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Saturday, June 26, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW - The A-Team

For those of you who know there’s something wrong with the action genre, but can’t pinpoint exactly what it is, I present you The A-Team. Honestly I’m not sure what drove me to this movie. Having heard such terrible things about Robin Hood and Prince of Persia I bypassed the first few tent-pole flicks of the summer for this one. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have fun to one extent or another, but I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t cringing during a good portion of it.

After being framed in Iraq, Col. Hannible Smith (Liam Neeson) and his “A-Team” of misfit soldiers escape from prison to clear their name and hunt down the operations group that framed the four of them. Sounds a lot like the television show right? Well… assuming you know anything about the television show.

The storyline of the film, or television series, isn’t the problem. It’s the current state of the action genre that turns this film in to an absurd spiral of mayhem. Does anyone remember how to make an action movie? I’d like to point to Die Hard, a movie that started out with a character that was largely relatable. When John McClain is faced with the impossible task of saving a building of hostages from terrorists the audience goes on a journey with him. We discover his weaknesses, his strengths and what makes him the bold character he is while plummeting through several incursions. The audience has hope that he’ll succeeded of course, but because he is so human and has made notable errors, the audience is in suspense of whether or not he’ll be able to save the day. The explosions and gunfire are a fun, but not the stars of the show. This isn’t the case with The A-Team.

Hannible and his team are introduced to the audience as perfect combatants. Right out of the blocks Hannible is able to escape imprisonment with ease and his team show an equal amount of skill and confidence. Unlike McClain, they are completely disconnected from the audience due to their inhuman abilities to beat down a garage full of eight muscle men, maneuver helicopters like an F-22 and fly a tank. (lol wut?) The tank scene is what made and killed the movie for me. While escaping enemy aircraft, the team jettisons from their exploding plane by tank and maneuver it safely over a lake using the main cannon as propulsion. While I appreciate the absurdity, why should I be worried about these characters anymore if they survive a tank falling from the clouds? Oh, sure, director Joe Carnhan tries to trick the audience into believing these characters will bite the dust due to a healthy gunshot wound to the shoulder. But after the tank thing we know better. These guys will survive anything!

And why do action films these days feel the need to create scenes like the tank sequence? Have we reached a point in cinema where the clich├ęs of jumping out of an exploding building are so bad we have to resort to the ridiculous to appease audiences? Is the classic action movie dead, casting aside great characters in extraordinary situations for extraordinary characters in impossible situations? It can be fun sometimes, I’ll admit, but it’s junk food—And it’s all we get these days. Maybe when I can safely fly a tank in to a lake I’ll appreciate this stuff better.

*½ out of ****

Friday, June 25, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW - Babies

You know, in a year that’s looking like one of the worst summer movie seasons in recent memory it might seem easy for a documentary about babies to outshine an A-Team. But the beauty about Babies (and humor) lies in its humanity. The most innocent kind of humanity too! Babies isn’t necessarily about a bunch of infants growing up differently, but rather an example of their similarities immediately after birth.

The vague story of this documentary follows four infants: Ponijao from Namibia, Bayar from Mongolia, Mari from Japan, and Hattie from the United States. From there they learn to crawl, mumble, walk and speak, all while being utterly entranced by fresh, new life.

For a lot of the film, Babies turns out to be more of a crowd pleaser than an insightful journey. The humor surrounding these kids as they decide to gnaw on everything, piss where they please and stare obsessively is truly outrageous. But what gets me is how similar they all are. It begs the question: Is this a movie about babies growing up in different cultures or a film showing how irrelevant cultural preference is in the wake of new life.

To exemplify the similarities of these infants, they all have access to animals and treat them with as little reverence as possible. Panijao tugs on the upper lip of a dog, while Bayar steps on a lamb. They’re curious about these animals’ physical structure and they feel they must learn about them by touching-- Despite how uncomfortable the animals get. There is no boundary for these babies in any culture. They study by doing and they have yet to get to a place where they can be fully assimilated in to their respective societies. To me, this is what makes the film so fascinating.

The film rams home that the purist form of human innocence is the untainted and curious baby. If this sounds hysterical, don’t worry, it’s suppose to be. Mari’s parents may be worried about their job, but she’s more concerned about getting a long, cylinder block through a hole. (Something I’m sure her father would prefer her to learn later in life.) But the failure to understand why these toys won’t stay together upsets her so much that she throws her feet to the floor in a fit of rage. Her day is clearly ruined. The result is both hilarious and engaging. Hilarious because from our point of view the situation means nothing; engaging because this is really what is important to her. It’s how she learns and she feels she’s failed.

But I won’t recommend this to the masses. This is a movie with babies being babies for an hour and twenty minutes with no narration. Nothing Youtube can’t give us, right? But while the film admittedly seems less interested in providing a new perspective and more interested in making the crowd go, “Awww…” I’m pretty sure there’s enough insightful material to spark intelligent discussions. And if you don’t feel the same way, at least we can agree that babies will be babies—And honestly, how damn funny is that?

*** out of ****