Yes, I am all about variety. Let's get started.
The A-Team - If Saturday mornings in the late eighties meant Bugs and Daffy for my brother and I, lunchtime during summer vacation meant "The A-Team." Sporting easily the most badass theme music of any TV show in existence, people falling in slow motion, and lots of gunfire that never seemed to actually hit anybody, it was one of our favorite things growing up. Even so I wasn't about to demand that a film of "The A-Team" adhere to the same rules and formula as the series. Different cast, different time, different medium. As long as it was fun, had the right music, and resembled the original even a little bit I would be satisfied. In essence don't pull a "Miami Vice." Thankfully, Joe Carnahan's movie gets it right on all counts.
Carnahan (director of the criminally underrated "Narc") starts things off with a big dumb crazy action sequence that brings our four heroes together. Following the "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" theory of what makes a great team, Bosco "B.A." Baracus (Quinton "Rampage" Jackson) is the muscle, Templeton "Faceman" Peck (Bradley Cooper) is the looks, John "Hannibal" Smith (Liam Neeson) is the brains, and Murdock (Sharlto Copley, "District 9") is the wild card. During this sequence the team kills more people than they did in the entire five seasons of the TV series.
The action picks up again 8 years later after this "crack commando unit" of Army Rangers has earned a reputation for being the best at what they do. Due to this reputation, CIA Agent Lynch (Patrick Wilson, "Hard Candy") wants to use them for a special mission in Baghdad. It turns out Iraqi insurgents have created over a billion dollars worth of counterfeit American money using U.S. Treasury plates. Lynch wants them to swipe the plates and the cash and get them back into American hands. Face's ex-girlfriend Captain Sosa (Jessica Biel) senses trouble and warns them not to go through with the unofficial "Black Ops" mission but if they listened to her this movie would have no plot. Hannibal's old friend General Morrison (Gerald McRaney) can't officially endorse the plan but he stays out of their way, the only proof that they're acting with some kind of authorization. So of course after they successfully complete the mission Morrison and the money get blowed up and the A-Team is arrested, tried, and convicted "by a military court for a crime they didn't commit." The plan did not come together.
After this the four are incarcerated far apart from each other but when Lynch visits Hannibal in prison with the promise of clean records in exchange for the treasury plates, the boys reunite after a series of spectacular prison breaks. The remainder of the film has lots of chases, comedy, 'splosions, a montage involving creating a supervehicle, and then Don Draper shows up.
All in all, "The A-Team" is just what I wanted it to be. Well cast, highly entertaining, stupid fun. With 'splosions. I'm hoping that if there's a sequel it might follow the show formula just a little bit more. A storyline involving farmers being terrorized by businessmen or an orphanage getting threatened by mobsters or something. Ya know, the gritty kind of true to life stories the show was so famous for. Be sure to stay through the end credits. 7/10.
Micmacs - After an almost six year break, Jean-Pierre Jeunet ("Amelie") is back with a film only he could make. Bazil (Dany Boon, "Joyeux Noel") grew up without a father, due to his death from an exploding mine. Thirty years later, Bazil lives a quiet life, working in a video store. One night as he recites "The Big Sleep" in his empty store, a spectacular car chase is happening right outside. When he peers outside to take a look he is struck in the head by a stray bullet. After several months in a coma he survives but the bullet remains in his head and could actually kill him at any time.
When he awakes he finds he no longer has a home, possessions, or a job. Bazil must resort to unconventional ways of earning money and he soon catches the eye of an old ex-con who calls himself Slammer (Jean-Pierre Marielle). Slammer introduces Bazil to his new "family," a group of eccentrics who live beneath a Paris scrap heap. When Bazil discovers who manufactured the mine that killed his father and the bullet that's in his head he enlists the help of the family to carry out his revenge.
Being that this is a Jeunet film, revenge is more about comeuppance than an eye for an eye. There's nothing cold or mean spirited about Bazil but ultimately he could end up doing far more damage to the two industry titans his way than if he'd gone for Tarantino-style revenge.
Boon gives a wonderful performance as Bazil, a character we sympathize with the instant he appears on screen. The character's eccentricity never becomes cloying or quirkiness for the sake of it. Boon makes him a fully realized character. The rest of the cast do fine work as well and anyone familiar with Jeunet's work will see the usual suspects, most notably the always great Dominique Pinon.
It doesn't top "Amelie" but only a very small handful of films could. Jeunet is still a master craftsman with the love of character, story, and little details that have always made him great. The opening credits sequence alone is better than most whole movies I've seen this year. "Micmacs" is in limited release but well worth seeking out. In Seattle it is playing at the Egyptian. 8.5/10.
Toy Story 3 - After two films and several years, the target audience of "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2" has grown up. And unlike most animated characters, so has Andy, the boy who loved his toys. Days before going off to college, Andy is packing his things. Some items will be going with him, others will be off to the attic, and some will just end up in the trash. His toys, which have not been played with for years, are worried about what their fate will be.
Some such as Rex and Hamm are convinced that disaster awaits. Woody (Tom Hanks) reminds them they'd long known this day was coming but now that it's here there's panic in the ranks. Andy decides to pack Woody in the college box and keep the rest in the attic, but a misunderstanding leads his mother to putting Buzz (Tim Allen) and the gang out for the garbage man. After a narrow escape and not knowing the truth about Andy's intentions, Buzz, Jessie (Joan Cusack), and the rest make their way into a box that Andy's mom is taking to Sunnyside Daycare. Having seen what happened, Woody tries convincing them that their job is still to be there for Andy, but their minds are made up. They want to be played with and belong to children who will love them.
Upon arriving at Sunnyside they are welcomed with open arms by Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear (Ned Beatty..."Wheeeeee!!") who leads them into the Caterpillar Room. Grateful for Lotso's hospitality and promise of an endless supply of young children to play with them, Andy's old toys are convinced that Sunnyside is where they belong. All except Woody. Angry with the others for what he perceives as selfishness, Woody decides to make his way back to Andy's house. Along the way however he winds up in the hands of a little girl whose other toys know the truth about the Caterpillar Room. A truth Buzz, Jessie, and the gang learn the hard way. Woody knows he has to get back to Sunnyside and bust them out but the bitter and devious Lotso won't make it easy.
With "Toy Story 3" Pixar extends their flawless track record. 11 feature films, 11 winners. It's very funny (Michael Keaton as Ken of Ken and Barbie fame and Buzz's Spanish setting are pure comic gold), it has a terrific villain in Lotso, and it's full of moments that are amongst the most touching in the Pixar canon, particularly near the film's end. I won't spoil them for you but you'll know them when you see them.
"Toy Story 3" is a wonderful conclusion to the story of the secret lives of the toys that mean the world to a little boy who's grown into a young man. As we see though, there's still some little boy left in Andy and "Toy Story 3" taps into that little boy or girl that's still there in all of us. 9/10.