Capsule reviews of 'Battleship,' other new filmsCapsule reviews of 'Battleship,' other new films.
By: The Associated Press, Superior Telegram
"Battleship" — This is big, dumb fun that knows it's big, dumb fun and enthusiastically embraces its big, dumb, fun nature. Director Peter Berg has crafted an almost fetishistic homage to Michael Bay — like the "Transformers" series, this is yet another action extravaganza inspired by a Hasbro product — with its epic set pieces, swaggering bravado, panoramic skies and cheesy romance. It doesn't lean all the way into parody, but rather feels more like an affectionate and knowing approximation of a very specific, muscular genre: one of those the-world-is-ending-we're-all-gonna-die movies. And because it's a little cheeky and doesn't seem to take itself totally seriously, it's more enjoyable than one might expect from a movie based on a board game created in the 1960s. Yes, it can be deafeningly noisy between the crunch and shriek of giant metal objects fighting each other and the blaring rock anthems meant to pump up the crowd even further. No, it's not subtle between the annihilation caused by alien invaders and the rousing sense of patriotism that's the real weapon in this battle. But then again, would you really expect (or want) subtlety from this type of big-budget summer escape? Speaking of blockbusters, Taylor Kitsch gets more to work with here than he did earlier this year in "John Carter" as Alex Hopper. A slacker and troublemaker at the film's start, he joins the Navy at the insistence of his older brother, Stone (Alexander Skarsgard). A certain gorgeous blonde named Sam (Brooklyn Decker) also provides some inspiration. Flash-forward and Alex is a lieutenant on one Naval destroyer while Stone is the commanding officer of another. Both answer to Adm. Shane (a withering, well-cast Liam Neeson), who happens to be Sam's father. They're all taking part in some international war games off the Hawaiian coast when — oops! — a satellite signal sent to a newly discovered planet that looks a lot like ours in a neighboring galaxy provokes some angry extraterrestrials. PG-13 for intense sequences of violenc e, action and destruction, and for language. 131 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.
— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic
"Hysteria" — Like the inventors of the vibrator it depicts, this 19th-century romp really aims to please. And like an inattentive lover displaced by the sexual aid, the film never quite satisfies. True to the title, there are a few hysterically funny moments as a couple of Victorian-era British doctors and an amateur inventor stumble into the creation of a mechanical device to pleasure women. Yet despite the novel premise, the movie feels as though it's going through the motions as director Tanya Wexler strains to deliver one of those blithe little costume charmers that can rouse art-house audiences to ecstasy. The fictionalized story built around Dr. Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy), who patented an electric massager around 1880, is choked with cliches playing the era's prim and proper morality against progressive, freethinking ideals that would take hold in the coming decades. A modern man of science, Granville takes a job as an assistant to a doctor (Jonathan Pryce) specializing in manipulating uteruses to produce "paroxysms" as treatment for various nervous symptoms in women. Aided by a gadget-minded pal (Rupert Everett), Granville mechanizes the process, and the hilarious test runs they conduct are almost worth the price of a ticket by themselves. But the amusing story line is weighed down by predictable relations between Granville and his boss' daughters, one demure and prudish (Felicity Jones), the other (Maggie Gyllenhaal) a progressive social crusader. R for sexual content. 95 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.
— David Germain, AP Movie Writer
"Polisse" — This feels like the two-hour pilot for the kind of meaty cop drama that could only exist on cable television, one you'd want to program into your DVR to watch all season long. The subject matter is inherently repulsive — crimes against children — yet the film itself is irresistibly watchable, full of complicated characters on both sides of these investigations. Director and co-writer Maiwenn finds the humanity within some abhorrent figures, as well as some much-needed comic relief and absurdity within some repulsive situations. She also inserts herself in the action as part of the ensemble cast — in self-glorifying fashion, to be honest — as the photographer assigned to follow police officers of Paris' Child Protection Unit and our guide through this dark and sometimes darkly humorous world. In real life, Maiwenn also embedded herself with these kinds of detectives and (with co-writer Emmanuelle Bercot) crafted several interwoven tales based on actual cases she saw. What's impressive is not only her ability to juggle a large group of talented actors and give everyone a chance to shine but also her restraint. She judges no one, neither the suspects nor the people investigating them. Everyone makes mistakes — everyone is believably flawed. And because "Polisse" also follows the officers after hours, it's easy to see why so many of them are so screwed up: Psychologically, they take their work home with them, and their work is depressingly frustrating. There are some shocking moments, to be sure, and plenty of stress-fueled blowups but also scenes of heartbreaking tenderness. Maiwenn's naturalistic style serves to amplify all these emotions. With Karin Viard, Marina Fois and French rapper JoeyStarr. Not rated but contains language, violence, smoking, graphic dialogue and disturbing situations involving children. In French with English subtitles. 127 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.
— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic
"What to Expect When You're Expecting" — If only the entire movie had focused on the dad's group and didn't just drop in on them a handful of times, we might have been onto something here. Chris Rock, Thomas Lennon and Rob Huebel are among the dudes who meet regularly to push their kids in tricked-out strollers, tote them in high-end carriers and talk guy stuff in a confidential setting away from the wives. Their no-nonsense banter, and their unabashed worship of the buff, shirtless jogger who frequents their neighborhood park, livens up what is a rather predictable and cliched depiction of pregnancy. A likable, good-looking cast of popular actors can only do so much with material that's superficial and sitcommy. This is "inspired by" the advice book of the same name, one that every single pregnant woman on the planet surely has read since its initial publication in 1985. But similar to 2009's "He's Just Not That Into You," director Kirk Jones' film merely uses the title of a familiar non-fiction book as a leaping-off point to explore various relationships, ostensibly for hilarious comic effect. There are some laughs here and there and a few recognizable moments of honesty. More often, we get the kind of contrived, unbelievable wackiness that breaks out when all the pregnant women whose stories we've been following just happen to give birth at the same hospital on the same night. Being crowd-pleasing was obviously more important than being truthful. Starring Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz, Elizabeth Banks and Anna Kendrick. PG-13 for crude and sexual content, thematic elements and language. 110 minutes. Two stars out of four.
— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic