Terminator Salvation (4 out of 5 Swans): This is a slam-bang, action packed, high tension, albeit extremely loud, film set in a post-apocalyptic California, circa 2018. Loaded with special effects and filmed with a background of treeless desolation, this is the type of film I generally abhor. But director McG tells such a high-paced story that it kept me enthralled throughout its almost two hour runtime. Even though Christian Bale is the prime mover, he’s joined by a new character, heartthrob Sam Worthington, who could make lots of female hearts flutter.
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (1 out of 5 Swans): One expects lousy movies from Robin Williams and Owen Wilson because they have both developed careers out of them (“RV,” “License to Wed,” “August Rush,” “I Spy,” “You, Me and Dupree” and “Drillbit Taylor,” to name a few of their bombs). It’s not that they lack talent, so it must be that they lack taste. But what’s the mega-gifted Amy Adams doing in this soporific, dumbed-down ineptitude? Hank Azaria, who plays a sexually ambiguous Egyptian Kahmunrah, provides the only true comedy relief in this interminable horror.
Angels & Demons (2 out of 5 Swans): The advertising campaign proclaims that it’s “better than ‘The Da Vinci Code.’” That’s like saying that your blind date is better looking than Quasimodo. After a tedious first hour, the film mostly consists of Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor and Ayelet Zurer running through one narrow alley and tunnel in Rome after another trying to find a bomb. One thing director Ron Howard has learned is that a film doesn’t need quality or suspense (I identified the bad guy instantly) to make money, and he can laugh all the way to the bank on this one.
The Merry Gentleman (2 out of 5 Swans): This silly story of a hitman with feelings, a favorite Hollywood theme, is unconscionably slow with no ending, a waste of 93 perfectly good minutes by lead actor and director Michael Keaton, squandering good performances by Kelly Macdonald and Tom Bastounes.
Revanche (4 out of 5 Swans): This film, that is in no hurry to tell its story, is not for everyone as it starts out with Irina Potapenko, a prostitute, making graphic love with her boyfriend, Johannes Krisch. There is a substantial amount of nudity in the first fifteen minutes, causing a few people at my showing (not a screening) to walk out. That was their loss because as this film progresses, it gets deeper and deeper. Writer-director Götz Spielmann doesn’t hit you over the head with what he’s trying to say. Instead, you have to pay attention and grasp the nuance. (In German and Russian).
Star Trek (3 out of 5 Swans): The judgment on this prequel isn’t based on the storyline; it depends on how well the new young stars portray their predecessors, who have become iconic. So let’s cut to the chase. Chris Pine gives an outstanding performance as the young Captain James Kirk. You can easily see how he could seamlessly evolve into the Kirk of William Shatner. He’s got good looks, charm, smarts and is cunning. But Zachary Quinto completely misses the boat as Spock. While the look is close, the personality isn’t. Whereas Nimoy played the putative-emotionless Spock with a glint in his eye, almost laughing at himself, Quinto is squarely humorless, playing Spock as an arrogant effete. Counterbalancing Quinto, standing out among the others are Simon Pegg as Scotty and Karl Urban as Bones, who live up to their memorable originals, James Doohan and DeForest Kelley, respectively.