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Tim Grierson on Giving “Battleship” a Second Chance

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Summer movie season is drawing to a close — which, depending on who you are, may be cause for sadness or celebration. After months of explosions, sequels, guys in tights, life-or-death stakes, reboots, and yelled dialogue, it’s understandable that you may want a little time to yourself in a quiet room reading a book. But as we prepare to shift into Hollywood’s awards season, I’d like to stick up for one of this summer’s louder, more action-packed entries, which is arriving on DVD on Tuesday. It’s “Battleship,” and I think it’s better than you may have heard.

Opening on May 18, a couple weeks after “The Avengers,” “Battleship” was met with rather savage reviews and, more importantly for Universal, a collective disinterest from the moviegoing public. (It ended up bringing in about $65 million, which was less than “Contraband” or “Act of Valor,” two films with much lower budgets.) Although the film performed much better overseas — taking in almost $238 million — “Battleship” was labeled a flop, star Taylor Kitsch’s second in the span of about two months. (It’s worth pointing out, though, that the much-derided “John Carter” actually made more money in the U.S. than “Battleship” did.)

There are plenty of perfectly sensible objections to “Battleship.” It’s a wannabe Michael Bay film. It’s another rah-rah shoot-‘em-up. It’s based on a board game, except with a lot more aliens and Rihanna. But although “Battleship” certainly represents much of what is tired about summer movie season, I can’t think of a recent big-spectacle film that was this fun. It doesn’t have the depth or pathos of a “Dark Knight Rises” or the sharp wit of a “Men in Black 3,” but where other aspiring blockbusters plod along in a joyless march to their soulless finale, “Battleship” almost has a spring in its step. It’s a shame more summer juggernauts don’t.

The film, which was directed by Peter Berg, stars Kitsch as the stereotypically immature action hero. He plays naval officer Hopper, a charming screw-up who needs to take responsibility for his life. Thankfully — and right on cue — that moment presents itself when the Navy conducts a training exercise just as freakin’ aliens show up to destroy all of humanity! Any further explanation of the plot might as well be accompanied by more italics and exclamation marks, but suffice it to say that Hooper has to rise up and be the big hero, rallying his naval buddies to defeat these seemingly indestructible foes.

But while the setup definitely enters Bay territory, what’s appealing about “Battleship” is that, at least in spirit, it’s somewhat closer to the hard-edged action movies of the recently departed Tony Scott. Though a wizard of spectacle, Scott often did his best work (like in “Enemy of the State,” “Crimson Tide” and “Unstoppable”) when he managed to find the right balance between likeably plucky characters and compelling action sequences. “Battleship” suffers from some of the same clunky “funny” repartee that drags down other bloated summer movies, but in Kitsch, Berg has found an entertainingly unassuming action hero who wears his stardom lightly. It’s a small but important distinction: Kitsch is playful without being jokey in “Battleship,” recognizing the absurdity of it all but at the same time inviting the audience to savor the silliness rather than cluing us in to mock it. Scott’s movies had more flair and originality than “Battleship” possesses, but that same “Hey, going to the movies should be a blast” attitude permeates Berg’s film.

“Battleship” may not be magnificent, but it’s refreshingly good in a way that modern-day action movies tend not to be. Beneath the film’s explosions and yelled dialogue, the movie moves along at a steady pace with a breeziness that suggests that, really, the possible eradication of Earth by aliens isn’t something to be worried about. It’s just a plot device, and we should simply sit back and enjoy the battle between humans and extra-terrestrials as the escapist fun that it is. As Hollywood movies have gotten more and more expensive, increasingly intense commercial expectations have been thrust upon them. But rather than delivering more excitement and pleasure as a result, contemporary blockbusters tend to feel self-conscious and anxious, so desperate to entertain that there’s no sense of confidence or swagger. “Battleship” was clearly made to produce boatloads of money, but Berg and Kitsch don’t break a sweat worrying over the details. Neither should you — you can switch off your brain while watching “Battleship” and not feel like an idiot for doing so.

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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