Top One Movie of the Week: The A-Team, The Karate Kid, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, and Winter’s Bone

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Our critics choose between The A-Team, The Karate Kid, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, and Winter’s Bone.

Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly in Winter's Bone

The A-Team

SCOTT: Apparently I woke up in 1984 this morning, as I find myself in a world where The A-Team and The Karate Kid are my newest entertainment options. I guess we should count our blessings that there’s no Purple Rain remake starring Justin Bieber hitting theaters. Let’s start with The A-Team, the latest long-extinct television show to be exhumed by Hollywood and retooled for the big screen. Call me crazy, but I think this one just might work. Maybe it’s just that I’m in the mood for a throwback meat-and-potatoes action movie, and since The Expendables isn’t due for another couple of months, this will have to do. I know it’s not because I was any huge fan of director Joe Carnahan‘s last effort, Smokin’ Aces, although Carnahan showed some flair for stylish action with 2002’s Narc. Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, and District 9‘s Sharlto Copley are all well-cast, although I pity the fool who finds "Rampage" Jackson an adequate replacement for Mr. T (who was apparently too busy playing World of Warcraft to contribute a cameo). And you? Do you love it when a plan comes together?

ANDREW: I’m not gonna lie: I have been known to enjoy a plan coming together in my time. Specifically, Tuesday nights during high school when I didn’t have anything better to do than watch the original A-Team‘s curious strain of family-friendly violence (wherein a helicopter would explode against a mountain and crash to the ground… followed by a shot of the pilot staggering away from the wreck with nothing more than hurt pride, like a live-action Wile E. Coyote). But even back then, I wasn’t exactly a fan of the show — it’s just that it was entertaining enough to keep me from flipping to AfterMASH. Plus, in a conundrum I will herewith dub The Dukes of Hazzard Anomaly, part of the show’s appeal was its cheesy low-budget charm… which completely disappears in a CGI-drenched big-budget loudfest. And speaking of charm, not only is Jackson no T, but in my humble opinion, George Peppard as original team leader Hannibal Smith had a mischievous, self-aware B-movie swagger that I simply can’t imagine Neeson matching, no matter how fiercely he chomps his cigars.


The Karate Kid

ANDREW: As for The Karate Kid, I got tired of that franchise way before Hilary Swank started waxing off. Yet, if there has to be another one, Jaden Smith makes for an appealing protagonist, and it’s refreshing to see Jackie Chan playing it straight (and not throwing his old ass off buildings) for a change. At the same time, while the trailer seems to indicate competent craftsmanship, I have strong reservations about any film directed by Harald Zwart, the man who brought us Pink Panther 2, Agent Cody Banks, and parts one and two of Lange flate ballær (a.k.a. Long Flat Balls).

SCOTT: I’m not sure how I missed the Long Flat Balls series, but the rest of Mr. Zwart’s filmography would be enough to put me off the new Karate Kid even if I had any nostalgia for the original movies… which I really don’t. Always nice to see an inspiring rags-to-riches story like Jaden Smith, though.


Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

SCOTT: I can’t say I’ve ever been much of a Joan Rivers fan, but that’s not to say that this documentary on a year in the life of the Joker-faced septuagenarian comedian is without interest. By all accounts, A Piece of Work is an honest exploration of the dark side of show business, celebrity, and plastic surgery, and the subject has certainly had an interesting enough life to make for a compelling documentary, even if her stand-up style happens to grate on me. I’m sure the presence of your wife’s hero Kathy Griffin ensures your attendance on opening night, but if you had your druthers, is this the sort of thing that might interest you?

ANDREW: Actually, the wife and I caught a screening of Piece of Work a few weeks ago at the Independent Film Festival of Boston, and even though Ms. Griffin only has a few brief testimonials, I have no qualms about nominating the film as my Top One Movie of the Week. Why, you may ask? Why champion an entire documentary about a human Spitting Image puppet best known in recent years for sad, terrible TV Guide Channel red-carpet fiasco-tainment and The Celebrity Apprentice? Well, two reasons, I guess (besides the flat-out adorableness of whichever of the film’s two directors did the Q&A at IFFB — I’m thinking it was Anne Sundberg, but it may have been her collaborator, Ricki Stern… although I’m sure they’re both equally delightful). First… have you actually seen any of Joan Rivers’ stand-up recently? Much to my surprise, the septuagenarian not only kills, but her act is way sharper (and dirtier) than America’s octogenerian sweetheart Betty White talking about her muffin on SNL. Plus, as a tribute to the spunk and determination of showbiz lifers in general (and one funny old pioneering broad in particular), the film simply warmed the cockles of my heart (and even inspired a moment of pity for Rivers’ long-suffering daughter, Melissa).


Winter’s Bone

ANDREW: And yet, even without Skype I can sense you rolling your eyes at the prospect of spending even a brief eighty-four minutes with the Rivers family, so instead I’ll move on to a title I’m sure Joan would have a field day with: Winter’s Bone. This recent Sundance fave, about a spunky Ozark Mountain teen searching for her drug-dealin’ pa, sounds downright gritty and twang-tastic, which may theoretically be Hick Flick music to your ears.

SCOTT: You’ve read my mind, although it’s not merely the juicy hixploitation elements that have me interested in director Debra Granik‘s follow-up to her debut Down to the Bone. (Yes, apparently she only makes movies with "bone" in the title.) Not only did it win the Grand Jury Prize and the Screenwriting Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, it also features a couple of my old Deadwood favorites, John Hawkes and Garret Dillahunt, in supporting roles, and Jennifer Lawrence is said to give a star-making performance as the aforementioned Ozark teen. So even though there’s a better chance I’ll be seeing The A-Team this weekend (since Winter’s Bone is opening in limited release and probably won’t get to my neck of the woods for a while), that won’t stop me from making this my official pick for the week.

Andrew’s Top One Movie of the Week: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

Scott’s Top One Movie of the Week: Winter’s Bone