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Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: June 11, 2010

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THE A-TEAM

Studio: 20th Century Fox

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

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel, Liam Neeson, Sharlto Copley and Patrick Wilson

Directed by: Joe Carnahan

What it’s about: Based on the classic TV series from the mid-1980s, The A-Team follows an elite yet partially unstable group of Army Rangers who are framed for a crime they did not commit. They must break out of separate maximum security facilities to clear their name and blow a lot of shit up.

What I liked: There’s a line in the film where Hannibal (Liam Neeson) says that overkill is underrated, and this is exactly the theme of the movie. If you didn’t get enough explosions watching the old TV episodes, you will be fulfilled by watching this film.

The key to The A-Team is the ensemble cast, probably the best and truest modern actors to embody the original. Neeson works as the leader Hannibal. Bradley Cooper comes across as charming and rugged as Face. Rampage Jackson gives a surprisingly well-acted performance as B.A. Baracus (which actually has more depth than the somewhat schticky performance by Mr. T in the series). But it’s Sharlto Copley as Mad Dog Murdock who steals the show. (I know that saying Murdock is your favorite character on The A-Team is like saying Curly is your favorite Stooge, but Copley is quite brilliant in the role.)

Director Joe Carnahan does a fine job pacing the action and keeping in the spirit of the show, even though he goes pretty heavy on the PG-13 violence, and plenty of people are in fact killed in the process. But in this context, the movie is still just a hella lotta fun. Don’t take it too seriously, and you’ll have a blast.

What I didn’t: Like Carnahan’s film Smokin’ Aces, The A-Team stumbles a bit in the plot department. While any of the scenes plays well on its own, they aren’t always strung together with the most finesse.

Also, for as big of a stink as Mr. T made about the sexual content of the film, I was hoping for a little more… maybe Jessica Biel in a bikini. But apparently Mr. T saw a different movie than I did.

Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of the show and people who want to see a summer movie where a lot of things are blown up.

Grade: B+

THE KARATE KID

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Rated: PG-13 for bullying, martial arts action violence and some mild language

Starring: Jackie Chan, Jaden Smith and Taraji P. Henson

Directed by: Harald Zwart

What it’s about: Twelve-year-old Dre (Jaden Smith) has to move to Beijing with his mother, leaving his home and friends in Detroit. When he starts school, Dre finds a girl that he likes but must face her bullying friends. Soon, Dre befriends the eccentric and reclusive Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) who promises to teach him kung-fu in order to fight back against the bullies in a major martial arts tournament.

What I liked: On the whole, The Karate Kid hits all the points from the original film. If you are to go in completely ignorant of the 1984 classic, you’ll probably think this is pretty good, since it mirrors the story pretty accurately (with some noted exceptions below).

Also, the backdrop of China looks fantastic in the film – from the Forbidden City to a mountaintop Shaolin temple. Finally, things pick up when Jackie Chan does his thing, but he’s really no Pat Morita.

What I didn’t: While The Karate Kid would be decent in a vacuum, held against the original, it’s a lesser film in every way. First, we have Jaden Smith, who got this role simply because his dad is Will Smith. I don’t have anything against Jaden Smith, but he’s not ready to headline his own film, and it seems that he was instructed to just act like his dad in all of his scenes.

Then there’s the whole karate/kung-fu confusion. I understand the purpose of a remake, but using the term “karate” (a Japanese martial art) in a film about a kid learning kung-fu (a Chinese martial art) is ignorant at worst and offensive at best. Just call the damn movie The Kung-Fu Kid and get it over with.

The core problem, though, is with this as a forced Jaden Smith vehicle, the character has been made a twelve-year-old kid, whereas Ralph Macchio’s character of Daniel-san was sixteen. Not only is it more disturbing to watch tweens beat the snot out of each other than older teenagers, the love story just doesn’t seem to work at that age range.

From extrapolating kung-fu from the simple task of putting on and taking off a jacket for days on end (entirely losing the point of the “wax on/wax off” element of the first film) to the totally unnecessary 140-minute running time, The Karate Kid sweeps the leg of the original.

Who is gonna like this movie: People who don’t know any better.

Grade: C-

Want to see what Kevin had to say about these films on TV? Check out his interview on FOX…

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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