[Happy 5th Birthday!] The A-Team (2010)

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Director: Joe Carnahan

Cast: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel, Sharlto Copley, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Patrick Wilson

Screenplay: Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom, Skip Woods

117 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence throughout, language and smoking.

 

It is difficult to turn a popular television series into a movie. How do you condense years of storytelling into two hours? It has been attempted multiple times for multiple series, and while many of these attempts do not fare well, some happen to slip between the cracks. One of these rare finds is 2010’s The A-Team from director Joe Carnahan (The Grey, Stretch).

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In the adaptation of the popular 1980s series, viewers get to see how the famous team was formed by Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson, Schindler’s List, Entourage). We see the meeting of the team, the inciting incident behind their court-martialing, and their fight to reclaim their freedom. After they are betrayed during a mission, Hannibal, Face (Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook, Aloha), Murdock (Sharlto Copley, TV’s Powers, District 9) and B.A. (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, The Midnight Meat Train, Miss March) must outrun the cops, led by Face’s former flame Charissa Sosa (Jessica Biel, The Illusionist, Accidental Love) and try to prove their innocence with the help of the mysterious Lynch (Patrick Wilson, Insidious, Home Sweet Hell).

The A-Team is a perfect example of updating a classic scenario using all the bells and whistles of a big production. Getting strong performances from top names like Neeson, Cooper and Copley to play the infamous mercenaries (notice I didn’t mention Jackson here…) really elevates the level of excitement and fun had in this movie. We even get a unique and comedic performance from Wilson as Lynch, a notable character from the series.

Carnahan’s cinematography skill here is his ability to maneuver the camera constantly without resorting to shaky cam. It has a frenetic yet focused chaos to it. He also knows how to get a near-perfect flow from his films. The A-Team never lets up for the entirety of its near-two-hour runtime.

The subtle use of the original theme helps to homage the original musical cues. This is assisted by the great makeup and costuming. These characters are allowed to look damn cool no matter what they do. It is reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s treatment of his characters. Everyone in this film is so cool it made me jealous.

The visual effects work quite well for a bulk of the film, but their overuse in the finale is noticeable aged and comes off much more cartoony than it should, making many of the stylized action pieces look a bit like a video game cut scene, which ultimately takes away from the “Wow” factor of the explosive ending.

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Thanks to some dated effects and the poor casting of Rampage Jackson as a carbon-copy attempt of Mr. T, The A-Team has some faults, but it is a rather underappreciated and sadly forgotten action spectacle. I suggest you take some time to revisit this oft-unloved film from a great but largely unnoticed director like Carnahan.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

March 2015 Preview

 

I hope you all enjoyed the Academy Awards. Now we are deep into 2015 and away we go!

As I say every month, these are my predictions based on buzz, trailers, and my abilities at reading into these things.

Don’t hate the player. Hate the game.

 

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Chappie

Director Neill Blomkamp, fresh off the news that he will next be helming a new Alien film with Sigourney Weaver, returns to creating culturally significant science fiction with Chappie. Chappie is an artificially intelligent robot created help mankind. Chappie must defend himself from enemies of robot life. I love Blomkamp’s work from District 9 and from the early trailers, I am absolutely stoked for Chappie. Definite good buzz.

 

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Faults

Faults is a cult that has taken Claire into its commune. Claire’s parents hire an expert on mind control to successfully free her from the cult’s clutches. Faults comes from the producers of You’re Next and The Guest, and I certainly enjoyed those films, so I am leaning towards the better side of Faults.

 

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Unfinished Business

Vince Vaughn plays a small-business owner who has traveled to Europe with his associates to close a major deal. On the way, their trip becomes unrailed by sex fetish event and a global summit. Vince Vaughn’s recent work has been a major disappointment but he does have the added abilities of Tom Wilkinson and Dave Franco, who could pull this film in the right direction. Still up in the air.

 

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Cinderella

Director Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella reimage follows the standard story of a young girl and her abusive stepmother. When the prince throws a ball inviting every unmarried young woman, Cinderella desperately wants to go, and with the help of a Fairy Godmother, may just get it. I like Branagh’s directing style but I was disappointed by Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. I also don’t like the recent attempts by Disney to make remakes of their classic animated films. Maleficent was one of the better ones (for its alternate take) but I’m still not feeling this one.

 

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Run All Night

Liam Neeson stars as Jimmy Conlon, The Gravedigger, a high-profile hitman working for the mob, until his son, Michael, has a hit put on him. Now Jimmy and Michael has to survive the night filled with mob bosses, gunfire, and lots of explosions. I have found that Neeson’s low-budget action flicks are pretty hit and miss. I’m inclined to enjoy his engagements with Ed Harris. The higher part of the bubble here.

 

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Do You Believe?

This is essentially Valentine’s Day with religious intersections. Not going to be good. And don’t get me that whole thing about religion. I’ll point out, I’m a fairly religious guy, but these kinds of movies mostly fall flat by bad production and poor abilities from the crew. Skip.

 

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The Divergent Series: Insurgent

Insurgent follows the further adventures of Beatrice Prior after she escapes from the city with Four and the other lawbreakers. I was a tremendous hater of Divergent. I thought it was boring and unoriginal and riddled with plotholes. I’m willing to give Insurgent the benefit of the doubt but I’m still not recommending it yet.

 

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The Gunman

Equal parts Taken and an attempt to make American Sniper, The Gunman stars Sean Penn as a Special Forces member with PTSD who must save the woman he loves. Sorry, but I’ve seen Taken already.

 

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Get Hard

Will Ferrell returns to raunchy comedy with Get Hard, where he plays James King, a millionaire who is going to prison for fraud. He enlists Darnell Lewis to train him for jail. I think it looks kind of funny but Kevin Hart, while hilarious, is usually a movie-killer. I’m thinking better, though.

 

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Home

Home is essentially an animated version of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, and while I love Jim Parsons, I do not love Rihanna, and I’m not feeling this one.

 

And here we are at the end. Final tally:

Best Bets: Chappie

On the Bubble: Faults, Unfinished Business, Run All Night, The Divergent Series: Insurgent, Get Hard

Likely Misses: Cinderella, Do You Believe?, The Gunman, Home

 

Enjoy yourself at the movies this month. See Chappie, and maybe take a bit to catch up on the Oscar films as it is pretty sparse this month. See you in April.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[#2015oscardeathrace] Maleficent (2014)

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Director: Robert Stromberg

Cast: Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville

Screenplay: Linda Woolverton

97 mins. Rated PG for sequences of fantasy action and violence, including frightening images.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Costume Design

Disney has taken on the recent trend of flipping their fairy tales into live-action extravaganzas. The most recent inclusion here is Maleficent.

Maleficent (Angelina Jolie, Changeling, Kung Fu Panda 2) has only ever been seen as a villain. Now, she is represented as a supernatural being of good who resides in The Moors. She fell for a boy named Stefan (Sharlto Copley, District 9, Oldboy), who ends up betraying her to become king. In retaliation, Maleficent brings forth a curse upon Stefan’s daughter Aurora (Elle Fanning, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Boxtrolls) that she will fall into a deep sleep when she pricks her finger on a spinning wheel, and you know the rest. Or do you?

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My major problem with this film it is supposed to humanize Maleficent, but not only does it get the character wrong, it also makes a villain into a hero by passing the buck and making another character the villain. So in 55 years, they will make a film about that villain being a hero and creating another villain. You see what I’m getting at here?

The actual character herself is very flat. Angelina Jolie plays her like a prankster and very much a non-villain with very little villaining going on. She is a menace in the sense that Dennis was a Menace.

Sharlto Copley is pretty good as Stefan, but his motives are written to fit the script but not to fit the character.

Elle Fanning is given virtually nothing to do.

The screenplay by Linda Woolverton (The Lion King, Alice in Wonderland) is rather bland and presents us with a rudimentary retelling of the story from Maleficent’s point of view that only seeks to demonize the original film. So either the two films exist in separate continuities or they contradict each other. Not sure which theory is worse.

First time director Robert Stromberg gives us a visually stunning vision of Sleeping Beauty’s world, but not much more than that. I like the fact that this is mildly entertaining if completely flawed, and I think parents will find some enjoyment with their kids, more so than most other “family” films. The film just isn’t all that good.

What wins the film has are visual: the costume design and the visual effects. These costumes stand a good chance to take the Oscar this year, and the effects work is rather stunningly beautiful and dark.

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I get the feeling that Maleficent will not be a remembered film, except for all the copies that people nabbed on Black Friday (seriously, it was pretty cheap) collecting dust on movie shelves. I get the feeling.

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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