The A-Team - Explosive Extended Triple Play Edition Blu-ray Review
The A-Team rolls onto Region Free UK Blu-ray with an excellent 1080p High Definition video presentation in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.35:1. Detail is great throughout, from the close-ups that show the dirty, battle-scarred, unshaven faces of the lead characters, to the longer landscape shots. Arguably the detail is actually too good, as it often makes the silly CG sequences stand out even more. Thankfully there’s no sign of edge enhancement, digital defects or softness, the movie having a light sheen of suitably filmic grain evident throughout. The colour scheme is broad, from the opening faux-Mexican setting, complete with sunny, dusty backdrops, to the modernised cityscapes and colourful dock setup. Colours are vibrant throughout, and black levels are solid, allowing for seemingly endlessly deep shadowing. The only thing I could really find fault with is the presence of some minor banding, but really it’s a minor complaint, and this movie certainly looks the part of an expensive summer blockbuster.
On the aural front we get an equally standout DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio track which will likely rock your living room, from the thumping main theme and rock-driven soundtracks, to the numerous, successively extravagant effects sequences – complete with explosions and gunfire which will truly trouble your eardrums. Dialogue is always given priority over the frontal array wherever appropriate, but this track is definitely not about subtlety, and all about the bombastic effects and punchy soundtrack. Seriously, you will feel every thump of the shells being fired by the tank, and even if you're not able to tell where the bullets are coming from, you'll be cowering from cover as they hail down, and as the huge containers threaten to rain down on your head. And even during the quieter moments the score picks up the slack and keeps the speakers engaged and engaging. It’s certainly not a well-nuanced track, and does not always seem balanced, but it is generally a superior aural offering, and pretty perfect for this kind of noisy summer blockbuster.
The A-Team comes blasting to Blu-ray with a 3-disc set, but actually only the first disc is a Blu-ray, holding two copies of the movie, together with all of the extras. The second disc is a DVD copy of the movie, and the third is a Digital copy.
The Devil’s in the Details: Inside the Action with Joe Carnahan is basically a Maximum Movie Mode contribution, introduced by the Director, who then offers up a running Audio Commentary, occasionally taking us out of the movie for a full-screen offering, and discussing everything from the effects, to the cast, to bringing the much loved characters to life on the Big Screen. When the behind the scenes footage takes centre stage it is quite interesting to see the various preparations and rehearsals, but all of the talk of locations, who shot what and the more technical stuff really does drag after a while. Carnahan is still quite affable, and the PIP track does benefit from having lots of on-screen interactive stuff on offer (you can click on little gun/vehicle icons to check out specifications on the various weapons used) to keep you busy during Carnahan’s narration.
Deleted Scenes for this package are massively limited. Even though there are six on offer, apparently totalling some extra 9 minutes of footage, basically there’s very little new: they just show you an entire scene – which you would have already seen – which happens to have an extra line of dialogue in the middle. I think there’s only one actual new scene, with Hannibal talking to Face about being set up, but even that is totally unnecessary.
Gag Reel runs at a further 7 minutes and is actually quite watchable and funny. It is quite apparent from this that the majority of cast members had a great deal of fun making this movie (just a shame they don’t show this in the final cut). Lots of line fluffs, difficulty playing it straight, and even a few silly faces from the old 80s A-Team crew, during their cameo moments.
A-Team Theme Mash-Up Montage basically gives you a 96-second montage of all of the explosions, action, and funny lines from the movie, fast-edited to the original 80s A-Team theme.
Plan of Action is a half-hour Making-Of Documentary, again largely helmed by Directed Joe Carnahan, who takes us through his experience on the production, talking about how he compares his work to that of Chris Nolan on Batman Begins, how he wanted to make this a ‘serious’ actioner, and how he allowed some of the cast to improvise their lines, and bringing in all of the main cast and crew members for soundbite contributions whilst behind the scenes and on-set footage play out in the background. There are lots of effects comparison shots, some footage of the cast filming the scenes, and some behind the scenes stunt action, but there are also quite a few overlaps with the PIP track. If you enjoyed the movie, it’s worth checking out.
Character Chronicles is a 23-minute offering split into Liam Neeson: When a Plan Comes Together; Bradley Cooper: Fully Automatic; On Set with Rampage Jackson; and On Set with Sharlto Copley. It takes you through each of the characters, looking at what they brought to the modern updates, and how they injected them with some aspects of the classic 80s entities, with cast soundbites and the Director always on hand to offer his opinion. With more behind the scenes footage than final film footage playing out in the background, this is a decent enough accompanying selection for the main Documentary, and has some nice anecdotes on offer – Neeson talking about learning how to smoke cigars, Cooper discussing his training with the M4 assault rifle and so forth.
Visual Effects Before and After with Commentary by Visual Effects Supervisor James E. Price gives you an all-too brief 6-minute comparison of several key visual effects shots within the movie, with explanations (both visual and aural) showing the aspects of the shots that were done using effects. This is actually quite interesting, but they could have certainly spent more time on this subject and presented it better.
Finally we get the Theatrical Trailer to round off the disc.
I have fond memories of The A-Team TV series, but I had absolutely no problems with them cashing in on the show’s nostalgia and rebooting it for the Big Screen. Hell, I welcomed another macho team-based ensemble action movie, even if it was the third of its kind to hit the screens in Summer 2010. The trouble is, despite a solid cast, capable Director and decent budget, this plan just doesn’t come together, and 6 elaborate escapes, 2 grand heists and a magic trick (involving juggling CG ship containers, no less) later and you realise that there was very little there in the first place to hold it all together. The characterisation wavers between serious and caricatures of the old 80s TV show; the story is identical to the much earlier-penned The Losers, only made for a bigger budget (which just means that you have to put up with over two hours of dumb action, instead of a tolerable ninety minutes) and the acclaimed Director – who worked such wonders with a low budget in Narc and Smokin’ Aces – appears to have just gotten distracted by all the money, and consequently invested far too much in some rather distracting and unnecessary CG work, most of which would have better suited a Toy Story entry. I may have been most disappointed with The Expendables this year, but that was only because it didn’t reach my high expectations – I had no expectations when it came to The A-Team, and it still failed to capture my attention. Honestly, my favourite ensemble team-based action movie of the year was the underrated, and downright fun, The Losers, which had far more heart. But if you want true quality, and a sort-of team based actioner, you could always go for Chris Nolan’s thinking-man’s blockbuster, Inception.
On Region Free UK Blu-ray we get a solid package which sports the Theatrical Cut, the superior (although not enough to redeem the movie in any way) Extended Edition, superb video and bombastic audio, and a decent selection of extras, which should keep fans occupied for some time. It also comes with a DVD copy and a Digital copy of the movie, and hits the shops two weeks before its US counterpart. And did I mention it’s Region Free? Yes, this is definitely the version to pick up if you enjoy this movie, even if my recommendation would be to rent this movie, and instead pick up a cheap copy of The Losers instead, just wait around for the imminent Director’s Cut of The Expendables (Stallone has shown himself capable of decent, different Director’s Cuts), or go a completely different route, and pick up the smart actioner Inception instead. However, with the Christmas season looming and presents becoming an issue, I can see how The A-Team could tempt as an explosive package. But you really have to ask yourself how much rewatch value is in this particular turkey.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99
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