Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Young Indiana Jones -- Episode 13: Adventures in the Secret Service


To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Indiana Jones is sent to Austria to help two princes obtain a peace agreement from their brother-in-law, the emperor. Then, he goes to Russia to gather intelligence on the Bolsheviks, who want to overthrow the Russian government and pull Russia out of the war. 

Memorable Quote:
What are you looking so pleased about? This whole damn trip is wasted. That letter is worthless!  ~Prince Sixtus
I have a feeling this one isn't.  ~Indy

Highlight:
Good action scene on the train where Indy and the princes elude their pursuers and then Indy makes a dramatic escape into Switzerland.

Lowlight:
Just as in the previous episode, the French commander essentially tells Indy, "You failed to complete the objective in your previous mission, but that's not going to stop me from giving you an even more critical assignment that the fate of the world depends on, even though you're an American kid who we barely know." Then halfway through the episode, he basically says the same thing a second time.

Brushes with historical figures:
  • Austrian royal family
  • Lenin (Vladimir, not John)

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • When Indy's in Vienna, it would have been a nice touch to see Princess Sophie from The Perils of Cupid
  • I like the two royal brothers, although it's not clear to me why they have to sneak around in their own country. 
  • The advisor to the emperor reminds me of Christopher Lee, a legendary actor in many series including James Bond, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings.  UPDATE: That actually is Christopher Lee!  How did they get Christopher Lee for this part?!
  • I like the storyline with Indy competing with another analyst to gather intelligence, although it's unclear why Indy's new Bolshevik group of friends are happy to hang out with him given that he admits to them that he's working in French intelligence. Maybe they're trying to use him as an asset, but it seems like they genuinely care about him, even throwing him a surprise birthday party with upwards of 75 people. 
  • 1:13:55 mark -- Indy finds a sympathetic and poetic way to let Rosa down gently.  Take note of this line if you ever need to be the bearer of bad news to an admirer: "Rosa, I like you so much. You're smart and funny and pretty. But love is a weird thing. It's kind of like lightning. You can no more make it strike than stop it if it decides to hit you."

Final Analysis:
Decent episode -- not too many high or low points. Ranking it 6 out of 13. 

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Young Indiana Jones -- Episode 12: Attack of the Hawkmen


To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Indiana Jones receives spy training and goes to work for an American unit in the French Army as a photographer based in airplanes, and he crosses paths with the German fighter ace known as the Red Baron. Later, Indy goes into Germany on a mission to convince a young scientist to switch sides from the Central Powers to the Allies. 

Memorable Quote:
It's great to see you!  ~Indy
I think I'm gonna cry.  ~American pilot

Highlight:
All of the air battles are amazingly filmed, even if it's hard to imagine someone (i.e. Indy) capable of hanging on to the bottom of the plane after rolling off the wing, all while the plane is under siege and moving every which way.

Lowlight:
I had several issues with the last thirty minutes:
  • Indy parachutes in the heart of a German city during the day, and no one sees him?
  • After the warehouse explodes, he slips away from the entire German division with no one on his tail?
  • And the biggest issue: he speaks to numerous people in the research facility with an American accent and no one questions what he's doing there.  Imagine if a guy was walking around Los Alamos during WWII speaking German to everyone -- they'd just say, come on in and look at our atom bomb! 

Brushes with historical figures:
  • Manfred von Richthofen, aka the Red Baron. The actor who plays him does a great job of giving the character some arrogance. Surely the Baron would be humbled to know that he's probably more well known to today's generation for his frozen pizza and his Christmas song with Snoopy. 
  • Charles Nungesser, a French flying ace. I hadn't heard of Nungesser before, 
  • Anthony Fokker, a Dutch engineer. This episode could have been the forerunner of Meet the Parents, like if the French told Indy, "Go bring back that little Fokker over to our side."

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Indy's always writing letters to Lawrence of Arabia, but he seems like a guy on the move whose address wouldn't be constant. 
  • The process of becoming a spy for the French seems pretty easy: "You forged a signature? Great, you're hired and entrusted with all our top secrets, no reference checks necessary!
  • I would not at all enjoy flying in a plane that was doing barrel rolls or going at mach 2 like Top Gun -- I don't even feel all that great when swinging at a playground (although apparently I'm not alone).  
  • 16:14 mark - random shot of a small lion on a chain next to the plane. We see the lion again later and it's never explained -- is he's the captain's pet?
  • Does Indy really have to go crawl on the wing to check if the wheels were ok? What's the alternative if they're not ok?
  • I know it's mid-90s tv and so I shouldn't expect too much, but it's hard to watch all these "Germans" speak English. Always works better to have characters speak in their native language and use subtitles. 
  • If the Germans know where the American base is, why not just drop a bomb on the base instead of just dropping a message challenging Nungesser to a duel?
  • 38:30 mark - a small goof as one of the Americans looking at Indy's photo celebrates "the Red Baron going down" even though he had just painted his plane red for the first time and so wouldn't have been known as the Red Baron. 
  • Indy has no formal spy experience other than taking the photographs from the plane, and the French leadership barely knows him, so why not send him on a dangerous and critical mission?
  • 52:34 - a hat tip to James Bond and Q Branch as Indy gets outfitted with some random gadgets by some mad scientist-types. 
  • I had a quick stop in Hannover about 15 years ago -- I remember the train station and how clean and well-kept the city seemed (not unusual for a German city).  
  • The explosions and pyrotechnics at the end are quite impressive. 
  • Perhaps I missed something, but I have no idea what "Hawkmen" refers to.  

Final Analysis:
I wasn't wild about this one -- the storyline of Indy going on a spy mission into Germany had a lot of potential, but it came off as somewhat farcical. The first half was better, and the Red Baron was an interesting character. Ranking this 6 out of 12 and only ahead of Demons of Deception for older Indy episodes. 

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Andrew Selee: Outstanding Author


Author:
Dr. Andrew Selee is the president of the Migration Policy Institute and the author of Vanishing Frontiers: The Forces Driving Mexico and the United States Together

Conversation:
Total run time: 26:21

  2:38 - US and Mexico as highly integrated neighbors
  7:26 - The "Mexican Dream": Americans moving to Mexico
  9:32 - Current state of immigration, including caravans and the border wall
18:51 - Impact of anti-immigrant rhetoric
21:24 - Mexican president Obrador
23:05 - Best places in Mexico to visit


The embedded player works best in Google Chrome.  You can download the mp3 by clicking here, and the podcast is available in iTunes.

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

Highlight:
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.

Lowlight:
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.  UPDATE -- My bad, that was the locket that Princess Sophie gave him in The Perils of Cupid. It's easy to forget things when you watch one episode a month. 
  • 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

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

Lowlight:
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

Highlight:
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.

Lowlight:
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

Highlight:
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.

Lowlight:
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.