FSR's Weekly Report Card

TERMINATOR: SALVATION

Studio: Warner Bros.

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and language.

Starring: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Bryce Dallas Howard and Moon Bloodgood

Directed by: McG

What it’s about: Breaking with tradition, the new Terminator film takes place after Judgement Day and chronicles the rise to power of John Connor (Christian Bale). The human resistance seems to be losing the war against machines. Connor is trying to rally support, but when his team discovers some new breeds of Terminators, they try to find a way to shut them all down. In the middle of this, Connor tries to save his own father – who is a teenager in 2018 – from getting killed and thus never being able to go back in time to get busy with his mommy Sarah.

What I liked: Having been a fan of the Terminator franchise for years, I always look forward to some cool action moments with these movies. For the most part, McG delivers on the action and effects front. For those of you who can’t hold your bladders until Michael Bay serves up his own brand of awesome with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, this film will have to do for giant robots blowing shit up.

I also give kudos to Christian Bale, who delivers the best John Connor the franchise has seen. Of course, that’s comparing him to Edward Furlong, and I think that a schizophrenic baboon would have been better than Edward Furlong. Still, after seeing this film, I understand why Bale blew up on set a while back. He’s just soooooo intense.

What I didn’t: While the action and explosions were great, these are really the cinematic equivalent of icing. The characters and story should be the cake, and the cake of this movie is terrible.

It’s not that the concept is bad. In fact, there are some really good potential with the story ideas and even the characters. However, with clunky plotting, trite dialogue and aimless scenes, the story falls apart. These are supposed to be the last frakkin’ people on earth, and I didn’t care if they lived or died.

Another problem with the movie is the effects soundtrack, which is really cool for about the first 30 minutes. However, it gets overdone and becomes old fast. The overproduced sound mix becomes as distracting as the random explosions McG peppers through the film when he gets bored with the dialogue.

Who is gonna like this movie: Terminator junkies and people who want to see shit get blown up.

Grade: C-

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Rated: PG for mild action and brief language.

Starring: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Robin Williams, Jonah Hill and Owen Wilson

Directed by: Shawn Levy

What it’s about: After Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) leaves his job as a night guard at the Museum of Natural History, the exhibits get shipped to the Smithsonian, along with the magic tablet that brings them to life. Larry has to sneak into the Smithsonian and steal the tablet back from the evil Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria) before the sun comes up.

What I liked: Unlike many critics out there, I liked the first Night at the Museum. By now, readers of this column know that I have a penchant for films that a lot of critics pan. However, I stand behind the $250 million domestic box office of this original film, defending it as a fun family flick.

Like the first film, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is fun to watch with the kids. The gee whiz factor has been toned down a bit, letting the comedy emerge with one-on-one confrontations with the characters rather than a lot of slapstick and creature effects. In many ways, this movie is nothing more than an excuse for these comedy actors to play off each other on screen.

Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan are still hilarious as the feuding cowboy and Roman soldier (and they give us a hilarious homage to both 300 and The Last of the Mohicans). Newcomers Bill Hader as the bumbling General George Custer and Amy Adams as the perky Amelia Earhart round out the cast nicely.

It’s a cute film, and exactly like the first one, so use that as your guide.

What I didn’t: I would have liked to have a little more over-the-top creature effects. Sure, you’ve got some art work coming to life with The Thinker and Abraham Lincoln, but some more of that giant octopus would have been awesome.

Other criticisms I would have (like the simplicity of the story and some relatively cheap jokes) are explained away by this being a kids movie above all else.

Who is gonna like this movie: Families, especially those who have been dying for a good film since Monsters vs. Aliens.

Grade: B

DANCE FLICK

Studio: Paramount

Rated: PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, and language.

Starring: Damon Wayans Jr., Craig Wayans, Shoshana Bush, Essence Atkins and Affion Crockett

Directed by: Damian Wayans

What it’s about: Yup, another spoof movie. This time, it sends up the urban dance competition films like Step Up and Stomp the Yard. I’d go into some plot detail here, but you all know that would be pointless.

What I liked: Okay, I will be the first person to admit that there are some really funny moments in this movie. I did laugh quite a few times. I credit the Wayans Brothers for this because as a collective, they do understand the structure of a spoof movie far better than those troglodytes Friedberg and Seltzer. After all, the Wayans gave us the first two Scary Movies. And producer Keenan Ivory Wayans gave us some really funny flicks like I’m Gonna Git You Sucka. (Yeah, I know… he also gave us White Chicks and Little Man. Read on, friends.)

What I didn’t: The Wayans have multiplied, and it’s no longer just Keenan Ivory, Damon and Marlon to worry about. There’s Damien the director and Damon Jr. the actor. It seems that every Wayans gets a part in the film, and the script even has a line about all the good parts for black actors going to the Wayans Brothers.

Ultimately, while Dance Flick has its moments, too often, the movie stumbles around from scene to scene. For every laugh-out-loud moment, there’s an attempt to be irreverent with on screen discussions about Jessica Simpson’s faux celeb status and the like.

It’s not the worst spoof movie out there, but it’s nowhere near the greatness we saw in the original Airplane!… or even the Scary Movie set.

Who is gonna like this movie: Spoof movie buffs.

Grade: C-


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