Thursday, June 24, 2010

On Second Thought . . .

Due to seeing The A-Team, again last night, I have to conclude that I might have been a little harsh in my criticism of Faceman's writers. There was, in fact, an instance (during the preparation for the Baghdad Job) when he used trickery and impersonation to gather equipment for the team. There were also indications, such as our brief glimpse of his time in prison, that he does this regularly off-screen. I do, however, stand by my assertion that there should have been more focus on this, and less on him learning to mimic Hannibal's planning style.

Also, I spotted what may be an undiscussed Easter Egg - during the brief shot of Hannibal's toe-tag, the other name (besides, "John H. Smith") reads, "Dr. Schultz". Is this another reference to original Murdock actor Dwight Schultz? If so, it's a bit odd, since Murdock has nothing to do with that particular scene.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

This Post is Brought to You by the Letter "A"

Which stands for, amongst other things, "amazing", "awesome", "astonishing", and most importantly . . . "A-Team".

Yes, some of the words up there are a bit hyperbolic - I was rolling with the A-theme, give me a break. Still, I tried to be objective and critical when I saw The A-Team - a few things in the previews had gotten me a little worried, after all.

After about five minutes (if that), though, I had completely forgotten about that and was wildly enjoying myself. And with good reason - for a big "A-Team" fan like myself, this movie was nearly perfect. Yes, I had a few minor issues with it (mostly centering around Faceman's characterization - more on this later), but overall? It was just like watching a big-screen, modern-day episode of the original show. Specifically, a big-screen, modern-day version of "Dishpan Man"/"Trial by Fire"/"Firing Line", the fifth-season opening trilogy that explained a lot of the original Team's origins in flashback. Without going into too much spoilery detail, the new film (though not in flashback), covers a lot of the same ground (with double-crossings and CIA duplicity galore) , but with new, updated twists.

The new Team, themselves, don't disappoint, either. Liam Neeson and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson were instantly recognizable as Hannibal and B.A., and yet managed never to descend in parody (and, admittedly, the original show is an easy thing to make fun of). Sharlto Copley was an absolutely brilliant Murdock, straddling the line between acting crazy, and acting acting crazy, all to a kaleidoscope of voices and personae (including one very clever reference to his last major film in a three-second stint as a South African newscaster).

And as for Bradley Cooper's Faceman . . . well, as I alluded to above, my single major beef with this film revolves around this character. Now, don't get me wrong, Cooper did as well a job acting his part as the rest of the team, it's just that, well, Film Face was written wrong. It's not even that there were aspects of his character that were missing or added wholesale, it's just that they were there in the wrong proportion - the film writers really de-emphasized the conman/team scrounger aspect (he's not called Faceman just 'cause he's pretty!) in favor of the second-in-command/Hannibal's understudy role (which was hardly a main facet of his character in the show, though I admit it's there if you look for it). Film Face is also much more exuberant than TV Face was - it always seemed to me that TV Face had an element of the Only Sane Man* to him, as a counterpoint to the wackiness of Murdock and Hannibal and the comic irritability of B.A. Admittedly, I would have trouble not shrieking with glee if I was flying a tank, too, but would it have killed the writers to include at least one of Face's signature cons? (Although, just typing that has made me consider that the climax on the L.A. docks might be the writers trying to do just that. It's still not quite what I was thinking, but it helps.)

Hmm, I spent a lot of words on that point. I suppose being critical takes up a few more words than myriad variations of "It was awesome! I loved it!", but . . . it was awesome. And I did love it, or at least was totally satisfied with the effort. Just to put things in perspective, this is the first film this year I've really wanted to see again in theaters, and I don't feel that way very often. I would also go see a sequel in a heartbeat, and I can't imagine the producers weren't thinking the same thing, what with them ending with the theme voiceover and all.

To conclude, I have only two things left to say - first, for anybody who hasn't seen this yet (but plans to), stay through the credits. Secondly -

I love it when a film comes together!

*And there goes the next hour of your life into the black hole that is TvTropes - Bwa Ha Ha!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Timeline Of Adventure

In the past, one of my favorite websites to browse has been the Wold Newton Universe expansion site on I had been greatly dismayed, over the past few years, that updates for the site seemed to come seldom or never.

I needn't have worried.

Win Scott Eckert, the mastermind behind the site, has apparently spent the time he wasn't updating the site with preparing it for publication. I just finished reading Crossovers: a Secret Chronology of the World (Vol. 1), and even though I only knew it was coming for a few weeks, I spent those weeks in acute anticipation.

And it was worth the wait. This book hits a large number of my interests - intricate world-building, crossovers, pulp action - all mushed together in a 460-page tome detailing a world built up from hundreds of other literary works. Many of these are world-renowned classics like the Sherlock Holmes stories, Dracula, Frankenstein, and Tarzan of the Apes, while others are more modern and/or obscure works - The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, to give an obvious example, features prominently.

Although there is much here that is familiar to fans of Eckert's online work, there is much that is new, as well. My only complaint is about several things that were not included that I missed, but these were made up for by numerous entries that surprised me by their inclusion. Furthermore, this book only covers up to the year 1939 - there's a "Vol. 2" coming at the end of this month which will continue the project through the present into the future and, if it's anything like the first part, will be pretty amazing.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

In Which Things are Burning Up in Miami

As of last night, the wait for one of my most keenly anticipated pop-cultural happenings was officially over. No, I didn't get into an advance screening of The A-Team - I'm talking about the season premiere of Burn Notice (if you haven't seen it yet, the following is likely to be spoilerous and/or confusing).

When we last saw Michael Westen, he had been arrested by the FBI following the rampage across Miami after Simon, his "psycho twin", and led hooded and in shackles through a prison camp to . . . a luxurious sitting room.

The following discussion with his new handler "Vaughn" (who's either Management's co-conspirator or his boss) is familiar to fans of the show, but meatier: it seems there's some kind of shadow war going on between Management & Vaughn's organization (hereafter IWI, for Intelligence Without Initials) and . . . someone else. Michael theorizes that they're arms dealers making WarForFunAndProfit (beware the TvTropes link), but all we really know is that they're willing and able to send a UAV armed with a minigun out into the middle of some jungle just to take out one of their underlings that Michael happens to be talking to. I didn't even know you could put a minigun on a UAV.

And so, Michael agrees to look into the matter for IWI. Skipping ahead to the very end of the episode, this involves sneaking into a US military research facility with someone else's ID badge, downloading some files, and strolling out again. This he does without a hitch - except that before he can drive away, he sees a security team hustling somebody out of the building. Late, he finds out from Sam that the man is the same one whose badge he borrowed. And now, just like Michael, he's burned. Oops.

This is especially poignant because, just a few scenes before, Michael had been confessing to Madeline that he was scared of turning out like Simon. To their credit, the writers didn't hit us over the head with the comparison, but I suspect that it's going to be a major source of character development for Michael this season. It'll make a nice change from all the "lone wolf crap" he's mostly gotten over recently.

As the season premiere, I suspect most of the attention was focused on setting up this season's main arc - the B-plot with the lawyer hounded by the biker gang didn't particularly stand out to me, although I thought Sam was underused and Michael's final plan somewhat problematic - so now the lawyer guy's just supposed to go back to his life with his finances tangled up with the biker gang's?

Even so, Burn Notice is still my favorite thing going on television right now, and overall this episode was a great kickoff for the season. Also, during the episode there were some ads for a new USA show, Covert Affairs, which also appears to feature spies and intelligence work. Is a crossover - a real one, not just in commercials - imminent, maybe for the next season of both shows? One can only hope.