On Friday night, some friends and I went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. We had free movie passes from the last time we went to see a movie together (Iron Man – the projector broke… twice… everyone in the theatre received two free movie passes) and this seemed like a perfect way to use one of them – on a solid eye-candy summer flick.

It did not disappoint in that regard.

It was the usual Indiana Jones treatment but:

WWII : Nazis :: Cold War : Russians

Hat : Indy :: Hair : Mutt

There are other analogies I could strike, but then I’d be revealing the plot. The plot that was a little ridiculous even for an Indiana Jones movie. Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, but I did find myself muttering, “WTF???” on several occasions and laughing out loud during moments of suspense because they were just so over-the-top. Suspension of disbelief, yes… but Shia LaBeouf (Mutt – Indy’s greaser son) suddenly going all Tarzan, inspired by some cute little monkey and swinging (his CGI self) across acres of rainforest in about two minutes? Or pulling some storyline and special effects from “The X Files” movie? And just how many dead languages does one need to pull into a movie to make up for 15 years of Indiana Jones-lessness? Answer: a lot. Pictograms, too.

It was a leeettle heavy-handed at times, e.g. “Knowledge was their great treasure!”

Overall, though, enjoyable. I’d see it again. Especially since I didn’t have to pay for it this time. Also, it’s a solid two hours, which does seem pretty long in this day and age, but it’s well-paced (maybe even a little too fast) and this viewer did not find herself checking the time.

I never wrote about Iron Man, which I liked very much. Robert Downey, Jr., is terrific and deserves a lot more credit for his acting chops than I think he’s gotten overall. I know he’s had some critical acclaim, but it hasn’t turned into a nomination or anything bigger – and Iron Man certainly won’t be that movie for him, either. But it should throw him in the way of other roles that will. And I get that that might not be his goal, but come on… it’s the trajectory. If he wasn’t hoping for some commercial and professional success, he could’ve stuck with roles like Fur (excellent, excellent film, by the way), where he played a man with hypertrichosis.

He and Christian Bale are following a similar path at the moment – both doing their big action hero roles for summer 2008, while toiling away on toothy “Actors'” roles elsewhere. Well done, gentlemen.

I’m looking forward to seeing The Dark Knight when that comes out. There was a longer trailer prior to Indiana Jones; it gave me goosebumps, and that was even before Heath Ledger was on the screen. I don’t have the whole, “Oh, poor dead Heath” thing… but between the music, the overall darkness of tone, Christian Bale’s voice, Ledger’s voice and the 10 or 15 seconds of the trailer where Ledger actually appears, I got some chills. Ledger as the Joker conveys something really unsettling and unstable; it’s going to make him scary as hell in that role.

Maggie Gyllenhaal looks about as useful as Katie Holmes was* in Batman: Beyond, so that’s too bad because she’s a good egg.

There were some other good previews before Indiana Jones – including one for Hancock, the upcoming Will Smith super-hero action/comedy. I’m torn. The concept is a little hokey, but I begrudgingly admit that Will Smith is charming and funny and wins me over in spite of myself, even if I don’t like the movie he’s in.

And the preview for Hellboy 2: The Golden Army sucked me right the f— in, even though my friends were totally disinterested. That’s OK. I’ll geek out to it solo. Guillermo del Toro does amazing things with fantasy worlds – he and his partners in crime have visions of monstrous beauty. Literally and figuratively. I’ve now seen some of the Spanish-language horror films he did before Pan’s Labyrinth and they’re equally frightening and lovely. He also wrote the first Hellboy (screenplay adaptation, anyway), Pan’s Labyrinth and Devil’s Backbone. He gets it, man. I’ll check it out.

And I’m done. I still haven’t even touched on books and music for this weekend’s media fix. Tomorrow.

* word around these parts was that her role could’ve been played by a squirrel

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