American Battleships

Back when there were still video stores, there were lots of movies that helped fill shelf space not taken up by the big star-driven films.

You may have almost grabbed some of these videos; they had great artwork and the images on the boxes looked eerily familiar to other big budget movies like “Transformers” or “Battle: Los Angeles.”

Upon closer inspection, however, the movie you were holding was a low-budget knock off looking to cash in, with a title like “Transmorphers” and “Battle of Los Angeles” instead.

Roger Corman would be proud. These B- and Z-grade movies, sometimes called “mockbusters,” still help fill out the selections to choose from at department store chains and possibly even in your Netflix queue. They’re typically timed for released just as their big-screen, big-budget counterparts hit the cinemas.

Knock-offs or not, sometimes these cheaply made films can be a groan-inducing hoot. (“Sharktopus” anyone?)

The Asylum Home Entertainment is a company that makes many of these films. A few months ago the company shot “American Battleship” in Wilmington so quietly that it flew under the radar for a while until photos began to pop up on Facebook.

The film stars Mario Van Peebles (“New Jack City”), Carl Weathers (“Predator”) and Johanna Watts and its intention is to ride the wave of this summer’s alien and military special effects flick “Battleship,” directed by Peter Berg (“The Kingdom”). The story is about the last remaining battleship, the USS Iowa, which is left in the U.S. to fight off an alien enemy and impending Armageddon.

Stills were recently released from the film that was shot on the U.S.S. North Carolina. “American Battleship” is to be released on May 15 on DVD and VOD. “Battleship” comes out May 18.