** (out of four)
OK, so "The A-Team" is a silly little action picture based on a cheesy '80s television series, and as such should not be subject to critical scrutiny. I get it. I understand why, when dealing with the proverbial "big, dumb summer blockbuster," a typical moviegoer's response is to assume that a brain-dead action flick should be indiscriminately enjoyed for its rapid-fire kinetics and exciting action and awesome footage of lotsa stuff getting' blowed up real good-like. And I'm onboard with that, to a certain extent. Start with some swaggering heroes, throw in a bunch of explosions, spice things up with a few hand-to-hand fight scenes — baby, you got a stew goin'. But what, I ask, is the value of all this excess if it's delivered in a manner that renders it borderline-unwatchable?
"Shrek Forever After"
Far from being the final death knell of a continuously deteriorating franchise, this fourth entry is actually a marked improvement over its most immediate predecessor, and in some ways compares favorably to "Shrek 2." The original is still in a class by itself, but by returning to that film's playful sense of humor and emphasis on witty banter, "Shrek Forever After" harkens back to its roots and establishes itself as perhaps the most imaginative and appropriately goofy of the three sequels.
"Iron Man 2"
A couple years ago, "Iron Man" came out of the blue to immediately situate itself as one of the great superhero entries. It lacked the scope of the new "Batman" films and the emotional pull of the first two "Spider-Man" movies, but it was embedded with such a bright, pop-bubblegum aesthetic and badass attitude that director Jon Favreau's lack of nuts-and-bolts filmmaking ability didn't really matter. It was an experience that managed to be far greater than the sum of its parts — pure movie magic, with palpable energy and a grand sense of "let's go save the world" fun. "Iron Man 2" attempts to recapture that same flag-waving, fist-pumping fervor, with mixed results.