Sorry for the delay. Um, my dog ate my blog.
Where I have been? I’ve been at the movies, naturally. I caught a screening of “National Treasure: Book of Secrets”, the sequel to “National Treasure” (in case you were not aware). Nicolas Cage is back as Benjamin Franklin Gates, along with his nerdy sidekick Riley Poole, on a mission to clear the Gates family name (an ancestor has been implicated in the Lincoln assassination … an investigation one would’ve thought had been long over) and in the process finds the lost City of Gold. Yes, that’s a lot. Too much, you might ask? You would be asking the right question.
The key to finding the lost City of Gold (and clearing the family name - never forget that) is the President’s Book of Secrets, which as legend has it contains every secret our nation has and is for the President’s eyes only. Much like the first film Gates and company rely on a ridiculous amount of historical knowledge and even more ridiculous technology to fumble through the somewhat corny plot. The movie tries to do everything the first one did, only it comes off as stale and predictable (which the first one really wasn’t).
Of course there’s a lot of winking to the previous film. For example, at the end of “National Treaure” Riley drives off in a Ferrari, which was a throwaway joke at best. In the sequel, it’s a full-blown running gag.
Sequels are a great idea on paper. Who doesn’t want to see our heroes in more adventures? Studios like sequels because they feature built-in audiences and mark the beginning of possibly lucrative franchises. But they’re a tricky game. Every film ever made should at least be fresh, and sequels will always be compared to the previous film. Sequels almost always follow a very popular film so expectations are high. Naturally it may seem smart to just take what worked in the first film and do that again, sometimes doing exactly that again which is, in my opinion, the worst thing a sequel can do. The two Back to the Future sequels did this ad nauseum, much to their detriment. Better to let the characters grow naturally in a new story than be anchored by the last one. Of course, that doesn’t always work either. Neither Indiana Jones film is as great as Raiders of The Lost Ark and even The Godfather Part II (which some consider the best sequel ever) isn’t quite as good as the originator. But at least those are good films that stand on their own. Nodding to previous films is so lame and tired. We’ve seen that movie, show us something new.
Indiana Jones Trailer
Speaking of sequels, John McClane and John Rambo have made comebacks so why not Indiana Jones, right? In Hollywood, everything old is new again I suppose so why not dust off the ol’ fedora and trot out Henry Jones Jr for another run at fortune and glory? I’m an Indiana Jones freak and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is one of my favorite films of all time so naturally when I heard there would be a fourth Indiana Jones movie I thought, “Harrison Ford is 65 years old but so what? It’s god damn Indiana Jones!” And then I saw the trailer and I started to get worried.
Much like the James Bond series, the Indiana Jones movies were great at transporting us to exotic locales as Indiana puts his fear of snakes aside in the interest of bare-knuckled archeology. And then we get this trailer where there’s an exciting car chase … in a warehouse. Yes, I realize it very well may be the warehouse which was the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant, but so what? Yes, there are teases of an ancient temple in a jungle (and some bad green-screen work of a car chase in said jungle). And some of the humor is still there (though a lot of it seems to be of the aforementioned “wink wink, remember the old films?” variety), so it didn’t get me excited as I had hoped it would.
After last summer’s horrible run of sequels (admitted obvious exception: Bruce Willis bringing John McClane back strong in “Live Free or Die Hard”), my pessimism is at an all-time high. And I have to be honest, the teaser for “Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” did not get me jonesing.
Here’s a movie that I hope never gets a sequel. Matthew McConaughey plays Finn, a fun-loving underwater treasure hunter who has severe problems with both responsibility and keeping his shirt on. He’s recently divorced from Tess (played by the very cute Kate Hudson), who left him most likely because of his problem with responsibility and not because he couldn’t seem to keep his shirt on. Finn enlists the help of billionaire Nigel Honeycutt and his nails-on-a-chalkboard-annoying spoiled brat daughter Gemma to fund a hunt for the Queen’s Dowry, a legendary treasure lost over 300 years ago. Unfortunately, said treasure is trapped off the coast of an island owned by a rap mogul named (and I’m not making this up) Bigg Bunny. Despite owning his own Bahamian island, Bigg Bunny can’t seem to let the thug lifestyle so he becomes the defacto heavy, refusing to let someone pull treasure off the coast of his island.
This is a really dopey movie that suffers from what I consider the “filmmaking vacation” syndrome. See, sometimes when movies go to vacation-friendly destinations like the Bahamas (as is the case here), it looks like everyone had a great time making the film but never put a whole lot into actually making a good film. The Farrelly Brothers’ remake of “The Heartbreak Kid” from last year suffers from the same problem. The obvious side effect is you wish you were at these locations, just not with these characters (and certainly not in the movie theater you’re stuck in).
“You left your shirt WHERE?”
I like all the actors from this movie. I just don’t like them IN this movie. And Donald Sutherland looks regretful that he’s even in the movie, with a “they told me this would be fun” look about him in just about every scene. Almost every character is a stereotype, from the surfer-dude-like Finn to the two gay chefs and the Paris Hilton-esque Gemma. Even Ray Winstone shows up as a crusty old treasure hunter who taught Finn everything he knows (and is now his greatest rival). And yes, you may think, “Didn’t I already see this movie when it was titled ‘Into The Blue’?” Trust me, “Into The Blue” is “The Godfather” compared to this movie.
In The Shadow of the Moon
Just when you thought you knew everything about the Apollo missions from Ron Howard and Tom Hanks along comes “In The Shadow of The Moon”, a new documentary (“presented” by Ron Howard) about the Apollo missions featuring new interviews with 10 Apollo astronauts and newly uncovered archive footage. This is amazing stuff.
“You’ll believe man can fly.”
The astronauts who orbited and landed on the moon are the only people to have ever gazed upon the earth in its entirety with their own eyes. Imagine that. Imagine seeing the whole of everything you’ve known before in what looks like a small marble in a black sea. And the Apollo missions may have been the last time our country did something that made the rest of the world stand up in awe of our achievement.
Each of the 10 astronauts interviewed bring an amazing perspective on the events nearly 40 years later. Michael Collins stands out in particular with his humor and good-natured “aw shucks” fondness for the historic event he was a part of. You’ll laugh, you’ll cheer, you may cry. It’s a brilliant film and out on DVD now.
Venerable, salty actor Roy Scheider died last week and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it. Obviously his best known character was as Chief Martin Brody in Jaws, a man with a crippling fear of the water who moves his family out to Amity Island so his kids wouldn’t be brought up in the crime-riddled streets of New York. His character was not without faults (using a tumbler for a wine glass, for example, showed more than just a lack of etiquette) but bound by duty he was going to get that shark.
I never knew much of Roy Scheider personally, but I suspect he was a lot like that. I’ve always enjoyed his work from “The French Connection” to “Jaws” to “The Rainmaker” to “RKO 281”. He never seemed to lose the sense of play as an actor and that translated to the screen. IMDB.com lists this quote in his biography (unattributed): “The important thing is to do good work, no matter what medium you do it in.” That’s sage advice. He was an icon and he’ll be missed.
Later in the week I’ll offer up my Oscar predictions. Take them as you will, I’ve rarely won an office pool.
-Brett Deacon does not, in fact, own a dog
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