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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.
Like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler before her, Amy Schumer is the in comedienne in Hollywood right now and her first major role couldn’t have come under the conductorship of a better person; Judd Apatow. The man who had a hand in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad and Anchorman is comedy royalty in Hollywood and, as a director, has a knack for bringing out the best in his actors with his very character-driven comedies and does exactly that with Schumer, giving her a perfect platform to introduce herself to the world.
There isn’t exactly much that you could call innovative with the plot of Trainwreck and so all of its enjoyment is owed to the actors themselves. The story follows Schumer’s character, also named Amy, and her toil and trouble in the game of love. Barely functioning as an active member of society, Amy drinks to get drunk, smokes to get high and jumps in bed with strange men to forget – all that despite being in a relationship with a gym-rat ably played by WWE wrestler and occasional actor, John Cena.
Through her work with a magazine, she comes to meet a sports doctor, Aaron Conners (Hader), and end up falling for each other, with the only potential obstacle standing in the way of a future together being Amy’s fear of commitment.
Again, there’s not a lot about the plot that will blow you away; two lovers-to-be come to fall for each other in unlikely circumstances, an event brings to light a problem with one or more of them which builds a barrier between them, before one of them has the courage to make a compromise and they live happily ever after. It’s the basic template that all romantically infused films are based on and there’s no getting away from it, especially when thrown in a hotpot with comedy.
But it’s Schumer and her supporting cast – as well as that Judd Apatow touch – that keep the viewer engaged in what is otherwise a pedestrian story. The humour is sharp and witty, but, most importantly, the characters are very relatable, with the script not falling back on clichés. The viewer isn’t expected to see the characters through rose-tinted shades; it doesn’t boil down people to good or bad; they’re just human.
More important than all that, however, is that Trainwreck is funny, ridiculous, but at times endearing – a perfect recipe for a rom-com.
British director, Guy Ritchie, is somewhat of a divisive character in the world of cinema; the former Mr Madonna stirred British film with his first two features, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, but his filmography from then on reads like a lexicon of poorly realised visions (he had Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and Mark Strong to play with in Sherlock Holmes, yet still made a mess of it), the latest of which comes in the form of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Based on the 60s TV show of the same name, some of Hollywood’s top male leads were rumoured to be in the running for the role of the brilliantly named Napolean Solo – think Ryan Gosling, Channing Tatum, Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Michael Fassbender, Bradley Cooper, Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Chris Pine, Ryan Reynolds, Jon Hamm – before this generation’s Superman, Henry Cavill, was cast – and it’s not a bad choice.
While many have used words like ‘wooden’ and ‘uncharismatic’ to adjudge the 32 year-old Brit’s portrayal of Superman, the man who many are predicting will take the 007 mantle from Daniel Craig fits the Guy Ritchie aesthetic and you’ll find yourself rooting for him as he teams up with a KGB officer played by Arnie Hammer to stop a Nazi nuclear threat that looms over both the US and Russia in the early 60s.
As with so many of Ritchie’s films, the style shadows the substance, but the director’s distinctive aesthetic shines and carries the film through some enjoyable action set-pieces. There’s a pleasing marriage of humour, kitsch and basic action that Ritchie has come to perfect and while The Man From U.N.C.L.E. pales in comparison to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch whose success was owed partly to its satirical take on the British underworld, you won’t get bored, even if it is in fact the sets, the costumes and the more than photogenic cast that keep you engaged.
At the end of the day, however, you can’t get away from the fact that the film doesn’t exactly avoid spy-film clichés; the basic story – two opposing spies team-up to fight a mysterious enemy with unclear motives – proves as such and the film as whole doesn’t stand-up to second viewing – fool me once, et al.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is Ritchie’s first film in almost four years and if he is ever to be considered an auteur, which his initial rise promised, he needs to do something spectacular and soon.