BATTLE: LOS ANGELES
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Starring Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan, Nia Peeples, Ramon Rodriguez, Michael Pena, Nzinga Blake, Ne-Yo
Sony//Rated PG-13//Science Fiction//116 minutes
Deceptively framed as a science fiction yarn, "Battle: Los Angeles," is a loud and shallow, soldier-boy flick. Though no documentary exists within the framework of this story, the narrative unfolds docu-style, via jittery handheld cameras capturing incomprehensible action. Invading extraterrestrials shoot at civilians and our military, on a layout of various battlegrounds in and around Santa Monica. Smoke and high-frequency edits disorient and disconnect us from the characters. Aaron Eckhart plays battle-weary Staff Sgt. Michael Nantz, a veteran asked to advise inexperienced US Marine platoon leader William Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez). Michelle Rodriguez is stereotyped as a tough chick with a big heart joining the platoon's mission to rescue a group of trapped civilians. Survivors include a veterinarian (Bridget Moynahan), and a father (Michael Pena) attempting to keep his young son safe. Television news footage depicts aliens arriving at coastlines around the globe in what appear to be meteor showers. Biological-mechanical hybrids emerge bearing machine guns surgically attached to their forearms. The film's overbearing score seeks to manufacture the heart-in-the-throat pride missing from these two hours of "booyah." DVD features: Behind the Battle, Aliens in L.A., Preparing for Battle, Creating L.A. in LA, English, French, Spanish or Thai language tracks, Korean subtitles, widescreen. Blu-ray features same as above plus: Directing the Battle, Boot Camp, The Freeway Battle, Command Control featuring Picture-in-Picture, Storyboard Comparisons, and Battle Points. 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same as above plus: film on both DVD and Blu-ray.
* *1/2 (B-)
Directed by Alister Grierson
Starring Richard Roxburgh, Ioan Gruffudd, Rhys Wakefield, Alice Parkinson, Daniel Wyllie, Allison Cratchley
Universal//Rated R//Action//109 minutes
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D
Though immersed in finishing "Avatar" at the time, executive producer James Cameron provided his much-touted 3D camera system to "Sanctum." In exchange for 50 seconds of idyllic underwater footage, the 3D creates strangely blurred foregrounds and backgrounds. The story is based on real events that occurred to James Cameron's friend and collaborator, Andrew Wight. Though Wight's group consisted of 15 divers, this adapted account whittles the group down to five adventurers who are trapped by a flash flood deep inside Papua, New Guinea's Esa-ala cave system. Master cave explorer Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh), leads the search for a way out. His longtime partner, George (Dan Wyllie) provides a reliable back up, though Frank also requires support from his 17-year-old son, Josh (Rhys Wakefield). Ioan Gruffudd appears as Carl Hurley, a wealthy adventurer bringing along his mountain-climber girlfriend, Victoria (Alice Parkinson). Various accidents highlight the many ways either diving or climbing equipment can cause injury or death. Poetic licence is taken to determine each character's fate, a problem due to a maze of overly-contrived emotional conflicts and poorly written dialog. As an adventure, "Sanctum's" tale earns an A, but as a human drama it barely squeaks by with a D. DVD features: commentary with director Alister Grierson, actor Rhys Wakefield and co-writer/producer Andrew Wight, Deleted scenes, Sanctum: The real story, English or Spanish language tracks, widescreen. Blu-ray features same plus: Nullarbor dreaming. 2-Disc Blu-ray 3D features same plus: Film on both 2D and 3D.