Saturday, December 21, 2013

Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford To Receive Career Achievement Honor At Hollywood Film Awards
(By Scott Feinberg, Hollywood Reporter, 16 September 2013)
Harrison Ford, the star of some of the most important and popular films in Hollywood history, will receive the Hollywood Career Award at the 17th annual Hollywood Film Awards -- the first awards show of the 2013 season -- on Oct. 21 at the Beverly Hilton, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. (The Hollywood Film Awards is owned by affiliates of THR parent company Guggenheim Partners.)  Previous recipients of the Hollywood Career Achievement Award include Kirk Douglas (1997), Shelley Winters (1998), Jack Lemmon (1999), Richard Dreyfuss (2000), John Travolta (2004), Diane Keaton (2005), Robin Williams (2006), Dustin Hoffman (2008), Sylvester Stallone (2010), Glenn Close (2011) and Richard Gere (2012).

Ford, 71, has starred in numerous all-time classics including: George Lucas' American Graffiti (1973), Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and The Return of the Jedi (1983), as well as Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974) and Apocalypse Now (1979), Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982), Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), Peter Weir's Witness (1985), Mike Nichols' Working Girl (1988), Philip Noyce's Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994), Andrew Davis' The Fugitive (1993) and Wolfgang Petersen's Air Force One (1997). His films have collectively grossed more money than all but four other people ever, Tom Hanks, Eddie Murphy, Morgan Freeman and Samuel L. Jackson.
This spring, Ford earned rave reviews for his portrayal of the late Brooklyn Dodgers' owner Branch Rickey, who was instrumental in the racial-integration of Major League Baseball, in Brian Helgeland's 42, and he is now a serious contender for a best supporting actor Oscar nomination. (Ford's only previous Oscar nom came in the best actor category 28 years ago for Witness; he lost to William Hurt for Kiss of the Spider Woman.)

The Hollywood Film Awards are determined by founder and executive director Carlos de Abreu and an advisory committee. Last month, the Hollywood Film Awards and Dick Clark Productions, which also produced the Golden Globe Awards, entered into a partnership that could lead to the ceremony being televised in future years. Over the past 10 years, Hollywood Film Awards honorees went on to garner a total of 96 Oscar nominations and 34 Oscars.  De Abreu tells THR, “It is a great honor to be able to celebrate Harrison Ford’s extraordinary talent and remarkable career."

Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull- Various Reviews


Indiana Jones And The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
(By Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times, May 18, 2008 )
Indiana Jones And The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." Say it aloud. The very title causes the pulse to quicken, if you, like me, are a lover of pulp fiction. What I want is goofy action--lots of it. I want man-eating ants, swordfights between two people balanced on the backs of speeding jeeps, subterranean caverns of gold, vicious femme fatales, plunges down three waterfalls in a row, and the explanation for flying saucers. And throw in lots of monkeys.  The Indiana Jones movies were directed by Steven Spielberg and written by George Lucas and a small army of screenwriters, but they exist in a universe of their own. Hell, they created it. All you can do is compare one to the other three. And even then, what will it get you? If you eat four pounds of sausage, how do you choose which pound tasted the best? Well, the first one, of course, and then there's a steady drop-off of interest. That's why no Indy adventure can match "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981). But if "Crystal Skull" (or "Temple of Doom" from 1984 or "Last Crusade" from, 1989) had come first in the series, who knows how much fresher it might have seemed? True, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" stands alone as an action masterpiece, but after that the series is compelled to be, in the words of Indiana himself, "same old same old." Yes, but that's what I want it to be.

"Crystal Skull" even dusts off the Russians, so severely under- exploited in recent years, as the bad guys. Up against them, Indiana Jones is once again played by Harrison Ford, who is now 65 but looks a lot like he did at 55 or 46, which is how old he was when he made "Last Crusade." He has one of those Robert Mitchum faces that doesn't age, it only frowns more. He and his sidekick Mac McHale (Ray Winstone) are taken by the cool, contemptuous Soviet uber-villainess Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) to a cavernous warehouse to seek out a crate he saw there years ago. The contents of the crate are hyper- magnetic (lord, I love this stuff) and betray themselves when Indy throws a handful of gunpowder into the air. In ways too labyrinthine to describe, the crate leads Indy, Mac, Irina and the Russians far up the Amazon. Along the way they've gathered Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), Indy's girlfriend from the first film, and a young biker named Mutt Williams (Shia LeBeouf), who is always combing his ducktail haircut. They also acquire Professor Oxley (John Hurt), elderly colleague from the University of Chicago, whose function is to read all the necessary languages, know all the necessary background, and explain everything.

What happens in South America is explained by the need to create (1) sensational chase sequences, and (2) awe-inspiring spectacles. We get such sights as two dueling Jeep-like vehicles racing down parallel roads. Not many of the audience members will be as logical as I am, and wonder who went to the trouble of building parallell roads in a rain forest. Most of the major characters eventually find themselves at the wheels of both vehicles; they leap or are thrown from one to another, and the vehicles occasionally leap right over one another. And that Irina, she's something. Her Russian backups are mostly just atmosphere, useful for pointing their rifles at Indy, but she can fight shoot, fence, drive, leap and kick, and keep on all night.  All leads to the discovery of a subterranean chamber beneath an ancient Pyramid, where they find an ancient city made of gold and containing...but wait, I forgot to tell you they found a crystal skull in a crypt. Well sir, it's one of 13 crystal skulls, and the other 12 are in that chamber. When the set is complete, amazing events take place.

Prof. Oxley carries the 13th skull for most of the time, and finds it repels man-eating ants. It also represents one-thirteenth of all knowledge about everything, leading Irina to utter the orgasmic words, "I know!" In appearance, the skull is a cross between the aliens of the Special Edition of Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and the hood ornaments of 1950s Pontiacs.  What is the function of the chamber? "It's a portal--to another dimension!" Oxley says. Indy is sensible: "I don't think we wanna go that way." It is astonishing that the protagonists aren't all killed 20 or 30 times, although Irnia will beome The Women Who Knew Too Much. At his advanced age, Prof.Oxley tirelessly jumps between vehicles, survives fire and flood and falling from great heights, and would win on "American Gladiator." Relationships between certain other characters are of interest, since (a) the odds against them finding themselves together are astronomical, and (b) the odds against them not finding themselves together in this film are incalculable.  Now what else can I tell you, apart from mentioning the blinking red digital countdown, and the moving red line tracing a journey on a map? I can say that if you liked the other Indiana Jones movies, you will like this one, and that if you did not, there is no talking to you. And I can also say that a critic trying to place it into a heirarchy with the others would probably keep a straight face while recommending the second pound of sausage.


I Admit It: I Loved "Indy"
(Posted by Roger Ebert on May 19, 2008)
At noon Sunday, I attended a press screening of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." I returned to my laptop, wrote my review and sent it off, convinced I would be in a minority. I loved it, but then I'm also the guy who loved "Beowulf," and look at the grief that got me. Now Indy's early reviews are in, and I'm amazed to find myself in an enthusiastic majority. The Tomatometer stands at 78, and the more populist IMDb user rating is 9.2 out of 10. All this before the movie's official opening on Thursday.  Why did I think I would be in a minority? Because of what David Poland at Movie City News poetically described as "one idiot." As everybody knows, an exhibitor attended a closed-door screening last week, and filed a review with the Ain't It Cool News website. This single wrong-headed, anonymous review was the peg on which The New York Times based a breathless story on a negative early reaction to the film. That story inspired widespread coverage: Were Spielberg and Lucas making a mistake by showing their film at Cannes? Would it turn out to be a fiasco like showing "The Da Vinci Code" there? The Code got terrible reviews, and only managed to gross something like $480 million dollars at the box office--suggesting, if not to the Times, that even a negative reception at Cannes might not cut Indy off at the knees.

Maybe even Harrison Ford was influenced by Mr. Wrong-Headed. "It's not unusual for something that is popular to be disdained by some people," he said at the press conference following the Cannes screening, "and I fully expect it." What he got was a standing ovation in the Palais des Festivals that night. The S.O. was heralded in all the coverage, even though any Cannes veteran would tell you it meant--nothing. Every film gets a standing ovation at the black-tie evening premiere at Cannes, unless it is so bad it transcends awfulness.  There are really two premieres at Cannes: The press screening at 8:30 a.m., and the black-tie, or "official," screening in the evening. Both fill the vast, 3,500-seat Lumiere auditorium. The morning offers a tough audience: Critics, festival programmers, people who have may have seen hundreds of other movies in this room. They are free with their boos, and if a movie doesn't work for them have been known to shout at the screen on their way out.  The black-tie screening, on the other hand, includes many people who have a financial motive for wanting a film to succeed: The worldwide distributors and exhibitors, their guests, and lots of Riviera locals. Or they may have been given tickets and are thrilled to be there. ("I recognized the woman sitting next to me from my hotel," Rex Red told me one year. "It was my maid.") In some cases, they may simply think it's good manners to cheer movie stars who flew all the way to Cannes. Then too, the stars are seated in the front row of the balcony. Everybody below stands up after the movie, turns around, and sees them bathed in spotlights. The Standing O creates itself.

Nevertheless, I believe the S.O. was genuine the other night. It takes a cold heart and a weary imagination to dislike an "Indiana" film with all of its rambunctious gusto. With every ounce of its massive budget, it strains to make us laugh, surprise us, go over the top with preposterous action. "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" does those things under the leadership of Spielberg, who knows as much as any man ever has about what reaches the popular imagination. The early reviewer on the web site, on the other hand, knew as little.  Spielberg at heart will always be that kid who sneaked onto the back lot at Universal and talked himself into a job. He's the kind of man who remains in many ways a boy. He likes neat stuff. He thinks it would be fun to have Indiana and friends plunge over three waterfalls, not one. He knows that we know what back projection is, and he uses it blatantly (Indy arriving in frame as if he had jumped there, while the background rolls past a little out of focus). He knows back projection feels differently that perfect digital backgrounds -- it feels more like a movie. He likes boldly-faked editing sequences: We see the heroes in medium shot at the edge of a waterfall, we see a long shot of their boat falling to what would obviously be instant oblivion below, and then he shows the heroes surfacing together and near the shore (no rapids!) and spitting out a little water. The movie isn't a throwback to the Saturday serials of the 1930s and 1940s. It's what they would have been if they could have been.

Consider another action series, the Matrix films. They're so doggedly intense and serious. They seem to think the future of the universe really is a stake. There's a role for serious action, but not when it's hurled at us in a cascade of quick-cutting and QueasyCam shots that make dramatic development impossible. Even if the they are constructed out of wall-to-wall implausibility, the Indy films have characters who aren't frantic. Harrison Ford and Spielberg are wise: They know a pumped-up Indy would seem absurd. Indiana Jones himself is so laid back he sometimes seems to be watching the movie with us. He's happy to be aboard, just as long, of course, as he can stay in the boat/truck/airplane.


'Indiana Jones' wields enough snap to satisfy
(By Claudia Puig, USA TODAY)
It has been nearly two decades, and Indiana Jones is a bit more grizzled. But his witty banter is still decidedly intact.  In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (* * ½ out of four), he uses his wits and still-considerable brawn to fend off an atomic bomb, ruthless KGB agents, roiling rapids, flesh-eating insects and angry Peruvian natives. And he tangles again with his most hated nemesis: the snake.  Right about the time the natives get restless, however, so do we. But the excitement picks back up and, overall, it's pleasantly nostalgic to see Harrison Ford as Jones again.  Ford seems to have taken the 19 years since the third Jones in smooth stride. He remains dashing in his weathered fedora, and he can still snap a bullwhip with finesse. Still, much fun is had, particularly by Shia LaBeouf's character, with Jones' having grown a bit long in the tooth.  Teaming Ford with Transformers' LaBeouf and reuniting him with Karen Allen were inspired choices. Less so is Cate Blanchett, who's over-the-top as an evil Russian scientist with the thickest accent since Bullwinkle's Natasha.

The stunts and special effects are spectacular, as one would expect from director Steven Spielberg. A motorcycle chase across the grounds of an Ivy League college is a treat, and Jones tosses off some of his best lines.  But while it's an intentionally far-fetched saga, there are especially implausible moments — even for Indiana Jones. Characters suddenly stand still, for instance, so special effects can happen around them.  It was 1938 when we last saw archaeology professor Jones, just before World War II. Now it's 1957, the Cold War is on, the world seems on the brink of nuclear annihilation, and Communists are being hunted down.  Though previous installments focused on the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail, this time it's a crystal skull that is significant historically and cosmically. Sounds overheated, and it is. Ridiculous exchanges don't help. When LaBeouf asks if some creatures are from outer space, he is told: "Not outer space. But the space between spaces." Huh?  But even with the ponderous dialogue, it's hard not to have fun on this adventure, and it's good to see that Indy, though slightly weary, still has the goods. (Rated PG-13 for adventure violence and scary images. Running time: 2 hours, 4 minutes. Opens late Wednesday in many cities, Thursday nationwide.)


'Crystal Skull' Poised To Rocket To The Top

(By Scott Bowles, USA TODAY, 2008)

 As if it needed any help, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull could catch a break at the box office this weekend.  Thanks to weaker-than-expected debuts by Speed Racer and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Crystal Skull could be positioned to enjoy the largest Memorial Day weekend ever.  And if it does, Indy creator George Lucas will be breaking his own record: His Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith holds the title, raking in $173 million in its first five days. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is second with $170 million, followed by Spider-Man 3 with $169 million.  The summer slate could use a boost. After an imposing debut from Iron Man on May 2, ticket sales for the season have stumbled, dipping 9%, though last season began with the third installments of Spider-Man, Shrek and Pirates of the Caribbean, all of which went on to do more than $300 million.  Still, analysts expected Racer, which opened to $19 million, and Narnia, which bowed at $55 million, to fill more seats.  "People were talking about having three or four films playing to major business this weekend," says Jeff Bock of Exhibitor Relations. "Now there are two. Narnia will hold up OK, but if Indiana Jones isn't in the top five (debuts) of all time, it's going to be seen as a disappointment."

Reviews should help. While critics aren't as glowing as they were for the first three installments of the Harrison Ford franchise, almost three-fourths of the critics so far have recommended Skull, according to  "This is one of the golden franchises, like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings," Bock says. "People decided long ago they were going to see this movie."  The question, analysts say, is less whether Indy will make a grand entrance than whether he'll stick around for long.  "There's a great desire among baby boomers and young parents to bring their children to see the movie they grew up on," says Steve Mason, chief analyst for the box office site and a columnist for  "I'm not sure anything can stop it from being the biggest movie of summer," he says. "If the older kids are drawn in by (co-star) Shia LaBeouf, it will be a juggernaut."  And a precursor to another installment, says film critic and author Emanuel Levy.  "It fits right in with the trilogy," he says. "It's a bit old-fashioned, and a mixture of classic genres. But if it draws in enough new fans, there's going to be at least one more film."


The Boy Is Back In Town
(Stephen Hunter, Washington Post, May 22, 2008)
Indiana Jones, the macho, whip-flinging archaeologist with the granite fists? Well, yes, him. Or Harrison Ford, 65, still rangy, still cool in a '30s fedora, still believable snapping a lash across a chasm and riding Tarzanlike from here to there while commies blast away? Yes, that one, too. Or what about Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, director and writer-producer, who reinvented American cinema in the '70s and '80s by infusing it with a high-octane squirt of energy from such dead forms as '30s serials, swashbucklers, sci-fi and monster attacks combined with cutting-edge action and lacerating wit? Yes, they're back, too.  But the boy who's really back is our old friend, the hero.

That's the true pleasure of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." The movie celebrates this in loving, iconic shots of the man, his hat, his whip, in shadowy profile or as he soars through this or that obstacle course while John Williams's music, so full of the smell of popcorn and butter and Jujubes enameled to the ceiling of old movie palaces, instructs our respiratory systems to get with the program.  The movie, like its three predecessors, follows Jones (Ford) on a quest rooted in archaeological voodoo. Its plot is simply a series of quest contests between good Yanks and bad Russkies, first for an alien corpse in America, then for a crystal skull in Peru and finally for the site of the crystal skull, a magic city in Central America. The joinery between each segment is mostly chewing gum, baling wire and spit.  Almost on the template of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Crystal Skull" ends with an invocation of awesome power even as it connects with another '50s theme of paranoia in one of those grandiose special-effects sequences for which Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic shop is so well-known. Does it pay off? Maybe not quite, but the movie sends you out as it should, exhausted and happy, and you won't begin to think about its flaws for hours.



One of the most eagerly and long-awaited series follow-ups in screen history delivers the goods -- not those of the still first-rate original, 1981’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” but those of its uneven two successors. “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” begins with an actual big bang, then gradually slides toward a ho-hum midsection before literally taking off for an uplifting finish. Nineteen years after their last adventure, director Steven Spielberg and star Harrison Ford have no trouble getting back in the groove with a story and style very much in keeping with what has made the series so perennially popular. Few films have ever had such a high mass audience must-see factor, spelling giant May 22 openings worldwide and a rambunctious B.O. life all the way into the eventual “Indiana Jones” DVD four-pack.  As has been well chronicled, Spielberg and exec producer George Lucas went through no end of writers and story concepts before plausibly updating the action precisely the same number of years as have elapsed since “Last Crusade,” to 1957, smack dab in the middle of the Cold War. U.S. versus USSR dynamic spurs the dynamite opening action sequence, in which a convoy of Russian soldiers camouflaged in American army vehicles rolls into a remote desert nuclear testing base in search of a coveted object. Helping them in this effort will be their prisoner, Indiana Jones.

With an energy and enthusiasm bespeaking years of pent-up desire to get back to this sort of fun filmmaking, Spielberg sets the period spirit with a rock ‘n’ roll-fueled drag race and, with the characters’ entry into the legendary Hangar 51, intimations of an other-worldly presence. As the aging issue is tossed off with a joke or two, the sixtysomething hero quickly proves that the passage of time will not be an inhibiting factor all these years later, as Indy trades smart remarks with the formidable Soviet officer Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) before jumping into action the equal of any of the great setpieces the entire series has previously offered.  In Spalko, the film has a villain worthy not just of Indiana Jones but of a James Bond film, one who’s madly intelligent as well as appreciative of an opponent she views as a near-equal. With her trim gray uniform, silver rapier, Louise Brooks haircut and piercing blue eyes, Blanchett provides a major treat whenever she’s around.

The 20 nonstop opening minutes include a striking variation on the many cookie-cutter middle-class housing tracts featured in Spielberg films, this one populated exclusively by plastic figurines enacting a cliche of a ‘50s Yank lifestyle while awaiting the nuclear test to come, one Indy must quickly figure out how to survive. Even that’s not the end of the scene, which runs the length of the sort of Saturday matinee adventure serial that inspired the series in the first place.  Like the bravura opening sequence of “Saving Private Ryan,” this smashing launch sets a standard the rest of the film has some trouble living up to. When Professor Jones returns to his university, he’s informed by his dean (Jim Broadbent, replacing the late Denholm Elliott) that he’s being suspended due to FBI doubt over his loyalty. Indiana Jones suspected of commie sympathies? This after he’s already told Spalko that “I like Ike.”

Another iconic aspect of the decade rolls in with a kid named Mutt (Shia LaBeouf), a leather-jacketed biker who travels with comb and switchblade. Between a contrived fistfight and extended motorized chase around the leafy college campus, Mutt sets the grand adventure in motion by offering evidence of the possible location of the Crystal Skull of Akator, an object of great archeological and, possibly, psychic and other-dimensional fascination.  In a nostalgic air travel montage like those in previous series entries, Indy and Mutt make their way to Peru, where the action relaxes in some rather rote creepy-crawly cave shenanigans before the guys lay their hands on the crystal skull itself, an oddly shaped clear cranium that all agree is not of human origin. But it’s shortly snatched by Spalko, who believes the skull possesses psychic power that would prove decisive in mind warfare, no doubt ending the Cold War then and there.  All this gibberish is merely designed to justify the battle of wits and weapons, which continues apace as the Russians collect two further prisoners, Indy’s old cohort and crystal skull expert, the now insane Professor Oxley (John Hurt), and Mutt’s mom, none other than Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), Indy’s flame from “Raiders” and clearly the woman he was always meant to be with. Coming at pic’s midway point, it’s a welcome reunion, although written to escalate too quickly into intense bickering; a few more initial beats of mutual recognition, to permit the resonance of their relationship to seep back into the characterizations, would have give the rematch more heft.

But it’s off and running again, with a race through the jungle as the good guys and bad guys jump between vehicles, duel with fists, sabers and machine guns, are assaulted by monkeys and ravenous giant ants and, in an undoubted preview of a forthcoming theme-park ride, plummet down three imposing waterfalls. For pure action thrills, this sequence rates close to the first one, yet there’s one more to come, a mixed-bag wrap-up that transports the Indiana Jones series into a realm it’s never occupied before but is well familiar to Spielberg and Lucas.  For all the verbiage expended just to keep the story cranking forward, David Koepp’s script accomplishes the two essentials: It keeps the structure on the straight and narrow, and is true to the character of Indiana Jones himself. Thanks to this and Ford’s full-bodied performance, Indy comes through just as viewers remember him: crafty, capable, impatient, manly and red-blooded American. He looks great for his age, although it’s never pretended he’s younger than he is, and Mutt pays him the ultimate compliment when he says, “For an old man, you ain’t bad in a fight.”  Allen also looks real good and radiates the same winning smile and tomboyish enthusiasm that made her “Raiders” characterization so critical to the film’s complete success; her Marion is perhaps the greatest Hawksian female performance in anything other than a Howard Hawks film. LaBeouf eventually earns his stripes after a somewhat forced beginning, and Ray Winstone, along with fellow Brits Hurt and Broadbent, fills out the roster of newcomers as a duplicitous mercenary who switches sides with each change of fortune. 

Technically, film is every bit as accomplished as one expects from Spielberg and the series. Of the director’s key original collaborators, editor Michael Kahn and composer John Williams return in full form. Production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas provides some striking creations, particularly the ancient circular chamber that houses the climax. First three series were lensed by the great British d.p. Douglas Slocombe in bold, clean images, and while Spielberg’s now-regular cinematographer Janusz Kaminski has mostly succeeded in reproducing this look, which is very different from his usual style, he still can’t prevent himself from letting in some characteristic flared light and hazy backgrounds.

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