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By Michael Calleri

In the new film, "Battle: Los Angeles," very little is explained. Perhaps that's because the picture is so thin, so vapid and so utterly empty of ideas that there's nothing to explain. Director Jonathan Liebesman and his screenwriter, Christopher Bertolini, have delivered one of the most unoriginal movies in years.

This really is a 1950s feature, albeit in color with ramped-up sound and typical green-screen special effects. Liebesman and Bertolini have taken the classic Sci-Fi tale of invaders from another planet landing on Earth and waging war against humans, and they've done absolutely nothing fresh with it.

After a breezy opening during which we're introduced to a fortysomething Marine (Staff Sgt. Michael Nantz), who has turned in his retirement papers, we then meet some of his fellow service personnel, most of whom josh him with typical macho camaraderie jokes. This all takes place in southern California.

Minutes later, meteors are falling into the oceans outside the world's major cities. There's no explanation as to where the objects are from, and no attempt to communicate with the creatures that have popped out of the falling objects, not that the creatures do anything chummy on their part, mind you.

The film concentrates on Los Angeles, which is immediately put under attack by the 15-foot metal skeletal thingamajigs from somewhere, each with a weapon attached to its body.

Nantz is advised that his retirement is off and he's ordered to take a bunch of nervous Marines to Santa Monica to rescue some cops and civilians barricaded in a police station and bring them safely to a secure area. That's the entire movie.

Reworking something familiar can succeed if the creative team has some genuine talent and inspiration. There's very little talent on display here, and nothing is inspired. Buildings will blow up. Guns will be fired. The Marines will run and shout. The civilians will cower. Some folks will die. Some kids will cry. Overly loud special effects and dizzying hand-held camera work will be the order of the day.

Nantz, played by Aaron Eckhart doing his best John Wayne impression, will lead his team house-to-house, block-by-block to get to Santa Monica Airport. It's "Blackhawk Down," but with aliens. The space critters will storm the beaches and advance like a swarm of well-armed locusts. Somebody has to hold them back and save civilization, so it might as well be Nantz.

Except for Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez, who plays some sort of Air Force map reader, the cast is mostly unknown and vastly uninteresting. For those looking to see the destruction of a fascinating city, there's actually not much Los Angeles in "Battle: Los Angeles." This is because the film concentrates on a few blocks near the ocean.

In fact, one of the biggest problems with the movie is that, expect for some phony-looking digital dioramas, there's no epic feeling. The camera can't really pull back to give us a better sense of place, because the production was shot in back yards and side streets in Shreveport, La. There's a lot of smoke, but no aliens zooming along freeways. The invaders' command center looks like a scrap yard that's been made to stand up straight. Space junk, indeed

Don't take young children to see "Red Riding Hood." The picture, which is dark and gloomy and unimaginative, is not for kids. Frankly, it doesn't offer much entertainment for adults either, but that's because it's resolutely awful.

This is a tedious retelling of the popular story about a young girl who meets a hungry wolf, but it's definitely not your grandmother's fairy tale.

In a tiny village in the Middle Ages, a teenage girl named Valerie is torn between two lovers. She wears her red cape and hood because, well, because she's just becoming a woman. Don't make me spell it out.

Valerie is played by the overrated Amanda Seyfried who, after the werewolf talks to her, musters up her best Valley Girl attitude and says, "Omigod, you can speak."

Some of the film's running time is wasted having the villagers mutter to themselves about the true identity of the werewolf. All of the running time is an ode to Hollywood waste.

E-mail Michael Calleri at michaelcallerimoviesnfr@yahoo.com.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com March 15, 2011