In honor of this week’s release of “Terminator Salvation,” here’s a quiz about the earlier versions.
1. What is the name of the corporation that created the machines that are trying to kill all the humans?
2. What is the name given to the day when the machines took over?
3. In the first movie, what do the women killed by the title character have in common?
4. What is the change that led the computer to view humans as a threat?
5. What legendary science fiction writer is given credit for inspiring the series?
6. Who played the scientist who created the microprocessor that makes the Terminators possible?
7. What name does the Terminator use to ask about the foster family’s dog?
8. What does the young John Connor teach the Terminator to say?
9. Why do John and Kate go to Crystal Peak in “Terminator 3?”
10. What is the significance of the name of the Terminator in the television series, “The Sarah Connor Chronicles?”
Some things are so inherently funny they transcend time, language, and culture. Slipping on a banana peel. A cream pie in the face. And now we must add to the list Kevin James in a uniform riding a Segway in a mall. The vision of the large man in the crisp white shirt with a shiny badge primly rolling along past Brookstone and Orange Julius is funny even if you’ve never seen a Segway — or a mall. And James, who co-wrote, endows the title character with such piercing sweetness that even his geeky pretensions are endearing. “Fun fact!” he likes to say before spouting off some arcane fact from science or history. And when he tries to persuade a pretty girl at a kiosk that there is a raging controversy about whether security personnel at the mall will be referred to as “officers,” we can’t help hoping that it is resolved in his favor.
Paul Blart (Kevin James, with not just Segway and badge but mustache and Hello Kitty band-aid) wants very much to be a state trouper but he keeps failing the program. He has the heart of a lion and is even pretty good on the obstacle course. But his hypoglycemia hits him at the wrong moments, causing him to pass out. And so he is still working at the mall and trying to persuade himself and those around him that it is a job with some actual authority. Without a weapon or the ability to cite or arrest anyone, he does not get very far.
He is dearly loved by his mother (the wonderful Shirley Knight) and daughter (Raini Rodriguez), who encourage him to use perfectmatch.com to find a date. But there is a sweet young woman named Amy in a synthetic wig at the hair weave kiosk (Jayma Mays) who somehow gives him a reason to try to reach out. And then the bad guys arrive, and it’s time for “Die Hard” on laughing gas.
Despite its origins as a Happy Madison production (Adam Sandler’s company), this film avoids most crude humor and all references to 80’s pop culture. It drags a bit on its way to the reindeer-named bad guys but once they arrive, zooming through the mall on skateboards and dirt bikes, with only security guard — I mean security officer — Blart and his Segway plus whatever he can find Sharper Image and the sporting goods store, it kicks into gear. Blart’s got you covered.
Jason Dolley of the Disney Channel’s popular series Cory in the House stars in Hatching Pete, now out on DVD with another family-friendly feature, “Dadnapped.” He found time to talk to me between finals in his college classes, and I really enjoyed our conversation, especially his frank and sincere discussion of his faith and his description of what it was like to play the guy inside the chicken suit.
Where are you from originally?
I grew up in Southern California, Simi Valley. I’ve lived in the same house all my life. I have two older brothers who have moved away, but I still live with my mom and dad. I graduated from high school early and now I am going to college at Moorpark community college, 15 minutes away from the house.
Tell me about “Hatching Pete!”
It has me and Michael Musso and the basic story is best friends. He is normally the school mascot and he asks my character to sub in for him one night. Pete is very shy but he blossoms in the chicken suit. They don’t tell anyone it’s him, so that’s where it gets complicated.
Is it difficult to act in a chicken mascot costume?
It is tough! Even before filming began we went to mascot boot camp. The San Diego chicken from the Padres gave us “how to be a chicken” lessons. I had a lot of fun with it and that was good because my character was supposed to have fun. It was stuffier than anything, but well worth it. I had a blast! There are things you don’t think about — you have to make your movements really big because it is all in the body language. Small movements normally people would make, you had to blow it up. I did not do everything. I’m not really athletic. We had four chickens not including Mitchell, a dance chicken to do the dance routines and Ted the pro chicken would do some of the game stuff.
And how did you get started as an actor?
My first job was an AFI short film, “Chasing Daylight,” when I was 11 and I made a couple of commercials that never aired. For me, the acting bug got started when we would play dress-up. It didn’t have to be Halloween. We’d get dressed up and we’d become the people whose costumes we wore.
What was your favorite Halloween costume?
I was Darth Vadar three years in a row!
Did you study acting?
I started taking classes when I got an agent. But I learned from the best when I did a series called “Sweet Savages” where I played the youngest boy. Mel Gibson was the director, he was hilarious and kept throwing in little things for us to do. I learned a lot.
What makes you laugh?
One of my favorite comedies is Three Amigos!. Oh my gosh, me and my brother quote that all the time. Two of my favorites are Abbott and Costello, we did the “Who’s on First” routine for our school talent show and that was the first blossoming of my acting stuff.
What actors really inspire you?
Robert Redford and Paul Newman — I love seeing them in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Sting.”
What role does your faith play in your life?
I think faith helps me a lot. God wants you to be where He wants you to be, and that’s where I want to be. If I do not get a part, I understand that maybe I needed to be home at that time, maybe in school, there’s always a reason. My faith is also where my core friends are, at my church, a faith-based friendship. It is a major thing.
Stevanne Auerbach is better known as “Dr. Toy,” and she and her website are great resources for parents on issues of toys and ply. Her book is Dr. Toy’s Smart Play: How To Raise A Child With a High PQ (Play Quotient), a guide not just to what toys are safe and appropriate but to what toys best engage the imagination and curiosity of children and how best to help them get the most fun — and the most learning — of the toys they get. Her website allows you to search by age and it also has information on green toys and on donating toys that have been outgrown. She even has a link to online directions for board games, to help settle disputes. Dr. Toy answers questions from parents on the site as well, a list of the all-time best toys, information about games, and guidelines in more than a dozen languages, so be sure to check it out.
The book is an indispensable guide for parents. The “work” of young children is play. It is through their imaginative play that they process their understanding of the world and learn everything from constructing a narrative to taking turns. The book has very useful information about guiding children to the kind of play they will find most satisfying and inspiring, play that will enable them to develop a sense of independence, mastery, and confidence. It has wise counsel on the pros and cons of gender-specific toys and information about toys for children with special needs and special talents. It has lists of the top 100 toys and the craft supplies that every family should have on hand every day. It is a welcome reminder of the importance of play for both children and their parents.