23 June 2010

Movie Review: The A-Team

Do you enjoy wildly implausible situations?  Does it make you happy to hear Liam Neeson strive mightily to suppress his Irish accent?  Do you love it when a plan comes together?  Then The A-Team is the movie for you!  As always, spoilers may lie within.

The extended opening credits introduces you to the members of The A-Team: Hannibal (Neeson), B.A. (Jackson), Face (Cooper), and Murdock (Copely).  Hannibal and Face are on a mission to deal with some Mexican general.  Face, of course, got caught boning the general's hot wife.  Hannibal is about to be fed to the dogs but, of course, he has a plan to escape. 

Hannibal encounters B.A. shortly after B.A. has pulped a bunch of Mexican car thieves.  Not because it was the right thing to do, but because he had been dishonorably discharged (more on that later) from the Army and needed something to pay the bills, so he turned to jacking cars for a chop shop.  B.A. retrieves his beloved van and takes off across the Mexican desert.  Hannibal carjacks B.A., they bond over Ranger tattoos and race off to save Face from a smelly death-by-tire-fire. 

The still-incomplete Team makes their way to a hospital, where Hannibal has a pilot (go on, guess who) lined up to take them back into the US.  Predictably enough, the Mexican baddies track the Team to the hospital, where Murdock, a patient, has just finished stitching up the bullet wound that B.A. got when Hannibal jacked him.  B.A. gets all Hulk-smashy when he see the lightning bolt stitched into his massive biceps.  Murdock says craaaazy things in a wide variety of accents.  The Team loads up into an old hospital chopper and has a batty, upside down, engine-stalling chase back to the US border.  It is this helicopter ride that ruins flying entirely for B.A.  And that's the Team.

Cut to 8 years and 80 successful missions later.  The Team is in Iraq.  Somehow, even though I swear he said he was dishonorably discharged, B.A. is back in uniform.  Feel free to correct me if I misheard.

Enter Lynch (Patrick Wilson) and Sosa (Biel).  Lynch is a shady CIA operative who tempts Hannibal into taking a job retrieving missing hundred-dollar minting plates.  Similarly, Sosa dangles the job in from of Face, who she (shockingly) has history with.  A plan comes together.

I did quite like how they would lay out the plan and cut to scenes of the plan going down.  Hannibal has a seemingly endless supply of little model cars, trucks, copters, missiles - you name it.

Oh, I should probably mention that there is a private security firm in the picture, Black Forest.  How's that for subtext?  The chief sleaze is a dude named Pike (Bloom).

All is happy, laughing congratulations until someone blows up Major Dad and steals the plates from the Team.  You see Pike & Co. walking away from the wreckage so there's no question there that the Team was framed.  Which, like, duh.  That's the idea behind the A-Team, no?

Court marshal happens.  Team members are shipped off to different Army facilities.  six months pass and Lynch visits Hannibal in jail and offers to help him break out if Hannibal and his Team can retrieve the plates.  Of course Hannibal and his Team can retrieve the plates.  They are the fucking A-Team!  There is also a promise of name-clearing and reinstatement.

During the ensuing escape montage, you learn that B.A. has found inner peace and won't be killing anymore.  Murdock is still "Howlin' Mad", and Face managed to bang his female guard.  Who says the Army lacks discipline?

While I wasn't thrilled that they shoe-horned in a vaguely romantic subplot, I do have to admit that it was a very small part of the overall "plot".  Biel plays her part as an ambitious DOD lieutenant well enough, I suppose.  I don't much like her in general, so I have nothing more to say on the matter. 

For those of you looking forward to the parachuting tank scene, it is even more far out than you think.

OK, this is taking too long, so quick and dirty time. 

Plates are located, in Pike's possession.  Sosa is hot on the Team's trail and they use her and the two dudes who follow her around to set up the ultimate showdown at the Port of Los Angeles.  Which is also where The Losers climax plays out.  PoLA is the new New York?  There are massive cargo containers everywhere, splosions, a Kevlar helmet, some fisticuffs, and then the final reveal.  Yes, the A-Team saved the day,and yes, they are once again carted off to prison.  Luckily for our Team o' heroes; Sosa, in a wildly inappropriate move, passes a handcuff key to Face via her sexy tongue action.  But of course - there's gotta be room for a sequel.

Bottom line?  The movie is very enjoyable and loud and testosterone-y.  Copely steals the movie as Murdock, playing him with surprisingly convincing moments of lucidity, tempered by bat-shit insanity.  As I said earlier, Neeson has trouble with the American accent, but I like him enough that it didn't ruin things.  Jackson did a decent job as a first-time actor.  He managed to play B.A. with some depth, but didn't try to be a whole lot more than a big tough dude who occasionally struggles with being a big tough dude.  Cooper was fine as Face and they had him shirtless quite frequently.  Wilson slimed entertainingly across the screen and had some nice repartee with Pike, and with the Team.  As long as you go into the theater knowing that all you're getting is slimy bad guys, splosions, and testosterone, you'll have a fine time.

10 June 2010

Common Sense Is Overrated

Sometimes doing the right thing isn't the smart thing...or do I mean that the other way around?

I was pretty pooped last night after finishing up Grave of the Fireflies (very, very sad).  I kind of wanted to go for a walk to clear my head, but the weather was conspiring against me.  Instead, I decided to make what I thought what a smart decision - I was going to go to bed before midnight.  Shocking, I know, but I figured it might be nice to have a Thursday morning where I didn't feel like I was peeling myself off the asphalt after being creamed by a cement mixer.  Unfortunately, I am not able (anymore) to function all that well on small amounts of sleep.  I went to bed around 10:30.

Getting to sleep wasn't a huge problem.  Staying asleep until my alarm went off at 6:30 was a problem.  I guess I'm so used to getting significantly less sleep on Wednesday night that I confused the hell out of my system.  I woke up around 4:30-5 o'clock and refused to get up.  Of course that meant that I nodded off again around 6:00 and was very salty when my alarm went off.  Then I stubbornly waited until the damn thing shut the fuck up and didn't get out of bed until 6:45.

OK, consider the lesson learned.  I will never again attempt to get a decent amount of sleep on a Wednesday night.

03 June 2010

Road To Philadelphia

We got a relatively early start on Monday morning.  The only (minor) snafu was us forgetting the cooler in the room.  JR had to run back and get it.

Our first planned stop was the Bewitched statue in Salem.  JR took lots of pictures of our roadside attraction stops and I will link to her blog once she has them posted.  For now, you are going to have to rely on my powers of description.  Sorry.  The statue was a 2 minute detour and then we were off to Dino Haven in Uncasville, CT.  However...

Once back on the highway, JR expressed a desire for Dunkin Donuts.  I saw no problems with that, so we kept our eyes open for signs.  Sure enough, there was a Dunkin in Reading, Mass.  As I needed to get gas too, we pulled off.  After filling up, we headed into Reading.  The DD was on a corner but I had to make a left across two lanes of traffic to get into the parking lot, so I thought I would turn left before the DD and go around the block.  That part was fine.  What was not so fun, but fucking hilarious, was the town Memorial Day parade that came marching down the road we were on.  I made a quick left into a parking lot to turn around and that's when the cops block off the road I wanted to be on.  Shee-it.  I figured there had to be another way out of the parking lot.  There was.  Then began our attempt to get back to the main road we wanted to be on.  Somehow we managed to cross the main road and end up on a little side street.  JR had the very good idea of checking the satnav to see how far from the DD we were.  Turns out it was only .2mi away, so parking and walking was the thing to do.  It felt a little odd walking down Main St, Reading, while their local marching band toodled by.  Not that there was any way the locals would know we were tourists. 

We make it to DD, order sandwiches and coffees, and wait about forever for everything to get made.  Then the uphill walk back to the car.  By that point, the parade has passed through and the streets were empty.  Seriously, I have never seen a town empty so fast.  We made it back to the highway no problem, but our quick DD stop ended up taking closer to an hour.  No big deal really.  There was no timetable for the trip home. 

OK, back to Dino Haven...

Dino Haven is the pet project of Jeff Wells.  He started crafting dinos in his woody, buggy, uphill backyard in 1981.  After a few false starts, he went to a nuclear submarine shipyard, got a job and some pointers on welding, and the rest is history.  The highlight was definitely his life-size T-Rex.  A T-Rex with a guitar in its tiny little arms.  Which somehow didn't make it any less terrifying.  I turned to JR and said "I would shit my pants."  Heh, wouldn't it be great if Wells could make the T-Rex move at unpredictable times?  People would so shit themselves.  Note to fellow curiosity-seekers, flip-flops are not idea footwear for visiting Dino Haven.  Walking through falls in the short hike category.  Nothing too strenuous, but sneaks are probably the better choice.  And for those of you so inclined, Mohegan Sun is right across the street.

Next stop was Wild Bill's Nostalgia Center in Middletown, CT.  Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the store was closed for Memorial Day.  We took some more pictures, changed into shorts - it got progressively hotter and stickier as we made our way south - and headed off to Holy Land USA.  We were delayed at a Wendy's staffed by the slowest people ever, but that's just the way our unscheduled stops went.

Holy Land USA is located on a hill in Waterbury, CT.  Apparently it was a legit tourist destination in the 60s and 70s, but was closed in the early 80s and has not been maintained.  There's on is VA, I guess, but I don't have any plans to roadtrip there.  The land is owned by some convent now, but the nuns' only effort at upkeep is keep the stones in the entryway painted white. 

There are no tresspassing signs posted on the chained shut gates, but it is very easy to park outside and walk around.  The place is overgrown and we tramped through weeds and trees to get a look at the remains.  There is a hands-less Jesus, bits of faded iconography, and creepy pathways to nowhere.  I didn't see a whole lot of grafitti or anything, but Holy Land is out of the way and at the end of a residental street.  I kind of wish we had found the catacombs, but I probably would have crapped my shorts.

That was our last stop, and we made our way home.  We got bombarded by fist-sized drops of rain in Trenton, and it continued most of the way to JR's.  Luckily, it stopped by the time we got to her house and we didn't have to unload her stuff in a downpour.

For a JR's perspective, and pictures (eventually), head over to JR's blog.

01 June 2010

Road To Danvers

Instead of playing extreme croquet and eating too much Mennonite meat this Memorial Day weekend, JR and I went up to Danvers, Mass for my friend Brian's wedding.  I've known Brian since high school; and he, JR and I used to get into small amounts of trouble together.  Nothing too exciting, really; mostly hiding from the cops in Playwicki Park.

There wasn't any room in the schedule on the trip up for side trips, so it was straight highway driving.  Despite the holiday weekend and all the dire predictions, we ran into almost no traffic.  The weather was ideal, the company was good, and Roger did great on gas.  We left around 7:30 am and made it to the hotel by 1.  Which turned out to be a fantastic thing because we ran into Brian in the parking lot.  It's a very good thing that there wasn't anyone driving behind me because I slammed on the brakes and flew out of the car so I could latch onto Brian. 

After chatting with Brian and a few other people, JR and I went to see if we could check in early.  We could and that was wonderful because it meant I could take a power nap before the festivities.  JR and I both had very late Saturday nights.  Her excuse was last minute packing and cookie-baking.  Mine was that I wasn't responsible enough to toss BB (I think I can stop with the New Boy moniker) out at a reasonable hour.  This is why coffee was invented, right?

Now for the hilariously awful part.  There was a trolley provided to ferry guests to the yacht club.  The trip over was uneventful.  Disembarking however...not so great.  As she was walking down the steps, JR's knees decided to stop functioning properly and she skidded down two steps and landed knees first on the ground.  This all happened right as I was thinking how confident she seemed since she was walking down the steps without using the handrail.  I went "Ohmygodareyou-" and stopped as she popped to her feet saying "I'm OK" and walked off like it was nothing.  Adding insult to injury, she was the third person off the damn trolley so all the other passengers we already standing and looking in that direction.  Oy.  The poor girl had skinned knees and a nasty looking scrape along her right shin.  The only small amount of sunshine?  No one there knew who the hell we were.  The time before the ceremony was spent laughing hysterically and watching JR pick skin off her knees.  It's a good thing that I wasn't wearing more eye makeup because the little I was got all smeared from my tears of laughter.

The rest of the reception was, by comparison, no big deal.  Except for the fact that we had no table assignment.  That's right, I was crashing a wedding I had been invited to.  I decided a drink was necessary and the bartender hooked me up right well.  I think my second Malibu and pineapple was a triple shot.  Still went down real easy.  We didn't deal with the table issue until 2 minutes before they were going to introduce the wedding party.  Then we discover that there was a handful of people without assignments but a table set up for them.  I'm still not quite sure how that works.  The food was surprisingly decent, but it definitely felt like dinner was rushed.  I wanted more time with my green beans, dammit!

Being anti-social types, JR and I caught the first shuttle back to the hotel and spent the rest of the night smoking and continuing to laugh hysterically about the trolley incident.  I managed to do a pretty faithful re-enactment of her tumble.  I know it was faithful because I felt it in my knees and along my right shin.  Lucky for me, I was doing my impression in sweatpants and on carpet so the damage was mostly nonexistent. 

OK, I am seriously slacking at work, so I'm going to save the trip home for the next post.  That is where you will learn about Dino Have, Holy Land USA, and how JR and I made an unexpected, hour long side trip in Reading, Mass.