Sunday, May 25, 2008


Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

I usually despise it when reviewers give their life story or some ridiculous anecdote before diving into a movie review, making it seem like the movie in question is somehow an integral part of their childhood or filling in a missing gap to their adulthood. It’s tedious and annoying and most people just want to know if you liked it or not.

I’m gonna be a little annoying, so stay with me for a sec and I’ll get to the point.

I love the first three Indiana Jones movies and I honestly cannot tell you which one I like best. Like many others who have grown up with the whip-cracking archaeologist, I have come to appreciate the films to a quotable level.

The talk of producing a fourth Indiana Jones movie has been in the pipeline since “Last Crusade” was in theaters and with the internet it has turned into a full on gossip spreading machine. Much like Star Wars Episode One, with so much time between films and so many fans salivating over reliving their childhood memories, the gap in time leaves a lot to be desired.

As the guys that will ultimately make the film kick around ideas, the fans are left to their own devices, each with their own interpretation and vision of what the movie should be. This leads to a sense of ownership, the most annoying new trend in sequels and franchises. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t have an opinion. They should and are entitled to it.

However, unless they’re willing to brush up on their writing, producing, and directing skills and throw their name in the hat, then perhaps it’s time to sit back and let the filmmakers work.

Most recently, with the announcement of Guillermo Del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth) directing TWO films based on “The Hobbit,” carrying on the Lord of the Rings franchise with an earlier story, the fans have already begun their incessant ramblings and nit picking about every little detail.

Does nobody want to be surprised anymore?

And I’m one of the worst. Before you can say hypocrite, I am definitely guilty of the greatest fanboy sin of all time, which is spoilers. I have spoiled nearly every movie for the last five or six years thanks to the internet, but, in the last few, have stopped, letting the movie work its magic (or lack thereof) and enjoyed my experiences at the theater much more.

Having said all that, I was very excited and interested to see the new Dr. Jones movie. My hopes and expectations were simply for more of the same, but with obviously more advanced filmmaking technique, given that it’s been nineteen years since “Last Crusade.”

I actually saw “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” twice this weekend, which gave me time to reflect on the good and the bad in more detail.

Ultimately though, I thought it was great. Yup, you heard me right. It felt like Indiana Jones, it moved like Indiana Jones, and it sounded like Indiana Jones. Does it have its flaws? Absolutely.

The film opens with Indiana kidnapped and being taken to area 51 in the Nevada desert. His captors, a sect of the Russian military, are led by Irina, a psychic-powered, sword-wielding villainess, played by Cate Blanchett. Irina is searching for the remains of something or someone and needs Indy to help locate them inside a massive government storehouse, filled with wooden boxes (a la “Raiders”).

Irina, much like the Nazis in the previous films, is after the power which resides in such objects, furthering her country's (then) goal of world domination.

After finding the box and Indy’s inevitable escape, the film kicks off on a journey to find a legendary Crystal Skull and return it to its rightful place (much like the magic stones in “Temple”). Indy is investigated by the FBI after his escape (and notable betrayal by his partner, played by Ray Winstone) and accused of being a Russian spy. We are given a snippet of Indy’s war hero persona (Colonel Jones) which I thought was an interesting touch.

The FBI investigation forces Indy to be fired from his professor job, which propels him to head to New York, but not before being intercepted by Mutt, a motorcycle riding “greaser” played by Shia Lebouf.

Here, we have a bit of role reversal along the lines of “Last Crusade,” with the young and old, father/son dynamic taking place. Shia is his usual charming and convincing self, which is just fine for this. Since his breakout in “Disturbia” he has become an actor that has been fun and interesting to watch.

Mutt has a map and a kidnapped mom and a mission to get her back. Indy just got fired and is being chased by Russian spies. No reason not to help the kid out.

And so begins their adventure. A fun little motorcycle chase through academe, some grave digging, corpse robbing, and the usual map overlay flight sequences lead Indy and Mutt to the Amazon, where the skull is to be taken.

Here we see Indy’s old flame (and Mutt’s mom) Marion, played once again by Karen Allen. She comes in a little late in the movie and I understand why they did it, but it does feel awkward. However, I was able to get over it easily.

What follows is a crazy chase through the jungle, with a battle royale from truck to truck, featuring shoot-outs, sword fights, fist fights, and…jungle vine swinging?

It’s a Saturday Morning Serial like you’ve never seen and keeps with the tradition of wacky action sequences from the other films. I think what some of the more stern critics of the movie may disagree with is the use of CGI which was still in its pupa stage when “Last Crusade” was made.

Either way, I enjoyed the hell out of the sequence, right up to the ant hills and Indy’s brawl with the Russian Colonel. It was cool to see Indiana Jones duke it out and beat some ass with nothing more than his fists. No matter how old he gets, Jones has still got it, a theme which sticks to the end credits.

The grand finale is a little weak for me, but still interesting. I don’t have a problem with the alien aspect of the film. The truth is aliens or otherworldly beings are plastered throughout history so it makes sense that an archaeologist would investigate or get wrapped up in such a thing, especially Indiana Jones.

The last scene of the film, which I won’t give away, is a perfect fit for the film and by no means closes the door on Dr. Jones and his adventures. If anything it opens them back up, letting us know that he’s back and isn’t quite ready to pass the torch completely.

Now, what seems to be happening in most of the reviews I read is nit-picking. As I explained earlier, I think that nineteen years has created an Indiana Jones movie in most die-hard fan’s minds that could never be achieved to their standards in any way.

However, I will chime in with my two cents on a few things I felt were lacking. The most notable thing that bothered me was the feeling that there wasn’t the usual sense of dread and urgency to the mission at hand. The stakes didn’t seem high enough for Indiana Jones on this one.

Thus far, two of the Indiana Jones films have covered Religious artifacts and one of them some magic stones. Now, we have a magical crystal skull. In each of those, a sense of urgency to stop someone evil from taking control of said item and beating them to the punch or simply getting the item for himself, was most prevalent.

The nerve-racking tension built throughout as you pulled for Indy to get there first, to save the day, and quite simply, for him to win. In Crystal Skull, Harrison Ford IS Indiana Jones again and it’s great to have him back, however the usual shock and surprise at every turn doesn’t seem to be as prevalent as before.

Perhaps it’s the age issue, as we all know he’s been there and seen this shit again and again. This doesn’t stop the movie from being fun and adventurous or even suspenseful, I just didn’t get the feeling that if Indy didn’t save the day then the world would be screwed. It seemed more along the lines of Indy doing this one for charity. He’s just using his mighty skills to help out on this one.

I think, for me personally, I would’ve liked to have seen that one scene with the slow push in to Indy’s face to reveal that sadistic smile and obsessed eyes look as he comes to a revelation or holds an artifact in his hands. But, that’s just me being nit-picky.

I won’t rip on characters either, because the ones that needed fleshing out were good enough. I mean, c’mon, how much did we learn about Short Round or Willie Scott or even Sallah? The characters in these films are traditionally defined by their actions and that’s just fine for this type of film.

There seems to be an almost “presidential nominee” divide amongst people on this one…You love it or hate it. I know many fans and even friends whose opinions I trust and value who did not enjoy this film at all. For me, “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” embodied the original intent from George Lucas when the series was started, which was a throwback to the Saturday morning adventure serials shown in theaters long before my time.

It seems, for me, that it’s a pretty good start to the summer movie season and I hope it continues. Possibly a contributing factor is that last year I was watching second string bootlegs of summer movies in the worst possible quality under the worst possible conditions…

My biggest problem with the franchise at this point is that they won’t wait another nineteen years to make another one. I’m ready for more.

Movie Grade: A-

Friday, May 23, 2008

2008 Geronimo Ball Video

I've had a lot of requests for a copy of this video, so I put it up here to quench those requests until I get some more copies burned on DVD. Shoot me an e-mail at if you'd like a copy yourself. In the meantime...ENJOY!

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Speed Racer

Directed by: Andy and Larry Wachowski

Surprisingly enough, I DIDN’T grow up on Speed Racer. I was way too far into GI Joe and Transformers and MASK and Thundercats and every other comic/toy property that the 80’s had to offer. I just never got the Speed Racer bug. The most I ever got into Speed Racer was the techno song with the orgasmic crescendo that was all the RAVE in the 90’s.

So, going into this pseudo live action movie version was something entirely new for me. I knew nothing of back story, origins, or mythology. I just knew it was a kid that raced a car.

Now, the Wachowski brothers I am well aware of. From their lesbian thriller Bound to the infamous Matrix trilogy, their style and cinematic flair was no mystery to me. Naturally, I expected big things from their side of the court as they have proven in the past that they are a force to be reckoned with. Cinematically speaking.

I knew that the Wachowski’s would bring their blend of flair and hyperbole and even figured that they would attempt to reinvent the celluloid wheel to an extent. From the trailers it looked to be an unusual and overwhelming blend of CGI, live action, and anime. It also sparked much controversy, mostly over the Wachowski’s possibly being too self indulgent in the adaptation and pulling a “Lucas,” robbing fans of the original cartoon of their precious live action realization.

While I have been a part of the fan “boo hoos” with the likes of Star Wars, etc., I have long since gotten over myself and let the creative powers that be have their fun and interpret the material without groveling like a child that just found out daddy’s been molesting me since I was nine through regressive therapy. It’s really high time for the “children of the 80’s” to grow the fuck up. It’s okay to not agree or like a particular adaptation, but until they are the ones behind the lens then they need to ease up.

We don’t have to have Optimus Prime as the original make and model of semi-truck in the feature film as he was in the cartoon in order to stay true to the source material. The pop-culture nitpicking has gotten to a sickening level.

Okay, now that that’s off my chest. You just want to know if I liked this motherfucker, right? Man, I guy can’t build up to NOTHIN’ anymore! Hey, at least I’m not rambling like an aint it cool news review where I talk about the first time I saw Speed Racer and shat my diaper and go on to explain my life story and how good ol’ Speed ties into every moment of my life and how I prayed to a God I don’t believe in that he’d deliver me the adaptation of my 80’s role model that was so bad ass I could cream my britches while biting my lip in a dark theater sitting next to a girl I’ll never fuck.

Okay, so I’m in a mood.

Check it out…I loved Speed Racer. No shit. Yeah, yeah, I know the reviews aren’t so great and that you still are all upset over the jumbo crayola pack of colors in the trailer and the cheesy dialogue. Well, let’s not forget that it’s based on a freakin’ Japanese animated cartoon. C’mon. It’s not M. Night Shyamalan’s Speed Racer, folks, it’s the Wachowski brothers and the last time we saw them onscreen, Keanu Reeves was bouncing off walls and Kung Fu’ing a thousand dudes at once.

Speed Racer is a very comic book-esque story with a heart in the right place, something very rare in these types of films. I really was surprised by the amount of family-themed heart that was in the film and never misguided or overly gay. It was about as pretentious as a Disney flick only with a sharper edge.

There’s mild swearing, some bird flippin’, and even a great line from Speed himself in the final race, “Get that weak shit off my race track!”

All the actors pull off their roles well, never once looking like they’re just cashing in a summer movie paycheck. Everyone seems to be proud to be a part of the Wachowski rollercoaster and having a blast doing it. Plus, there’s a real chimp, and everyone knows that a monkey in a movie is box office gold, even if the movie doesn’t make two nickels to rub together.

Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild) plays Speed Racer with all the charm you’d expect and his counterpart, the shady Racer X is played with stoic anti-heroism by Matthew Fox (Lost and that crappy Party of Five bullshit), who I am happy to see getting more screen time. Fuck Seth Rogen in “Knocked Up” because Matthew Fox is double D tits as Racer X and I hope to see him in some starring roles in the near future.

And of course we have Christina Ricci. She seems to be a love or hate kind of actress, but for my money, any chick that would spend an entire movie in her panties and cut-off shirt while playing a nymphomaniac is money to me. She’s beyond perfect for Speed Racer as girlfriend Trixie, due largely to the fact that she looks EXACTLY like a living, breathing anime female, complete with huge eyes, big cranium, and a cookie cut bod to match.

John Goodman and Susan Sarandon (hippie) are fine as Speed’s parents, but the true joy of the film is Speed’s younger brother, Spritle, and his pet chimp, Chim Chim. Fucking hilarious. Their obnoxious and rebellious antics provide some great comic relief that most people didn’t get, because I seemed to be the only one in the theater laughing. Plus, anytime you have a monkey driving something is probably more hilarious than when little kids kick their dads in the nuts on America’s Funniest Home Videos.

The villain of the film is the only true downside. The usual evil British corporate asshole thing gets stretched way too far out and is cause for the only snooze inducing moment of the film. We get it dude, you’re fuckin’ evil. NEXT! To me, that’s pretty minor.

The racing sequences took me a hot second to get into. They are super over-the-top and hard to follow at first, but then the Wachowski’s give us a little gift. They unzip their movie pants and whip out their Matrix weenie and slow shit down all pretty like so’s we can enjoy the badassedness to its full on capacity. These are things I like and it’s nice to see it from the guys that really perfected the art of the modern day slow-mo ballet (following on Mr. John Woo’s coattails mind you) rather than from some second hand wannabe.

Utilizing every facet of the digital world, the Wachowski’s have crafted a movie universe, brought to life from a 2D cartoon series and made it real…or, as real as can be in the context that it’s being presented. And it’s a wild ride. When I catch myself with a stupid grin on my face and quickly wipe it away in the event that someone is looking at me in a theater I know that I am enjoying the hell out of a movie. And I enjoyed the hell out of Speed.

The end car race is brilliantly edited, building much like the final boxing bout in Rocky Balboa that builds and builds and then crests, like a rising symphony. I love that shit and eat it right up like a bowl of Captain Crunch Crunchberries. It gets my blood pumping and makes me want to make movies. It’s the shit I live for.

Now, here’s the thing…I can completely see why someone would hate this movie. I get it. It’s too much or not enough for you. For me, it was a perfect fit for what it was meant to be. I didn’t bring my fanboy checklist to make sure they hit on every detail from my little cartoon show that filled a half hour of my life after school while I was eating Pringles and stealing dad’s Playboys.

Much like Tony Scott’s Domino, which was hated by just about everyone but me, this is one that might be ahead of its time.

My advice is to loosen up, go in blind if possible, and enjoy the ride. If you can’t at least laugh at the monkey, then you probably shouldn’t be watching movies. Or breathing air.


Monday, May 05, 2008


Iron Man

Directed by: Jon Favreau (Elf, Zathura)

Most people don’t know much about Iron Man as compared to Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man, which is not so surprising, considering that he’s never been that huge of a character in the comics universe to begin with. Sure, most comic book enthusiasts have heard of or seen what Iron Man looks like and are vaguely aware of his membership in the Avengers, but beyond that there’s very little that the mass audiences know about the man in the suit.

This includes me. However, over the past few years, especially during Marvel’s crossover event “Civil War” last year, I have become more aware of Tony Stark and his role in the Marvel universe, which, at current, is massive.

Oh, by the way, if you are bored to tears with comic books and don’t give a shit about origins and current continuity then it’s time to tune out. Just scroll down to the movie grade and all will be well.

However, if you’re even a little curious, then stick around. I’ll try to be brief.

So…Iron Man. The early origin of Tony Stark is a billionaire arms/weapons designer/manufacturer who is vehemently battling the communist regime, namely the Vietnamese (as he was born in the Vietnam Era) and is injured while there, forced to build a weapon and instead builds the Mach 1 armor, freeing himself from his captors and so inspiring him to fight the forces of evil with an evolving array of Iron Man suits.

While most superheroes of both Marvel and DC (and all the rest to boot) have very similar origins, they each have their own slant and individual traits and quirks that make each character a little different and a little more unique than the next. Unlike the traditional downfalls, such as kryptonite (Superman), shitty relationships (Daredevil), or murdered parents (Batman), Iron Man/Tony Stark suffers from a very common affliction…namely, alcoholism.

Although not played up as much in the film, it has been central in the building and tearing down of Tony Stark throughout comics continuity since his inception. It has defined him, along with his heart condition and tortured genius, to become both a strong and imperfect character.

I don’t know if Marvel was timing the movie with a sudden burst of presence for the character for the past few years or if they just felt it was time to give him his due, but it’s actually a very kick ass time to jump onboard the world of Tony Stark.

Last year, the Marvel crossover event was called “Civil War,” which split the Marvel universe in half, pitting hero against hero in order to fight for/against a newly designated “Hero Registration Act” which has all super powered beings register with the government in order to be regulated and tracked in order to maintain order and facilitate their use without having a bunch of costumed weirdo’s with super abilities running rampant and of their own agenda.

This act was endorsed and enforced by Tony Stark, who had stepped in to act as the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is much like a super powered CIA in the Marvel Universe. Nick Fury, the cigar-chomping, eye-patch donning, WWII vet and staple of Marvel comics for years has always been the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., but was recently ousted and gone underground.

For those following current continuity (help me out here, Zaki…I think it’s just you and me, here) then it has been revealed that he had gone underground for two reasons…one) to support Captain America in his lead to fight the government registration act and two) to prepare for a Skrull invasion and get his ducks in a row to win the fight.

Now, I realize that if you’re still with me then I have leapt into the pool of geekdom, fully donned in arm floaties, flippers, and really ugly board shorts. You’re scanning these words and are SO ready to get to the movie review. I’m with you. Just hang tight for a sec…

Now, during the “Civil War,” which, by the way, was spawned when a super powered being killed an entire block or two of civilians and forced the government to take action, Tony Stark led his group of heroes against the opposition, which was lead by Captain America.

You may have heard in passing that Captain America had been killed, which is partially true. Steve Rogers, the original Captain America was gunned down after giving himself up, leaving his old partner, Bucky Barnes to pick up the mantle at present time. Obviously, Iron Man winning his battle proved to be bittersweet, as Steve Rogers was one of the original Avengers and fought alongside Stark for decades and they had a strong bond of friendship.

The significance of me telling you all this is to help explain why and how Tony Stark/Iron Man has become such a phenomenal and torn character over the past few years (not to leave out the stories previous, I’m just not familiar with them). From his grass roots in Vietnam to his role as the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., leader of the Avengers, and recovering alcoholic, Tony Stark has become a true character of depth and great interest, making him finally worthy of the recognition he has been denied due to the shadow of web slingers and men with capes.

That all being said, the movie, Iron Man, is a knock out of the park for all involved, including Marvel, now operating as its own studio, which allows them to spearhead their properties in the right direction rather than letting a Hollywood collaborative destroy it piece by piece.

While the average moviegoer may not recognize the significance of this, it’s important to note because very rarely does a movie studio go the extra mile to protect their property and to make sure it is presented to the public in the proper way, one which delivers both to non-comic readers and rabid fans alike. It’s a delicate balance, one that could use to be struck with bigger studios like FOX, who recently shat their AVP franchise respectively down the toilet for a few bucks.

Director Jon Favreau approached the material with a keen eye, sharp style, and respectful manner, which shows in every frame of Iron Man, right down to the casting. No stranger to the vices of the sauce and the powder, Robert Downey, Jr. is THE perfect actor to tackle the role of the strong, yet plagued character of Tony Stark and tackles it with a perfect balance of charm, wit, and strength. Downey, Jr. plays it as real to the origins of Stark as possible, from start to finish in his journey from billionaire industrialist to crime fighting superhero.

Jeff Bridges provides his first real villain role, sans hair and sporting a massive beard, as Obediah Stone, Stark’s evil and conniving partner. Gwyneth Paltrow is Stark’s renowned assistant/burgeoning love interest Pepper Potts, and Terrence Howard plays Col. Rhodes, Stark’s best friend and eventual owner/operator of his own Iron Man armor, called War Machine.

The comic book nods and references are all there, with an updated origin that switches from Vietnam to Afghanistan, making the character origins current. This takes nothing away from the comic continuity, as the primary staple has always been Stark fighting against the enemies of the country, reflecting the times we live in.

The story is simple and straightforward. Dare I say, we’ve seen it before. However, the style and manner in which it is presented is…in a word…fun. Iron Man doesn’t blow its load too early. It has longevity and lasts till the sweet release at the end, giving a full and engaging movie going experience that will (and by word of mouth, HAS) fulfill both fans and non-fans.

The action and special effects are near flawless, leaving you to give up guessing what’s real and what’s not as the film goes on. It is truly kick ass to see Iron Man “in the flesh” so to speak and doing what Iron Man does, which is fly around, look cool, and use his gadgets to beat the shit out of the bad guys.

Iron Man is essentially the quintessential formula, the example, that all other summer movies should strive to be, especially if they are representing a pre-existing property with a built in fan base. The kudos go to all involved, from the head of Marvel Studios, Avi Arad, to consultants like Joe Quesada, and to director Jon Favreau who never once tries to make this into something more than what it is…a comic book adventure put on celluloid. Marvel learned that lesson with the first Hulk movie and from the looks of it, doesn’t intend to relive that debacle.

There is competition this summer, but Iron Man definitely kicks off the season right and sets the bar high for the rest of the capes, fedoras, and green goliaths to live up to.

You couldn’t ask for a better time at the movies.