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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull(2008)
Indiana Jones' newest adventure begins in the desert Southwest in 1957 — the height of the Cold War. Indy and his sidekick Mac have barely escaped a close scrape with nefarious Soviet agents on a remote airfield. Now, Professor Jones has returned home to Marshall College — only to find things have gone from bad to worse. His close friend and dean of the college explains that Indy's recent activities have made him the object of suspicion, and that the government has put pressure on the university to fire him. On his way out of town, Indiana meets rebellious young Mutt, who carries both a grudge and a proposition for the adventurous archaeologist: If he'll help Mutt on a mission with deeply personal stakes, Indy could very well make one of the most spectacular archaeological finds in history — the Crystal Skull of Akator, a legendary object of fascination, superstition and fear.
For more about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and the Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Blu-ray release, see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on September 30, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, Shia LaBeouf
Director: Steven Spielberg
» See full cast & crew
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Blu-ray Review
The latest adventure of famed archeologist "Indiana" Jones can now be unearthed on Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, September 30, 2008
You seem to have reached the age where life stops giving us things and starts taking them away.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull marks the fourth installment into one of Hollywood's most prized series of films. Met with skepticism prior to its release and somewhat mixed reviews thereafter, Crystal Skull nevertheless proved a worldwide hit with audiences who yearned to see the famed archeology professor, Doctor Henry "Indiana" Jones, Jr., back in action some 19 years after he last battled Nazis and unearthed the Holy Grail, the cup from which Jesus drank during the Last Supper. Certainly, the skepticism was not unfounded. With star Harrison Ford in his mid-60s and director Steven Spielberg having shown the character riding off into the sunset at the end of The Last Crusade, both the ability of its star to adequately reprise the role and the need for a fourth film in general proved to be legitimate concerns. Certainly, nobody expected greatness from the film or that it would better the previous entries into the series, particularly the first and third films. Raiders of the Lost Ark is a seminal film in Hollywood history, perhaps the quintessential Adventure movie of all time that set the standard for the series and spawned plenty of imitations (the make-believe character "Alex Rover" as seen in the film Nim's Island being a recent example). In the years to follow, the lesser Temple of Doom and the highly entertaining and regarded The Last Crusade offered viewers two additional adventures that retained the spirit of the first film but added a bit more humor to the mix. Indeed, Crystal Skull has quite a bit to live up to, and for the most part, the film succeeds in placing itself well into the mythos of the series. It's certainly not up to par with the first and third films, but despite a story that isn't quite as dynamic, well-scripted, and intriguing as those found in the first three films, Crystal Skull holds its own and, at days end, is a worthy entry into the series. Years from now, it will likely be held in the same regard as The Temple of Doom, a fine, entertaining film that serves as more of an extension to the series rather than the foundation created by the first and third films.
Pulled from the trunk of a car in 1959 Nevada, Professor Henry "Indiana" Jones, Jr. (Harrison Ford, Blade Runner) is forced to help a squad of Soviet troops, led by the villainous Dr. Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett, The Aviator), find a crate deep inside the U.S. Government's warehouse of curios, antiquities, and artifacts that remain unbeknownst to the pubic inside a massive hangar at Area 51. Dr. Jones locates the crate containing the corpse of an alien life form, and barely escapes death after learning that his longtime colleague, George 'Mac' McHale (Ray Winstone, The Proposition) is working for the Communists. Under suspicion of traitorous activity from the FBI, Jones is forced to accept an indefinite leave of absence from his professorship. When he meets a young "greaser" by the name of Mutt (Shia LaBeouf, Transformers) who offers Indiana evidence as to the whereabouts of a mysterious Crystal Skull, detailed in a letter from Jones' former colleague Professor Harold 'Ox' Oxley (John Hurt, Hellboy), the pair travel to Peru in search of the mysterious artifact, but with Spalko and the Soviets hot on their trail.
The reason why Crystal Skull works well enough is because it remains true to the spirit of the series. Despite the two-decade gap between The Last Crusade and Crystal Skull, as well as Indiana Jones' unavoidable maturing during that time, both the film and the character fit like an old, comfortable leather jacket, because both the film and the character slip right into familiar territory. The movie never misses a beat in its reproduction of the style of the previous films, including Indy's trademark mannerisms, John Williams' familiar refrains, and various sound effects. Harrison Ford plays Indy like the famed whip, fedora, and leather jacket were never further from his mind than the daily wear coat rack beside his front door. The Indy films have always been about the allure of the lifestyle, the adventure, the daring, the harrowing situations, and the charisma of its characters. As such, the films are more fantasy- than reality-based. They deal in the incredible, the mythological, the spiritual, and the supernatural, and none of them are meant to be taken all that seriously. They are escapist entertainment, and while some films in the series definitely work better than others, the themes remain constant. They are about steadfastness and courage in the face of evil ("I'm not leaving here without the stones"), standing up for your beliefs ("That [cross] belongs in a museum!"), and looking for answers both externally and within your soul ("Don't look at it. Shut your eyes, Marion. Don't look at it, no matter what happens"). Crystal Skull continues the legacy by incorporating all of the trademark themes and styles of the previous films while crafting a new adventure that both stylistically and emotionally captures the feel of the first three films all the while creating a separate identity for itself, introducing new characters, and returning some old favorites. The passage of time is handled gracefully and, perhaps more importantly, the object of interest and the enemies at the center of the adventure fit in perfectly with the time period presented in the film and real-world lore, one of the major keys to the success of the first three films.
The film is not perfect, however, but its strengths as described above outweigh the negatives presented throughout the film. Cate Blanchett's Dr. Spalko is easily the weakest villain in the series. Poorly developed, far from menacing, and completely uninteresting, the character serves as nothing more than a springboard from which the movie dives into its primary plot line. It's generally accepted by longtime fans of the first three films that the presence of ruthless, despicable Nazis in the first and third films served as the ultimate antagonists. Nothing against Mola Ram, but Nazi sympathizers Belloq and Walter Donavan, along with other Nazi villains -- Toht, Elsa Schneider, and even the Führer himself (in the best scene the series has to offer) make for excellent antagonists in the series. In the late 1950s, the Nazi party, as Jones knew it, was dead and gone. The filmmakers valiantly attempted to make the menacing Russian Bear -- the Red Soviets -- the film's primary villains. A fine idea in principal, and a logical step forward to be sure, but the lead villain simply leaves much to be desired, especially when compared to her antagonist counterparts from previous films. The special effects seen throughout are also questionable, particularly during the film's jungle action sequence. As stated by the filmmakers, however, the goal was to create a film that is a modern take on 1950s B movies. Through the plot line and in part through the special effects, they succeed in creating a throwback feel to much of the film, though with the aid modern techniques. Nevertheless, considering the scope of the effects -- particularly the jungle sequence -- viewers should not be overly disappointed.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Blu-ray, Video Quality
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull marks the first of Steven Spielberg's Indiana films to arrive on Blu-ray high definition, and the series' debut on the high definition format is a visual sensation. Featuring standout color reproduction, fine attention to detail, and depth, the film never offers a dull visual moment. From the bright courtyards of Marshall College to the dark, cavernous chambers the adventurers find themselves in later in the film, the image never falters in reproducing excellent results for every frame. The film often features a yellow-gold color palette; overhead lighting often places above character's heads and objects a distinctive sheen. Likewise, many sets feature a strong yellow or golden color scheme. Indiana's home features golden curtains and similarly-colored walls that offer a warm, inviting feel, and the effect is emphasized by light pouring in through the windows. The tables at Arnie's Diner are of a similar color, and much of what we see in the desert nuclear test facility's 1950s neighborhood mockup also sports a similar look and feel. Flesh tones sometimes take a turn toward this shade as well, and they range from normal to golden to red, though the effect seems more a result of lighting and makeup rather than being any fault of the transfer; Cate Blanchett's character, Dr. Spalko, almost always appears ghostly white, while Ray Winstone's character, Mac, generally appears beat red. As noted above, detail and depth are tremendous. This transfer offers quite a bit of pop, and viewers will appreciate the strong clarity and definition. The hazy interior of the Area 51 warehouse holds up very well, and adds to the wonderful depth of the image that is noted throughout, again ranging from the brightest exteriors to the most dimly lit, nighttime and interior sets. Indy's home features striking detail across the image; the trinkets and treasures and 1950s design are sharp and lush, and the scene is a treasure trove of fine detail for viewers to absorb. Detail is strong across the board; close-ups of actors, particularly of Harrison Ford, reveal every age line, gray facial hair, and the famous chin scar. Inanimate objects, such as a piece of paper revealing clues about the whereabouts of the Crystal Skull, or the walls inside Ox's former asylum room inside a Peruvian church, offer eye-catching imagery. Black levels are excellent with no apparent crushing. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull offers viewers wonderful imagery that revels in the fine attention to detail the filmmakers incorporated into the picture, and it comes to remarkably vivid life on this Blu-ray disc.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull adventures onto Blu-ray with an exciting Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. This mix is neither needlessly over-the-top nor pitiful; it never features unnecessarily powerful, foundation-shaking bass or overly loud effects at reference volume. It finds a happy medium, one that lets the music and effects loose when necessary through a balanced, focused soundtrack. Action sequences are immersive but not monumentally loud, complete but not overdone. The track always seems to be at just the right volume with nothing going overboard for the sake of pumping out extraneous sounds. Bass is here in abundance, but it is always tight and precise; a waterfall sequence in chapter 13 is as good as it gets. The bass is strong and realistic, but not superfluous or pumped up for greater effect. Small details, such as the rumbling of a motorcycle's engine, or the cries of a warning klaxon that signal the immanent explosion of a nuclear weapon, are never overbearing but play perfectly with the soundtrack. The subsequent blast itself is impressive, with powerful and clean lows and nice imagining, as the ultimate in manmade destructive power tosses objects to and fro. Likewise, the film's first action sequence in the Area 51 warehouse where discrete effects are found aplenty and gunfire is heard coming from all around the soundstage is as exciting sonically as it is visually. The film's other action sequences, the climax included, simply excel. The track often creates a fine atmosphere of subtle environmental nuances, much like what we hear in chapter 6 as Indy and Mutt begin their search for the Crystal Skull in Peru. A subtle breeze blows around the soundstage, leaves rustle about, and music melds into the back. The effects are what we expect from good surround use: atmospherics, subtleties, and the like, create a seamless environment. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of a diner scene earlier in the film featuring the first conversation between Mutt and Indy. The sound design doesn't create such a robust, realistic atmosphere. Background ambience is dim at best, and the sound doesn't match the bustling visuals we see in the background. Nevertheless, listeners will often find themselves enthralled at the precision of the soundtrack. Dialogue is undoubtedly strong and robust, clean and precise with nary a hiccup as it flows through the center channel. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull's lossless soundtrack ranks as one of the finest available on Blu-ray, and if for nothing else, hearing John Williams' always entertaining score in full lossless glory is reason enough to add this disc to your Blu-ray collection.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull whips up a plethora of bonus features spread over two discs. Disc one, sans a commentary track, begins with Indiana Jones Timelines. Here, users may view Production, History, and Story timelines. Scrolling to a spot on the timeline, viewers will note a picture and a caption, and selecting "enter" on any place in the timeline will bring up additional information for that block. Viewers will also note that interconnected blocks from various timelines will be connected with the famous Indy red traveling line. The Return of a Legend (1080i, 17:34) is a nice piece that begins with Steven Spielberg discussing the fans' and Harrison Ford's desire to make a fourth Indy film, and George Lucas' further pushing the famed director to make a fourth installment. The discussions range from Ford's age, the alien plot of the film that recalls the classic B movies of the 1950s, the challenges of the scriptwriting, the importance of incorporating real legends and history into the film, and the long search for the right title. Better than your average making-of piece, The Return of a Legend is well worth watching. Next up is Pre-Production (1080i, 11:44). This piece shows Spielberg's involvement with the storyboards and animatics, the costumes, Shia LaBeouf's preparation for the role, and more. Concluding the features on disc one are two theatrical trailers for the film (1080p, 1:52 and 1:55).
Disc two features the real meat-and-potatoes of the set. The features begin with Production Diary: Making 'Kingdom of the Crystal Skull' (1080i, 1:20:52). This six-part feature examines the process of making the film from the first day of work to the film's wrap. Shooting under the pseudonym Genre, we become privy to the toast opening the production process, shooting in Santa Fe, New Mexico with its iconic, Western-like landscape, the first day of shooting, Indy's unexpected introduction, the casting of the film's lead villain, and shooting the film's exciting nuclear explosion sequence, all in the first segment, Shooting Begins: New Mexico (14:27). Back to School: New Haven, Connecticut (10:23) examines the filming of the scenes at Yale, the themes of the scenes, the wardrobe and make-up worn by background characters, creating the motorcycle chase sequence, and more. Welcome to the Jungle: Hilo, Hawaii (6:32) takes an all-too brief look at the perils, pitfalls, and benefits of shooting various segments of the film in this beautiful location. On-Set Action (27:30) examines the soundstage shooting -- spread across four different studios. The piece begins by looking at the large action sequence that opens the film inside the warehouse, and then delves into the advancements in the safety devices employed by the actors and how various scenes were setup and shot. Viewers will also note sequences looking at Indy's home, including the similarities and differences between the set now and as seen in previous films. As the piece moves along, it examines Mutt's look, the filming of the diner fight scene, some of the later action sequences, Harrison Ford's improvisations, shooting the Russian military camp sequence, and plenty more. Exploring Akator (14:34) focuses on this location that plays a pivotal role in the film's climax. Finally, Wrapping Up! (7:26) examines the shooting of the film's final scenes.
Moving along, Warrior Makeup (1080i, 5:34) is a brief piece that looks at the difficult process of applying the detailed makeup and prosthetics to the actors. The Crystal Skulls (1080i, 10:10) offers viewers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the real-world archaeological history of these objects, the creation of the props, and their place in the film. Iconic Props examines some of the props seen in the film, ranging from swords to the Ark of the Covenant. The Effects of Indy (1080i, 22:42) is one of the better pieces in the set. Beginning with ILM's Paul Huston recounting his works on the previous Indy films, he takes us through the evolution of the special effects then and now. The feature delves into the development and execution of various effects shots throughout the film and proves to be most fascinating. Beginning with the computer work in the film's magnetic opening sequence, we see the miniatures used in the film, creating the horde of ants seen in a key sequence, and the making of the film's climax. Adventures in Post-Production (1080i, 12:44) goes into the process of editing on film (unusual by today's standards), finalizing the film's sound design and making it fit in with the audible style of the previous films, and creating the score with John Williams. Closing: Team Indy (1080i, 3:41) shows us all of the people who worked on the film through video snippets captured during the filmmaking process. Pre-Visualization Sequences is a collection of three sequences from the film -- Area 51 Escape (1080i, 3:51), Jungle Chase (1080i, 5:47), and Ants Attack (1080i, 4:29) in three-dimensional computer animated sequences. Finally, a series of five galleries consisting of conceptual art and photos from the set are included.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a fine addition to the Indy series of films. Though not the best the series has to offer, the film is admirable in its faithfulness to the rip-roaring adventure theme of the previous films, its clear depiction of good versus evil, and its ever-present humor even in the face of the most difficult of odds. Rekindling and recapturing the spirit of the first three films, star Harrison Ford and director Steven Spielberg carry the project on broad shoulders, and despite a few missteps, they manage to entertain audiences, pay homage to longtime fans of the franchise through tremendous attention to detail, and wrap up a few loose ends while unraveling some new ones that are greeted with cautious optimism from this longstanding fan of the franchise. Finally, a piece of this storied franchise is available on high definition Blu-ray, and the results are most impressive. Paramount delivers near reference quality audio and video while simultaneously packing this two-disc set full of extra material, presented in high definition to boot. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull comes highly recommended!
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Other Editions
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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - October 14th - October 14, 2008
As a franchise, Indiana Jones is one of the most successful ever brought to the silver screen, so it was of little surprise that Paramount decided to green-light another installment in the popular series. Almost 20 years after he went on his "Last Crusade", Harrison ...
• Indiana Jones Comes to Blu-ray in October (Updated) - August 12, 2008
Paramount Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull' to Blu-ray on October 14th, day-and-date with the DVD release. Video for this two-disc set will be presented as 1080p AVC accompanied by a THX-certified ...
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