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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Comedy > Crime > Thriller > TV > Mystery > Murder > French > Gangster > British > The A-Team (2010/Fox Blu-ray) + 24 – The Final Season/Season Eight (2010/Fox Blu-ray) + Chabrol (Bridesmaids (2004)/Merci Pour Le Chocolat (2000)/First Run DVD Set) + The Heavy (2010/Lionsgate DVD)

The A-Team (2010/Fox Blu-ray) + 24 – The Final Season/Season Eight (2010/Fox Blu-ray) + Chabrol (Bridesmaids (2004)/Merci Pour Le Chocolat (2000)/First Run DVD Set) + The Heavy (2010/Lionsgate DVD)


Picture: B/B/C+/C/B-     Sound: B/B/C+/C/B-     Extras: C-/B-/C+/C-/C+     Films/Episodes: D/B-/C+/B-/B-



People like stories with action, mystery and suspense, but the genres that support them have been played out and exploited so much that more bad than good has come from it.  Those genres have even crossed each other in ways that do not work and the results have not been good.


When Paramount had huge success finally finding a way to revive Mission: Impossible, other studios scrambled to come up with popular projects that could do the same business.  Though Fox had made the Derek Flint films, they somehow decided to option the overly comic hit TV series The A-Team instead and at great expense.  Then the project languished in turn-around for years.  About 15 years later, it finally became a feature film release and that new 2010 film is not only one of the worst films of 2010, but one of its biggest bombs.


Like Dukes Of Hazzard, the original TV show was a rare populist hit because of its cast and general concept, not because of its deep storylines or that it was even that good a show.  Both were above filler with just enough substance to get through an hour of prime time TV, which is why both failed as features.  But that did not stop Fox from getting Ridley and Tony Scott involved as producers (you would never know it from the results) or once-promising Writer/Director Joe Carnahan (who almost directed an M: I sequel) to helm this lifeless, unfunny, tired, hardly slick, flat retread that has some likable actors just going through the motions of a really, really bad script that has nothing new to offer.  Who was this film made for, anyhow?


This was a bad idea form the beginning and cutting out producer/creator Stephen J. Cannell (who passed away just after this bombed) was the biggest mistake of all.  Without him, it plays like the bad imitator it is and the lack of chemistry is even surprising considering the cast includes Liam Neeson (who can do no wrong), Bradley Cooper, newcomer Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Sharto Copley, the always appealing Jessica Biel and the underrated Patrick Wilson, so it does not have the worst cast in the world, they just have nothing really watchable to do.


Another problem is that the original show was a sort of counterculture joke of a show and the original characters were really outsiders, but this military-obsessed retread does an awful job (intentionally?) of blurring the line between their renegade selves and the real military.  There is not enough distance, narrative or ironic, for this to work, making this a mess on that level as well.  Even with all the money spent (some of which is not on screen due to how long this took to greenlight), it does not look that much richer than a couple of episodes of the original show.


Fans can go see the old show, but no one wants to take responsibility for this failure from behind the scenes, including an upstart producer whose determination not to have Cannell involved backfired more explosively than all the explosions in this film.  Then Carnahan tried to blame a promotional problem for it not being a hit, which is ludicrous as Fox did their normal blockbuster launch for it.  The truth is, Carnahan has run out of things to say and do, plus this was just a bad idea from the start.


Fortunately, Fox has better action films and TV shows, like 24.  They long-running Keifer Sutherland hit ran a total of eight years and this Complete Final Season/Season Eight set brings the show back to enough form to send it off with some of the dynamics that made it work early on before it lost its way becoming a spoof of itself with everyone torturing everyone else in each episode.  Jack Bauer (Sutherland) has retired, but a shady contact finds his apartment bleeding from a gunshot wound for knowing too much about a potential assassination plot.  Bauer just wants to go on vacation with his daughter, son in law and granddaughter, but this is too serious and he cannot walk away.


The twenty-four hour-long shows once again make up the whole single day of suspense and action which has some good twists and turns.  The cast is good and I was particularly surprised that Freddie Prinze, Jr. not only found a good script to task on, but actually showed he can act when he is not being goofy and arrogant, but it is his luck that it is as the show ends.


I give the producers and writers credit for getting back to basics, though maybe there will be a revival down the line.  The mystery this time is as good as many feature films of late.  Some relatively recent thrillers we covered a while ago have been reissued simply as a double DVD set boldly called Chabrol.  Claude Chabrol is considered a French master of suspense, though I think he is overrated and has made few films to back this claim.  Still, this set from First Run Features includes two films we already covered as single DVDs and are the same exact discs including the technical performance and extras noted.  You can read about both at the following links:


The Bridesmaid



Merci Pour Le Chocolat




Saving the best for last, the most pleasant surprise of these like films is a British film by Writer/Director Marcus Warren called The Heavy (2010), one of the smarter crime thrillers to come out of their cinema since the many imitators of Guy Ritchie films.  Well written, acted and cast, it may have some flaws and offer some things we have seen before, but this is an ambitious film you might want to go out of your way for.


A hitman named Boots Mason (Gary Stretch) is out of prison, unhappy with his bother (Adrian Paul of the Highlander franchise) who helped put him there and is now on the verge of being Prime Minister.  A corrupt cop (Vinnie Jones in some of his best work in a while) has plans for Boots, but Boots has several of his own to juggle.


I liked the smart, careful approach the film took to the Crime and Gangster genres, something that in the U.K. and U.S. have been an excuse for so much bad editing, writing, fights, bad camerawork, shaking cameras for no reason, gutted color and distorted images that it is no wonder The Sopranos was as successful as it was.  It is refreshing for someone to make a film with the ambition of being realistic and thorough for a change in the genre and that also explains why Christopher Lee, Jean Marsh, Steven Rea and Sadie Frost signed on.  It works better than most films of its kind of late and has a different look and feel to it.  Hope Warren gets to make another project soon.



The 1080p 2.35 X 1 AVC @ 18 MBPS digital High Definition image on A-Team may have some color degradation and darkening of style on purpose, but was shot in real anamorphic 35mm Panavision for the most part and that translates better here than expected.  Director of Photography Mauro Fiore just cannot find a new angel for this tired old look.  The 1080p 1.78 X 1 AVC @ 18 MBPS digital High Definition image on 24 also has some styling too, but also holds up well as shot in Super 35mm film and also looks better than expected and better than the previous Blu-ray and DVD sets of the series we reviewed elsewhere on this site.


That leaves the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Heavy which was shot in High Definition on the Panavision Genesis camera, but this manages to not look as generic as many other productions using the same camera.  On DVD, the degrading holds the performance back somewhat, but this would be a great candidate for Blu-ray.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1 on A-Team and 24 have moments where the dialogue and some other audio is too much ion the center channel, but that is not all the time and the soundfields for both are otherwise not bad, but A-Team should have been better and simply is a typical competent mix instead of one that excels.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 on Heavy has a sound mix that is at least as smart as those DTS-MA tracks and does not sound bad here, but the lossy format is holding back the best points of the sound.  Paul Oakenfold’s score is a big plus as expected.


Extras on the Blu-rays include Deleted Scenes, with A-Team adding BD Live interactive functions, Digital Copy for PC and PC portable devices, Carnahan commentary on the shorter theatrical cut of the film, a Theme Mash-Up Montage, Gag Reel and three behind the scenes featurettes.  24 adds extended episodes, Scenemakers behind the scenes pieces on some episodes, Virtually New York, The Ultimate CTU and Chloe’s Arrest.  Heavy adds TV Spots, Trailers and four good making of featurettes, all of which should be seen after seeing the film.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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