Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Blu-Ray)Paramount
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 7.25 (out of 10)
I'm happy as hell that this film exists. Sure, it's the weakest of Indiana Jones' cinematic adventures, but it's still Steven Spielberg in action mode, and Harrison Ford in that iconic hat. It's good to see Indiana Jones cracking the whip and cracking wise again after all of these years--even if the adventure gets a little convoluted at times.
When we first see the fictional archeologist, he's getting pulled out of a car trunk and looking a little worse for wear. Ford has aged well, still fit in his mid-'60s and still handsome in that hat. Even if he looks better than most men his age, Ford doesn't make the mistake of playing Indiana younger. He does many of his own stunts, but he takes a little longer to get up after being knocked down. He's a little creaky, but he's still ready to rumble.
The plot involves some gibberish involving crystal skulls, ancient temples and Russian psychics. Shia LeBeouf shows up as Mutt Williams, a rebel with a big IQ who has no idea that the man he's coming to for help, Indiana, happens to be a rather important lost relative. Karen Allen makes a welcome return as Marion Ravenwood, Mutt's mother and Indy's former girlfriend.
The usually reliable Cate Blanchett is terribly annoying as a Russian colonel and psychic who seeks the ancient bodies of aliens in order to "know more," whatever the hell that means. However, Ford is terrific here, as are LeBeouf and Allen.
A simpler plot line with more practical effects and action could've made this installment a classic rather than just enjoyable. The film's first few action sequences, involving a visit to the old warehouse from the first film and a ride in a refrigerator during an atomic blast, are vintage Spielberg. Much of the rest feels a bit confused and overdone.
George Lucas and Ford have been talking about a possible fifth installment, but Spielberg has been silent. Seeing as this one made a bunch of money, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Ford in the hat again. But they'd better act fast, before one of Ford's limbs falls off.
Special Features: No commentary (Spielberg doesn't believe in them), but there are plenty of behind-the-scenes looks at the creation of the film. For fans of the franchise, it's a must-have, and there are many shots of Spielberg and Lucas in funny hats.
The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration (Blu-Ray)Paramount
Movies See Review
Special Features A-
DVD Geek Factor 9.5 (out of 10)
Those of us who never saw the first two Godfather films on big screens, and instead grew up watching them on beat-up VHS tapes--or the initial, so-so DVD release--now get a chance to rejoice: Francis Ford Coppola has supervised a digital restoration of the two films, and the results are mind-blowing. For good measure, there's also a high-definition version of Part III, which is a better film than it got credit for upon its initial release.
For me, the quintessential moment in the Godfather films comes in the original, when Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) assassinates a cop and a mob boss in a small Italian restaurant. Is it just me, or does Sterling Hayden play the best shooting victim in the history of cinema?
Overall, the best of the three is still the first Godfather, the one with Brando and James Caan. Pacino kicks mortal ass in Part II, as does Robert De Niro as a younger incarnation of Brando's Don Vito Corleone, but top props still go to the original.
Now, it's time to declare that Part III was actually pretty good. If you watch the films in succession, you'll notice that the Godfather vibe definitely permeates the final chapter. Yes, Sofia Coppola is a bit droopy in her role as Mary, daughter of Michael Corleone. Still, we've grown to like her a bit over the years, haven't we? The woman made Lost in Translation! This time around, I found Sofia a little more tolerable. Still bad ... but tolerable.
As for the Pacino performance in Part III, I happen to love his final, silent scream of pain. It tears me up to watch it, yet it makes others laugh. The third chapter definitely has its faults, but it's still decent entertainment and a worthy installment. Grades: the original and Part II (A), Part III (B).
Special Features: Coppola offers commentaries on all the films, and that's a very good thing. There are plenty of new features on the Blu-Ray release, including details of the digital restoration, with lots of documentaries on a separate disc.
Special Features C+
DVD Geek Factor 5 (out of 10)
Michael Moore didn't release this one in theaters, and that's probably a good thing. It's just a chronicle of his get-out-and-vote crusade from 2004--basically a concert film with Moore and guests like Eddie Vedder. There's nothing to it, and it feels dated, because it is.
Special Features: A lot of little featurettes that probably won't interest you.