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Notes from the back row

Remakes dominate this weekend

It's family action week at the Village 8, starting with the big screen adaptation of the cheese-tastic '80s TV show The A-Team .

Rated PG-13, The A-Team watches like a two hour TV show but if you're willing to lower expectations there is certainly fun to be had with lots of crazy-impossible action and acting that is actually pretty top notch. Liam Neeson is a perfect plan-master Hannibal, Bradley Cooper really works it to pull off ladies-man Face, and Sharlto Copley ( District 9) delivers as the insane chopper pilot Murdock. The only weak link is B.A. Baracas, played by mixed-martial arts star Quinton "Rampage" Jackson who has obviously taken a few hits to the head and mumbles his way through much of the film. Jessica Biel also stars as an unrealistically hot army captain in pursuit of the team, who are Iraq Vets now, and have been framed for stealing some U.S. Currency plates.

Besides the misguided romantic subplot (why do they always do that?) and too-frantic editing of the action, our favourite mercs-for-hire deliver a fun but forgettable couple hours at the cinema.

Keeping the kiddie PG theme going, The Karate Kid also opens this Friday. Myself and a ton of other people are gonna feel old when we realize it's been 26 years since the original (shit, I still do the Crane-kick-head-snap move every time I get into a fight at the taxi loop on May long weekend) but time flies, and if Hollywood figures House of Wax is worth remaking then it was only a matter of time until this classic Rocky -for-kids got a remix.

Director Harald Zwart ( The Pink Panther 2, Agent Cody Banks) is pretty well-known for delivering garbage but this time he comes through, although much of the credit should probably go to Jada Pinkett-Smith, who produced the flick with her husband Will Smith as a "make-my-kid-a-star" project for their son Jaden.

Plot-wise, The Karate Kid wisely sticks close to the original (new kid in town, hot girl, mean bullies, ass-kicking mentor) but with several clever updates, including moving the film to China and a nice twist on the infamous fly-chopstick scene. Ralph Macchio was 25 when he played the Kid, at least Jaden Smith is only 11 - and an ass-kicking 11 at that. He does well especially with the fighting and Jackie Chan, who fills the Pat Morita wax-on/wax-off role and utterly shines.

My real beef with The Karate Kid , other than the fact that it should have been called The Kung-Fu Kid and the two-hour-20-minute run time is that it's a bit shallow and misleading. Even though he now lives in China, the Kid isn't spending much time learning about the place or the Chinese people. He's mostly learning how to kick their asses among lots of scenic montages and lessons about family and hard work. Which makes for a pretty entertaining movie but also kinda resembles a Chinese Tourism Board film. Watch Sharkwater and see how the Chinese fin-market decimates shark populations, then watch End of the Line and see how their fishing industry lies about commercial fishing quotas on all the other big fish. Then Google "the occupation of Tibet" and see how the Chinese government has treated the most peaceful people on the planet. It's all pretty disparaging.

Do children's movies like The Karate Kid need to be vehicles of social change? No, I guess not, but glossing over an evil empire with fancy heli-shots of the Great Wall isn't going to help the people of Tibet either. F*ck China.