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Blu-ray Review Battleship Blu-ray Review - Recommended (1 Viewer)

Kevin EK

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Battleship cruises onto Blu-ray this week, offering a surprisingly entertaining two hours of lightweight summer fun.  Based on the famous strategy game, the movie incorporates some gameplay with a muscular take on the 2005 War of the Worlds, flavored with a touch of Transformers and a healthy number of Navy uniforms.  By all rights, this concoction shouldn’t work.  But once you get past the opening fifteen minutes, things really do come together in an exhilarating way.  The Blu-ray release spotlights the movie with excellent picture and sound, along with a healthy amount of special features.  And while I have some reservations about the plot and some wrong turns here and there, I’ve had a good enough time with this one to Recommend it for rental or purchase.




BATTLESHIP

Studio: Universal/Hasbro/Bluegrass Films/Film 44

Year: 2012

Length: 2 hrs 12 mins

Genre:  Action/Adventure/Alien Invasion/Navy Battles


Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, (AVC @ 20 mbps)

Audio:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 4.0 mbps up to 5.6 mbps), Spanish DTS 5.1, French DTS 5.1, English DVS 2.0

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish


Film Rating:  PG-13 (Intense Sequences of Violence, Action, Destruction, Language, G-9, I-7, and because You Sunk My Battleship!)


Release Date:  August 28, 2012



Starring:   Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Tadanobu Asano and Liam Neeson, with Gregory Gadson


Based on:  Hasbro’s “Battleship” game

Written by:  Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber

Directed by: Peter Berg


Film Rating: 3/5


Battleship really shouldn’t work as a movie, and it shouldn’t be getting the recommendation I’m about to give it, right?  It’s based on a kids’ board game we all played in our childhood, and the trailer looks like something ripped from a Transformers movie.  Add to this that it has an unearned reputation as a bomb (it actually more than broke even), and an admittedly uninspiring first act, and you have a potential recipe for disaster.  And yet, the movie redeems itself.  Yes, it looks like a retread of Transformers, but the difference here is that there’s a stronger director at work, and actually a stronger backbone of story.  The basic idea takes the core of the “Battleship” game and applies it to a story where aliens attack an international naval exercise as a first stage in a full-scale invasion.  Taylor Kitsch has the lead role as Alex Hopper, the younger of two brothers in the Navy who winds up leading the counterattack, and over time, he actually grows on the viewer into something more than he seems initially.  Backing him up are good performances, particularly by Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano, and by real-life Army Colonel Gregory Gadson, who shows it is indeed possible to be a complete badass even with replacements for both your legs.  True, Liam Neeson chews the heck out of every scene he’s in, and actors like Alexander Skarsgard and Brooklyn Decker really don’t have much to do other than be eye candy.  But they’re not the point of the exercise.   The real fun here comes from director Peter Berg’s enthusiasm for the material, and for his deft work in pulling the scenes together so that they build to a rousing action climax without feeling too artificial.


SPOILERS:   Of course, the whole alien invasion setup, as seen here, feels like a lift from the 2005 War of the Worlds, and some of the sounds of the alien craft are quite similar to the big sounds heard in that film.   The perspective is a bit similar to the 2005 film, in that we’re experiencing the invasion mostly from the sea level perspective of sailors caught in the first attack wave.  There’s also a healthy dose of the kind of mechanical action seen in the Transformers movies, and a similar feel to those films, including the usage of Steve Jablonsky’s scoring.  So yes, there is a lot here that could be called derivative.  And there’s that first act, in which we’re meant to believe that Hopper can commit a blatant breaking and entering crime, resist arrest and cause traffic accidents along the way, and still somehow come out of the experience a Naval officer within five years.  That’s a bit much, to be sure.  (And after years of experience working with Navy and Marine personnel, I had to cringe at the end when Hopper is referred to as a Lieutenant Commander while clearly wearing Lieutenant stripes, and when Hopper plays an entire scene talking to Neeson’s admiral outside in uniform without having his cover on…)  But again, Peter Berg manages to pull all of this together.  He manages to take what is an admittedly simple story with very little meat on its bones, and he keeps it interesting, fun and involving, without resorting to too much of the random cuttiness of a Michael Bay or the leaden self-importance that some of these movies take on.  It’s clear Berg is having a lot of fun playing with all the Navy and alien hardware, and that he’s enjoying his cast.  His enthusiasm is infectious.  Will you remember this film an hour after you see it?  Maybe not, but you’ll definitely have a good time while it’s on.


So, in spite of what should be my better instincts, I’m going to Recommend this movie for rental and purchase if you enjoy it enough.  It’s not the greatest movie I’ve ever seen, but I have to admit I had a lot of fun with it and with the Blu-ray materials.  If you’re on the fence, I’d say rent it and see what you think.  If you like what you see, and you like the special features, it’s an easy purchase.  If not, you’ll have seen some good special features (see below), and you won’t be out that much.  Try it, and you may be surprised.


Battleship is being released on Blu-ray and standard definition this week. The Blu-ray has the movie in high definition picture and sound, along with a generous armload of extras.  The Blu-ray package includes the DVD, which holds a few of the same extras.  An insert provides the code for obtaining Ultraviolet or Digital copies of the movie.  The usual pocket BLU and BD-Live functionality is also included.



VIDEO QUALITY  5/5


Battleship is presented in a 1080p AVC 2.40:1 transfer that is pretty much flawless.  This is a big, expensive movie, and it shows.  The Hawaii locations are presented beautifully, and the CGI work is practically seamless with the live action footage.  (There are times where it’s more obvious – but that’s when you’re looking at a shot you know to be completely impossible from a real camera anyway…)  The transfer does great with bringing this movie into HD, and depending on the theater where you may (or may not) have seen it, probably looks better than the theatrical showing. 



AUDIO QUALITY  5/5


Battleship is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that goes to town with the generous smorgasbord of music and sound effects the movie sends whizzing around the room.  This is another one of those mixes that you probably don’t want to crank up in a small apartment building after midnight.  But earlier in the evening, have fun with all the surround sound and directional effects.   This is a mix that will definitely give your home theater a workout.  In addition to the high definition audio, there are Spanish and French DTS 5.1 tracks, and an English DVS track.. 



SPECIAL FEATURES   4/5


The Blu-ray presentation of Battleship comes with a very generous pile of special features, most of which are exclusive to the Blu-ray.  The Blu-ray also includes the usual BD-Live, pocket BLU and bookmarking functionality, as well as D-Box for viewers who have that ability.  The Blu-ray packaging includes the DVD as well as an insert with the code for obtaining a digital or Ultraviolet copy of the movie.  My only issues here have to do with the nature of the “All Access” feature and stickiness with the Second Screen function.


My Scenes – The usual Blu-ray bookmarking feature is available here, allowing the viewer to set their own bookmarks throughout the film.


BD Live – The usual Blu-ray online functionality is present, allowing the viewer to access trailers and other bonus content through the Universal portal.


D-Box – This functionality is present for those viewers who have this capability in their home theaters.


pocket BLU – The Universal application for smartphones and tablets is present here, allowing the viewer to use their device as an effective remote, and to access some of the bonus content through that device.  A digital copy of the movie can be downloaded via this app.  Several of the featurettes can be accessed independently via pocket BLU, if you wish to view them on your tablet or smartphone rather than on the television screen.  pocket BLU is also the gateway to the Second Screen functionality:


            Second Screen – Content is available via your tablet or laptop, using the pocket BLU app, and selecting the Second Screen option.  Once you activate it, you’ll see a timeline for the movie’s chapters and other content running horizontally across the bottom of your device.  The content here is mostly identical to the “All Access” PIP materials to be seen a little farther down the review.  The difference is that here you can select the moments you want to see and skip the others.  There is also a 3D model option that allows you to do 3D rotations of the alien “shredder” machine and three alien creature types seen in the movie.  The content here is good, but I admit that on my iPad, the interactivity was very sticky – just as much as when I first tried to use this function last year on Fast Five.  While I can use the pocket BLU remote to control my Blu-ray player, the iPad was unable to get the movie to advance to the appropriate chapter when I would access the PIP material linked to that chapter.  So the movie seems to play independently of the content, and there is no option I could see for “flick view” or “click view” to throw the content up to the big screen.  This is annoying, but the compensation is that you can pause the movie and actually just watch the PIP materials rather than being stuck with the “All Access” version of it.



All Access with Director Peter Berg  (2:19:31) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This seems to be a new way of doing the “U-Control” or “Take Control” ideas of how to present extra content while watching the movie.  What you have here is Peter Berg providing an introduction and about 5 minutes total where the movie stops and he comes out to discuss specific issues or elements.  As the movie plays, there are many PIP clips that come up to show on-set video and interviews about the scenes playing on the screen.  So this is pretty much the movie, with PIP and a few minutes with the director, as a separate presentation, which effectively makes it the “Take Control” idea we’ve seen before, coupled with the “U-Control” PIP idea, except that the viewer has no way to jump from PIP clip to PIP clip.  And thus the viewer has less control, which makes this more of an annoyance.  In order to see the various PIP clips, you have to watch the movie without knowing where any of the content is, unless you’ve already gone through it once and know what content is in what chapters.  The only place where you can individually access the content is in the Second Screen pocket BLU application, and even that doesn’t totally work in that its still too sticky of a control option and the tablet and movie don’t seem to align themselves.  All that said, the actual content here is great.  There’s plenty of footage and interviews, and it’s all interesting material.  The problem is that the viewer has very little control over what is happening, and that’s the reverse of how I would think this kind of feature should work.


Alternate Ending Previsualization (7:33, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – A CGI previz of an alternate climax to the movie is shown here, with a quick introduction by Peter Berg.  Berg acknowledges that this one, with Hopper and his Japanese counterpart on small attack craft, would have been a lot more expensive than the option they actually did in the movie, and that he prefers what was actually used.  But he also says that he’s happy to show this alternate as well, so here it is.


USS Missouri VIP Tour (20:10, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This is the most interesting material on the Blu-ray.  It’s a tour of the famous battleship, along with a series of interviews with various sailors and officers who have served aboard her.  Peter Berg’s enthusiasm for the Navy and for the ship really shows here, as he talks with the older sailors who discuss some pretty harrowing combat situations.  If you’re at all curious about Navy ships, this will be fascinating.


Preparing for Battle (11:09, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This featurette starts with a discussion of the board game (which Berg gleefully admits is where he learned how to cheat!) and then segues into the actual production of the movie.  The Hasbro people mention the elements of the game they incorporated into the movie – primarily the need to send ordinance blindly into various sectors due to both the aliens and the humans being unable to see each other’s ships much of the time.


All Hands on Deck: The Cast (11:40, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) –  This featurette goes through the various cast members, including interview bits with them and with Peter Berg about them.  The usual mutual compliments are expressed here, along with the usual on-set video of the cast at work.


Engage in Battle (6:58 Total, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This is a very short 2-part featurette that quickly runs through the production, using interview material not seen in the other featurettes.  The two parts are:  “Shooting at Sea” and “All Aboard the Fleet”, and they can be viewed individually or via a “Play All” option.


Commander Pete (5:46, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This short featurette is one of the funniest profiles of a director at work I’ve ever seen.  Berg is shown cheerfully haranguing his cast and crew, making odd sounds, playing guitar, making people do push-ups (including the cast!), and generally earning the right to have his own reality series.  My favorite bits here have to do with him helpfully writing messages to the crew on the donut box at the craft service table.  Things like “THINK OF YOUR CHILDREN” and “SELF DENIAL IS GOOD FOR THE SOUL – Larry Berg”, “DEMONSTRATE CHARACTER NOW”, “HOPE IS NOT A TACTIC” (explained as “I hope I don’t turn into a fat pig!”) – All of this brings to mind an actor I worked with a few years ago who would tell the crew to say to him if they saw him hovering at the snack table “Put the donut down and step AWAY FROM THE TABLE.” There’s another good bit of him walking over to the hot food snack and growling “Oh my God, this isn’t carbs, this is just DEEP FRIED CHAOS!”  And then taking a bite, of course.


The Visual Effects of Battleship (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This featurette focuses on the work done by ILM for the movie to create the ships, the space views and the alien creatures and machinery via CGI.


DVD (480p Copy of the movie, Dolby Digital 5.1 sound @ 448 kbps) – The DVD release of the movie is included in the package.  The movie is presented in standard definition picture and sound (with English, French and Spanish DD 5.1 and the English DVS track), along with the featurettes “Preparing for Battle”, “All Hands on Deck: The Cast” and “Engage in Battle”.


Digital/Ultraviolet Copy – The packaging includes an insert with a code for getting a digital or Ultraviolet copy of the movie.  The copy must be streamed or downloaded by April 30, 2017.


Subtitles are available for the film and the special features, in English, Spanish and French. A full chapter menu is available for the film.


IN THE END...


Battleship is not Citizen Kane, nor is it Star Wars.  It will not change your life and it will not motivate you to become a better person or a filmmaker.  But it is a heck of a lot of fun, and a very well-made movie, as well as a solid Blu-ray presentation.  I have quibbles with the PIP functionality, but they are just that – quibbles.  I can’t believe I’m writing this, but I am happy to Recommend this Blu-ray for rental or purchase.  If you’re a fan of Peter Berg’s movies, this will be a fun one to pick up.  If you’re more wary, given the movie’s reputation, I recommend renting and seeing for yourself. 


Kevin Koster

August 30, 2012.



Equipment now in use in this Home Theater:


Panasonic 65” VT30 Plasma 3D HDTV – set at ISF Night Mode

            -set professionally calibrated by Dave Abrams of Avical, June 2012

Denon AVR-3311Cl Receiver

Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray Player

PS3 Player (used for calculation of bitrates for picture and sound)

5 Mirage Speakers (Front Left/Center/Right, Surround Back Left/Right)

2 Sony Speakers (Surround Left/Right – middle of room)

Martin Logan Dynamo 700 Subwoofer

 

Adam Gregorich

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Thanks Kevin. I have to say (maybe admit is a better word?) That I enjoyed this. I saw it in the theater and it was complete escapism entertainment: check your brain at the door, get your popcorn and have a fun time.
 

Neil Middlemiss

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Originally Posted by ijthompson /t/323379/battleship-blu-ray-review-recommended#post_3968693
How was Rihanna's film debut? Did she bring her umbrella? (ba-dum tssh)
I thought she was terrible - but like Kevin and Adam, thoroughly enjoyed it, and the disc is terrific.

Thanks for the review, Kevin!
 

Sky Captain

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Wish that I'd seen it in theaters first, but I couldn't, and my seeing it on TV won't really be that great. Thanks for confirming my faith in this movie; IF there's a second-run theater with a decent digital screen showing it, I'll be seeing it there first before I pick it up on DVD.
 

Adam Gregorich

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Originally Posted by Sky Captain /t/323379/battleship-blu-ray-review-recommended#post_3968781
Wish that I'd seen it in theaters first, but I couldn't, and my seeing it on TV won't really be that great. Thanks for confirming my faith in this movie; IF there's a second-run theater with a decent digital screen showing it, I'll be seeing it there first before I pick it up on DVD.
You don't need to see it in the theater first. I had just as much fun watching it at home. I don't think Kevin saw it theatrically either.
 

Kevin EK

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I have only seen this movie in my home theater setup. And it looked and sounded terrific there. This isn't a situation like Lawrence of Arabia, where you really do need to see it on the big screen to get the grandeur.
 

Kevin EK

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I believe Universal offered the 3D option to Peter Berg, but he turned it down, as Jon Favreau did the year before for Cowboys and Aliens. The reason this time I believe had to do with having to work in the cramped confines of real Navy ships and on sets that were just as confined.
 

Sky Captain

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Adam Gregorich said:
You don't need to see it in the theater first.  I had just as much fun watching it at home.  I don't think Kevin saw it theatrically either.
Yeah, I know, but I love seeing movies like this on the big screen first! :D
 

Dave Moritz

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I am a little disappointed that this film didn't get a 7.1 track but I will still be buying it anyway! Does anyone know why this movie did not get a 7.1 treatment?
 

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