Posts Tagged ‘tv series

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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12
Feb
09

A Salute to Anthology TV of the Eighties

Being a kid in the Eighties my TV watching consisted of Transformers, He-Man, and G.I, Joe in the afternoon, Knight Rider and maybe Alf in the evening, and then there were the scary shows, the ones I had to sneak away and watch, telling myself that my parents didn’t know I was watching them (when they probably did). Since my childhood was skewed toward sci-fi/ horror genre, so is the following:

 

“Hammer House of Horror” – Running for only one season (13 episodes) in 1980, the British Horror production company Hammer Film Productions released this foray into ghosts, demons, and the supernatural.

 

“Tales From the Darkside” – Produced by George Romero (with Stephen King writing at least 2 episodes), “Darkside” ran from 1984-1990. Each episode was 30 minutes in length and began with a normal situation that would get crazy quickly and end with a twist. Then again, there were a lot of series like this. What set “Darkside” apart from the rest was its dark sense of humor. This show has recently been released on DVD and I’m having a blast watching it. My favorite so far is the one which starred the guy from the Dunkin’ Donuts commercials from the Eighties. He has back problems and goes to see a doctor, who tells him that in order to get rid of the back pains he has to get rid of the stress in his life, which means that his wife has to be killed. After his will is killed in a car “accident” he’s summoned to the doctor to find he now has to kill someone to “pay” for his back pain “cure.”

 

“Amazing Stories” – Steven Spielberg decided to take his childhood watching of “The Twilight Zone” and reading “Amazing Stories” and helped create this series. While “middle of the road” to critics, it wasn’t bad for what it was: a family version of “The Twilight Zone,” so to speak. I remember watching the very first episode, “Ghost Train,” about an old man who, as a kid, placed a penny on a railroad track, derailing the train. The train returns to claim him as he nears death. Also, there was the episode about the cartoonist trapped in a gun turret of a Word War II Bomber, Santa being jailed, and a kid who becomes magnetic after a piece of meteorite falls in his back yard. It ran for two seasons: 1985-1987.

 

“The New Twilight Zone” – This ran on CBS from 1985-1989. CBS had what they thought was a good idea: resurrect “The Twilight Zone.” Problem was that this retreading tanked and was cancelled after two seasons. Unfortunately they had pre-sold the series into syndication and had to continue making episodes to honor the contract. Hindsight is 20/20… Trivia note: J Michael Straczynski, creator of “Babylon 5,” wrote 12 episodes for the series. I remember watching the episode where two children were taken to an amusement park and led to a tunnel with rooms, and each room had a different set of parents interested in adopting the kids. Also, the episode where the couple was caught “in between” time and blue men ran about town changing everything for the next upcoming minute.

 

 

“Freddy’s Nightmares” – Based on the “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise, this one had Freddy himself, Robert Englund, hosting tales of evil and death occurring on Elm Street. Remind me not to live there… The series 1988-1990.

 

 

“Monsters” – As “Tales from the Darkside” was neared its end, several of the directors and writers worked on “Monsters.” “Monsters” was similar to “Darkside,” but the main difference was that each episode of the series literally dealt with a different monster. It ran from 1988-1991.

 

 

“Friday the 13th” – Unlike “The New Twilight Zone,” this show shares little with the actual movie franchise except the title. The show was about two cousins, Ryan Dallion and Micki Foster, who inherit their uncle’s antique shop. Unbeknownst to them the relics are cursed and they must retrieve them from the buyers before too much damage and harm is caused. The series ran from 1987-1990.

 

 

“Tales from the Crypt” – Finishing out the Eighties was another personal favorite, “Tales from the Crypt.” Each episode began with The Cryptkeeper, a skeleton narrator who provided kitsch humor to the episode about to be unfolded. It had great theme music and was fun to watch. The episode I remember was when the old millionaire man had a young wife. Finding a younger bodybuilder, he pays to exchange body parts piece-by-piece. At the end he has the body of the bodybuilder, but no money. Meanwhile, the bodybuilder now has the money, and the wife, of the former millionaire. The Cryptkeeper dominated HBO and syndication from 1989 until 1996.

 

“The Ray Bradbury Theater” – Hosted by scifi author and based on several of his short stories, this series ran from 1985-1986 and 1988-1992. The subjects ran from science to supernatural, from childhood memories and fears to being grown up. One of my favorite episodes was called “The Town Where No One Got Off.” In it a writer (Jeff Goldblum) exits the train at a town where the train only stops to drop off supplies. He’s followed around by a retired sheriff (Ed McNamara) who traps and confronts him about what he’s doing there. Trivia note: Larry Wilcox (Officer Jon Baker on “CHiPs”) was an executive producer on the series.

 

Some of these are available on DVD, and some are still on video.

 

Don’t stay up too late…