Thursday, January 2, 2020

Young Indiana Jones -- Episode 17: Masks of Evil

To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
In Istanbul, Indiana Jones is undercover as a Swedish journalist whose mission is to communicate French peace terms to a Turkish general. Next, he goes to Transylvania to investigate a mysterious Romanian general who has kidnapped some allied POWs. 

Memorable Quote:
Naturally, the loss of an innocent life is to be regretted, but the operation has been a wonderful success.  ~French intelligence officer

Here's a fun fact: the name of the Romanian vampire is Mattias Targo. The name of the Hungarian tough guy in Die Hard 3 is Mathias Targo. Both were written by the same person, Jonathan Hensleigh.

I didn't think anything could be worse than the second half of Espionage Escapades, but the last 25 minutes of this episode is my new series lowlight. One thing I've appreciated about the series thus far is that it didn't delve into the magical elements that the movies did (and which were my least favorite parts of the movies). In the Transylvanian castle, however, things get wacky with lightning balls, frozen floors, and of course blood-sucking vampires. Not my cup of tea.

Brushes with historical figures:
  • Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Indy pulls off a pretty good Swedish accent. I recently watched Boondock Saints where he does a good Boston Irish accent. 
  • It's bad enough that Indy is stringing Molly along as part of his cover, but then he makes it worse by asking her to marry him and accompany him to Sweden. Clearly he likes her a little bit but not enough to tell her the truth. 
  • It's easy to see who the mole is going to be when Stefan pushes the guy who was willing to talk off the roof. 
  • Molly's not the most dynamic personality, but it's a sad moment when she dies.
  • Getting back to the Memorable Quote, how was the operation a wonderful success?  At least in the part that we see, the Turkish general says he's not interested in the French terms. 
  • Some great shots of Venice in the middle of the episode, and interesting that they made the effort to get the shots even though the location has no bearing on the plot. 
  • The American colonel seems too high ranking to go on a two-person mission. Little does he know that he's about to be dismembered by a vampire. 

Final Analysis:
I'm not a fan of this one. The first half was just ok, and the second half was irredeemable. Ranking it second to last. 

Friday, November 15, 2019

MacGyver Trivia: Question 2 Added 11/27

Trivial Pursuit Game: Classic Edition

The comments in this post will be updated periodically with some MacGyver trivia questions that I'll try to stump you with (original series only).  Check them out and see how well you know the show! 

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Young Indiana Jones -- Episode 16: Tales of Innocence

To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
In northern Italy, Indiana Jones gets into a lover's quarrel with Ernest Hemingway over an Italian country girl. Then, he goes to North Africa on a mission to find out who's been supplying guns to anti-French marauders. 

Memorable Quote:
You rat!  ~Indy
Me?  ~Ernie
You dirty, two-timing rat!  ~Indy
Judas!   ~Ernie

Two amusing scenes between 4:30 and 7:30, first where Indy gets frazzled by an Italian soldier that almost hits him with friendly fire (great acting by Flanery here), and then in a jeep where Indy pretends to not speak English.

The romantic tension between Indy and Edith Wharton was a bit uncomfortable given their age difference, similar to MacGyver and Viktoria in The Enemy Within. As I said in that post, I'm not against older women and younger men hitting it off, but this lady looks like she should be Indy's mom.

Brushes with historical figures:
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Edith Wharton
  • Lowell Thomas

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • I like how the episode starts in medias res and how we're not sure what exactly Indy is doing or why he's pretending to be missing an arm. 
  • 23:46 mark -- a clever Farewell to Arms reference. 
  • A few notes about the co-stars:
    • The wikipedia page of Veronica Logan (Giulietta) says: "On the set of Young Indiana Jones, she met the actor Sean Patrick Flanery, with whom she cohabited for a period in Los Angeles."
    • The actress who plays Giulietta's mother also played Shmi Skywalker (mother of Anakin) in Star Wars Episode 1, and she was married to Bille August who was the director of this episode. 
    • Hemingway is played by Jay Underwood, who I vaguely remember as Chip the robot from the 80's movie Not Quite Human
  • Originally I assumed that Ernie was the "other guy", but then I figured he wasn't when I saw the photo of the Italian guy in the living room, so I was surprised when it was revealed to be Ernie even though I had predicted it initially. 
  • It doesn't take long for Indy to forget about Giulietta, as evidenced by his dalliance with Nurse Sophia. 

Final Analysis:
Overall, a good episode. The first half was well-written and amusing, even if I'd prefer the series to emphasize action over comedy. I wasn't wild about the Edith relationship in the second half, but I liked the subplot involving the French traitor and the swordfight at the end. Ranking it 4th out of 16. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

Young Indiana Jones -- Episode 15: Daredevils of the Desert

To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Indiana Jones journeys across the desert to the town of Beersheba (in modern day Israel) to protect the wells for the incoming British Army. He travels with Maya, a mysterious agent whose motives are unclear. 

Memorable Quote:
What's it like, the desert?  ~Indy
It's like nowhere else on this earth. It's the most terrible place there is. And the most wonderful. ~Lawrence

Between Catherine Zeta Jones and Daniel Craig, we got some big-time star power in this one! Catherine Zeta featured in The Mask of Zorro, one of my all-time favorites, and I'll talk a lot more about Daniel Craig once I get to my James Bond Project (that's right, it's coming at some point down the line -- at the rate I'm going, maybe by 2036). Both give good performances (Craig has a decent German accent), and it's fun to see them at the beginning of their careers -- per IMDB, it's Catherine Zeta's 7th-ever credit and Craig's 8th.

The fake fight between Indy and his partner was a stretch insofar as they were able to foresee the opportunity they'd have and how the "dead" partner was able to get away without being spotted. And how did they manage the fake blood?

Brushes with historical figures:
  • Lawrence of Arabia

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • I watched this episode about a month ago on a bus. Fortunately I took notes because I'm having trouble remembering the details. 
  • 7:52 mark -- When Indy sits down at the tavern table to get his assignment, it looks like he puts a whip next to his side. I kind of forgot about the whip as a potential tool because he never uses it in this series -- it would have been nice for him to break it out every once in a while. 
  • Col. Meinertzhagen, the British intelligence officer, apparently appeared in the Phantom Train of Doom. His appearance there isn't ringing even the slightest of bells with me -- not now, nor when I was on the bus. 
  • Lawrence of Arabia is back after appearing in My First Adventure, but this time it's a different actor who has a more boyish appearance. 
  • While Indy's Middle Eastern accent actually isn't too bad, it's hard to see how he'd fool anyone into thinking that he's an Arab. 
  • Indy makes a reference to flying a plane with Houdini in Australia -- maybe that was an episode that got cut?
  • Seems like a bad idea for the defenders of Beersheba to blow up the wells without a clear escape plan, because then they run out of water too. 
  • 56:45 -- Abrupt turn from CZJ (that's what her friends call her) as she goes from "prickly" to "kiss me Indy" at the drop of a hat. 
  • 1:03:03 -- A goof when Daniel Craig slams the knife down on the desk and the point of the blade sticks in the desk. Later, we see that the knife is not real and that the blade collapses when pressure is applied.
  • The fight scene at the end is like a manifestation of Indiana Jones vs. James Bond. This round goes to Indy. 

Final Analysis:
This episode is pretty good -- I like the desert setting, and the storyline with the Australian unit was a nice touch. And getting to see young Daniel Craig and young CZJ was a lot of fun. Ranking it 6 out of 15. 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Young Indiana Jones -- Episode 14: Espionage Escapades

To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
While in Barcelona, Indiana Jones goes undercover as a ballet dancer with the goal of manipulating a German spy who fancies another dancer, but the plan goes awry when they learn that both the German and the dancer are double agents. Next, Indy travels to Prague for the purpose of receiving an important telephone call, but he discovers that his room has no phone to receive the call, so he sets out on a quest to get a replacement phone. 

Memorable Quote:
No, no, I'm not upset. I'm incandescent with rage!  ~Indy

Mildly amusing moment when Indy is snooping around the dancer's dressing room and falls down after being startled by Delfina, the old assistant who has lost her marbles.

Everything around the missing telephone (more on this later).

Brushes with historical figures:
  • Pablo Picasso
  • Sergei Diaghilev
  • Franz Kafka

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Rough opening, maybe the worst 5 minutes of the series thus far as we're introduced to the "spy ring" which consists of a goofy band of buffoons. 
  • And then the next 5 minutes aren't much better. While I like the concept of bringing back characters from previous episodes, Picasso is my least favorite character of the series. 
  • Somehow the German Colonel, who's supposedly a master spy, never recognizes Indy after seeing him in the opening scene at the tavern. Or maybe he does and doesn't say anything because he's a double agent? I'm confused. 
  • The first half of the episode is startlingly reminiscent to Honest Abe between the farcical plot, the character that speaks in exaggerated Italian expressions, and the protagonist using light reflections to deliver a message in Morse code.
  • So when the Count learns that the letters were a hoax, does he ask any follow-up questions, like why did you do that to me?  Do they see Indy and the other spies in the car?  Again, I'm confused.   
  • We now transition to Prague, where Indy pretends to be "Amadeus Schubelgruber" on a quest to get a phone for his hotel room so that he can receive an important call. He's foiled at every turn by what turns out to be a vast, out-of-control Czech bureaucracy where everyone speaks with an English accent. There's a cartoonish spy named Clousseau who serves no purpose to the story, and the phone call that finally arrives merely tells him to go to Berlin. I can't describe the level of silliness and farce in this episode -- you have to see it for yourself (or better yet, don't see it). 

Final Analysis:
I didn't think that I was going to rate any of the older Indy episodes lower than the young Indy episodes, but this one was by far the worst of the series. After painfully enduring the episode's first half, I didn't think it could get any worse, but the second half made the first half look like The Last Crusade. Speaking of which, the Indy movies can't get here soon enough. Ranking it 14 out of 14. 

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

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

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

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.

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.