Friday, February 23, 2018

Young Indiana Jones -- Episode 2: Passion for Life


To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
In East Africa, the Joneses join President Teddy Roosevelt on a hunting expedition. Next, the family travels to Paris where Indy pals around with Norman Rockwell and spends time in the artist community. 

Memorable Quote:
Some artists live extraordinarily colorful lives. Lives of danger, daring, passion, eccentricity, and outrageous behavior. But, eh, you're a little too young to know about that just yet.  ~Henry Jones Sr.

Highlight:
I like the actor who plays Teddy Roosevelt -- he has the right look, and he acts as I'd imagine Teddy to act.

Lowlight:
On the flip side, the Picasso performance is quite loud and over-the-top. Did young-adult Picasso really have a goofy mustache and scream all his words?

Brushes with historical figures:
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Norman Rockwell
  • Pablo Picasso
Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Paul Freeman appears as Selous, a hunter in Roosevelt's party. Freeman previously starred as Belloq, the main villain in Raiders of the Lost Ark. 
  • Africa marks the 2nd time that Henry runs away. "Don't you ever, ever do that again," Mrs. Jones says. Let's see how long that lasts. 
  • Similar to some scenes from the previous episode, the train scene must have been filmed years later because Indy looks much older, and then he's young again once he gets to Paris. 
  • Norman Rockwell is played by Lukas Haas, who I know as the little kid from Witness (which is at some point coming to a Movie Project near you). 
  • And there he goes! Off into the Parisian night. That's now the 3rd time he's run away, although I like how he saves it by coming back and pretending to be in the closet all along. He then runs away again but gets caught this time by Mrs. Seymour. Let's hope that the next episode has a different plot device.
  • At the end when Indy's parents come back, he's older again. 

Conversation:
Matthew Jacobs, episode writer (first half: "British East Africa")
British East Africa was one of George's fav stories, got turned into a book, and a comic book and a game I think - or that may have been Lassie (?). For him it was what Young Indy was all about, an educational show.

I got nominated for the Environmental Media Award for best TV hour for that one. Lucas sent my wife and I down from San Francisco to Los Angeles to sit at a table with the other Paramount execs. It was a very strange experience -- I just remember the second they knew we didn't win, the table emptied in two seconds flat!

Final Analysis:
I thought the Kenya section was decent, and they did a great job of creating the look and feel of an African hunt. The Paris scenes, however, were practically unwatchable with the sluggish plot combined with the insufferable Picasso. As a result, I have to rate this one a hair below Episode 1.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Young Indiana Jones -- Episode 1: My First Adventure


To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Indiana Jones embarks on a trip around the world with his parents, and the first stop is in Egypt where Indy accompanies legendary archaeologist Howard Carter on an excavation. A tomb robber commits a murder and steals a Jackal headpiece, and he claims to have hidden it where it cannot be found. Next, the Joneses go to Morocco where Indy befriends a slave and gets captured by slave traders.

Memorable Quote:
If he were a peasant and had to earn his own living, life would be much harsher. He is better off as a slave.  ~[Name Unknown]
I do not believe anyone would trade freedom of choice for a roof over their head, no matter how lovely the roof.  ~Miss Seymour

Highlight:
Lawrence of Arabia is a cool dude in general (great name and great headgear), and I like his character in this episode.

Lowlight:
It's sad enough that all the slave children weren't able to be rescued, but I was additionally bummed that the writers didn't find a way to let Omar go free. Are we supposed to feel better that he has some hope because Indy gave him his map?

Brushes with historical figures:
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • Howard Carter (vaguely heard of him)
  • Walter Burton Harris (never heard of him)

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • "It's me, I'm back!" Indiana Jones says that after being freed from his bad blood spell in the Temple of Doom, and I'm saying it right now.  I've been relatively quiet on the blogging front lately, but I'm ready to get back in the game with the Indiana Jones Project where I'll hit the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and then each Indy movie. Jones is on my Mount Rushmore of heroes along with MacGyver, 007, and...I'd have to think some more about the 4th one.  The first three Indy movies are among my favorites of all time (was there a 4th one? -- I don't remember).  I watched the Chronicles when I was a kid and remember next to nothing, but I did re-watch the first couple episodes about 10 years ago -- other than that, I'm coming at it with a mostly blank slate. Of course there will be episode rankings, and I'll be watching them in the order that they're on the DVDs (which is different from the order in which they originally aired).
  • That's pretty daring of Mrs. Jones to put a new puppy in the crib with baby Henry. 
  • Henry Jones Senior is more present in Indy's life than I would have thought based upon the Last Crusade, where Indy calls him a deadbeat dad who was more interested in people who had died 800 years ago. Lloyd Owen, who plays Senior, really nails the Sean Connery voice -- in fact, he sounds just like him.  JUNIOR!
  • It's hard to imagine the little guy with the "Jeepers/Aw Shucks" attitude turning into the hard-nosed Indiana Jones, but Corey Carrier is a likable kid, and he's a good actor for his age.
  • The production quality is incredible for a network television show -- it looks like they're really in another country.  (Update: According to wikipedia, they actually did film in other countries).
  • 20:54 mark -- the diggers' chant should sound familiar to the hardcore Indiana Jones fan -- think Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indy's crew is digging for the ark.  "Oll-ee-ay, mes-ee-mee."
  • When you think about it, what archaeologist wouldn't invite some little kid who they met five minutes ago to accompany them into a newly-discovered tomb?
  • Demetrios is played by Vic Tablian, who had two minor roles in Raiders.
  • Young Jones reminds me a bit of little Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace, and I thought the guy who plays Lawrence might have been Ewan McGregor (aka Obi-Wan), but it wasn't. Interestingly, per IMDB, the scene at 41:46 was re-shot during filming of Phantom Menace with a different actor playing young Indy, and while it's hard to tell, it's conceivable that it was the kid who played Anakin (probably not, though -- the replacement Indy looks too tall for Anakin).
  • The transition from the Egypt scenes to the Morocco plotline is quite abrupt, made even more so by the fact that Indy looks like he's aged five years. This is because he actually did -- the Morocco episode was filmed much later and was slapped together with the Egypt episode as part of the DVD. I remember that the Jackal storyline comes back into play for 17 year-old Indy. 
  • Walter Burton Harris, the correspondent in whose house they are staying, is played by Kevin McNally, who I know as the nasty grandfather of Ethel's baby in Downton Abbey.
  • 1:03:55 -- When Indy is in captivity, he bristles at the sight of a mouse. The mouse footage looked like it might have come from somewhere else, and I was reminded of the mouse in Henderson's cell in the MacGyver episode Bushmaster. Like MacGyver, Young Indy is part of the Paramount family, as was Mission: Impossible which borrowed MacGyver footage in Holograms. I rewatched the mouse scene in Bushmaster, and it's not the same mouse (that would have made my week if it was). 
  • 1:18:52 -- "First I want you to promise me you will never do anything as foolish as this again." ~Harris. Sorry, Harris, but I remember enough about 9 year-old Indy to know that he runs off by himself in pretty much every episode.

Final Analysis:
It's not exactly an action packed first episode, and my memory is that the lack of action theme continues throughout the series. But the production value is impressive, and I like the settings and time period. Plus, it's Indiana Jones -- my love for the movies are enough to keep me motivated to continue watching.

Young Indiana Jones -- Episodes by Ranking

Every Young Indiana Jones episode in order from most favorite to least favorite, updating as I go along. The episode number (when it aired) is in parentheses.


My First Adventure (1)
Passion for Life (2)

The Indiana Jones Project






EPISODES (by DVD order)
The Perils of Cupid
Travels with Father
Journey of Radiance
Spring Break Adventure
Love's Sweet Song
Trenches of Hell
Demons of Deception
Phantom Train of Doom
Oganga, the Giver and Taker of Life
Attack of the Hawkmen
Adventures in the Secret Service
Espionage Escapades
Daredevils of the Dead
Tales of Innocence
Masks of Evil
Treasure of the Peacock's Eye
Winds of Change
Mystery of the Blues
Scandal of 1920
Hollywood Follies


MOVIES
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Temple of Doom
Last Crusade
Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Sunday, January 21, 2018

George Vecsey: Outstanding Author


Author:
George Vecsey is an author and former columnist for the New York Times. We talk about his experience covering soccer detailed in his book Eight World Cups.  Visit George online at georgevecsey.com, and follow him on twitter @georgevecsey


Conversation:
Total run time: 55:13

  2:29 - The state of soccer coverage in America in 1982
  6:41 - Turning his experiences into a book
10:07 - The great fans from Trinidad and Tobago
12:53 - US vs. Brazil: July 4, 1994
14:49 - The joy of traveling
20:12 - Best player, team, and national anthem
28:11 - Alternatives (or lack thereof) to penalty kick shootouts
31:39 - The state of American soccer
38:35 - Baseball talk, including best players and Hall of Fame voting
46:01 - The future of American football
48:14 - Crossing paths with Donald Trump


The embedded player works best in Google Chrome.  You can also download the mp3 by clicking here, and the podcast is available in iTunes.

Additional Links:



Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Movie Project: The Thomas Crown Affair


Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Thomas Crown is a wealthy, fast-living executive who steals a priceless Monet from the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the fun of it. He meets his match with Catherine Banning, an investigator hired by the insurance company to retrieve the painting and catch the thief. Crown invites her into his life despite being the prime suspect, and they develop feelings for each other.

Memorable Quote:
Let's play ball.  ~Thomas Crown

Highlight:
Both heist scenes are a ton of fun, especially the second one when the police department is ready for Crown and out in full force, yet Crown still gets the best of them.

Lowlight:
Obviously you need to take everything in this movie with a grain of salt, as with all heist shows/movies, but the stealing of the second painting (the one that Catherine liked) was a bridge too far. The gates in the room were down and there were men on the roof, and it was never explained how Crown was able to pull that off.

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
In the scene where Thomas Crown is dancing at the party, his tie is untied on his tux, and the top buttons unbuttoned. This is because at the time, Pierce Brosnan was under contract to play James Bond, and a rumored stipulation of that contract, was that he could not wear a tuxedo in any non-James Bond movies.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Watching this one with Mrs. MacGyver Project! "Like no one would notice him crawling under the gate," she notes during the heist.
  • 20:30 mark -- I can't believe he just folds the painting in half like that.
  • Even if the video cameras got disabled in the heist room due to the temperature change, the museum should have video footage in the other rooms that places Crown in the museum.
  • Runner up for memorable quote:
    • "Always get your man?"  ~Crown
    • "Mmm-hmm."  ~Catherine
    • "Think you'll get me?"  ~Crown
  • 52:15 - Catherine drops Crown's stolen keys back into his pocket. "Like he wouldn't have felt that." ~Mrs. MP
  • Uh-oh, it's the love scene! Cover your eyes, Mrs. MP! I remember seeing this movie in the theater with some friends and feeling a bit uncomfortable while this was going on. But probably not as uncomfortable as Thomas and Catherine were doing the horizontal mambo on a marble staircase.
  • It's one thing for Crown to trust Catherine to "take the stick" of the glider, but she's flying pretty close to the trees there. "I don't think she should be doing that," Mrs. MP agrees.
  • Pierce Brosnan = one of my favorite all-time actors (who we saw recently in the making of Robin Hood video) and who I'll talk more about once I review the Bond movies. As with Bond, he was born to play this role of a suave, charming, cocky rich guy.  Rene Russo is equally sparkling as Catherine and gives a truly Oscar-worthy performance.
  • 1:22:07 - I like the smart aleck pyschologist played by Faye Dunaway who was in the original Thomas Crown Affair (which I've never seen). "Oh dear. Peter Pan decides to grow up and finds there's no place to land!"
  • It's not clear why Crown goes through the trouble of making such a detailed forgery (getting the borders exactly correct) only to underlay the painting with "Dogs at Cards" (which is hilarious, by the way).
  • So not only does this priceless painting get folded in half, but it gets painted over with watercolor and then washed off with sprinklers. For someone who allegedly loves the painting, Crown doesn't mind pushing it to its limits.
  • And speaking of the sprinklers, does an art museum actually have sprinklers that could go off over the artwork? At least there's a mechanism to cover the paintings, but the sculptures still get hit.
  • "So if some Houdini wants to snatch a couple swirls of paint that are really only important to some silly rich people, I don't really give a damn." ~McCann
  • Funny how Catherine leaves the priceless painting with the random lady working at the airline ticket counter and tells her to give it to the police.

Final Analysis:
A fun, rewatchable, clever, well-paced movie. It's a goofy premise (a businessman gives up everything to steal a painting for fun, keeps it for one day, then gives it back and is forced to live his life on the run), but who cares, it's a movie. Crown is a likable thief, Brosnan and Russo are amazing, and Denis Leary is good as the down-on-his-luck detective. I'm still trying to get a handle on my tiers -- for now I'm putting this at the top of the third tier.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Movie Project: Midnight Run


Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Jack Walsh is a bounty hunter hired to bring in Jonathan "the Duke" Mardukas, an accountant who ripped off a mobster and gave the money to charity. Walsh catches the Duke in New York, and they begin a cross-country journey where they are chased by the FBI, the mob, and a rival bounty hunter. Despite their perilous situation and different personalities, they develop a semblance of respect and friendship.

Memorable Quote:
Jack, you're a grown man. You have control over your own words.  ~The Duke
You're goddamn right I do, so here come two words for you: Shut the #$@% up.  ~Jack

Highlight:
The entire movie is one big highlight, but if I have to pick something, I'll go with the dialogue. I'm generally hard to please when it comes to comedies, but this movie is as funny as it gets. It's also one movie that you don't want to watch on cable. Why? Because there's 100,000 (approximately) f-bombs, the totality of which can't be properly enjoyed when they're bleeped out. If you're gonna watch this movie, you gotta watch the real #$@% thing.

Lowlight:
A minor point, but the scene in the diner where Walsh and the Duke take the manager's "counterfeit" money is too over the top. I know there are some dumb people out there, but no one would possibly be dumb enough to give their money away like that.

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
Paramount Pictures originally owned the rights to the film, and they wanted a big name star to appear opposite Robert De Niro, in order to improve the film's chances at the box-office. It was suggested that the character of John "Duke" Mardukas be changed to a woman, and be played by Cher, who had had recent box-office success with The Witches of Eastwick (1987), Suspect (1987), and Moonstruck (1987). It was felt that casting Cher opposite De Niro would lend some "sexual overtones" to the relationship between the two characters. 

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Tons of familiar faces in this one including Alonzo Mosely (Live and Let Die), Marvin Dorfler (Beverly Hills Cop), Eddie (The Fugitive), and Jerry (just saw him in The Sting).
  • I love how they call Mardukas "The Duke" -- good call by the script writer to give him a nickname that translates to an object that evokes royalty and that others can possess (e.g. "Do you have the Duke?").
  • Awesome looking plane, and it even has a spiral staircase! Too bad the Duke is afraid to fly...
  • 24:50 mark -- the stewardess tries to stop herself from laughing (looks unscripted) when the pilot tells Jack that he can't bring a prisoner on board.
  • "You and the other dummy better start getting more personally involved with your work, or I'm gonna stab you through the heart with a #$@% pencil." ~Jimmy Serrano.
  • Speaking of Serrano, Dennis Farina doesn't get a ton of screen time, but he's #$@% incredible in this movie.
  • Interesting how no one on the train bats an eye when the Duke walks down the aisle in handcuffs.
  • I've never seen so much smoking in a movie before. There's smoking in planes, on trains, in airports, etc. -- it was a different time back in the 80s. And I've always been curious about the effects on non-smoking actors who need to smoke for a role, like if it's enough to make them addicted.
  • "Don't say a word to me, Sidney. Don't say a #$@% word to me. I'll get up and I'll bury this telephone in your head."  ~Serrano. So many great quotes in this movie -- I'm barely scratching the #$@% surface.
  • It makes for a great movie and so I'm not complaining, but it would have been hard for everyone (e.g. the mob, Marvin, the FBI) to get to Jack so quickly in these random places (e.g. they hear he's in Amarillo and suddenly they're there too).
  • Can't Jack just use an ATM instead of asking his wife or Eddie for money? Dorfler did cancel his credit card so maybe that had something to do with it?
  • "You guys are the dumbest bounty hunters I've ever seen! You couldn't even deliver a bottle of milk!" ~The Duke
  • Walsh and the Duke seem like the archetype for the McGarrett and Danno bromance on Hawaii Five-O. 
  • 1:28:46 - no way that the cop would tell Marvin where Mosely was going.
  • "Sidney, sit down, relax. Have a sandwich, drink a glass of milk, do some #$@% thing." ~Serrano
  • Great way to end the movie:
    • "You wouldn't have change of a thousand, would ya?" ~Jack
    • "What are ya, a comedian? Get out of here, you bum!" ~Cab driver
    • "Looks like I'm walking."  ~Jack

Final Analysis:
A tour de force, and one of the best comedies ever. De Niro and Grodin give incredible performances, as does everyone else in the film. The travel and chase elements are great, and it's fun how there are so many characters with their own agenda pitted against each other. All in all, it's an extremely rewatchable movie and an easy entry into my tier 2. And if you don't agree, then I got two words for you.