Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 12/5/23;
Disney/Lucasfilm;
Adventure;
Box Office $174.48 million;
$29.99 DVD, $36.99 Blu-ray, $44.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of violence and action, language and smoking.
Stars Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Antonio Banderas, John Rhys-Davies, Shaunette Renée Wilson, Thomas Kretschmann, Toby Jones, Boyd Holbrook, Olivier Richters, Ethann Isidore, Mads Mikkelsen.

If ever there were a time for a new “Indiana Jones” movie, it was the 1990s.

Building off the momentum of the first three films, they could have been solid, dependable adventure yarns at a time when Harrison Ford’s age wouldn’t have been an issue.

Instead, the post trilogy “Jones” movies took so long to get made that the adventure seemed to take a back seat to a need to make the film feel extra significant in some way, as if it were a tribute to all that came before it.

As a result, 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, coming 19 years after the previous film, felt a bit like a TV-movie reunion to an old show, rather than a vibrant relaunch of the franchise. As it were, it still took more than a decade to get a fifth installment off the ground, and by then the property had been sold to a new studio, Steven Spielberg stepped aside as director in favor of James Mangold, and a global pandemic hit, all while Ford was pushing 80.

So it’s not much of a surprise that what would eventually be called Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny would also be touted as the final “Indiana Jones” film.

While Dial of Destiny lacks some of the cornier elements that hampered Crystal Skull, it also feels a bit less connected to what an “Indiana Jones” movie should be about.

Mangold, to his credit, tries to capture some of the spirit of the 1980s films with a prologue set during World War II, using visual effects to de-age Harrison Ford into an age-appropriate Indy.

Here, the famed archeologist and old pal Basil Shaw (Toby Jones) have stumbled upon a compound where the Nazis are hoarding priceless artifacts. Among them is half of the Antikythera, an ancient mechanism created by Archimedes.

After a harrowing escape from a doomed train, the setting shifts 25 years later to 1969. It’s just after the moon landing, and Indy is now a bitter old man on the verge of retirement. He gets a visit from Basil’s daughter, Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who wants to take up the search for the other half of the Archimedes dial. Indy resists, but soon finds himself ensnared in a cat-and-mouse game between Helena, who turns out to be a thief looking to sell the dial for a profit, and a former Nazi scientist named Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) who was recruited by America to work on the space program. Voller believes the dial can be used to locate fissures in space-time that can be used to travel into the past, and he intends to change history by helping Germany win the war.

On the surface it all makes for an enjoyable adventure movie, but it doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny. And the third act takes a narrative leap that, while serving a thematic purpose for this particular story, employs a plot device that brings the franchise to a place it probably should never have gone.

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Dial of Destiny has its moments, looks great, has a fantastic musical score from John Williams, and it hits a few nostalgia buttons with cameos and callbacks to the earlier films. But it will mostly leave fans wishing the “Indiana Jones” movies had just stopped with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (George Lucas’ “Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” TV series notwithstanding).

The Dial of Destiny Blu-ray contains the same five-part making-of documentary that came with the film’s digital release months ago. The component featurettes offer a comprehensive look at the production, from location shooting to visual effects to casting, which is interesting from the perspective of the craftsmanship involved. But it also has some earnest interviews from the filmmakers who mostly spout the polished praise for each other that are hallmarks of these kinds of concurrently made extras that lack the insight of retrospect.

In the 4K Ultra HD combo pack, the documentary is available only on the Blu-ray of the film. Both the 4K disc and the Blu-ray offer the film with a score-only track so viewers can hear the John Williams music without any dialogue or sound effects. While it doesn’t quite make up for the debacle over the film’s short-handed CD soundtrack release (which now fetches hundreds of dollars on eBay), it is a nice tribute to the maestro.

‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ Posts Underwhelming $82 Million Box Office Through Extended July 4 Weekend

Walt Disney Studios/Lucasfilms’ Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, the fifth installment and Harrison Ford’s last appearance in the action-fantasy franchise that began in 1984, is projected to top $82 million in North American revenue through the extended five-day July 4 weekend. With an additional $70 million in foreign ticket sales, the movie, co-starring Phoebe-Waller Bridge, should exceed $152 million — significantly shy of its reported $295 million production budget.

The fiscal gap is notable considering the movie shortly faces top-shelf competition in the form of Paramount Pictures’ Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One starring the unstoppable Tom Cruise on July 12, and Christopher Nolan’s atomic bomb drama Oppenheimer on July 21.

Universal Pictures/DreamWorks Animation’s Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken opened the July 4 weekend to an estimated $12.8 million in revenue, about par with industry projections.

Sony Pictures Animation’s former box office champ Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse added another $11.6 million in ticket sales, to up its global haul past $607 million. Disney/Pixar Animation’s Elemental finished just behind with $11.3 million in revenue, to up its three-week theatrical tally past $191 million.

‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ Leads Golden Globes as Traditional Studios Dominate Film Categories, Streamers Take a Handful of TV Trophies

Traditional studios led the way in the film categories, while streamers and Pay-TV networks divvied up the TV categories at the 77th Annual Golden Globes ceremony Jan. 5 in a ceremony held in Los Angeles and broadcast on NBC.

The Golden Globes are presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and are seen as one of the bigger precursors to the Academy Awards.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood won three Globes, including Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy, Best Screenplay for Quentin Tarantino, and Best Supporting Actor for Brad Pitt. The film is available now on Blu-ray, DVD, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and digitally from Sony Pictures.

Best Motion Picture — Drama went to Universal Pictures’ World War I film 1917, which was recently released in theaters. The film also won Best Director for Sam Mendes.

South Korea’s Parasite won Best Motion Picture — Foreign Language. Universal Pictures will release the film digitally Jan. 14, and on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 28.

Best Motion Picture — Animated went to Fox’s Missing Link, now available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital.

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Warner’s Joker won Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Drama for Joaquin Phoenix, and Best Original Score for Hildur Guðnadóttir. The film, a dark imagining of the origin of the DC Comics Batman villain, is available now digitally, and on Blu-ray, DVD, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Jan. 7.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Drama went to Renee Zellweger for playing Judy Garland in Judy, which is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and digitally from Lionsgate.

A24’s The Farewell, on Blu-ray, DVD and digital from Lionsgate, won Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy for Awkwafina.

Taron Egerton won Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy for playing Elton John in Rocketman. The film also won Best Original Song for “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. Rocketman is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and digitally.

Netflix did find some love in one movie category, as Marriage Story won Best Supporting Actress for Laura Dern.

Netflix also won in the TV categories with the third season of “The Crown,” as Olivia Colman won Best Actress in a TV Series — Drama after taking over the role of Queen Elizabeth II from Claire Foy, who had previously won for the role in the category during the show’s first season.

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HBO programming won four awards, with “Succession” taking two, winning Best Television Series — Drama for its just concluded its second season, and Brian Cox for Best Actor in a TV Series. The miniseries Chernobyl won Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television, with Stellan Skarsgard taking the trophy for best performance by a supporting actor on television.

Amazon Prime Video’s “Fleabag” repeated its Emmy success, taking Best Television Series — Musical or Comedy, and Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy for creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

Hulu series took a couple of trophies as well, with Ramy Youssef of “Ramy” winning Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy, and Patricia Arquette of “The Act” taking the award for best supporting actress on television.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television went to Russell Crowe for Showtime’s The Loudest Voice, on DVD from Paramount and CBS.

FX’s Fosse/Verdon won Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television for Michelle Williams, following her Emmy win for the role.

Several presenters and winners took a moment to call attention to the devastating bush fires in Australia. But aside from a smattering of more pointed comments throughout the night, honorees largely avoided the kind of blatant politicizing these kinds of awards ceremonies are often criticized for. Host Ricky Gervais began the event by calling out Hollywood hypocrisy in his opening monologue.

“Apple rolled into the TV game with ‘The Morning Show,’ a superb drama about the importance of dignity and doing the right thing, made by a company that runs sweatshops in China,” Gervais said to a smattering of shocked laughter. “You say you’re woke but the companies you work for, I mean unbelievable, Apple, Amazon, Disney, if ISIS started a streaming service, you’d call your agent. Wouldn’t you?”

“So if you do win an award tonight, don’t use this as a platform to make a political speech right, you’re in no position to lecture the public about anything,” Gervais continued. “You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. So if you win, all right, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent, and your god, and f**k off, OK.”

 

‘Fleabag’ Star, Creator Inks Amazon Studios Production Deal

Fresh off its surprise six Emmy wins, episodic series “Fleabag” creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge has signed a production deal with Amazon Studios.

Waller-Bridge’s breakout hit won Outstanding Comedy Series, with the actress also picking up Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, and Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series as well.

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“As evident in her great success at the Emmy Awards this week, [Waller-Bridge] is clever, brilliant, generous and a virtuoso on multiple fronts, including writing, acting and producing,” Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, said in a statement.

Waller-Bridge is no newcomer to industry accolades. She was the writer and showrunner of the first season of BBC America’s award-winning (BAFTA, Peabody) series “Killing Eve,” starring Sandra Oh.

The show also earned Waller-Bridge — a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts — Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for writing. Oh won a Golden Globe for her performance in the series.

Notably, Waller-Bridge appeared as a droid in Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story.

She has also joined the writing team for the 25th James Bond film, No Time to Die, starring Daniel Craig and directed by Cary Fukunaga (“True Detective”).

 

Solo: A Star Wars Story

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 9/25/18;
Disney/Lucasfilm;
Sci-Fi;
Box Office $213.75 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of sci-fi action/violence.
Stars Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Joonas Suotamo, Paul Bettany, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Jon Favreau.

The idea of exploring what Han Solo was up to before he encountered Luke Skywalker in that dusty cantina at the edge of the galaxy is certainly not a new concept in the realm of “Star Wars” fiction. No fewer than six novels have been devoted to the subject. A young Han was even considered for a cameo in Revenge of the Sith before that ill-conceived idea was scrapped. Still, the idea of a live-action prequel film devoted to the character was not something most fans would have considered to be in the realm of possibility prior to Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm.

In retrospect it’s easy for some fans to say they always thought such a movie was a bad idea, that exploring the backstory of the popular rogue would take some of the shine off his mystery and charm. But really, the prospect of a Han Solo origin movie, in the right creative hands, wasn’t without a certain appeal. It’s just, ask the average “Star Wars” fan what they would want to see covered in a spinoff film, and Young Han probably wouldn’t have been at the top of their list.

But it was at the top of the list of Lawrence Kasdan, the Hollywood veteran who in his own youth wrote the screenplays for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and was pretty familiar with the character of Han (he also wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark, a playground for Harrison Ford’s other most famous character). So if anyone was the right choice to write a young Han movie, it would be him (joined by his son, Jon).

That he didn’t sign on to direct it, too, may very well have been at the nexus of what the public would come to perceive as a very troubled production.

Now, two names you won’t hear mentioned throughout any of the bonus materials on a packed Solo Blu-ray are Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the duo originally hired to direct the Kasdans’ script. They ended up leaving the project under curious circumstances very late in the production, reportedly due to their comedic sensibilities not meshing with the studios’ intended tone of the film. (They ended up with an executive producer credit on the final film.)

Arcane union rules blocked Lawrence Kasdan from taking the directing reins, leaving the studio to turn to another Lucasfilm veteran, Ron Howard (who directed 1988’s Willow), who supposedly re-shot much of the film.

The only reference made on the Blu-ray that even hints at what happened before Howard came on board is the mention of a “hiatus,” brought up during a 22-minute roundtable discussion between Howard and the cast that segues into an anecdote about “Star Wars” creator George Lucas visiting the set of the Millennium Falcon just as the new director had come on board. Lucas apparently offered some key advice on how to portray Han on screen.

As for Lord and Miller’s influences that carried over into the finished project, fans should check out some production notes posted by Jon Kasdan on his Twitter feed.

The finished movie is hardly the mess it could have been — Howard is too skilled a director to let that happen. But it’s not exactly a masterpiece, either. It’s really just a serviceable “Star Wars” movie — a slick, fun adventure that doesn’t probe much beneath the surface of Han’s backstory beyond showcasing a rundown of some of the key events we had heard about in the original trilogy.

Think of it as the “Star Wars” equivalent of the Young Indy flashback at the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, stretched to feature length. Of course, that Last Crusade sequence would go on to inspire “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” TV series. So, maybe the prequelitis in the air from the similar efforts to present younger versions of two iconic Harrison Ford characters has contributed a bit to Solo feeling more like a solid episode of a “Star Wars” anthology TV series, or even a TV movie with top-notch production values. It fits in with the saga, but it’s more like something you can watch to fill in the blanks. It does cast a few scenes from the original trilogy in a new light, so it has that going for it.

Some of the initial concern about the project stemmed from the idea of trying to find an actor to embody the young Solo without drawing too many comparisons to Ford. While Alden Ehrenreich may not have been many fans’ first choice, he’s quite capable in a role that, if given the chance, he may have very well made his own. The problem, alas, is that lackluster box office might limit his chances of playing Han in further prequel adventures. And if this does turn out to be his only chance in the cockpit, then his performance is liable to be viewed in the same vein as George Lazenby’s was in his one-and-only chance trying to replace Sean Connery as James Bond.

This Lazenby effect is the biggest stumbling block to the notion that Ehrenreich’s Han is the same character Ford played, an awkwardness that may well be alleviated if audiences ever gets the chance to get used to him from several appearances that in turn retroactively improve the perception of him in his first.

This is much less of a problem for Donald Glover as Lando, who handles the chores of personifying a young Billy Dee Williams rather effortlessly. Really, though, the whole cast came to play, and the character dynamics are really the biggest strength of the film, particularly between Han and Chewbacca once they finally meet (in a fun sequence that lets the two future partners fight each other).

The story involves Han trying to escape his Dickensian upbringing as an orphan in a street gang, vowing to return to find his lost love, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). After joining the Imperial military to learn how to fly, he ends up deserting his post to take up with a crew of thieves looking to steal high-grade spaceship fuel for one of the galaxy’s roughest criminal syndicates. When it turns out Qi’ra is a top advisor to the syndicate boss, Han is given a crash course on the intricacies on life in the underworld.

Viewed within the larger context of the saga, this is really the first film to focus on the criminal underpinnings of the “Star Wars” galaxy hinted at in the other films. Thematically, then, the film is of a kind with the franchise’s other prequels, each tied to the role the original trilogy’s three main heroes — Luke, Leia and Han — represented to the story of how the Rebellion defeated the Empire. The Jedi backstory, which Luke came to embody, was explored in Episodes I, II and III. The military and political aspects of the Rebellion symbolized by Leia were fleshed out in Rogue One. And with Solo we get the flavor of the underworld and the shadier dealings of the scoundrels who might not necessarily care who’s in charge.

In addition, composer John Powell’s score imbues the film with a sense of whimsy, meshing fresh material with recognizable cues from the previous films, anchored by a new Han Solo theme composed by the maestro himself, John Williams.

The film takes a few steps to place itself within the larger shared “Star Wars” universe, with references and connections to other movies and TV shows that hardcore fans will notice and are clearly meant to set up larger storylines to pay off in other films that may or may not be direct sequels. Regrettably, the film’s underwhelming box office results caused Disney to pump the brakes on the rapidity of production of future “Star Wars” spinoff films, which would be a real shame if it meant they never made the only potential spinoff the fans actually seem to want, which would be an Obi-Wan movie with Ewan McGregor back in the role).

In addition to the roundtable discussion, the Blu-ray also includes about 70 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes detailing various subjects such as the writing process, the visual effects, executing key action sequences, and re-creating and re-imagining elements familiar to audiences from the original trilogy.

There are also 15 minutes of deleted scenes, including some interesting looks at Han at the Imperial Academy and an extended version of the fight between Han and Chewie.