Power producer Neal Moritz’ (Green Hornet Fast & Furious) company is called Original Film which is ironic because he hasn’t made a truly unique motion picture in some time. His latest effort Battle: Los Angeles isn’t groundbreaking by any stretch of the imagination but packs enough punch to leave you saying “Thank you sir may I have another?”
Jonathan Liebesman (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning) directs this massive movie about a race of aliens colonizing our planet but as the title suggests the action is centered on the City of Angels. Instead of watching the world at war we witness the American military’s last stand on the West Coast by following a single squad of soldiers on the ground as they fight their way through the city to pick up scattered civilians before the Air Force levels Los Angeles. 2nd Lt. William Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez) leads the troop but is too young to be calling the shots in a cataclysmic event like this. Thank heavens Squad Sgt. Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) was called back in for one last mission because it doesn’t take long for the rest of the battalion to realize that the reluctant hero is their best chance for survival.
It’s a good thing that Liebesman and his technical crew are on the top of their game in Battle: LA because most of the other aspects of the production are just downright foolish. Writer Chris Bertolini took the framework from a handful of classic war movies and applied them to his script resulting in highly predictable scenarios and a pace that marches to the beat of past genre entries like Independence Day and Black Hawk Down. His dialogue filled with military jargon and 5th grade humor is quite literally laughable at some points while the thinly crafted characters are all token “team members” that you’ve seen before in films like Jarhead from the soon-to-be-father who’s not sure if he’s going to make it back to his wife to the new recruit/virgin who’s too young to die to the guy with the chip on his shoulder. We get brief glimpses of their back-stories in the first twenty minutes of the movie but as Nantz says during his Bill Pullman moment when the tide begins to turn “none of that matters now.”
What does matter is that Battle: Los Angeles is a roaring thrill ride that barely lets up from start to finish. From the moment the soldiers hit the streets they’re thrust into a tense and gritty survival situation that vaguely mirrors the urban environments in which our Marines are currently engaged in the Middle East. Liebesman uses handheld cameras and close-ups to capture the calamity of combat giving the picture a documentary quality that helps it find some semblance of individuality. Though his actors aren’t required to do much acting (save for Michael Pena whose small role as a dedicated father stands out) and the script as stated is noticeably sub-par capturing their facial expressions as hovercrafts blow fighter jets out of the sky brings out emotion that most of them wouldn’t be able convey in a more traditional performance.
As I continue to heap praise upon the film’s technical achievements I must also note editor Christian Wagner’s chaotic cuts that heighten the soldier’s state of paranoia and the overall sound design of the picture. Until we get up close and personal with one of the aliens Liebesman doesn’t show us much; we have a hard time seeing them because they move so fast but we can hear their quick movements and the affect is quite unsettling much like the performances from Michelle Rodriguez Ne-Yo and a slew of the films co-stars.
Whether or not the filmmakers originally intended on making a movie that was more than the average alien invasion flick is neither here nor there. Is it a rehash of the most exciting moments in War of the Worlds or Red Dawn? Sure it is but it’s also an electrifying film that manages to be engrossing and entertaining in spite of its flaws.
It's Official: Andrew Garfield Is the Next Spider-Man
Sony has finally put to rest the rampant rumors about who'll be headlining their much-anticipated Spider-Man reboot, announcing via a company press release today that Andrew Garfield will star as Peter Parker in the Marc Webb-directed and James Vanderbilt-penned film, which is set to open in 2012.
Below is the text from Sony's press release. Somebody should probably break the news to Jamie Bell. In the meantime, who's up for a road trip to Cancun?
CULVER CITY, Calif., July 1, 2010 – After a comprehensive worldwide casting search, Andrew Garfield has been chosen to portray Peter Parker when Spider-Man swings back onto the screen in 3D on July 3, 2012. The new film will begin production in early December directed by Marc Webb from a screenplay by James Vanderbilt. Laura Ziskin and Avi Arad will produce the film from Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios.
Today’s confirmation culminates what has been one of the most eagerly anticipated casting announcements in recent memory. Bloggers, pop culture speculators, and everyday fans have pored over and analyzed every conceivable online rumor in an attempt to discover the identity of the next actor to play Peter Parker. Garfield will immediately begin preparing for the coveted role.
The Spider-Man franchise is one of the most successful in film history and the three previous motion pictures have collectively grossed more than $2.5 billion in worldwide box office.
On selecting Garfield, director Marc Webb said, “Though his name may be new to many, those who know this young actor’s work understand his extraordinary talents. He has a rare combination of intelligence, wit, and humanity. Mark my words, you will love Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker.”
Commenting on the announcement, Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Matt Tolmach, President of Columbia Pictures said, “Spider-Man is a classic superhero -- a young man who balances his responsibility to serve humanity and crush evil with the shyness and normalcy of someone struggling to find himself. The role demands an extraordinary actor. You need someone who can magically transform himself from Peter Parker into Spider-Man. An actor who will depict the vulnerability of youth and the strength and confidence of a legendary figure at the same moment. We have found that actor in Andrew Garfield. From the first time we saw him in the upcoming film The Social Network, to his glorious screen test, which floored all of us, we knew that we had found our new Peter Parker.”
Producer Avi Arad added, “I’m incredibly excited about Andrew Garfield. In the Spider-Man tradition, we were looking for a smart, sensitive, and cool new Peter Parker who can inspire us and make us laugh, cry, and cheer. We believe we have found the perfect choice to take on this role and lead us into the future.”
Producer Laura Ziskin said, “We are thrilled to have Andrew Garfield for this new incarnation of Spider-Man under Marc Webb’s direction. We were fortunate enough to meet with a group of fantastically talented young men. In the end, we all agreed that in addition to being an extraordinary actor, Andrew had the right mix of humor, youth, and pathos, along with an underlying sense of strength and power necessary to bring Peter Parker and Spider-Man to life on screen.”
The selection of Garfield was revealed at a press event in Cancun, Mexico for international journalists attending a media tour promoting upcoming films from Sony Pictures Entertainment. B-roll footage of the announcement will be available via satellite later this evening -- see uplink times coordinate information below.
Garfield is fast becoming one of the most respected and sought-after young actors working in the industry today. In a short career, spanning only five years, he has already been directed by, and starred alongside, some of the greatest names and received a BAFTA for a role that won him international praise.
Garfield most recently worked with director David Fincher on the upcoming film The Social Network. He previously starred for Spike Jonze on his robot love story I’m Here, which premiered at Sundance this year. He plays the lead male opposite Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan in Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go, due for release later this year.
Other notable screen credits include Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus playing opposite Christopher Plummer, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, Jude Law and the late Heath Ledger, Robert Redford’s Lions For Lambs, where he starred alongside Redford, Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep; Revolution Films’ “Red Riding Trilogy – 1974” directed by Julian Jarrold, where he lead a stellar cast including Rebecca Hall and David Morrissey, and his unforgettable portrayal of a young ex-con in John Crowley’s “Boy A,” for which he earned the best actor BAFTA in 2008.
Garfield’s career began in theatre and in 2006 his performances in “Beautiful Thing” (Sound Space/Kit Productions), “The Overwhelming,” and “Burn / Chatroom / Citizenship” (Royal National Theatre) won him the Milton Shulman Award for Outstanding Newcomer at the Evening Standard awards and the Jack Tinker Award for Most Promising Newcomer at the Critics Circle Theatre Awards. Other notable theatre credits include “Romeo and Juliet” (Manchester Royal Exchange) and “Kes” (Manchester Royal Exchange), for which he received the Most Promising Newcomer Award at the Manchester Evening News Awards 2004.
For those who love the idea of people walking around with paranormal skills Push is right on the money. Basically the big bad government strikes again -- this time in the form of a shadowy agency known as the Division. They have genetically transformed citizens into an army of psychic warriors with tag names such as “Pushers ” “Shifters” and “Sniffers ” who brutally dispose those unwilling to participate in their reindeer games. Nick Grant (Chris Evans) a second-generation telekinetic or “Mover ” is one such rebel hiding out in Hong Kong. He meets the tough-as-nails Cassie (Dakota Fanning) a 13-year-old second-generation clairvoyant or “Watcher ” also on the run and through uncontrollable circumstances reluctantly follows her on a quest to bring down the Division. Wanna know what a “Bleeder” does? It isn’t pretty. While the story weakens at points it’s saved by winning performances especially from Fanning. This is her sort-of coming out film -- moving away from the childish and into more adult fare cursin’ and gettin’ drunk in Push like a pro. This kind of teen wiseass role could have been played obnoxiously but Fanning gives it depth and heart. Her longevity as a actress is quite evident. The charmingly good-looking Evans (Fantastic Four) too makes the most of his reluctant hero a guy with a bigger chip on his shoulder than he’d like to admit. Other standout turns include Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond) as The Division’s No. 1 badass a top-notch Pusher who can put any old thought in your head and Camilla Belle (10 000 B.C.) as Nick’s part-time love interest who holds the key to the whole operation -- at one point quite literally. Director Paul McGuigan showed his mettle with the tightly wound thriller Lucky Number Slevin -- and continues the trend by crafting another slick actioner. What he does best is make Hong Kong a vital and integral part of Push. Shot entirely on location the nooks and crannies of the city gives the film a very claustrophobic feel while the stark minimalistic environs enhances the sort of hopelessness of the situations playing out. One particular climactic battle on top of a glass roof is pretty cool. Any of the film’s faults lie in the script which seems to meander and feel forced at times but ultimately Push is just pure escapist fun.