Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Watch

Year 5, Day 180 - 6/29/13 - Movie #1,472

BEFORE: Alien films were hot last year, though I'm just getting to them now.  This year seems to be more about post-apocalyptic Earth scenarios.  Linking from "Men in Black 3" Bill Hader was also in "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" with Will Forte.

THE PLOT:  Four men who form a neighborhood watch group find themselves defending the Earth from an alien invasion.

AFTER: Well, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this one - it didn't get great reviews, but then it also had the unfortunate timing of appearing in theaters shortly after there was some trouble in Florida last year with a neighborhood watch group.  So I wasn't sure if it just got bad publicity because of that.

There were certainly some twists that I didn't see coming, so that means there was something original about it, but it's like the film didn't know what it wanted to be - the ultimate man vs. aliens picture, or a parody of other alien invasion pictures.  So that means maybe they didn't take the humor far enough?

Yeah, let's go with that, because seeing the two main cast members from "Dodgeball" together again reminds me how funny that movie was, and that film really pushed the envelope.  This one, not so much.  It probably looked good on paper, but somehow it feels like it never really gets off the ground.

Also starring Ben Stiller (last seen in "Tower Heist"), Vince Vaughn (last seen in "The Dilemma"), Jonah Hill (last seen in "The Sitter"), Richard Ayoade, Rosemarie Dewitt, Billy Crudup (last seen in "Stage Beauty"), R. Lee Ermey (last heard in "Toy Story 3"), with a cameo from Andy Samberg (last seen in "Friends With Benefits").

RATING: 5 out of 10 packages of batteries 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Men in Black 3

Year 5, Day 179 - 6/28/13 - Movie #1,471

BEFORE:  Just 18 days until Comic-Con, and I've looked ahead on the list and realized I'm not going to make it.  I may be done with sci-fi by then, but not superheroes - not if I drop in a couple films I want to see on the fly.  Oh, well, if I have to leave for San Diego in the middle of a superhero chain, I can work with that.  They screen films at the convention center, and I usually don't take advantage of that fact, but maybe I should this year.  If I have five days in San Diego to catch "Iron Man 3" and/or "Man of Steel", maybe I can turn that to my advantage.  Speaking of superheroes - linking from "Prometheus", Charlize Theron was also in "Hancock" with Will Smith (last seen in "Bad Boys II").

THE PLOT:  Agent J travels in time to M.I.B.'s early days in 1969 to stop an alien from assassinating his friend Agent K and changing history.

AFTER: I've spoken before about how much I love time-travel plots, but only if they're done well.  What do I mean by that?  Well, I've read many stories about it, and thought at length about it, and have determined that there are certain rules about it.  There have to be, as we live in an orderly universe, or so we'd like to believe.  So I really dig movies like "The Time-Traveler's Wife" that follow the rules, and even end up making a few new ones.

Some of the rules dictate that history cannot be changed.  So if you want to try to go back and prevent the Kennedy assassination, you'd be wasting your time, because not only is this a fixed event in history, it's also the thing that's motivating you to time-travel, so if you do change history, you'd also be removing your motivation to do so, so therefore you won't do it.  If you succeed, then there will be no need for you to try, therefore logically success is impossible. 

It's also possible that in trying to prevent the JFK assassination, you'll accidentally end up causing it, and then, boy, won't you feel stupid.  You'd be in a bar talking about how someone's going to shoot JFK from the Texas book depository, and not realize that the guy in the next booth is Lee Harvey Oswald, who now gets the crazy idea to kill the president in exactly that way, and in the booth on the other side is a cop who then puts you in jail for talking about killing the president, so you're not free to prevent it.

Some people use this as a reason to surmise that time-travel will never be invented - because if it gets invented in the future, then we'd see evidence of time-travelers walking around now, or we would have seen them shooting a couple of Arab guys before they got on the planes on Sept. 11, 2001, or trying to prevent the Holocaust.  Unless they're very good at covering their tracks, or unless they've already changed the timeline to be the best that it can be, which considering all the suffering and disasters in the world, is a pretty bleak prospect as well. 

So let's say you want to kill Hitler as a baby, a very popular noble notion.  You succeed in doing so, but then you return to the present and find out that an even greater disaster took place somehow because of how you changed the timeline.  Now you've got to go BACK to talk to yourself and convince yourself NOT to do this - but the problem is, you don't have a memory of ever being contacted by a future version of yourself, telling you not to do it.  Nevertheless, you go back - you can't kill yourself before you kill baby Hitler, because that younger version of you has to survive and become the older version of you.  You see where I'm going with this?  If you kill yourself, then there's no you to kill yourself.  The paradoxes are so maddening that it's probably best to try and avoid them altogether.  (Just wait until I watch "Looper" next week...)

I envision a line of time-travelers standing outside the hospital just after Hitler's birth, all debating each other over what to do.  "Family Guy" did a riff on this last season, and the Marvel comic book "Age of Ultron" as well - in that story Wolverine had to travel back in time to kill scientist Hank Pym before he created the evil robot Ultron, but when that made the timeline even worse, slightly-older Wolverine had to go back to that same moment and convince slightly-younger Wolverine NOT to kill him.  At the end of the conversation, there were two Wolverines, so one had to kill the other.  This wasn't handled particularly well, because if you think about it, younger Wolverine had to survive to become older Wolverine, and older Wolverine had to return to his timeline to star in more comic books.  So either way, the character should have disappeared in a paradoxical puff of smoke....

Anyway, let's table this and discuss "Men in Black 3".  A vicious alien killer breaks out of prison and wants to get revenge on Agent K, who locked him up 40 years ago.  Instead of killing him in the present, which would be too easy, Boris the Animal travels back to 1969 to kill him as a younger man, which apparently succeeds because K disappears from the timeline.  Now, do you see where my paradox comes into play?  If he travels back and kills the young K, then K is erased from the timeline for 40 years, thus also removing the motivation for Boris to travel back and kill him.  Changing the timeline also changes the NEED to change the timeline.

The film gets around this by calling it a "time fracture" - Agent J remembers Agent K, but no one else does - so he's the only one who can travel back to 1969 and put things right again.  Will the presence of a 2nd time-traveler who's attempting to put things back the way they belong make things better, or worse?  You've seen "Back to the Future II", what do YOU think?

There's another "out" when it comes to time-travel, and that involves multiple timelines.  The film also introduces a character who can see ALL the timelines at once - ones where Agent J succeeds, ones where Agent J fails, and (presumably) ones where it isn't even an issue.  This secondary character is what enabled me to relax and enjoy the film, because it meant that history CAN be changed.  If you change something in the past, you merely put history onto another "track", like a train changing destinations, and it's one of an infinite number of futures with infinite combinations of people and events.  This is great, because this means you can keep messing with the timeline until you find the combination that works best for you.

I'm probably taking this all a bit too seriously - the movie is a comedy, after all, and thus is free to not worry about these things too much.  It's more concerned with showing us the backstory of the characters, and in fact setting up the first "Men in Black" film in ways that are perhaps all too convenient.  Think about how "Star Wars: Episode III" felt the need to telegraph the events of Episode IV - all of them.  Because we as an audience apparently needed everything spelled out for us.

This is still a fun film, and a (mostly) enjoyable continuation of the franchise, except for when it gets bogged down in its own mythology.  Josh Brolin is fantastic in his spot-on impression of Tommy Lee Jones while playing a younger version of him.  Maybe I just couldn't get out of my own head-space to fully appreciate it because I get so caught up in the rules of time-travel.

Also starring Tommy Lee Jones (last seen in "Natural Born Killers"), Josh Brolin (last seen in "The Mod Squad"), Emma Thompson (last seen in "In the Name of the Father"), Jemaine Clement (last heard in "Rio"), Alice Eve (last seen in "Star Trek: Into Darkness"), David Rasche, Michael Chernus, with cameos from Bill Hader (last heard in "Hoodwinked Too!"), Nicole Scherzinger, Will Arnett (last heard in "Despicable Me"), Joe Gannascoli.

RATING: 7 out of 10 bowling pins

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Year 5, Day 178 - 6/27/13 - Movie #1,470

BEFORE: As I said before, 2012 was a big year for sci-fi, so here's another one.  This one was promoted as a possible prequel to "Alien", and I tried to stay away from any reviews that confirmed that fact, or talked too much about the plot.  I think I've got to try to see films either just after they open in theaters, or a year or two down the line, when I've started to forget about any spoilers I might have encountered.  Linking from "The Chronicles of Riddick", Judi Dench (still can't believe she was in a sci-fi film) was also in the 2011 "Jane Eyre" with Michael Fassbender (last seen in "Shame").

THE PLOT:  A team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a journey to the darkest corners of the universe.  There, they must fight to save the future of the human race.

AFTER: OK, I got that description from the IMDB, but it's inaccurate - the universe doesn't really have "corners", unless it's a cube shape, which it's not.  It's like when people say "the four corners of the Earth" or "sail the seven seas".  Plus, which parts of the universe are darker than others?  Space is, like, really dark - well, most of it is, but I think that since you can't get much darker than dark, no one can say which parts are the darkest.  But, I digress.

Last night's film got me thinking about religion, which is somewhat odd for a sci-fi film, unless you're talking about Jedis using the Force or those weird Vulcan rituals.  We tend to think of science and religion as opposing forces, because of debates about human reproduction, genetically modified foods, and whether prayer has healing powers.  But in truth I think science and religion sort of come from the same place, and have tried to answer many of the same questions over the years.

The first primitive religions came about because people wanted to understand the sun, the rain, the afterlife and so on.  So they had sun gods, rain gods, death gods - if they wanted to explain something, they just godified it.  Well, of course a god carries the sun across the sky in a giant gold chariot - to suggest otherwise would be crazy talk!  But as time passed and scientists took a crack at it, they realized what the sun is, and that it's really the earth spinning that makes the sun APPEAR to move (I realize the sun IS moving, but not in that way).  Though our language needs to catch up - we still say "the sun rises" and "the sun sets", even though that's not what's happening.

Anyway, science got better and better, and explained the rain, and the earthquakes, and where babies come from, and even started taking a crack at the origins of the universe.  There are even some people now who believe that evolution and intelligent design are not mutually exclusive theories.  But there's one thing that science has not been able to prove or disprove, and that's the afterlife.  Some cynical people might suggest that since it can't be proved or disproved, the simplest answer is that it doesn't exist, and the simplest answer is usually right.  But religion as a whole is still sussing this thorny issue out, it seems to be the one thing that's powering the whole engine.  And we kind of want to keep that engine going, because it could be the only thing preventing worldwide chaos.

OK, maybe there are more questions that neither science nor religion can give clear answers to - where did we come from?  How did it all start?  If Earth is a garden, who planted it?  And if it's a machine, who built it?  These are, perhaps, not the questions that you might expect to be raised by a film in the "Alien" franchise, better known for its shocking tension, gross destruction of human lives, and crazy monster designs based on the work of H.R. Giger - the reason why tentacle porn is even a thing.

Don't worry, all that stuff is present in "Prometheus" (I recommend avoiding the popcorn, or any food for that matter while watching this) but so are some interesting questions and possible answers about the origin of life on Earth.  Oh, they're not definitive of course, but I find it fascinating that moviemaking has stepped in to do what religion and science can't (so far).  It's almost as if filmmaking IS the new religion - and just like religion, it doesn't even have to be true, it just has to answer its own questions.

Which leads me to wonder - can moviemaking take the place of religion?  I've certainly been more devoted to watching movies over the last 5 years (OK, 25) than I ever was to going to church.  And I believe in movies more than religion, even though I know they're not real - but I believe in their un-realness somehow.  And as a teen I went on my own personal quest, traveling hundreds of miles to one of the places where movies are made, and I met other people who believe in them and wanted to make them, and that's what I continue to help people do.  So why not?  I make my annual pilgrimage to Comic-Con, which is kind of like Geek Mecca, and I worship every night at the glowing altar of premium cable, asking for inspiration.

Maybe someday I'll reject the religion of film, as I've (mostly) rejected organized religion itself.  (It's not really the religion I have a problem with, it's that "organized" part.)  After all, I've seen behind the curtain of filmmaking, I've met some of the high priests and found out they're just imperfect men.  Still, I favor it over a religion because every religion tends to say "ours is the one, true path", and filmmaking allows you to find your own path.  I think each person's path is probably in a different place anyway.  But for now the dogma continues to work for me. 

Still, there are those nagging questions that I started asking myself as a kid - about where we all came from and ultimately where we're all going to end up.  Since religion, science and filmmaking have so far been unable to give me constructive answers, part of me wishes I'd never started asking in the first place.

The movie, right.  It does supply some answers, particularly about the origin of the alien from "Alien", but it defiantly does not answer many of its own questions, which leads to the possibility of a sequel to the prequel.  In the meantime, take comfort in the fact that one day we'll be able to travel to other planets, meet other races, and get killed by them.  Oh, and robots will take care of us while we sleep (though they'll watch our dreams - creepy!) and machines will perform surgery on us (also creepy, as it turns out...). 

Also starring Noomi Rapace (last seen in "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows"), Charlize Theron (last seen in "Mighty Joe Young"), Idris Elba (last seen in "The Losers"), Guy Pearce (last seen in "The Proposition"), Logan Marshall-Green, Rafe Spall (last seen in "One Day"), Sean Harris, with a cameo from Patrick Wilson.

RATING: 6 out of 10 mysterious jars

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Chronicles of Riddick

Year 5, Day 177 - 6/26/13 - Movie #1,469

BEFORE:  Vin Diesel carries over from "Pitch Black" (as does Keith David), because once I start a series, I try to finish it.  It's much easier when there are two films in a series, instead of 23.

THE PLOT:  The wanted criminal Riddick arrives on a planet called Helion Prime, and finds himself up against an invading empire called the Necromongers, an army that plans to convert or kill all humans in the universe.

AFTER: I find this Riddick character somewhat interesting, because he's not just a mindless killer.  He's a very smart killer, he seems to know whatever he needs to know to get the job done, plus he's got some cool powers like night-vision (which also conveniently force him to wear cool sunglasses during the day).  So in one sense he's on a level with James Bond, or perhaps Wolverine (also suggested by his animal-like sense of smell).

The problem is, you've got to give a killer somebody to kill - and if those people are innocents, then the killer is evil.  But if you put him up against a foe that is "more evil", then he becomes a hero, or perhaps an anti-hero.  The villains here are called the Necromongers,  and they are in the middle of taking over the galaxy, one planet at a time, offering the inhabitants a choice - "Join us or die".

Actually, it's a little more complicated than that, because the Necromongers believe in an afterlife, called the "underverse", and you have to die to get there, but you also have to believe in it to get there.  (Hmm, where have I heard this before?)  So the Necromongers are happy to either kill you and keep you out of paradise, or you can submit to them and get rewarded in the next life.  Wait, is there a third choice? 

The obvious analogy is to something like organized religion, but it's run in a manner similar to that mirror-universe on "Star Trek", where Spock was evil and had a beard, and people got promoted through the ranks of the Federation by assassinating their superiors.  It's not a large leap from the Necromongers to the Catholic Church when you consider events like the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition.  For those of you who haven't heard of the Inquisition, that's where a bunch of holy people would force people to confess to their sins (actual or perceived) by using torture - so citizens either started confessing to stuff they didn't do and atoned for it, or they suffered physical pain up to and including death, in order to make their souls pure enough for heaven.  It's where we got the phrase "Damned if you do, damned if you don't." 

But this is another case like "Dune", where a film gets so convoluted with its own mythology and the rules of engagement in a war, that it's easy for the viewer to lose interest.  Here there are elementals, and warriors, and hints that our favorite convict Riddick might be some kind of cosmic messiah - but you know what?  I don't really care.  As an Earthling, I don't really have a dog in this fight, not even a big, snarling alien prison dog. 

There's also some debate about whether another character carried over from "Pitch Black" - Riddick kept narrating/thinking about some woman, who may or may not be on the prison planet he wants to go to, but I wasn't clear if her character appeared in the previous film.  If she did, she was played by another actress and had a new name, so you can see why I was confused.

The prison planet, Crematoria, is another one of those planets with a very dangerous surface - on this planet you're fine if you're on the night side, but when the sun rises the land gets covered in volcanic fire.  So, in the future, does anybody live on planets that are actually, you know, inhabitable?   Just wondering.

Also starring Colm Feore (last seen in "Thor"), Thandie Newton (last seen in "W."), Judi Dench (last seen in "Skyfall"), Karl Urban (last seen in "Star Trek: Into Darkness"), Linus Roache, Alexa Davalos.

RATING: 3 out of 10 telepaths

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pitch Black

Year 5, Day 176 - 6/25/13 - Movie #1,468

BEFORE: Another film with humans visiting another planet.   I had the linking all worked out, but what was it?  Was it the fact that Willem Dafoe from "John Carter" was also in "Platoon" with Keith David (last seen in "Always") ?  Maybe not, but let's run with it.

THE PLOT:  A group of marooned space travelers struggle for survival on a seemingly lifeless sun-scorched world.
AFTER: There have been other films like this before - ones that depict future space travel, where the people are put in suspended animation so they can reach another planet.  Presumably humans have spread out into the galaxy, and naturally we'd want to send our best, brightest and most capable people out to populate other planets.  You know, like scientists, statesmen, and murderers.  Wait, what?  Why is there a murderer on board, are they going to drop him off at the prison planet, or are they just trying to get him off of Earth?

Of course, if the spaceship makes it to its destination and gets the dangerous criminal into his cell, that wouldn't make for a very exciting or interesting film.  So you can bet that something's going to go wrong - the ship is forced to land on an uncharted desert-type planet, where the day lasts forever because the planet has three suns.  I'd like to see some paperwork on how this works - I've heard of binary systems, but never a trinary.  Is that even a word?

They find the remains of a settlement, or perhaps another crashed ship, but no people.  Uh-oh.  And no bodies either, so figure that one out.  Almost too conveniently, the settlement has a little model of the planetary system, and it proves that there is a massive eclipse every 22 - what?  Every 22 months, every 22 years, every 22 days?  They didn't really spell this out very well.  But I guess all you need to know is that the darkness is coming, and bad things come out of the desert hidey-holes at night.

Ah, so we're doing a riff on "Alien", where humans need to outsmart creepy nasties, or else end up as food.  At least they give the characters a choice about whether to be more afraid of the devil outside, or the devil in their midst.  It's also worth wondering who's got the edge - a tough human or a bunch of tough aliens.  This is the film that established Vin Diesel as an action hero, so you place your bets where you want.

This one moves at a brisk pace, the reversals keep coming, even though that often comes at the expense of explaining exactly what's taking place.  But we're not here to get into the science of it all, we're here to fight some aliens and blow stuff up.  Right?
Also starring Vin Diesel (last heard in "The Iron Giant"), Radha Mitchell (last seen in "Man on Fire"), Cole Hauser (last seen in "The Break-Up"), Claudia Black (last seen in "Queen of the Damned"), Rhiana Griffith.
RATING: 5 out of 10 micro-meteors

Monday, June 24, 2013

John Carter

Year 5, Day 175 - 6/24/13 - Movie #1,467

BEFORE: Another film from 2012, and more of those are on the way.  I think the bulk of the next month's movies are going to come from 2011 and 2012, and I'll try to work in one or two from 2013.  I've got more instances of aliens invading the Earth, but I'm going to flip it around tonight because of the actor linking - I noticed that Taylor Kitsch could carry over from "Battleship".

THE PLOT:  Transplanted to Mars, a Civil War vet discovers a lush planet inhabited by 12-foot tall barbarians. Finding himself a prisoner of these creatures, he escapes, only to encounter a princess who is in desperate need of a savior. 
AFTER:  On many levels, this film is a big mess.  I found the plot nearly undecipherable - any time I have to research the next day about what I watched happen the night before, that's a bad sign.  As near as I can determine, this is what takes place.
A former Civil War soldier travels to Mars via a teleportation device, and finds a planet in the middle of its own civil war.  (oh, the irony!)  But instead of Union vs. the Confederacy, it's a war between two cities, Helium and Zodanga, the latter of which is a mobile city.  The Martians look rather human-like, but there's a third faction as well, the Tharks, who are green, 12 feet tall, and have four arms.  They're not involved in the war, nor are the Therns, who are like high priests or something, but have some high-tech weaponry that they only give to Martians they like.  
At first Carter can't understand the Martian language, so he has no idea what's going on (and neither does most of the audience...) but they soon engineer a translation solution for him.  He's special because as an earthling on lower-gravity Mars he can jump tremendous distances and pack a mean punch.  This is explained by saying he has a different bone density, but you'd think that his jumping abilities would be increased by a lower bone density, and his strength would be increased by a higher bone density, so there seems to be a bit of a NITPICK POINT here - which is it?  Also, having jumping ability or super strength are pretty useless unless someone is also impervious to damage, which he's not - so after jumping for miles he should be horribly injured upon landing, and he's not.
Then we come to Dejah Thoris, who's a queen or princess from Helium, engaged to marry the warlord from Zodanga, and you'd think that would help smooth things over, but she doesn't seem all that into getting married.  She'd rather hang out with John Carter and send him on wild goose chases all over Mars looking for a way to get him back home to Earth.  Carter gets named the Dotar Sojat, which is some kind of honorary title given by the Tharks to the best fighter, but that doesn't help him get home either.  There's a coliseum-like battle that calls to mind the Geonosis scenes from "Star Wars: Episode II", and then once Carter finally gets comfortable on Mars, wouldn't you know he gets sent back to Earth!  So now he has to struggle to find a way back.  
It turns out that people can't really get teleport to Mars (Really? I'm shocked.) but instead the magic amulet makes a clone of your body, and you run and jump around and fight while your body sits motionless on Earth (and somehow survives for weeks without food or water).  So while this film didn't rip off "Independence Day", it did manage to rip off "Avatar".  Even if that was part of the original Edgar Rice Burroughs story, it's still piggy-backing off of a recent super-successful film.
But the biggest problem here is that the film is so bloated with its own mythology that it's nearly impossible to tell who's doing what, let alone who to root for.  I'm also reminded of "Dune", which was so complicated, so convoluted, so filled with alien jargon (like the Kwisatz Haderach) that even the filmmakers couldn't tell you what it's all about.  It's too much to take in - and even though there are (tiny) English subtitles, there should never be more than a few seconds of an alien language on film without the benefit of a translation. 
Trying to keep track of Tharks and Therns, and Helium and Zodanga, Tal Hajus and Tars Tarkus - it's an absolute nightmare.  My brain sort of tuned out after the first half hour, and after that it was just difficult to stay awake until the next fight scene or explosion.
I think they made a horrible mistake in naming this film - it should have been called something exciting, like "Warlord of Mars" or even "John Carter of Mars". But apparently films like "Mission to Mars" and "Mars Needs Moms" hadn't done well at the box office, so the marketing geniuses in Hollywood blamed that on the word Mars.  (Yeah, because THAT was the problem with "Mars Needs Moms"...)  So they ended up with a title that's just some guy's name, which is about as boring as a phone book listing. 
Also starring Lynn Collins, Dominic West (last seen in "Johnny English Reborn"), Mark Strong (last seen in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"), Ciaran Hinds (ditto), James Purefoy (last seen in "Vanity Fair"), Bryan Cranston (last seen in "Contagion"), Daryl Sabara, and the voices of Willem Dafoe (last seen in "American Psycho"), Thomas Haden Church (last seen in "We Bought a Zoo"), Samantha Morton (last seen in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age"), with cameos from Don Stark and the voice of Jon Favreau (last heard in "Zookeeper").

RATING: 3 out of 10 broken tusks

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Year 5, Day 174 - 6/23/13 - Movie #1,466

BEFORE: This follows logically after "Cowboys & Aliens" because it also appears to be a clone of "Independence Day", I'm guessing, only the cowboys have been replaced by the U.S. Navy.   I've reviewed my actor linking for the next couple of weeks, so I'm comfortable pointing out that Harrison Ford was also in the film "K-19: The Widowmaker", which I wouldn't mind adding to the list, with Liam Neeson (last seen in "The Dead Pool").

THE PLOT:  A fleet of ships is forced to do battle with an armada of unknown origins in order to discover and thwart their destructive goals.

AFTER:  I was right, this is another "Independence Day" ripoff.  And there's a nice carry-over from the James Bond series as well, since those films usually ended with "We've got to blow up the villain's giant technological thingy" and this one ends with "We've got to blow up the aliens' giant technological thingy". 

For a film based on a board game, I suppose it could have been much worse.  ("Monopoly: the Movie" coming soon...)  However, I don't remember any aliens in the Hasbro game, merely two opposing naval fleets.  Would it have been too weird if they made this film take place during World War II?  I guess then they couldn't have dazzing impossible special effects, like the projectiles the aliens use that are suspiciously shaped like the red and white pegs from the board game that we always found days later on the living room carpet.

There is one point in the film where the naval vessels are able to track the alien ships by using a sort of grid-like pattern, and taking almost random shots according to their best guesses about the ships' locations, and yet no one in the Navy says words like, "Hey, didn't I use to play a game like this when I was a kid?"  I'm torn between treating this as completely unbelievable and totally outlandish.  It's also neatly convenient that the two factions don't seem to be able to fire at each other at the same time, so it's almost like they're taking turns...  Hmm....

The problems don't end there - certain deus-ex-machina events such as a giant force field determine that only THIS small group of ragtag seamen can challenge the aliens (shades of "Armageddon" and all of its clones) and this group includes a group of WWII veterans and their steam-powered floating museum, and an army veteran with two artificial legs.  If you want to make the point that the elderly and the handi-capable are still valuable contributors to society, that's fine, but don't hit me over the head with it.  We kind of knew that already.  ("We appreciate your service and sacrifice, and we have no right to ask you to serve any more, but that's exactly what we're going to ask you to do.")

I can also believe that for some troubled young men, the Navy might be a good place for them to learn some discipline and get a sense of purpose, but it's almost a NITPICK POINT about whether a directionless troublemaker can enlist and become nearly the commander of a naval vessel (and the lead in an action film) in just a few years, or as seen here, just a few minutes of screen time.

NITPICK POINT #2: A decommissioned naval vessel, which has been turned in a museum for the public to visit, would most likely also have its weaponry and munitions disabled, for the sake of safety.  Whether it could still sail or not would be debatable, but I'm pretty solid on the artillery point. (IMDB also points out it would have needed 9 to 14 hours to build up enough steam pressure to move)

As for the aliens, I think I'm right in saying we've seen this sort of thing before.  We shouldn't try to signal cultures on other planets, because they'll come here and kill us. But if they do that, just capture an alien, figure out its weakness, exploit said weakness and manipulate the situation so that we can destroy their machinery and thus prevent an invasion.  Yup, "Independence Day", only in board game form.  Because we needed that.

Also starring Taylor Kitsch (last seen in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine"), Alexander Skarsgard (last seen in "Zoolander"), Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker (last seen in "Just Go With It"), Peter MacNicol (last seen in "Game Change"), Hamish Linklater, John Tui, Jesse Plemons, Gregory Gadson, Adam Godley (last seen in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age"), with a cameo from Jerry Ferrara.

RATING: 4 out of 10 weather buoys