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PARAMOUNT

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Trey Parker
Cast:
Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Kristen Miller, Masasa, Daran Norris, Phil Hendrie, Maurice LaMarche
Writing Credits:
Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Pam Brady

Tagline:
Putting the "F" back in Freedom.

Synopsis:
Team America, an international police force dedicated to maintaining global stability learns that a power hungry dictator is brokering weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. The heroes embark upon a harrowing mission to save the world.

To infiltrate the terrorist network, Team America recruits Gary Johnston, a rising star on Broadway, to go undercover. Although initially reluctant to sacrifice his promising career, Gary realizes that his acting gift is needed for a higher cause. With the help of Team America leader Spottswoode and fellow members Chris, Sarah, Lisa and Joe, Gary slips into an arms dealer's hideout where he discovers that the terrorists' plot has already begun to unfold.

From the pyramids of Cairo to the Panama Canal and finally to the palace of power-mad dictator Kim Jong II, Team America criss-crosses the globe on a desperate mission to preserve the very fabric of civilization.

Team America: World Police is an action adventure from the creators of South Park, starring an all-marionette cast.

Box Office:
Budget
$30 million.
Opening Weekend
$12.120 million on 2539 screens.
Domestic Gross
$32.774 million.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 98 min.
Price: $29.95
Release Date: 5/17/2005

Bonus:
• “Team America: An Introduction” Featurette
• “Building the World” Featurette
• “Crafting the Puppets” Featurette
• “Pulling the Strings” Featurette
• “Capturing the Action” Featurette
• “Miniature Pyrotechnics” Featurette
• “Up Close With Kim Jong-Il”
• Dressing Room Test
• Puppet Test
• Deleted/Extended Scenes and Outtakes
• Animated Storyboards
• Trailers


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Team America: World Police (Uncensored And Unrated Special Collector's Edition) (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 10, 2005)

You don’t see too many feature films created with marionettes these days. Actually, you never found a lot of flicks based around puppets. Trey Parker and Matt Stone - best known as the guys behind South Park - sought to change that with 2004’s controversial Team America: World Police.

The film starts with the attempts of Team America to halt terrorists in Paris. They kill their foes - and destroy the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe while they’re at it. Team member Carson (voiced by Trey Parker) asks Lisa (Kristen Miller) to marry him but a terrorist immediately kills him.

From there we head to Broadway where Gary Johnston (Parker) stars in Lease. Spottswoode (Daran Norris) acts as TA’s representative, and he recruits Gary to act as a terrorist to learn about their foes’ plans. Gary doesn’t immediately agree, but he comes to the Team’s South Dakota hideout and meets the Team members. These include former quarterback Joe (Parker), empathic Sarah (Masasa), martial artist Chris (Matt Stone), and psychologist Lisa. Eventually Gary reluctantly agrees to become part of the Team.

Next we meet North Korean President Kim Jong-Il (Parker) and learn he’s the one supplying the terrorists. TA gets Gary into Cairo to go undercover, where he infiltrates the terrorist organization. When he travels with them, TA goes on the offensive - and wreaks more havoc.

This leads to protests from Hollywood notables who belong to the Film Actors Guild (FAG). Alec Baldwin (Maurice LaMarche) leads the group that also includes Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Liv Tyler and Matt Damon. Terrorists attack Panama as retribution for the events in Cairo and FAG mobilizes against TA. Eventually FAG forms a partnership with Kim Jong-Il when they think he’ll help create a peace ceremony. The rest of the film follows the Team’s adventures as they battle against the odds to ensure life, liberty and the American way.

I had high hopes for Police, but it only occasionally lives up to those expectations. That’s often true for the work created by Parker and Stone. For every solid hit like South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut and certain episodes of that series, they punch out a dud like Orgazmo or Cannibal! The Musical. Police doesn’t fall flat ala those last two, but it lacks the consistency to make it a classic.

The filmmakers do offer a virtually picture-perfect parody of big-budget action flicks, though. They’re too clever to simply replicate scenes from famous movies in that lazy Scary Movie manner. Instead, they simply steal every stylistic, character and story concept that you’ll find in the genre. From the dialogue to the personalities to the music to the cinematography, Police nails its inspirations.

As one who enjoys Bruckheimer-style movies as a guilty pleasure, I’m embarrassed at how close they hit the mark here. Police nails all the clichés you’ll easily recognize, and it does so with great humor and insight. The movie doesn’t often provoke a “laugh out loud” response, but it comes across as consistently clever and amusing.

Of course, some specific movie references occur, though they usually remain pretty subtle. For example, there’s one fairly incongruous mention of the terrorist attacks as being “the worst parts of the Bible” that deftly lifts from Armageddon. Obsessed with Star Wars, Parker and Stone also toss out a cool allusion when we go to the Egyptian cantina. I also like the decision to make Kim Jong-Il similar to a Bond villain.

When I read some comments about Police, I found a few criticisms of the flick’s politics. I’ve seen the views of Parker and Stone referred to as “ugly”, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. The movie skewers both conservatives and liberals. I think you'd be hard-pressed to figure out exactly what Matt and Trey think about politics - the movie’s only unifying theme is anti-hypocrisy.

It’s rare to find a picture that jabs at both sides of the political fence in such a balanced way. Not that it always does so with subtlety. The entire opening sequence offers an obvious metaphor in that TA does more damage with their rescue than the terrorists could ever do. In addition, the decision to create the “FAG” acronym is obvious and somewhat cheesy.

Still, the movie gets in its pokes and does so well for the most part. The choice to use marionettes makes the entire enterprise all the more absurd. Actually, the puppets are surprisingly demonstrative and expressive. They’re much less stiff than I anticipated and the whole project looks quite good.

I thought that high production values might harm the project, as it seems like it’d benefit from cheesiness. However, it works better with qualities that reflect its high-budget inspirations, as it doesn’t try to wreak many laughs from those elements. It fares best as a pure parody because the movie so closely looks like other action flicks.

Team America: World Police sputters too often to achieve total success. Nonetheless, it gets in a lot of good zingers and presents a deft spoof of action movies while it mocks both sides of the political coin. Don’t expect a classic but give it a look anyway.

Note that this DVD provides the “Uncensored and Unrated” cut of Team America. It appears that both have almost identical running times, and I believe that the only difference comes from an additional few seconds found in the sex scene between Gary and Lisa. I didn’t see the theatrical version, but I believe the main change comes from some extra graphic content; the DVD includes some nasty content that clearly didn’t fly with the MPAA.

Is it funny? Yup. I won’t reveal what happens in the sex scene, but it’s so over the top that it’s hilarious. Usually I don’t much care for scatological humor, but Police pulls off some gross-out gags. What happens in the sex scene is absurd and that makes it amusing.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Team America: World Police appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Not too many problems cropped up here, but enough minor issues appeared to knock down my grade to a “B”.

Sharpness was a bit spotty at times. Granted, those instances were infrequent, as the vast majority of the flick looked detailed and concise. Nonetheless, more than a few scenes looked a little soft and ill-defined. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge enhancement. As for print flaws, the movie was somewhat grainy at times, and I also saw the occasional speck or mark, though those instances were rare.

Colors worked as a highlight of the movie. The film boasted a bright and dynamic palette that the DVD replicated nicely. From start to finish, the hues were lively and bold. Blacks seemed similarly deep and rich, but shadows were less stellar. Low-light shots always remained visible, but I thought they lacked great definition. Ultimately, this was a good transfer, though.

With all its action scenes, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Team America: World Police offered many opportunities for activity. It usually took advantage of these, though it didn’t come across as stellar enough to inch up to “A” territory. The soundfield presented a fairly broad and engaging setting. The score and songs demonstrated good stereo delineation, and the various effects were accurately placed. They meshed together smoothly and added a fine sense of environment.

The surrounds came into play mostly during the action sequences. The fights kicked the spectrum into higher gear, as did shots with vehicles. The part with the sky battle offered the movie’s most impressive piece, though a number of other scenes were strong as well.

No issues with audio quality manifested themselves. Speech always remained natural and concise, with no edginess or issues related to intelligibility. Music was broad and dynamic. Effects sounded clean and accurate, and they packed a nice punch when appropriate. Across the board, the movie boasted tight, firm bass response. Though the mix lacked the dazzle factor necessary for “A” consideration, it worked well enough to assure itself a sold “B+”.

Next we find a long roster of short supplements. Unfortunately, no audio commentary shows up, as it appears Parker and Stone prefer to discuss only their crummier movies like Orgazmo or Cannibal! The Musical. The extras open with a featurette called Team America: An Introduction. This five-minute and nine-second piece includes comments from writer/director/producer/actor Trey Parker and writer/producer Matt Stone. They talk about the movie’s story and why they did it with puppets. You won’t really learn anything, but it’s amusing, especially when Parker rants about why he hates actors.

Entitled Building the World, the next featurette goes for 12 minutes and 41 seconds. It includes remarks from Stone, Parker, production designer Jim Dultz, visual consultant David Rockwell, set decorator Richard C. Walker, and property master Brad Elliott. The program covers the movie’s sets and production design. We get a good look at both the overall look as well as many details. Both elements work well. It’s good to learn about the big picture, but I especially like the little tidbits when we find out the quirky elements of the set design. “World” is a terrific little piece.

Next comes the seven-minute and 59-second Crafting the Puppets. It presents information from Parker, Stone, puppet supervisor/principal puppeteer Stephen Chiodo, puppet producer/principal puppeteer Edward Chiodo, puppet art director/principal puppeteer Charles Chiodo, puppet designer/principal puppeteer Norman Tempia, mold maker Steve Newburn, lead painter Thomas Killeen, puppeteer Mark Bryan Wilson, lead mechanic/principal puppeteer Jurgen Heimann, lead animatronic/computer control Joe Andreas, costume designer Karen Patch, and sculptor Don William Lanning. As one might expect, “Crafting” looks at the design and execution of the marionettes. We get a solid overview of the various stages required to bring these puppets to life, and this is a worthwhile program.

For more on operating the puppets, we head Pulling the Strings. This 10-minute and seven-second featurette offers information from Parker, Stone, Tempia, Charles Chiodo, puppet coordinator/principal puppeteer Frank Langley IV, Edward Chiodo, Stephen Chiodo, and principal puppeteer Kevin Carlson. The show goes over the various technical challenges required to manipulate the marionettes. This offers some nuts and bolts as well as creative issues presented by the conflict between the ultra-planned world of puppeteering and the impromptu nature of Parker and Stone. It gives us another strong take on the behind the scenes work for Police.

After this comes Capturing the Action. It fills six minutes and 42 seconds with notes from Parker, Stone, Langley, and cinematographer Bill Pope. We learn why Parker and Stone hired Pope, the movie’s lighting and photography, and unusual concerns and benefits created by the format. “Action” takes on its topic as well as the other shows and offers another nice examination of the material.

Yet another technical featurette covers Miniature Pyrotechnics. The four-minute and 49-second show gives us remarks from Parker, Stone, and special effects supervisor Joe Viskocil. We see some specifics about the various explosions in the flick. Less informative than the others, “Pyrotechnics” mostly just offers a quick overview of techniques, but it still manages to give us a few insights.

For a look at one of the main characters, we head to the five-minute and nine-second Up Close With Kim Jong-Il. We hear from Pope, Stone, Parker, Tempia, Elliott, They discuss the choice to feature Jong-Il, research and design issues, and puppet specifics. It creates another brief but fun and informative program.

After this we find a pair of tests. We get a Dressing Room Test (two minutes, four seconds) and a Puppet Test (4:08). “Room” is just an early version of the scene where Spottswoode recruits Gary and not terribly interesting, but “Puppet” - which uses the Spottswoode marionette in a variety of circumstances - offers a cool look at sample footage.

10 Deleted/Extended Scenes and Outtakes go for six minutes, six seconds. These range from pretty good (“I’ll Never Be a Racist Again”) to fairly superfluous (“Gary Outside of the Tavern”) to just plain silly (“You’re Puppets!”). They move quickly, however, and are usually entertaining.

In the Animated Storyboards area, we look at six scenes. We examine the prep work for “Paris Opening” (three minutes, 52 seconds), “Gary’s Flashback” (0:48), “A Member of the Team” (2:39), “Kim Jong Il’s Underwater Lair” (1:32), “FAG Meets Team America” (2:06), and “Kim Jong Il’s Bedroom” (1:09). These storyreels present filmed storyboards accompanied by dialogue and some effects. Because they offer sometimes very different takes on the scenes, the storyreels are unusually interesting. Actually, it’d be cool to see the entire movie constructed in this way to get a look at an alternate Police.

In addition to two trailers for America, the DVD opens with some promos. We find ads for the 2005 remake of The Longest Yard, South Park Season Five, Fade to Black and Coach Carter.

Like most efforts from Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Team America: World Police never manages to really take flight and soar. However, it parodies a number of subjects well and remains entertaining and insightful enough to work. The DVD presents pretty good picture and audio along with a small roster of well-produced extras. Don’t expect transcendent material here, but Police turns into something fun and amusing for the most part.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.081 Stars Number of Votes: 37
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