Saturday, June 23, 2018
Movies

'Battleship' sinks under the weight of its action movie cliches

"What's the difference between a battleship and a destroyer?" asks a starstruck boy upon meeting a U.S. Navy hero-to-be in Battleship. The smart answer would be "one peg hole" since everyone knows the board game inspiring this brawny action flick. The sailor says something else because Battleship isn't a smart movie.

It's a loud one, cacophonous enough to prevent nodding off during long stretches of character underdevelopment and gung-ho declarations. Director Peter Berg appears to spoof the genre by piling on alien invasion cliches and ballistic paths to human victory, but I think he's serious about them. A board game gets supersized to boredom.

Poor Taylor Kitsch, stuck in another mega-budget obstacle — after the John Carter debacle — to advancing his career beyond mere beefcake. Kitsch plays Alex Hopper, a chronic rebel against authority, so of course he'll make an outstanding naval officer who'll save the world. In a single jump cut Alex goes from being arrested trying to impress a woman, to lieutenant with the babe (Brooklyn Decker) on his arm and her father the admiral (Liam Neeson) on his back.

Ah, but Alex still has that hot-headed streak, witnessed during a soccer match with Japanese sailors in port for war game maneuvers. His uptight sibling and commander Stone (Alexander Skarsgard) makes it clear: These exercises at sea are Alex's last chance to shape up or ship out. Then Stone gets obliterated by aliens, so there's really no choice for a vengeful little brother, is there?

See, these scientists sent a radio signal to outer space and the wrong extraterrestrials answered, sending a submerged mothership, creatures without personalities and various Transformers spare parts to destroy Earth. It doesn't matter why, and Berg doesn't attempt explaining. He's just looking for something to go boom, and it does, relentlessly, numbingly.

Battleship does pay homage briefly to its board game roots; minor diversions from the incendiary sameness. These are fairly primitive alien warships. Rather than firing death rays they drop bombs shaped like the plastic pegs Battleship players plugged into tiny ships. The thunk-thunk-thunk of them planting in decks and hulls is a nice aural touch soon drowned out by explosions as usual.

Another sequence shows Alex's crew tracking alien coordinates underwater, on a computer grid similar to the game's plastic laptop origins. The scene is nostalgic only because it's as tedious as playing Battleship can be. When a tracker yells: "Give me an order! I don't know what to do, sir!" it was hard to keep from blurting: "E-6, already!"

Two flesh-and-blood performers stand out among the machinery. One is pop singer Rhianna, looking lovely as usual despite the military gear and quite comfortable with high-powered artillery. The other is Gregory D. Gadson, an Army veteran who lost his legs to a roadside bomb in Baghdad. Gadson admirably plays Mick, a vet who won't allow his disability to keep him out of the fight. When he's on screen, the gunpowder corn of Battleship is a bit sweeter.

Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365.

Comments
Three movies are in the works about Hulk Hogan and Gawker. Will they remember who’s the victim?

Three movies are in the works about Hulk Hogan and Gawker. Will they remember who’s the victim?

Sonny BunchAccording to Vulture, there are three separate movies in the works about the downfall of the New York-based gossip blog Gawker.One is based on the book Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue; it will be a...
Published: 06/21/18
What’s in theaters this week: ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ and heist caper ‘American Animals’

What’s in theaters this week: ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ and heist caper ‘American Animals’

OPENING FRIDAY:JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOMDinosaurs: Keep them alive or kill them off? It’s a question that haunts the human characters in between fireball-dodging cardio workouts in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the spectacularly ho-hum new ent...
Published: 06/20/18
‘Incredibles 2’ just might be better than the original — and a cure to superhero fatigue

‘Incredibles 2’ just might be better than the original — and a cure to superhero fatigue

It’s been 14 years since the premiere of Brad Bird’s beloved animated superhero film The Incredibles, one of the mega-hit Pixar films that cemented its reputation for film humor and heart that would satisfy both parents and children. With cool mid-ce...
Published: 06/13/18
Why is Mister Rogers making adults cry decades later?

Why is Mister Rogers making adults cry decades later?

Neighborly block party comes to downtown Tampa.
Published: 06/12/18
 ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’ about Mr. Rogers is much-needed emotional tonic for troubled times

‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’ about Mr. Rogers is much-needed emotional tonic for troubled times

If beloved children’s television show host Mr. Rogers were once a representation of all things milquetoast, in the summer of 2018, his message of love and tolerance is not only saintly, it’s radical. In the deftly crafted documentary Won’t You Be My ...
Published: 06/12/18
Yes, ‘Ocean’s 8’ is a heist movie, but it’s also an empowering, cheeky comedy

Yes, ‘Ocean’s 8’ is a heist movie, but it’s also an empowering, cheeky comedy

Most every successful heist movie, just like a heist itself, functions by obeying a well-defined formula.First comes the setup and backstory (typically involving the righting of a wrong, to lend the subsequent lawbreaking a veneer of moral justificat...
Updated one month ago
TMZ: Last surviving munchkin from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ dies at 98

TMZ: Last surviving munchkin from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ dies at 98

The last surviving munchkin in The Wizard of Oz has died.Jerry Maren, 98, died last week at a nursing home in San Diego, according to TMZ.The cause of death for the last surviving member of the famous Lollipop Guild, made famous in the 1939 classic, ...
Updated one month ago
‘Blind Side’ star is at Tampa Theatre for a screening this weekend

‘Blind Side’ star is at Tampa Theatre for a screening this weekend

BLIND SIDE: Summer Classic Movie SeriesAll summer long, Tampa Theatre is showing classic Hollywood movies. Sunday features not only a screening of 2009’s The Blind Side, but also actor Quinton Aaron, who played Big Mike in the film, for a Q&A. Based ...
Updated one month ago
In ‘Hereditary,’ Toni Collette reveals a sixth sense for icy terror

In ‘Hereditary,’ Toni Collette reveals a sixth sense for icy terror

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, as Tolstoy noted in a sentence so right, by the time you started arguing with it Anna Karenina was off and suffering.If Tolstoy got a look at Hereditary, he might’ve added: ...
Updated one month ago
Jodie Foster makes ‘Hotel Artemis’ first-class experience

Jodie Foster makes ‘Hotel Artemis’ first-class experience

Hotel Artemis is a shining example of how it isn’t the amount of money spent to make a movie, but how the budget is being spent. Director/writer Drew Pearce has managed to take the money that would be the cape-pressing budget for most superhero movie...
Updated one month ago