Saturday, May 24, 2008

New Movie Review From The Entertainment Critic: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of The Crystal Skull

Movie Review: Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull
The Entertainment Critic Movie Review
In Theatres Now Review
Opened May 22, 2008
By James Myers

Rating: 7 of 10

Directed by
Steven Spielberg

Writing credits
David Koepp (screenplay)
George Lucas (story) and
Jeff Nathanson (story)
George Lucas (characters) and
Philip Kaufman (characters)

Cast (in credits order)

Harrison Ford ... Indiana Jones

Cate Blanchett ... Irina Spalko

Karen Allen ... Marion Ravenwood

Shia LaBeouf ... Mutt Williams

Ray Winstone ... 'Mac' George McHale

John Hurt ... Professor 'Ox' Oxley

Jim Broadbent ... Dean Charles Stanforth

Igor Jijikine ... Dovchenko
Dimitri Diatchenko ... Russian Suit #1

Ilia Volokh ... Russian Suit #2 (as Ilia Volok)

Emmanuel Todorov ... Russian Soldier #1

Pavel Lychnikoff ... Russian Soldier (as Pasha D. Lychnikoff)
Andrew Divoff ... Russian Soldier #3
Venya Manzyuk ... Russian Soldier #4 (as Veniamin Manzyuk)

Alan Dale ... General Ross

Joel Stoffer ... Taylor

Neil Flynn ... Smith

V.J. Foster ... Minister
Chet Hanks ... Student in Library

Brian Knutson ... Letterman #1

Dean Grimes ... Letterman #2 (as Dean L. Grimes)
Sasha Spielberg ... Slugger
Nicole Luther ... Diner Waitress
Sophia Stewart ... Malt Shop Teen
Christopher Todd ... College Brawler #1

Dennis Nusbaum ... College Brawler #2

T. Ryan Mooney ... Teenage Boy

Audi Resendez ... Teenage Girl #1
Helena Barrett ... Teenage Girl #2
Carlos Linares ... Fast Speaking Inmate
Gustavo Hernandez ... Shouting Inmate

Maria Luisa Minelli ... Sanitarium Nun

Nito Larioza ... Cemetery Warrior #1

Ernie Reyes Jr.... Cemetery Warrior #2

Jon Valera ... Cave Warrior
Kevin Collins ... M.P. in Guard Hut

Robert Baker ... M.P. Sergeant

The most anticipated film of the early summer season opened May 22, 2008, to sold out crowds of enthusiastic fans, who wanted to see Indiana Jones again after a 19 year hiatus. George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, and Harrison Ford did not disappoint with their latest effort, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of The Crystal Skull. This fourth installment of Paramount Pictures wildly popular, fun action adventure series lived up to it’s advanced billing, as a vehicle for summer fun in a throw back to the Saturday afternoon serials of the 1950’s. This one pits an older and wiser Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) against agents of the Soviet Union, led by Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), in the search for a crystal skull. Indy is aided by his former lover Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), the greaser Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), and fellow archaeologist Mac (Ray Winstone). John Hurt and Jim Broadbent also play fellow academics.

The film opens in 1957 with Colonel-Doctor Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) leading a convoy of Communist Russians infiltrating a military base in the Nevada desert called "Hangar 51", where they force Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) to lead them to an object he had previously studied. When the crate holding it is opened, it contains the remains of an extraterrestrial creature that crashed ten years before in Roswell, New Mexico. When Jones attempts to escape, he is foiled by his old partner, George "Mac" McHale (Ray Winstone), who reveals that he is working with the Soviets. Jones then escapes on a rocket-propelled vehicle into the desert, where he stumbles upon a nuclear test town and survives a nuclear blast by hiding in a lead-lined refrigerator. He is brought to a facility where he is debriefed and discovers that because Mac is a Soviet agent, and Jones himself is under investigation by the FBI for his association with him. Jones returns to Marshall College to find that because of the FBI investigation, he is being offered a leave of absence to avoid being fired. As he is leaving, Jones is stopped by Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) and told that his old colleague, Harold Oxley (John Hurt), disappeared after discovering a crystal skull in Peru.

In Peru, Jones and Mutt discover that Oxley was locked in an insane asylum until Soviet soldiers broke him out. In Oxley's former cell, Jones discovers clues to the grave of Francisco de Orellana, a Conquistador who went missing in the 1500s while seeking Akator (also known as El Dorado). Jones finds the crystal skull that Oxley hid in Orellana's grave in the Nazca Lines. The skull is elongated in the shape that indigenous peoples formed their own skulls into. The Soviets capture Indy and Mutt and take them to the camp where they are holding Oxley and Mutt's mother, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen). The Soviets believe the skull is from an extraterrestrial life-form, holding great psychic power. The four escape from the camp, but Indiana and Marion become trapped in dry quicksand. Marion reveals that Mutt is Jones's son. (There is a line of jokes that run through the picture concerning Mutt’s education. Before Jones knows he is his son, he tries to tell Marion that Mutt may not be cut out for school, after he finds Mutt is his son, he continually asks her, “How could you let that boy quit school.”) After a lengthy vehicle chase, several Soviet soldiers are killed by army ants, and finally Mutt, Marion, Mac, Oxley, and Jones ride a truck over a cliff and down three waterfalls. The four then find the Temple of Akator. While being choked by Jones, Mac reveals that he is a double agent working against the Soviets and goes into the temple with Jones and the group.

After entering the Temple, Jones uses the skull to open the door to a chamber tomb. Inside, thirteen crystal skeletons are seated on thrones, with one missing its skull. When the Soviets arrive, Mac reveals that he lied about being a double agent. When Spalko places the skull onto the skeleton, it begins communicating to the group through Oxley using an ancient Mayan dialect. Jones translates this to mean that the aliens want to give them a great gift. Spalko demands to know everything, and the skulls begin firing knowledge into her eyes, causing her to shake. As a portal to another dimension appears over the room, Oxley regains his sanity and explains that the aliens are inter-dimensional beings who taught the Maya their advanced technology. Indy, Mutt, Marion, and Oxley escape from the temple, but Mac is sucked into the portal. The skeletons form into a single alien who continues to feed Spalko with knowledge. However, the knowledge overwhelms Spalko, causing her to ignite into flames and disintegrate, with her essence being absorbed into the portal above. The temple crumbles, and a flying saucer rises from the debris and disappears. Back home, Jones is made the Associate Dean and marries Marion. In a scene where the torch appears about to pass, Mutt bends down to pick up Indy’s famous hat, but Jones takes it from him. Nevertheless, rumors persist that there will be a new Indiana Jones film, and that Shia LaBeouf will play the lead role.

My favorite new character in the film is Mutt Williams, a motorcycle greaser with a thing for switchblade knives. He is a great foil in the picture for Jones, and is action personified. He just looks like a guy you want with you in that dark alley when the fight starts. His leaning curve with Jones make for some of the best scenes in the picture. Cate Blanchett as Irina Spalko is wonderful in this picture. The blonde haired beauty is disguised as a Russian with a few Order of Lenin to her credit in a Dutch boy, black haired, do that has me fooled from the start. It is impossible to take your eyes off of her when she is on the screen. Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood gives a steady performance. It was great to see her again.

The film is well directed and written. The sets were perfect, the customs were right on, and the special effects at times were breathtaking. There are some lulls in the film, but from the Indy hooks up with Mutt until the conclusion, the action is non-stop. This picture reminds me very much of the other Jones pictures and the serial type films that you used to see on Saturday afternoons in the 50’s when Flash Gordon left you hanging with a cliffhanger every week and keep you coming back to see how it would come out. According to business reports, the film will need to gross at least $400 million to make a profit for Paramount. Unlike other film franchises, they are only the distributor of Indiana Jones, whose copyright is owned by Lucasfilm, and their original deal entailed they would only earn 12.5% of the film's revenue. As the $185 million budget was larger than the original $125 million estimate. Lucas, Spielberg, and Ford turned down large upfront salaries so Paramount could cover the film's costs. Paramount will only see a profit beyond its distribution fee if it grosses over $400 million. At that point Lucas, Spielberg, Ford, and those with smaller profit-sharing deals will also begin to collect their cut. On its opening day in North America, the film grossed around $25 million, the fourth biggest Thursday opening yet. This weekend it will be interesting to see how the film does. Roger Ebert, who gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4, said it best, "I can say that if you liked the other Indiana Jones movies, you will like this one, and that if you did not, there is no talking to you.” This film is worthy of its predecessors and is great way to spend a summer evening.


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