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a pretty good selection of science fiction and action-adventure on the in-flight television menu, all just a little bit out of date, and I hadn’t seen most of them, so I said “why not?”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.