I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 36

Day 36: Indiana Jones and the Inexplicable Attackers

Today's entry concerns a sequence in the film that I found puzzling at the time, and which has only gotten more and more confusing in retrospect. It's a sequence which has no real precedent in the Indiana Jones series, or any decent film for that matter. I'm speaking of the sequence that have occurs right after Indiana Jones in Shia laboeuf arrive at the graveyard, as they're attacked by natives who've made themselves up to look like skeletons from the graveyard.

The question I had at the time which has only grown more relevant in retrospect is: who exactly are these natives? While I'm surprisingly willing to believe that at one time the natives who worship the crystal skull aliens at one time had a large enough kingdom that this graveyard could logically be part of it, the film gives us no reason to believe their numbers are anywhere near large enough to maintain that kind of a presence today. The graveyard is presumably near near the decent-sized city where John Hurt was recently institutionalized. I say presumably because, as mentioned previously, the audience was given no real idea where this graveyard might be or how Indiana Jones found it.


What's Wrong With Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles?

Is it the title? Possibly. My associate Mer-Man tells me he hates the show because every time he's flipping through the channels on his digital cable and sees the word 'Terminator' his hopes are raised for a second that the amazing film Terminator is on, or even the fractionally less amazing film Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and then he has to deal with the crushing realization, as he turns the channel, that he won't have the opportunity to watch either of those films.

Personally, I blame the show's utter lack of quality on a fundamental failure to understand what makes Terminator interesting. This is a show that had John Connor, after being flung into the future in an attempt to race the clock and stop Skynet from even going online, then be enrolled in High School. Really? That's the best possible use of his time? History class? Sure, he's sixteen, but in the second episode they went and bought fake IDs - they couldn't have made his ID say he was 18?

That's not the biggest problem, though. No, the biggest problem is how talky every single one of the terminators are. With Summer Glau's terminator (ear-gougingly named "Cameron") it almost makes sense, as I'm sure she was set to read/write mode in the future.

Turns Out I Was Wrong

About Wire in the Blood. The episode I was watching actually was the season ender. The entire Michael thing is wrapped up in the last ten minutes of the episode, in yet another act of stupidity on the part of Tony and the cops.

As Kevin's driving Tony home from a funeral, suddenly the low fuel light comes on. Despite Kevin's protestations that he filled the tank up the day before, neither of them finds the whole thing suspicious, allowing Michael to abduct Tony at the gas station.

I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 35

Day 35: Indiana Jones and the Unmotivated Natives

When we last left Dr. Jones and his motorcylce-loving sidekick Shia Leboeuf, they had just arrived at a ancient Conquistador burial ground they'd found through the magic of bad writing. It's Dr. Jones' theory that his old friend Harold "Ox" Oxley, as assayed by John Hurt, found the mysterious crystal skull here and then, based on the symbol return etched into his cell wall, brought it back when he was done with it.


What's Going On, Tony Hill?

I watch Wire in the Blood for one reason, and one reason only. The main character, Doctor Tony Hill (Robson Green) is the most interesting profiler in fiction since Cracker, and his theories about crimes are always thoroughly entertaining. The most notable thing about his character is that he, unlike every other profiler in the history of fiction, has absolutely no major mental problems or tragic backstory motivating him. No, Tony Hill solves crimes because he believes that his skills can be used to assist in catching murderers. Is any more reason necessary?


I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 34

Day 34: Indiana Jones and the Uninformative Map

I believe that audiences, mindful of the restrictions put on filmmakers' time and resources, as well as the fact that a summer blockbuster can only be somewhere in the neighborhood of two and a quarter hours long at most, will accept a little bit of dramatic shorthand. This is especially true when characters travel from one place to another. We don't really ask, so long as restrictions placed on their travel are not a vital part of the plot, just how they manage to get from one place to the next in a certain amount of time. This is why in Raiders of the lost Ark when Indiana Jones announces that they have to go to Cairo and in the next scene they've gone from Nepal to Egypt, we don't bother questioning it even though we didn't see scenes of them purchasing tickets, flying to Cairo, or dodging Nazis at the airport.

A little more questionable is a similar scene from Indiana Jones and the last Crusade, in which Indiana Jones and his father Sean Connery take an emergency biplane out of a zeppelin and land somewhere between Germany and Turkey. The next time we see them they're deep within the Middle East, overlooking the German convoy that had at least a two-day head start on them. How'd they get there? Excellent question.


I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 33

Day 33: Indiana Jones and the Redundant Revelation

Today's entry is a bit of a stunner. I say this because while many of these entries have focused on the film's ineptitude in a variety of disciplines, today's entry is the first one that suggests the filmmakers had a fundamental lack of familiarity with the nature of storytelling, and how to structure an interesting tale.

I'm speaking of the film's decision to not just telegraph but outright reveal one of its bigger surprises at two separate points in the movie before it's really relevant. That surprise? That the crystal skull in question, the Central MacGuffin around which the film is built is not merely some piece of South American art, but rather the actual skull of an actual alien.


I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 32

Day 32: Indiana Jones and the Not-So-Hidden Valley

I've spent a few days now chronicling Harrison Ford's trip to the Valley of the Crystal Skull, but I haven't mentioned the single most ridiculous thing about it: just how amazingly easy the valley should have been to find. Really, it's barely hidden at all.

The film makes a great deal of hay about how incredibly hidden the mysterious temple of the skull is, and how people have been searching for it for hundreds of years with only the slightest amount of success. That, however, was before the advent of aeroplanes. It seems that the valley, while surrounded on all sides by thick jungles and raging rivers, is completely visible from the air. There's no overhanging canopy, or optical illusions created by waterfalls, or even thick foliage within the valley that might obscure it from the sky. No, all the valley contains is a square mile of surprisingly well-groomed grass, and a gigantic pyramid.


I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 31

Day 31: Indiana Jones and the Russian Stand-Off

The Mexican standoff is a relatively common device in film. It's a situation where two characters or groups are on completely equal footing and are therefore unable to act, because they're afraid that they won't have a good chance of a positive result. The most common occurrence of the situation involves people pointing guns at one either at close range. Either one could pull the trigger, but since they can't be guaranteed that their opponent won't get off a shot before dying, they know that they only have a 50-50 chance of coming out of the situation alive. Not great odds to risk a life on.

The most common way of resolving the situation -- so common in fact it has become something of a cliché -- is having a third character appear behind a character in the standoff putting a gun to one of the characters' backs, changing the odds drastically. What's interesting here is that the odds have not changed completely. Since the character with a gun to their back is still completely able to shoot the person they're aiming at, they're just at a much greater disadvantage. Now the person with the gun to their back has a 100 percent chance of dying, which forces them to choose between surrendering, and mutually assured destruction.


Welcome Back, CSI-

So I've spent all summer waiting to find out just who shot Horatio Caine, and just where he was shot (i.e. whether it was fatal or not). Whoever it was, the season ender wrapped up with a fairly broad hint that the Unpleasantly Smug member of the CSI crew was somehow involved in the killing. Personally, I'm hoping it was Kim Coates, since I'm a fan of that actor, and it's good to see him getting work.

The biggest question, though, is whether there's going to be an ironic quip and 'throw-to-the-credits', since Horatio's not around to do it. Will they avoid the ironic quip entirely? Will everyone take off their sunglasses at once, and observe a moment of silent respect for he whose sunglasses shall be taken off no more? Only time will tell, if by time you mean one minute, because that's when the new episode starts.

I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 30

Day 30: Indiana Jones and the Pointless Betrayal

You may have noticed during my recount of the film's dire jungle chase sequence that I rarely describe the actions of Ray Winstone, Indy's treacherous sidekick, who was along for the ride. Then again, you may not have noticed, given what an entirely superfluous and irrelevant character his is. Well, I'll fix that oversight and fill you in now, because it's time to cover yet another one of Ray's totally irrelevant attempts to betray Indy.

During the chase Harrison Ford leaps into the same Ray is in and takes the opportunity to beat him senseless, what with the betrayal and everything. Between punches Mac manages to convince Indy that he isn't actually working for the Russians but is rather a double agent working for the CIA. Of course, Harrison Ford would have to be an idiot to believe this, so it should come as no surprise to anyone, given how the character's been portrayed for the rest of the film, that he accepts Mac's story right away. Indy allows Ray to tag along with them as they drive off a cliff and then ride their tiny metal boat down three successive waterfalls, the last leg of the trip before reaching the valley of the Crystal skull.


The Jury's Still Out on Fringe

So "Fringe" is the new forensic procedural show on television, but instead of being about pathology, evidence gathering, bone analysis, or glowering*, it's about Mad Science. As a fan of Mad Science, obviously I tuned in.

On the good side, it's considerably longer than most television shows - with commercials eating into program time more and more each year, there's few shows that cross the 45-minute mark these days. A few episodes of Smallville last year clocked in under 40. So it's nice to see Fringe doing a 80 minute pilot, and the second episode was 49 and change. It really feels like I'm getting a lot of content for my viewing investment.


I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 29

Day 29: Indiana Jones and the (Far-Too) Lucky Escape (Part 2)

And now for the final entry in my series of articles about Indiana Jones and the Endless Jungle Chase. Today I'm going to cover the last section of the chase, Harrisn Ford & Co.'s miraculous escape from the Communists who, when we last left them, had cornered our heroes at the edge of a cliff.

Well, that's not entirely accurate. If you'll recall yesterday's article, although by all rights the Commies should have had Harrison Ford and Family trapped, instead they made the questionable decision to put away their guns and start climbing down the cliff before Indiana Jones had gotten anywhere near it. As a result, when Karen Allen drives up in her amphibious jeep and encourages Harrison Ford to hop in so they can make a quick getaway, eight assault rifles don't open up at all at once and cut them all to tiny pieces.


I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 28

Day 28: Indiana Jones and the Non-Sense of Location

Ah, it seems we're drawing close to the end of my series of articles about Indiana Jones and the Interminable Jungle Chase. If you're wondering just how long and tedious that chase scene actually was, imagine this: If one were to read all of my articles about the chase scene aloud, it would take two minutes less than actually watching that selfsame sequence.

Today my plan is to discuss a place where the film's direction and editing completely parts ways with every rule of decent filmmaking there is, creating an action scene that makes no sense while seeming to take place nowhere.


I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 27

Day 27: Indiana Jones and the King of the Monkeys

In yesterday's post I mentioned in passing another incredibly stupid aspect of the jungle chase. When Shia Laboeuf elects to, ridiculously, go vine swinging through the jungle after the jeeps, a platoon of monkeys go right along with him. They race through the vines and leap out onto the cliffside, even going so far as to beat a Commie up, causing his jeep to go flying off the edge of the cliff.

Like Laboeuf's Tarzan-esque swinging ability that lies at the heart of this sequence, the monkeys themselves are such a ridiculous and unnecessary addition that I can't understand how it ever seemed like a good idea to include them.


I Hate Indiana Jones: Day 26

Day 26: Indiana Jones and the Unforeshadowable Ability

Last time out, I covered the film's a laughable attempts to foreshadow Shia Laboeuf's swordfighting abilities. While I've established that it can be difficult to foreshadow things without telegraphing them awkwardly. At the same time, it's important to note that every now and then foreshadowing is completely impossible. This is a problem that laughs in the face of even the greatest writer.

Just as the Jeep chase begins to wind down (about five minutes after it wore out its welcome with the audience) Shia Laboeuf finds himself snatched from his place atop the Jeep by a low hanging vine, then pulled into the jungle canopy above. There he finds an army of monkeys that stare curiously at him, then swing off into the jungle. Wasting no time such basic things as shock or confusion, Laboeuf follows their example and goes swinging through a series of vines in pursuit of the jeep convoy.


Back from vacation!

That's right, my long vacation is over, and I've returned with the television season, to continue chronicling my disapproval of Indiana Jones, CSI Miami, and a few other regular shows, as well as anything else that catches my fancy. Or really, anti-fancy, since it's going to be mostly complaints.

First up, though, to mention a film I saw during hiatus, and the amazing theme I've discovered in Gwyneth Paltrow's films. The movie was something called 'The Good Night', which, by and large, was a completely by-the-numbers mid-life crisis thing, where a guy realizes that his life hasn't turned out the way he hoped it would, so he gets into something weird to recapture some happiness. In this case, the guy was Martin Freeman, who, despite being the star of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, is still best known for playing Tim on The Office. The weird thing he gets into is lucid dreaming, wherein the participant controls their own dreams while asleep, allowing them to live out fantasies.