Tag Archives: Liam Neeson

Reviving a Classic

The eighties are nothing more than memories for most people now, bad memories for some music lovers, but good memories for fans of the simpler days of TV watching. TV in the eighties was innocent escapist fare full of fun and excitement and even thrills and chills without the explicit, gritty realism that passes for entertainment today. One show that was particularly fun to watch was The A-Team; an adventure series featuring a band of former Army rangers who wandered around helping people with problems that the ordinary law enforcement community couldn’t handle. It was not complicated—the plots were simplistic and predictable—nor was it overly violent. There were plenty of car chases, explosions and gun fire but nobody ever died on camera. I cannot even remember if anyone ever even got shot or seriously hurt. That didn’t matter, though, because that was not what drew in viewers. People wanted to see the good guys triumph over evil, even if the bad guy was two dimensional and spouting bad monologues.

Like so many former TV shows, The A-Team has been revived for the big screen. Ordinarily, I would complain about another movie based on an old show as demonstrating the lack of originality of Hollywood, but I can’t really complain about this one. Unlike other shows that flopped as a remake like the Dukes of Hazard and Starsky and Hutch, the A-Team is a roaring success for one simple reason: they kept it true to the original rather than try to make it into a farcical joke of itself.

The A-Team is the story of four soldiers, Colonel John (Hannibal) Smith, Sergeant Boscoe (BA) Baracas, Lieutenant Templeton (Faceman) Peck, and Captain H.M. (Howling Mad) Murdock, who escape prison after being wrongly convicted of a crime and flee to the Los Angeles underground where they exist as soldiers of fortune. The original series had the group as Vietnam vets where the movie bases the timeline as the Iraq war. The group is an elite fighting force with unique skills that enable them to do just about anything they need to and they use these skills to right wrongs.

Liam Neeson plays Hannibal, a part pioneered by the late George Peppard, the cigar chomping, leader of the gang who “loves it when a plan comes together.” Watching Neeson as Hannibal evokes the spirit of Peppard as he plays the character to a T. Bradley Cooper assumes Dirk Benedict’s Faceman just as transparently. He has as much fun being Peck as Benedict did. He also brings a new physicality to the role as he made Peck as much a fighter as a lover. Sharlto Copley is Murdock, the insane pilot of the group. His antics, while not as over the top as the original Dwight Schultz, drive much of the plot. Last but not lease is the character of BA. Originally played by (actually crafted for) Mr. T, UFC fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson brings a bit more depth to the otherwise 2-dimensional strongman of the team. The words “I pity the fool,” are never uttered in the movie, but BA’s dialog is delivered with a greater range of emotion.

The movie is a hoot—great fun to watch. It does stretch the imagination at times with some of the stunts (and that is a real problem in Hollywood) and the rollercoaster action, but it is so much fun to watch that it is easy to suspend disbelief a little more to enjoy the ride. They even play the original Mike Post theme song and the introductory narration from the TV show in the movie. Fans of the original show will love this movie and the younger generation who never knew about it will thoroughly enjoy it as well. It is a film for the whole family.

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Kraken? What’s Kraken?

His face is bathed in the lights of mount Olympus, his hair is flowing like a mane about his regal countenance and he stands in his glimmering armor as he utters his command in a booming baritone: “Release the Kraken!”

Liam Neeson has a king-like air about him in a lot of movies, and this is not the first time he has played a god-like being. He was also Aslan the lion in The Chronicals of Narnia; a symbol of God in the fairy tale. Now he plays Zeus, the Greek god of thunder and ruler of Olympus in the updated “Clash of The Titans.” In this film, he plays a pained god as his subjects, the humans, reject the gods that created them. He is goaded by his brother Hades into leveling the city of Argos as punishment. Hades gives the humans ten days to provide a sacrifice in the form of the princess Andromeda to the Kraken or face the destruction of Argos. The only hope anyone has is the bastard son of Zeus, a demi-god named Perseus and his flying horse Pegasus.

This film first graced the big screen in 1981 with Lawrence Olivier in the role of Zeus and Harry Hamlin as Perseus. The film featured stop-motion animation for the creature effects—state of the art for the time—and a more simplistic plot. In this update, Sam Worthington plays Perseus and the plot has more twists and a more human focus. While the original was about a war between the gods, this update is about a war between gods and men. Perseus, initially ignorant of his heritage, decries the gods and swears to kill Hades for the deaths of his adoptive family. The recurrent theme is mankind no longer needs gods.

Worthington has had one heck of a year. Terminator Salvation, Avatar and now Clash of the Titans are all big ticket movies and would go far in establishing him as a bankable star, if only he had more than one character type. Worthington plays essentially the same character in all three films. Oh, sure, in one he is an unwitting cyborg with a human heart, in another he is a paraplegic marine galloping around in a cyber-linked clone body, and here he is a patricidal demi-god, but he plays them all with the same personality.

The special effects are a far cry from the stop-motion of the classic; CGI makes the movements fluid and the creatures photo-realistic. This adds an immersive element to the adventure that takes our hero from Argos to the lair of the Stygian witches to the Underworld and finally to the lair of Medusa. Battling giant scorpions, braving the storms at sea, crossing the river Styx, fighting the Gorgon and the climactic battle with the Kraken itself, the effects put the viewer right there. In fact, with the 3-D version, you would think you could be in the battle yourself. You could think that…but you may not really feel it.

This film is one of a plethora of movies being filmed and released in 3-D. I was not a big fan of 3-D until I saw James Cameron’s Avatar. That film really put the viewer into a new planet, giving a true sensation of otherworldly reality. Sadly, Clash of The Titans does not have the same level of depth. The 3-D seems muddled on the screen—even in digital projection—and the action gets lost in itself. In fact, the 3-D action sequences suffer the most.

This movie is a good time. It even pays homage to the original with a cameo by Bubo the owl. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. Liam Neeson bellowing “Release the Kraken” brought shivers. Could it have been better, maybe. Even Worthington’s 2-dimensional portrayal was fun to watch and the special effects were captivating. It is not worth the extra money for the 3-D experience since you really don’t get any benefit from the glasses. Watch it in 2-D and sit back and enjoy.

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