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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.
For his latest feature film, Woody Allen decides to return to Hollywood and explore his signature themes of love, passion and lost dreams in Café Society; an easygoing yet familiar comedy-drama which, although mostly watchable, lacks focus and is in need of a richer dramatic element.
Narrated by Allen himself, the story opens in 1930’s Hollywood at a pool-side party where Hollywood agent, Phil Stern (Carell), is sitting sipping drinks, looking important and commanding the attention of business associates and other admirers surrounding him. He is soon interrupted by a telephone call from his older sister, Rose (the wonderful Jeannie Berlin) who informs her brother that her youngest son, Bobby (Eisenberg playing what appears to be a younger version of Woody Allen), is headed out to Los Angeles and that Phil should help him get settled in.
After a few weeks of avoiding the initial meet, Phil soon meets with Bobby and lands him with a job at the agency where the young boy from the Bronx soon falls head-over-heels for Phil’s secretary, Vonnie (played by the refreshingly expressive Stewart).
See, although Vonnie is interested in Bobby, she can’t commit to the relationship as she’s also canoodling with his uncle, who is trying to decide whether he should leave his wife of twenty-five years or not. Learning about the twisted love-triangle, Bobby begins looking for love elsewhere while, at the same time, dreaming of his home and uncomplicated life back in NYC.
Whilst Bobby and Vonnie’s story is seemingly the centre-point of the film, Allen doesn’t spend too much time focusing on the love birds, instead whizzing the story back and forth between NY and LA, where we also get to spend some time with Bobby’s parents and his terribly clichéd gangster of a brother - played wonderfully by House of Cards’ Corey Stoll. It keeps the story moving, but the lack of focus means neither of the stories really stick.
Set against a glossy Hollywood backdrop, one thing that stands out, however, is the cinematography. With the help of cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and the employment of the first-ever digital camera in a Woody Allen film, Café Society has that appropriately flashy feel to it, which successfully brings out the lavishness of its surroundings and, at the same time, ends up compensating for the writing’s occasional laziness.
The performances are solid with Eisenberg’s jittery naivety playing wonderfully against Stewart’s subtle nature and quiet beauty. It’s a shame that the rest of the picture couldn’t match their performance with Bobby’s description of life in Hollywood, “kind of half-bored, half-fascinating” serving to be the best assessment of the movie itself.
Despite the limited release, there is no doubt that Jean-Francois Richet’s Blood Father – a surprisingly pulpy action-revenge-thriller about an ex-con who is dragged into a dangerous war with a violent cartel - will have many talking. Written by Peter Craig and Andrea Berloff, Blood Father offers a lean and – feverishly mean – eighty-eight-minutes of violent brutality that’s paired with exciting action set pieces and one of the best performances we’ve seen Mel Gibson offer in a long time.
The story is centred on John Link (Gibson); an ex-con who has recently been paroled and trying to make some sort of a life for himself in a remote southwestern town. Living in a trailer park, John makes his living by working as a tattoo artist while also battling his addictions in a twelve-step program, supervised by mentor, Kirby (Macy).
Without warning, John soon receives a call from his runaway daughter, Lydia (Moriarty) who is seeking help from her estranged father in getting away from a group of Mexican gangsters, following an accidental shootout where she killed her boyfriend, Jonah (Luna), who was a member of the cartel. Asking to stay with her dad, John is soon pulled into Lydia’s dangerous world of drugs and guns, forcing him to break his parole and hit the road with his daughter whom he will do anything for to protect.
While one could point out the similarities with Taken – where a father with a list of ‘special skills’ is pulled in to save his daughter from harm – Blood Father is a little rougher around the edges and a film that actually takes its time in formulating its characters, sketching out their traits, flaws and dynamics before allowing all hell to break loose. First and foremost, this is a story about a father - a former bad man who is trying to make amends after a lifetime of bad choices – and a daughter – a troubled young woman who has fallen in the hands of a wrong crowd – reuniting once more and reconnecting their bond under the most life-threatening of circumstances.
Their relationship is engaging to watch and the performances from both actors exceed the expectations; Moriarty manages to sell her character well, while Gibson is in his element as a deadbeat ruffian whose tough-as-nails attitude is perfectly balanced with his more sensible and sensitive nature. Paced with incredible precision, the action is exciting– there’s plenty of blood and gore - while the dialogue written is smart and strong enough to carry the movie when the action stops.
The only drawback is that there’s a sense of predictability to the movie, but thanks to the superb directorial execution and Mel Gibson’s outstanding performance, you definitely won’t be disappointed with the overall end result.