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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Toy Story 3 (D)

Guest reviewer: Matt Goldberg,

Toy Story 3
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Starring: Tom Hanks ... Woody (voice)

Tim Allen ... Buzz Lightyear (voice)

Joan Cusack ... Jessie (voice)

Ned Beatty ... Lotso (voice)

Don Rickles ... Mr. Potato Head (voice)

Michael Keaton ... Ken (voice)

Wallace Shawn ... Rex (voice)

John Ratzenberger ... Hamm (voice)

Estelle Harris ... Mrs. Potato Head (voice)

John Morris ... Andy (voice)

Jodi Benson ... Barbie (voice)

Emily Hahn ... Bonnie (voice)

Laurie Metcalf ... Andy's Mom (voice)

Blake Clark ... Slinky Dog (voice)

Teddy Newton ... Chatter Telephone (voice)

Toy Story 3 Toy Story 3
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Synopsis: Warning! This synopsis may contain spoilers

Andy Davis (John Morris) is now 17 years old, and is heading off to college in a few days. However, the fact that Andy has grown from a young boy to a teenager has not been lost on a select few: his toys.

Several of them hold out hope that Andy will play with them at least once before he leaves, but those hopes are soon dashed. As the toys take stock of how many are left, and those that they have lost over the years, their attention is drawn to the last of the Army Men: Sarge (R. Lee Ermey), and two paratroopers. Fearful of being thrown away, they leap out the window into the world beyond, their parachutes taking them who knows where.

This idea soon fills the heads of the remaining toys: Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, Bullseye, Mr. Potato Head, Mrs. Potato Head, 3 alien squeak toys from Pizza Planet, Slinky Dog, Rex, and Hamm the Piggy Bank.

Several are of the persuasion that Sarge is right, and they'll be tossed out soon, but Woody (Tom Hanks) believes that Andy wouldn't do this, and figures he'll store them in the attic...maybe one day to be played with again when Andy has kids of his own.

The toys' 'staff meeting' is cut short when Andy returns to his room with his mom (Laurie Metcalf) in tow. With only a few days left until he leaves, Andy has not cleaned up his room. Andy's mom is also having Molly (Beatrice Miller) clean her room as well, and tells the two to throw out what they don't want, store extra items in the attic, or donate items to Sunnyside Daycare. From Andy's room, the toys watch as Molly throws her Barbie doll (Jodi Benson) in the donations box, along with some other toys.

Andy finally takes out a black trash bag, and begins to put his old toys into it. When he finally gets to Woody and Buzz (Tim Allen), he hesitates, before putting Woody in a box marked 'College,' and tossing Buzz in the black trash bag. Inside, the toys think they are going to be thrown away, and Woody watches as Andy leaves the room. His panic turns to relief as he sees Andy open the attic door. However, before Andy can go up, he helps Molly move the donations box downstairs. The lapse causes the attic door to close, and Andy's Mom soon after finds the trash bag with the toys. Thinking Andy just left trash laying around, she takes it with another bag to the curb.

Woody looks down the street in horror as the garbage truck slowly makes its way to the curb. Woody jumps out the window, and slides down a pipe to the front lawn...only to see the trash bags thrown into the garbage truck and crushed! Shortly thereafter, Woody notices a recycling bin walking towards the garage. Following it, he is relieved to see that his friends escaped. However, they are now all convinced that Andy meant to throw them away.

Woody tries to explain what really happened, but most of them just feel that he is in denial. Jessie (Joan Cusack) soon notices the box of donations to Sunnyside Daycare, and proposes that they all go there. Everyone eagerly jumps in, except for Woody, who demands that they all return to Andy's room right away. Before he can say anymore, the trunk to the family mini-van closes, and Andy's mom takes the box to Sunnyside. Inside, the other toys find Barbie, distraught and heart-broken that Molly threw her away.

After arriving at Sunnyside, Andy's mom brings the toys in to the front desk. A family friend is working the desk, with her little daughter Bonnie (Emily Hahn) close by. The toys are then taken to the Butterfly Room. Looking through the handle-hole in the box, the toys are excited to see a group of children happily playing with the toys in the room.

After the recess bell sounds and the kids leave the room, the toys eagerly escape from the box, only to meet a very friendly group of toys, excited to see them. The group is soon joined by a strawberry-scented bear named Lotso (Ned Beatty), who soon calls his associate Ken (Michael Keaton) to escort the group around, showing them what Sunnyside has to offer. However, during the course of their tour, Ken soon becomes smitten with Barbie...who soon finds herself drawn to him as well.

Lotso explains that the toys are taken care of, and that due to a neverending supply of kids coming and going, the toys will never be without someone to play with them. Andy's toys eagerly accompany Lotso over to the Caterpillar Room, where he then leaves them to experience their first playtime at Sunnyside. However, Ken and Barbie appear to have gotten along quite well, and Barbie (at the insistence from the group upon seeing her so happy) eagerly goes back with Ken and Lotso to the Butterfly Room.

Woody explains that while Sunnyside does seem great, he strongly believes they should go back to Andy. Woody asks Buzz to come back, but Buzz refuses, saying they should stick together. Realizing that the others won't accompany him, Woody sneaks out of Sunnyside, but not before accidentally losing his hat. In the process, the little girl named Bonnie finds him, and takes him home with her.

Back in the Caterpillar Room, recess ends, and the toys get their first playtime...only to find the room filled with noisy screaming toddlers, each of them rambunctious and not as 'delicate' as Andy was. Once the daycare closes, the toys feel there has been some mistake and that they should be in the Butterfly Room instead. Buzz manages to get out of the room, intending to talk to Lotso. However, once outside, his attention is drawn to Ken and several other toys going inside a vending machine.

Buzz follows them, but is caught by a sleepy-eyed doll named Big Baby. Ken and the others take Buzz to the daycare's library and tie him up. Suddenly, Lotso comes across the other toys, and demands that they let Buzz go. Buzz thanks Lotso for helping him out, and makes his request for himself and the other toys to be transferred. Lotso admires Buzz's initiative, but is only willing to consider to have him join the Butterfly Room inhabitants. When Buzz refuses, Lotso orders Buzz held down, and manages to procure a Buzz Lightyear instruction manual from the library. Using it, the group of toys sets Buzz to "demo" mode, putting him back in his deluded space-ranger mode.

Lotso, his compatriots, and Buzz return to the Caterpillar Room, where Buzz subdues his friends, and places them in prison-like storage cages. Lotso then explains how the daycare is run: all newcomers start in the Caterpillar Room. If they survive, they move up to the Butterfly Room.

To set an example about what happens to troublemakers, Lotso has Big Baby take Mr Potato Head out to the playground, and stuff him in "The Box" (a sandbox). Also as a warning, Lotso produces Woody's hat, although he doesn't explain what happened to the toys' friend. Barbie finds out about this shortly, and angrily rebukes Ken. Refusing to be a part of Lotso's plan, she is imprisoned as well.

During the toys' day at Sunnyside, Woody has been in Bonnie's house, being used as part of her imaginative fun and games. During her playtime, Woody grows excited to be part of a real playtime again, but longs to get back to Andy.

Once the household is asleep, Bonnie's toys help Woody access the family computer. Woody is relieved to find that Andy's house is only a few blocks away. He thanks the toys and tells them that if Bonnie ever outgrows them, they should go to Sunnyside. However, the name causes the toys to look on in fear. The toys explain that Lotso is responsible, and one of Bonnie's toys named Chuckles (Bud Luckey) begins to tell a story.

Lotso, Chuckles, and Big Baby were once owned by a little girl named Daisy. Of the three, she loved Lotso the most. However, one day at a rest stop, the three toys were accidentally left behind. The three eventually made it back to Daisy's house. Lotso and Chuckles managed to look in her window...only to see that Lotso had been replaced. Upon seeing this, something changed inside Lotso, and he declared they had all been replaced (even though there was only proof that he had been replaced). Big Baby wanted to still go back, but Lotso just yelled "She doesn't love you no more," and tore off a necklace around Baby's neck: a plastic heart that said "I belong to Daisy." Secretly, Chuckles kept it.

The three toys went from place-to-place, until finally finding Sunnyside. Lotso took over, and set up his system by which almost any new toy would not survive under the strenuous conditions of the toddlers. Chuckles explains that he eventually was broken at Sunnyside, and Bonnie took him in and repaired him. Realizing the danger his friends are in, Woody decides to break back into the daycare and rescue them.

The next day, Woody manages to sneak into the daycare, and move through the ceiling tiles. Finding his way into a hidden area of the Caterpillar Room, he chances upon a Fisher-Price Chatter Telephone (Teddy Newton). The telephone tells Woody that he should have stayed gone, and that there's no way that he and his friends can get out. Woody thanks him for the concern, but says they have to try. The Chatter Telephone then explains what Woody and his friends will be up against: Lotso's minions manning search lights on the playground, trucks patrolling the halls and the playground, an 8-foot high cinderblock wall, and a cymbal-clanging monkey that monitors the security cameras in the building.

The telephone tells Woody that the only other way out is through a garbage chute across the playground.

Once the toddlers have gone to recess, Woody joins his friends, who tell him about Buzz having been reset, and how they want to get back to Andy. Woody then sets his plan into action. Later that evening, the group springs into action: Mr. Potato Head creates a scene to get put in the box again, this time as a way to get outside and report for the group. Barbie pleads with Ken that she can't take being imprisoned, and Ken lets her out. He takes her back to his dreamhouse, where Barbie quickly subdues him, and using one of his outfits as a disguise, manages to infiltrate the daycare library to find the instruction manual for Buzz. Woody and Slinky Dog manage to infiltrate the main security room, and take down the cymbal-clanging monkey. Rex and Hamm start a fight to distract Buzz, allowing Jessie to escape, and trap Buzz under a plastic tub.

The toys then regroup, and set about trying to get Buzz back to normal. However, a mistake in resetting Buzz sets him to speak and act in Spanish. With little time left, the group decides to worry about fixing him later, and quickly set out to get to the garbage chute.

The gang gets to the end of the chute before plummeting into the dumpster...only to find Lotso, Ken, and his associates waiting (along with the chatter telephone, now broken by the bad toys). Lotso offers the toys a choice: either end up in the dumpster, or return to the daycare. Jessie and Barbie both decry what Lotso has done to the daycare, and even Ken soon turns against Lotso.

The eagerness of the group and Woody to return to Andy incites Lotso to declare that love doesn't exist. It is then that Woody mentions Daisy, and produces the tag that Chuckles had kept. Big Baby sees the tag, and Lotso declares that she didn't love them and replaced them. Woody reminds Lotso that it was only him she replaced. This revelation causes Big Baby to reach for the tag, before Lotso destroys, it, yelling at Big Baby for being stupid and believing that Daisy loved him. Big Baby, feeling betrayed, then throws Lotso in the dumpster, slamming the lid and blowing a raspberry at him.

The other toys begin to run across the lid, before one of the Pizza Planet aliens' feet gets stuck in the lid. Woody goes to help him, only to have Lotso grab his hand. The others rush to help Woody, but just then, a dump truck pulls up, and dumps the contents (including Andy's toys) into the collecting bin in the back. Barbie and Ken, who were not on the dumpster's lid, can only watch as their friends are taken from them.

Inside the dumpster, more trash is emptied onto the group, before a TV set falls on Buzz...which manages to set him back to his proper self. However, before the toys can rejoice, the truck arrives at the Tri-County landfill. As the gang moves about, they are shocked when a bulldozer scoops up the three Pizza Planet aliens, carrying them away! The remaining toys are then shoveled by another machine onto a moving conveyor belt, headed towards a large shredding machine. The toys manage to stave off being shredded by grabbing onto metal objects that are being magnetized to an overhead track. Woody and Buzz even manage to save Lotso, who thanks them.

Once they make it through, they find themselves on another conveyor belt, heading towards what looks like daylight. However, as they draw closer, they soon realize it's a large pit that empties into a fiery incinerator. The toys begin to try to outrun their fiery fate, when Lotso notices an emergency stop switch. He motions for the others to help him, and they help hoist him up to stop the machine. However, once reaching the button, Lotso just smirks at Woody, muttering "Where's your boy now, Sheriff?' and running off.

The toys are soon unable to keep running, and tumble into the pit. They attempt to try and climb out, but there appears to be no escape. With no hope left, the toys all join hands, willing to stay together to the very end.

Suddenly, a blue light appears overhead, and a giant claw falls down, scooping up the group. As they wonder how their rescue was possible, the enormous claw swings by the glass case of the machine, where the three Pizza Planet aliens are. Once the group gets out, they thank their saviors, and wonder what became of Lotso.

Unknown to them, Lotso is found by another garbageman at the dump. Remembering having a Lots-a-Huggin Bear as a kid, he then ties Lotso to the grille of his dump truck as he heads off for duty.

Andy's toys find the dump truck that services Andy's neighborhood and manage to get back in time before Andy leaves for college. After cleaning themselves up, they sneak back into the house, finding Andy's room cleaned out, except for some minimal items, and two boxes: one marked 'College,' the other 'Attic.'

Woody's friends pile into the 'Attic' box, and say their goodbyes. Hearing Andy and his mom approaching, Woody hops in the 'College' box. As they enter Andy's room, his mother is hit with the sad reality that her son is going away. Andy tells her that even though he'll be gone, he'll still care about her.

Toy Story 3 Toy Story 3
Toy Story 3 Toy Story 3
Toy Story 3 Toy Story 3
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Hearing this, Woody realizes that Andy can still care for him and the other toys: an example of true love, in that you never forget those you really love. As Andy is distracted by his sister Molly and his dog Buster, Woody quickly grabs a Post-It note and a marker, writing down Bonnie's street address, before hopping in the 'Attic' box.

Andy returns to the room, and sees the note on the 'Attic' box, thinking that his mom wrote it. Andy takes the box to the address and sees Bonnie playing in her family's front yard with the same quirky imagination that he had.

Andy then gets out of the car with his box. As Bonnie sees him approach, she stops her game and calls for her mom. Bonnie's mom recognizes Andy, who then explains that he has some toys for Bonnie. Andy then introduces each of his toys, telling Bonnie a little bit about each of them: Jessie loves little critters, and Bullseye is her favorite 'critter.' Mr. and Mrs Potato Head are madly in love.The three green aliens come from a strange place called Pizza Planet. Hamm will save your money, but is also 'The Evil Dr Porkchop.' Rex is a fearsome predator. Slinky is as loyal as they come for a dog. Buzz Lightyear is a cool space ranger who flies, shoots lasers, and protects the galaxy from the Evil Emperor Zurg.

With each toy revealed, Bonnie gets more and more brave, until after Buzz, she peeks into the box and sees Woody. Andy has no knowledge of how Woody got in there, but is surprised when Bonnie calls him 'my cowboy doll,' and quotes one of Woody's lines: "There's a snake in my boot!"

Andy sees Bonnie looking at Woody, and explains to her how important Woody is to him: how long he's had him, and how brave Woody can be. However, he explains to Bonnie that she can have Woody, if she promises to take good care of him, and the other toys. When she quietly nods an affirmative, Andy suddenly begins to pretend-play with her, and the two are having an imaginative time interacting with their toys. Secretly, Andy's toys are overjoyed at their last playtime with him.

Finally, Andy gets into his car, as Bonnie gathers her old and new toys on the porch. As she holds Woody and Buzz in her little arms, she makes Woody wave goodbye. This causes Andy to give a sad but calming smile. "Thanks, guys," he whispers, as he drives off.

After Andy leaves, Bonnie's mom takes her inside for lunch, leaving the toys on the porch, watching Andy's car fade into the distance down the street. "So long, partner," says Woody.

Woody smiles at the other toys, reaffirming that Andy did care for them, and care for them enough to leave them with another child who will take care of them and give them many playtimes to come. Woody then begins to introduce his friends to Bonnie's other toys.

Some time afterward, the toys find a note in Bonnie's backpack from Ken. In the time since Lotso has been gone, Ken and Barbie have worked to abolish the unfair system that ran Sunnyside, and now the toys have an equal opportunity to move between the Caterpillar and Butterfly rooms. The toys at Sunnyside now enjoy their time there, and soon after, Sarge and his two paratroopers arrive, with both Ken and Barbie welcoming them.

Review: by Matt Goldberg,

After the more outside-the-box family films of Ratatouille, WALL-E, and Up, Pixar is going back inside the toy box with Toy Story 3. There’s nothing wrong with being inside the box when there are lots of toys, loads of fun, and plenty of jokes. It’s wonderful to see Woody, Buzz, and the gang team up for another adventure (even if it’s the same rescue/escape narrative structure of the first two films). But Toy Story 3 is so eager to entertain, that it almost never takes a moment to breathe. Instead, it’s a movie that’s a roller coaster in the best sense of the term. Set in the mold of a prison break movie, Toy Story 3 may not break with convention or out from under the shadow of the first two films, but it’s a welcome break from this dreary summer.

When we last left Andy’s toys at the end of Toy Story 2, they had accepted that they would stick with Andy for as long as he needed them. But as Andy has grown up, he hasn’t needed them very much and they’ve sat crammed inside his toy box waiting for the chance to be played with again. Believing that they’re about to be thrown away, the toys choose to go to Sunnyside Daycare Center even though Woody tries to explain they were meant for the attic and not the city dump. However, the rest of Andy’s toys think they’ve found paradise with Sunnyside and its happy inhabitants. But they soon learn that they’ve been tricked into being toddler-fodder for a younger age group who don’t so much play with toys as much as come up with creative ways to destroy them. Seeing that Sunnyside isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, the group tries to leave but that pink, stuffed bear named Lotso (Ned Beatty) isn’t going to let them. And there you have the set up for your prison-break movie.

With all that set-up, you can probably guess that Toy Story 3 is a little slow to start even though the intro is a thrilling set piece comprised of what Andy imagined when he was playing with the toys as a kid. Once the group reaches Sunnyside, the film kicks into high gear and almost never slows down. The movie is Pixar’s most visually impressive to date, not just in the character detail and their movements, but the number of locations they cover and the amount of objects filling the frame. Toy Story 3 is a movie people will go back to on Blu-ray and go frame-by-frame to find all the little easter eggs. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are actual easter eggs in some of these shots.

While Toy Story 3 boasts a cast of new characters, there are really only two major ones: Lotso and Ken (Michael Keaton). Lotso presents a new dynamic as a Toy Story villain since he’s the first one who’s also a toy. But the toy who steals the show is Ken. Just watching the character walk is hilarious, but Keaton’s performance adds such a terrific façade of charm. Ken is constantly trying to convince others that he’s not a girl’s toy…even though his yellow-and-purple dream home is filled with various outfits that he loves. And credit to Pixar for not going the easy route and just making Ken-is-closeted jokes.

Andy’s toys go through their elaborate escape, I found that while I was having fun, but I also wanted the movie to take a moment and have a character feel something. There’s not really a moment of melancholy like when Buzz realizes he can’t fly out the window in the first Toy Story or the “When She Loved Me” montage in Toy Story 2. That’s not to say that Toy Story 3 is heartless. As it winds to a close, you’ll find your heart strings being pulled apart as you cry into your 3D glasses (the 3D, by the way, looks good—it’s not distracting and adds a nice clarity and depth of field).

Toy Story 3 may not be as good as the first two films, but it’s still a fantastic ride and a nice send-off to the seminal films that took Pixar to a place where the studio had the freedom to make movies like Ratatoutille, WALL-E, and Up. Going back to the toys that started it all, Pixar and director Lee Unkrich have created a movie with exhilarating action, sharp writing, and it’s a bright spot in a disappointing summer. And when it comes time to hit viewers with the emotional punch, Toy Story 3 packs a wallop that will have you in tears by the end.

Rating: B+


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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The A-Team

Guest Reviewer: NIX, Beyond Hollywood

Liam Neeson ... Hannibal

Bradley Cooper ... Face

Jessica Biel ... Charissa Sosa

Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson ... B.A. Baracus

Sharlto Copley ... Murdock

Patrick Wilson ... Lynch

Gerald McRaney ... Gen. Russell Morrison

Henry Czerny ... Director McCready

Yul Vazquez ... Gen. Javier Tuco

Brian Bloom ... Pike

Maury Sterling ... Gammons

Terry Chen ... Ravech

Omari Hardwick ... Chopshop Jay

David Hugghins ... Oskar Shunt

Jacob Blair ... Agent Blair

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Synopsis: WARNING! Contains Spoilers!

The film opens in Mexico, with Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith held captive by two corrupt Mexican officers, working for the renegade General Tuco. Hannibal escapes after being left to be fed on by two guard dogs, and sets out to rescue his comrade-in-arms Templeton "Faceman" Peck, who is himself held captive by Tuco at Tuco's private ranch, where Face had seduced the General's wife. Hannibal makes it to the ranch in time to save Face from a grisly demise, after enlisting disgraced Ranger Bosco B.A. Baracus, driving to the rescue in B.A.'s souped-up GMC Vandura van. With the three men now on the run from the enraged Tuco, they stop in at a nearby Army hospital, to recruit the services of insane pilot H.M. "Howling Mad" Murdock. In a medical chopper, they engage Tuco in a vicious aerial dogfight, which results in B.A.'s permanent fear of flying, and ends when they manage to lure Tuco's chopper into American airspace, where it's destroyed by a U.S. F-22 Raptor - the capstone to an elaborate plan put together by Hannibal.

The film then moves forward "eight years and eighty successful missions later", where the team - now a highly-regarded, elite combat unit - is stationed in Iraq. Hannibal is contacted by CIA Agent Lynch, who reveals that Iraqi insurgents are in possession of U.S. treasury plates being used to manufacture counterfeit currency. Lynch wants Hannibal and his team to steal the plates and over 1 billion dollars in counterfeit cash that's due to be moved out of Baghdad. At the same time, DCIS Captain Charissa Sosa arrives on the scene, warning her ex-lover Face, whom along with the rest of team she has disdain for, to stay away from the plates and out of Baghdad. Against the advice of his commanding officer, General Morrison, Hannibal agrees to steal the plates, albeit in an unofficial "Black Ops" mission. The mission is successful, but when the team returns to base to meet their commanding officer, both the shipping container carrying the money and Morrison's Humvee are destroyed by men from the private security firm Black Forest (a fictionalized version of Blackwater), led by the ruthless Brock Pike. With Morrison the only proof that they were, in fact, acting on the U.S.'s behalf, the team is arrested, tried, dishonorably discharged and sentenced to ten years in federal prison.

Six months later, a still-incarcerated Hannibal is visited by Lynch once more, who reveals that Pike may be trying to sell the plates with the help of a mysterious Arab backer. Hannibal, who has been tracking Pike on his own, strikes up a deal with Lynch: clean records for himself and his team, in return for the plates. Lynch agrees, and Hannibal escapes prison with the help of a drug-soaked cigar that makes him appear dead. Hannibal then breaks out Face (pretending to be a removal man and stealing the tanning bed Face is in), B.A. (by ripping off the door of the prison bus transporting him) and Murdock (through distracting the German V.A. hospital in which he's committed with a 3D movie). By now, Sosa, who holds a grudge against the team for disregarding her warnings to stay away from Baghdad and getting her demoted to Lieutenant, is hot on the team's trail, and under the belief that the team is working with Pike, she tries to head them off before they leave Germany in a military Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft. The plane is destroyed by two remote-piloted drone fighters, but the team manages to escape inside the body of a tank on parachutes, which they "fly" by shooting rounds off and stalling their momentum.

They track Pike, in the company of the mystery Arab, and launch an offensive in which they manage to reclaim the plates and kidnap the Arab at the same time. With the exception of Hannibal, the team is shocked to learn that the "Arab" is actually General Morrison, who worked with Lynch and Pike to steal the plates, but then teamed up with Pike to double-cross Lynch and fake his own death. When Lynch learns that the team has Morrison in their possession, he orders an air strike to eliminate them all in one fell swoop. The team barely manages to escape, and Morrison is killed.

Realizing that their backs are to a wall, Face hatches a plan. Hannibal arranges to meet Sosa (knowing her phone lines are tapped by Lynch) on board a cargo ship at a downtown dock, saying he'll hand over Morrison and the plates in exchange for his freedom. Face then calls her on a second, untapped phone he had previously given her. Lynch reenlists Pike, and sets up a trap for Hannibal and company at the docks. This has been anticipated by Face, who sets off an elaborate series of diversions to split Lynch's team up, and more importantly, get Lynch directly involved. The plan nearly goes awry when Pike fires a rocket at the ship, nearly destroying it, but he's eventually killed by B.A. Lynch tracks down Hannibal and a hooded "Morrison", and shoots "Morrison" in the head before engaging Hannibal in a vicious fistfight. Hannibal soon gets the upper hand until Lynch grabs a hold of his gun, however the container they are in is lifted- revealing Sosa and dozens of Federal agents with guns drawn. "Morrison" is revealed to be Murdock in a melted-Kevlar helmet. Lynch is taken into custody by the CIA, but contrary to what they were expecting, the A-Team is once again arrested by the military, this time for escaping incarceration. Sosa promises to do all she can to set them free, before kissing Face goodbye as he is led into a prison van. In the van, the team laments their misfortune, but Hannibal seems optimistic, and defers to Face, who reveals a key in his mouth presumably obtained from Sosa's kiss. Face then utters Hannibal's catch-phrase: "I love it when a plan comes together".

The film ends with a recital of the opening narration from the original television series.

Review: by NIX, Beyond Hollywood

Like the ‘80s action-adventure show that it’s based on, “Narc” director Joe Carnahan’s 2010 big-screen adaptation of “The A-Team” is big-time fun for those who realize that a movie based on a ‘80s action-adventure show should not be taken too seriously. And so, when Hannibal’s outrageously complicated plans go down like clockwork, and the bad guys can’t hit the broad side of a barn unless the plot needs them to, you just smile and go with it, because to do otherwise would be to spend the film’s nearly two hours bitching and moaning about how that was impossible, no, that was even more impossible than the last, etc. And really, why punish yourself when it’s so unnecessary?

As with the TV show, “The A-Team” chronicles the exploits of four highly trained Army Rangers, specialists in getting things done in the most ridiculous way possible. (As a character declares, these guys “specialize in the ridiculous.” Oh, truer words…) When they are framed for a crime they did not commit, the men must go on the run to clear their names. But wait! That’s about 40 minutes into our tale. When we first meet them, they have not become the A-team yet. In the beginning, there was only mastermind Hannibal (Liam Neeson), on an operation with his trusted sidekick Faceman (Bradley Cooper) in Mexico. There, they meet the Mohawk-sporting B.A. Baracus (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson), a fellow Ranger doing, well, criminal things in Mexico. It’s never really clear what he’s doing that has him fleeing from Mexican cops. Before the First Act is over, the trio crosses paths with the appropriately named Howling Mad Murdock (Sharlto Copley). And the rest, as they say, is history.

Fast-forward eight years later, and the gang are doing their thing in Iraq, and have been for the last eight years of the war. They’ve become close now, or as close as the script by Carnahan, Brian Blooms, and Skip Woods manages to get across. (Word is, there were at least a dozen or so screenwriters working on the script over the years. Yikes.) Things start to go wrong for our badasses when shady CIA dude Lynch (Patrick Wilson) recruits them for a mission that everyone, including Army Intelligence Captain Charisa Sosa (Jessica Biel, whose character also happens to be Faceman’s former squeeze, natch) tells them to stay away. But our boys are feeling their oats, and they accomplish the mission in style – only to find themselves framed for the murder of a trusted General (Gerald McRaney) and the theft of some fancy schmancy money prints or such. You know, the McGuffin. Suffice to say, the boys go on the run to clear their names, and much shit is blown up along the way.

If you’re a fan of the ‘80s action-adventure show, then the movie version should more than meet your expectations. It’s appropriately outrageous in every way, stuff blows up quite often and loudly, and all the iconic images and phrases from the show sneak appearances here and there. (At one point Hannibal even whips out a Ruger Mini-14, the TV show’s trademark assault rifle.) Director Joe Carnahan obviously had no intention of shitting all over the show, and it shows, from the casting (Neeson and Copley, in particular, are dead ringers for their TV counterparts) to all the little hints and winks that he manages to throw in. Unfortunately, B.A.’s van gets a criminally short appearance before it is pancaked, and although news had original castmembers Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz (the original Faceman and Murdock) making appearances, I honestly didn’t glimpse them in the movie. Too bad Carnahan couldn’t have given them bigger roles instead of blink-and-you’ll-miss cameos. Don’t they deserve that much, if not more?

The action comes pretty fast and furious, and the film itself is separated into a seemingly endless string of action set pieces, opening in Mexico and finishing up in a Los Angeles dock. I can safely say that you will never be bored by the film. Plus, there are plenty of excuses to pay attention aside from the action. Jessica Biel is excellent as the persistent Army babe chasing our heroes, and “Watchmen’s” Patrick Wilson seems to be channeling a less evil (though admittedly still pretty evil) version of Jason Patric’s “Max” character from “The Losers”. Wilson has a ball, as does co-star/co-writer Brian Bloom, playing a spirited mercenary named Pike. And hey, if amusing supporting characters (and a smoking hot Jessica Biel) doesn’t keep you awake, you can always chuckle at UFC fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson trying his darnedest to act. Let’s just say there’s a reason the guy started his career beating people up and not in community theater.

Like “The Losers”, a film that owes more than a little inspiration to “The A-Team”, Joe Carnahan’s film rocks the joint if you allow it to. Oh sure, it’s all very absurd and impossible and devoid of any real-world logic, and for some reason the script decides it would like Hannibal to start handling over the reins to Faceman (Really, guys? Already? The first movie? Couldn’t we get one whole movie where Hannibal is Top Dog before he starts passing the torch?), but if you stick with it, and you accept it at face value, “The A-Team” might just be the most fun you’ll have at the theaters this year. Or at the very least, you’ll feel like you got your money’s worth, which in my book is the same thing.

Added: According to Internet reports, there is a bonus for those who can sit through the 10-15 minutes of end credits. Alas, I did not know this at the time.


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