DVD Tuesday: ‘Indiana Jones’ & ‘Mongol’

by W. Andrew Powell

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indy gets manhandled by Russians in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indy is back for more, and this week he’s on DVD with the release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Plus, Oscar-nominee Mongol arrives, the much-discussed comedy, Young People Fucking, plus The Matrix Ultimate Collection on Blu-ray, War, Inc., the Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything, and get ready for it, Holiday Inn.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
After captivating audiences for close to 30 years, fighting the Nazis twice, overcoming the Knights Templar, and a crazy religious group, Indiana Jones is back for at least one more shot at finding another incredible, lost treasure.

After so many years away, and the unmistakable fact that Harrison Ford is not getting any younger, it was perhaps questionable for at least some of us if director Steven Spielberg and producer George Lucas could still give Indy a worthwhile adventure. And while the result is certainly mixed, there is a lot of fun to be had in the latest adventure.

This time out, Indy is hunting for a lost relic known as the Crystal Skull, and once again it’s because a group of evil conspirators have their dreams set on destroying humanity. With Cate Blanchett as the villain, Irina Spalko, Indy will travel to distant parts of the world to discover the secret of these skulls, which are said to give the bearer control of the earth.

Filling out the cast this time around is Shia LaBeouf as Mutt Williams, Karen Allen returns as the irrepressible Marion Ravenwood, and Ray Winstone plays the role of ‘Mac’ George McHale.

The good news for all of the fans, including a whole new generation who have just discovered the films on DVD, is that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull does have nicely satisfying levels of wit, charm, and action. The story fits fairly well within the arc the mythology we have come to love, and makes good use of the supporting cast without pushing Indiana aside.

But Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is not a perfect outing for our Indy. The chemistry is mostly right, but by the end of the story, which I won’t give away, there is something very forced about the whole concept. This is also the first time that I would say the story feels more than moderately ridiculous, rather than just incredible.

Russian filmmaker Sergei Bodrov brings one of the greatest figures of history to life in Mongol, the epic story covering the early life of Genghis Khan.

Based on historic and scholarly research on the conqueror, Mongol was shot on-location, and tells a resonating story that delves deeper than just the battles. The film starts in the leader’s youth, when he was known as Temudgin, and follows his rise to strength, and the eventual battle that would change his life. In addition, the film is a love story, about the woman that would ultimately also shape Temudgin’s destiny.

For anyone familiar with Hollywood’s version of this type of epic story, Mongol is a dramatically different type of film that is incredibly poignant. Aside from the fantastic acting, which sells this story, Mongol captures an era of Mongolian life and sears it onto your brain. Temudgin as boy and later as an adult, is perfectly realized in a story that neither paints him as the hero or the villain. And I think the most surprising aspect, that actually sells the film the most, is the love story.

The DVD unfortunately doesn’t include any features, but the film stands admirably on its own.

Young People Fucking
First things first – please get over the title. Yes, there is a very naughty word in there, but for all intents and purposes, YPF is literally just a great comedic drama that happens to have a title that was meant to grab people’s attentions.

And it works very well, but writer/director Martin Gero, and writer/actor Aaron Abrams, have crafted a very fun and clever story that goes well beyond words.

Looking at five different relationships, including one threesome, the story is about dealing with friendship, love, lust, and all the other issues that get muddled into our feelings for each other. It also happens to star some of my favorite people, like Callum Blue, Ennis Esmer, Carly Pope, the talented Mr. Abrams, and of course, the very lovely Kristin Booth.

The charm of YPF though is that all of the couples sell you a little something different, offering a mix of laughs with some real relationship turmoil.

YPF arrives this week both on DVD and Blu-ray, both of which include a hilarious commentary track by Gero and Abrams. The Blu-ray edition offers a bit more, however, with two extra features you won’t find on the DVD.

The Matrix Ultimate Collection
Arriving on Blu-ray this week, fans can pick up Warner Bros.’ impressive collection of all things Matrix.

Originally packaged as a deluxe DVD set, the collection of films arrives in all its glory on seven discs and includes The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, and The Animatrix, plus thirty-five hours of features and documentaries that look at every aspect of the films and their mythology. The extras-filled collection also comes with a digital copy of the original film to view on an iPod or in Windows Media Player, and the three main films also come with an in-movie feature that shows how the films came together.

Starring Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Hugo Weaving, it is a bit hard to believe that the first film was released nine years ago. With some of the most advanced special effects of the time, including the well-known bullet-time effect, the films left their mark on pop culture and should leave your eyes popping on Blu-ray.

War, Inc.
In this star-filled political satire set in the fictional country of Turaqistan, an American corporation has taken over and wants a high-profile minister murdered. John Cusack plays the assassin, fighting his own demons, who is sent in to do the job while trying to keep everyone happy. The film also stars Joan Cusack, Marisa Tomei, Hilary Duff, Ben Kingsley and Dan Aykroyd.

While the concept sounds sly and funny, the film has failed to gain much traction with critics.

“Like the smart weapon technology it mocks,” Reyhan Harmanci wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle, “War, Inc. aims at the right targets but misfires so severely that even the clever details get obliterated in the resulting mess.”

Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything: A Veggie Tales Movie
Children’s comedy in the form of a show that sometimes has been known to entertain adults. That wonderful gang of veggies appear in their latest movie, this time bringing to life their popular skit, the Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything. But the lazy pirates will have to save the day when a mysterious ball appears from the past, looking for heroes who can save a royal family, in the 17th century no less, from an evil tyrant.

Holiday Inn
Last of all this week, for those hoping to get in the Holiday spirit a bit early, a new special edition of Holiday Inn lands on shelves this week featuring a number of extras.

Starring Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, and Marjorie Reynolds, the original film by Irving Berlin is one of the most classic Christmas movies and the new DVD comes with both black and white and colour version of the film, features, a commentary track by a film historian with audio clips from the stars, and a CD with original music.

Television on DVD this week…

This week, comedy fans can pick up the entire collection of That 70s Show, which arrives in a special ‘Stash Box’. Also out this week, pick up season eight of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the third season of The Unit, and season one of Nash Bridges.

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