UNTRACEABLE

I watched the trailers for Untraceable with great interest and figured I’d go see it at the theater. I’m a sucker for the techno thriller involving computers and hacking.

Instead, life got in the way, then it was gone faster than I thought it would be. But the images of the action remained in my mind. When I saw it was coming out on DVD, I figured I’d pick it up. I even popped the extra bucks for a Blu-ray edition because that’s become my format of choice.

Diane Lane plays an FBI cybercrimes special agent, Jennifer Marsh. She discovers a website called killwithme.com and the violent sociopath driving it. She’s recently widowed, has a small child, and is definitely a candidate for a romantic subplot. However, that would have slowed the plot down and been a distraction.

Instead, the movie focuses on two issues that are made clear throughout the story. As a society, cyber technology has made our lives easier, but it has also made us much more vulnerable to anyone that knows how to turn that technology against us. The movie clearly shows that most people don’t know what they’re doing when they buy a new piece of software or download something off the internet.

The second message is a lot darker. Cyber technology has made voyeuristic vampires of a large segment of the population. Everyone wants to tune into some sort of “personal” website when they’re one of a select “few.” And they want to do it from the safety of their own homes.

I hope that the movie misrepresents how many people would tune in to watch someone get murdered, but I may be naïve. But in the movie, that cascade of viewers ends up being a load that invariably kills the bad guy’s victims faster and faster.

With the movie pared down to move and counter-move, a series of escalating losses as the FBI team closes in, Untraceable speeds along at a nice clip. In the movie theaters, savvy technocrats might not have been able to question as much of the killer’s computer abilities as I was. I watched the film with my wife and we paused it at certain intervals to make sure we were both registering the same information. Then we pointed out the plot holes to each other in the computer tech as well as the characters’ action.

The movie works well as a barn-burner, the action gets faster and faster, and the stakes spiral upward at an alarming rate. I’m glad the decision was made not to use Marsh’s daughter and mother against her, but I fully expected them to be used as bait. In fact, they were so much onscreen that I was almost ticked that they weren’t used in this fashion. At the end, when they promptly vanished to safety, I was irritated that I’d been distracted by the whole foreshadowing of the family-in-danger plot twist.

Still, I was emotionally involved to a degree as the characters pursued their target, and I was constantly trying to figure out how all the deaths tied together. When the reconstruction of what had happened – and why – came about, it was almost handed off to the audience in basically a memorandum sequence. And once the series of events was given a logical progression, the killer promptly broke his motivation for killing the people he chose.

The movie made sense, and then it didn’t. Untraceable is highly watchable, and the messages it carries are worthwhile, but in the end the film comes up short of making a lasting impression. Even the final scenes seems to be by rote and the fade to black is jarring, not smooth.

The Blu-ray disc comes with special features that include audio commentary by Director Gregory Hoblit, Producer Hawk Koch, and Production Designer Paul Eads. It’s worth listening to in order to see how they dealt with the different decisions of filming. The behind-the-scenes featurettes are interesting. But the real kicker is the exclusive to the Blu-ray experience, the Picture-in-Picture presentation that runs concurrently with the move. This is just another example of all this emerging technology at work. Who simply watches a home movie anymore when there are all those extras to play with as well?

Advertisements

GET SMART

I wasn’t a big fan of Get Smart when Don Adams starred as Maxwell Smart in the television series. I enjoyed it a lot, but I was more into serious spying, as with James Bond and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. Mel Brooks and Buck Henry enjoyed their take on spydom and the recent big-screen treatment takes a lot from that treatment.

I also have to admit that I’m new to Steve Carell. I haven’t seen any of the episodes of The Office yet, though everyone I know treats me like I just kicked their dog when I mention this. I saw him in Evan Almighty and was really impressed with how he managed several saving graces during a movie that just didn’t come together the way it should have. Carell’s performances and everyday demeanor just really appealed to me.

With the summer upon us, I’ve tried to take my wife and son out to the theater once a week. We’ve got a new Warren Theater in town and I’m trying to patronize it because it is so good. When we saw Get Smart was releasing, we figured we’d go see it, but we weren’t in any hurry to. My wife and I had both seen the television series, and my ten year old has lately developed a love of spy movies.

Director Peter Segal has a history of comedic movie successes and definitely kept the original series in mind when he made the movie. However, the character of Maxwell Smart stands out as capable as well as socially inadequate. I was surprised to see Smart in action, proving himself to be a great shot as well as good in a fight. I didn’t expect that and it made the movie even more enjoyable. The first shooting range exercise with Smart and Agent 23 (Dwayne Johnson) caught me off-guard. From then on, I paid more attention because I knew things weren’t going to be exactly as I remembered.

From the beginning of the film, with all the security doors opening and closing ponderously, and with the phone booth waiting at the end, the movie feels incredibly like an episode of the television series. When Smart was revealed to be an analyst, that underscored the pedantic way his character always delivered his lines and the way his mind worked while building subterfuges. It was a refreshing “origin” story in that respect.

Anne Hathaway as Agent 99 is sexy, provocative, and violent, as much a perfect foil for Steve Carell’s Maxwell Smart as Barbara Feldon was to Don Adams. She looked absolutely lovely and was excellent in the role.

Dwayne Johnson stars as smug, self-assured Agent 23, but he’s supportive of Maxwell Smart’s promotion to a field agent. He’s got an ease for bringing larger-than-life characters to movie screens that seems almost innate for him.

Alan Arkin as the Chief was simply inspired. I was laughing constantly whenever he was involved. Arkin’s pitch-perfect delivery of his lines and the way his voice naturally is works well together. I didn’t think anyone would replace Edward Platt as the original Chief from the series, and in truth Arkin hasn’t, but he comes close. His interpretation of the character was great but still different than Platt’s.

The plot, while not terribly original – since it menaces L. A. with yet another nuclear device, serves to hold the story together. Maxwell Smart saving the world in his own inimitable style is what the film is all about, and it delivers everything the trailers promise.

But the goodness doesn’t end there. Bruce and Lloyd, two of the nerdy agents in the movie, also have a direct-to-DVD solo adventure that’s out in stores now. Get Smart’s Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control is an adventure actually sandwiched during the same time frame as the movie. Sort of a meanwhile-back-at-the-ranch spin-off that looks great. Masi Oka (Heroes) and Nate Torrence (Capital One commercials) play the title heroes. Patrick Warburton (Rules of Engagement) plays Hymie the Robot.

Get Smart is a must-see summer movie. Take the family because this one has something for everybody.

 

WALL-E

Wall-E hit theaters today and packed the seats a noon at my local movie house. I’ve enjoyed every Pixar movie that’s come out, and this one is no exception. However, I have to admit that after the deluge of trailers that have haunted the television set later I was expecting to be blown away.

I wasn’t blown away, but don’t misunderstand. The movie was a good romp that kept all the tykes in the audience on the edge of their seats throughout, and there were quite a few giggles for the adults too, but the movie just hit all the expected twists and turns without becoming anything more than an adventurous love story mixed with ecological and physical health issues.

The movie takes place about eight hundred years in the future. Message #1 comes about when all the viewer can see is endless mounds of compacted refuse stand as towering high-rises. Wall-E, our everyman hero, toils alone in the garbage heap that used to be our planet. Well, there’s no denying that axe because everyone in the film grinds that one home. When there was nowhere left to stack refuse, humanity abandoned the world and went out into space.

That’s a sour but realistic take on the world’s current population, but I have to wonder if a spaceship would actually launch into space with no destination. According to the story, the people aboard the Axiom have been in space for 700 years. How was population growth maintained? How about food sources? If the ship was capable of regenerating food and water every day, why wasn’t that done on earth? But I digress. In my defense, Pixar writers and developers generally do a much cleaner job of world-building.

Wall-E is an adorable character. The thought and care that went into his construction is immediately evident. In a way, he reminded me of Johnny Five from the movie Short Circuit, but that was good because Johnny Five was a kid-friendly character and movie as well.

I loved Wall-E’s mannerisms and the motions he was capable of as he went about his daily job of crushing trash. His home was a delight and many of the kids, including mine, laughed and enjoyed everything. Pixar is so good at details in these movies that I’m constantly surprised at the depth to which they think about everything. Having Wall-E visit the graveyard of his fellow robots was a great touch. It introduced the pathos of his loneliness, pointed out his eventual future, and explained how he kept working away after wearing out parts. The bit with him hanging his treads up as he entered his home was terrific.

Eve is a robot of a different sort. She’s sleeker and more powerful, and definitely quicker on the trigger. I didn’t quite warm up to her as much as Wall-E, though she is our heroine and female romantic lead, but the expressions they were able to create with her eyes alone were fantastic.

Wall-E continues showing up for work every day even though the rest of the world has bailed on him or become totally dysfunctional. That was incredibly touching, though no explanation is given for why he developed a personality. Eve’s arrival to search for plant life (though we don’t know that for a long time, and there’s not really any reason given for why the Axiom couldn’t simply have gone on to another planet) changes Wall-E’s existence forever.

The fact that he was able to fall in love with her was great and served the story, but Eve is portrayed as having no personality. I had to let that go because part of me wanted to be an adult and learn how the AIs had progressed that far. See? I struggled with technology versus fantasy throughout the film, but that may have just been men.

When I looked at the movie through a child’s eyes, I was kept happy. The characters are cool. The visual aspects are beautiful. And the pacing is thrilling.

I was impressed by how much could be done with the computer “voices” of the characters. The feeling and emotions I projected on them were as much from the situations they were in as from the tonal quality.

I also especially liked Auto, the robotic second-in-command of the Axiom, because he was so nasty. His design as a ship’s wheel was awesome, and the holes in the ceiling that allowed him to pop out anywhere was exciting and made for tense moments.

The plot is simple and straight-forward, but the Pixar people obviously had a blast putting this one together. It runs like a Swiss watch and hits all the emotional triggers for the audience as plucky Wall-E and Eve take on Auto to bring the earth back to the people lost in space.

Wall-E is definitely going to be another hit masterminded by the Pixar people. One of the best treats is the short cartoon feature before the movie. Don’t get to the theater late and take a chance on missing it. This one left me laughing out loud because it was so inventive and wildly funny. Take the kids out to this one. And if you don’t have any kids, take yourself out and be a kid for a couple of hours. You’ll have great time.

KUNG FU PANDA

My ten year old is currently working on his senior red belt in karate, so when we started seeing trailers for Kung Fu Panda I knew it wouldn’t be long before we’d have to see it. Sure enough, opening weekend arrived and we took our seats.

I’m a big fan of kids’ cartoon movies, really looking forward to Wall E, but I wasn’t too sure of this one. Jack Black can be hit or miss with me, and I really wasn’t aware that Dustin Hoffman, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, and Angeline Jolie were involved with the movie until the end credits rolled. The voices sounded familiar, but that’s not unusual given the quality of voice work these days.

The opening montage of the movie made me sit up and take notice at once, though. That artwork alone was worth the price of admission to me, and if they’d produced the movie in that format it would have been interesting to see what kind of reaction reviewers would give the finished product.

The movie quickly settles into predictability, though, but it’s a pleasant trip and I was satisfied. My son was ecstatic as he watched the events unfold. He wasn’t surprised at the plot’s twists and turns either, but the bright color, rapid pacing, and quick action is mesmerizing for the adult mind as well.

Po, the Kung Fu panda of the title, works in his father’s noodle kitchen. His father is a goose and the explanation for that is never given, though it is a distraction during a more serious moment when Po’s father reveals an important secret to him. Black provides a great vocal characterization of Po and I found myself rooting for him even though I knew he didn’t really have anything to worry about.

The villain sequences were actually chilling. Seeing Tai Lung (Ian McShane) held in prison was impressive when you realized what he had to escape from in order to become the all-encompassing threat deal would have to deal with. The darkness and threat of those scenes might cause some concern for younger children, but I loved the cinematography and the amazing choreography of Tai Lung’s escape.

The unwillingness of the Furious Five to embrace Po as a student is as predictable as his eventual winning them over. But the pacing makes that easy to absorb and enjoy. The relationship between Shifu (Hoffman) and Oogway is warm and moving, and the scene where the great turtle ascends to the Celestial Heavens is powerful.

After everyone learns that Tai Lung has escaped and is once more menacing the countryside, the Furious Five launch into interception mode and go after him. Again, the fight sequences are huge and enjoyable, truly knockout efforts. But it’s no surprise that they’re defeated.

Shifu takes Po off for lesson and the sequence where Po becomes the Dragon Warrior is a lot of fun. Still, after Po is trained and ends up getting the Dragon Scroll (which is gotten with Oogway’s staff in a marvelous little puzzle piece), everything still looks like they’re going to lose anyway.

While helping the villagers abandon town, Po speaks to his father and gains an incredible insight that causes him to stand his ground against Tai Lung. I have to admit that the thinking behind this reveal wasn’t all that deep, but it was effective. And it proved to be the catalyst the brings about the battle between Po and Tai Lung. That fight is a great one, and even though I knew Po would win, I still found myself sitting on the edge of my seat. My son was doing the same thing.

Kung Fu Panda doesn’t break any new ground when it comes to children’s animated entertainment, but it sure serves up a feast that hits the spot. This is one you’ll enjoy on a lazy Sunday afternoon with the kids, then again when it comes out on DVD.

 

YOU DON’T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN

Sometimes you just have to be a fan to appreciate something. I found that to be the case in Adam Sandler’s new movie, You Don’t Mess With The Zohan. I loved Happy Gilmore and have seen it several times, and there’s a soft spot in my heart for Big Daddy. I even got excited over the trailers for this latest release.

But when I arrived at the theater, the laughs just didn’t come as fast or as frequent as I’d hoped. Sandler was his usual charming self, and unafraid to give it all for the movie and the camera, but the subject matter may still have been a little too sensitive. The movie was originally written back in 2000, then allowed to cool after the events of 9-11.

Sandler stars as Zohan, an Israeli counter-terrorist operative who has seemingly unexplained superpowers. That proved confusing for me right off the bat because I was expecting some kind of origin story or at least a reason for all the incredible physical abilities that Zohan had. I mean, he was catching bullets between his forefinger and thumb, and managing leaps and jumps that would have shamed a ninja master.

John Turturro was the Palestinian counterpart named the Phantom who possessed amazing powers as well. The dialogue between the two as they fought and argued is well done, and Turturro was great as usual. But again, I believe the material just got tired in the end.

Zohan’s dream is to get out of the counter-terrorist trade and into hair dressing. He’s got a 1980s Paul Mitchell style book that he’s studied for years (although it’s out of date) and a desire that is all-encompassing. In his final battle against the Phantom, Zohan fakes his own death and smuggles himself into the United States to attempt to achieve his dream.

Once in the US, Zohan hooks up with a guy named Michael, introduces himself as Scrappy Coco, and ends up living with Michael. Unfortunately, he also enters into a sexual relationship with Michael’s mom that leaves Michael totally distressed. These bits are funny and keep the movie rolling along, but they just fail to engage past the superficial level.

Then there’s the romantic twist. While working in Dhalia’s style shop, Zohan gives haircuts to the older women in the neighborhood and ends up taking them for sex in the back room. Nothing explains this bizarre behavior, nor why Zohan felt he had to provide this, but his performances become legendary and fill the shop with clients. Ultimately this saves the shop from the predacious attentions of Walbridge Industries (a blatant stab at Wal-Mart, which is interesting because so many of Sandler’s movies are sold in those department stores).

The movie shifts gears so rapidly that the cameos by Mariah Carey and the subplot involving Rob Schneider as a Palestinian who lost his goat to Zohan only reach the level of props and gags. Even the romance with Dhalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui) gets lost in the mish-mash.

As stated, Sandler fans will be happy, but regular moviegoers lured in by the well-constructed trailer might be somewhat disappointed. This isn’t a comic James Bond movie; it’s a chain of gags that hit and miss with irregularity.

THE INCREDIBLE HULK

After seeing Ang Lee’s version of the Incredible Hulk a few years ago, I was dead-set against seeing the new release. Just didn’t need the aggravation. But two things changed my mind. Iron Man and Robert Downey Jr. just blew me away, and my ten year old developed a raging interest in the Hulk while at a recent science fiction convention.

So bright and early this morning, after reconstructive nasal surgery yesterday, I took my wife and son to see the movie at 10:30. I’d stayed away from any reviews because I wanted to see the film cold and walk away with my own opinion. I figured being post-op would allow me to be numbed if the movie stunk.

Instead, I got a trip back to my childhood, and a chance to introduce my son to the television Hulk I grew up with (not exactly the Marvel Comics, but close). The second film has evidently completely done away with the previous film and leapfrogged from the television series that starred Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. While the title shots rolled, so did a similar short backstory that echoed everything that the television series had perpetrated during the creation of the Hulk.

Interestingly enough, the serum that changed Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) into the Hulk was part of the same Super Soldier project that created Captain America back in World War II, though General Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt in a great supporting role) didn’t mention Cap by name. However, that link was one more linchpin tying the Marvel/Hollywood universe together. The cameo with Robert Downey Jr. playing Tony Stark was another one. There are also references to SHIELD although Nick Fury was conspicuously absent.

After the opening credits finished and the backstory was in place, the movie jumped right into Bruce Banner’s life just as it would have in one of those television episodes. The backdrop of Brazil was amazingly beautiful, and watching Banner trying to learn the language and co-exist with the culture while maintaining his isolation was great. The premise of a man on the run isn’t a new one, but it’s really well rendered in this movie. I felt immediately for Banner’s plight.

The story seemed to move slowly at first. I have to admit, I had a Hulk jones. Probably most filmgoers did. My ten year old took it in stride, though his patience was waning at the end. We wanted the Hulk, we wanted, “Hulk smash!” echoing in our ears.

The first taste we got of it only left us wanting more. The fight scenes were occluded by the shadows and the darkness of the factory, but the choreography was pretty well done. I was almost frustrated, but I knew it was early in the movie. The monster remained just out of sight.

Tim Roth plays Emil Blonsky/the Abomination and does a really good job though the role is somewhat truncated by needing to fit the film into a two-hour delivery. The bits between Ross and Blonsky, where Blonsky basically sells his soul to the general in exchange for power, are well done. Ross is a complicated character, and Hurt portrayed both sides of the man fairly.

Liv Tyler was terrific as Bruce’s love, Betty Ross. She’s intelligent, emotional, and – next to the Hulk – incredibly fragile. The scenes she shared with the monster (especially since we know they were computer-generated and nothing was really there for her to act with) were fantastic. I loved the scene with her and the Hulk in the cave, especially when the lightning and thunder arced across the night and scared him into growling back at it and throwing a boulder.

I also enjoyed the fact that Banner wasn’t reduced to simply being a geeky wimp. He learned to fight, adding martial arts to his doctoral degrees, and handled himself well until he was outmatched. This was the same kind of intelligent, resourceful Banner we got in the comics and in the television show. Man and monster were both given time on the stage, and both worked well.

Of course, the movie wouldn’t be a Marvel movie without a Stan Lee cameo, and it was there. I didn’t expect it the way it was shown, but it was funny. However, what would have happened to him if he drank a soda containing some of Banner’s gamma-spiked blood?

The movie paces itself well throughout, and doesn’t quite become a scream-fest of action till the end. The section where Banner meets Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson), a confidant he’s been doing research with on the gamma radiation, is quite unexpectedly humorous. It doesn’t last long, but Sterns’s obvious fanboy appreciation of the monster before him plays well.

Looking at all the numerous crumbs seeded throughout the movie, I knew that Marvel hopes this will only be the start of a brand-new Hulk franchise. Betty is dating a psychologist named Leonard Samson (Doc Samson in the comic series) and Sterns is said to be set up to become the Leader (another gamma-radiation spawned opponent for the Hulk).

I had a good time with the movie. It wasn’t Iron Man but I enjoyed it a lot. The Hulk is a difficult character to deal with, and I think this approach was probably the best way to take it at this time. I was really thankful we weren’t marched through another origin story so soon after the last movie. This way we got Hulk action nearer the beginning.

Go see the movie and enjoy.

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL

After almost twenty years of waiting, Indiana Jones is back and once more on the trail of an elusive artifact. Harrison Ford reprises the character in the fourth movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

The time frame has been moved to 1957 and the movie opens up with Elvis Presley blasting “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog.” Ironically, the song was written with a female singer in mind who would be singing about her boyfriend. The singer didn’t quite fit the song, but it still made a big hit.

That’s kind of what’s happening with Indiana Jones this time. I think Indiana has a hard time fitting into the 1950s. I much preferred him in the 1930s and 1940s. The world was still so big and so raw during that time. By the Cold War, we’d become aware of how small the world was getting, and how everything seemed to be about the coming days instead of the past ones.

The pulp magazines and serial movies that Indiana Jones had more or less sprung from were dead by this time. It was the end of a fantastic era for heroes.

So, in a way, maybe it’s fitting that the last Harrison Ford/Indiana Jones movie would be set in this time frame.

Harrison Ford is simply an amazing actor. After twenty years, he swaggers back into the role and leaps into the saddle. My God, but it was fun watching him square off against the villains, against overwhelming odds, and figure out clues to archeological mysteries. No one could have ever done this role as well, nor will they ever do it again. Harrison Ford is the epitome of a down-to-earth hero rising to meet outlandish circumstance. His facial expressions alone are with the price of the ticket.

In previous movies, Ford did most of his own stunts. This time around, he didn’t have that luxury. But I was surprised at how lithe and spry he was as he performed the ones that didn’t risk significant injury. He leapt and climbed and ran with grim authority, if not with the alacrity of his younger years. The man is in fantastic shape. Again, the sheer beauty of the Indiana Jones character is that, like Batman, fans can aspire to do what he does. Even when he’s a senior citizen.

Ford still delivers the stalwart hero, the wisecracks, and the tough guy patter. When asked for final words while facing dozens of guns and certain death, Indiana says, “I like Ike.” Of course, I had to explain that Ike was President Eisenhower to my ten year old, but the sentiment fit the time period. The whip action, though not as much of it as I wanted, was in place. During one cool sequence, we see that Indy knows he’s not quite the man he used to be when he swings after a fleeing truck and ends up short of the leap.

One of the best bits about the movie was the nostalgia of seeing Indy toss bad guys from the vehicles he commandeers during the action sequences. The action is still over the top, and I’m still a sucker for it.

Shia LeBeouf stars at Mutt Williams and does an outstanding job of following in Indy’s shadow while at time stepping out and seizing a scene. I’ve constantly admired LeBeouf’s acting, and he gets better every year. (Now that trailers for Eagle Eye, his new film, are breaking, I’m even more interested to see what he can do in a serious thriller.) LeBeouf carries the role well, first as a greaser then as Indy’s progeny because they exhibit a lot of the same traits.

Cate Blanchett is terrific as the Russian villainess. She seems spooky and ethereal from the moment she steps into the scene, and she’s a definite challenge for Indy and company. I liked the look she had. The hair bob was a really nice touch, and the choice of a rapier as a personal weapon was great. She has outstanding stage presence in the movie and looks as relentless as a Terminator in her pursuit of Indiana and the ultimate goal.

The film plays fairly with the 1950s as well. There’s an atomic explosion, paranoia about Communism, and the rivalry between Joe College and the greasers, which I feel certain George Lucas wanted in for nostalgia of his own. But once America is left behind, the timelessness of foreign countries sets in.

The settings looked authentic. The sequence where Indy and Mutt find the final resting place of the “lost” Spanish explorers is well-done. Those scenes are eerie and scary at the same time, and the action is breath-taking. The river sequences were well done, even if though expected.

The special effects guys must have had a blast. Not only on the settings, but on the action as well. The army ants looked and sounded chilling as they took their victims, and the camera work that incorporated all of those elements was superb.

I was particularly enthralled by the “solution” of the puzzle at the hidden city at the end. I thought it was ingenious, but I wish I’d been given a little more time to study the puzzle, been offered more clues, and gotten to think onscreen with Indy. However, not even he solved this one, though I don’t doubt for a moment that he would have. I just wish I’d had a better chance at it.

A lot of people might not be happy with the film. I had some problems with it. Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) was given really short shrift in the movie. She doesn’t come on stage till really late, and by then the plot and story are moving so fast that she’s almost eclipsed except for some important reveals. We get no sense of how she’s spent the last twenty years. She was stunning in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark and I’d always wondered what it would have been like if she and Indy had hooked up for more adventures.

Another problem for some, me included, involves a spoiler (so here’s your warning) that seems to already be out there on the internet. Even before the film wrapped, there were several rumors that the fourth Indiana Jones film would involve out-of-this-world archeology. In short: aliens.

We got that message loud and clear when the movie beginning more or less starts in Area 51. In minutes, we learn that Indy assisted in the recovery of the alien bodies from the wreck back in 1947.

I personally don’t think aliens and Indy belong in the same movie. However, given Lucas and Spielberg’s affinity for aliens (Star Wars and E. T.), I can’t blame them for wanting to lead Indy that way to tie him into the other worlds they’ve created. But they lost me a little. I was suddenly reminded I was watching a movie, a cool movie, but a movie nonetheless. I ended up being outside of the film in a way that jarred me, and the final scene with the flying saucer taking off was almost anti-climatic at that point.

That being said, Spielberg once again proves himself to be the master of the action movie. The two-hour long film sprints unflinchingly across the screen. There’s hardly time to draw your breath before Indy is thrown pell-mell into some new danger. The motorcycle chase was great, the fight scenes were enthralling, and the scene in the library when a student asks Indy an archeological question after he and Mutt slide across the floor is priceless.