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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on DVDs: Battleship, Tonight You’re Mine

BATTLESHIP (Blu-ray DVD Combo) (Two Stars)
U.S.: Peter Berg, 2012 (Universal)

It ain’t me. It ain’t me. I ain’t no fortunate one.

John Fogerty

Battleship? Why? The idea of spending of two hundred million dollars and change to try to adapt a Hasbro board or video game (called “Battleship,” natch) into a huge would-be blockbuster war-action movie (likewise Battleship)’ toplining TV star Taylor Kitsch (“Friday Night Lights,”  John Carter), and swimsuit model and would-be movie star Brooklyn Decker (What to Expect When You‘re Expecting), struck me as a waste of time, sight unseen.

Sight seen, it’s even worse.

Visually dopey, punishingly loud, choked with absurdities and screamingly overproduced, Battleship shows, once again, the primacy in our theatres these days of big, dumb, loud movies with what are regarded as “surefire” commercial tie-ins. Battleship has some good stuff every now and then, and it’s “state-of-the-art” in some ways, I suppose –chockful of  CGI of extraterrestrial monsters and their space ships and ocean fortresses, destroying everything they can. But it’s also nonsensical and clichéd — possibly thanks to writers Erich and Jon Hoeber (Red), possibly not.

The inanities attack almost immediately, before the monsters even arrive on earth. (Their hangout is a distant world dubbed Planet G by Terran scientists ). Kitsch, as rebel-without-a-clue Alex Hopper, is out drinking with his straighter-than-straight-arrow Navy Commander brother, Stone (Alexander Skarsgard), when he spots a tall blonde hottie in a bar, having troubles with the bartender (Louis Lombardi), who refuses to microwave her a chicken burrito.

Gallantly, Alex rushes out to satisfy her dsire, breaking into a nearby convenience store, tearing up the ceiling, stealing and (I presume) microwaving the burrito and then resisting arrest, a feat of insane derring-do that so impresses the hottie, Samantha Shane (Decker) that she falls madly in love with him –then turning out to be the daughter of Stone’s boss, Admiral Shane, the commander of the entire Pacific Fleet (played by Liam Neeson).

What next? Older Brother Stone somehow wangles his sibling a commission as lieutenant in his Hawaii bailiwick. (By the way, to dispel any confusion brought about by the last paragraph, Liam Neeson is cast here as Admiral Shane, Samantha’s daddy, and not the entire Pacific Fleet — though I’m sure he could do either, or both, as long as he had Battleship‘s CGI staff.)

If all of that sounds pretty stupid, believe me, it is. Somehow, all these people wind up in Oahu, near Pearl Harbor, where the U.S. and both Hopper brothers are on ships in the middle of war games with the Japanese Navy (commanded by Tadanogo Asano, as intrepid Captain Yuginagata), with crews that include saucy pop star Rihanna as Petty Officer Cora “Weps” Raikes and Kitsch‘s “Friday Night Lights“ castmate Jesse Plemons as Boatswain Seaman Jimmy “Ordy” Ord. On shore, Samantha keeps ragging Alex about getting permission for their marriage from her dad, the Admiral. One thing at which the script is fairly good by the way is names. Dr. Nogrady. Cal Zapata. Chef Petty Officer Walter “The Beast” Lynch. Chief Engineer Hiroki…

Uh-oh. Suddenly the monsters — humanoid types with evil eyes and goatees, dressed up in Transformers-style robot garb — show up in their flying zingies and ocean fortress, decimating Hong Kong and throwing up a force field around themselves and the three ships near Pearl, thereby preventing any nuke attacks. As the Hopper bothers and their colorful crews try to figure out what to do, things get more complicated ashore.

Samantha has forsaken her bikini and is racing around the mountain roads, with nerdy radio man Cal Zapata (Hamish Linklater) and courageous double amputee Lt. Col. Mick Canales (played by real-life Iraq War hero Gregory D. Gardson).   The Secretary of Defense (Peter MacNicol) keeps having fits in the war room. Does this prove that we should have signed a non-aggression pact with Planet G? Or cut it from the budget? Included in all this is a tribute to the U.S.S. Missouri.

The story may be ridiculous, the sound track deafening, and most of the actors may look trapped, but the effects, as usual, blow you out of your seats — and you may want to stay there, especially if the theatre has a good concession stand. You’ll want to get back in time for Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” playing under the end-titles, though. And the picture is very lucky to have Gregory Gardson, who gives the show a dignity nowhere else apparent.

But even by the standards set by all the loud, dumb action movies of the past, Battleship strikes into new, louder, dumber territory. Director Berg, who seems better working with a smaller canvas like Friday Night Lights, fumbles the ball. And why shouldn’t he, since the whole movie plays like an ad for Hasbro board or video games, while the board games function as ads for the movie, and Taylor Kitsch and Brooklyn Decker function as ads for the U.S. Navy. And vice versa maybe.

Incidentally, as for U. S. Navy recruiting movies,I prefer sailors Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin in On the Town. And I ain’t no fortunate son, either.


Tonight You’re Mine (You Instead) (Two Stars)

U.K./Scotland: David Mackenzie (Sony)

At a huge rowdy music festival in Scotland, called T in the Park, two rock band members from different groups — American Adam (Luke Treadaway) and Scots girl Morello (Natalia Tena) — get handcuffed together, and then lose track of the guy with the key. From then on, until (or if) the key pops up, the have to do everything together, including sharing the stage on each other’s gigs and crawling in the sack with their respective loves — and though they start out hostile, love soon blooms — even as their erstwhile mates (Alastair Mackenzie as establishment guy Mark, and Ruta Gedmintas as model Lake) get jealous. .

It’s the old Robert DonatMadeleine Carroll manacle routine from The 39 Steps, of course, less funny and  inventive or engrossing than anything Hitchcock did, but shot against the boisterous backdrop of the actual 5-day T in the Park, in Kinross, Scotland. There‘s  lots of  music (“Tainted Love” is this movie’s signature tune) and lots of real-life youth and energy. The director is David Mackenzie, who made the Cannes fest film Young Adam (from Alexander Trocchi‘s novel), with a cast that includes Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton and Peter Mullan. The fly-in-the-crowd cinematography is by Giles Nuttgens, and the script is by novelist Thomas Leveritt (though much of the dialogue seems improvised).

For a movie shot in five days at a tempestuous actual event, it’s not bad. Then again, it’s not particularly good either, despite compelling job by Tena. You’ll like it a lot more if you enjoy the music, especially  the songs by Adam’s supposed band, The Make, and, of course, “Tainted Love.”

Extras: “Making of” Documentary; Interviews with Treadaway and Tena ; Featurettes on The Make, the music and the costume designs.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon