Notes from the back row 

A French take on film

Did you know that per capita, the French eat more, sleep more, and have more sex than any other country? The France French, I mean, not the bush-French we have over here (although personally I'll take poutine over baguettes any day). The French also hold the art of cinema in much higher regard than we do - the Cannes Film Fest, champion of the Arthouse film, is going on right now on the French Riviera while on this side of the pond we get the latest installment of the Terminator franchise.

Hollywood loves a franchise - it isn't enough to just make one good movie anymore - and Termintor Salvation , opening today, is the fourth in a long line of successful sci-fi flicks. Unfortunately, it might also be the worst (though the last one was nothing special either).

Salvation is a prequel, but it takes place in the future, 2018, when John Connor, resistance leader in the war against the machines, must find and protect his future father Kyle Reese (who gets sent back in time to 1984's original Terminator to protect and impregnate John's mom, Sarah. Luckily you don't need to be an expert in Terminator 's circular, time-traveling back story to enjoy this one, it's mostly explosions anyhow.

Salvation is a post-apocalyptic war movie with, as I've mentioned, lots of big explosions, very little colour and gruff performances from angry Christian Bale and newcomer Sam Worthington, who steals the show as a cyborg forced to choose between machines and humanity. Director McG ( Charlie's Angels) brings it with the action and battle scenes but the rest of the flick is pretty suck-ass. The plot is pure Timbits (all holes), the dialogue is about as good as the Wolverine movie, and character empathy is robotic at best, partially because the movie lacks a singular villain. "Army of Robots" sounds lot scarier than "one single T-1000" on paper but on screen it's the other way around.

This movie isn't total crap. The effects and action are quality, and granted, time-travel plots are hard to work with, but despite a hopeful ending begging for yet another installment, Terminator Salvation might be the flick that puts the final bullet in one of Hollywood's most beloved franchises.

Also opening this week is Night at the Museum - Battle of the Smithsonian, in which Ben Stiller, now a successful inventor hawking crap he dreamed up thanks to his last adventure, gets called to Washington D.C. to help rescue some pals from the first movie who are set to end up in a cold storage. The Smithsonian is apparently one of the world's greatest and largest museums but much of the magnificence is glossed over, and instead we get try-too-hard banter bits and a textbook's worth of annoying characters. This isn't an adventure it's a commotion.

Despite the all star cast (Robin Williams has really lost his touch, eh?) only Amy Adams turns in a memorable performance and director Shawn Levy, the piece of work responsible for such intellectual gems as Cheaper by the Dozen 1 & 2 as well as the original Museum, is back to his usual tricks - appealing to the lowest common denominator at the expense of intelligent filmmaking. Of course, on this continent, the lowest common denominator is also known as the general public - the first Museum movie made over $250 million and the Cheaper franchises pulled in over $220 million so, really, it doesn't really matter what I say about this flick or Levy.

Might as well say it in French then - " Nuit au Musée 2 va sucer une grande tasse de merde American."

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