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Battleship: Humans Vs Aliens Action Flick
Summer is all but here and we have been blessed with another alien-action blockbuster based on a toy and no, this time around it’s not Transformers, though by the way this film’s been marketed, you’d think Battleship was an extension of the Transformers franchise; ‘Transformers at Sea’ if you will. And while the two films have several things in common, they’re also quite distinct. For one Transformers focuses on the robots - and truth be told, they’re pretty damn impressive - while on the other hand, Battleship, surprisingly, focuses more on the human characters. Neither of the films managed to combine the two - interesting robots/aliens and compelling humans that is- but the human element in Battleship makes it easier to get caught up and emotionally involved in the film.
NASA discovers a planet in a different solar system that has very similar conditions to Earth, conditions conducive to life, and promptly builds a satellite station in Hawaii to try and establish contact with any forms of extraterrestrial life that may be out there. The scientists discover the success of their experiment when five huge unidentified objects hurtle into our atmosphere. One takes out a huge chunk of Hong Kong while the rest crash land in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Hawaii, in the middle of a bunch of international navy fleets that have gathered for an exercise. A massive battle takes place between the aliens and the navy as the humans try and thwart the aliens’ attempts to communicate with their home base and send for reinforcements.
Since Battleship is being marketed towards the same demographic that made Transformers such a cash cow, you’d think they’d have put a bit more effort into their alien design. Firstly, their spaceships look like metal cubes, kind of like a rectangular version of the AllSpark cube in Transformers, and secondly, the aliens themselves look like tall, metal Power Rangers. Another thing is that it’s never really explained why the aliens come to Earth in the first place. All we get is the hypothesis that when the humans managed to establish contact, a few aliens decided to mosey on over here to check out our planet.. Thankfully, and this may be a product of entering the film with zero expectations, the humans mostly make up for the aliens and the general lacklustre visuals.
Kitsch plays Alex, a smart slacker with attitude issues who’s forced by his older brother, Stone (Skarsgard), to join him in the US Navy as a way of getting his life on track. Decker plays Samantha, Alex’s girlfriend, who’s a physical therapist and the daughter of the fleet’s captain. Thanks to the fact that the film clearly emphasizes Alex’s potential, his transformation from immature slacker to a bona fide leader is actually believable while Samantha, thankfully, gets to be more than just the token girlfriend and plays a large part in saving the planet as well. Rihanna makes her acting debut as a badass Navy officer named Raikes while Linklater plays Cal, a wimpy, nervous scientist and the source of most of the film’s comic relief.
The film as a whole takes a while to settle into its groove, but when it does it becomes quite engaging. By the final third, when the war reaches its peak, you’re actively rooting for the Navy and restraining yourself from cheering out loud and singing along to AC/DC. The film as a whole is far from perfect and is actually too uneven to be called good, but the final half hour is wall-to-wall fun, ending the film on a pretty high note.
There’s a certain draw to the idea of watching George Clooney and his real-life gal-pal Julia Roberts together on-screen. The duo’s fourth movie together, after Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, comes in the form of director Jodie Foster’s fourth-feature-film, Money Monster; an intriguing but seemingly cheesy and off-balance financial thriller which, despite its brief moments of genuine tension and topical subject, feels empty and somewhat even outdated in its storytelling.
The film tells of Lee Gates (Clooney); a flamboyant TV host of a financial show called ‘Money Monster’ where he provides advice to his viewers on how, where and when to invest their money. Gates has earned quite a bit of success in doing what he does, though his long-time producer, Patty Fenn (Roberts), is deserving of most of the credit.
Things take a turn, however, when IBIS Global Capital's stock takes a tumbling dive and results in an $800 million loss for its investors - a day after Gates advises viewers to invest. The studio is then taken hostage during a live broadcast by one seemingly irate and explosives-strapped investor, Kyle Budwell (O’Connell), who has lost his entire life savings and blames Gates.
One of the most disappointing things about Money Monster is how predictable it all feels with its socio-political commentary. Attempting to depict the ugly face of Wall Street, the subject is a topical one, yes, but has been covered much more affectively with recent films such as The Big Short and 99 Homes. Adding very little understanding or insight into its subject, Foster keeps things relatively tight in the first half, only to lose focus and complete control in the second when the plot swerves off-course into moments of complete implausibility, as the Julia Roberts’ Patty figures that the only way to diffuse the hostage situation is to go digging into IBIS, to provide an explanation to the hostage taker.
However, Clooney and Roberts share an easy chemistry and seem very much at home with their respective roles, with the former offering just enough charisma as the media pinhead with a heart of gold and Roberts keeping things grounded as his steadfast producer and friend. O’Connell, dubious New York accent aside, is equally convincing, however, the solid performances make little difference. Money Monster is just too contrived, uninvolving and one-dimensional.
Known for his unique voice and understated approach to telling a story, writer-director, Jeff Nichols – see Take Shelter, Mud – returns with yet another distinctive and beautifully crafted tale of parenthood and faith in the undeniably special, Midnight Special.
The film tells the story of Roy (the always present and the always game Mr. Michael Shannon) who - together with his childhood friend Lucas (Edgerton) - has kidnapped his biological son, Alton (Lieberher), from a creepy cult run by Alton’s ‘adoptive’ father Calvin Meyer (Shepherd).
Where they are going is seemingly unclear but, what we do learn is that Alton – who spends most of the time wearing blue swimming goggles – is no ordinary child and that he possesses certain supernatural abilities that has not only drawn the attention of Meyer’s cult – who believe that Alton is their saviour – but that of the government as well.
Out on the run from seemingly everyone, Roy – who soon reaches out to Alton’s mother Sarah (Dunst) for the much-needed support - is willing and ready to do just about anything to keep his boy from harm which, naturally, only ends up putting them all against a number of obstacles and a great deal of danger along the way.
To truly and fully experience Nichols’ latest film, is to try and go in knowing as little as possible about the plot; the less you know, the bigger the impact. Staying one step ahead of the audience, the mysteries surrounding the story are gradually revealed, with Nichols making sure that all of his secrets and relevant story threads are exposed in their own time, ultimately providing the film with a quietly intensifying and slow-burning energy which is hard to shake off.
Gorgeously photographed, the mood and the atmosphere – which are supported by David Wingo’s hauntingly beautiful John Carpenter-esque musical score – is almost palpable, while the story’s 80’s retro setting – reminiscent of movies like E.T and Deep Impact – is beautifully captured and made relevant to the audiences of today. On the downside, however, some of the story threads could have done with a bit more exploration and had they had a bit more onscreen involvement, they could have carried a slightly deeper effect.
Marking his fourth collaboration with the talented director, Michael Shannon – quite possibly one of the most compelling actors working today – gives yet another all-in performance of a troubled father. Meanwhile, Lieberher shows great versatility for such a young actor, whilst Edgerton and Dunst are both complex and rooted in their respective performances.
Captivating and emotional, Nichols’ Midnight Special is an easy recommendation; a thoughtfully executed and a powerfully told sci-fi tale which uses on its wonderfully created visuals and unspoken words to convey its story.