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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Released: May 22, 2008

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Song Credits

"HOUND DOG"
Written by Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller
Performed by Elvis Presley
Courtesy of The RCA Records Label
By arrangement with SONY BMG Music Entertainment


"HOWDY DOODY THEME"
Written by Edward Kean & Robert Smith
Courtesy of NBC Studios, Inc.


"WAKE UP LITTLE SUSIE"
Written by Boudleaux Bryant & Felice Bryant
Performed by The Everly Brothers
Courtesy of Barnaby Records, Inc.
By arrangement with Nola Leone/Ace Music Services, LLC


"GOODBYE SONG"
Written by Edward Kean & Robert Smith
Courtesy of NBC Studios, Inc.


"SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL"
Written by Charles Calhoun
Performed by Bill HAley & His Comets
Courtesy of Geffen Records
Under license from Universal Music Enterprises


"LITTLE BITTY PRETTY ONE"
Written by Robert Byrd
Performed by Bobby Day
Courtesy of Lynn Adajian
By arrangement with Nola Leone/Ace Music Services, LLC


"A SOLAS"
Written by Gonzalo Curiel
Performed by Juan Arvizu
Courtesy of The RCA Records Label, RCA Victor Mexicana, S.A. De C.V. and SONY BMG Music Entertainment Mexico, S.A. De C.V.
By arrangement with SONY BMG Music Entertainment


"URI BALKI"
Traditional
Arranged by Nicolai Malinow & Mischa Taschenkow
Performed by Balalaika-Ensemble Wolga
Courtesy of ARC Music Productions International Limited


"MAJA GALOBUSCHKA"
Traditional
Arranged by Ivan Nesterow, Nicolai Malinow & Mischa Taschenkow
Performed by Balalaika-Ensemble Wolga
Courtesy of ARC Music Productions International Limited

Movie Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2-disc Special Edition Blu-ray)

by Dan Goldwasser
on October 1st, 2008
[3.5 / 5] printable

Earlier this year, the much-anticipated fourth film in the Indiana Jones saga was released, and while it was a box office success, it was a rather disappointing conclusion to the story of the classic 80's icon. I won't rehash my problems with the film; those are all available in my review from this past May.  The gist of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull finds our hero, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) racing against the Russians led by Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) to find the lost City of Gold, with the help of a mysterious alien-like object, a Crystal Skull.  Joining him in his adventure is the rebellious "Mutt" Williams (Shia LaBeof), Indy's ex-flame Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) and Indy's old friend (and Mutt's surrogate father figure) Harold Oxley (John Hurt), who has gone insane during his quest for the City of Gold.  Taking place in 1957, the adventure brings us various action set-pieces set in a secret military warehouse in Nevada, a college campus, a Peruvian graveyard, a South American jungle, and finally the ancient city itself.  The over-reliance on CGI diminished the excitement of the stunts and action sequences, and no amount of nostalgia would be enough to bring back the same energy that the original Indy trilogy had.  But if there's one thing that Steven Spielberg does well, it's provide top-notch quality when it comes to his recent home video presentations, and with veteran producer Laurent Bouzereau on board to provide all the extras for the DVD and Blu-ray releases, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull might have the notability of getting the best supplements for a genuinely bad film.

The video presentation of Crystal Skull is brilliant.  Shot on film (not digitally), cinematographer Janusz Kaminski tried to echo Douglas Slocombe's visual style and palette from the original trilogy, with decent results.  Sometimes the image feels a bit oversaturated, and other times it has a slight high-contrast look to it.  There is virtually no grain present, and much of the image feels glossy and just a bit too-processed.  But that's not a criticism of the transfer; the movie looked that way in theaters.  It's just a bit too clean for my liking, but it's a great transfer nonetheless.  Audio similarly is presented in the highest quality available. An English Dolby TrueHD audio track is aggressive, immersive, and let Ben Burtt's classic sound effects shine.  John Williams' musical score similarly sounds great, coming out of all the speakers to surround the listener, at least when it's not buried under the sound effects.  Dialogue is clean and distinct, and overall it's an excellent audio track.  French and Spanish Dolby Digital tracks are also included.

Released in three different flavors (1-disc DVD, 2-disc Special Edition DVD, and 2-disc Special Edition Blu-ray), Indy 4 gets enough extras that I don't think anyone will be complaining too much.  There is no commentary track (Spielberg just doesn't do 'em), but starting on the first disc, we have "The Return of the Legend", a 17.5-minute long look at the development of the fourth film, and the legacy of Indiana Jones.  Interviews with Spielberg, producers George Lucas and Frank Marshall, screenwriter David Koepp and actors Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf and Karen Allen are all presented along with a slew of behind-the-scenes footage to discuss how the project came about.  The 12-minute long "Pre-Production" takes a look at pre-visualization and the design/look of the film, with more interviews and footage with principle cast and crew. Two trailers are presented in HD, and there's an extra exclusive to the Blu-ray release, the "Indiana Jones Timelines". This interactive area presents three timelines ("Story Timeline", "History Timeline" and "Production Timeline") to give us more information behind-the-scenes about certain aspects of the film.  A few video-bits are also included, showing a bit more B-roll footage.

The second disc contains the bulk of the Making-Of material.  Starting with the 80-minute long "Production Diary: Making Kingdom of the Crystal Skull", we dive head-first into what it took to make the film.  Broken into six sections, the Diaries are "Shooting Begins: New Mexico" (a look at the Nevada sequence), "Back to School: New Haven, Connecticut" (a look at the location shoot for the Marshall College sequence), "Welcome to the Jungle: Hilo, Hawaii" (the Peru stuff and jungle chase sequence was shot down there), "On-Set Action" (an exploration of the various stage shoots, which contain a surprising amount of 'outdoor' sets), "Exploring Akator" (a look at the temple sequence, showcasing the large sets and booby-traps), and "Wrapping Up" (a look at the shooting of the final scene, and the last day of shooting).  It's all interesting stuff to watch, and it goes into a lot of detail, but that might be a bit too much for some people.  It's great to see how a lot of the stunts were done, but it's also a little disappointing when you see how much CG work was necessary to remove wires, add in fire-ants, and other things that - in the original trilogy - were usually done in-camera. 

Once you get through all that, there's still a lot more to come. "Warrior Makeup" (5-min.) looks at the design of the native warriors that appear (all-too-briefly) in the climax of the film. "The Crystal Skulls" (10-min.) looks at Stan Winston Studios' development of the look of the "aliens" for the film. "Iconic Props" (10-min.) examines all manner of items seen in the film, such as letters, books, swords, weapons, vehicles, costumes and more tidbits (including some in-jokes) - all intricately detailed.  "The Effects of Indy" is a 22-minute look at the work Industrial Light and Magic did for the visual effects, with an emphasis on all of the CGI work, with a small bit of model work.  It's great to see how things were made, but I just wish there was less CGI for an Indiana Jones film.  "Adventures in Post-Production" is a 12-minute look at editing (with Michael Kahn), sound effects (with Ben Burtt) and music (with John Williams). Scoring session footage is seen (as well as Williams wearing Indy's hat!), so that's a plus!  "Closing: Team Indy" (3.5-min.) is a curtain-call that wraps up the filmmaking experience with some finishing words by Spielberg and a nice montage of behind-the-scenes footage of all the different crew members who might otherwise not get the kudos they deserve, as well as some of the principle cast.

The "Pre-Visualization Sequences" from three major action scenes are included ("Area 51 Escape", "Jungle Chase" and "Ants Attack"), set to John Williams' music from those scenes.  It's always interesting to see how the final versions of films have changed (if at all!) from the original concepts done way back in pre-production.  Five galleries are also included, in HD, with a wealth of shots from "The Art Department", the "Stan Winston Studio", "Production Photographs", "Portraits" and "Behind-the-Scenes Photographs".  I can't think of any particular aspect to the making of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull that is left unexplored, except maybe the critical reaction to the release of the film, and a bit of hindsight is missing - but maybe that will come with a new special edition down the road.  There are also no deleted scenes, which is too bad because surely something was left on the cutting room floor, and it would always be interesting to see what that might have been.

This is a great package - for a not-so-great film.  The supplements are excellent and very well done, and it sports phenomenal video and audio quality.  Best of all, amidst the documentaries there is footage (in HD) from the original trilogy, so we know that new transfers have been done.  Now we just have to hope that they announce those sooner rather than later.  In the meantime, only die-hard fans of Crystal Skull will be likely to rush to pick this one up, but the extras make it absolutely worth a look.

Movie Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

by Dan Goldwasser
on May 28th, 2008
[2 / 5] printable

"I've got a bad feeling about this...". That phrase, so oft repeated in the original Star Wars trilogy by Han Solo (played by Harrison Ford) re-appears - uttered by Ford as the swashbuckling archaeologist/adventurer Indiana Jones - in the fourth installment in the Indiana Jones saga: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. And unfortunately for us, the bad feeling is quite deserved. Hollywood as of late has had a rather odd penchant for taking childhood memories and crushing them. Actually, that's not completely fair. Let me be blunt: George Lucas has not had the best track record since the 1990s. After decimating the Star Wars saga by giving us three prequels that not only didn't deliver what could have been an awesome epic trilogy but also made us look at the original trilogy in a new (and not so positive) light, he decided to stick his fingers into Indiana Jones. Multiple scripts had been written over the past 18 years since the last outing in 1989's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and the biggest problem with the new film is that - given that we've waited this long - it's not at all what it should have been.

Written by David Koepp, working off a story by Lucas and Jeff Nathanson, the final script not only has a rather lackluster storyline, but includes a few sequences from Jeb Stuart's 1995 screenplay Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men from Mars. It's not unreasonable to guess that many other sequences were from the other scripts; like they took all the previous scripts, found a writer who would take a paycheck to stitch them together, and then spit it out and film it. The basic story is thus (and note, this is not a spoiler-free review): After being betrayed by his former war buddy Mac McHale (Ray Winstone), Indiana Jones fights the Soviets led by the sultry psychic Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) in a race to find a mysterious crystal skull at the behest of "Mutt" Williams (Shia LaBeouf). It seems that the Soviets have captured Indy's old colleague Harold Oxley (John Hurt) and Mutt's mom, and are holding them captive until Indy can find the skull and therefore Akator, the lost city of gold. Turns out (big surprise) that Mutt's mom is actually Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) who was Indy's love interest back in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Now they all have to go to Akator, return the skull and unleash some kind of ultimate psychic power that the Soviets want to harness.

Okay, sure. Even if you get beyond the absurdity of the storyline (hey, the Indiana Jones films were never about realistic plots - but they at least had some kind of emotional arcs), the film suffers from an overabundance of camp and "hey look at this clever wink-and-nod to the previous films", and very little in the way of character depth and growth. Ford delivers his lines with a wry smile, and never did I feel that he was truly in danger. Even in the climax of the film, when the entire set is being destroyed around them, it felt like he was just moseying towards the exit. He never fires a gun in the whole film, and only really uses his whip in the opening sequence when he's doing all sorts of stunts and maneuvers that were never depicted in the previous films. (It's like R2-D2 suddenly having jet-boosters and being able to fly. What the hell?) Shia LeBeouf does a decent job playing a greaser teen, and even beefed up for the role. But there are so many questions about his character that it hurts to think about it. So he was raised in South America? How did he get up to the USA to find Indy? They blatantly hint that "Mutt" might take over the mantle and give us new adventures. I hope not; the character is uninteresting and a high-school dropout. John Hurt is completely wasted in this film, spending almost all of his scenes muttering and acting (as per the role) crazy. But then why hire him? Just hire some unknown actor, since it's a waste of Hurt's talents.

Then there's Cate Blanchett, who sports an absurd and slightly inconsistent Russian accent (her pronunciation of "Doctor Jones" sounds full-on British) and while there is an indication of a more interesting back-story to her character, we never get a sense of it. There isn't even a bit of romantic tension between her and Indy - and that's another thing that's lacking in this film. Romance! If you're throwing Indy together with Marion again, why not make it more interesting? Instead, nearly every scene involving Karen Allen seemed to consist of her with her hands on her hips, and a dopey grin - as though she was just happy to be there, and acting again. There was no chemistry between her and Ford, and I wanted the feisty tough woman who punched Indy when first seeing him after he left her for 10 years. Now he left her for 20 years (apparently pregnant, no less!) and the most she can do is sit there and smile? Please.

Some of the action set-pieces are well done and certainly make for exciting cinema. The highlights include the warehouse chase, the college chase and the jungle chase. Stunt work seems to be pretty good, although with visual effects these days, it's harder to tell what was done in-camera and what was tweaked in post production. Some of the effects seem a bit too CGI, and others seem very well done. There's a bit involving a nuclear test that is right out of the Saucer Men from Mars script (as was the rocket sled and army ants sequences), and while the visual effects in the nuclear sequence are spectacular and excellent, they feel too good for this kind of film - and the absurdity of the situation is a true head shaker (as it was in the script 13 years ago). Even the climax of the film felt too slick for the film, not that I wanted it to look bad, but I wanted it to be better than it was. Inter-dimensional travelers? Oh boy. Don't even get me started on the Caddyshack-inspired gophers, or the laughable vine-swinging scene with the monkeys. Yikes. And unlike the three previous films, Indy doesn't get anything out of it (except a wife and kid, I suppose). In the first film, he got his gal and the Army got the Ark. In the second film, there was more of a moral gain when he freed hundreds of slave children. And in the third film, he reconciled his relationship with his father and gained "illumination". Nothing truly gained here, except an excuse to make a spin-off series with LeBeouf.

The music, composed by series veteran John Williams, contains some new themes which are very good, and the score is solid. It doesn't, however, have any major sequences that scream out "buy this soundtrack!" whereas the three other films had at least one (or even more) score bits that were so absolutely brilliant that you had to own them as soon as you left the theater. There is nothing on the level of "The Desert Chase" from Raiders, "March of the Slave Children" from Temple of Doom or even "Scherzo for Motorcycle and Orchestra from The Last Crusade Instead, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has nice themes, plenty of underscore that suits the film, and even a few winks-and-nods to previous melodies. The Ark Theme is heard in the warehouse scene, though the first introduction of it seems a bit too foreshadowing since we haven't exactly seen the warehouse at that point. The "Illumination" theme from The Last Crusade makes welcome appearances when we see photos of Indy's father, and of course Marion's theme shows up appropriately. It's all well and good, but not something you gotta rush out and get.

And that's the gist of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It's competently crafted, but not anything you need to rush out and see. If you want nostalgia, watch the original trilogy. If you want a different Indy adventures, watch the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. If you want a hunt for the city of gold, watch National Treasure: Book of Secrets. Whoops, that didn't come out right. But then again, neither did this new Indiana Jones film, and that - as Harrison Ford puts it - gives me a bad feeling.



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Trailer Music

The trailers for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull featured music by Brian Tyler, John Williams, X-Ray Dog, and Sorman & Nystrom.

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