Posts Tagged ‘jessica biel

21
Jun
10

I’m Not Lovin’ It When an Adaptation Comes Together. ‘The A-Team’

They stayed true to shit blowin’ up…

Starring Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Charlto Copley, Jessica Biel, Patrick Wilson, and Gerald McRaney. Directed by Joe Carnahan. Based on the TV series, “The A-Team.”

“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.”

So goes another piece of my childhood: “The A-Team.” Let’s set the Wayback Machine once again for the Eighties and all it encumbered. In a decade that started after the official end of the Vietnam War there came the idea of the anti-hero on television: the guy you shouldn’t root for but you do because he’s out to become the hero. It probably started with Sergio Leone’s “man with no name” trilogy (especially “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”) and continued with such fare as the “Billy Jack” series, “Walking Tall,” “First Blood,” “Death Wish,” and “Mad Max” (and its follow-up “The Road Warrior”). In these the antagonist became a victim before becoming the hero; the man whom acts out cathartic feelings of the collective.

Whatever becomes popular in film will seep into television and the anti-hero was no exception. “Knight Rider” gave us a cop (Michael Long, for the trivia inclined) who became injured in the line of duty only to return to fight crime as a lone crusader with the help of a rich benefactor, plastic surgery, and a talking car named K.I.T.T. Or there was Stringfellow Hawk (Jan Michael Vincent), a lone man hired to run a top secret helicopter called Airwolf while the powers that be tried to help him get his half-brother back. And then one of my favorites, “The Equalizer,” about a former British secret agent named Jack McCall who moves to New York City and makes it his job to help out the less fortunate to “pay” for whatever atrocities he committed in his life.

Out of this pool came “The A-Team”: a group of miscreant Vietnam War commandos operating as Robin Hood and his Merry Men of Southern California. There was Colonel Hannibal Smith (George Peppard), the grizzled, cigar-chomping “man with the plan.” Lieutenant Templeton “Face” Peck (Dirk Benedict), the ladies man and improv actor. Bosco “B.A.” Barracus (Mr. T), the brute force/muscle man of the group with a bad attitude. And finally H.M “Howling Mad” Murdock (Dwight Schultz) the weapons/inventions madman. All of them had their quirks and lest we not forget their catchphrases: Hannibal’s “I love it when a plan comes together,” and Mr. T’s “I pity the fool.” It was all big, dumb fun with two-dimensional characters (at best) and when your other choices are the Duke Boys in their Dodge Charger, Magnum cruising Hawaii in his Ferrari, or anything else I’ve mentioned, it’s all par for the course.

Got all that? There will be a quiz later.

Joe Carnahan’s adaptation of the TV series feels a half-hearted, as if the cheese was picked off of the pizza and what we are seriously having for dinner is cardboard with sauce on it. To his credit the characters felt more fleshed-out than the TV series, and the actors who play the roles get them right for the most part (props to Charlto Copley’s take on Murdock), but still… something feels missing.

The action kicks off with Hannibal, bound to a chair by two Mexican thugs who took a wad of cash off of him before letting the Doberman dogs try to rip him to pieces. The guys leave, he gets free, the dogs go after him, they run away, he lights a cigar and sneers. Yep, badass.

Meanwhile some distance away “Face” (Cooper) is in a bathrobe inside a series of rubber tires while a guy places a noose around his neck and someone else gets gasoline to set him on fire. He slept with a General’s wife, the General is getting his revenge, and he’s waiting for Hannibal to show up.

Incidentally Barracus (Jackson) is not too far away, just having gotten out of prison he goes to reclaim his van (a modified version of the TV one) and is heading into Mexico when he almost -literally- runs into Hannibal who forces him at gunpoint to help pickup Face.

Sometime later they are at a medical hospital to pick up Murdock (Copley) who pretends to be a doctor and stitches a lightning bolt on B.A.’s arm and sets Face on fire. Hannibal picks him up because he’s a qualified chopper pilot.

Fast-forward 8 years and 80 missions later. CIA Agent Lynch (Wilson) confronts Hannibal with a mission: retrieve some stolen U.S. currency plates from Iraqis who want to start their own printing press. General Morrison (McRaney) asks Hannibal not to take on the mission because it’s currently being seen to by Blackforest Ops lead by Brock Pike (Brian Bloom). Enter Charisa Sosa (Biel), the standard former-love-interest-turned-bitch to Face. She knows that by telling Face not to do the mission that he’ll do it. And they do. And things go badly.

Morrison is killed which leads to the group being dishonorably discharged and sent to various federal pens. Lynch helps Hannibal break out and he rounds up the rest of the team, from Face living a posh lifestyle (he has a tanning bed) to B.A. Finding peace within himself and adapting a way of non-violence to Murdock being Murdock at another medical hospital. The team is now out to find who killed Morrison, why they were setup, and what happened to the plates.

And that, my friends, is all the setup you need.

Overall, I wish the movie had been more fun. It’s not necessarily the “cheese factor” but it could’ve used a bit of that. Neeson is a great actor and granted the man plays most every role with a deal of conviction, but the Hannibal of the series never had that conviction or if he had it was momentary. Cooper does a good job as being Face but he’s also starting his career for the most part and there aren’t a lot of other parts to compare him to. Jackson as B.A. Barracus lacks the “dumbness” or brute mentality that Mr. T had in the series. Charlto Copley, however, nails Murdock and is a great role for him following last year’s “District 9.”

I had a lot of hopes for this movie coming from the director of “Narc,” and “Smokin’ Aces” and was let down. I wasn’t expecting Shakespeare (can anyone given the source material) but had wanted something more; something less placid and surface-level. There are general moments that are funny but for the most part its played as if everyone knows what’s going on all the time which is something that the audience should not see or know. Also there were not enough moments of things going horribly wrong -the movie and its characters keep running as if nothing just happened. We need the ups and downs in order to root for them.

WATCH FOR: Director Joe Carnahan as the liaison at the Mexican medical hospital. Also stay after the end credits to see Dwight Schultz and Dirk Benedict doing cameos.

My grade: C (re-evaluated)

Chas Andrews is a freelance writer, blogger, movie critic, what-have-you. Check out his hardboiled crime tale, The Big Adios, at http://aidencobb.blogspot.com

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01
Mar
10

Movie Review: Valentine’s Day

WATCH Hollywood cram a holiday into 2 hours…

Starring Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Eric Dane, Patrick Dempsey, Hector Elizondo, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Carter Jenkins, Ashton Kutcher, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner, George Lopez, Shirley MacLaine, Emma Roberts, Julia Roberts, Bryce Robinson, and Taylor Swift. Directed by Garry Marshall

24 hours of love and loss in Los Angeles. And yes, the entire cast is used.

Since there is no real plot to the story, and I guess you could argue that love really has no plot, let me give the rundown: The day begins with Reed Bennett (Kutcher) proposing to his live-in career-minded girlfriend Morley (Alba). With a “Yes” he’s triumphant and heads out to the shop for the busiest day of the year with his business partner and friend, Alphonso (Lopez).

Julia Fitzpatrick (Garner) wakes up after a night of great lovemaking with her boyfriend Harrison. Harrison is getting ready to go to a conference up in San Fran. Julia is a teacher while Harrison is a –supposedly- divorced cardiologist.

Also enjoying last night were Jason (Grace) and Liz (Hathaway). Liz is late for her job as a temp working at a Talent agency for Paula Thomas (Latifah) and rushes out to get on her bike when she gets a phone call from her other job, which is being an adult entertainment operator. Jason works in the mail room of a company and has only known Liz for 2 weeks.

Kelvin Moore (Foxx) is the number two sportscaster for a local station and he’s given a task by his producer, Susan (Bates): he has to do a “Man on the Street” Valentine’s Day segment. With some protest, and because it’s a slow news day, he relents and goes to do the piece.

Speaking of sports, quarterback Sean Jackson (Dane) has some problems with his career. His agent Kara (Biel) is torn between figuring a way for him to get out of the situation he’s in and keep her Anti-Valentine’s Day party going.

On a 14-hour flight back to L.A., Captain Kate Hazeltine (Julia Roberts) is napping on the shoulder of Holden (Cooper). Kate has one day, Valentine’s, to see her son before she’s shipped back to duty in the Middle East. Holden is a smart, savvy professional who isn’t a big fan of the holiday but builds a connection with Kate.

High school track star Willy (Lautner) and his dance team girlfriend Felicia (Swift) are in love, so much so that he gave her a giant, white teddy bear. Meanwhile, Alex (Jenkins) and Grace (Emma Roberts) are dealing with the pressures of “doing the do” for the first time.

And love isn’t just for teens and adults. Edgar (Elizondo) and Estelle (MacLaine) are a little bit away from renewing their vows, but Estelle has a secret. Incidentally so does their grandson Edison (Robinson).

I think that covers everyone. Are you confused?

What happens next is how all these lives run parallel, intersect and somehow make it through the heartwarming and heartbreak of Valentine’s. Morley confesses to Reed that she’s more into her career than him. Julia books a plane ticket to San Fran to be with Harrison, not knowing he’s in Brentwood with his wife and kid. Jason debates what to do about Liz for Valentine’s Day while Liz deals with the keeping her phone sex operator job a secret. Kelvin doesn’t want to do the “Man on the Street” bit and winds up befriending Kara. Sean doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. Alex has a misadventure professing his love for Grace; he stands in her room naked, strumming a guitar and waiting for her when Grace’s mom walks in on him. Estelle finally tells Edgar that years ago she had an affair on him with his business partner.

And so goes the stories of the L.A. lovelorn. The movie covers the entire day’s events, with occasional narration from Romeo Midnight (Paul Williams).

What else can I say about the movie? Well, they found a way to squeeze everything you like, and a lot of what you don’t, about Valentine’s Day into 2 hours. And with one of the largest ensemble casts I can think of in a while that’s no small task, so I’ll give them that credit.

I can say that there are some good performances in here but with so many stories going on, it’s difficult for me to ascertain who was better than whom. I’m half-and-half with romantic movies so aside from the sickening saccharine of the first hour, the rest of the movie went pretty smoothly. I give credit to giving the tribulations of love a reality I seldom see in other films.

And what’s the moral to the story? Sometimes love is staring at you all along and sometimes, it’s your best friend. Loving somebody is about loving all of them; the small things as well as the big. Sometimes people should have the courage to stop others when they see something as being wrong. Love hurts and love heals.

My grade: B

03
Feb
09

Movies on DVD Review: Next

next1

 My grade: C. Wait, isn’t that a little more than 2 minutes in the future?

Stars Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore, and Jessica Biel. Directed by Lee Tamahori. Based on the Philip K. Dick story, “The Golden Man.”

Nic Cage is Cris Johnson, a Las Vegas magician who morosely lives his life performing as Frank Cadillac and who keeps a secret: he can see 2 minutes into his own future. This helps him out of situations whereby he can easily hide from people, duck corners, avoid getting shot, or barely have a stolen car clipped by an oncoming train. “No good deed goes unpunished” as he stops casino carnage by disarming a serial casino shooter. This brings the attention of FBI agent Callie Ferris (Moore) who figures out that Cris’s ability to see into the future isn’t just a magic trick, it’s the real deal. Ferris needs Cris in order to help find a missing nuclear warhead that will take out the L.A. area faster than the current land eroding. Ferris isn’t the only one interested in Cris; the group with the stolen nuke figures that if the FBI is interested in him, so should they. Cris is only interested in living his life as normal and “under the radar” as possible until he meets Liz Cooper (Biel), a part-time teacher he hitches a ride to Flagstaff with and who has the ability to help him see further into the future.

File this one under “Good Idea, Okay Execution.”

Time travel, clairvoyance, precognition, what-have-you has been the staple of many a sci-fi film, and not always the good ones. To say this is the type of movie you can watch and then appreciate “Millennium” (Kris Kristofferson, Cheryl Ladd) may be a bit of an overstatement, but not by much (okay, I was a kid when I saw “Millennium” and thought the watches running backwards were cool, alright?) Okay, how about “Timecop?” I refuse to acknowledge “Star Trek’s” adventures in time because they’ve abused the privilege. The one thing these movies have over “Next” is: a story.

Getting past the point of belief that the bad guys would be interested in Cris, there’s not a lot else going on in this movie. Jessica Biel does a good job at being the romantic interest/ innocent person caught up in all the mayhem. Julianne Moore is good at being the balls-to-the-wall yet soft-hearted FBI agent needing to find Cris to stop the warhead from detonation. And Nic Cage slumbers around until he’s in an action sequence, at which point he jumps and flails around until it’s over and returns to sleep-acting.

Again, I return to the story. The movie smacks you with its “ain’t this cool?” premise so much that it often makes you forget that there has to be a point to the movie. The filmmakers designed the movie to confuse the viewer as to whether or not what we are seeing is the truth, or if it’s a 2-minute “sneak peek.” This actually ruins the ending. And the part where he makes multiple versions of himself to check for traps while cool is unwarranted.

I really wanted this movie to be good, or at least as entertaining as “Paycheck” (another movie based on a PKD story and hey, at least that one WAS entertaining). The movie tries to be cerebral, but there’s nothing cerebral about it with the exception of Cage moping around. The film also had problems mixing romance with action-adventure thriller, throwing the viewer for a loop. By the hour-mark I couldn’t care less about the characters; I just wanted to know how the movie ended. It should’ve spent less time screaming, “Hey, isn’t this concept cool?” and more time developing a story.

Let’s face it: it was a mess of a movie.

Of note, Jim Beaver (“Deadwood”) and Peter Falk (“Columbo”) were in this one.

My grade: C (cool idea, unworthy execution)