Monday, May 26, 2008

Monday Movie Day Reviews: Indy 4, Cryfest, and Bob Dylan

We've got two movies featuring Cate Blanchett in two very unique supporting roles.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008): Cheesy: adjective. 1. of or like a dairy product from the curd of milk. 2. of poor quality; shoddy; silly. This movie was cheesy. If this film were not part of the Indiana Jones series, I honestly think I would have hated it. But I love Indiana Jones. Raiders of the Lost Ark could make my top 10 films of all time. Every Indy film has a bit of the over-the-top action, the goofiness, and the witty one-liners. But there is a tight balance between "fun" cheesy (Raiders) and "lame" cheesy (Batman and Robin). There is a definite departure from reality in this film.

Instead of Nazis, this time Indy is fighting Russian communists during the Cold War-era of 1957 as they attempt to find a crystal skull with some unexplainable power. An older Harrison Ford effectively brings back the character of Jones. Cate Blanchett also does a great job as a paranormal-seeking sword-wielding Russian spy. However, the rest of the cast is almost unnecessary. Bumbling sidekick Mac (Ray Winstone) comes across as incapable and useless; Prof Oxley (John Hurt) mutters ingenious riddles and clues, even though he's supposed to be nuts; and Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) has the worst character name in a film this year. With past sidekicks (Marcus Brody, Shortround, Henry Jones Sr.), there was a sense that they mattered to the story--and to Indy. Here, they contribute little more than plot filler, though Marion Ravenwood's return is welcome after her 20+ year hiatus. The action sequences are very exciting, though a bit...farfetched. (Surviving a nuclear blast in a refrigerator, sword fights between two jeeps racing through the Amazon jungle, or falling off huge waterfalls three times.) There is a lot of CGI in the film; much of it is very good, but it always bothers me to know that they're doing their stunts in front of a green screen.

There are large plot holes throughout the film, and the overall plot is definitely out there. I won't spoil anything, but I'll give you this: George Lucas' original title for this film was "Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men from Mars." Yeah, I know. George Lucas is weird. Still, Indiana Jones is the man, and this makes for an entertaining film this summer. If you like dairy products.

P.S. I Love You (2007): This movie is a chick-flick cry-fest. Seriously. My wife and I were both teary-eyed the entire time. (When my wife cries, it's like I can't even control it. I end up crying with her, even if I don't really care about the movie/TV show. She cries; I cry.) I wouldn't even put this film in the "romantic comedy" category. It's more like "romantic weepapalooza." A young widow discovers that her husband left her posthumous messages encouraging her to live life to the fullest. Much of the film follows the widow (Hilary Swank, in a decent performance) as she deals with grief and loss. While Swank and Gerard Butler do a good job as the couple, the rest of the cast is mostly forgettable. The other potential love interest, played by Harry Connick Jr., is a complete jerk. Not in an ironic or witty sort of way; he's just plain rude, cruelly joking about the dead husband. The other characters don't really help either, not even with comedic relief. Overall, it's not a great film; but it was a good movie for me and my wife on a lazy night. If you like emotional rollercoasters and weeping uncontrollably, you will probably get a kick out of this film.

I'm Not There (2007): This artsy Bob Dylan biopic has six different characters portray different eras of Dylan's life and music. The film is fluid and dreamlike, jumping between the six different characters without rhyme or reason. None of the characters fully encompass Bob Dylan (none of them are even named "Bob Dylan" in the film!). But together, they weave a strange tapestry of identities that give a glimpse into the life and music of the folk singer. Identity is a key theme throughout the film. Who is Bob Dylan, really? Which just begs the question, who am I, really? What defines a person's identity? Is it the perception of others? Is it inherent characteristics and traits? Or is it whoever one chooses to be at any given time? Anyway, the acting is stunning--Cate Blanchett definitely deserved her Oscar nomination, and Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, and Ben Whishaw deserve props too. It's a bit of a trip, and gets long by the end, but I have to say that I appreciated this film. If you like poetry, metaphors, imagery, and Bob Dylan, you'll probably enjoy this film.


  1. Oh man, Joel. Almost right on the money for Indy 4. Unlike you, I hated Cate Blanchett. I can't stand her in anything. But spot on for the whole cheesy thing. I think it just didn't maintain the "magic" that the prior movies held. Will review on my blog some time this week.

  2. Cam-
    I love the original Star Wars, even though there is a significant cheesy element to them. But I--along with everyone with half a brain--hated Batman and Robin, because the cheese-factor outweighed that "magic" factor you mentioned. Indy 4 goes dangerously close to overdoing the cheese.