Battleship: Here’s what you need to know about Battleship going in: at no point does any character cry “you sunk my battleship!” Here’s another thing you need to know about Battleship going in: turn around and do not.
It’s easy to pick on Battleship because it’s based on a boardgame and has a Hasbro logo in front of it, for Christ’s sake, but it’s easier to pick on it because Peter Berg, who has made noisy action movies I’ve marginally to solidly enjoyed in the past, made a thoroughly awful movie only saved from the pits of his filmography by Very Bad Things, a movie so excruciating that few directors, even Berg’s apparent new influence Michael Bay, could hope to match its awfulness (although: Bay’s next picture is some kind of small-scale action/dark-comedy hybrid, so maybe he’s making a run at an unbelievably shrill, scream-filled yet weirdly self-satisfied comedy about how it’s so transgressive when people in movies do horrible shit).
Berg is in a Bay kinda mood here: besides adapting Hasbro into massive explosions, he also encourages his actors to indulge in feverish pseudo-banter vamping (the Shia school of acting, though no one in Battleship sweats that much) and encourages the audience to absolutely revere the military, to the point where he trots out actual veterans for bit and supporting parts, daring us to suggest that hey, maybe years of military experience serving our country does not necessarily make someone a good or charismatic actor—and if those people are above a certain age, it carries a bonus whiff of condescension to enshrine them as the “real” badasses, especially after watching an hour-plus of Taylor Kitsch’s intense non-charisma chased with Alexander Skarsgard’s even more intense and peculiar non-charisma.
Battleship also contains the following: (a.) A sequence where the characters do basically play a round of the game Battleship and where I am unable to determine if this is wonderfully stupid or hilariously misguided or what. Regardless, it seems kind of a tease to include this long and not very interesting sequence and yet not include the proper sunk-my-battleship line. (b.) Rihanna, who stripped of her pop-star outfits looks her very young actual age (also: kind of a strange screen presence). (c.) That line about how it’s like Columbus and the Indians, only this time, we’re the Indians. This is at least the second and possibly the seven thousandth time I’ve heard this line in an alien-invasion movie. I’m really hoping for an alien-invasion movie where someone confidently says: “It’s like Columbus and the Indians. But don’t worry, guys: I’m pretty sure we’re still Columbus. No way are we the Indians in this scenario! Everything is as it seems.” (d.) Hamish Linklater, last seen by me trying to stop time in The Future. That now seems like an even better idea, especially if he shot Battleship after that movie. (d.) Veterans! Did I mention veterans? You couldn’t possibly hate a movie chock full of veterans, could you? What’s that? You totally could. Oh, then this movie’s fucked.
The Dictator: Is it weird that I found the scripted parts of Borat funnier than a lot of the real-life stuff and, as such, have been very much looking forward to an entirely fictional Sacha Baron Cohen adventure? Maybe some of it is also relief that Anna Faris will appear in a movie made by other people who are good at comedy for the first time in awhile. Maybe some of it is the faint but tantalizing possibility that this movie could outgross Battleship over the weekend; unlikely, but it would be a nice rebuke to the idea that any ol’ board game can be marketed into a $50 million opening weekend. Whatever it is, The Dictator is heavily-trailered the movie I actually want to see on Friday night.
What to Expect When You’re Expecting: I wish I had written a review of this movie so I could’ve suggested the header “What We Talk about When We Talk about What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” But I haven’t seen it so I can’t write a review comparing Brooklyn Decker’s acting here with her acting in the other movie she’s in basically just based on vague title familiarity. If either of these movies hit, someone will seriously consider plugging Brooklyn Decker into a movie called something like Every Kiss Begins with Kay, or The Other White Meat, or Stand Clear of the Closing Doors Please (on second thought, maybe that last one is too urban. Where’s the relatability?!).
These lady-centric ensemble movies are really becoming female Hollywood’s cross to bear; it doesn’t matter if you’ve had recent solo hits (Cameron Diaz) or concern yourself more with singing and the judgment thereof (Jennifer Lopez) or boast a pretty clean track record of interesting, smart-ish movies (Anna Kendrick) or usually do comedies with a little more bite (Elizabeth Banks): you will find your way into a sitcomsemble on the big screen. I’m more grateful than ever that Anna Faris was able to do The Dictator instead.
Hysteria: Of course, it’s possible I’d prefer a soft-focus loving-and-learning non-comedy like What to Expect over the smug, faux-enlightened cutesiness of Hysteria. You’d think a romantic comedy starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, who I feel like probably wouldn’t be caught dead in a Garry Marshall movie, would be something approaching my cup of tea, but Hysteria, goodhearted as it tries to be, is still mostly terrible, and you can read more about that in my review.