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This week:
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Filthy says:
"Son of Rambow, Daughter of Treacle."

What a weird fucking movie. The first Indiana Jones was about digging up the lost Ark of the Covenant, only to find out it's full of spooky ghosts that melt Nazi faces. At the time, that was some pretty creepy supernatural shit. Now, a company called Guthy-Renker sells exactly that sort of product to teens. The second Jones was about, well, fuck if I know. I only remember the people in it had to eat chilled monkey brains and some kid rode in a runaway mine cart. The third one had Sean Connery as a talking corpse, and a whole lot of folks were after Jesus' Holy Grail. When they got it, some old knights reappeared. I think. I'm not sure why God would have old knights appear when it would be a perfect cameo for his son. And, good Lord, if ever there were a pushy stage parent, it's the Supreme Being. He really digs having his kid be in the spotlight.

That brings us to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the fourth installment in George Lucas and Steven Spielberg's paean to the Saturday matinee serials of their youth. I think some people forget the whole link to the serials. But it's why the movies have such hokey names and preposterous cliffhangers. In that sense, I guess they are more justified in having silly fights and stunts than the typical big-budget ass-dripper. Crystal Skull is just strange. Stranger than supernatural arks or lead grails, because it's about new-agey space aliens. Bad space aliens are always violent and insensitive, but good ETs are always touchy-feely hippies from far away. Almost the exact opposite of the way real life is, where new-agers are the scariest fucking weirdos on earth. If outer space is really full of patchouli-oiled weepy creatures, I want the government to stop funding NASA now. We have enough of their kind in Boulder.

Harrison Ford is back as Indiana Jones, of course, only this time he's craggy and looks like he'd rather read a Dr. Seuss book to a grandkid before taking a sitz bath. Wisely, the movie spares us too many "I'm getting too old for this crap" gags. They're there, just not in too many scenes. Personally, I hate those sort of jokes because it's as if the producers think joking about their retarded premise makes it okay to have a retarded premise. Ford isn't playing the old Jones, he's playing an older one, no longer pre-World War II. Now, it's the cold war and the villains aren't Germans, but commies. Not the lovable because they are drunk and incompetent kind. This is the really coldle efficient, thick-jawed, watery blue-eyed kind. The main villain is a severe woman with a bad haircut and baggy-assed pants played by Cate Blanchett. She's a dominatrix/paranormal psychiatrist. She and Ford want to find a crystal skull in Peru right about the same time. Ford learns about it from a hair-comb-fetishing, Arthur-Fonzarelli-aping Shia LaBeouf (pronounced hoo-tha-fuk-nose). Apparently Blanchett has been on the lookout for awhile.

The skull is an artifact from the Mayan civilization, although it's provenance is unknown, and its shape is "strangely" elongated. The audience is the first to figure out, and the characters on screen the last, that it's a space alien skull. Makes it sort of lame when Ford, LaBeouf and the rest catch up. Ford and LaBeaouf fight their way through a haunted Peruvian graveyard and deep into the rainforest, with Blanchett and a huge band of cold-warriors in tow.

Eventually, Crystal Skull becomes a long-ass showdown in the forest that goes way over the top. It involves a babbling archeologist, a way-too-long and extremely improbable jeep race, LaBeouf swinging from vines with monkeys, giant ants dragging villains underground, a boat and its passengers surviving three massive waterfalls. At Skull's end, Ford and his mates work their way into a outcropping in a waterfall that looks like a skull. Inside, they wander into a whole new world, plus some ancient Mayan warriors, and then, in a conclusion of pant-shitting and jaw-dropping insipidness, a room filled with the crystal skeletons of a dozen aliens. Actually, they are called "inter-dimensional beings" here, but that a character bothers to explain that is fucking sad. Who cares?

I can almost understand there being space creatures in the movie, since it takes place in the fifties. That was the decade of drive-ins, flying saucers and the Big Red Menace. The B-movie variety, though, were almost always evil and out to take over the world. Frequently, they were a metaphor for the commies. In Crystal Skull, there are both Russians and outer-space shit, so it'd be hard for one to be the stand in for the other. And mushy, good-guy aliens bore the crap right out of my ass.

Before the last forty-five minutes, I enjoyed Crystal Skull a lot. There was an early brawl in an Area 51 warehouse that fun, light, suspenseful, and with Ford fighting clear baddies. Once LaBeouf joins the movie, it slows down. Still, when he and Ford rummage around a derelict, spider-webbed and creepy Peruvian cemetery with a big "No Graverobbers" sign, the movie feels great. Maybe it felt a bit like a repeat of the earlier movies with hidden treasure and ancient Rube Goldbergian traps, but I didn't mind because that's the fun stuff.

When Ford finds out LaBeouf is actually his son, though, I felt about as indifferent as I did when introduced to my real father, a NAPA parts driver who smoked PCP through a modified throttle rod. It's just sort of, eh, so what? I didn't care enough about LaBeouf (or myself) to see why it made a difference. I mean, a NAPA parts driver ain't gonna have a massive estate waiting for me, and I don't want to know what sort of diseases I might inherit. When Ford meets back up with his hard-drinking, hard-fighting love from Lost Ark (Karen Allen), I got pissed. Great, now we have to watch two old people get sassy and not act their age. The movie finally went all the way off the rails, though, when a crystal skull is used to read Ford's mind. These space aliens had some magical abilities, thus explaining Blanchett's interest. Their craniums can also scare off ants and Mayan warriors, as needed, plus cure early-stage syphilis, draw crowds in Sedona and cut apples into perfect quarters.

Once the mystic shit is out of the bag, Director Spielberg lets it all loose. The last third of the movie is handed over to fake looking CGI, including a chase with one guy straddling two jeeps while they race through the jungle, and LaBeouf instantly befriending monkeys who teach him to swing. There is a lot more going on but it all looks fake and feels even faker. It's as busy as hell, sort of like when the Harelip is telling a lie, she swings her arms wildly, thinking that if she accidentally knocks over the pickle jar or the Beer Nuts stand that'll somehow distract you from disbelieving the bullshit pouring out of her mouth. Finally, we see the aliens, the final flush of the toilet. Or, in this case, the turd that clogs the bowl, and then the shit just overflows.

I'm kind of confused. I don't know why I bought the supernatural religious bullshit of the first and third Indiana Jones more than the ETs here. I do, though. Maybe it's the absolute fear of God instilled in me during my three months in Catholic school. Maybe they tap more into the mainstream or are clearly less serious than this aliens-came-to-help-us crap. Either way, they're a damn poor way to shit on the god start of a movie. Three Fingers for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

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Pete Hammond of Hollywood.com

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Filthy's Reading
Graham Greene - Brighton Rock

Listening to
The Hold Steady - Live at Fingerprints


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