June 11, 2010, - 11:50 am

Weekend Box Office: “The A-Team,” “The Karate Kid”

By Debbie Schlussel

Two remakes of ’80s stuff at the box office, this weekend. Hey, Hollywood, come up with something new.


* “The A-Team“: No, it’s not a great movie, and yes, the story is convoluted and silly. But what did you expect? It’s “The A-Team.” If you watched the stupid, campy 1980’s show, you know that the show wasn’t all that great. The movie lives up to the show and is an apt 2010 update.

And, even though, as plots and story lines go, there’s not much here, it’s entertaining for the reason you go to see a movie like this: lots of explosions, special effects, action, and excitement, ranging from the preposterous to the mega-super-on-steroids-over-the-top stuff. That includes a flying tank (with the use of parachutes) from which the A-Team members start shooting at the enemy as they fly through the sky. I enjoyed watching the pyrotechnics, even though–despite all the action–the movie seemed a little long. Too long.

The “story”: An alignment of the stars allows four men–Army Rangers–to meet in Mexico, save one of their lives, and then all escape from a military hospital. The fearless leader, played by Liam Neeson, plays tribute to the original George Peppard role by smoking cigars. And there’s a Mr. T look-alike with hand tattoos that say, “P-I-T-Y” and “F-O-O-L.” Other than that, the old “A-Team” theme music from the TV shows is played, and re-played, and played again.

Another similarity with the TV show: the four men are framed for a crime they did not commit: they are enlisted by a military commander in Iraq to find “plates” used to make forged American money and once owned by Saddam Hussein. But then they are falsely accused in his murder, sent to jail, and the rest of the movie is spent trying to prove their innocence, catch the real villain, and avoid the scrutiny of a military official, Jessica Biel.

I could have done without the shots of Bradley Cooper and others wearing keffiyehs. Enough with the scarves of Islamic hate. And the Iraq storyline seems a little dated. Plus, the defamation of Blackwater–the evil villains are from “Black Forest”–is annoying and old, too. But otherwise, it was better than I expected, but not a tight movie by any stretch. Like I said, this is about watching pyrotechnics and action. Nothing else.

Mr. T, himself, declined a cameo in the movie, saying it has too much sex and violence. But there is no sex in the movie, and the violence–compared to many movies out there, today–is minimal. Yes, there’s a lot of shooting and killing, but it’s bloodless and you don’t see too many bodies. Plus, they’re bodies of bad guys.

If you liked “The A-Team” TV show, you’ll probably like this. If you hated that, you might still find this amusing, but not likely. While I was not a fan of the TV series, I liked this for what it was: an action-packed break and escape.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “The Karate Kid“: This should have been called “The Kung Fu Kid,” because there is no karate in it. And while it follows the storyline of the original Ralph Macchio/Billy Zabka/Pat Morita ’80s movie, it’s not even close to the quality.

The biggest problem is that the main character, Dre, played by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s son, Jaden Smith, is only twelve years old. (Since his parents produced the movie, I wonder how he got the job.  Like my friend movie critic and comedian Corey Hall says, we’re supposed to care because he came out of a famous vagina.) The original made more sense, as the kids were late teens in high school. It’s hard to believe a short, skinny runt of a 12-year-old doing jabs and kicks to blow away every taller, bigger Chinese kid. Rather than aim the movie at teens, as the original was aimed at my crowd when I was in high school, this one is aimed at younger kids. And the kids and parents in the audience at the screening I attended connected with it, clapping at the end of the movie.

While it was rewarding to watch a tiny American kid kick the butts of Chi-Com after Chi-Com at the end of the movie, most objectionable is that the movie–which the Smiths co-produced with the Chinese government–makes China look like the most fun, repression-free place in which to live and grow up. Chairman Mao pictures are, you know, just photos of a former world leader. There is no real view of life in the country that is home to the Tiananmen Square killings and severe restrictions on speech and expression.

I wondered, too, why a lot of the actors are visibly Korean, including Dre’s love interest. Asians always get upset when we confuse their nationalities. And yet, they do it to us time after time, with Koreans and Chinese playing Japanese and vice versa, and every combination thereof–in many recent movies I’ve seen.

The story: A young kid, Dre, moves with his widowed mother (Taraji P. Henson) to China from depressed Detroit, where the auto plant where she works closed. She’s been transferred to a job at the new Chinese car factory, which is a first mostly unheard of here in Detroit. In China, Dre becomes disenchanted with life as he is bullied by local kids and classmates. He falls for a female classmate, and the native Chinese are jealous and beat him up for it. He also befriends another American expatriate, the token blonde White kid, who disappears for most of the rest of the movie.

The maintenance man (Jackie Chan) at his mother’s apartment building stops the Chinese classmates in the middle of a fight, in which they are beating Dre up. Soon, he’s Dre’s father figure, teaching him Kung Fu, in preparation for a tournament fighting the kids who bullied him, and taking him on field trips to the Chinese countryside. But there is no “Wax on, wax off” in this movie. Instead, it’s the more lackluster, “Put your jacket on, take it off, pick it up, hang it up.” Not as catchy.

Still, the real star of this movie–the actor who really shines–is Jackie Chan, in one of his first–if not the first–dramatic English speaking roles. He’s really good. No Mr. Miyagi. But as Mr. Han, the name of his incarnation of the Pat Morita character, he’s pretty close. His fighting scene with the bully kids is fantastic–fun to watch.

One thing I thought the movie glossed over–and probably because this is a kids’ movie, plus it’s part Chi-Com propaganda–is that, in real life, there is a lot of racism against Black people in China and other Asian countries. I doubt Chinese parents would let their girl date a Black kid, as happens in this movie. That never gets touched here.

This is fine for little kids and younger teens, who, again, are its intended audience–there’s no sex and the violence is kung fu with a message. But it’s no “Karate Kid,” which I suggest you rent and show those same kids when they get a little older. Also, at nearly 2.5 hours, it’s a little long and could have been made tighter.

It’s an entertaining and feel-good movie. But, please, tell your kids that, despite what the Smiths and their Chi-Com partners tell you, China is a Communist prison, not a Kung Fu paradise.


Watch the trailer . . .

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27 Responses

….soooooo…. ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ is making movies with the help of the ChiComs…..

…and ‘The Fresh Prince of Bill-Ayers’ is making the US a communist ‘peoples republic’…..

….this is all just a bad dream, right?

Nick Fury on June 11, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Interesting note about racism against blacks in Asian countries. Americans should exhibit pride in how far we’ve come in this area instead of dwelling in heaped-on racist guilt. From my own community a lovely white/black young woman married a white/asian young man about 15 years ago and are now raising 4 smart/active kids. My son is married to a white/mexican girl (3rd gen of Mexican immigrants) and had in attendance at his wedding an Asian friend and the younger brother of the white/black woman mentioned above along with 2 white friends – and we weren’t trying to fill any quotas or be representative of our community! It was just a natural growth out of our homogenizing culture of parents from all races who work hard and seek to find strong communities (consisting of low crime, good education, and at the time sustained good jobs)in which to raise their kids – THAT is what put us all together. Sure things aren’t perfect but America exists to “form a more perfect” nation, but our real progess, not at all a result of “Progressive” initiatives, is in severe danger. America is to be celebrated, yet every word out of the progressives’ mouths are punitive, divisive, and financially & culturally destructive. Instead of aspiring to reach new heights of opportunity and success we’re aiming to sink to lows of forced distribution and diminished dreams. But I digress – enjoy the movie if you can and have a good weekend everyone.

Mz Brown on June 11, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    Mz Brown – you’re right that you never said racism wasn’t an issue, and I mistakenly read that into what you were saying, so I apologize. As I said in my last comment, and will repeat here – yes, we’ve come very far, and that needs to be highlighted more. However, I do fear that emphasizing our success often leads to the downplaying of our failures (all of us, black and white) and to the mistaken assumption that we’re “done,” ie, that racism is over! We’re all friends! When that’s really not the case. I mean, in 2010, interracial marriage and minorities living in your neighborhood shouldn’t be cause for celebration anymore; it shouldn’t even be something you’d think to comment on. That’s not a dig on you – I’m a suburban white girl who grew up in the suburbs and my neighborhood was multicultural from birth, but I still feel the need to mention to people that my best friend is black because I know it still isn’t the norm. Reading this column and hearing some of the comments made about black people and hispanics, and seeing some of the comments on other sites made by black people about whites, tells me that we have so much farther to come than I thought we did when I was growing up, and it’s depressing, so I think a lot of people want to sweep it under the rug. Not you, it seems – but that’s what I mistakenly read into your article.

    Also, just to clarify – I don’t think affirmative action is a good thing, nor do I want it to continue (although I disagree with Debbie on the reasons why). Just like I shouldn’t have made assumptions, neither should you.

    hellcat on June 14, 2010 at 9:49 am

      whoops, replied in the wrong place. Responding to your later comment.

      hellcat on June 14, 2010 at 9:50 am

Surprising “The Karate Kid” has not gotten a negative recation in terms of race.
What could have happened is people being against the film because “an American goes overseas to attack people from a different race.” …and it occured to me people could say, “the American should not fight back for he is only getting the reaction of people who have suffered from American imperialism” or some nonsense such as that.

MH on June 11, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Only white people can be racists. Ask any illegal alien.
I will pass on both pics. I hated the A Team show, but Mr T was and is a true character. The Don King of Hollywood.

pat on June 11, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Mz Brown…her point was that there is a lot of racism amongst Asians in Asian countries, not America. You said it yourself in your first comment, so not sure exactly what you’re missing here. Also, the rest of your comment reads along the lines of “I know minorities; I have a minority friend! Racism is over!” I agree that we need to focus more on the positive aspects of our country, but racism is absolutely still an issue and we can’t just pretend it doesn’t exist.

hellcat on June 11, 2010 at 2:09 pm

HC – I’m just comparing where we’ve come from to where we are, and how that progress is never good enough. When I was growing up in the same community it was very rare to see an Asian or a black person, and the hispanics who went to my school were grouped in a downtrodden area. But over the years people of varying ethnicities have come to be contributing members of this community and the previous barriers are erased. Now, they’re intermarrying without any question about support of the families! So yes, I can say “I know minorities” as you assert, and I’ll add that they’re integrally part of my life, no less…and 40 years ago I would never have foreseen that growing up a white girl in middle class suburbia. In no way did I say racisim is not an issue, but here I am just highlighting success in my community and you are downplaying it. More people need to boast about the successful integrations in their communities and provide leadership for others to show that we can and do get along great for the most part…but maybe you don’t want that, because then we’ll have cause to begin dismantling Affirmative Action programs, as Debbie talks about in her next article.

Mz Brown on June 11, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Well, I loved the campy A-Team on TV and my young grandson loves the re-reuns!

I love that Dwight Schultz ( the original Howling Mad Murdock)is a conservative. He also has a cameo in the new movie. OH, my whole family will be there to see the movie, for sure!

I love this Dwight Schultz comment on Hollywood:

“I’ve been a professional actor for 40 years and, when asked, an open conservative for at least 43 years. Frequently I’m asked to explain why Hollywood is so liberal, a question which I hate because I’m not really qualified to explain the pack mentality or mental illness. My response is always something like, “Ask Spielberg or Oliver Stone why they love that stinking bastard Castro. They’re the ones who can answer your question.”

LOVE YA! Dwight you spoke the truth!

Sewsalot on June 11, 2010 at 6:19 pm

While I might take a chance on the “A-Team” I will most definitely pass on the Karate Kid. The Chinese Communists run a brutal, repressive and totally controlled regime not to mention being the sponsors and the Big Daddy for the insane family that has brutalized N. Korea for so many years. The Chinese haven’t changed their ways since I first became aware of their terror and brutality while reading about the work of a Navy Doctor in Northern Vietnam and Laos in the late 1950’s, Dr. Tom Dooley. He documented the vicious and brutal treatment the people of those countries received at the hands of the Chinese when they refused to bow down to their communist masters. The Chinese provided the N. Koreans with the training, the artillery and the tanks necessary to brutally invade S. Korea and even went so far as to send hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops in N. Korea to help fight the U.N. (read; American) forces that were defending the country. Screw the Chinese.

kenny komodo on June 11, 2010 at 9:49 pm

I agree with both your reviews, Debbie. The A-Team is an upgrade over the recent similar The Losers–this one with better production values and a less clunky screenplay. I found it boring, but not excruciatingly so (like The Losers).

The Karate Kid had little in common with the original except the title and the long, climactic fight. The particulars of the martial arts training are all new (and all preposterous), and so is the “troubled past” of Jackie Chan, as well as the romance. The movie was slickly, expensively produced. It seems aimed at small tykes and also moms who have a crush on Will Smith and like seeing his miniature double. Jaden Smith in the movie reminds me of his dad–a whole lot of “cute” bravado(yuck). The film was very pro Chi-Com, not only with adoring pictures of Mao everywhere and a friendly look at the culture, but also a snide comment about how the US wastes energy by not controlling thermostats and China therefore cares more about global warming–what hypocricy considering the amount of pollution China spews! I found this film boringly predictable. I probably would have liked it if I were still 6, though.

Burke on June 11, 2010 at 10:38 pm

NY POST had a funny review about the Karate Kid. They said the movie made china look real clean instead of being really polluted as it is in real life. They said too that the original is better and people shouldn’t support this chinese propaganda. That if you want to get a feel for China than smoke 6 packs of cigarettes and hang out on Mott street.

spaceship22 on June 11, 2010 at 11:36 pm

Does this warmed over rehash sequel crap never end? I’m sick of these constant retreads of yesteryear. We don’t read rewritten books but we’ll lap up a redone movie, sequels ad nauseum, and movies made about old canceled TV shows. I’m insulted by these 2 releases–all that’s new this week. Oy!

Why do people drop money for this garbage? We must be pretty bored. We could be playing video games, watching reruns on TV or other such mind deadening activities like blogging and facebook or netsurfing.

Shy Goy on June 12, 2010 at 1:04 am

For some reason I used to love those old cheesy imported martial arts films. You had every variation of the Bruce Lee name in there too. The plots were almost as thin as a WWF bout but you knew the good from the bad from the ugly. Actually one Clint Eastwood western is based on a Chinese movie (very good I must add) basically scene for scene.
Locally we had a late night program where the audience used to vote for for the type of movie they wanted to see. The martial arts films always came in first. After a while they just renamed it Kung Fu Theatre.
One thing though, as cool as this gymnastic ballerina dancing pine board breaking looks in the movies and your local martial arts school, in real live hand to hand combat (I’m sure the guys in the military will agree) downright dirty brutality always wins.

theShadow on June 12, 2010 at 1:43 am

“The Chinese Communists run a brutal, repressive and totally controlled regime”

hahahah…u morons go visit china and then talk. i visited several times already and the ENERGY and OPTIMISM over there (especially when compared to the negativity over here) are amazing.

It’s like america was in the 1800s, when ANYTHING seemed possible. The place looks like it’s sprouting infrastructure. Shanghai went from having a couple subways to having around 10 subway lines IN TWO YEARS (and all the subways are much more modern than anything here). It has the world’s only magnetic levitation train commercially running, and the skyline of that city is MUCH better looking than NYC, and all the cars seem to be high end mercedes, BMWs, etc.

Go to Beijing and you’re greeted by the world’s largest airport, a humonguous structure that is the second largest roofed structure on the planet.

And the SCALE of their projects are incredible. China is planning on connecting by HIGH SPEED RAIL beijing/shanghai/singapore with europe and india, all the way to UK. You’ll be able to go by train from Beijing to London in TWO DAYS!

So, all you grumblers, why not take the time to visit China and see for yourselves what it’s become and becoming. You’ll be REALLY surprised.

Harry on June 12, 2010 at 4:24 pm

“if you want to get a feel for China than smoke 6 packs of cigarettes and hang out on Mott street.”

when i went to china 5 years ago (beijing) i could smell a chemical taint in the air going out of the airport because of all the industrialization going on. But when I went last month, there was no smell. It seems they’ve really started cleaning up, just like LA did awhile back.

You have to remember like any city, such places will not be as clean as the suburbs, but Beijing/Shanghai are cleaner than NYC and MUCH MUCH safer crimewise. You can actually walk in city parks at night and there’ll be children and old people walking with you.

Harry on June 12, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    So when are you moving there Harry? Oh, by the way, how did they achieve this great progress by imitating the west or being communists? And how much do they pay the west for the patents they use and the copyrights they reproduce? There’s imitation and there’s creation Harry. Since, in your view political repression is so unimportant, would please tell that to our hysterical liberals every time they falsely describe the Patriot Act and the Arizona law enforcing the national law on illegal immigration. Or should I assume you’ve already corrected their mistaken commitment to civil rights. Let me know how you like living there, and how it goes when you’re suspected/arrested for a crime like disagreeing with the government. How silly George Orwell was for writing 1984, right? We all should love Big Brother! (You forgot to add that the trains run on time.)

    David O. on June 13, 2010 at 3:14 pm

and if you want to get a feel for china, GO THERE YOURSELF instead of parroting what others think (who themselves haven’t been there or been there in awhile – like, since a couple years back). you’ll be amazed like i said.

the streets in that movie actually are fairly representative of what shanghai looked like last month. crowded streets, lotsa motorbikes (who never seem to follow traffic regulations), some dilapidated working area neighborhoods, plus very large buildings growing like weeds.

Harry on June 12, 2010 at 4:31 pm

oh, and btw, the karate i kid is KILLING the a-team at the box office, and surprising everyone.


Harry on June 12, 2010 at 4:33 pm

‘the A-Team” is AWESOME. Had me cheering a couple times, no islamo-pandering and the 2X kaffiyeh use is justified in the plot. This is definitely not a chick-flick and HAS ZERO APPEAL FOR ANY AND ALL WOMEN OF ANY AGE. BACKGROUND OR DISPOSITION. It’s just pure action, explosions, stunts and old-time god guy/bad guy fun for boys of all ages. No romance, no “tender guy” moments, no tear-jerking, no T&A, it’s just a high-tech ad big-budget version of the series which is exactly what I wanted it to be.


DS_ROCKS! on June 12, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    Because God knows it’s part of women’s genetic code to not like explosions; if we did, we’d all turn into lesbians or something.

    hellcat on June 14, 2010 at 9:54 am

I liked the original A Team show even though it was funny, campy and, well, pretty formulaic. That being said, I don’t know if I’ll watch this one.

As for Karate Kid, I saw the original and after talking to real-life martial arts instructors, I doubt i’ll see this one.

Why does Hollywood keep boring us with remakes?

Richard on June 13, 2010 at 1:51 am

I was a huge fan of the original A-Team series, although I cooled on it when it got a bit older because the idea that you could spray machine guns, grenades, rockets, flamethrowers etc. without killing anybody (whether bad guys or innocent passerby) disturbed me.

But comparing the A-Team then to what Hollywood produces now is like going to a completely different country. Back then, it was OK/cool/desirable to be a man’s man, masculine. Hollywood depicted males as capable of being physically strong, mentally acute (or even brilliant) and morally principled all that the same time, where today any male character with a hint of masculinity is either evil, a total idiot or a Muslim. And even in the A-Team and Rambo (the A-Team was sort of a Rambo ripoff) where there were some anti-military or anti-establishment themes, it was clear who the good guys were (us, including generally our military) and the bad guys were. Not today, where Hollywood sends all these muddled messages that claim to be “complex” when the truth is that it really pains them to depict white, heterosexual American males who don’t have radical political beliefs as “good guys”, because the truth is that these types really do believe that mainstream America is the biggest threat to the planet … that mainstream Americans are racist, misogynistic, homophobic and destroying the world with global warming. That’s why even all the police shows HAVE to make police corruption/brutality an integral part of the plot, and why we no longer get superheroes, but dark, brooding self-destructive borderline criminals themselves antihero types like “Iron Man”, the new “Batman” movies, and even the last “Spider-Man” had to turn Peter Parker into a vengeful, violent jerk who “accidentally” smacks around his fiancee.

And of course, most of this nonsense doesn’t make money at the boxoffice. Look at “Watchmen” last year or “Kick-*@#$” this year … the critics were devastated that mainstream America wasn’t “sophisticated and intelligent” enough to accept movies who push the worldview that the average American isn’t that much worse than a violent criminal.

Another example: take the “Star Trek” movie last year. Now granted, the movie was A TON of fun to watch, and I also found the (Marxist Freudian) pretenses of the original “Star Trek” to be revolting, and was very glad that the new Star Trek movie was absent it. But I couldn’t help noticing how except maybe for the new Sulu, the new actors playing the Star Trek guys were wispy, even effete. I was thinking, geesh, doesn’t “Star Fleet” require its guys to at least VISIT an exercise room so Uhura (especially the original one Nichelle Nichols, who is like 6 feet tall) wouldn’t be able to tear them apart in a fight? And why did they have to depict Kirk and Spock as overgrown children, complete with the temper tantrums and kindergarten fist-fights because someone said something bad about their mommy? Hollywood has so much invested in promoting homosexual men that they are either uninterested in – or despite – real ones.

So THAT is why Hollywood is remaking so many 80s movies and TV shows. The 80s were the last time when Hollywood was actually capable of producing stuff that appealed to mainstream audiences … when most of the country actually WATCHED network television and when Hollywood blockbusters actually made money in middle America. (Go look at the list of all time Hollywood blockbusters BY NUMBER OF TICKETS SOLD to see what I am talking about.)

Gerald on June 13, 2010 at 6:25 pm

Good insights, Gerald. The recent movie MacGruber supports all your main ideas–except that the masculine character of 80s films is parodied as homophilic posing.

Burke on June 14, 2010 at 8:08 am

wow…i think it’s funny that you people read what this woman has to say. she and her cronies are the prime example of why our country is full of idiotic dolts with low GPA’s and even lower class. we can’t even buy respect from any other country on this earth…sad.

Yep on June 25, 2010 at 12:17 am

Just thought you might want to get your facts straight. Keffiyehs aren’t “scarves of Islamic hate” they promote justice in Palestine.

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