Directed by Peter Berg (Hancock, 2008) and co written by Eric and John Hoeber (Red, 2011), the movie is apparently based on the Hasbro’s children’s game Battleship, indeed that would explain a certain plot twist.  Is this the greatest movie ever made? No, nor is it the worst. It has been scoring a solid set of 4/10 – 6/10 from the critics. You will have to wait until the end to see my score.  It is actually a reasonably entertaining movie.  Ever since Independence Day (Roland Emmerich, 1996) I have resisted going too technical on movies which are designed only to entertain; indeed the technical deficiencies of some movies still provide far more entertainment value than the movies themselves.  With this in mind I parked my brain at the theatre door and proceeded to watch what was served up to me, gone were all thought of geo-politics, coordinated military responses etc.  I sat down to see how our stars saved the world.

Staring Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood 2008+) as the older brother who drags his y feckless irresponsible undisciplined younger brother (Taylor Kitsch, John Carter, 2012) in to the navy (where as a lieutenant is the TAC on the USS John Paul Jones); I’m not going to ask how a young man with such obvious personality flaws got to such a position. The older brother who as a Commander is the master of his own ship and is sailing along side his kinsman in the naval war games programmed off Hawaii  is so positioned to be one of the three vessels to investigate our alien visitors when they arrive.

The afore mentioned alien visitors only dropped in to Earth as a result of NASA sending a focused radio message out to space. The message was heard and the invading aliens rush straight to Earth. The only problem is that the aliens manage to crash into the only satellite they will be able to use to “phone home”.  As a result they also need to take over the radio observatory from which the Earth signals were being broadcast.  As only can happen in the movies, Brooklyn Decker, who plays the girlfriend of Kitsch’s character, is walking up the side of the mountain the observatory is on to help an army colonel who is a double  amputee and is learning to walk again.  It does not help that she is also the admiral’s daughter (no point for guessing which one of the brothers the admiral does not get on with).

Long story short, by land and sea the combined forces of our stars fight by various ways to defeat the enemy. Despite the budget this is a B movie, this is not necessarily a bad thing (just think of the classic offerings from the 1950’s and 1960’s. This is a movie that knows its place.

You may have noticed I have not gone in to the plot too much – it is obvious and so I won’t take away from the fun…Everything said, I could not but feel there was a message being sent out with the movie; the time for our old quarrels is over, there is a new stronger enemy which requires that we put aside old enmities, prejudices and assumtions and come together to defeat it.  This may just be me being over philosophical in a movie which generally requires no brain power, but that’s me; who the new enemy is, that is for you to decide. I mentioned this was a B-movie, its predecessors from 50 years ago also had similar messages and then the targets were obvious…If I have a significant issue it is in the use of a certain naval vessel which is now a museum; there was a lot of live armament on a very old vessel, not in active service; I’m going to stop now.

Rating =  5/10 it will keep you entertained, some good one-liners and it is easy to follow.  Some interesting cameo appearances also.

The Cabin in the Woods

Directed by Drew Goddard and co-written between Goddard and Joss Whedon the omens were good for CitW, a quick look at the cast list added to that.  I have to say I was sold on the movie only minutes in with Messrs Hadley (Bradley Whitford, The West Wing, 1999-2006) and Sitterson (Richard Jenkins, The Visitor, 2007) indulging in a deep and meaningful discussion on baby-proofing the home and making plans for during the week, their weekend obviously busy so no woods for them. We get enough of an insight at this early stage to see there is an experiment underway, but just what type, we have yet to determine. With the happy-go-lucky wise cracking duo of Hadley and Sitterson, you just know they are nice people…or are they?

The scene then switches to college dorm land where we see our five heroes/victims preparing for their weekend in the woods. We see the group lead by the “Jock” of the group (Chris Hemsworth, Thor, 2011), who combine to make up the five stereo-type students which usually end up in deserted cabins waiting to be killed. They are off to a newly bought cabin owned by the cousin of one of our heroes. I won’t go into the characterisation here, it has been described as shallow, personally I would consider it adequate and at the level needed for the movie. After the initial introductions to us, the group fill up the camper van and start off to the cabin, it is at this stage that the first sinister clue is given, there is something afoot. Perhaps there is a link between the experiment and the weekend away…the rest of the story  needs you to watch the movie, no spoiler here.

What Goddard (Cloverfield 2008 writer) and Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer 1996-2003) bring is over a decade of working together, and it shows.  It is hard to be truly original in horror movies. There is the small group trapped in the woods always the “jock”, the “blond” and various supports to counterpoint. There are also the assorted things that can go wrong when alone in a deserted cabin in the middle of nowhere.  Where our writers succeed is that this is always just one part of the overall equation, never over powering it. What we have here is Cabin Fever (Eli Roth 2002), Dead Snow, (Tommy Wirkola, 2005) and Das Experiment (Oliver Hirschbiegal 2001) and a lot of others all pushed into one production, but not in a manner which is simply a cheap plagiarism, more an homage to this work and indeed the horror  genre.

The characterisation is at the right level here, it carries the movie, not over-powers it. The horror aspect is not overly gruesome, but everything  that ever caused us to jump is there. The script is smart with the verbal and visual gags all working well.  I laughed where I was supposed to and laughed out loud.  This is a first class satire, Horror fans will enjoy it.

Rating = 9/10, nothing is perfect. It kept me entertained and I was happy to recommend it to friends.

The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists

Yes it is puppets and animation but it is Aardman Studios, the home of Wallace and Gromit, the pedigree for this movie means that without even knowing the plot, many people (like myself) will attend in the hope that the usual wry humour will be present.  It was. Peter Lord & Jeff Newitt (both Chicken Run, 2000) have continued to “push the boat out” no pun intended with this movie.  Technically it is of the standard defining level expected of Aardman.  It took 5 years to make this movie, and looking at the detail it is easy to see why.

The plot is straight forward, Captain Pirate (Hugh Grant, Love Actually 2003) wants to win Pirate of the year, and as a result he falls in with some scientists, namely Charles Darwin (David Tennant, Doctor Who 2005+) who sees Captain’s parrot for what it really is – a Dodo.  In London to win a prize, he crosses paths with Queen Victoria who hates Pirates with a vengeance, she also wants the Dodo!  The intra-pirate japes are first class, the visual jokes are as usual great.

Some movie franchises have a signature element such as Taxi (from the Luc Besson stable) where we have the rush to the airport/hospital etc. at the start; with Aardman it is the chase scene.  Ever since Wallace and Gromit started laying train tracks in that famous chase sequence out of The Wrong Trousers (1993), we have come to expect something special from them, thankfully they delivered.  I mentioned earlier in a privious discussion regarding Wrath of the Titans (2012) that I feel there is not enough time given to characterisation, yet in this relatively short movie we see Number two, “Scarf” (Martin Freeman, Sherlock 2010+) proving to be the loyal side-kick always looking out for his boss, then there’s Gout, the Irish pirate, played brilliantly by Brendan Gleeson (Albert Nobbs, 2011), Russell Tovey (Being Human, 2008+) plays Albino Pirate nicely.  Other members of the supporting cast include Jeremy Piven (Entourage 2004+), Brian Blessed (Flash Gordon, 1980) and Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake, 2004) who plays Queen Victoria.

I an interesting turn Lord, Newitt and Defoe manage to turn the Monarch and various other world leaders in to “the bad guys”.  Her ship the “QV1” is like something out of Wild Wild West (1999 & also staring Salma Hayek). Does the plot work, certainly. Can it stand up to other recent productions such as The Adventures of Tintin (Stephen Spielberg, 2011); with ease. The line about a nose being too small for his head may be a swipe at Tintin (where it was felt in some cases the characters’ noses were too large). It even stands up well with the Disney Pirates of the Caribbean  franchise.

9/10 great fun, lives up to the Aardman reputation and entertains everybody, young and old. Some feedback I got was that people need to see it a second time to catch all of the jokes, I remember saying that about Chicken Run

Wrath of the Titans

This second instalment (of how many I am not sure) has our hero Perseus, following in his human step-father’s footsteps, teaching his son the ways of the world, namely fishing and getting on with village life. All’s well until Perseus gets a visit/vision form his father warning him that all hell is about to break lose (literally). Our hero wants none of it, he’s busy bringing up son, but he’s soon going to feel The Wrath of The Titans

That is until the chimera attack his home village targeting him and more specially his son. Zeus (Liam Neeson, The Grey, 2011), together with his brother; Poseidon (Danny Huston, Edge of Darkness, 2010) and son Ares (Édgar Ramírez, Ché: Part One, 2008) are brought to the underworld by their brother Hades (Ralph Feinnes, Coriolanus, 2011), under the pretense of protecting the world from Kronos who is close to escaping Posiedon manages to escape the trap while Zeus, betrayed by his son Ares who sides with Hades and Kronos is help captive.

Poseidon escapes and makes his way to Persius who is told that the best hope he has is to find another demigod, Poseidon’s son Agenor (Toby Kebell, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, 2010) a less than heroic hero in the classical sense. Following words from a dying Poseidon, he makes his way to Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike; Made in Dagenham, 2010) who happens to have Agenor in her prison for theft. Freed, the three heroes go searching for the “fallen one”, Hephaestus played by Bill Nighy (Valkyrie, 2008), himself a God, cast down for originally helping Hades in his revolt (he created the tridents, spears and weapons of the gods) who can lead them in to the underworld. There are few moments of genuine humour in the movie and most of those are presented by Nighy who gives a refreshing performance through his character.

Off the team go to fight through the labyrinth of the underworld to rescue Zeus, and then back to the surface to defeat Kronos and his armies of hell.   Overall  Wrath is a better film than Clash but that’s because Clash wash a low bar to improve on.  The main issue I had with Wrath was that there was no characterisation and it felt that we were being led through a check list of Greek myths as they tried to get as many as possible in to one movie. The plot in Clash is less crowded with one main plot and linked sub-plots. The story still feels rushed with no time for characterisation but not as badly as the first movie.  The Zeus-Hades subplot helps to build the characters a little at least.

The Action sequences are improved with some of the open field battles working quite well, that said the sequence in the Labyrinth with the minator was almost claustrophobic. Sam Worthington is one of those actors I have not quite mad up my mind on.  I almost prefer him in roles like Texas Killing Fields (2011), he is still a bit wooden here but it is an improvement.  If there is a third will I go see it? Yes.  Wrath is an improvement on the first.  Of course changing director with Jonathan  Liebesman, (Battle Los Angeles, 2011) replacing Louis Leterrier (The Transporter, 2002) would have had some impact, but not  much.

Overall it could have taken time to work on character development more and tried to fit perhaps a little less in.

Rating 5.5/10, will pass a wet afternoon.