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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - The Coppola Restoration Giftset - Blu-ray DVD / drama DVD review
INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (SPECIAL EDITION) Rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 4 stars
Featuring: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Shia LaBeouf, Ray Winstone, John Hurt
Director: Steven Spielberg Studio: Paramount
DVD release: 14 October 2008 Runtime: 122 min.
(2 discs)
Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen, Blu-ray
DVD features:1080p High Definition, Audio tracks (THX Certified English 5.1 Dolby True HD, French 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and English), Subtitles (English SDH, French, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese), Indiana Jones Timelines (Story Timeline, Production Timeline, Historical Timeline), "The Return of a Legend," Pre-production, Production Diary: Making Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Shooting Begins, Back to School, Welcome to the Jungle, On-Set Action, Exploring Akator, Wrapping Up!), Warrior Makeup (HD), The Crystal Skulls (HD), Iconic Props (HD), The Effects of Indy (HD), Adventures in Post-Production (HD), Closing: Team Indy (HD), Pre-Visualization Sequences in HD (Area 51 Escape, Jungle Chase, Ants Attack), Galleries (The Art Department, Stan Winston Studio, Production Photographs, Portraits, Behind-the-Scenes Photographs), Trailers (HD)

It's been nineteen years since Indiana Jones rode into the sunset with his companions in The Last Crusade. I always figured that was it for the bullwhip-wielding archeologist. It was a fine run of three pretty decent films. They reminded my father of the serials he enjoyed every week as a child. To me they were Harrison Ford showcases that would placate me between Star Wars films. That changed. I was hooked from the first scene. Nobody had whipped the gun out of anyone's hand in a film in my life up to that point. It sparked a small interest in archeology for me, and a larger interest in bullwhips.

Nearly twenty years later, Indiana Jones emerges from the trunk of a car at a government warehouse in Nevada, picks up his well-worn fedora, dusts it off and puts it on. Perhaps not the heroic entrance that we enjoyed in the first three films, but suitable. Also in the trunk is George McHale (Ray Winstone). Indy's captors are Russians this time. It's the 1950s, and the Cold War is on. America still has some of its innocence; the girls wear bobby socks and cruise with their fellas in cars with rumble seats. It's also the atomic age, and Indy's at gunpoint again.

Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) is the top Commie here - the other Russians tremble in her wake. Spalko demands that Indy locate a crate in a miles-long warehouse full of crates that he once saw years ago near Roswell, New Mexico. Indy manages to find the crate, which has super-magnetized contents. From the first gunshot, the film is off running. After a brawl with the Reds, Indy shoots out of the warehouse on a jet-powered cart on rails. He ends up the next morning in an idyllic neighborhood that gave me the heebie- jeebies. The colors are too bright, the lawns too green, the families too well-groomed. I won't give it away. It's too delicious.

Shortly thereafter, Indy is accused of being un-American (imagine!), and he loses his job at Marshall College. His dean, Charles Stanforth (Jim Broadbent), loses his job as well trying to defend Indy. These are trying times, and McCarthy hasn't yet been discredited. Indy meets Mutt (Shia LaBeouf), a punk kid in the vein of Brando in the The Wild One, down to the jaunty angle on his cap. Mutt introduces the MacGuffin, and the Russians come along to get in on it.

Mutt and Indy lead them in a chopper/car chase through Marshall college, its campus, its buildings, and the town. All very good action, which ultimately leads them to South America. They meet up with Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), Professor Oxley (John Hurt), and McHale. There are fights in the jungle, snakes, giant ants (and lots of them), sword fights, ancient tombs, crystal skulls and treasure - wealth beyond your wildest dreams. Walls open when stones are turned and steps emerge from the walls of a well, along with poison darts, scorpions. All the good stuff. It doesn't really matter what the mechanics are, what the plot is, what the odds are. We know Indy will come out ahead. The baddies will be vanquished, and the heroes will stride heroically into the sunset. There are a couple of great surprises in here. While some may expect them, that doesn't take the thrill from them. This is an Indiana-frickin'-Jones film, and I'm glad to see it. I hope to see another.

And see it you will. The Blu-ray edition thrills the viewer with its widescreen wonder. The picture is beautiful, and the sound fairly throws you to the ground and shakes you around by the lapels. Ben Burt's sound effects are familiar and pop appropriately. Close your eyes and you can still tell just by the punches and gunshots that this is Indy.

The first disc includes an interactive timeline, weaving Indy's life and adventures with reality and historical events. Each event in the timeline is punctuated with a picture, a piece of film (either Indy or a historical archive) or an interesting tidbit. It's a bit like surfing the Web; you'll follow a timeline for a while, then be distracted onto another timeline by something interesting. Fantastic. Disc one also has pre-production films and the "Return of a Legend" featurette, both in HD. Real geeks may remember the pre-production stuff from the Indiana Jones website.

Disc two is for those interested in the making of this exciting film. There's a production diary broken down into major film segments. A featurette on warrior makeup shows the makeup techniques that were used to bring the scarification designs of the natives to life. Another featurette reveals the process used to create the crystal skulls used in the film. Here, as in Iron Man, we see a bit of Stan Winston near the end of his life. Iconic props used for the films are discussed and discovered. You get the gist. More stuff for the hard-core movie geek to dig into, and mostly in HD.

Now if you will excuse me, I need to watch it again.

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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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