Review: The A-Team (2010)

The new guys

The plan for The A-Team was to adapt a cheesy 1980s action TV series for the big screen by distilling its spirit and repackaging it with 21st century effects, and, to quote Col. John “Hannibal” Smith himself: “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Loud, fast-moving, violent and filled with explosions and wisecracks, it’s hard to imagine a more faithful adaptation of the explosion-laden, wisecracking TV series. Befitting the larger venue, the movie characters feel bigger: Bradley Cole’s Templeton “Faceman” Peck is much more in-your-face; brash and boastful, rather than coolly confident. B.A. Baracus gets fleshed out much more fully by Quinton “Rampage” Jackson than Mr. T was ever allowed to do on the small screen. And Sharlto Copley’s (District 9) “Howlin’ Mad” Murdock is completely divorced from reality – touching down only occasionally to refuel before taking off on another flight of fancy. Only mastermind Hannibal seems smaller than he was on TV, perhaps because Liam Neeson, as the acting heavyweight in the cast, chooses to actually play him as a thinker, even though his plans are even more outrageous than the wild scams George Peppard dreamed up on a weekly TV budget.
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STARGATE UNIVERSE 1.20: Incursion, Part 2

STARGATE UNIVERSE ended its first season with “Incursion, Part 2,” which saw Destiny invaded by the Lucian Alliance that resulted in a hostage standoff. This week’s installment added another wrinkle: an outside threat that forced the two factions to try to cooperate to avoid death.

The episode kicked off with a death, however, as Kiva callously killed recurring character Cpl. Rivers. Camile (Ming-Na) wanted to continue negotiations, but Kiva (Rhona Mitra) is a classic “kill somebody when frustrated” baddie straight out of the Darth Vader school of command, so she was not as willing to chat as some STARGATE baddies. The outside threat came in the form of a binary pulsar, which was emitting deadly bursts of gamma radiation every 46 minutes, forcing Destiny to drain power from other parts of the ship to periodically boost the shields. We learned that the unfortunate Alliance soldier who was melted by that weird light last week had been exposed to pulsar radiation through a gap in the shielding. Well, so much for my Franklin-as-ghost-in-the-machine theory. (I’m confident the-powers-that-be will return to this story thread next season.)
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GLEE 1.22: Journey’s End

Talk about going out on a high note! GLEE managed to save the very best for last, wrapping its inaugural season with an extraordinary episode filled with fantastic musical performances, suspense, and a really moving story. Oh, and grace notes in all the right places.

GLEE usually saves the sentimental stuff for the last act, but the finale started tugging at the heartstrings right away. And it also went for the heartbreak, too. While the kids were demoralized about their prospects at Regionals, Mr. Schue (Matthew Morrison) talked about the importance of living the experience to its fullest, and he said something that really froze me. Looking ahead to the future, Will talked about how the kids will look back on this experience. “It’ll take you a second to remember everybody’s name,” he said. And that’s what got to me. That was the voice of experience talking about the tragedy and pain of nostalgia. Right now, these kids constitute are each others’ world, but someday everything will inevitably become hazy memories. And everyone who has ever dusted off an old yearbook or peered at a grainy scanned photo on Facebook knows how selective (and cruel) memory can be. Indeed, this was their time…
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STARGATE UNIVERSE 1.19: Incursion Part 1

STARGATE UNIVERSE is wrapping its surprisingly strong first season with a two-part finale that pits the Destiny crew against the Lucian Alliance, the baddies responsible for the expedition being trapped on the Ancients starship to begin with.

The Lucian Alliance has never been one of my favorite foes from the Stargate mythos – I just can’t get excited about a conglomeration of interstellar thugs, smugglers and assorted criminals. (I do, however, find the Genii to be even more boring.) They seem somehow “beneath” our heroes in the Stargate program. It’s the same feeling I get whenever Superman would go up against bank robbers in the comics; this is supposed to be a threat?

Well, in my book, the Alliance has now graduated to the big leagues and become a legitimate threat. I still don’t like ‘em, but at least they are a real challenge. Led by Rhona Mitra’s Commander Kiva, the Alliance located another Icarus-class planet and set to work with stolen ninth-chevron tech fed them by the brainwashed Col. Telford (Lou Diamond Phillips). That’s showing some initiative, Kiva. With the help of Dr. Rush (Robert Carlyle), the Alliance dialed up Destiny and invaded. In a very real sense, the series has come full circle, with the return of the Alliance, and the destruction of another planet used to power a stargate. Only this time, the goodies were attacking the planet, trying to stop a mission to Destiny. It’s almost like the-powers-that-be planned it or something…
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ROYAL PAINS 2.1: Rx for summer fun

The problem with the inaugural season of ROYAL PAINS is that while the show is breezy and entertaining, the scripting has always been just a bit too on-the-nose. There was very little about the show that was subtle, the second-season premiere indicates that trend is continuing.

When last we saw the employers of HankMed, the concierge doctor service sweeping the Hamptons playground of the rich, Hank (Mark Feuerstein) and Evan (Paul Costanzo) had just seen their bank accounts drained by their unseen ne’er-do-well father, Eddie, and physician’s assistant Divya (Reshma Shetty) had reluctantly become engaged to Roger, the London businessman her parents arranged for her when she was a child.
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BURN NOTICE 4.1: When Michael met Vaughn…

The fourth-season premiere of BURN NOTICE picked up seconds after last spring’s cliff-hanger, with Michael seated in a mysterious, comfy drawing room. Turns out he was brought there to meet with a man called Vaughn, who claimed, “We burned you.” However, he praised Michael for rescuing Management last season, and recruited him to join him in busting a shadowy international organization blamed for lots of the nasty things happening around the globe. Michael doesn’t ask too many questions, and in short order, he finds himself racing through a jungle, trying to outrun a rocket attack on an arms dealer’s encampment.

That’s kind of how it is with BURN NOTICE: You just get just enough explanation to make the story seem plausible, and the rest of the time you spend watching stuff get blown up while Michael cruises around looking confident and cool.
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DOCTOR WHO 5.7 (31.7): Amy’s Choice

“Amy’s Choice” was notable for sorting out Amy’s feelings for the Doctor and Rory – a subject under fairly close scrutiny following her attempted seduction at the end of “Flesh and Stone.”

Fans have become almost inured to the Doctor snogging his companions these days, but in the old days that sort of thing was never done (well, not until the Eighth Doctor’s TV movie, at least). In fact, it was sort of becoming old hat: “When will the Doctor kiss this companion?” But Amy’s full-on seduction bid was something new, and it had to be addressed. Was she really willing to be with another man (well, Time Lord) on the night before her wedding? (This sort of thing is done all the time on daytime soap operas, but for DOCTOR WHO it’s something new.) Recall that one of the running gags during season four was people assuming the Doctor and redheaded Donna were married. Well, in typical “Don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone” fashion, it took Rory dying for Amy to realize that she really does love him. Fortunately, the Doctor has a time machine; unfortunately, that time machine was invaded by entity known as the Dream Lord.
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That flawed perfect game…

Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga must feel really bad today, but it must really suck to be umpire Jim Joyce, the man who made the Blown Call Heard ‘Round the World.

Look, I have absolutely no love for the Tigers (I’m a Yankee fan), but no hurler deserves to suffer like that (No, not even somebody from the Red Sox). In case you haven’t heard (or seen it yourself), Galarraga was one measly out away from a perfect game when he covered first base on an easy bouncer. The throw came in time, yet Joyce declared Cleveland Indians runner Jason Donald safe. What? He was clearly out by a mile! Seriously, it was no bang-bang play; first-base umps make lots of closer calls. So what happened? Joyce himself does not dispute bungling the call. “I just cost that kid a perfect game,” he was quoted as saying after the game. The question is, why? What did he think he saw that resulted in a safe call? The world will never know. This is not one of those cases where Galarraga should simply have been given the benefit of the doubt; he should have been given the benefit of a correct call.
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R.I.P. Dennis Hopper

Hopper as Frank Booth in Blue Velvet

Movies lost a true giant and a champion this weekend, when Dennis Hopper died of prostate cancer May 29. It would be difficult to overstate his impact on American movies, but I will always remember the influential actor/director/writer for borrowing a pen.

It was a tiny moment amid bigger, more serious stuff, but it was my personal brush with his greatness, and I’d like to recount it, since others far more qualified than myself will analyze the cultural repercussions of Easy Rider, Blue Velvet, Hoosiers and Waterworld.

I met Hopper at the Sundance Film Festival in 1996 when he was talking about two wildly diverse projects: Carried Away and the schlocky sci-fi flick Space Truckers (which was about…well, exactly what it sounded like it was about). To be fair, only Carried Away — a character piece about a middle-aged teacher who falls for a 17-year-old student — was entered at Sundance, and it earned some good buzz for Hopper and co-stars Amy Irving and Amy Locane. Clearly, there was a disconnect, and Hopper admitted the obvious: Doing one Space Truckers paid enough to allow him to do a year of personal projects like Carried Away.
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