Aug 23 2013 2:00pm

Airplane Grab-Bag Movies!

I flew across the country the other day, and decided to spend most of the flight watching movies. There was a pretty good selection of science fiction and action-adventure on the in-flight television menu, all just a little bit out of date, and I hadn’t seen most of them, so I said “why not?” Which is how I watched the last three quarters of Oblivion, then bits of Iron Man 3, followed by the last half of the remake of Death Race and the first quarter of The A-Team. I hadn’t seen any of them besides Iron Man 3 but I had sort of wanted to see all of them, and then decided not to when the scuttlebutt was that the others weren’t very good. Given the opportunity, I wanted to give them a second chance. Maybe you heard the same things, or maybe you thought a film was under-appreciated or really a disappointment. Here is what I thought of them.

I really liked Oblivion! I don’t know what all the hate was for; I think it was a solid little B+ of a science-fiction movie. I know people were turned off by the plot twists, but I thought the plot twists were actually pretty neat little “big ideas.” I won’t go into it, and audience members can easily see the stress fractures in the lie, so it isn’t hard to figure out what is going to give, but I don’t think that is the point. The point is that it all hangs together. Oh and it looks very pretty, both the clean and polished sterile future that Tom Cruise starts out in, and the dark and industrial “Tusken raiders” dystopia that Morgan Freeman represents. Oh, and post-apocalyptic Jaime Lannister! The big problem here is that nobody actually has a conversation; this is the kind of movie where if the characters all sat down and talked for twenty minutes, they could sort the whole thing out with less drama. That’s alright with me; I think there is enough psychological trauma to go around for all the characters, which makes me tolerant of otherwise irrational behavior. And it is so pretty. So pretty.

I mean, it is Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, right? That is what we are all here for. This movie I muted and read during, for a few bits…like, the actual plot. Okay, Guy Pierce is evil, got it, the mystery is dudes blowing up, okay. I don’t actually care about that: I turned it back on for the vignettes, like the Mechanic and the kid, or Iron Man meeting the Mandarin, and for the big fight sequences—though the final climax I found pretty boring on the second viewing. If you haven’t seen Iron Man 3, see it! If you have though, I think the first viewing is probably the freshest; looking too closely will only make the warts and blemishes stand out.

The original cult classic, Death Race 2000, is pretty right on. A protagonist named Frankenstein, played by David Carradine and driving an alligator car, an evil Nazi driver named Matilda the Hun, cat cars, cow cars, an exploding prosthetic arm called a “hand grenade”—it is just full of goofy grindhouse jokes. The newer Death Race is undercut by the machismo of the film, which takes itself a little too serious, but “Jason Statham drives fast and shoots guns” and things like Even Faster More Furiouser (or whatever) is the modern equivalent of the genre, so I think it was pretty faithful; plus it has the mask swap at the end. I wouldn’t rush out and see it but if you were worried it was a betrayal, I don’t think it is.

When I was a little kid, The A-Team was the show that came on right at my bedtime, that I would try to argue my way into watching every time. I was pretty successful, so I have a soft spot for those soldiers of fortune. I am bummed I only got to see the very beginning, but at least I got to meet the cast. Speaking of things I’m bummed about, I really, really wanted Katee Sackhoff to play Face. I wanted that to happen pretty badly, but Bradley Cooper fills the role out well; I’d say he’s the best-cast of the bunch. Joe Carnahan made Smokin’ Aces which is a glorious mess; that movie is too weird for me to be able to say it is good or bad. Kind of reminds me of Death Race 2000, actually, with the gimmicks and weaving plot. Really, the mixed response from the original group was why I didn’t see this in theaters; if it is on Netflix I’ll probably watch the rest of it, though.

Mordicai Knode knows there is a parallel reality out there where Katee Sackhoff played Face in the remake of The A-Team. It is a better world. Find Mordicai on Twitter or Tumblr, if you want to talk about your dream casting.

George Brell
1. gbrell
I also recently watched Iron Man 3 and Oblivion on a flight.

One of the random things I noticed in IM3 was that the airline edited out any sequence in which an aircraft was destroyed. So when the helicopters attack his house, Iron Man would attack the helicopter (using a piano) and it would simply cut away from the explosion before it even happened and Downey Jr. would spout: "That's one!" This wasn't a big deal.

But when it came to the attack on Air Force One where the bad guys blow up the plane, it skipped from him defeating Guy Pierce's #2 to him flying triumphantly over the water. The plane was never blown up. He never rescues the falling passengers. He just skips right to the end of the entire scene (probably skipping 5-10 minutes of movie).

I vaguely understand why you would edit that stuff out of the movie, but it definitely caught me by surprise.

Oblivion was pretty mediocre. Very pretty, but little substance to speak of.
Mordicai Knode
2. mordicai
1. gbrell

Oh yeah! I did notice it being bowdlerized some what, but you've got...a good eye for that, I forgot about the second villain (as I said, I was watching it kinda piecemeal). As for Oblivion, maybe it was because I had such low expectations going into it, but I think the SPOILER idea of an alien intelligence invading with clones of the astronauts who made first contact END SPOILER is just a pretty neat idea. & I thought the final twist in the epilogue was a good use of Chekhov's Gun, so to speak. Like, all the pieces of the puzzle are laid out fair & square; to me, that counts for way more than any cheap "oomph" of a plot twist (Christopher Nolan, I am looking at you).
Jack Flynn
3. JackofMidworld
Sounds like you sat down to have some fun watching movies and that's what you got. I think a person's mindset going into a movie makes a lot of difference in what he or she thinks of it. Lucky me, I'm not getting paid to actually critique movies, makes it easier to enjoy the bad ones.
4. tonygarza
I loved the Death Race movie.... The original I first saw late night on cable when I was 10 or so. I was looking forward to the remake. When I saw that
David Carradine voiced Frank in the opening sequence I was overjoyed. This movie played like a like video game. Great used of pay per view ads in the movie and a splash of late night cable t and a.
A couple of no brainer fun movies that my kids and I enjoyed were Olympus has fallen ad White house down. The first is funny because it takes itself too seriously and the second is the same movie with a laugh track.... Both worth the dollar redbox rental.
Mordicai Knode
5. mordicai
3. JackofMidworld

Yes, exactly! I don't know, I usually like what I watch, but then, I view watching TV & movies as a fundamentally relaxing experience...which would explain why I don't like sloppy feel-bad dramas.

4. tonygarza

I'm glad to see so many people have the right attitude....this:

Jeremy Clegg
6. Cleggster
You know what I loved about the A-Team. It was how much fun the cast seemed to be making the movie. While flying a tank through the air, there laughing the whole time. And your soul get warmed when B.A. finds it in his heart to kill again. Just the right tone of goofyness.
Mordicai Knode
7. mordicai
6. Cleggster

You know, I should probably write a post on how Southland Tales is the best movie & how all the haters need to get over themselves & realize that it is in fact a brilliant surrealist parody of...well, everything. That movie rules.
Lianne Burwell
8. LKBurwell
I have to say, I kinda like the remake of Death Race, if only for Ian McShane. It had a nice sense of humor. Unfortunately, neither of the direct to DVD prequel movies have been near as fun.
Mordicai Knode
9. mordicai
8. LKBurwell

I was fairly "meh" about it, but I could understand liking it, if that sort of thing is more your thing, you know?
Steven Lyle Jordan
10. Steven_Lyle_Jordan
I waited until A-Team came to TV before I watched; I couldn't imagine actually going to a theater to see it. But it turned out to be exactly what the original series was: Unapologetically goofy fun. Yeah, you find yourself just smiling stupidly through most of it, and not caring. But sometimes, that's all you want from a movie. Don't know why the original group would complain about it... what, they thought they were doing The Dirty Quartet back then?

I approved of Oblivion, too. Yes, it suffered from that "lack-of-communication conflict" malaise that seems to be the in-thing in movies and TV, and you knew something was off with their orbiting controllers right off; but beyond that, I thought it worked, and of course, it was gorgeous. At least a B grade.
Mordicai Knode
11. mordicai
10. Futurisk

This makes me happy! When I'm done watching Tron: Legacy I'll see if I can find it somewhere on my Roku!

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