Battleship: Picante Chicken Rice Burrito

Year Released: 2012
Directed by: Peter Berg
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker, Rihanna, Liam Neeson
(PG-13, 131 min.)

"Let's give the world one more day." Lieutenant Colonel Mick Canales

Don’t be put off by the carping critics who have tried a preemptive strike to sink this Battleship. In fact, their bombast has been so blustering that it almost put me off as well. Yet this film has everything that the old-fashioned summer blockbuster once did – great action, likeable characters you learn to care about, and just the right touch of sentiment.

Billed as “an epic-scaled action-adventure that unfolds across the seas, in the skies and over land as our planet fights for survival against a superior force,” Battleship pits a group of navy ships against an alien vessel that emerges from the sea like a giant mechanical Moby Dick. Of course, Melville this is not, but it is certainly not the clinker those self-satisfied incestuous critics paint it to be.

In fact, the film reminds me of that other stop-the-invading-aliens flick, Roland Emmerich’s 1996 Independence Day. It has that same will to win against oversized odds that makes you want to cheer right alongside the crew when they finally sink one of the invaders.

What the film lacks in witty dialogue and humor, it almost makes up for in the strategic way it brings together so many elements. The fact that the surprise alien attack occurs near Pearl Harbor in Hawaii creates just a note of dissonance since it occurs while the American navy is conducting joint maneuvers with their current allies, the Japanese. Adding to this underlying irony is the animosity between American badboy Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) and Japanese Captain Yugi Nagata (Tadanobu), a remnant of a particularly aggressive soccer match between the two naval teams.

Another interesting element is the side story of Mick, a double amputee played by real life soldier Greg Gadson, who had both legs amputated above the knee after he was injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2007. 

Director Peter Berg also enlisted dozens of other wounded soldiers as extras in Battleship. "I believe we don't do enough to respect our veterans," said Berg, who shot one sequence of the film at the Center for the Intrepid, a facility in San Antonio that treats amputees and burn victims who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. "And we tend to outright ignore the people who've been seriously hurt."

Another great scene involves the retired military who now man the USS Missouri, first commissioned in 1944 and now moored at Pearl Harbor, a floating museum and memorial to that surprise attack. I won’t give too much away here, but these guys look like the real thing to me, not paid actors, and when they rev up those ancient steam engines and say, “We’re ready to rock and roll,’ you realize the title of the film is anchored in history.

But this review is not really about Battleship itself, but more of a critique of the critics themselves, because along with the maligned Battleship I also saw the critically praised The Cabin in the Woods. This double feature event actually occurred because another show had been sold out, but it was, excuse the cliché, an ephipany, telling me more about the state of film criticism than I really wanted to know.

After seeing that misbegotten spawn of a film, The Cabin in the Woods, all I could say was, “Is there any hope for humanity?” which is ironic in itself since the film –spoiler alert for a rotten tomato of a film if I ever saw one – ends in the protagonist’s conscious choice to end humanity as we know it. This film, which makes “Scooby Doo” look sophisticated by comparison, is the Emperor’s Clothes for Film critics, who gush over it like groupies at a Grateful Dead concert.

I won't be so bold as to declare 'The Cabin in the Woods' the Best Horror Movie Ever Made, but it is sort of the ultimate expression of the genre. 'Genius' is a word I'm toying with. Greg Maki

All the meticulous buildup leads to a hugely satisfying payoff. Despite all its ironic detachment, it has tons of laughs, some truly jaw-dropping moments, and a couple scenes of unexpected poignancy that make it more than a parody movie. Eric Melin

What's not to like? Horror fans with a brain will dig the clever script. The gore is there along with a true sense of concern for the victims. If only all horror films could be like "The Cabin in the Woods." Paul Chambers

The Cabin in the Woods is one of those movies that impress you even more on the ride home when you are thinking it over. It really does have a great premise, and the execution of that premise is often quite brilliant. Bob Grimm

Mark Ramsey seems the one of the few sane critics out there: 

As I write this, The Cabin in the Woods has a 92% “Fresh” rating over at Rotten Tomatoes, which suggests to me most critics are smoking their fresh tomatoes rather than squeezing them.

On the other hand, Battleship, whose cast and crew are fighting literally to save the world, prove the verity of that piety about no good deed going unpunished:

Big loud stupid dopey shameless clichéd overbearing and did I mention stupid? Richard Roeper

Battleship is substantially less awful than it could have been. And for me, that may have been the biggest disappointment of all. Christopher Orr

One of the dumbest ideas for a movie...ever. Bob Grimm

Battleship is a loud lobotomy. Tony Machklin

Aren’t they clever, broadcasting their sneers to their smug colleagues? These so-called professional critics are like a junior high clique, with about that much maturity and sophistication, as well as the same ruthless antipathy for anyone not a member of their exclusive club.

The “in” movies that get their herd-like approval are paeans to pessimism, deconstruction, and nihilism. They triumph in their edgy contempt for tradition and authority, especially if there be the slightest whiff of religious or military connections. Always on the lookout for the enemy within without ever realizing it might be they themselves, they are mocking and cynical, eschewing stereotypes except for their favorite ones.

Look for especially scathing reviews of anything that reeks of optimism, tradition, or old-fashioned patriotism. Moral redemption and victory over an external enemy are equally loathed.

But don’t take my word for it. See both these films and find out where you stand. I hope you will “stand by me.”

— Kathy Borich

Film-Loving Foodie

Badboy Taylor Kitsch’s opening scene has been criticized for its close resemblance to Chris Pine’s barroom brawl in the reboot of Star Trek. But Star Trek didn’t have the infamous chicken burrito. That’s what the buxom Sam Shane (Brooklyn Decker) wants when she sidles up to the bar past long-haired Alex Hopper, already three sheets to the wind (trying to throw in some nautical metaphors for you navy men). Rash and impetuous to a fault, he decides to get her one, even if the bartender protests the kitchen – in this case the resident microwave – is closed.

What follows reminds us of a YouTube featuring the dumbest burglaries ever, or a testimony to the Darwin awards, almost, since Alex doesn’t wind up dead, just well-tased. 

He does hand over the convenience store’s packaged burrito to the blond beauty just before the police juice him with one last taser pulse, but apparently some of that electricity jumped over to Sam as well, because she is from that day on, smitten.

Want to rekindle your honey’s love juices? I don’t think a paper-wrapped Seven Eleven version is going to work for most of us. But maybe this delicious Picante Rice Chicken Burrito will do the trick.

Con much gusto.

Read accompanying recipe: Picante Chicken Rice Burrito