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.
In a mechanized world an imaginative young inventor Rodney Copperbottom (voiced by Ewan McGregor) wants to be as famous as his hero the greatest inventor of all time Mr. Bigweld (voiced by Mel Brooks). With his father's "follow your dreams and never give up" ringing in his ears Rodney leaves his small town and sets out to the big bad Robot City to meet his idol and show him his invention. Once there Rodney meets the Rusties a ragtag group of street-smart bots lead by the wacky Fender (voiced by Robin Williams) who know the ropes. Rodney finds out that Bigweld has gone into seclusion and Robot City is being taken over by an ambitious robot named Ratchet (voiced by Greg Kinnear) whose motto is "Why Be You When You Could Be New?" Ratchet soon halts production on parts for the older robots. If the bot folk can't afford the new stuff they are gathered up and sent to an underground chop shop where Rachet's hideous mother Madame Gasket (voiced by Jim Broadbent) melts them down and turns them into metal for new parts. But the evil duo's plan is soon spoiled when Rodney and the Rusties start fixing the older models and decide the must get the reclusive Bigweld back on track to fight back.
How can you go wrong with such a fabulous cast? They all do a great job including McGregor as the earnest Rodney Copperbottom; Brooks as the soft-hearted boss Big Weld; Kinnear as the vain and conniving Rachet; Broadbent as the repugnantly evil Gasket; Jennifer Coolidge as the hilarious and lovable big-booty bot Aunt Fanny; Halle Berry as the smart and seductive executive bot Cappy; and Amanda Bynes as the perky Piper determined to prove herself. But once again voice over veteran Robin Williams steals the show as the broke down and chaotic robot Fender. With his hundreds of voices and impersonations animated films fit the frenetic Williams to a tee making him the undisputed king.
Blue Sky Animation and Oscar-winning director Chris Wedge who brought us the delightful Ice Age are back turning in another stellar animated effort. Robots is rivet-ing transporting the audience into a world of mechanics electronics and robotics. The best scene is when Rodney gets to Robot City and goes on a roller coaster "cab" ride with Fender through a maze of whirligigs and gadgets. Good fun. Added into the mix is a groovin' soundtrack that makes you want to get up and dance with the characters while snickering at the songs' innuendos. Overall Robots incorporates vibrant colors above the ground with dark rusted images below to bring to life this lively world of metal folk.
December 07, 2004 9:16am EST
Paris Hilton named most fascinating person of the year
Paris Hilton's declaration that she doesn't sit around all day saying "That's hot" has apparently scored her points with Barbara Walters, who named the hotel heiress the most intriguing person of the year, The Associated Press reports. Walters, whose Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2004 airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. EST on ABC, chats with the socialite about her illustrious catch phrase as well as the infamous sex tape Hilton made with her then-boyfriend Rick Salomon. "I was in love with him and people, I think, do that sometimes. I never thought that it would get out and that I'd be hurt like that," Hilton tells Walters. "It was (very painful). I thought it was the end. I thought, I was so embarrassed for all my teenage fans and my younger fans. I thought it was over." Hilton also reveals she reads books, the most recent one being Maneater, a novel about an uninhibited L.A. woman's search for a man. On Walters "most fascinating people" list, Hilton, who just wrapped the third season of her Fox reality series The Simple Life, beat out filmmaker Michael Moore, Jeopardy! whiz Ken Jennings and Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling.
Chong returns with fresh crop of pot jokes
Comedian Tommy Chong, who spent nine months in jail for conspiring to sell bongs on the Internet, premieres The Marijuana-Logues at New York's Actors Playhouse on Tuesday with his former collaborator Cheech Marin, AP reports. Chong, 66, gained notoriety for the Cheech & Chong characters he created with partner Marin in films such as Up in Smoke and Still Smokin'. He told AP radio he still hasn't recovered from breaking up his act with Marin. "I never really got over it. There was always an emptiness in my heart," he said. "I had a 60th birthday and Cheech came to it. And it was the first time we'd seen each other in years, and he said, "I think of you every day.'"
Michael Moore embraces Hollywood
Fahrenheit 9/11 director Michael Moore denied Monday Hollywood had hurt John Kerry's presidential bid, citing California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former President Ronald Reagan as examples. "America loves Hollywood. America loves the people in the movies and on TV. And the thing that the Republicans have already figured out is that America likes to vote for Hollywood," Moore told reporters before addressing the Los Angeles World Affairs Council on the impact of filmmaking on politics. "And I think we need to turn to Hollywood, because who wouldn't vote for Tom Hanks or Paul Newman or Robert Redford or Oprah?" Moore added President Bush won because he "had a more compelling story to tell and the Democrats didn't," the AP reports.
Motley Crue reunites
Motley Crue, the heavy metal band that dominated the rock scene in1980s with hits including "Dr. Feelgood," "Kickstart My Heart" and "Girls Girls Girls," announced Monday they are reuniting for a world tour beginning next year. Reuters reports the first leg of the tour will begin Feb. 17 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. "For as much as it's like 'Wow! This is like the ultimate rollercoaster ride in life' it was kinda nice to get off that for a little while. But I'm jonesin' for the thrill now," vocalist Nikki Sixx told Reuters.
Ferguson may take over Late Late Show
Comedian/actor Craig Ferguson, former co-star of The Drew Carey Show, is in talks to replace Craig Kilborn as the host of the CBS' The Late Late Show, sources told Reuters. When Kilborn exited in August after five years of hosting the show to focus on writing and producing different television projects, more than 20 guest hosts appeared on the show until early last month. The network whittled the field of candidates to four: Ferguson, Damien Fahey, D.L. Hughley and Michael Ian Black. CBS declined comment Monday, Reuters reports.
Charges against Givens dismissed
A Miami court dismissed the case against actress Robin Givens, who was ticketed for hitting an elderly lady and running over her leg, because the officers who were present did not witness the accident and could not testify to the cause of the accident, AP reports. Givens, best known for starring in the TV comedy Head of the Class, struck Maria Antonia Alcover as she was about to step onto the sidewalk after crossing a busy Miami street Jan. 28, police said, with the back wheel of Givens' Mercedes-Benz SUV running over Alcover's right leg. The actress was ticketed for failing to use due care with a pedestrian in the crosswalk. Alcover has filed a civil suit against Givens in the case, and trial is set to begin Jan. 3.
Kit Bowen contributed to this report.
The vampire Lestat de Lioncourt (Stuart Townsend) wakes from a hundred-year sleep to the rock 'n' roll present day and likes what he sees and hears. Tired of the vampire's solitary life he becomes the frontman for an unknown rock band and transforms it into the latest greatest thing gaining the adulation of millions. He also decides to disregard the unspoken rule that vampires must hide away from the rest of world and writes songs encoded with specifics of the secret life of vampires. As expected Lestat's lyrics draw the attention of both the bloodsuckers who want to destroy him and the human vampire scholars (called the Talamasca) who want to study him. One young Talamascan student Jesse Reeves (Marguerite Moreau) becomes obsessed with Lestat after reading his journal from the 1800s. She learns that Lestat had a brief encounter with Queen Akasha (Aaliyah) the most ancient and dangerous vampire to ever exist and the mother of all who walk the Earth in search of blood. He gets his chance to meet Akasha again when his music awakens her from an ancient slumber. She rises and seeks out Lestat to become her king and join her in ruling the world.
The film truly belongs to Townsend and fans of the Anne Rice's novels will be happy to know he completely embodies the charismatic vampire Lestat. The little-known Irish actor who starred in last year's indie About Adam with Kate Hudson rules the screen whenever he is on it and luckily he's on it quite a lot. He's especially powerful when he is in rock star mode. Although Moreau's Jesse is fairly one dimensional she comes alive in her scenes with Townsend. Let's hope they keep asking him to play Lestat (when and if they make any more films from Rice's vampire novels) and next time give him an actress he can have some real chemistry with. The late R&B singer Aaliyah made her second film appearance in Damned as the queen. Even though she is only in the film a short time she possesses a certain charm as the ancient and evil Queen Akasha and makes a great first impression by destroying a vampire coven. Yet her acting skills are just not up to par with the rest of the cast including the charismatic Vincent Perez as the vampire Marius and Lena Olin as the kind-hearted vampire Maharet.
Damned was set to be released in the fall of last year but word of mouth had the film destined for the video shelf before it even made it to the big screen. Then tragedy struck and as the news of Aaliyah's untimely death echoed throughout the world of entertainment Warner Bros. wisely decided to hold onto it and release it in theaters at a more favorable time knowing there would be an audience who'd want to see the singer's last film. Yet for all the bad press surrounding it Damned actually pleasantly surprises you due largely in part to Townsend's mesmerizing performance. Michael Rymer's direction is not a masterpiece of filmmaking by any stretch of the imagination but it has a certain MTV quality about it which makes it appealing. That same quality however also makes it too slick glossing over the meatier parts of Rice's novel making the dialogue and action trite and sometimes downright silly. Come to think of it the 1994 Interview With the Vampire also suffered from the same thing. Maybe translating Rice's words is harder than it looks.