End of Summer – The Rest of the Movies

Obviously all the summer movies cannot be winners. I missed Snow White and the Huntsman, The Campaign, The Dictator, and Ice Age 4: Continental Drift. Here are the ones I caught that just didn’t work for me.

Dark Shadows: What should have been an ideal setup – revive a gothic soap opera as a movie directed by the man who did Sleepy Hollow – is instead a recipe for disaster. Unsure whether to make a gothic horror story, a fish out of water drama, a 70s redemption story, or a parody, Tim Burton made an unholy fusion of all of these, ineptly scripted by Seth Grahame-Smith.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter: Wow another great director, another epic disaster. Seth Grahame-Smith takes a great idea and totally screws up the script (hint: name-checking is not the same thing as writing). Director Bekmambetov has some nice visuals in the two action setpieces but nice visuals also don’t mean you have a good film.

Battleship: At least no one seemed to expect Battleship to be any good. Guess what? It wasn’t. The word farcical comes to mind.

The Watch: The unfortunately titled Neighborhood Watch got retitled after the Trayvon Martin incident. I liked the Costco setting but I don’t think I had an actual out loud laugh during the whole film. Neither did the three or four other people in the theater.

Total Recall: If you are going to remake a movie then either figure out what made the original tick (Schwarzenegger, the Martian setting, pure cheese) or have something original to say (like Carpenter’s remake of The Thing). Total Recall ditches Mars for an utterly generic futuristic city. The action is generic, the leads are generic, the script is generic – all this seems very odd to me as director Len Wiseman also did the very stylish Underworld series. Bryan Cranston and Bill Nighy are wasted here.

The Bourne Legacy: The Bourne Legacy was so close. It had some very intelligent moments, which is what I look for in a Bourne film. I also loved the idea of a side story. Unfortunately the movie came across as more of a set up for future Bourne movies than a film in its own right and the whole exercise came across as a bit crass.

Aliens Attack! Hasbro’s Battleship Edition

Aliens are invading this week every time I turn around. I would love to write a full review of the entertaining but deeply stupid Battleship but my wife sent me this wonderful link to William Shakespeare’s Battleship by Yoni Brenner

SCENE I
A Battleship, sailing majestically. Enter a common SAILOR.

SAILOR
Ahoy ye sailors!—friends and noblemen—
Riding ‘twixt glist’ring waves so bright and blue
That one cannot help but stand and marvel
At the resplendence of Neptune’s kingdom
And the miracle of color correction!
A Band of Brothers we are not, but rather,
A jambalaya of studs and starlets,
Drawn from ev’ry creed and ev’ry hair-type,
Selected, as if by algorithm,
To inflame the hearts and body issues
Of the prize’d target demographic.
Anon, we join this ship—this Battleship!—
With spirits high and cheekbones higher still,
Our sextants fix’d upon the one truly
Bankable star aboard this o’erstuffed vessel.
He whose sapphire eyes and manly shoulders,
Doth evoke the simple ethos of the
Heartland; belied only slightly by the
Rich Irish brogue that doth cling to ev’ry
Consonant like so many barnacles.

Liam Neeson enters, dressed as a CAPTAIN.

SAILOR
Hark! He comes! Pray don’t mention what I said
About his accent.

The CAPTAIN addresses the CREW with a barely concealed Irish accent.

CAPTAIN
Friends! Gaffers! Hang’rs-on!
‘Tis I, thy totally American captain,
Proud son of one of those states in the middle
That definitely hath a name, although
I cannot recall it at the moment.

SAILOR
Forsooth Captain, canst thou at least name the
First letter o’ the state?

The CAPTAIN shakes his head.

CAPTAIN
Alas, I cannot.

The CREW grumbles in disappointment.

CAPTAIN
But stay, friends! I come bearing sweet tidings:
For my accountant hath called and confirmeth
Beyond all doubt that mine check hath clear’ed!
And so I am honor-bound to maintain
A straight face for the next ninety minutes,
Even whilst barking generic orders,
Like “Hard to Starboard!” and “Full speed ahead!”
All of which hath been trademarked by Hasbro.
‘Tis indeed an honor to serve amongst
Such distinguish’d mariners as the guy
From True Blood, Riggins from Friday Night Lights,
And th’ pop star Rihanna—all of whom
Seem to be coated in a thin layer
Of Neoprene.

SAILOR
Er, Captain, excuse the interruption,
But art thou going anywhere with this?

CAPTAIN
Nay, my good man, not really. Just riffing.

Enter RIHANNA, THE GUY FROM TRUE BLOOD, and RIGGINS, FROM FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.

CAPTAIN
How now, Rihanna? What ho, guy from True Blood?
What news dost thou bring from the radar thingie?

RIHANNA
Ay me, dear captain! Most grievous fortune!
For we are invaded by space robots!

The CAPTAIN is confused.

CAPTAIN
Space robots? Art thou sure sweet Rihanna?
For yea, I cannot recall any such
Robots in the original board game.
Only a grid of numbers and letters,
And cheap plastic pegs with which for keeping score.

THE GUY FROM TRUE BLOOD
Thou rememberest correctly O Captain
But the gods at Hasbro hath recognized
Long ago that the Battleship brand
Couldst not survive on grids and pegs alone.
Hence the space robots.

CAPTAIN
I see thy logic.
What say’st thou Riggins from Friday Night Lights?

RIGGINS
Pray let me defer to the True Blood Guy,
For alas, I have forgotten my lines.

The CAPTAIN nods, resolved.

CAPTAIN
If Riggins concurs then it is settled!
We shall attack the space robots at once!

The CREW cheers.

CAPTAIN
Hard to starboard! Full speed ahead! Ready
The doubles! For if we are true of heart
And straight of face there is no way this thing
Cannot gross a bajillion dollars!

Exeunt. End of scene.

Battleship (2010) – Rated PG-13

“A fleet of ships is forced to do battle with an armada of unknown origins in order to discover and thwart their destructive goals. “

The Shakespeare version above was actually as entertaining as the movie. I swear I am not making this next part up. After a U.S. warship is COMPLETELY destroyed in full view of Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), Alex says “I have a bad feeling about this.”. Funny I had a similar bad feeling going into this.

The issue that got under my skin in Battleship was the marketing committee making the movie. Besides the young model leads and PG-13 rating to get the kids to come, you have Liam Neeson to bring in the adults. There is shameless pandering promoting elderly war veterans, the Japanese (for the overseas market), and the disabled. All three feel horribly forced and extremely labored – the term flogging a dead horse came to mind often during the course of the film.

The film opens with our ‘hero’ Alex being a shiftless bum who gets drunk and breaks into a convenience store to impress the requisite blond model who plays the love interest. He impresses her by stealing a microwave chicken burrito that he delivers to her WHILE BEING TASED! Again I am not making this up.

Cut to a few years later and he has joined his brother in the navy as a lieutenant. Wow his family must have serious connections.

One of the most hilarious things occurs behind the scenes. The U.S. military would not give The Avengers their blessing because they found the story too unbelievable (at least that’s the story). Battleship clearly has the backing of the U.S. Navy. Much of the outlandishness occurs in the third act and makes me want to tear my hair out but I don’t want to spoil a major plot point so I’ll just say the movie gets even stupider.

A note to the aliens: if you have two major weapons and one sometimes works and the other always works and causes much more destruction then perhaps you should lead with the good weapon. We don’t send in infantry and ask them to fight hand-to-hand and tell them when that doesn’t work then they can pull out a gun and shoot.

All of this is not to say that Battleship is without merit. It does have a number of pretty explosions and plenty of scenes set aboard real U.S. Navy vessels. Some of the action, like that of the boardgame counterpart, is strategic in nature. The aliens, while enigmatic, have some interesting ideas.