Less Transformers more Act of Valor director Peter Berg's Battleship is a bombastic idiotic and ear canal-shattering love letter to the Navy slathered with a summer blockbuster sugarcoating that sufficiently masks any glimmer of heart. Following suit with their previous adaptation Transformers toy company Hasbro has transformed their popular board game into a sci-fi action movie as stiff and lifeless as the plastic pieces used to play. The saving grace is Berg's fondness for the ridiculous injecting Top Gun-level machismo into his tale of aliens vs. boats. Silliness is cinematic buoyancy for a movie as lazy as Battleship.
Continually finding himself in trouble's way roughneck Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch of TV's Friday Night Lights and John Carter) enlists in the U.S. Navy alongside his boy scout brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgård) and under the supervision of his lady friend Sam's (Brooklyn Decker) overbearing father Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson). Alex works his way up the chain of command quickly earning the rank of Lieutenant just in time for the annual competitive skirmish with the Japanese Navy. It's all fun and games until — per usual — aliens drop down from the stars and wreak havoc on Hawaii. With most of the fleet trapped on the outskirts thanks to a ship-proof forcefield Alex is forced to command his own ship and take down the intergalactic adversaries with old school style. Discombobulated radar in alien waters means Alex and his team are shooting blind — will B11 be a hit or a miss?
Kitsch spends most of his time rubbing shoulders with Petty Officer 'Weps' (Rihanna) and the rest of his diligent crew whipping up ways to defeat the alien forces who only go on the offensive when attacked. That's just the beginning of the storytelling's illogic moment after moment favoring Michael Bay-inspired mayhem and tensionless spats of screaming aboard the ship's bridge over coherency. There's an Independence Day-inspired moment where an alien creature palms Kitsch's face unleashing imagery of their devastated home planet to his mind. Maybe? That never comes back and an explanation of why the aliens are here why we're fighting them or if they're really that bad at all never comes into play. Kitsch and his men just know the world's under attack and we have to blow the opposition to smithereens.
Ensuring attentive brains are never too focused the perspective in Battleship is ever-shifting jumping from Alex's Destroyer to Sam and her paraplegic rehab patient Lieutenant Colonel Mick Canales together on the run from alien ground troops. Around Battleship's halfway point when the duo partners with a twitchy scientist (Hamish Linklater) and Mick rises above his disability to beat the living daylights out of an extraterrestrial is when Berg throws his hands in the air stops caring and pulls out all the stops. Giant alien roller balls that rip up everything in their path? Check. Bouncing space ships that can only be combated using water displacement theory? Check. Navy vets returning for one…last…job? Check check. Before the finale of this 131 minute monstrosity Kitsch and his Japanese counterpart Yugi Nagata (Tadanobu Asano) sit down to play an actual game of Battleship. Sure it's with actual missiles but there's a grid there's a target and there's shouting out of corresponding numbers. For those worried about board game fan service it's there (but don't sit around waiting for the infamous tagline).
Unlike his turn in John Carter Kitsch is perfectly suited for the bro atmosphere of Battleship where every moment of drama begs for hammy delivery and crazy eyes. Decker too is an asset to the overly epic blockbuster — a step up from the reductive arm candy roles of the Transformers movies. Everyone else is barely a blip on the radar; Neeson is deprived of a single badass moment while Rihanna proves she can memorize and playback scripted lines as well as pop song lyrics. Berg has control of his action in a way that's more enjoyable than the previous Transformers films but it still plays like a tired clone. The initial two-thirds of Battleship that takes itself too seriously is exhausting. The final barrage is pure lunacy. Whether you can stay afloat for that long is the true test of heroism.
The hit show has garnered nods across the board including the coveted Best Musical category at the 65th annual prizegiving, which honours the best on Broadway.
The Book of Mormon will go up against Catch Me If You Can, The Scottsboro Boys and Sister Act for the top prize.
Chris Rock's play The Motherf**ker with the Hat will compete for Best Play against War Horse, Good People and Jerusalem.
The ceremony is sure to be a star-studded event - Hollywood actor Al Pacino is nominated in the Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play category for his part in The Merchant of Venice, while Vanessa Redgrave (Driving Miss Daisy) will go head-to-head with Frances McDormand (Good People) for the Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play title.
Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe missed out on landing a nomination for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, but his co-star John Larroquette is up for the Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical trophy.
The satirical musical grabbed seven other nominations, including Best Revival of a Musical.
In the Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play category, British actor Mackenzie Crook (Jerusalem) will face off against Billy Crudup (Arcadia), as well as John Benjamin Hickey (The Normal Heart), Arian Moayed (Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo) and Yul Vazquez (The Motherf**ker with the Hat).
Meanwhile, Ellen Barkin (The Normal Heart), Edie Falco (The House of Blue Leaves), Judith Light (Lombardi), Joanna Lumley (La Bete) and Elizabeth Rodriguez (The Motherf**ker with the Hat) are all up for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play.
The winners will be announced on 12 June (11) at The Beacon Theatre in New York City.
The main list of nominees is as follows:
The Motherf**ker with the Hat
The Book of Mormon
Catch Me If You Can
The Scottsboro Boys
Best Book of a Musical:
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson - Alex Timbers
The Book of Mormon - Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone
The Scottsboro Boys - David Thompson
Sister Act- Cheri Steinkellner, Bill Steinkellner and Douglas Carter Beane
Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre:
The Book of Mormon - Music & Lyrics: Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone
The Scottsboro Boys - Music & Lyrics: John Kander and Fred Ebb
Sister Act- Music: Alan Menken, Lyrics: Glenn Slater
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown - Music & Lyrics: David Yazbek
Best Revival of a Play:
The Importance of Being Earnest
The Merchant of Venice
The Normal Heart
Best Revival of a Musical:
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play:
Brian Bedford - The Importance of Being Earnest
Bobby Cannavale - The Motherf**ker with the Hat
Joe Mantello - The Normal Heart
Al Pacino- The Merchant of Venice
Mark Rylance - Jerusalem
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play:
Nina Arianda - Born Yesterday
Frances McDormand - Good People
Lily Rabe - The Merchant of Venice
Vanessa Redgrave - Driving Miss Daisy
Hannah Yelland - Brief Encounter
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical:
Norbert Leo Butz - Catch Me If You Can
Josh Gad- The Book of Mormon
Joshua Henry - The Scottsboro Boys
Andrew Rannells - The Book of Mormon
Tony Sheldon - Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical:
Sutton Foster - Anything Goes
Beth Leavel - Baby It's You!
Patina Miller - Sister Act
Donna Murphy- The People in the Picture
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play:
Mackenzie Crook - Jerusalem
Billy Crudup - Arcadia
John Benjamin Hickey - The Normal Heart
Arian Moayed - Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Yul Vazquez - The Motherf**ker with the Hat
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play:
Ellen Barkin - The Normal Heart
Edie Falco - The House of Blue Leaves
Judith Light - Lombardi
Joanna Lumley - La Bete
Elizabeth Rodriguez - The Motherf**ker with the Hat
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical:
Colman Domingo - The Scottsboro Boys
Adam Godley - Anything Goes
John Larroquette - How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Forrest McClendon - The Scottsboro Boys
Rory O'Malley - The Book of Mormon
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical:
Laura Benanti- Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Tammy Blanchard - How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Victoria Clark - Sister Act
Nikki M. James - The Book of Mormon
Patti LuPone - Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Best Direction of a Play:
Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris - War Horse
Joel Grey & George C. Wolfe - The Normal Heart
Anna D. Shapiro - The Motherf**ker with the Hat
Daniel Sullivan - The Merchant of Venice
Best Direction of a Musical:
Rob Ashford - How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Kathleen Marshall - Anything Goes
Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker - The Book of Mormon
Susan Stroman - The Scottsboro Boys
Rob Ashford - How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Kathleen Marshall - Anything Goes
Casey Nicholaw - The Book of Mormon
Susan Stroman - The Scottsboro Boys
Doug Besterman - How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Larry Hochman - The Scottsboro Boys
Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus - The Book of Mormon
Marc Shaiman and Larry Blank - Catch Me If You Can.
The story of the most dominant racehorse of all time does not easily fit into the standard inspirational sports flick mold. Such films typically require its protagonists to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles be they competitive (Hoosiers) personal (The Natural) societal (Ali) or some combination of all three (Remember the Titans). But by all accounts the greatest challenges to Secretariat capturing of the 1973 Triple Crown were not rival horses — indeed Secretariat had no true rival — but a pair of slow starts and an abscess. And abscesses — apologies to dermatologists — simply aren’t all that effective as dramatic devices.
Lacking most of the vital ingredients of the traditional underdog movie formula Disney’s Secretariat is forced to synthesize them. Its screenplay written by Mike Rich and based rather loosely on the book Secretariat: The Making of a Champion by William Nack adopts a conventional save-the-farm framework: When her parents pass away within months of each other Denver housewife Penny Tweedy (Diane Lane) is advised to sell off her family’s Virginia-based Meadow Stables a beautiful but unprofitable horse-breeding enterprise in order to pay the onerous inheritance taxes levied by the state. But Penny her deceased father’s hackneyed horse-inspired counsel fresh in her mind (“You’ve got to run your own race ” etc. etc.) is loath to depart with such a cherished heirloom. So she concocts a scheme just idiotic enough to work betting the farm — literally — that her new horse Big Red in whom she has an almost Messianic faith will win the Kentucky Derby Preakness and Belmont races in succession.
Of course Big Red under the stage name Secretariat goes on to do just that but only after the film subjects us to nearly two hours of manufactured melodrama. Lane grasping all-too conspicuously for awards consideration treats every line as if it were the St. Crispin’s Day speech. Her character Penny exhibits a hair-trigger sensitivity to the sounds of skeptics and naysayers bursting forth with a polite rebuke and a stern sermon for anyone who dares doubt her crusade from the trash-talking owner of a rival horse to her annoyingly pragmatic husband (Dylan Walsh).
Lane isn’t alone in her grandiosity. The entire production reeks of it as director Randall Wallace lines the story with fetid chunks of overwrought Oscar bait like so many droppings in an untended stable even using Old Testament quotations and gospel music to endow Penny’s quest with biblical significance. John Malkovich is kind enough to inject some mirth into the heavy-handed proceedings hamming it up as Secretariat’s trainer Lucien Laurin a French-Canadian curmudgeon with an odd sartorial palette. It’s not enough however to alleviate the discomfort of witnessing the film's quasi-Sambo depiction of Secretariat’s famed groom Eddie Sweat (Nelsan Ellis) which reaches its cringeworthy zenith when Sweat runs out to the track on the eve of the Belmont Stakes and exclaims to no one in particular that “Big Red done eat his breakfast this mornin’!!!” Bagger Vance would be proud. Whether or not Ellis’ portrayal of Sweat’s cadence and mannerisms is accurate (and for all I know it may well be) the character is too thinly drawn to register as anything more than an amiable simple-minded servant.
Animal lovers will be happy to know that the horses in Secretariat come off looking far better than their human counterparts and not just because they’re alloted the best dialogue. In the training and racing sequences Wallace effectively conveys the strength and majesty of the fearsome animals drawing us into the action and creating a strong element of suspense even though the final result is a fait accompli. It's too bad the rest of the film never makes it out of the gate.
In other words Prada--based on the bestselling novel by Lauren Weisberger--unfortunately plays upon the sitcom-y boss-from-hell scenario in which the young flunky manages to one up her superior in some valiant way. There are no surprises save for the fact that its set in the world of high fashion invoking all the fabulousness that entails and incorporates the amazing Streep as Miranda Priestly editor-in-chief of THE fashion magazine Runway. Oozing contempt and demanding perfection Miranda at first terrorizes her new assistant Andy (Anne Hathaway) an impressionable lass who wants to be a serious journalist and has no desire to be a “Clacker.” But that lasts for all of about 10 seconds. Andy is soon wearing those Jimmy Choo stilettos and clacking across the floor with the best of them--and the better she gets at her job the more her personal life falls apart. Naturally Andy wises up and realizes life isn’t about Dolce Gabbana and the rest of the gang. Still maybe she could keep one Prada handbag. You know just to remember the experience. Streep is having a nice little resurgence this year with two spectacular performances. In Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion she plays the sunny yet heartbroken half of a singing sister act--and in Prada she’s Satan incarnate. Quite a switch but in the ever-so-capable hands of the Oscar winner it’s a flawless transition. The best part of Streep’s Miranda is all the things she doesn’t say. It’s the searing looks the languid move of the hand--and the hushed tones. This isn’t Kevin Spacey’s screaming lunatic producer in Swimming with Sharks; this is about the threatening quiet and the sacrifices Miranda makes to be lonely at the top. Hathaway as a lovely Audrey Hepburn look-a-like manages to keep her head above water but still hasn’t quite gotten rid of her Princess Diaries gee whizzed-ness. But there’s potential. In supporting roles Stanley Tucci makes a memorable appearance as Miranda’s right-hand man at the magazine doling out snarky but sage advice to our heroine while Adrian Grenier (HBO’s Entourage) plays nice as Andy’s patient boyfriend. The only other real standout star of Prada is the clothes. And the shoes. Oh and the handbags hats belts scarves and other accessories. Director David Frankel--a HBO flunky himself having directed several episodes of Entourage Sex and the City and even HBO’s hit mini-series Band of Brothers--captures this high-powered world of trend and style succinctly giving all fashionista wannabes everywhere a brief but meaningful inside peek. But the real kudos go out to costume designer Patricia Field (an Emmy winner for her work on Sex and the City) who must have had a lot of fun with Prada. She magically produces designs from Valentino (who also makes a small cameo) Donna Karan Bill Blass Galliano and of course Prada. It must be like a painter being given permission to recreate a Picasso or a Monet. Prada is predictable it’s true--but with Streep’s streaked white Cruella De Vil and all the great fashion it’s worth its weight in Versace.