Weekend Movie Forecast: <em>Terminator Salvation</em> or <em>Night at the Museum</em>

<p>Who knew a movie about humanity's post-apocalyptic enslavement to murderous machines would be so <em>heavy?</em> This fourth addition to the "Terminator" series, which started with a bang in 1984, is as bleak as it is thrilling, and while the film's tone left us feeling morbidly obsolete, it does succeed in reinvigorating the sputtering franchise. Set in 2018, the movie stars Christian Bale as robot resistance fighter John Connor and Sam Worthington as a mysterious stranger who holds the key to humanity's survival. <em>But can he be trusted?</em> (A white hot Blair Williams thinks so!) While there's never a dull moment in director McG's big, noisy blockbuster, one wonders if American audiences will flock to a see such a dystopian depiction of the future, given our currently dystopian present. A chaser of bubblegum <em><a href="">Star Trek</a></em> might be advisable to wash down Salvation's bitter sauce. </p>

<em>Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian</em> reunites Ben Stiller with another proven formula. <a href="">Roger Ebert says</a>, <strong>"Oh, did I dislike this film.</strong> It made me squirm. Its premise is lame, its plot relentlessly predictable, its characters with personalities that would distinguish picture books, its cost incalculable (well, $150,000,000).... I don't mind a good dumb action movie. I was the one who liked <em>The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. </em>But <em>Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian</em> is such a product. Like ectoplasm from a medium, it is the visible extrusion of a marketing campaign."

<p>The documentary <em>Burma VJ</em> looks at that country's totalitarian nightmare through the eyes of underground citizen journalists who risked their lives photographing the abortive 2007 uprising against the military dictatorship. The Village Voice's <a href="">Ella Taylor calls it</a> <strong>"a roller coaster of alternating hope and despair</strong> as the young guerrilla reporters, always on the lookout for ubiquitous informers, wade into the thick of the struggle with Handycams hidden in bags, then transmit the footage to a hidden colleague, who smuggles it out of the country via satellite... There was no happy ending, but if Burma VJ's account of the efficacy of dictatorship threatens to crush you, the sight of a sturdy young back disappearing into the mountains, returning from a Thailand hideout for another round of bearing witness, should make your heart burst."</p>

<p>Set over the course of one weekend in the posh restaurants, hotels and bars of Manhattan, <em>The Girlfriend Experience</em> explores the inner life of a young, high-price call girl as she tries to balance her fraught career path with her seemingly typical long-term relationship with a personal trainer. The action, so to speak, takes place in October 2008—with the financial industry in free-fall, Chelsea, the escort in question, spends less time between the sheets than she does listening to various affluent white guys completely freak out about the economy.</p><p></p>Directed with signature finesse by Steven Soderbergh, the film's kinetic, intimate style turns out to be an ideal frame for the performances of the non-professional actors who fill out the principal roles (as in his previous film <em>Bubble</em>). Surprisingly subtle adult film star Sasha Grey slips into the part of Chelsea with guarded ease, and real-life trainer Chris Santos is pitch-perfect as her live-in boyfriend, who's left devastated when he can't stop her from crossing the line with one of her clients. Soderbergh and Grey spoke about the film after its premiere at the <a href="">Tribeca Film Festival last month</a>; it opens in New York today.

<p>In the Wayans Brothers new comedy <em>Dance Flick</em>, a young street dancer from the wrong side of the tracks teams up with a beautiful young woman "in the mother of all dance battles." Stephen Holden <a href="">at the Times</a> deems the movie "explosively funny. In a watchdog culture where candid remarks and clothing choices are continually weighed on the Internet as to whether so-and-so or such-and-such is going too far, <em>Dance Flick</em> exhales the rank humidity accumulated in a climate of obsessive caution. <strong>Its belly laughs leave you feeling liberated and not guilty; I repeat, not guilty."</strong></p>

<p>Set in Oslo, <em>O'Horten</em> concerns a longtime train engineer looking for the meaning of life after his government-mandated retirement leaves him with too much time on his hands. <a href="">The Village Voice's Scott Foundas says</a> "director Bent Hamer, whose <em>Kitchen Stories</em> tipped its hat to Tati and whose <em>Factotum</em> made an admirable stab at Charles Bukowski, here achieves a tone somewhere in the ballpark of Kaurismäki, with [Bard] Owe's wonderfully stoic face rarely bending as it observes his fellow man in all his small-scale absurdities. <strong>The images, lit by the cameraman John Christian Rosenlund, have the incandescent glow of storybook illustrations. The movie, on its own modest terms, satisfies greatly."</strong></p>

<p>The documentary <em>Milton Glaser; To Inform and Delight</em>, concerns the influential graphic designer and New York Magazine co-founder. It's the first feature from Wendy Keys, a longtime program director at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and friend of Glasers. Reviewing the film <a href="">for the Observer</a>, Andrew Sarris writes, "What elevates the film to something more than a talking-heads documentary is the rapport established between Mr. Glaser and Ms. Keys on a project they both saw as a visual and verbal love letter to New York City, emblazoned in the Glaser-designed omnipresent I Love NY logo with a heart sign in place of the word 'Love.' Throughout the film, Mr. Glaser is entertainingly irrepressible as he displays not only his full confidence in the proceedings, but also the impatience of an 80-year-old visual visionary who seems to have been waiting all his life for the opportunity to present this vision on film. <strong>His zest and glee in the process are truly infectious."</strong></p>

<p>Set in Tokyo in 1940, <em>Kabei</em> chronicles the turbulence that consumes a peaceful family when the patriarch is suddenly arrested and accused of being a Communist. The Voice's <a href="">Nick Pinkerton writes</a>: "<em>Kabei, </em>an unpretentious and old-fashioned (that is, crisply legible) domestic drama, shows how Rising Sun Japan's sense of national destiny affects one family... [Director Yoji] Yamada delivers the solar plexus emotional hit of a tragic telegram with precision that shows a lifetime's practice, turning Hallmarkisms sublime."</p>

<em>The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story</em> concerns the tumultuous relationship between the hit songwriting brothers Richard and Robert Sherman, who wrote the tunes for movies like <em>Mary Poppins </em>and <em>The Jungle Book.</em> <a href="">Time Out's S. James Snyder says</a> the documentary "has the same Achilles’ heel as some of their songs: a tendency to skew saccharine... Directors Gregory and Jeffrey Sherman, sons of the composers, have set themselves such a furious pace in parsing the full chronology that we only skim the surface... These 'boys' were indeed a deeply dysfunctional pair. Always smiling in public, the brothers could barely stand one another, and this explosive friction in the music studio may have been the essential artistic ingredient in crafting such cheery hits as 'Chim Chim Cher-ee' and <em>The Jungle Book’</em>s 'I Wanna Be Like You.' It also tore their families apart, <strong>which is an artistic paradox so wrenching—and haunting—that it demands to be more than a mere footnote."</strong>

<p>Alex Jones, the bullhorn-handling ranter who you may recall from such Richard Linklater films as <em>Waking Life</em>, is one of the main subjects of <em>New World Order</em>, which takes a balanced look at the lives of contemporary conspiracy-theorists. <a href="">Jim Ridley at the Voice</a> writes, "A facile but fascinating documentary about the world of 9/11 skeptics and world-domination doomsayers, <em>New World Order</em> stops well shy of endorsing Jones's arguments, the most incendiary of which is that 9/11 was a massive government-executed plot. But it gives his theories a more sympathetic, or less critical, airing than they've yet had (except among the converted). <strong>Neither a call to alarm nor a laugh-at-the-loonies yukfest, the doc charts a temperate middle course through its subjects' heated rhetoric."</strong></p>

<p>Phil Moon, the Chinaman who peed on the dude's rug in <em>The Big Lebowski</em>, stars as a Chinese American reporter in <em>Ghosts of the Heartland</em>, a noir about a small town gripped by McCarthyite paranoia and violent anti-communist thugs during the Korean war. The Times's <a href="">Jeannette Catsoulis calls it</a> "a stilted rant against small-town bigotry and xenophobia... which might have been more effective with a little more honey and a lot less vinegar... (The plot’s offensively clichéd portrayal of American Indians is another problem entirely.)... Not even Antoine Vivas Denisov’s crystalline black-and-white photography can sweeten the didactic mood. 'Why don’t you go back to the big city and marry a white woman so your children can disappear into the white race?' asks Roland’s former best friend. Oh dear."</p>

<p>Jessica Biel, Colin Firth, and the inimitable Kristin Scott Thomas star in <em>Easy Virtue</em>, a screen adaptation of Noel Coward's play about an well-to-do British matron (Thomas) and her deep disapproval of her son's marriage to an American race car driver (Biel) in 1929. <a href="">Time Out's David Fear</a> says Biel's "an actor who operates in two speeds—happy-haughty and irritated-haughty—and both turn any semblance of Cowardesque banter into a flatlining bark. Her presence becomes a black hole, which no amount of directorial irreverence—a hot jazz cover of…'Car Wash'?—or fine supporting work from Colin Firth and Kristin Scott Thomas can plug up. <strong>Coward’s champagne-fizz lightness has never felt so labored; nothing here comes easy."</strong></p>

<p>If you dare brave <a href="">the Village after dark</a>, <a href="">IFC Center is screening</a> Stanley Kubrick's posthumously-released film <em>Eyes Wide Shut</em> all weekend at midnight.</p>

<a href="">The Sunshine is screening</a> the iconic '70s New York gang flick <em>Warriors</em> at midnight all weekend.