3 1/2 stars = Very good
"The Pirates! Band of Misfits," from the inventive people at Aardman Animations studio ("Wallace and Gromit"), is the most fun a landlubber can have without Johnny Depp and more family friendly thanks to its PG rating.
The delightful comic adventure opens in 1837 as Queen Victoria (voice of Imelda Staunton) glories in her kingdom's far-flung reach and broadcasts her feelings about buccaneers on her royal crest: "I hate Pirates."
The vainglorious The Pirate Captain (voice of Hugh Grant) captures a ship with scientist Charles Darwin (David Tennant), a nebbishy fellow with a crush on the queen. He's about to meet a watery grave when he recognizes Polly as not a parrot but a dodo, thought to be extinct.
The scientist promises untold riches if he and the captain could present the flightless bird to a scientific convention. And they're off to the races with close encounters with the royals, a man-panzee named Mr. Bobo, a chemical combination you might use at home and hijinks on the high seas.
It's all grand fun thanks to delightful details: A treasure room with more than 400,000 gold coins; the pirate ship with its 44,569 parts; 220,000 props, including bottles, lamps and glasses made by a specialist glass blower for the film; and 1,364 puppet mouths for the captain alone.
Key voice talent also includes: Martin Freeman as the Pirate With a Scarf; Jeremy Piven as Black Bellamy; Salma Hayek as Cutlass Liz; Anton Yelchin as the Albino Pirate; Ashley Jensen as the Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate; and Al Roker as the Pirate Who Likes Sunsets and Kittens.
Although bloody brilliant at times, "The Pirates," directed by Peter Lord, purposely is historically inaccurate with cameos by famous people who had yet to be born or died 20 years earlier. But the insertion of those characters seems designed to amuse the alert adults while their children thrill to a bubble-filled bathtub that turns into a makeshift roller coaster.
Extras include filmmakers' commentary, "So You Want to Be a Pirate!" mini-movie and "Mr. Bobo's Flash Card Challenge." Also, on Blu-ray: "Pirate Disguise Dress-Up" game, making-of featurette, "Creating the Bath Chase Sequence" featurette, two Peter Lord short films.
2 stars = Mediocre
This is "Iron Man" meets "Terminator" meets "Transformers" meets "District 9" meets "Battle Los Angeles" and every other alien invasion movie but on the water.
Taylor Kitsch stars as ne'er-do-well Alex Hopper, who at 26 still exasperates his older brother (Alexander Skarsgard), an officer in the U.S. Navy.
After Alex gets Tasered while trying to win the heart and quiet the rumbling stomach of a barroom beauty, Sam Shane (Brooklyn Decker), Alex's bro insists he join the Navy. Before you can say Pearl Harbor, Alex is a naval weapons officer provoking Sam's father, Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), commander of the Pacific Fleet.
When an alien race responds to deep-space transmissions from NASA and Alex is one of the only survivors within possible striking distance, his character, leadership and tactical skills are tested.
"Battleship," which takes its name from the naval combat game, is entertaining if nonsensical and oddly lacking in suspense considering what's at stake.
Director Peter Berg knows how to do muscular action and destruction, with spinning shredders that look like the old Selectric typewriter balls (a gazillion times larger) edged in vibrating chain saws chewing up everything in their paths. He's on less firm footing when it comes to logic.
In addition to Mr. Kitsch, who seems far more comfortable here than in "John Carter," the core defenders of the planet are played by singer Rihanna, as a petty officer and weapons specialist; Tadanobu Asano, commanding officer of a Japanese destroyer who must join forces with the Americans; Jesse Plemons, also from "Friday Night Lights," as a boatswain; and John Tui as an engine room expert nicknamed "The Beast."
DVD extras include the featurettes "Preparing for Battle," "All Hands on Deck: The Cast" and "Engage in Battle." Also, on Blu-ray: alternate ending pre-visualization and five featurettes, including a short on visual effects, a behind-the-scenes with director Berg, "USS Missouri VIP Tour" and "Alien Tech 3D Model Turntable Explosions."
2 1/2 stars = Average
Steve Harvey's best-seller, "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man," inspired the comedy "Think Like a Man," and there are repeated shots of the book and its author throughout.
Expect a second spike in sales, especially if women think they have a chance to land Michael Ealy (or a look-alike), who had some moviegoers swooning in their seats at a preview.
"Think Like a Man" introduces characters representing various types outlined by the comedian: the player (Romany Malco), who charms women into bed; the mama's boy (Terrence J), who dines on his favorite foods at his mom's place and sleeps in his boyhood bedroom every Sunday; the dreamer (Mr. Ealy), whose latest ideal job is chef; the non-committer (Jerry Ferrara), a man-child working as a videogame designer; the soon to be divorced guy (Kevin Hart); and the happily married man (Gary Owen).
Playing for the other team in the gender wars: Mya (Meagan Good), who imposes a 90-day waiting period after too many casual hookups; Candace (Regina Hall), single mom to an adorable 6-year-old son; Lauren (Taraji P. Henson), "the woman who is her own man" as the youngest COO of a Fortune 500 company; and Kristen (Gabrielle Union), a real estate agent who is waiting for her boyfriend to put a ring on her finger after nine years.
The women discover Mr. Harvey's advice book and treat it like a relationship bible. When the men realize what's happening, they try to outsmart the women by getting the text, reading it and anticipating the next move.
The movie, directed by Tim Story ("Barbershop," "Fantastic Four"), is a crowd-pleaser even if it does cast too wide a net with all those characters.
The DVD includes deleted scenes and blooper reel. The Blu-ray has four behind-the-scenes featurettes.
ALSO THIS WEEK:
• "The Lucky One" (2 stars): Zac Efron is a U.S. Marine sergeant who returns from a third tour of duty in Iraq with a photo he credits with keeping him alive -- that of a woman he doesn't know. Once he learns her name, he shows up at her door in this adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel. Director Scott Hicks ("Shine") captures some beautiful scenes, but the screenplay by Will Fetters ("Remember Me") feels padded and has too many scenes where people cannot find the words to express themselves. The DVD extra is "Zac and Taylor's Amazing Chemistry" featurette.
• "Homeland: The Complete First Season": Showtime series starring Claire Danes.
• "Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season": TV series about a place where reality and fairy tales come together.
• "The Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season": Survivors look for safety from mobs of zombies.
• "Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Second Season": Steve Buscemi stars.
• "Injustice": A tale of murder, conspiracy, secrets and guilt.
• "Spongebob Squarepants: Ghouls Fools": Gang hunts treasure.
• "The Heineken Kidnapping": A beer baron is kidnapped. Rutger Hauer stars.
• "Green Lantern the Animated Series: Season One, Part One": Green Lantern Corps faces a new intergalactic mission.
• "Life Happens": An unexpected pregnancy changes the lives of three friends.
• "Poirot: Series 6": David Suchet plays the mystery solver.
• "Blood Money": A Shaolin warrior turns to crime after his parents are killed.
• "Monsieur Lazhar": A substitute teacher brings stability to a school shaken by a suicide.
• "Looney Tunes: The Chuck Jones Collection Mouse Chronicles": Features 19 remastered theatrical shorts.
• "Bob the Builder: The Ultimate Can-Do Crew Collection": Includes 10 episodes.
• "Big Time Movie and Rags: Double Movie": Double feature of Nickelodeon films.
• "You've Got a Friend": A young boy won't let anything stop him from accomplishing his big dream.
• "Jim Gaffigan: Mr. Universe": Stand-up special starring Gaffigan.
• "Headhunters": Based on Jo Nesbo's best-selling novel.
• "'50s TV Classics": Includes Bob Hope, Ed Sullivan.
• "Changing the Game": A white-collar world is full of crime.
-- PG Staff and Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers