Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Summer Sequels



Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

   Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of my favorite movies of all time; in fact it’s the first film I ever bought a script for. Sure, I was only 11 at the time, but its quality was so great that even at that young age, I could recognize it and know I'd love it forever. Three years later, my cooler-than-yours mom came to my school to get me out early to see the sequel, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. While loads of fun for me at the time, it wasn't up to the level of near-perfection of the first film. So after a slightly longer break of five years, we got The Last Crusade a film that, if not quite the equal to the first, only misses the Raiders mark by the barest of margins. My scores for them go like this: Raiders 98/100, Temple 85/100, Crusade 94/100.

   After almost two decades since the last installment, producer George Lucas and director Stephen Spielberg bring us Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull starring Harrison Ford as the whip-wielding main character. I can’t really talk too much about the other characters without hitting possible spoilers, so I’ll only mention that Cate Blanchett's villain is sorely lacking. Not the worst performance ever, but it’s not up to what we know she's capable of.
On the whole, the movie is lots of fun with moments of past Spielbergian glory, but it’s far from perfect. I’m a big genre fan and had a blast with pulp elements, but not everyone will really get it. It's better than the Temple of Doom, but not by much. It’s worthwhile as light entertainment, but don’t expect it to be as good as the best from anyone involved. 88/100.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.

    Based on the second in C.S. Lewis’ children’s fantasy series, Prince Caspian picks up a year after The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe and the four Pevensie siblings are in wartime London. Learning from the first film’s slow opening, our heroes are transported back to Narnia quite quickly and things move at a much better pace. Unfortunately director Andrew Adamson (who also co-wrote the screenplay) only does better in a few areas of this movie over its predecessor.
    My biggest complaint with the movie is the same one I had with the first one: no blood. People and Narnians alike are beat up and/or killed in scenes that are brutal and realistic except for the lack of gore. If it were cartoon violence, that would be acceptable, but the thing tries to be another Lord of The Rings film without the nasty bits, giving the whole tone a weird disconnect with its own reality.
If the adult themes of political intrigue and genocide are suitable, then a little blood on a sword when someone is decapitated might be something a kid can handle. The sanitizing of stories intended for kids is relatively recent. Look at classic kiddie lit like Peter Pan. It's a bloody tale, with Peter and his Lost Boys killing pirates regularly. 
    The biggest treat of the film is the acting job of Peter Dinklage as Trumpkin. He seems to take the role seriously and as in his starring turn in 2003's The Station Agent, transcends his appearance to deliver a standout performance. Most of the other acting is passable, but the whole thing just fails to really be as good as it could have been. 72/100.

Games: Grand Theft Auto IV : Part One.
   I’ve not had that much time to devote to playing this much-hyped powerhouse of a game, but what I have experienced has lived up to the glowing praise. I've barely scratched the surface of the rich experience GTA IV has to offer, so I'll give it a temporary score of 92/100, but I suspect that will go up as I get deeper into it. Or at least I hope so.

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