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Battleship (2012)

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Battleship ReviewStarring Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, Rihanna, Liam Neeson, Brooklyn Decker, Jesse Plemons

Directed by Peter Berg


In the grand tradition of silly and overblown (yet ultimately crowd-pleasing) action flicks like Armageddon, Independence Day, and Transformers, or even to a lesser degree Space Cowboys, comes actor-turned-director Peter Berg’s latest, Battleship, which stars Taylor Kitsch (“Friday Night Lights,” John Carter) and Alexander Skarsgard (“True Blood”) as a pair of brothers enlisted in the Navy who must face off against an alien fleet in the middle of the Pacific during what was supposed to be a day of standard Naval maneuvers.

As it turns out, at the start of Battleship a group of scientists have discovered an Earth-esque planet in a distant galaxy that seems to be able to sustain human life forms. They develop the technology to send out a signal to the planet, figuring nothing bad could come of it, but after about six years a response does come in the form of a small squadron of alien ships who eventually land on Earth, exert their authority, and set up camp for a planetary takeover.

This pisses the Navy off something fierce, and soon an all-out battle for mankind is afoot on the high seas where a high-tension game of “Battleship” breaks out (for real- they actually play a form of the popular game in the flick), and Kitsch must step up and out-strategize the invading alien race before they can signal for more ships to arrive and take over the planet.

If you’ve seen any of the trailers for Battleship thus far, the flick pretty much lives up to the absolutely ridiculous and cheesy premise it promises to be and really is one of the silliest films of the year so far. Despite its numerous (and I mean NUMEROUS) flaws, it’s not completely lacking in the entertainment department; but at the end of the day, Battleship is meant for a select audience and will only be fun for those who go into it looking for some mindless entertainment and that’s about it. Anyone looking for a life-changing cinematic experience should look elsewhere.

At the helm of Battleship is Berg, a director whose previous efforts include other action fare like The Rundown and The Kingdom as well as the dark comedy Very Bad Things and the teen football dramedy Friday Night Lights (Berg also served as the executive producer on the television series of the same name), and to be honest, while the action in his latest is the biggest he’s ever tackled, it’s definitely not Berg’s best effort by a longshot.

One of the biggest issues with Battleship is that it feels like Berg was hired to make a two-hour and eleven-minute long commercial for the US Navy; and when he wasn’t busy advertising for the Naval Forces, he was slipping in advertising for popular products like Coke and Subway, which always takes away from the enjoyment factor when you feel like someone is trying to sell you something when all you’re looking for is just to be entertained.

But that’s not to say the sole responsibility for Battleship‘s flaws lies squarely on Berg’s shoulders; most what really trips the film is the cringe-inducing script penned by Erich and Jon Hoeber, whose previous work has been somewhat hit and miss over the last few years on films like Whiteout and Red. But their script for Battleship takes the cake as one of the most giggle-inducing projects to come along in a while, killing any sort of emotion or tension Berg and his cast attempt to build along the way. At one point they even work in the line “They’re not going to sink this Battleship” so yeah, that’s the kind of depth going on in Battleship.

The performances are a mixed bag at best; with such hammy dialogue to work with, it’s hard to tell whether or not some of the actors are really THAT bad or if they decided to just check out mentally due to what they had to work with. The few bright spots amongst the Battleship ensemble include top-lining Kitsch, whose smoldering charisma proves he does have what it takes to lead an action flick despite what the disappointing John Carter box office receipts may have indicated a few months back. Neeson is criminally underutilized with what feels like a glorified cameo, but when he does show up, it’s a good time. Neeson’s a guy who has always had a knack for being able to add a little class to popcorn fodder such as this, and he turns in another likable turn here.

Plemons, another “Friday Night Lights” alum, is undoubtedly one of the highlights of Battleship with his performance feeling somewhat like an extension of his character Landry that so many fans fell in love with during the series’ five-year run. He’s funny, awkward, and has an infectious charisma that makes it hard to not be entertained whenever he’s being given screen time.

But at the other end of the acting spectrum in Battleship are Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, and Skarsgard, who are all just downright awful. Sure, no one was expecting an Oscar-winning turn from the female pop vocalist (her one-liners are ridiculous at best), but the fact that Skarsgard seems to be asleep pretty much throughout his entire performance was pretty shocking considering his usually stellar work on HBO’s “True Blood.”

On the positive side, the visual effects work by Industrial Light & Magic on Battleship to create all of the alien-inflicted destruction looks pretty spectacular. The alien design in the film was a rather interesting approach that seemed to try and do something new by giving us a creature design that was a bit outside of the box. The space suits donned by the aliens seemed a bit too Halo for this writer’s liking, but the design works and actually serves the story (albeit a flimsy story) rather well.

In a summer movie season filled with highly anticipated blockbusters like The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus, The Amazing Spider-Man, and even the recently released The Avengers, Battleship just doesn’t deliver on the spectacle it promises. Sure, there are a few decent performances and some great visual effects going on, but overall Battleship can’t get past its own “message” to have some fun, making for one of the more lackluster big budget action films to grace theaters since Pearl Harbor.

2 out of 5

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Friends Don’t Let Friends Review – A Haunting Mixture of Psychological Turmoil and Brutal Supernatural Horror

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Starring Brittany Anne Woodford, Jenny Curtis, Kanin Guntzelman, Brendan McGowan, Jake White

Directed by James S. Brown

We all like to think of ourselves as being surrounded by friends, but let’s face it, if we were to ever truly hit hard times, there are probably very few, if any, people we could truly rely on. So on some level, Friends Don’t Let Friends is a film we can all relate too, as it deals with this very issue.

Stephanie is an emotionally unstable young woman who strangles her boyfriend to death after he insults and breaks up with her. She calls her friends to help her dispose the body out in the Joshua Tree National Part area, and instead of reporting her to the police, they reluctantly comply. As their car breaks down, the four friends find themselves alone at night in the Californian wilderness with the rotting corpse in need of disposal. Given their dire circumstances, they begin to become more and more aggressive towards each other, and this was where the film was really at its best. I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how far the limits of their friendship could be stretched, and who would be the first to crack and turn on the others.

Anyway, their body disposal endeavor soon proves to be a mistake, as Stephanie’s ex rises from the grave as vengeful zombie demon thing with claws as long as knives. I’ll admit, I first I thought Friends Don’t Let Friends was going to be a movie purely about the limits of trust, so I was pretty surprised when the supernatural elements came into play. And when they did, the trust and friendship elements of the plot were somewhat downplayed in favor of a more traditional horror approach, and while it was still entertaining, I still would have preferred for the film not to have strayed from its initial path. At least the ending came as a shocker. I won’t go into spoilers, but let’s just say the even the most attentive viewers probably won’t see it coming.

As you can probably guess from a psychologically-driven film of this kind, the performances were top notch, with Brittany Anne Woodford being on particularly top form as the manipulative and unstable Stephanie, a character who revels in the revels in the power she felt when ending another human life.

With its mixture of psychological turmoil and brutal supernatural horror, Friends Don’t Let Friends is a film I would certainly recommend, but keep in mind that it may make you think twice when confiding in people who you think of as being your friends.

8 out of 10.

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Coulrophobia Review – One of the Most Entertaining Killer Clown Films in Quite Some Time

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Starring Pete Bennett, Warren Speed, Daniella D’Ville, Roxy Bordeaux

Directed by Warren Speed


The word ‘Coulrophobia’ refers to the fear of clowns, and if you happen to suffer from it, you might want to avoid director Warren Speed’s film of the same name. However, if you can stand the sight of clowns with gaping wounds in their manly parts, then you’re in for one heck of a fun time.

An all-female hockey team get lost deep in the Scottish woods on their way to a match (don’t ask), and are captured and forced to participate in a series of horrific games by the Grock family of clowns. All of the members of said family are absolutely fucking insane, but the one that really stood out was Twitch (Pete Bennett), who wears jester cloths and it said to have a short attention span. He longs to be a violin player and wishes he could blend in with normal society like the other members of his family. And you almost feel sorry for him, even though he’s a mad killer with bells on his head.

Director Warren Speed also appeared as Milo, a grunting mute who had his tongue cut out when he was a boy. As mentioned above, we see a close-up shot of a open wound in his penis being stitched up, which is not an image that will be leaving your mind anytime soon. Speed is clearly fearless when it comes to his art.

Inter-spliced with all the torture and mayhem, we also see documentary-style telling the sad history of the family involved, and this was where the film unfortunately faltered, because these scenes seemed out of place and just didn’t flow with the rest of the plot.

Ultimately, however, Coulrophobia almost seems like a film Rob Zombie might have made before he lost his way and started churning out trash like 31. Comparisons to House of 1000 Corpses are inevitable, and I absolutely mean that as a compliment. This is one of the most entertaining killer clown films in quite some time.

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User Rating 2.94 (17 votes)
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The Gatehouse Review – What Is Found in the Woods Should Be Left in the Woods

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Starring Scarlett Rayner, Simeon Willis, Linal Haft

Directed by Martin Gooch


Now while no one will sneeze at the prospect of bringing up a bit of a rebellious child alone, it’s those damned kids that like to tempt fate by pissing off creatures in the woods…oh kids, they do the funniest things, don’t they?

In Martin Gooch’s moderately spooky presentation, The Gatehouse, a struggling writer named Jack (Willis) finds himself behind the 8-ball following the tragic drowning death of his beloved wife, and if that isn’t enough to torque your drawers, his young daughter, Eternity (Rayner) is becoming quite the salty soul herself. Unfortunately the little one has been finding herself bullied at school, and her recourse of sorts is to simply toss attitude around as if it was pleasantly acceptable. Her pastime has become lonely wanderings in the deep woods, digging for hopeful treasures…and we all know what problems reside in the woods, don’t we, horror fans? Well, Eternity’s father is attempting to re-start his writing career with a frightening backstory – taking the reigns on a novel that was abruptly ended when the author committed suicide, and supposedly the tome is quite the dark piece of literature.

Eternity’s never-ending quest for fortune and glory in the forest leads her to a most interesting (and ultimately) dangerous discovery (don’t sweat it – I won’t spill it for you). Bottom line here is this: the little girl has taken possession of something that should have been left in the friggin’ woods, and now someone (or something) wants it back PRONTO. What follows is a lackluster series of “spooky” events, and far be it from me to say, I’ve seen creepier stuff watching the evening news. Gooch then tries to bombard the audience with a plethora of instances and swerving plot direction – it’s fun at the beginning but can grow a bit tiresome over a duration.

Performance-wise, both Rayner and Willis play the perfect combination of mentally-shot dad and determined-to-be-independent daughter – their scenes are ripe with subtle contempt, and the right amount of indecision. Overall, the film is best suited for those fans of fantasy/fable-like horror, and while it might not scare the pants off of you, it definitely will give us all another reason to stay the hell out of the woods once and for all.

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Summary

Children in a forest-setting don’t always add up to cutesy-pie encounters with furry creatures – this one’s got a few scares to keep fans of coppice-horror appeased.

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User Rating 3.56 (18 votes)
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