Tag Archives: sharlto copely

The A-Team – Review

24 Sep

In 1983, Frank Lupo and Stephen Cannell created a show called The A-Team, which was about a crack commando unit who are sent to and escape from prison for a crime they didn’t commit. They then survive as soldiers of fortune working out of L.A., mostly specializing in helping people who can’t defend themselves against a bigger enemy. While this show it definitely silly, it’s still a lot of fun because of the chemistry between the team, the writing of their characters, and the fact that there’s plenty of action in every episode. But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about Joe Carnahan’s 2010 adaptation, a film that almost lives up to its source material, but unfortunately falls flat.

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While on a covert mission in Mexico, John “Hannibal” Smith (Liam Neeson) and Templeton “Faceman” Peck (Bradley Cooper) meet two other Army Rangers, B.A. Baracus (Quinton Jackson) and “Howling Mad” Murdock (Sharlto Copley). Over the course of eight years, they become one of the most essential military units in Iraq, but are unfortunately are tricked into a mission by CIA Agent Lynch (Patrick Wilson) to reacquire U.S. Treasury plates taken by Iraqi insurgents. The mission is a success, but this unsanctioned mission and the mysterious murder of their commanding officer lands the team in prison. It doesn’t take long for them to break out, reunite, and begin their new mission to clear their names and take down Lynch and whoever else may be responsible while evading capture by Captain Charissa Sosa (Jessica Biel).

Now I understand that just because someone is making an adaptation of a novel, or a television show, or an older film doesn’t mean that it has to be an absolutely perfect recreation of its source material. The A-Team, for that matter, does stay pretty close but the compromises that are made were kind of weird and things just didn’t fit together properly. I’ll get to that later. There are parts of this movie that I definitely did like. The action, for one thing, is awesome and perfectly captures the over the top mayhem that you would see in the television show. Murdock flying a helicopter upside down, B.A. running from containers falling off an exploding ship, and the team trying to “fly” a tank are just a few memorable action scenes. This isn’t too surprising since Joe Carnahan was behind one of my favorite action movie, the chaotic Smokin’ Aces.

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It’s a pretty heavy responsibility when actors have to step into the shoes of such beloved characters. The whole point of the original t.v. show wasn’t necessarily the action, but how the four soldiers got along together and functioned perfectly as a team. The characters were each very rich and unique, and that being said, the actors in this movie sort of get it right. Bradley Cooper as Face and Sharlto Copley as Murdock are the best choices for those characters and they nail it. It was the closest you could get to the real thing. Quinton Jackson does fine as B.A., but never really reaches the same humorous intensity as Mr. T. Finally, Liam Neeson is poor as Hannibal. He’s far too stoic of an actor and pretty much takes all of the joy out of the character. Jessica Biel and Patrick Wilson seem completely out of place and also give in some stale performances. In fact, some of the lines written for them combined with their delivery is worthy of a good, hard cringe.

While most people (myself included) watch action movies for the action and can forgive a bland plot, it still helps if the plot makes sense. The story of The A-Team made sense, but you really had to think about it and try to put it all together. Everyone’s getting backstabbed, and then backstabbed again and all these ulterior motives make the plot hard to follow. This is The A-Team we’re talking about here. Why does this have to be such a confusing mess of a story? The formulaic good guys vs bad guys routine of the source material made it easy to focus on the characters, but now I spent most of the movie just trying to figure out what the hell was going on. Not only that, but the villains were just poorly written cartoon characters that are hated simply because they’re written so badly.

The A-Team isn’t an awful excuse for an action movie, nor is it a total letdown to fans of the television show, like myself. As I was watching the movie, though, I wish they’d just remove the A-Team, call it something else, and call it a day. The action is fantastic, and makes the movie worth a watch at least once. What sucks is that there really isn’t any good chemistry between the actors, which makes their tight knit relationships fall short. The story is also way too confusing for its own good and the side characters are stupid. While it’s cool that they tried to go for a modern approach to the characters, it doesn’t quite make, which, ultimately, makes The A-Team a failure.

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Chappie – Review

18 Mar

When I first saw the trailers for Chappie with Neill Blomkamp’s name on it, I wanted to shoot right out of my seat and land in the closest theater and just wait there so I could be the first to see it. I feel like Blomkamp is at the head of the pack along with a few other in terms of modern science fiction movies. His films have this urban grit that meshes so well with the high tech sci-fi, and Chappie certainly isn’t any different. The troubling thing is that every critic seems to have major problems with it, and I found it to be far superior to his previous film, Elysium.

 

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In the near future, the police force in Johannesburg, South Africa is largely made up of state of the art police robots designed by Deon Wilson (Dev Patel). On his own time, however, Deon is working overtime trying to unlock the key to creating true artificial intelligence, a daunting task that eventually pays off. After stealing a deactivated police robot, Deon puts in the artificial intelligence chip, but not before being kidnapped by gangsters Amerika (Jose Pablo Cantillo) and Ninja and Yolandi (played by South African rap group Die Antwoord). When the robot comes to life and becomes aware of the surroundings, he is named Chappie (Sharlto Copely). As Ninja begins training Chappie to be a gangster for a major heist, Deon and Yolandi work to train Chappie in the finer things of life and protect him from the outside world. Meanwhile, Deon’s competitor in the company, Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman), works to get his own police robot on the scene, no matter who has to die.

Compared to District 9 and ElysiumChappie feels like Blomkamp’s departure from a more violent and hopeless kind of science fiction. Both of the Blomkamp’s earlier movies leaves me feeling a strange sense of dread by the end of them, but Chappie made me feel different. There’s plenty of social commentary to be found, but I was way more interested in the characters and what happened to them. That being said, I felt that was the intention. There’s a lot of focus behind the differing factions of characters and the philosophical urges that push them. Then there’s Chappie, another memorable robot to add to the list of memorable robots. By the end of this movie, even though it doesn’t quite end on the happiest of notes, left me feeling a lot better for the situations and the characters than Blomkamp’s other movies did.

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There are plenty of great actors in this movie and a few quite interesting casting choices to really regard as a cinematic anomaly. The star of the whole show is Sharlto Copley who did the voice and motion capture for Chappie. Copley’s voice and movements bring Chappie to life more than any kind of advanced special effects could. He’s a tragic and interesting character and plays it to perfection. Dev Patel and Hugh Jackman work well as enemies, even though Jackman’s character was one of the least interesting parts of the entire movies. Finally, we have Ninja and Yolandi, a South African rap-rave group that seems to be playing themselves. I’m a big fan of Die Antwoord, and seeing them act was odd. Ninja was pretty on point and Yolandi did well with her character, but there were times where I was reminded that they weren’t trained actors. Still it was pretty wild to see them.

As I said before, Chappie dives right into social commentary in that strangely real way Neill Blomkamp does. District 9 brought racism to the screen in a way that was fresh and memorable while Elysium dealt with class differences in a classic science fiction sort of way. With Chappie, Blomkamp deconstructs the idea of a police state and a society that has become far too mechanized. This is a theme that plays very well with society today, in a world where technology seems to be going crazy. Combine that with the military, and things may continue looking bleak. It’s a smart way to go about telling a story, and it’s incredibly original in a world of reboots, remakes, and adaptations.

While Chappie isn’t quite District 9 it shoots past Elysium, and I’m baffled as to why critics are giving this movie such a hard time. Not only are there memorable characters, a sentimental feeling, and interesting commentary on technology and government, but all of that wrapped up in Neill Blomkamp’s distinct style. Not only is Chappie a good movie, Chappie is also a great movie. Suck it, critics.

Elysium – Review

2 Jan

Neil Blomkamp crash landed on the sci-fi radar in 2009 with his contemporary masterpiece District 9. In my opinion, this is the most important science fiction film of the past twenty years, so when his second film, Elysium, was released in 2013, the film had a lot to live up to. It’s true that Elysium doesn’t quite reach the same heights as District 9, but I wasn’t really expecting it to. Once you stop comparing to Blomkamp’s first film, you can see that Elysium is a really good movie that, unfortunately, gets a little heavy handed at times.

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In 2154, the Earth is an absolute wreck after problems such as overpopulation have completely destroyed the environment and crippled society. This is just a problem for your average everyday citizen. The more wealthy, upper class citizen can live a life of luxury that can span as many lifetimes as they desire on a huge Stanford-torus space station called Elysium. Max Da Costa (Matt Damon) has always dreamed of making it to Elysium, but never actually expected to. One day at work, he is exposed to lethal amounts of radiation and only has five days to live, with his only chance of life being a medical pod on Elysium. To get up there he meets with his old associate Spider (Wagner Moura), who attaches a powerful mechanical exoskeleton to Max and begin a mission that will ultimately end on Elysium. Max has caught the eye of the Elysium Secretary of Defense Jessica Delacourt (Jodie Foster), who aims to prevent them from getting to Elysium, so she hires her man on the ground, Kruger (Sharlto Copely), to stop them.

As with District 9Elysium is more than just a science fiction story that you can shut your brain off for and just enjoy the ride. Sure, if you want to you’re allowed to, but you’d be missing a lot of the movie’s appeal. The message here is just about as obvious as a movie can get, and Blomkamp doesn’t seem to care if he lays it on as heavy as he can. In my opinion, that is the movie’s main weakness. Just looking at the plot summary I just wrote, you can probably figure out what the message of the movie is, even if you had no prior knowledge. The movie just feels a little bit preachy. Still there are a lot more themes that aren’t as heavy handed, such as themes of transhumanism.

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The design of Elysium is really something to behold. The space station itself is a Stanford-torus design that was thought up at Stanford University by NASA in 1975. This makes the movie even more believable than it would be. But, this movie is very believable. The problems on Earth can already be seen here and now, so the time period of 2154 makes the Earth in this movie seem possible. Also, the weaponry and set design all seem like a very realistic depiction of a possible future. I’m no expert of what can be expected in terms of technology within the next hundred to two hundred years, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it looks very much like it does in Elysium, hopefully not as dystopic. The only piece of technology that I don’t really buy is essential to the story. That is the medical pods on Elysium that heal you, no matter what the ailment. While it is a really cool idea, I just can’t see that happening any time soon, although it is a necessary piece of the story.

Now I don’t normally spend an entire section on just one person, but I feel like I need to. The performances are fine in this movie, other than Foster, whose performance is awkward at best. Who not only steals every scene he’s in, but runs off with the entire movie is Sharlto Copely. Wow. Having worked with Blomkamp before in District 9, it isn’t really surprising to see him again in Elysium. His performance as the sleeper agent Kruger is horrifying. He’s one of those characters that make you uncomfortable every time he’s on screen because, for one, he just looks gross, but also you never quite know what he’s going to do next or what he’s capable of. Copely plays this psycho spot on, and I firmly believe that no one else could have played this part and done it the justice that Copely did. It may be one of my new favorite screen performances.

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So, as I expected, Elysium is another success by a new science fiction titan, Neil Blomkamp. If you’re expecting it to be the next District 9, it isn’t, but it is a step above a lot of the movies that come out nowadays, especially in terms of science fiction. It’s a powerful blockbuster with an important, if not heavy handed message. Plus a lot of people explode in this movie, so expect a lot of that. But hey, I’m not complaining about that! I’d strongly recommend Elysium. It’s a fun blockbuster that makes me excited to see what Blomkamp will do in the future.