Keeping Up With the Joneses

Back in December of 2006, when George Lucas announced that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was going into production, I wrote, "Still, 'Hopes High, Expectations Low,' that's my motto. I hope it's great, every bit the equal of Raiders, or at the very least the equal of Last Crusade, and I'm excited about seeing it based on my hopes. But I don't expect much from it at all. If it meets my hopes, great. If it meets my expectations, too bad, but at least I'm not disappointed."

I went in with high hopes, and higher expectations than I really meant to. I was not disappointed. Is it the equal of Raiders? Certainly not, but what could be? Is it the equal of Last Crusade? Probably not. It's safe to say that it's the weakest of the Indiana Jones movies - but that doesn't mean it's a bad movie by any means. In fact, I thought it was pretty damn good. It hits all the right notes and very few wrong ones. There are great chases, narrow escapes, improbable fights, and all the stuff you want from an Indiana Jones movie.

For the most part, this movie sort of defies review. It's not like any of the previous movies had much intellectual content or emotional weight. The most heart any of them ever showed was the father/son stuff in Last Crusade. Crystal Skull tries to earn a few easy points with a few mentions of Sean Connery's character - but that's about it. Really, any review of an Indiana Jones movie has to come down to whether or not the action set-pieces work or not. And, well, they do, quite well.

Cate Blanchett makes a great villain, and is clearly having a great time playing against type and, (I don't think I'm spoiling anything here) when good triumphs and evil is punished, gets one of those fun, franchise-standard bizarre and gruesome deaths. Shia LaBoeuf is a good sidekick, and it's as much a delight to see Karen Allen's Marion Ravenwood return as I expected.

Is it dumb? Yeah, kind of. Does it occasionally make you roll your eyes and think, "Yeah, right?" Yeah, kind of. But, well, you also have to remember that our introduction to Indiana Jones involved a temple with booby traps that were triggered by Indy putting his hand into a shaft of light, and a giant, perfectly round boulder. Suspension of disbelief has always been tenuous at best where Dr. Jones is concerned. Which is just how it ought to be.

RIP Rory Root

Hi, everybody! Finals were busy as hell, internet access is spotty (at best) at home, and my Mom (Hi, Mom!) has been desperately wishing for a new post from me for two weeks so that the F-Word doesn't pop up at the top of the page every time she checks my blog.

And I just learned from Mark Evanier's site that Rory Root has died at the age of 50. Who's Rory Root? He was the owner of Comic Relief, an East Bay institution and one of the great comic book stores anywhere. I didn't actually know him, like Neil Gaiman did. I have always developed a friendly, conversational relationship with the owners and staffs of comics shops at which I was a regular customer - but I was only as regular a customer at Comic Relief as one can be when one lives a thousand miles away from it, so I can't say I even had a nodding acquaintance with Mr. Root.

Still, learning that he has died makes me sad.

The very first day I met Mle, she took me on a walking tour of Berkeley. She took me up Shattuck Avenue (this was before Comic Relief moved into their current Shattuck digs) showed me some of her old haunts on campus, and then we strolled down Telegraph, poking around in Moe's Books and Amoeba Records, laughing at all the trust-fund kids pretending to be gutter punks and asking for spare change, and then I saw a comic book store (this was, of course, the late Comics & Comix, for those familiar with the Berzerkeley), and of course I had to go in. I poked around for a while and bought a couple of things, and then we went back to Mle's apartment. Seeing me peruse my purchases, Mle's roommate asked if she had taken me to Comic Relief. "No," she said, "but next time he comes out I'll take him there."

Which she did, and it was then that I discovered what a comic book store can and should be. This was still pre-move, when they were in that tiny little shoebox of a space on University. Even so, I was astounded - it was well organized, it had an enormous, comprehensive selection not just of "floppies," but of trade collections and, ahem (if you must), "graphic novels." Staff was knowledgable and friendly, they didn't spend the whole time we were in there staring at Mle's boobs, and by god, 90-95% of the product they were selling was comics - not toys, not games, not "collectibles," but actual comics. Do I believe in love at first sight? With people, no. With comic book stores, yes.

Since then, a trip to Comic Relief has become an important part of any trip of substantial length to the Bay Area. Sometimes I don't have the dough to buy anything. Sometimes I go a little nuts and buy too much. But just going in there, browsing, discovering new titles and creators, it's worth it no matter what. It's a pilgrimage.

That's it. Never really met the guy, though I certainly saw him in the shop when I was in there. He certainly wouldn't have known me from Adam. But he created one of my favorite places in the world. So thanks for that, Rory.

Fuck You, Southwest Airlines

In all the years I've been flying, I've never had anything even remotely like this happen to me.

On the flight out, you hold the plane for half a goddamned hour to wait for one passenger to arrive from a different flight? After the number of times I've raced across an airport like an Olympic sprinter to make a connecting flight? Fuck you!

On the flight back, our suitcase comes off the carousel looking like it's been dragged behind a truck down a dirt road for twenty miles? Completely ruined and unusable. A brand-new, never-before-used piece of luggage, a wedding gift, for fuck's sake, and it gets destroyed when I check it! Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful that there even was a replacement suitcase available at the customer service office - but am I really supposed to be happy when you destroy my baggage and then replace my nice suitcase with a cheap-ass Wal-Mart piece of shit?

Ah, the modern airline industry. Where the motto is, "What are you gonna do about it?" When you fly these days, you're going to take it up the ass, and you're going to pretend to like it, too. "You get what you pay for" + "low-cost carrier" doesn't really need to equal "getting fucked," does it?

Fuck you, Southwest Airlines.

Summertime, And The Movies Are Crappy...

As promised, a brief look at the upcoming summer flick slate:

Must See:
Iron Man: Trailers make it look like probably the best superhero flick since Spidey 2, and all the elements for greatness are there.
Speed Racer: Almost certainly going to be awful...but it's so shiny! People talk about summer movies as "eye candy," but in this case I think that's actually a good term. Yet another round of CGI creatures, Michael Bay ineptitude and explosions? Not eye candy. Something that looks like no other movie I've ever seen? Quite possibly eye candy.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Well, duh.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian: The first one was good enough to keep me interested. Of course, the source material goes pretty rapidly downhill from here. I really, really hope they don't slug all the way through to The Last Battle, because, well, eeeuugh.
The Incredible Hulk: I liked Ang Lee's take on the Hulk a lot more than most people seem to have done. It was a little ponderous, though, and this looks anything but. Hopefully there's plenty of great "HULK SMASH!" action.
WALL-E: There are just no words for how gorgeous this trailer looks. If the movie is even a fraction as good as the trailer promises, we're in for a treat.
The Dark Knight: Looks to be another solid outing for the Nolan/Goyer/Bale take on Batman.

Get Smart: I always did like the original TV show, and Steve Carrell seems like a good fit for the role of Maxwell Smart. On the other hand, how many really worthwhile movies have been made from old TV sitcoms? Still, the trailer is more than just, "Remember 'Get Smart?' Well, hey, look, it's a movie now! Shoe phone! Cone of Silence! It's funny because you remember these things from before!" So that's pretty good.
Hancock: Hey, a Will Smith action-comedy coming out for the 4th of July! Imagine that! Well, at least it looks like it's probably more Men in Black than Wild Wild West.
The X-Files: I Want to Believe: Hey, one more romp with Mulder and Scully could be great, especially after the way things fizzled at the end the last time around. I understand they're aiming for more of the "non-mythology episode" feel this time around rather than lots of pointless and confusing stuff with Cigarette Smoking Man, cornfields, black oil and evil bees. Wise, that.
Tropic Thunder: I could easily go my entire life without seeing another Ben Stiller movie. But I can't help it - I think this one looks pretty funny.

Unlikely, But Maybe:

The Happening: M. Night Shyamalan has the chops to be a really good filmmaker. He's done it at least 1.75 times before. Maybe he'll get over the "Gotcha!" impulse and give us something worthwhile.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor: I'm note sure whether releasing a new effort in The Poor Man's Indiana Jones franchise at the tail end of a summer sure to focus on The Rich Man's Indiana Jones (that being, well, you know, Indiana Jones) is a great idea or not. But it might be worth checking out.

Well, Maybe If You Paid Me To:

Made of Honor: My only vague interest in this is whether they're claiming this is an original screenplay or if they've given on-screen credit to the writers of My Best Friend's Wedding.
You Don't Want to Mess With Zohan: Hey, look, there's still Adam Sandler, for some reason.
Step Brothers: Hey, look, there's still Will Ferrell, for some reason.
The Love Guru: Hey, look, there's still Mike Meyers, for some reason. How much you want to bet he stands behind a couch and pretends to be rowing a canoe, and then does a wacky Scottish accent?
Kung Fu Panda: Hey, look, another computer-animated anthropomorphic animal movie! Can't have too many of those!
Mamma Mia!: A movie based on a Broadway musical revolving around the music of ABBA. And you thought musicals couldn't get any worse than John Travolta in drag!

...and the award for Movie I Just Won't See, Even If You Pay Me $100 and Give Me Free Popcorn and My Weight in Junior Mints goes to:

Sex and the City: Couldn't be less interested. Can't imagine why anyone would be (yes, I know some people would say the same of some of my "Must-see" picks). Hated every single thing about "Sex and the City" when it was a TV show. And no matter how hard the Hollywood press and the cosmetics industry and whoever else try to convince me that she's GORGEOUS, Sarah Jessica Parker looks like a horse.

Workers of All Nations, Unite

Since Cil made a post about May Day/Beltane already, I figured I'd give a shout out to the proletariat and wish the oppressed underclasses of the world a happy International Worker's Day. In all of those nations of the world where the Communist Dream has already come true, happy International Worker's Day! In all of those nations of the world where you're still in that, um, "transitional phase" of totalitarian government that pretends you're all living in a laborer's paradise, happy International Worker's Day, and keep reaching for that rainbow! In all of those nations whose working classes have yet to revolt, the time is now!

Or something. Thanks anyway to Karl Marx and Vlad Lenin for being indirectly responsible for some important developments in the history of graphic design and cinema.

Speaking of which, May Day also means the start of the big Summer Blockbuster movie season, about which, more later today. Keep your eyes peeled, true believers.