Victor Rebikoff Welcome to the movies at PS News.
   Each week, PS News’s film critic Victor Rebikoff will highlight the latest offerings from the silver screen and share his expert commentary for our information and guidance.

Night at the Museum –
Battle of the Smithsonian

   Director: Shawn Levy, Rated PG, 105 Minutes

Following his 2006 smash hit movie Night at the Museum, director Shawn Levy has returned with the sequel, Night at the Museum – Battle of the Smithsonian.
   He is joined again by lead actor Ben Stiller, who returns as Larry Daley, now a successful business executive.
   On a chance visit to the Museum of Natural History, Larry is dismayed to discover it is closing down for upgrades and that many of the museum pieces, including cowboy Jedidiah (Owen Wilson) and Roman General Octavius (Steve Coogan), are being transported to the Federal Archives located under the Smithsonian Museum in Washington.
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   It is at the Smithsonian that Levy takes the opportunity to introduce the audience to a range of new characters that come to life due to the magical golden Egyptian Tablet.
   The comic-filled cast includes Amy Adams (Enchanted) as Amelia Earhart, Hank Azaria as the evil Pharaoh Kahmunrah (who also voices the Abe Lincoln and the Thinker characters), Christopher Guest as Ivan the Terrible, Alain Chabat as Napoleon, Bill Hader as General Custer and Jon Bernthal as Al Capone.
   Regrettably, their appearance has meant a diminishing presence of such regulars as Robin Williams as Teddy Roosevelt, Ricky Gervais as the head of the Museum of Natural History, as well as Jedidiah and Octavius.
   In his role as Larry Daley, Stiller leaves his business to save his friends at the Smithsonian, while also trying to prevent Pharaoh Kahmunrah from using the magical Egyptian Tablet to take over the world.
   Daley is helped along not only by his friends Jedidiah, Octavius and Teddy Roosevelt but also by flying ace Amelia Earhart.
   In fact, Stiller is at times outshone by the fantastic performance of the flame-haired Adams, which is the romantic interest of the movie.
   Even though this sequel does not measure up to the first museum movie, there is still a lot to like about director Levy's second museum trip, with some great gags involving famous paintings and sculptures coming to life – especially that of Abe Lincoln.
   Most importantly this is an enjoyable action comedy that should appeal to the entire family.
VIC'S VERDICT:       3 ½ Rubber Stamps


DVD releases
Hotel for Dogs
   Director: Thor Freudenthal. Rated PG, 96 Minutes

Hotel for Dogs is a wonderful family movie based on Lois Duncan's children's book.
   It is a tender story about a couple of orphan children who rescue and shelter a large number of dogs in an abandoned hotel.
   Sixteen-year-old Andi (Emma Roberts) and her 11-year-old brother Bruce (Jake Austin), have secretly been keeping a pet dog while going back and forth between orphanages and foster parents.
   Bernie (Don Cheadle), the kind social worker who governs their placements, tries to reason with the kids who are clearly not happy with their newest foster family of aspiring rock stars (Lisa Kudrow and Kevin Dillon).
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   It is not too long before Andi and Bruce (a mechanical genius who can invent ingenious contraptions such as an exercise rig and a self-feeding machine for dogs) decide to help all the unwanted dogs in the neighbourhood.
  They join forces with two employees from the nearby pet store (Johnny Simmons and Kyla Pratt) to build an elaborate self-maintained shelter for unwanted, abandoned and stray dogs.
   Eventually it seems they have bitten off more than they can chew, especially when cruel dog pound officials, distressed foster parents and infuriated police begin to take notice of the incredibly large gathering of dogs at the rundown old building.
   Relatively new director Thor Freudenthal and writers Jeff Lowell , Bob Schooley and Mark McCorkle have made a really likeable movie, paying little attention to plots or subplots and concentrating on the physical feats performed by the many dogs, ranging from a Jack Russell Terrier to a precious, big-eyed Boston Terrier and a German Sheppard.
   At times, dogs fill wide-angle shots unlike any movie since the live-action version of Disney's 101 Dalmatians – making a DVD copy of the movie a must in any home collection.

VIC'S VERDICT:       3 ½ Rubber Stamps


DVD releases
Friday the 13th
   Director: Sean Cunningham. Rated M, 91 Minutes

Sean Cunningham’s 1980 version of Friday the13th, the classic movie that rocked the horror genre, is being re-released as a two disc Special Edition DVD.
   Cunningham, who relied on sudden shocks using first person camerawork to establish the presence of the killer, made people jump and laugh – and there is still a place for that kind of fright.
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   In particular, it demonstrated the importance of setting the tone (especially the value of Steven Kirshoff’s atmospheric sound effects) in horror movies, making the audience themselves feel as if they too were being stalked – ultimately ensuring Friday the 13th was not only a hit but became a phenomenon.
   The story initially takes place in 1958 at Camp Crystal Lake, a summer establishment where two counsellors are brutally murdered following the accidental death the year before of a young boy named Jason Voorhees.
   This led to the place being closed down, but in 1980, an enterprising person named Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer) decides to reopen it and finds a group of teenagers willing to pitch in to get Camp Crystal Lake operating again.
   It is not long before problems begin...
   Friday The 13th, under Cunningham’s efficient direction and combined with a brilliantly effective music score by Harry Manfredini and enthusiastic performances, today looks like a classic, which makes up for it not being that good by being genuinely enjoyable.
   In fact it is the creepy music, essentially the atmospherics -the infamous sound effects “ch-ch-ch-ha-ha-ha”, the crude photography and the graphic depiction of the murders that blend together to offer a classic piece of movie history.
   That is what made this movie so defining - why for all its crude and harsh imagery it is a classic and why a lot of recent attempts at making horror movies do not measure up.
   And of course the two disc Special Edition provides a whole disc devoted to special features, making this DVD a good release to own.
VIC'S VERDICT:       3 ½ Rubber Stamps



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