include Coogan, Catherine Keener (bravely being a total, completely believable, emasculating bitch), David Arquette (and, just asking, but can David really be as stupid in real life as he acts on the DVD extras? I say no, that he's just wise to his typecasting and doesn't want anyone to ever think he's actually bright so that he continues to work steadily), and Elisabeth Shue. Shue deserves some sort of award for clearly being the celebrity most willing to make fun of herself. She sort of made the movie for me, just because every scene it was like, "I can't BELIEVE she let them do or say that about her, OMG, she said it herself!" sort of thing.

I could describe the movie's plot, but why? This is truly one where you have to watch it and commit to watching it the whole way through. The payoff is worth the time.

And I defy you to not watch the cast perform "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus" and NOT wonder why these kids aren't the stars of "Glee". Or at least their ghetto rivals.


Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,