Big Jim New Review: The A Team

I wrote this at 4 am. I will probably re-write it. It rambles a bit.

Movie adaptations of old TV shows have become the norm these days. This isn't due to some creative drought in Hollywood. It's simple economics. People go see them, so they keep making them. It really is that simple. The fact that almost every one of them sucks doesn't stop the studios from making them because it doesn't stop us from seeing them.

How do they keep this many people coming back to the theatre over and over again to see movies that most people know up front are going to suck. Because while the movie machine was getting worse at making movies they were getting much better at making trailers. Most of the truly awful films that have come out lately have had outstanding previews.

Granted, it has become a cliché to say, "Well, all the best parts were in the trailer," but people still go to the movie. Why is that?

Personally, I am no longer effected by trailers. The only previews that excite me are for the smaller movies that are by directors or writers I know well. Those pull me in. Well, that is about half true. For the big budget movies, the first time I see a really awesome preview I do get excited. I can't wait to see the movie. For about five minutes. Then my memory allows reality to set in and I'm over it. Those are for the good ones. The bad ones, the cheesy, recycled, formulaic pause at the end before the big flash of action and sound scare the crap out of you previews get a nice, loud laugh out of me. But the ones that at least try to be different hold me for a minute.

But lets be honest, you can tell most of those are going to suck.

It is because of this that I no longer go to the theatre that much. This year I've gone about as many times as I use to go in a month. I've gotten over the experience and the spectacle and want something more.

But there are a few things that I cannot resist the pull of. Being born in 1975 I am in the nostalgia wheelhouse for what is happening right now. Thankfully most of these proprieties mean nothing to me.

Dallas? Don't care.

Scooby Doo? Couldn't give a shit.

Inspector Gadget? Fuck off.

You see, I spent part of my childhood on a military base overseas, so my version of childhood, with a few exceptions, were crap shows that the networks gave to the military to show for free. So I got a few episodes of half season cop shows, soap operas and game shows.

Basically, you do a Hawaiian Heat movie and I'm there. I know, you've never heard of it, I know the theme song.

There are a few exceptions, and two of those have recently been taken out back and shot in the head. But the third, I still had hope for.

The first two are Knight Rider. I had the talking KITT car with Michael Knight action figure, "I shall activate the Turbo Boost," as well as the hot wheels set that let you bust through an 18 wheeler. Yeah, that was how I rolled. And The Dukes of Hazzard. I still remember going to McDonalds to get the car shaped happy meals and being pissed because I kept getting Daisy's Jeep and Uncle Jessie's Truck. Granted, they were cheap, paper thin plastic, but getting the General Lee was like dying and going to heaven.

Then the remake/reissue what the fuck ever you want to call them. First, Broken Lizard made a.... Well, it looked like the General and had a blonde and a dark haired fellow who went by Bo and Luke, but the rest. Let's just say I preferred Coy and Vance (look it up). Too much was way, way wrong.

Well, I though that was as bad as it could get until I saw the Knight Rider series. I just... I would rather not say anything about that.

The third was most likely my most treasured.

In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team.

I had the complete collection of figures, I ate Mr. T cereal, if I could get hold of it, I owned it.

Why do I tell you all this? So you can understand where I come from with this review. Because if I can like this movie, you most likely will too.

If on 6/14/2010 around mid afternoon you heard a strange sound, it was the sound of my childhood screaming this:


Is this a perfect movie? No. Is it a solid action film? Yes.

Granted this does fall victim to the choppy editing that has come to dominate action films today, but by and large I don't mind too much. Yes, it is kinetic and could be slowed down, but it does not ruin the impact of the action scenes.

Let's go point by point here and see how the movie stacks up.

1) Plot.

Series: Well, the plots of the series are a bit repetitive. Someone has a problem, no one else can help, and they are able to find and hire The A-Team. Typically episodes were feel good social issue things. There area gangs in our area, there is a corrupt businessman doing corrupt things.

Movie: The movie is basically the back story, it is the story of the credits. There is a lot going on. The team is sent on an off the books mission, framed, and face court martial. The escape from prison and go about clearing their names. It gets more confusing. Much, much more confusing, but it's still entertaining.

Advantage- Draw. I love back story, but I also love commandos helping a neighborhood because a mobster slapped a shoeshine boy (actually happened).

2) The cast.

Lets go one by one here.

Hannibal- I love Liam Neeson, but he is no George Pappard. These are very different performances. In the series they are already established on the run, so Hannibal is a bit less restrained. In the movie he is in full military mode. You do understand what makes him such a great leader more here than in the show. This is where there is the greatest difference. Neeson is the commanding officer, no question and there is a bit more of a military vibe among them.

Advantage- Draw. Peppard was the original choice for McQueen's part in Magnificent Seven, but I cannot vote against an Irishman.

Face- Bradley Cooper surprises me. Not that long ago he was the awkward guy in Alias that was not in Jennifer Garners league. Now he is the suave cool guy in his movies. This vexes me greatly. Templeton "Faceman" Peck is the scrounger of the group, the James Garner from The Great Escape if you will. And both men played that part believably. There is a subplot with Face in the movie that is a bit much for me, but I didn't hate it. Dirk Benedict was born for that part though and everything he ever did as an actor made him the logical choice for it, so there were no, "Jennifer Garner wouldn't make sex with him (even though she did) on Alias," moments with him.

Advantage- Series. To quote Cooper himself, "If you look up handsome in the dictionary there's a picture of Dirk. I don't know what word I'm next to." Plus, I am biased toward the name Dirk for some reason.

BA- This is an interesting one. As much screen time as T got with this character, there wasn't much development beyond, he likes kids, hates flying, can drive and build shit. But he was Mr. T. "Rampage" Jackson is an interesting choice and they do a bit more with him. Some of it feels a bit much, but it doesn't feel forced. Plus they make his relationship with the team, particularly Murdock stronger. Oh, you also see why the former airborne ranger is afraid of flying, which is pretty cool.

Advantage- Draw. Hard to call this. If I take nostalgia out, I go Jackson. But damn, nostalgia is a hell of a drug.

Murdock- This one surprises the hell out of me. Dwight Schultz played Murdock in a very busy, kinetic, showy crazy way. It was never 100% if his insanity was an act or not. As a kid I loved him, as an adult, not so much. Then comes Sharlto Copley. DAMN! He destroys it. His Murdock is insane. Very insane. But that insanity is what makes him good at what he does. He is the best because he is to crazy to be afraid of death. It seems like genuine quirky insanity and he is outstanding.

Advantage- Movie. This one surprises the hell out of me, not that I went with Shartlo, but because it wasn't even close.

3) The Plans.

In the series the plans were never discussed, they just happened. The van was always involved, and there were always, ALWAYS hubcaps with dynamite in them. There was a ton of gunfire, but the only time anyone ever got shot was when Face got shot during a robbery at a Chinese restaurant. Basically, a bunch of shit happened, gunfire, the van comes flying through a fence or wall, Frisbee hubcap explosions, "I love it when a plan comes together," and scene.

The movie you get the actual planning. You get Hannibal's, "Being one step ahead isn't a plan," philosophy. There is a definite sense of military strategy and planning going on, so you get to be part of the club when that plan comes together. Oh, and the plans are quite a bit cooler. Oh, and people die in their plans. A lot of people die.

Advantage- Show. Yeah, the movie had cooler shit, but they didn't have EXPLODING FRIZBEE HUBCAPS!

4) The team.

In the series the team dynamics were more implied than anything and you didn't really get the strength of their bond as a combat unit. Granted, it was there, but it was done in a more "made for TV" fashion. In the movie, there is a real sense of these guys as a unit that is a family. Most of this is done by showing how they functioned in the military, which the show really couldn't do. Yes the show was great, but there was a kind of, "just accept it," vibe to the whole affair. Also, the relationship between BA and Murdock seems more real. Murdock calling him Bosco, his real name, was a nice touch.

Advantage- Movie. They spent a bit more time developing it, and it worked for me.

This puts us at a dead tie.

So, what am I saying here. If you like the series you will probably like the movie. If you want to see a fun action movie, you will like it.

Remember, this is a remake of a TV show from the 80's manage your own expectations.


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