Category Archives: Indiana Jones

The Mercury Men

Aside from the occasional mini-series, a Saturday night Asylum movie just for laughs, and of course, “Warehouse 13,” I don’t watch all that much Syfy Network anymore. I gave “Alphas” a momentary spin but it just didn’t keep my interest.

I do however have the Syfy app on my iPhone and there were some very cool previews on there. The one I was most excited about was a black and white movie serial-ish thing called “The Mercury Men.” I couldn’t wait for this thing to air, as I would be riveted in front of my TV. Sadly as the airdate got closer, I discovered it was a webseries, not for TV. Disappointed a little, I was still excited.

So when the day came I watched each five to ten-minute installment with anticipation. It was everything I thought it would be – black and white movie serial goodness. The brainchild of writer/director Chris Preksta, The Mercury Men is a wonderful sci-fi adventure in the style of Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers or any of the rayguns and rocketships serials back in the day.

When a off hours office worker is attacked by glowing men who shoot lightning from their hands and is turn saved by a cross between Indiana Jones, Buck Rogers and Airboy – the rollercoaster of action and suspense begins and doesn’t stop. Have I mentioned how much I love this?

Right now, you can see “The Mercury Men” here, or OnDemand, although I wish Syfy would just put it on the air, or better yet, make it a regular series. How about it? In the meantime, everyone else check out this great web series.

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Ghost Town

Ghost Town ~ David Koepp has written some amazing movies, some of my faves like the most recent Shadow flick and the first Spider-Man, but for the most part he leaves me cold. The last Indiana Jones movie and the Tom Cruise War of the Worlds spring immediately to mind. So it’s with trepidation I watched Ghost Town which he wrote and directed.

Alternately I love Ricky Gervais, but only from his standup and especially HBO’s “Extras.” Don’t even ask about “The Office.” I have yet to be able to sit through an entire episode of either series from either side of the Atlantic. Some folks love it, but it continues to elude me.

Ricky however, completely carries this film. Without him and his caustic personality this would be a painful and unfunny Lifetime reject of a telemovie. This comedic play on the concept from The Sixth Sense wears pretty thin without him to hold it together. I’ve never seen Greg Kinnear more annoying, and Tea Leoni’s talents are wasted in her role.

To me, there’s no secret why this heartless comedy that tries too hard and is a tad bit predictable bombed at the box office. Worth a look only for Ricky Gervais fans.

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She


This 1935 film means a lot to me and I’m really happy I finally got to see it. One of the few times my father took an interest in my writing was when he suggested I see this flick. It must have been at some point when I was watching Raiders of the Lost Ark or Star Wars, and he said, “If you really want to see a good adventure story, you should see She, the original, from when I was a kid.” At some point when I was older I picked up a collection of H. Rider Haggard novels, and I immediately devoured it. Asking my father about it however, I learned he’d never read the books, and had only seen the original film version of She.

Finding that version has been a long road. Even when I worked in video retail, it was considered a ‘lost’ film, with only sparse footage remaining. It was made in 1935 but was seen by a whole new generation in re-release, double-billed with The Last Days of Pompeii (also from ’35) in 1948. Recently restored by Ray Harryhausen, believe it or not, from a print that Buster Keaton had in his garage – it is now available on DVD. Oddly it was originally meant to be a color film but because of budget restraints done in black and white. The restored cut includes a colorized version that uses actual scenery and wardrobe orders to make the colors match the originals.

Now that I’ve seen it I know what my father was talking about. If he had ever seen Raiders of the Lost Ark he might have marveled at the special effects, but the rest of it would be old hat to him because of She. The sets are amazing, especially the hall of the kings, and the dance number/ceremony that takes place there is breathtaking if dated. Max Steiner, composer for 1933’s King Kong, scored the terrific soundtrack, one of his best. Randolph Scott, mostly known for his cowboy flicks, is our hero in the mode that would later spawn Indiana Jones among others, and the startling beauty Helen Gahagan Douglass plays the title role. It was the only film appearance for the Broadway singer who later became a Congresswoman.

She was adapted by Ruth Rose (the writer of King Kong) from the Haggard novel, and produced by the legendary Merion C. Cooper, father of Kong. The action is a step above that of the time, no simple movie serial with a budget is this. The saber tooth tiger and avalanche scenes are great. This is one of the great adventure flicks of not only its time, but, dare I say it, all time. Highly recommended.

Indy 4: The Ride


Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, besides having three too many words in the title (“the Kingdom of” should be removed in my opinion), is more of a ride than a film. In fact, I suspect that someone, probably Disney or Universal, have one in the works already, but there’s really no need. The film is the ride. And trust me, it’s a better ride than a film.

We pick up with Indy in 1957, and we know it’s 1957 because we are hammered over the head with this fact several times. The rock ‘n’ roll, the atomic bomb tests, the Cold War and the McCarthyism of the time are beaten into us enough to make it a distraction more than a background. It seems to me that if George Lucas wanted to make a film about America in the 1950s he should have just done it and left Indiana Jones out of it. Of course, however, with our principal character, and the actor Harrison Ford, feeling and looking his age, the time really had to be some time in the 1950s.

The rest of the cast is really outshown by brunette Soviet psychic spy Cate Blanchett. She is more than suitably evil and engaging. The screen lights up when Cate’s on it – an excellent foil opposite Ford, who for the first time in years (maybe since the last Indy flick) isn’t playing wooden and unlikable on the screen. Oh, Karen Allen is back again too, John Hurt does his best catatonia and schizophrenia, and then there’s Shia LaBeouf, the homeless man’s Marlon Brando imitation. Sorry, for me he justs gets more annoying in every movie I see him in.

Storywise, what story there is, seems to indicate that George Lucas has been listening to far too much Coast to Coast AM. This shift in the Indiana Jones series from Christian mythology to crypto-mythology is especially jarring. For me, the mix of Indy with aliens is akin to mixing fudge and mayo. It ain’t pretty. This flick is a mix and match nightmare of the paranormal culture, throwing in such aspects as Roswell, Nasca, Eldorado, among others to tell Lucas’ tale of the crystal skulls.

That’s not to say that it’s all bad. There are interesting nods and winks to “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” and Star Wars, and we even catch a peek at the Ark of the Covenant in a loose end that could, if pressured by box office success, lead to a sequel. There are a few memorable lines, and a sweet ending, but in my opinion, this is the weakest of the series. Still, see the flick, and ride the ride – it’s still worth it.

Quickies 2-9-2007


Firewall – I have to wonder if Harrison Ford got the memo that no one cares anymore? When was the last time he had a hit movie? It might be time to make a new Indiana Jones or Star Wars flick before it’s too late because he’s not aging gracefully. Sean Connery is hotter than Ford at this point. Dude is looking old and not able to do the action hero anymore. Not that Firewall, a cutting edge bank heist thriller, has cast him in that role, but he’s not even cut out for the passive role he has here. The flick does have its share of suspense and tense moments but Ford doesn’t supply many of them. It might also be nice if all the loose ends were tied up at the end.

The Notorious Bettie Page – I’ve never been a hardcore fan of cheesecake or Bettie Page, but I know my share of the phenomenon from Dave Stevens art and working in a video store with a healthy old school burlesque collection. Gretchen Mol is beautiful and stunning, and her acting is top notch as well. Props to writer/director Mary Harron. Beautiful women and wondrous cinematography.

Oldboy and The Boondock Saints – Both of these flicks came highly recommended by friends. There are elements to them that I really liked but overall I was bored and disappointed. The latter was many levels more engaging than the former until its anticlimactic ending.