#311. Vampire Hunters

Of all the fictional monsters that have permeated our popular culture, vampires are both the hardest and easiest to kill. Their superhuman abilities already make them a formidable threat to the safety of the populace, but add to this their nigh-invulnerability to traditional weapons and now you have an undead monster that cannot be killed. Much like zombies, though, vampires have a few simple weaknesses that can make them easy to vanquish. Simple things like silver and sunlight can solve a vampire problem, much like fire and headshots clean up a zombie mess. That being said, even with these simple weapons at our disposal, vampires are cunning creatures and have ways to avoid being killed. This week’s two films focus on the vampire hunters who have been trained to dispatch vampires straight to hell.

                                           Abraham Lincoln: Vampire HunterAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Year: 2012
Rating: R
Length: 105 minutes / 1.75 hours

The nice thing about history not being all-inclusive is that certain ideas can be implied that help to explain away some of the lesser-known causes of world-changing events. Much like the National Treasure franchise links together moments from American history in an entertaining way, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) takes the well-known history of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War and puts a vampiric twist on it. After all, if you have a character who has a nickname of “rail splitter,” then what better way to kill vampires than to decapitate them with a silver-bladed axe? It helps to have an understood lore of vampires in order to smoothly integrate it with an alternate view of history. After all, sometimes what we know about history and what we know about vampires can be combined into an interesting “what if” story.

Upon seeking revenge for the death of his mother, Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) discovers that her supposed poisoning was actually the effects of being bitten by a vampire. Said vampire, Jack Barts (Marton Csokas) nearly kills Lincoln, but is stopped by Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper). Sturgess sees potential in Lincoln and soon gives him the tools and skills necessary to dispatch a vampire like Barts. Years later, Lincoln finally kills Barts, but not before learning that Sturgess is also a vampire who was turned into this form by Adam (Rufus Sewell), the first vampire on American soil. Adam has set up his immortal kingdom in the southern states of the country, mostly because of the almost unlimited access to the blood of the slaves. After giving up the life of a vampire hunter, now President Lincoln sees the Civil War for what it really is and can now use it to eradicate vampires from his country.

Van HelsingVan Helsing
Year: 2004
Rating: PG-13
Length: 131 minutes / 2.18 hours

Most of what we know about vampires came from Bram Stoker’s gothic novel, Dracula. Not only did this book cover the powers of these blood-sucking beasts, but it also gave insight into how to kill them. The leading authority on vampire hunting from this book was none other than Abraham Van Helsing. His knowledge of how to take down vampires has made him the de facto and original vampire hunter. Consequently, the name Van Helsing is eponymous with vampire hunting, even if the characters based on him aren’t exactly the same as the one from the novel. Case in point, Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) from the 2004 action film, Van Helsing, has a different origin story than Abraham Van Helsing, but still maintains his expert skill at dispatching vampires, as well as any number of paranormal creatures.

Employed by the Catholic church to hunt and kill monsters, Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) would be haunted by the deaths of many of these killings, were it not for his amnesia preventing him from remembering them. Upon his arrival back at the Vatican after dispatching Mr. Hyde (Robbie Coltrane), Van Helsing learns that his next mission is to take out Dracula (Richard Roxburgh), who has already partnered with Victor Frankenstein (Samuel West) to execute a nefarious scheme. Once in Transylvania, the minions of Dracula, including a werewolf and a number of vampire brides, hinder Van Helsing’s progress. Along the way, he finds Frankenstein’s monster (Shuler Hensley) and stays his killing strike once he learns the reanimated corpse isn’t evil. Because of his mercy, he learns of Dracula’s plan to reanimate an army of vampire children. Now it’s up to him to stop the plan and kill Dracula.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 vampire vanquishers

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#310. Abraham Lincoln

When you think of iconic American Presidents, who comes to mind? George Washington? Thomas Jefferson? Teddy Roosevelt? I would almost wager that Abraham Lincoln is easily the most recognizable of the Presidents. While he did not help found the country like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson did, he was the one President who helped to unite a country after it fell apart at the seams during his presidency. Consequently, and in part due to his assassination, Lincoln is revered as one of the best Presidents this country has ever had. It’s no wonder we have memorials for him across Washington D.C., his image emblazoned on our currency, and his face carved out of the side of a mountain. Of course, since Lincoln was almost bigger than life in reality, as a fictional character he carries nearly the same amount of clout. This week’s two films focus on different interpretations of Abraham Lincoln.

LincolnLincoln
Year: 2012
Rating: PG-13
Length: 150 minutes / 2.5 hours

Because the Civil War dominated Lincoln’s presidency, there are many sections of this American conflict that could be used as a backdrop for a biographical film. In part due to the vast amount of information collected about this war, it can be difficult to do the entirety of it any justice in the running time of a modern film. Many documentaries and miniseries have spent countless hours covering Lincoln and the Civil War, but if just one moment was to be the focus of a film about Lincoln, what would it be? Is it the Emancipation Proclamation? The Gettysburg Address? His first or second campaign for President? As is usually the case with many historical figures killed before their time, the events leading up to his death give a gripping and dramatic representation of a President who was tired of dealing with the Civil War.

Despite passing a war-time measure to free the slaves through the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) finds that what he has done in good conscience may be overturned once the war is over. Wanting to make the Proclamation permanent, he proposes the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which will be a final measure to abolish slavery in the United States. While it would be easier to ratify upon the meeting of the newly-elected Congress, the Civil War is likely to be finished by then, allowing the reacquired southern states to vote on the Amendment. Consequently, Lincoln wants to pass this Amendment quickly, but the rapidly upcoming peace negotiations with the Confederacy give many Congressmen pause; since it might be likely that a provision for peace would be to keep slavery in the South. With the Amendment finally up for a vote, Lincoln’s legacy lies in the hands of his Congress.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire HunterAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Year: 2012
Rating: R
Length: 105 minutes / 1.75 hours

Even the best biographical films about Abraham Lincoln are bound to have their historical accuracy questioned somewhere along the line. Some of these films are made with entertainment in mind, as was the case with Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), which used Henry Fonda in the titular role to enact Lincoln’s “origin story.” But what if the lack of historical accuracy was not an issue? There are enough themes and motifs surrounding Lincoln’s persona that he could be used as a fictional character. Since he’s so ingrained in American history, films like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009) can use the historical Lincoln as a fictional character. And yet, none of these films ever come quite as close to re-writing the former President’s history than Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) does.

As a young boy, Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) holds onto the pain of losing his mother by vowing to kill her supposed murderer, Jack Barts (Marton Csokas). Almost a decade later, he attempts to get his revenge; but is almost killed when he learns that Barts is a vampire. His salvation comes in the form of Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), who helps train Lincoln into a vampire hunter. Upon his successful completion of vampire hunter training, Lincoln finally manages to kill Barts, but not before he learns that Sturgess is also a vampire. At this point, Lincoln decides to quit his life as a vampire hunter and take up the mantle of politics to create the change he wants in the world. When the Civil War comes into full swing, Lincoln knows the Confederacy is using vampires to fight its battles. Sending all available silver to his Union troops, Lincoln decides to personally handle the head vampire himself.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 adaptations of Abraham Lincoln

#309. Daniel Day-Lewis

Have you ever noticed that some actors seem to be in every critically-acclaimed movie? I’m not talking about the actors who win a lot of awards, but then also do some “low brow” comedies on the side. I’m referring to the actors who just seem to have a higher standard for the work they do. They usually aren’t the most prolific actors, but often they are the most awarded actors. It’s almost as if they have perfected the craft of acting and will only take on roles that they know will bring them the praise of critics and audiences alike. Daniel Day-Lewis certainly seems to fit into this category of actor. While he has appeared in more films in the early part of his career, lately his roles have been a little more spread out, but have earned him many accolades, regardless. This week’s two films highlight some of Daniel Day-Lewis’ most notable roles.

Gangs of New YorkGangs of New York
Year: 2002
Rating: R
Length: 167 minutes / 2.78 hours

Even though Daniel Day-Lewis has won multiple Oscars, there are still a few films where he was nominated for Best Actor and didn’t win the honor. It’s probably useful to note that these films were also nominated for Best Picture, but also lost to other movies. His first loss was to Tom Hanks in 1993 (for Hanks’ role in Philadelphia), despite a solid performance in In the Name of the Father (which itself lost to Schindler’s List). Fortunately, the only other time he didn’t win a nomination was in 2002 for his role in Gangs of New York (losing to Adrien Brody in The Pianist and the film losing to Chicago). Of course, Gangs of New York also garnered Martin Scorsese a nomination for Best Director. The only other time Day-Lewis and Scorsese worked together was for the period piece, The Age of Innocence (1993).

In Gangs of New York, Daniel Day-Lewis portrays William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting, a man whose violent tendencies crushed a rival gang of Irish immigrants led by a Catholic priest (Liam Neeson). Having no trouble cutting up animals or men, his intimidating persona managed to keep the neighborhoods of lower Manhattan in a state of fearful peace for sixteen years. In the midst of the Civil War, a man by the name of Amsterdam (Leonardo DiCaprio) arrives in New York and starts to stir up some trouble, becoming involved with William M. Tweed (Jim Broadbent), the boss of the newest rival gang to Bill’s “Natives.” As it turns out, Amsterdam has a connection to the previous gang war and it doesn’t take long for Bill to figure out who he was related to. Instead of running away to San Francisco, Amsterdam officially challenges Bill to a fight, which he accepts to his own peril.

LincolnLincoln
Year: 2012
Rating: PG-13
Length: 150 minutes / 2.5 hours

No other actor has won three Best Actor Oscars. Walter Brennan won three Best Supporting Actor statues, but everyone knows the highest honor comes with Best Actor. Daniel Day-Lewis has achieved this feat with only five nominations to his name. Even before he won his first Best Actor Oscar, he appeared in the Best Picture, Gandhi (1982). He would then go on to win his acting Oscars in the Best Picture nominees, My Left Foot (1989), There Will Be Blood (2007), and Lincoln (2012). Perhaps due to his first Oscar coming from My Left Foot, Day-Lewis collaborated with director Jim Sheridan twice more for In the Name of the Father (which earned him an aforementioned acting nomination) and The Boxer (1997). Still, it’s his performance in Lincoln that pushed his name into Hollywood history for having earned three Best Actor Oscars.

While the gang wars of New York were coming to a head in 1863, Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) made a definitive move in turning the tide of the Civil War by passing the Emancipation Proclamation. Unfortunately, now that he sees the end of the Civil War quickly approaching, he realizes that this wartime executive order might not stand up to legal scrutiny once the war is over. In order to keep the effects of the Proclamation permanent, he proposes the Thirteenth Amendment. This Amendment to the Constitution has a difficult road to ratification, considering the 16th President of the United States wants to have it approved before the end of the war so that the southern states re-joining the Union won’t be able to deny its passage and the freedoms it provides to slaves across the nation. It’s up to the men of Congress to ensure that Lincoln’s legacy remains intact, despite a sporty deadline quickly approaching.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 different Daniel Day-Lewis characters

Bacon #: 2 (Lincoln / Tommy Lee Jones -> JFK / Kevin Bacon)

#308. One-eyed Villains

What is it about one-eyed villains that make them so intimidating? Maybe it has to do with their connection to the brutal and merciless pirates who often wore eyepatches (although not necessarily because their eye was damaged). While there have been a number of protagonists who have also sported the one-eye motif, but it merely enforces the tough and unstoppable stereotype. Even if most of these characters wear eye patches to cover their damaged eye, the antagonists who go without them end up being that much more intimidating. It’s almost like they wear their defective vision as a badge of honor, showing that it will take much more than a simple flesh wound to stop them from whatever they put their mind to. Perhaps these villains are a metaphor for the singular vision they hold, staying focused on one thing and one thing only. This week’s two films feature one-eyed villains.

Casino RoyaleCasino Royale
Year: 2006
Rating: PG-13
Length: 144 minutes / 2.4 hours

I would be amiss if I did not mention one of the most iconic one-eyed villains ever: Ernst Stavro Blofeld. This villain was not only a key antagonist of the James Bond series, but he has created a number of tropes as well, the most notable parody of them being Dr. Evil (Michael Myers) from the Austin Powers series. Despite his damaged eye only appearing in a few films, Blofeld as a villain appeared in From Russia with Love (1963), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), For Your Eyes Only (1981), and Spectre (2015). The latter of these films actually shows the incident where he loses his eye, mainly because the Daniel Craig James Bond films are seen as a prequel series. Of course, before they got to Blofeld, there was Le Chiffre in Casino Royale (2006).

Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) earned his considerable wealth through a number of unscrupulous dealings in the underworld. From funding terrorism to insider trading, eventually, the leadership of MI-6 takes notice. After unknowingly foiling a short-sell strategy Le Chiffre was using to fund a Ugandan warlord, James Bond (Daniel Craig) is sent to Montenegro to participate in a high-stakes Texas hold ‘em tournament that Le Chiffre decided to put on to recoup his losses. In terms of poker faces, Le Chiffre has one of the better ones, even despite having haemolacria in his left eye, which causes him to cry blood. After losing a significant amount of money to Bond, Le Chiffre eventually captures the British secret agent and tries to torture the bank account numbers out of him, but to no avail. When the rescue party comes to get Bond, Le Chiffre is killed in the process. However, his influences within MI-6 start to show well after his death.

Gangs of New YorkGangs of New York
Year: 2002
Rating: R
Length: 167 minutes / 2.78 hours

While wearing an eyepatch can give an intimidation factor to a character, I’ve found that the most interesting characters are the ones who are hiding something underneath that small piece of fabric. From the protagonist of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the antagonist of King Bradley from Fullmetal Alchemist, their patches covered up the secrets emblazoned on their eyes. I almost wish that there were more characters like this. When it comes to replacing a damaged eye, filling it with a symbol creates a character with a lot more depth than just someone who happens to be wearing an eyepatch. In fact, the best example of a character like this is none other than “Bill the Butcher” from Gangs of New York (2002). He has nothing to hide except his almost insane devotion to his country, and he wears it with pride on his left eye.

William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis) leads a group of Americans who call themselves “The Natives” in a gang war against a recent influx of Irish immigrants in the area of Lower Manhattan known as “Five Points.” He is fiercely nationalistic, even to the point of having a glass eye emblazoned with an American eagle set in his left eye socket. Despite having killed Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson), the leader of the “Dead Rabbits,” sixteen years ago, Bill finds that some of the Irish immigrants start to get out of line again when a man merely known as Amsterdam (Leonardo DiCaprio) arrives in New York. Eventually, Bill learns that Amsterdam is the son of Priest Vallon, and the cycle of gang wars reaches its climax once again, but this time with a much different outcome for Bill than the one that happened years ago.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 vision-impaired villains

#307. Card Games

If you have a deck of cards, you can have endless hours of fun. There are numerous solitaire games you can play, but if you have a group of friends with you, there are even more games you can play with these 52 cards. Whenever I would go camping with the Boy Scouts, especially on longer trips like summer camp or to Philmont, we found the weight of a deck of cards could entertain us night after night in a variety of ways. Even though there are plenty of games that can be played with a deck of cards, a few have entered into the collective mindset of our popular culture, becoming almost ubiquitous in terms of the general populous immediately knowing the rules of play. Consequently, some of these games easily lend themselves to gambling, which in turn provides room for drama. This week’s two films feature card games as part of their plot.

MaverickMaverick
Year: 1994
Rating: PG
Length: 127 minutes /  2.11 hours

Some card games aren’t necessarily based on the luck of the draw. Take blackjack, for instance. In films like 21 (2008) or Rain Man (1988), we see that an in-depth knowledge of the cards that have been played, combined with a knowledge of which cards remain, can result in some solid outcomes with sizeable winnings. While the drama of these card games comes from trying not to get caught by the casino, the drama in card games like poker come with the people playing the game. While much of poker is determined by the luck of the draw, the human element of reading people’s reactions and being able to bluff effectively are what make this game a little more interesting. Of course, I’m speaking in the strictly theatrical sense of interesting, since most of the professional poker I’ve seen has been pretty boring.

Based on the television show of the same name, Maverick (1994) follows the eponymous Bret Maverick (Mel Gibson) as he sets out to prove that he can play five-card draw poker better than anyone else in the world. Unfortunately, the tournament he plans to enter has a hefty entrance fee, so he sets out to collect on some debts to make up the difference. Since he is not the only person in town who wants to enter the tournament, he soon runs across rival poker players, Angel (Alfred Molina) and Annabelle Bransford (Jodie Foster). While Angel has his reasons for keeping Maverick from playing in the tournament, Annabelle teams up with Maverick to “earn” enough money for both of them to enter via a con involving a Russian Grand Duke. Once the cards are dealt and the hands are played, four players remain, of which three of them are Angel, Bransford, and Maverick. Who will emerge as the victor?

Casino RoyaleCasino Royale
Year: 2006
Rating: PG-13
Length: 144 minutes / 2.4 hours

One of the problems with so many different types of card games is that inevitably there are some which are less well known, and thus much more difficult to find someone to play with. Of course, much of this has to do with the unyielding march of time. In the past, many card games were well known because it was all that people really had for in-home entertainment. With no internet, video games, or smartphones, these people learned how to fully use a deck of cards. This is why, when Casino Royale was first written by Sir Ian Fleming, the card game James Bond played was Baccarat, but when the film was rebooted in 2006, the film version of Casino Royal featured Texas hold ‘em poker, itself a variant of the poker featured in Maverick but used mostly due to its cultural popularity at the time the film was released.

Through a mission in Madagascar, James Bond (Daniel Craig) follows a trail of clues that leads him to the Bahamas and eventually Miami, where he foils a plot to destroy an airliner built by Skyfleet. Since this plot was meant to double the investment of black market financier, Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), Bond’s interference forces Le Chiffre to organize a high-stakes Texas hold ‘em tournament in Montenegro’s Casino Royale. MI6 sees this as an opportunity to capture Le Chiffre and obtain information about his creditors by bankrupting him through the game, which itself requires $10 million to even sit at the table. While Bond takes an early lead, he eventually loses everything and must scramble to find a new financier. Luckily for him, he gets an infusion of funds that he uses to win everything, but at the cost of his immediate safety as the action ramps up to an exciting conclusion.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 poker-based plots

#306. Based on TV

The rallying cry of fans of the TV series, Community was “Six seasons and a movie.” While playing to an established fan-base is a wise move for movie producers, sometimes striking a nostalgic chord with audiences is the better path to success. Sure, there have been plenty of movies based off of TV shows which have also featured the original cast, but sometimes a reinterpretation with modern actors gives the concept a fresh feel. That’s not to say that the movies based off of TV shows that feature the original cast (a la the Star Trek films before 2009) are bad, it’s just that an original take on the themes and motifs of the TV show makes the movie feel more like a standalone story, instead of just an extended TV episode. This week’s two films were based off of television shows but did not feature the shows’ original cast.

The A-TeamThe A-Team
Year: 2010
Rating: PG-13
Length: 117 minutes / 1.95 hours

Clearly, the wave of nostalgia for those people who grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s is what has inundated Hollywood with the plethora of TV show adaptations. Starting around 2004, the trend to bring these television shows from the golden era of television has only continued. Films like Starsky & Hutch (2004), Bewitched (2005), and The Dukes of Hazzard (2005) all played as standard comedies, albeit updated to the comedic styles and tastes of the new millennium. A couple of years later, we saw these adaptations gain steam again with such films as Get Smart (2008), Land of the Lost (2009), and Dark Shadows (2012) leading the pack. Of course, none of these films were that great. Occasionally audiences would get a treat with such fantastic films like The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015), but these were rare. Most films were campy throwbacks, much like The A-Team (2010).

Acting as an origin story for the eponymous “A-Team”, this film modernizes the original premise behind the television show. “In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum-security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire… the A-Team.” Instead of taking place in 1972, these commandos were shown to be Army Ranger veterans from the Iraq war. Upon being framed for a botched mission involving U.S. Treasury plates, these four men set about to find the man behind their wrongful incarceration and manage to bring him to justice.

MaverickMaverick
Year: 1994
Rating: PG
Length: 127 minutes /  2.11 hours

Even before Hollywood began marketing on the nostalgia of comedic television shows, they had already adapted a few films to prove that the concept worked. What’s interesting about these earlier adaptations from TV was that they almost were able to maintain their own notoriety apart from the source material on which it was based. Films like The Fugitive (1993) earned Oscar nominations for Best Picture, whereas Mission: Impossible (1996) spawned a five-film franchise. Even newer adaptations like Star Trek (2009) have been able to cash in on the popularity of its fan-base, even if most of them don’t particularly care to be pandered to. Of course, there are also the television shows that haven’t remained nearly as relevant in popular culture, so few modern moviegoers will know that these films were even based on TV shows. One such film that would fit this category for me would be Maverick (1994).

Bret Maverick (Mel Gibson) is confident he is the best card player in the world, so in order to have definitive proof of this, he enters in a poker tournament that requires $25,000 as an entry fee. While he’s a little short on the money, he sets out to get the rest of it from some of his contacts. Along the way, he meets two others who want to participate in the tournament: Annabelle Bransford (Jodie Foster) and Angel (Alfred Molina). Bransford and Maverick manage to con a Russian Grand Duke out of some money so they can both enter the tournament, while Angel is on a mission to stop Maverick from playing. Meanwhile, Marshal Zane Cooper (James Garner, who also played Bret Maverick in the original show) is keeping an eye on all the players, hoping to arrest some of them for illegal activities. The tournament comes down to a single card to determine who will win. So, who has luck on their side?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 TV transitions

#305. Letters

The individual building blocks of any language are letters. These letters can be combined into words, which in turn can be transformed into sentences. The process continues on and on until you’re left with a story of saga-like proportions. But sometimes individual letters carry certain connotations just by themselves. We use letters to help classify objects, actions, and quality. In certain circles, letters are used to form acronyms, their singular purpose being to shorten a complex topic like a Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus into something simple to understand like SCUBA. Some films even use letters as a way to simplify their characters or premise. These atoms of language can be powerful and are often used to condense large subjects into simple ideas. This week’s two films focus on single letters.

V for Vendetta
Year: 2005
Rating: R
Length: 132 minutes / 2.2 hours

Franchises like Men in Black and James Bond often use single letters to identify their characters. When your cast isn’t that large, it can be easy to identify someone as J, K, M, Q, or Z. Similarly, whole films have been made about people with a single letter identifying them, such as George W. Bush in Oliver Stone’s W. (2008). Of course, Stone wasn’t the first to use a single letter to define a political film, as the foreign film, Z (1969), stood for the protesters’ dissent of the Grecian government. Sometimes these single letters can stand for more sinister actions as well. M (1931) and Dial M for Murder (1954) both use this singular letter to represent the killing of another person. In V for Vendetta (2006), we find all the political intrigue, murder, and personal identification is wrapped up in a single character who goes by the name of “V.”

Not only does V (Hugo Weaving) stand for the vendetta against the people who did him wrong, he also stands for the Roman Numeral for “five,” which is the day in November associated with Guy Fawkes Day. In aligning himself with the political ideologies of the man who attempted to blow up parliament, he has taken up the mask of the revolutionary in an attempt to finish what was started centuries ago. He has seen the politics of England become much more totalitarian due to the influences of the people who locked him away in a research facility and now he wants to give the people a voice once again. Pulling the strings on an already high-strung society, he sets dominoes in motion that will help topple the leadership of this oppressive regime. In one, last statement about the power of a symbol, V manages to accomplish everything he intended.

The A-TeamThe A-Team
Year: 2010
Rating: PG-13
Length: 117 minutes / 1.95 hours

When I was a child, there was one particular book that confused me. It was filled with pictures and strings of letters, but not words. It wasn’t until I read the individual letters out loud that I understood these letters were actually words. “I C A B” suddenly transformed into “I see a bee.” This wordplay is what leads us to such films as Bee Movie (2007), which is itself a pun on the idea of a B-movie. Of course, when letters are associated with quality, the earlier it appears in the alphabet, the better. We all want an “A” in school, to buy “Grade A” produce, and just to generally gave the best of something. Now, an “A” can also stand for other things, like in the modern adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Easy A (2010). But, for the most part, when we want the highest quality, we’ll go with the “A.”

Army Rangers, Hannibal (Liam Neeson), Face (Bradley Cooper), B.A. Baracus (Quitnon Jackson), and Murdock (Sharlto Copley) met in Mexico through a series of events that eventually led to the death of rebel General Javier Tuco (Yul Vazquez). This team of four men eventually wound up in Iraq, where they were tasked to complete a black ops mission to retrieve some U.S. Treasury plates from the insurgent regime. While they were successful, they were framed and court-martialed, winding up in a separate prison. After successfully escaping from each of their prisons, they work together to uncover the man who set them up. Through an elaborate ruse, they get self-proclaimed CIA operative Lynch (Patrick Wilson) to admit that the stole the plates. While the true Agent Lynch (Jon Hamm) comes to arrest the fake Lynch, the four men are taken back to prison, only to easily escape again and form “The A-Team.”

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 single letter stories