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post #1 of 6 Old 12-20-10, 05:07 PM Thread Starter
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The A-Team - Blu-ray Review

Title: The A-Team
Starring: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copely, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Jessica Biel
Directed by: Joe Carnahan
Written by: Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 117 Minutes
Release Date: December 14, 2010

Movie:
Video:
Audio:
Extras:
Overall:


Synopsis:
Sometimes I wonder if Hollywood is running out of ideas. "In a world...where nearly 2,500 movies are released each year..." there appears to be a growing percentage of sequels, prequels and remakes. And, in a business dominated by the almighty dollar, a remake that can play off of nostalgia and that can potentially produce a demo-quality action blu-ray is a paragon. Enter The A-Team. The movie opens with an introduction of the four main characters and a seemingly random sequence of events that brings the four together for the very first time. However, "no matter how random things appear....there's always a plan."

Setting: subtitled Mexico. A silver-headed Colonel Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson) is hunched over and handcuffed while beaten and interrogated by officers of a corrupt Mexican General. Ironic and foreshadowing, the officers lecture Hannibal about how he should have had a better plan just before leaving him alone to be killed by dogs. Within seconds, Hannibal miraculously escapes the cuffs, the dogs and then disappears into the shadows.

We then jump to a scene where an orange Lamborghini finds its way through crowded, dirty back alleys to a shady-looking auto chop shop. A suicide door opens and out steps Bosco B.A. Baracus (Quinton "Rampage" Jackson). He beats down a few double crossing mechanics before trading the Lambo for his iconic black and red-trimmed GMC Vandura. Excited to have his suped up, spit-shined "girl" back, Baracus then coincidentally drives across the exact same stretch of desert that Hannibal is escaping through. Their paths cross and Hannibal attempts to hijack B.A. and the van. Just as things are about to get ugly, an irreversible bond is instantly created between the two when Hannibal discovers that Baracus is an ex-Army Ranger. Together, they race to the aid of Hannibal's friend, Lieutenant Templeton "Faceman" Peck (Bradley Cooper).

Face (Peck) has seduced the Mexican General's wife, but it seems his careless actions are what ultimately brings everyone together. Just as the General is about to kill Face, the black van containing Hannibal and Baracus careens onto the scene with perfect timing to rescue Face and escape immediate danger. The General and his men give chase, so the trio of rangers stop into a nearby army hospital to enlist the skills and services of Captain H.M. "Howling Mad" Murdock (Sharlto Copely).

Murdock takes the group onto a rescue helicopter where they are engaged by the angry Mexican General in a helicopter dogfight. Eventually, Murdock is able to lure the enemy chopper over American soil where it is shot down by a U.S. fighter jet. This ferocious flight not only serves as a successful conclusion to Hannibal's miraculous "plan," but also provides us with a couple of key points moving forward. In typical Hollywood remake fashion, a back story is presented which explains how the group of soldiers are brought together. Also, during the flight, a daring sequence where Baracus almost falls out of the chopper explains the reason for his future fear of flying. Finally, Murdock accidentally knocks an AC unit onto the previously mentioned, iconic, black "A-Team" van. Although this movie is a remake of the original TV series, the early dismissal of the van symbolizes a loose separation between the two. Tied together by title and in characters, for the best movie experience it is suggested that the two should now be viewed as somewhat separate entities. Good "plan," and "I love it when a plan comes together!"

Jump ahead 8 years and 80 successful missions as an elite combat team later, we finally get to the meat of the plot. CIA agent Lynch (Patrick Wilson) approaches Hannibal and his men with a mission to retrieve stolen American currency engraving plates and a billion dollars of illegally printed money in Baghdad. However, DCIS agent Charissa Sosa (Jessica Biel) warns that the men are not to enter Baghdad. Initially against the better judgement of commanding officer General Morrison (Gerald McRaney), Hannibal and his men are eventually given permission to go on a black ops mission to retrieve the money and plates. A wildly unbelievable, Hannibal-planned mission is successful and the men return with the plates and the money. Just as the boys are about to start celebrating, both a Humvee containing General Morrison, and the container of retrieved money explode. Brock Pike (Brian Bloom), agent leader of a Blackwater-like security firm called Black Forest, escapes with the engraving plates during the distracting explosions. With no documented orders, Morrison was the only proof that Hannibal and his men had permission to go on this mission. Now that Morrison has been killed, Hannibal, B.A., Face and Murdock are arrested, tried, dishonorably discharged from the military and imprisoned separately for a sentence of 10 years.

Six months later, Lynch visits Hannibal in prison with information detailing Pike's involvement with an Arab investor interested in buying the stolen engraving plates. Lynch aids Hannibal in his escape, and in turn, Hannibal plans a way to break out the rest of the A-Team from their individual prisons. Several far-fetched but exciting action sequences later, the A-Team is presented with a plot twist that, at first, seems to force their backs against the wall in their quest for exoneration. Nevertheless, Face manages to conjure up a plan that uses this disadvantage in an attempt to not only clear their names, but also retrieve the engraving plates while bringing Pike to justice. My quick Cliff's Notes summary of the movie's plot is due to the fact that the story is full of plot holes and is extremely difficult to follow through your first viewing. Luckily, none of this has to matter since this falls perfectly in-line with the action-first, story-second scripting of the TV series.

I grew up watching the original A-Team TV show. I watched the cartoon. I played with the toys. I even ate the cereal. All that being said, I was also 5 years old. I've not seen every episode a hundred times and I don't drive around in an exact replica of the black A-Team Vandura. I believe for that reason, I really enjoyed this movie interpretation of the TV series. In large part, and much to my surprise, the characters were fantastic. Liam Neeson was a natural leader and just felt right as Hannibal. (Just for fun, I dare anyone to take a shot every time he says the word: "plan.") Bradley Cooper was spot on as the highly sarcastic Faceman with a believable seductive quality. If you're going to have a problem with one of the characters, it will be with Quinton Jackson as B.A. Baracus. I pity the fool that accepts a role to replace the polarizing Mr. T. Tough shoes to fill, indeed. Many of his lines felt unbelievable or forced, and it seemed like a simple fix to knock out Baracus during flying scenes so that we didn't have to hear him speak. I am a huge MMA fan and many times, Quinton sounded more like "Rampage" to me than B.A. Baracus. Negatives aside, I came into this film thinking Jackson was a mistake of a hire. For this reason, I ended up walking away impressed with how well he actually played the part. Don't forget, Mr. T was far from an Emmy Award winning actor whose popularity probably resulted largely from his one-liners. I saved the best for last. Sharlto Copely truly steals the show as Mad Dog Murdock. I didn't even realize who Copely was, but having enjoyed his character in District 9 and now The A-Team, he's now one of my favorite actors. Seriously, this movie is worth picking up just to see his performance.

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

Video:
The A-Team is presented with an MPEG 4 AVC codec in 1080p at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This is a fantastic video transfer with demo-quality action sequences. Color is well saturated and may appear a touch oversaturated as the contrast level is also slightly exaggerated. Whites blow out a hair and blacks are rich and dark, characteristic of this style of action film. Film grain is supportive through out and gives the movie a nice gritty feel. Details and texture representation are extraordinary from the swirling smoke of Hannibal's first-lit cigar to the glimmering highlights off of Pike's H&K G36K. Lightning fast action sequences may seem a little soft on bigger screens, but these did not detract for me. There also may appear to be some edge enhancements during green screen scenes; specifically the scene where Cooper is popping out of the top of the falling tank. However, I think this is the nature of green screen effects and therefore you shouldn't fault the nearly perfect transfer.


Audio:
One word: Wow! The A-Team is gloriously endowed with a highly immersive 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio track. The sound of non-stop action is defined by bone-crunching fight scenes, crashing and breaking glass, whirring helicopter blades, explosions and bullets that whiz past your head. Every speaker in your system seems to be constantly engaged as the action moves around your room with constant cross-channel effects. Conversation keeps up for the large majority, but in some scenes, whispers are a tad quiet. Environmental ambiance is engrossing including the scene on base before the team leaves for Baghdad, and the scene when Face gives Sosa the phone. Low frequency effects are amazing as your subwoofer will be asked to dig super deeply at times. The score is excellent as well with noticeable mood enhancing music throughout. My only complaint is in several scenes, the dialogue sounds as if there are microphone changes or voice-over dubbing. The scene in the diner booth where Baracus informs Hannibal and Face that he's changed is just one example. This kind of thing can be easily overlooked but can also take you out of the moment, hence the half-star reduction. But, rest assured, this is a remarkable audio track that fully supports the fantastic action video transfer.

Extras:
  • Unrated Extended Cut (Original cut is PG-13. Extended cut includes some scenes where the actors drop the F-Bomb.)
  • The Devil's in the Details
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Gag Reel (very, very funny!)
  • A-Team Theme Mash-Up Montage
  • Plan of Attack
  • Character Chronicles
  • Visual Effects Before and After
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • BD-Live Exclusive - Dressing Down

Overall:
I'm sure there may be some A-Team aficionados out there that will have more than enough bones to pick with the details of the film. In my opinion, director, Joe Carnahan (Smoking Aces) perfectly represented the intentions of the original TV series with the creation of an over-the-top action movie where explosions, dogfights, gunfights and polarizing character creation were more important than the storied reason for fighting. If you know The A-Team episodes by heart and expect an exact replica representation of the series, I'd suggest you rent before you nitpick. However, if you're a casual fan of the series, or even if you've never seen an episode in your life (much like my wife, who also enjoyed the film), then "there is no plan B." I'd highly recommend you purchase this entertaining, funny and action-packed representation of the 80's classic.

A small sample of AV bookmarks include:
Character introductions- 0:00
The plate/money heist- 31:15
Murdock prison breakout/Tank- 52:15
Second plate heist- 1:11:15
Finale- 1:34:30

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post #2 of 6 Old 12-21-10, 10:17 PM
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Loved the original show. I'm really looking forward to watching this on blu-ray.
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post #3 of 6 Old 01-03-11, 12:42 PM
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Re: The A-Team - Blu-ray Review

I think you have to be a fan of the TV series to really appreciate it. I never watched the TV series so I had no emotional connection to the movie. I think they did a pretty good job of setting the stage on who the A-Team was, but the movie was so-so for me with some nice action scenes. A forgettable movie for me coming from someone who didn't watch the A-Team in the '80s.
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post #4 of 6 Old 01-04-11, 04:20 PM
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Yea, if you weren't prepared for the cheesiness, I could see it being annoying.
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post #5 of 6 Old 01-26-11, 08:23 PM
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Re: The A-Team - Blu-ray Review

I got a kick out of this one for the most part. A few scenes that were really over the top kinda took away from it but, turn your brain off after the previews and ...

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post #6 of 6 Old 01-26-11, 09:59 PM
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Re: The A-Team - Blu-ray Review

Watched the original series a few times, but was never a huge fan.

Really enjoyed the movie, however, for exactly what it was - cheesy action flick.

Would have probably bumped the audio up to 5 stars and the overall to 4.5, but that's nitpicking.
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