Review: Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I never believed for one minute that I would see another Indiana Jones movie in my lifetime. Ever. I was a mere kid when the so-called last installment of ‘Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade’ burst into life on the cinema screen (and I was still in Ipoh, my hometown, when I saw it). I was amazed, bewildered, astonished, basically went kid-crazy over the adventures of Dr. Jones and his equally charismatic associates through-out the trilogy. Re-runs of all the Indy movies was a common staple during my childhood cinematic diet, along with other movies like ‘Star Wars’, ‘Back to the Future’ and ‘Robocop’. Yes, ‘Robocop’. Don’t argue with me. Anyway, I grew up on these movies and no matter how cheesy these movies may be to some other viewers, I love them for what they are and I would never ever hate them for whatever reason – they are my icons, and they are still icons to me now.

So when Steven Spielberg and gang announced that they are making Indy 4, I was of course thrilled. But my euphoria of excitement soon waned as leaks after leaks of its storyline streamed out from the internet, from the initial Frank Darabont draft to the now-utilized David Koepp draft burst my elevation bubble with a big pop. Photos of the movie taken illegally soon followed from the net stream, further squeezing out whatever excitement that is still left. Then the trailer was not as spectacular or as enchanting as I had imagined (it looked and felt more like another Nicholas Cage movie called National whats-its-name).

So why were all those unnecessary leaks and bad trailers affecting me so badly? Simply because movies like ‘E.T.’, ‘Back to the Future’ & ‘Jurassic Park’ for example worked so well with audiences, and with me in particular, is because of the simple fact that no one knew anything about it, no one knew what it was when it first came out – no one knew the T-Rex in ‘Jurassic Park’ was so jaw-droppingly terrifying and realistic that when the T-Rex initiated its first stomping attack on those helpless humans, the temperature in the cinema rose by 10 degrees. And I clearly remember seeing audiences going to the washroom with such regularity, it is an obvious sign that the movie had affected them, shocked their system and had genuinely elevated them to a higher state of euphoria.

And I revere the experience of seeing these movies for themselves, and not because of the massive hype some movies generate whereby everyone starts to jump onto the hype-wagon to watch a movie just for the sake of watching it. No, classics do not come in such marketable packages. Remember ‘Jurassic Park’ had minimal footage or photos of its dinosaurs on TV before it came out (Steven Spielberg kept the dinos very secretly under wraps) and had no internet clips such as the recent ‘Cloverfield’ propaganda-like marketing push. There was no other place to find out about it but only inside the darkened hall of a movie theater, and enjoy the movie the way the Director meant it to be enjoyed. It was just me and the cinema screen, with my imagination in between….

So I guess now, living in an age where hype and publicity are all too common, those days of pure cinematic enjoyment was over. And when my time had come to see Indy 4, my expectations were never the same as before and only at the level of ‘just another summer pop-corn movie’….
…and almost 3 hours later, there was a minimal shift in my paradigm: it’s an Indiana Jones movie. And I actually liked it.

I guess the surprise-factor and the purity of the cinema-going experience that I was talking about is still evident: I was shocked to see that they got it as right as they did. And the best of all, I was shocked to see Harrison Ford showed up. The REAL Harrison Ford I mean, the Han Solo-Harrison Ford, the Rick Deckard-Harrison Ford, and of course, the Indiana Jones-Harrison Ford. The pale shadow of Harrison Ford from ‘The Devil’s Own’, ‘Six Days Seven Nights’ and ‘Hollywood Homicide’ flops was far away, and what a relief it was. Indeed, Harrison Ford may be older and showed a bit of ‘grand-pa’ vibe at certain parts of the movie, but the critical matter is that you can see that Harrison Ford CARED for his character and was INSPIRED to perform to his best. And it is evident that his show of character provided the spread of virtuoso vibe to his co-stars to do just the same, charming and charismatic performance that captivated audiences in the previous installments.

Cate Blanchett pulled it off with a character that is one of the riskiest parts to play as the mind-reading Russian communist-cum-dominatrix with a twist ala ‘The Incredibles’s bad version of Edna Mode. The overhyped Shia LeBeouf was played with much chemistry and good-bonding between him and Harrison Ford, which was a relief to watch (although I find him too tame and with too limited a role). Ray Winstone delivered a performance that simply oozes all qualities that is required to personify a character that lacks all code of ethics, and Karen Allen, ah Karen Allen, she reprised her role as Marion and brought along with all that potent chemistry and magnetism with Harrison Ford from the first movie and to see that on screen again was simply electrifying. With her blinding smile shining at just the right moments in the movie, she would have easily stolen the show if Indy really had let her…if only.

As for the main man himself, Mr. Steven Spielberg, yes he has been making ghastly movies recently that do not fit his portfolio of greatness as his recent movies such as ‘The Terminal’, ‘War of the Worlds’ and ‘Munich’ were just passable in my book. Nowadays he do not even come close to the altar of greatness he had built with movies like ‘Jaws’, ‘Schdilier’s List’ & of course the original ‘Indiana Jones’. With Indy 4, I still think he has lived past his glory days and has yet to return to his former prominence. However, I must be fair that Indy 4 was crafted with clear hints of a few masterstrokes that are hallmarks of his movies, such as the way he builds on the excitement with every action sequence, piling on the obstacles and dangers as the action sequence unfolds. With Spielberg, all the action always seems to be a cacophony of craziness and pandemonia, but they are perfectly structured and are well planned out.

But the one thing that upset me most was how mild mannered this movie is considering how dark and gory the first movie, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ was (remember the heart-tearing-from-chest scene at the end?). In Indy 4, things stay bloodless and brutality kept to a minimum, with feather-light tones reminiscent of the 3rd installment, ‘The Last Crusade’ instead of the other two darker chapters. If I have to segregate them, Indy 4 will sit very nicely just alongside ‘The Last Crusade’, but a few distances away from ‘The Temple of Doom’ but far away from ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’…

Cinematography wise, Janusz Kaminski does a fair job at keeping the distinctive look and feel of Doug Slocombe’s masterful camera work in the previous Indy movies. But a blemish to it all is the CGI. CGI exist in the Indy world only as a supporting factor, not as the central feature in the landscapes of Indiana Jones’ world. So when I saw so many CGI effects in this movie, it all felt a bit fake, unreal and unbelievable that the person on screen was indeed Indiana Jones. There was so much fake lighting, sugar-coated explosions and digital surroundings, it felt all too un-Indy-like. I’m not saying the CGI is of poor quality in this movie, no, far from it. They are the best that can be offered in the industry today, but somehow it did not fit in. It was like having Tom Cruise to play Indiana Jones. All the hallmarks of the Indy universe were shifted from their place, and now replaced (although partially, not completely) by digital wonders instead of practical marvels. Remember Indy’s perils of running while trying to climb onto a propeller plane to escape the attack by numerous baddies in the first movie? You can see and feel the danger in Indy’s eyes, but in Indy 4 it was all too surreal and all too well-staged, with CGI to the rescue. I was entertained, no doubts about it, but I rarely felt the same sense of real danger that was so evident and common-place in the previous installments. A lot of scenes were a patch-up job; another instance is when some scenes were too rough for even CGI to save, the distinctive Indy music score came into play at just the right moments to ignite moments of pure audio nostalgia, and whatever flaws were skipped and hastily moved along to the next scene. Call it strokes of directive genius or moments of plain shabbiness, it did not bode well for me and it’s a blemish that I will not easily forgive and will never forget.

All in all, I’m just glad that they did not screw it up as much as I had anticipated, which was a massive relief. Indy 4 has its issues and it will not be listed as a classic in my book, nor will it sit nicely side-by-side with true classics like ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ or ‘The Temple of Doom’. It did contain some moments of pure cinematic pleasure, fun and excitement. But for all its worth, this latest (I will never say last again. Ever. Hollywood has taught me that), Indy 4 is still a milestone in movie-dom that should be enjoyed not as a classic, but enjoyed as a celebration of everything is that fun, exiting, and over-the-top qualities that Hollywood reveres today.

Verdict: 8/10

Reviewed by: Raymond Choy

A Nice Mid-Air Greeting....

On board the flight back to Labuan, the routine hum-drum of passengers finding remaining available seats, air stewards giving their routine customary preaching on how to use the life safety jacket and crying children fill the air of what is now a common monthly practice for me, which is sitting in an 'AiriAsia' plane jetsetting across the oh-so-glamorous route of KL to Labuan.

Before taking-off, I’m already counting the mili-seconds to my (hopefully) safe landing in Labuan until a nice surprise paid me a welcoming visit to what was fast becoming a very routine and mundane air journey. As I was flipping through the on-board magazine called ‘Travel 3-Sixty’, I was greeted by a very familiar face with a mesmerizing smile and attached to it was her unmistakably distinctive black-rimmed glasses: it was Majidah Hashim, my secondary school mate and regular friend that lives near my area of residence!!! That a look!!! :

The article was about Burma, and I knew about her travels to that part of the world a few months ago (even before I went off to Labuan) and I know she is always contributing to travel magazines but it is just a very nice surprise to actually bump into one of her articles!! With nice photos (as usual) and with very informative compositions about her Burmese voyage, it was a very good read and it definitely had placed Burma into my psyche as a destination that I would visit at least some time during my living days. That said, may your contributions to world travel be more widely noticed as it was absolutely effective in fueling one’s urge to spread their wings and fly to worlds beyond one’s own.

I had a sudden thought to actually take the magazine home with me but a nice little note at the bottom right hand side of the magazine made me do otherwise:

Crap. I placed the magazine disappointedly back into my front seat pocket. Oh well, at least my disappointment was for a good cause, at least Majidah’s words and pictures can be read more widely now since this one copy is still in circulation among the flying and reading public of 'AirAsia'…Way to go Maj!!!

Second Homecoming: Part Three

Day 4 - Sunday

Thank God I was able to squeeze in this trip into my KL break. I was so looking forward to this trip coz I haven’t been to ‘Melaka’ for ages. I think it was 10 years ago since I stepped into ‘Jonker Street’. It finally happened and I had such a blast with that bunch of 7. Thank you all for organizing the trip!!! We went with 2 cars and of course, being the gentleman that I am (ahem) I drove SL's poor 'MyVi' all the way back and forth. Not only that, we drove around inside Melaka looking for yummy yummys and places to chill (it’s so cool that Melaka has so many chill-out spots!). Anyway, we went through the usual tourist route, i.e. ‘chicken ball rice’, shopping and chillin’ in ‘Jonker Street’, buying those biscuits, ‘A’Formosa’ sight-seeing, cooling down in ‘Mahkota Parade’ and had ‘Satay Celup’ for dinner. I guess I need to say a big THANK YOU to all (you know who) for organizing the trip and I had such a blast!!! Because pictures speak louder than words, here are some random pics I took out from my camera that day:

Day 5 - Monday

The day to leave KL had finally arrived and overall, I loved it. I seriously loved it. I still didn’t get to do many things (like going to ‘Maison’ for Derek’s b-day party. Sorry dude), but I had total enjoyment and relaxation way beyond my expectations. So, again, thank you all for spending time with me and thank you for all these great memories!!!

But before I boarded my car to KLIA (the flight was 6pm so there was still time for more!!!) Me and SL went to ‘Sunway Pyramid’ for lunch and I finally tried ‘Wendy’s’. With all the hype of ‘not cutting corners’ and people saying its better than McD’s (really?) I just had to see it for myself. I ordered the ½ pound beef burger and after much thinking and discussion with SL, yes I think it is better than McD. Why? Coz we are just simply bored with McD haha. A ½ pounder beef burger has 3 levels of beef goodness, and eating it with French fries and Coke, you will feel so full you will not want to any food for the entire day. My ranking among all the burger fast foods outlets are:

1.) Burger King
2.) Wendy’s
3.) McDonald’s
4.) Carl’s Junior
5.) KFC Burgers

Definitely worth a visit and money!!!

Time for my flight and left for the airport around 4:30pm (scary eh? My flight is at 6pm) and knowing that when I arrive in Labuan almost 9pm, I had to ‘tapau’ something for dinner to eat: it was ‘JCo Donuts’. All 6 pieces of them as dinner. YUMMY!! Anyway, until next time friends and family!!! Love u guys and gals loads!!! See you all in my 3rd return to KL soon!!!

Second Homecoming: Part Two


Day 3 - Friday

As it was a working day for many people, the only guy I managed to find free to accompany me today was DK. I suggested we go for some ‘dim sum’ (since I didn’t get it at ‘Reunion’) but DK just had it a few days ago so, since Labuan did not have ‘McDonald’s’ and I didn’t patron them since I left KL ages ago, both of us went to the nearby 'McD’s' at Subang SS15. I tell you I’m really starting to love those breakfast sets. I remember having them when I was still in Taylor’s College and I didn’t enjoy it as much as now. I don’t know why. The ‘Sausage McMuffin’ is just irresistible haha. And the ‘hash brownies’….MMMMMMMmmmm!!!! But I like fast food anyway so anything fast food will taste good to me ^_^.

While enjoying the food, DK and I chit-chatted about life, love and everything else in between. The conversation started off well, we were joking and talking cocke until I asked a stupid question: “What happened to V?” And then the floodgates opened. At first DK was cool about it, and eventually he told me what had happened and his eyes started to dampen. DK said they broke-off last week and he has been crying ever since. DK kept saying how things were going fine and it was impossible to think such a thing could happen and he tried to amend things but its now completely over. And that hit him damn hard. But it did happen, and I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m no love doctor but my initial advise to him that day was to take time to mourn your loss, as we all need to, and let go of the past.

“Yesterday is a memory, no matter how bitter or sweet may it be; tomorrow is a mystery but today is a gift, which is why it is called the present.”

Corny and cheesy words I know, but it does make some sense, doesn’t it?

Also take time to move on and balance your new life as a new person with your job, and also for your needs such as some personal down-time. No matter how sad or busy your life maybe DK, you must allocate some time, a few hours at least, for your own emotional and physical well-being. Take the time to exercise, socialize, soak in a tub or eat a tub of 'Haagen-Daz' with peanut butter and splash plenty of 'Hersey’s' choco toppings (yummy!!) and life will eventually move on.

Think of a break-up not as a negative, but a positive: you are now one step closer to the one you are really meant to be with….it was not V, you are now closer to the one you will truly love. Eventually.

We left a few hours later and since he was not working that day, I accompanied him to a karaoke session at Sunway Pyramid just for him to scream his emotions out until his heart was contented (OMG he can really scream. I think one of speakers broke. Don’t go to Pyramid’s 'Red Box' anymore people!!!). If I can find cheap plates for you I’ll let you smash them to the ground if it makes you feel any better haha, but sadly there were no cheap plates, the cheap ones were all plastic. I don’t think plastic has the same effect as glass plates right? Oh well, at least the sofa in the karaoke room was soft enough for your crazy jumping. And kicking. Omigod people don’t go to Pyramid's 'Red Box' anymore!!! Sofa is broken & speakers burst, you have been warned!!!

Take good care of yourself DK and when there are days of darkness, there will sure be days filled with rays of light, as light shines brightest when there is total darkness. Things can only get better…

The day was almost over by the time DK stopped screaming and jumping in the karaoke room. I sent him home and coz I didn’t want to go home yet, I drove to Cheras to meet SL for dinner. We didn’t want to go to any shopping malls, but eventually ended up at place that did provide plenty of shopping: a pasar malam. I haven’t been to a pasar malam since the dinosaurs died (and also I’ve noticed there ain’t any in Labuan. Not dinosaurs la, pasar malams) so a pasar malam was a cool idea. We went to the one in ‘Taman Muda, Ampang’ which was not the biggest I’ve been to (I think the ‘Taman Connaught’ pasar malam was the biggest I’ve been) but this place has plenty to offer:

Dinner was 2 bowls of ‘asam laksa’. One of the best ‘asam laksa’ I’ve tasted in KL!!!

One of my favorite snacks in a pasar malam: 'apam balik'!!!

Something unique in pasar malams: 'Vietnamese Popiah'!!! Coconut shreds with chinese lettuce leafs wrapped in rice paper. But that's not all...

Auntie Popiah here attractively adds a dash of sesame seeds for extra taste...

And finally Auntie Popiah folds them. Take a look at Auntie's hand of delicacy in folding them!!! With such care i'm sure it tastes alot better ^_^

Chill-out with some fresh fruit juices!! Here the fruits are up for you to choose; apple, orange and lemon juice with slight hints of lemongrass flavor all in one cup? No problem!!! They will juice them up right in front of you!!!

After 3 hours there I was literally melting, so we ran for the car and started full-blasting the air-con. Anyway, that’s the beauty of a pasar malam, you can get so many stuff you just can’t get in a shopping mall!!

Day 4 – Saturday

The ‘Iron Man’ movie was right on top of my ‘must-see’ movie list for this year and thanks to SL, I got tickets for the afternoon show with seats right smack in the middle of a THX cinema at KLCC. The movie was very good, not perfect and honestly I expected more, but it was satisfying nonetheless. It wasn’t cheesy like some recent superhero movies nowadays, the balance between fantasy and realism was just right and the director Jon F did a fantastic job, but the kudos have to go to Robert Downey, Jr for his portrayal as Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man as his personification of the uber-successful weapons industrialist was simply charming and was oozing with character. Like what Johnny Depp did with his pirate character Captain Jack Sparrow in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, Robert Downey, Jr. rammed in a home-run on this one with Iron Man. This is one movie that I certainly don’t mind watching again.

Happily satisfied with the movie, me and SL went around KLCC just window shopping and chit-chatting until dinner time. And when we finally decided to have dinner, I finally got to taste the gloriousness that is ‘DELIcious’ not in KLCC, but nearby at an uber-plush and poshy Marc Residence. How I wish I can have such an apartment one day. Sigh, I always say “when I strike lottery, I’ll buy one.” But the problem is, I never buy lottery. So I’ll never have the chance to buy a super luxurious apartment!!! Haha. Anyway, the dinner at DELIcious was, for a lack of a better word, delicious. Scrumptious. Very worth your money, even if the prices are abit expensive. Totally well worth your time. Perfect for a reunion gathering, a date with your lover or simply chilling out amid its calming and comfy interior décor, it is a great place to unwind and dine. In my humble opinion, this place is really highly recommended. Check it out:

Getting ready for the feast!!!

Chargrill Grain-fed Sirloin Steak: Meltingly scrumptious with wonderful chunks of pototo wedges, served with a dollop of cheesy gravy.

Mushroom Marcarpone Spaghetti: Twistingly delightful with abundance of mushrooms!!!

Wild Mushroom Soup: Good to the last mushroomy drop!!!

Seriously Delicious Cheeseburger: Don't doubt its title for this dish, 'coz when they say it's seriously delicious, it is seriously delicious!!!

Chocolicious Sundae: Chocolicious in every sense of the word!!! Very generous offerings of chocolate ice-cream with choco chucks imbedded in between layers and layers of strawberries. A perfect dessert in my opinion!!!

Cabernet Sauvignon Grant Wine: Happiliciously smooth, fantastic when its chilled and a perfect companion to the steak!!!

Me!!! Trying to act posh, but sadly I am not. Looking so casual. Haha ~~~

After dinner, TK wanted to join us too, but we wanted to match a football match live on a big screen so we headed off to nearby ‘Baruk Borneo Club’ for some after-dinner drinks and play catch-up with life in KL and friends. This ‘Baruk Borneo Club’ or ‘BBC’ as I like to call it may not be the most happening of clubs as it caters to a more ‘mature’ audience. But, it was not crowded and we got a sofa with giant TV screens to view the match so why the heck not? We drank, watched and chit-chatted until late and duly went home and crashed into sleep.

On the next post will be my 1-day Melaka trip and leaving KL on Day 5 & 6!!!

From the Corner - A Musical Companion

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