Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Young Indiana Jones -- Episode 11: Oganga, the Giver and Taker of Life

To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Indiana Jones is sent on a death-defying expedition across the Congo to bring back a marooned shipment of high-powered guns. Along the way, he leads a mutiny against his superior officer after the officer orders the men to abandon a sick child they find along the way. Then, Indy meets a German physician who encourages him to think for himself and have a reverence for life. 

Memorable Quote:
Tonight I received a stunning lesson in political science from the most unlikely of sources. If my sergeant is right, if this is nothing more than a white man's war for possession of black man's soil, then I have to ask myself just what it is I'm doing here.  ~Indiana Jones

Up until the final third, I was fully prepared to say the scene where Indy leads his men in mutiny and turns his gun on the major. It's a really well done scene, and Flanery is fantastic here. But you know I'm a sucker for great music, and I just can't put anything above the scene where Indy is watching the doctor heal the villagers while Bach's Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring flows from an oboe while backed by a full orchestra. At first I wondered why they chose that song (not a complaint, just seemed random), but then I read about how the doctor this is based on, Albert Schweitzer, was a Bach aficionado.

The opening battle was surprisingly violent and went on for quite a while. I put this episode on the big screen while Mrs. MacGyver Project was in the room, and I ended up shutting it off and putting on something happier for her to watch before she went to bed. The violent battle does, however, contrast nicely with the humanistic message that Indy later receives from the doctor.

Brushes with historical figures:
Albert Schweitzer

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • 14:37 mark -- I'm not sure who the picture is in Indy's locket. Could be his mother, but then I'm not sure why they didn't just use a picture of the actress that played his mother. 
  • Seems like a bad idea to send a couple hundred men on a 2000 mile march through Central Africa -- why not take a boat around the horn or a plane?
  • The actor who plays the sergeant that cares for the sick boy is one of the villains in Casino Royale, which we'll get to once I start my (spoiler alert!) 007 countdown. 
  • 33:18 -- the picture on Indy's diary looks just like the one on my DVD case.
  • 59:43 - I like how Schweitzer calls Indy "Captain Dynamite, scourge of the Kaiser."
  • Great dialogue from Schweitzer when he's on the boat going to save the tribal chief, and he follows that up with several more memorable conversations with Indy. The dialogue between him and Indy is exceptionally well written, and full credit to writer Frank Darabont, who also wrote the screenplay to The Shawshank Redemption. 

Final Analysis:
Whoa! This was kind of a masterpiece. The first half alone was outstanding with the storyline of Indy struggling with the tension between his duty to obey versus protecting an innocent child and then finally rising up against his superior officer to save the boy. But the second half takes it up to an even higher level as Indy, initially suspicious of the German doctor, is transformed by Schweitzer's kindness and talk of reverence for life -- even I was feeling inspired. This is also Flanery's best performance so far -- he's crushes it. And as usual, the production value and re-imagining of the locale (in this case, Central Africa) is top notch.  Ranking this one firmly at the top of the list.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Young Indiana Jones -- Episode 10: Phantom Train of Doom

To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Indiana Jones and Remy are reporting for Belgian Army duty in East Africa, but they get lost after taking the wrong train. They find a British squad comprised of middle-aged soldiers and join their mission to destroy a German train and capture an elusive German officer. 

Memorable Quote:
Well, we should be safe enough down here, I reckon.  ~Birdy
What are you talking about? The whole mountain's about to blow up!  ~Indy

The entire train sequence, while preposterous, is clever, entertaining, and well filmed.

I thought the Germans were overly incompetent in the train sequence (e.g. terrible shots, failure to jump on the train), but that was nothing compared to the hot-air balloon scene when they surrounded Indy's balloon with 200 guys but still couldn't bring it down. We haven't seen this big a failure to bring down a hot air balloon since you know what.

Brushes with historical figures:
Colonel Paul Von Lettow-Vorbeck: a German commander in East Africa 
Margaret Trappe: a pilot who helped the German army
Frederick Selous: a British big-game hunter 

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • I noticed in the opening credits that Paul Freeman, who plays Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark, was in this episode. I hadn't remembered that he was in an earlier episode as the same character until Indy brings it up. 
  • Everyone seems pretty calm in the trench by the sea even though things are exploding all around. 
  • Not sure if this is intentional on the part of the writers, but Indy extolling the virtues of having a plan is a nice contrast to Raiders where he talks about making things up as he goes along.
  • Mr. Golo's only speaking line is "Hakuna Matata," one year before The Lion King.
  • For being such a legendary military commander, Col. Von Lettow doesn't seem all that bright, and he doesn't try that hard to escape even with ample opportunities. He also sounds British, not German. 

Final Analysis:
Cool idea to have an old guy unit and an enemy train that hides in the mountain, and as always, the location work was great and really felt like Africa. The train action sequence was outstanding, and at that point I was thinking this might be my number one episode, but the last third with Col. Von Lettow fell flat. Ranking this one 3rd out of 10.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Young Indiana Jones -- Episode 9: Demons of Deception

To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Indiana Jones is a courier running messages from the French command center to the front lines. He gets some leave time and visits Paris, where he hooks up with exotic dancer and rumored spy Mata Hari. 

Memorable Quote:
Corporal? One other thing. Germans don't take spies alive.  ~Lt. Gaston

Great scene where Indy is spying right outside the German trench, even if it's hard to believe that he would allow himself to fall asleep.

I was surprised to see Indy get into bed the first time with Mata Hari (just didn't think the show was going to go there), but I get it. But by the fourth time, it was getting to be a bit excessive.

Brushes with historical figures:
Philippe P├ętain
Mata Hari

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • I noticed in the opening credits that the Paris part of this episode was written by Carrie Fisher. I checked IMDB and it is indeed Princess Leia Carrie Fisher, not some other Carrie Fisher. The only other episode of tv she wrote was for Roseanne. And she's not this episode's only connection to Star Wars. 
  • Not-so-fun fact: The battle of Verdun lasted 303 days,the longest known battle in human history. 
  • 2:45 mark - what's up with the two French generals? They look like twins.
  • 22:00 - the German plane shooting at Indy on the ground is reminiscent of the Last Crusade, and Indy's outfit is reminiscent of the German motorcyclists from that movie. 
  • I like how Indy destroys the flawed battle plans instead of delivering them, but it's unclear why he doesn't get in trouble for that. The next scene shows him in battle, so it's not as if the French command doesn't know where he is. 
  • We're back in Paris, where many years ago young Indy palled around with Norman Rockwell and encountered a crazed Pablo Picasso.
  • Upon arriving in Paris, Indy meets a friend of his father's who is a professor at the Sorbonne. I didn't recognize him, and it wasn't until I checked IMDB after watching the episode that I learned who the actor is: Emperor Palpatine! Whoa!   
  • The coolest thing about the Mata Hari character is not even in this episode. Back in Spring Break Adventure, Indy is in the back of a car with his cousin on his way to Mexico. They're looking at a magazine and gushing over Mata Hari. The scene, which you can see here, lasts only 10 seconds, but it's a pretty awesome job of foreshadowing. I wouldn't have even remembered this, except I was just recently rewatching part of Spring Break Adventure because I wanted to remind myself what happened with the jackal and why Indy enlisted in the Belgian army. They never do say what he did with the jackal once he got it -- is he still carrying it around with him in Europe? 

Final Analysis:
I liked the first half of the episode and thought it was comparable to and an extension of the previous episode, but the Mata Hari stuff was not my cup of tea. Ranking this 4th out of 9 (all), and 4th out of 4 (older Indy).  

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Young Indiana Jones -- Episode 8: Trenches of Hell

To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Indiana Jones's Belgian infantry company has been decimated in battle to the point where he's the temporary leader, but the French command steps in and places some officers in charge. After fighting the Germans in some trench battles, Indy is captured and sent to a POW camp. After a failed escape, he's sent to a high security castle fortress where he plots an escape with Charles de Gaulle. 

Memorable Quote:
Soldiers are citizens of death's gray land. Drawing no dividends from time's tomorrows. In the great hour of destiny they stand. Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.  ~Indy reciting the beginning of Siegfried Sassoon's poem

I like the narrative of Indy getting captured or re-captured over and over again (4 times by my count) before he finally gets away.

I don't know why Indy doesn't just say he's an American fighting in the Belgian army instead of pretending to be a Belgian, and later a Frenchman. It should be clear from the second he opens his mouth that he's an American, but no one seems to bring this up, at least until the end when de Gaulle is quite pleased with himself for discerning Indy's true nationality. Indy says, "I fooled a lot of people with my French. How did you know I was American?" No idea, Indy, he's just that good.

Brushes with historical figures:
  • Siegfried Sassoon (soldier and poet)
  • Charles de Gaulle

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • The writer of this episode also wrote my favorite action movie, Die Hard 3 (previously reviewed on this site). Sadly, there are no riddles or f-bombs in this episode. 
  • It's cool that Indy's in charge of the Belgian company, but my man could use a better haircut. 
  • Good acting by the guys playing the French Lieutenant and the psycho, scarfaced Belgian. Also worth noting that there's not a single woman to be found in this episode -- it's a total Belgian/French/German brat fest.
  • A few notes regarding the first battle:
    • It's not often that we see a World War One reenacted battle on network television. As usual with this series, the production quality is excellent. 
    • The geometry of the bunkers seems off, in that Indy works hard to get the grenades over to Scarface's bunker, only to have Scarface throw them at the German machine guns at an angle which makes it seems as if Indy could have just thrown them at the Germans himself. 
    • Not sure why they had to include the brief scene with the poor soldier losing his gas mask and asking Indy for his (to which Indy basically says, "Sorry dude"), unless they wanted to show us how deadly the gas was. 
    • Confusing lack of transition (and maybe a scene got cut) when the Germans overwhelm the Belgians and French with a ton of dudes riding horses and wielding flamethrowers, which is immediately followed up with the Belgians and French safe and relaxing in the trenches and planning their leave.
  • The Germans in the POW camp and the castle aren't as mean and scary as they could have been. 
  • Indy's periscope doesn't look like it would work unless it has mirrors that we don't get to see.
  • For such a supposedly imposing prison that's impossible to escape from, the prisoners sure have a lot of time where they're completely unsupervised.
  • It's surprising that de Gaulle picks Indy to accompany him on his two-man escape instead of another Frenchman. And how do they have enough air in the coffins?  It's not as if they have breathing tubes like MacGyver in Deathlock.
  • I'm glad Indy got away from the guy on the motorcycle, but he shouldn't celebrate too much yet considering he's still in the middle of Germany on a bike. 

Final Analysis:
This episode was fairly middle of the road and not much in the way of big highlights or lowlights, and I'm ranking it 3 out of 8. It will be interesting to see if even the highest ranked young Indy episode makes it above any with older Indy -- at this point I have my doubts. 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

MacGyver Script Analysis: The Enemy Within

It's time for part 9 of my 139 part series where I compare an original MacGyver script with the final episode. Considering that Part 8 was 18 months ago, at this rate you can look forward to my series finishing in 2215.

My script for The Enemy Within is a final draft dated 1/3/86, and the episode aired on 2/12. Contributing writers are David Abramowitz, Bruce David, and James Schmerer. I reached out to Abramowitz to see if he had any commentary to offer, and he replied, "Sorry...I was rewritten on that one...I don't remember it."

Below are some highlights from the script, where text in bold and italics is a direct quote. 
  • MacGyver speaks less gibberish German in the script than in the final episode, and there's no mention of applesuss or flugplatz. Esel! Ich bin eine Sovietische Offizier! Und sie ist mein Frau! 
  • Bannister is described as rugged, good-looking, 41.
  • The famous MacGyverism where he's hanging out the front of the car by his foot is mostly the same, but there's a spotter plane in the script, and the car gets its brakes back before it reaches the border. It's unclear how they make it across the border -- the script has the car turning on a side road.
  • When MacGyver enters the Federal Building, he has some banner with a very pretty receptionist, Judy:
    • Mornin', Judy.  ~MacGyver
    • MacGyver! You back for a while?  ~Judy
    • Back and gonna be resting my weary bones in about two minutes.  ~MacGyver
    • Hey...need somebody to help soothe those bones?  ~Judy
    • Judy, Judy, Judy...I need sleep, not action.  ~MacGyver
    • MacGyver, what's he got?  ~Roger (a guy at a desk), after MacGyver leaves
    • You wouldn't understand, Roger -- but I wish I had a little of it.  ~Judy
  • Ingrid is described as an extraordinarily beautiful young blonde.  At one point she says to MacGyver, The name is Ingrid. And already I think I like you, MacGyver...a lot... which prompts an Easy there from Bannister. And if you think Judy and Ingrid are being forward with MacGyver, wait until you get a load of "the Tomanova woman."
  • Pete Thornton is described: For the uninitiated, this is a character we have established in several prior episodes as a sort of liaison between the organization and MacGyver.
  • In the script, MacGyver is unpacking his new house instead of packing his old apartment. He calls it his first house, and it's a cottage by the beach. Some of his possessions include copies of Scientific America and various tomes on biology and ecology, a couple pairs of skis, tennis rackets, a basketball, scuba diving equipment, hockey sticks and pads, a lacrosse stick and anything else that seems athletic.
  • Viktoria Tomanova makes her entrance. 28. Sensuous, regal air, classic features. She wears a slightly over-large, uninspired dark dress, hair tied back in a sober bun. Little makeup. She's just arrived after a hard journey and looks it.  28!  That's about 30 years younger than she looks in the episode.
  • MacGyver takes an unprovoked, out-of-character pot-shot at Tomanova:
    • Pete, you absolutely can not do this!  ~MacGyver
    • I don't have a choice, Mac.  ~Pete
    • You're making this poor, dumb girl a human target!  ~MacGyver
  • Then, MacGyver jokingly says she go to the symposium disguised as Princess Diana. 
  • Viktoria enters the symposium in a reasonably breathtaking gown and is five-alarm gorgeous. Later, she's referred to by MacGyver as Gospods Viktoria Alexandrovna Tomanova (not sure how he knew all that). By the way, why did Pete need to bring Viktoria to the symposium and risk her safety and identity? Why not just take a bunch of pictures and show them to her later?
  • Reverend Mather aims the gun at Viktoria, and it's unclear how he knows who to aim at. And when someone goes for the gun, the reverend goes all Jason Bourne and chops the gun down and smashes the man's wrist.
  • There are two pathologists in the lab: a burly, middle-aged pathologist and his associate, a woman in her mid-twenties wearing a gown over jeans, sneakers, t-shirt who is washing off the other table and eating a sandwich.
  • In both the script and the episode, MacGyver says "Six, two, and even" in regards to Mather being murdered. I wasn't familiar with that expression, but I learned that it originates from horse racing.
  • Viktoria approaches the apartment and MacGyver, who hears someone outside, emits a harsh yell, yanks the door open, whips up the epee before he sees it's Viktoria.
  • In my initial review of this episode, I said that the lowlight was the hint of romance between MacGyver and Tomanova due to the fact that she seemed old enough to be his mother. Well, thank goodness they didn't film what was in the script or else this might have been ranked in Mountain of Youth territory. Get a load of this:
    • She turns and kisses him deliberately. A moment, he enters into the spirit of the thing. They break. She regards him with approval.
    • Also, I notice a...little excitement between us, MacGyver.  ~Viktoria
    • Yeah. I noticed too. And not all that little.  ~MacGyver
    • He kisses her. She's startled, then yields to it. Considerable enjoyment. They break.
    • Not at all. How many bedrooms do you have?  ~Viktoria
    • Just the one.  ~MacGyver
    • Good. Then should be no trouble finding it.  ~Viktoria
    • She smiles with slow, infinite promise. MacGyver hesitates -- eyes her thoughtfully.
    • Right this way.  ~MacGyver
    • MacGyver proceeds instead to take her to the kitchen and does the science experiment on Reverend Mather's heart sample that we see in the episode. Once that's over, it's back to the romance. She shivers again. MacGyver takes her into arms, comfortingly. She turns to face him -- suddenly kisses him fiercely, her arms about him.  That sound you just heard was me throwing up in my mouth.
  • When MacGyver takes Viktoria back to the symposium room to jog her memory, it's daytime instead of nighttime. For the word association exercise he does with her, when he says "MacGyver," she says "bed." Excuse me, I have some more vomit in my mouth.
  • The final scene is quite different between the script and the final episode. In the script, MacGyver distracts Bannister, Ingrid, and Lem by playing the VCR tape and putting the sound way up (not sure how he has time to do all that without getting shot). Next, he and Viktoria run outside and split up. He grabs a fire hose and somehow uses it as a rope to quickly swing down a flight of stairs. He ends up in a boiler room and takes out a guy named Chenkov who follows him. He goes back to the symposium where he talks Bannister down (like in the episode), but then Bannister shoots Lem. MacGyver blinds Ingrid with a mirror from the mirror exhibit, grabs her gun, and then tells her, "You've lost" as the police and Pete enter. There's no heart attack for Bannister, but I'm feeling one last pang of nausea as Viktoria moves toward MacGyver in a romantic way before the curtain mercifully falls. 

Friday, October 26, 2018

The MacGyver Project Soundtrack

Have you ever wanted a 50+ minute mix of the greatest-ever themes from MacGyver? Well, today's your lucky day because I'm announcing the release of the official MacGyver Project Soundtrack! What took me so long to create a playlist of my favorite musical cues from the series? Your guess is as good as mine, but it's now ready for your enjoyment! 

There's so much great content from the series that it was hard to leave some things out, but that opens up the possibility for a Part Two someday. While I'm not a television historian, I feel quite comfortable in saying that there's no other show in tv history that has an original soundtrack with as much quality, inspiration, or spirit -- in fact, it's not remotely close.

Total run time: 57:04

    :01 - The Gauntlet Opening Gambit by God
  5:20 - Opening Theme by Randy Edelman
  6:31 - The Prodigal by Randy Edelman
  9:59 - Thief of Budapest Opening Gambit by Randy Edelman
14:19 - Trumbo's World Opening Gambit by Randy Edelman
20:02 - Nightmares by Dennis McCarthy
22:09 - A Prisoner of Conscience by Dennis McCarthy
23:11 - Pilot by Randy Edelman
26:22 - Ugly Duckling by Dennis McCarthy (based on Randy Edelman)
26:58 - Pirates by Dennis McCarthy (based on Randy Edelman)
27:51 - Twice Stung by Dennis McCarthy
28:38 - Three for the Road by Randy Edelman
31:27 - Bushmaster by Randy Edelman
33:09 - Out in the Cold by Randy Edelman
34:09 - Phoenix Under Siege by Randy Edelman
35:45 - Lost Love by Randy Edelman
36:46 - Ghost Ship by Ken Harrison
40:08 - Mask of the Wolf by Ken Harrison
42:41 - The Battle of Tommy Giordano by Ken Harrison
44:03 - The Survivors by Ken Harrison
44:58 - Gold Rush by Ken Harrison
48:53 - Strictly Business by Ken Harrison
52:27 - Good Knight MacGyver by Ken Harrison
55:18 - Slow Death by Dennis McCarthy (based on Randy Edelman)
56:16 - Closing Theme by Randy Edelman

The embedded player works best in Google Chrome.  You can download the mp3 by clicking here.

I hope you all enjoy this!  For more musical snippets, check out the MacGyver Online soundtrack page.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Movie Project: Shoot to Kill

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
After stealing some diamonds and killing two hostages, a mystery man blends in with a fishing party as a means to escape across the U.S.-Canadian border. An FBI agent teams up with an outdoorsman to hunt him down and rescue the outdoorsman's kidnapped girlfriend. 

Memorable Quote:
How do I know you're not going to lower me down?  ~Stantin
Because I said so, you son of a bitch! Now tie on while I'm still in a good mood!  ~Knox

I like Tom Berenger's performance as the mountain man and hermit.

The bad guy's reveal to the fishing party was disappointing. I'm so familiar with The Invisible Killer (more on that later) that I was expecting a similar lengthy build-up where we got to know about each of the fishermen and had a chance to go back and forth on who the guilty one was. Instead, we only got a few scenes with minimal character development before the reveal, and the most potentially interesting part of the movie was over before I knew it.

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
Sidney Poitier's first acting role in eleven years.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • I'm taking a little break from my Die Hard watch, which is a break from my Indiana Jones watch, which is a break from my MacGyver fan fiction, which is a break from my podcast, to watch Shoot to Kill for the first time. This is the first in my series of Movie Project movies with a strong MacGyver connection. Not only was the classic MacGyver episode The Invisible Killer seemingly inspired by this movie, but it was also filmed in Vancouver at the same time (1988) as MacGyver, so there are a ton of familiar names and faces:
    • Harv Zimmel, who wrote The Widowmaker, as one of the screenwriters.
    • Milton Selzer as the jewel shop owner in the beginning. He appears in The Lost Amadeus and The Wall, where he also plays a shop owner.
    • Walter Marsh as the guy they talk to in the parking lot who works for the guide company. He took a memorable turn as General Racoubian in Lost Love.
    • Claire Vardiel as Mildred, the woman who complains to the police about her house being broken into.  She was in many MacGyver episodes and is most famous for her "Ain't you just the one, Ducky?" line from Legend of the Holy Rose.
    • Blu Mankuma as an agent/policeman. He was in three MacGyver episodes, including The Invisible Killer.
    • Jerry Wasserman as an FBI agent. Unlike the others, I didn't recognize him while I was watching the movie and only saw his name afterwards on IMDB.
  • The opening at the jeweler's house and the pier is strong, although it's never stated how the feds know to investigate the jewelry store in the first place. It's also weird how Sidney can hear the voice whispering to him from the other side of the pier.
  • Speaking of Sidney, he's 61 during this movie and looks good for his age.
  • Just like The Invisible Killer, there's a bridge in the wilderness that needs crossing, and there's one guy in the group who's scared of heights and has trouble crossing it.
  • 38:57 mark - One of Berenger's ropes breaks as he's making his way across a ravine, and he crashes into the mountain (twice, actually) with such force that he would surely be dead. Somehow, he comes out of it without a scratch.
  • Kirstie Alley delivers a dispassionate, uninspiring performance as Sarah, and there's no real connection between her and Berenger.
  • Why doesn't the FBI get some planes to surveil the area?
  • Berenger and Sidney's ice cave looks really nice, although digging a cave that big with a small bowl would take weeks. 
  • 1:11:28 - As the bad guy stops a truck and boards it with Kirstie, Berenger inexplicably doesn't shoot the tires with his rifle, instead choosing to chase the truck and then falling down in despair.
  • 1:15:45 - Things start to go off the rails when the accomplice is tied up and convinced in 5 seconds that his house is about to be burned down. 
  • Weird scene at the city plaza where the bad guy decides to bring Sarah along to his meet and hold her hostage in a public place. Sarah, for her part, is an agreeable hostage and doesn't try to fight back in the slightest.
  • That brings us to the ending on the ferry where things really go off the rails as Sidney gets shot three times in the chest and falls overboard yet somehow manages to hold off the bad guy and shoot him underwater. Berenger jumps in to save him and then the movie abruptly ends.

Final Analysis:
Not a good movie. I was expecting some intrigue along the lines of The Invisible Killer, but The Invisible Killer is exponentially better. The first half of the movie has some promise, but it loses its way in the second half. While it was nice to see some familiar MacGyver names and faces, I'm ranking this in the Yikes tier.