Three divergent releases this week explore what it means to be human: There's robots vs. humans in 'Terminator Salvation'; there's museum exhibits that come to life in 'Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian'; and then there's the old-fashioned romance of 'Paper Heart.' Read on. a href="">'Terminator Salvation'
What It's About: The fourth installment of the 'Terminator' series follows an adult John Connor (Christian Bale) in the year 2018 as he attempts to organize a resistance force that could prove to be humankind's last hope for survival in the war against the robots. Aiding him is a mysterious stranger -- an android created before the war began -- whose motives remain unclear. The pair -- though enemies at first -- team up to go after the Skynet headquarters in an effort to save the future.

It's Kinda Like:
The original 'Terminator' without a story line

What We Say:
We had hoped that this third sequel would make up for the lackluster 'Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines' but we were again let down. The story meanders like a robot without a brain chip and the acting (especially Christian Bale and Sam Worthington, as the android) is way over the top: everyone just yells at each other at the top of their lungs. There's no nurturing or love among these characters, just duty; if this is the future of the human race, then the robots can have it. But the explosions are cool.

'Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian'
What It's About: In this sequel to the very original 'Night at the Museum,' in which museum exhibits -- humans and animals alike -- come to life at night, New York's Museum of Natural History is closed for upgrading and the exhibits are put into storage at the Federal Archives in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, the evil spirit of an Egyptian Pharaoh wants to take control of the world, and ex-security guard Larry (Ben Stiller) must return to help the exhibits fend off the bad guys.

It's Kinda Like:
'Toy Story' meets 'The Mummy'

What We Say:
Another example of the Hollywood system: Suck as much as you can from a good idea, leaving it a hollow shell of the original. Though there's more special effects than the last outing, the story line's side trips and by-rote acting leaves me wishing this 'Battle of the Smithsonian' had been left in cold storage. Amy Adams, as Amelia Earhart, juices up the otherwise mundane proceedings.

'Paper Heart'

What It's About: This comedy starts out as a documentary about a young woman, Charlyne Yi, who doesn't believe in "true love" and decides to travel across America to make a film about the one subject she doesn't fully understand. Along the way she meets Michael Cera and the movie becomes more scripted than clear-eyed cinema verite as the pair get more involved with their romance.

It's Kinda Like:
'Lost in America' meets 'Annie Hall'

What We Say: The staple of Hollywood romantic comedies -- a young woman who doesn't quite believe in love falls in love -- is handled in a clever way by writer-star Charlyne Yi. She mixes man-on-the-street interviews, scripted scenes, improvised encounters and even puppetry (to reenact the love stories told to her by some of the people she meets on her trip to explore the notion of love). It's puppy warm and kinda makes you feel good all over. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Other New December 1 DVD Releases:
'A Christmas Tale'
'A Girl in the Park'
categories Dvds