“Get off my plane”

I delayed posting this film due to what was going on in America after the holidays. But it is an excellent action movie and features some great actors.

Air Force One

I can remember that this was the first “R” rated movie I ever watched; and I was certainly younger than seventeen.  A film where Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones, Han Solo, just covered him as Jack Ryan) shines as a President of action and Gary Oldman (Sirius Black, Dracula in the famous movie adaptation [of which I have seen bits and pieces], Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, for which he won an Oscar [finally; this man is brilliant], Commissioner Gordon in Nolan-verse Batman, and dozens of other roles) is a very convincing Russian bad guy.  Glenn Close (voiced the mother gorilla in Tarzan, and was the stylish Cruella de Vil in the live-action 101 and 102 Dalmatians) proves herself as the Vice President.  Wendy Crewson plays Ford’s wife; she also appeared in an episode of Hallmark Channel’s Good Witch series and the mother in the Tim Allen Santa Clause movies.  Their daughter was played by Liesel Matthews, who was Sarah in a darling rendition of A Little Princess in 1995.  The pilot, Major Caldwell, was played by William H. Macy; and yes, he’s Admiral Sandecker in Sahara.

It’s the nineties (no, this film would not be made now, in a post 9/11 world) and Harrison Ford is the President of the United States, James Marshall, attending a state dinner in Russia.  He makes a speech in regards to a joint force apprehending the terrorist general Radek.  Marshall deviates from his original speech, saying never again will the United States allow political self interests to stop us from doing what is morally right.  Atrocity and terror are not political weapons; we will never negotiate with terrorists, and those who would employ such tactics should be afraid.  He receives a standing ovation at the dinner, but his National Security advisor chastises him in private on the way back to the plane.  We see the screenings a Russian news crew undergoes in order to board Air Force One.

The feeling on board the President’s plane is relaxed; he’s taped the Michigan football game, his wife and daughter join him, the twelve-year-old falling asleep at one point.  President Marshall still has meetings to attend.  There’s even a comment about Saddam Hussein (yep, pre-2001).  Then we see one of the secret service agents unlock the armory and shoot his teammates.  The Russian news crew sees their signal, get up, and quickly gather weapons and begin shooting.  The President is rushed to an escape pod (not actually a part of the real plane) while he worries about his family.  The pilots bravely vow to land the plane, no matter what happens.  They rush to call reinforcements at the Ramstein base in Germany.  They’ll have a team out to recover the escape pod.  The Vice President rushes to the White House.  Sadly, both pilots are killed and one of the Russians takes control of the aircraft, narrowly missing a building on the ground.

The leader of the bad guys, Ivan, quickly takes command.  He puts a call in to the Vice President; what he wants is Mother Russia to be a great nation again.  To have the capitalists dragged from the Kremlin and shot.  To have America beg forgiveness.  To that end, he wants the terrorist general Radek released from prison.  Until that happens, Ivan will execute one of the hostages he has onboard every half hour.

This is not a man you want to mess with

In the White House, the Secretary of Defense tries to take control, deeming it a military incident.  At this moment, they don’t know if the President is dead or alive.  We have found out that the President remained onboard and is hiding on the lower level.  A General reminds the Secretary of Defense and the Vice President that James Marshall was a Medal of Honor recipient and a helicopter pilot in Vietnam.  He knows how to fight.  They do find out that the escape pod was empty and so must assume the President is still onboard.

Marshall has been busy, trying to find out what is going on, but he has to remain hidden.  Ivan takes the First Lady and her daughter upstairs with him.  He speaks to the daughter, Alice; “you think I am a monster?”  But he is not unlike her own father; they have both spilled blood.  But the President does it behind smart bombs.  Ivan himself has three children, but his devotion to Mother Russia is absolute.  He kisses the girl’s forehead.  She speaks back to him, “you are a monster.  And my father is a great man.  You’re nothing like my father.”

Said father has discovered a cell phone in the baggage hold and calls the White House.  The switchboard operator doesn’t believe him so follows protocol to track the call.  Oh, yes, the man was telling the truth and patches it through, except now a guard has caught Marshall.  He pockets the phone, still on, and gives instruction to have an F-15 fire on the plane so preventative measures will take over, giving him a chance to get away.  He gets a few moments on the phone and discovers what is going on.  He privately advises the Vice President, they cannot release Radek.  If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to want a glass of milk.  If they give in on this, the radicals will walk over them.  Speaking of milk; a leaking carton gives him an idea.

But now, Ivan has discovered there is an American lurking downstairs.  He opens coms and executes the friendly Press Secretary on the air, demanding the secret service agent to reveal himself.  Some of the President’s advisors are worried they’ll be executed next; he’s already shot the National Security Advisor.  But another military man cautions that whoever is down there knows to wait for the perfect shot; he’s their only chance of getting out alive.

You can tell he’s plotting

Marshall has managed to dump fuel and Ivan now has to ask for a refueling tanker.  When the President manages to make it upstairs again, he confers with pilot Major Caldwell; if the plane can drop altitude and speed, the hostages can use parachutes from the back of the plane (also not really onboard the actual plane).  One of the President’s secretaries suggests the fax line, it’s separate from the phone line, to get the message through.  It works, and most of the hostages make their way to the back of the plane.

But the ramp opening lights up in the control room upstairs, signaling to Ivan and his cohorts.  A guard heads down to stop them.  Some people get off safely, a few are injured.  There’s a handful left with the President, including the traitor.  Well, now Ivan has the President right where he wants him.  He threatens to shoot either Marshall’s wife or daughter and really, this is all the President’s fault, with the American disease of freedom spreading across the globe.  Russia has fallen to gangsters.  Ivan gets a few punches in on Marshall and orders him to call the Russian President.  Marshall refuses, until Ivan points a gun at Alice.  The Russian President agrees, against his better judgment, and Radek begins to walk free.

Back in D.C., the Secretary of Defense is still concerned on who is in charge.  An expert brings up the Twenty-fifth Amendment; the President is incapacitated as a hostage and is thus not acting as the President.  The Secretary leaps onto this notion and begins rallying support.  The Vice President resists the notion.  When she holds a press conference when word gets out on a plane crash, she firmly declares that James Marshall is still President.

Ivan has other plans for Marshall, now that he knows the man will negotiate.  Marshall is pissed Ivan lied; well, he’s the bad guy, what did he expect?  Marshall begins cutting his duct-taped hands and when Ivan walks pass him again, he jumps him.  There’s a shoot out, the last of Ivan’s cohorts are killed, and one of the President’s men is shot.  Ivan takes the First Lady with him, ready to jump off the plane to save himself.  Marshall chases after them and his wife is awesome enough to throw Ivan off her.  Marshall and Ivan wrestle and Marshall wraps a cord around Ivan’s neck, and after demanding “get off my plane,” [best line of the movie], pulls the parachute open, the cord acting as a noose.

Marshall calls off Radek’s release and the general is shot feet from escape.  The Russians cheer and the White House cheers when news comes in that the Americans have retaken the plane.  Caldwell helps Marshall fly, but they have a new problem.  MiGs are incoming and F-15s are ordered into Kazakhstan airspace to protect Air Force One.  One takes a shot for the President’s plane, but the larger plane was still damaged.  A strike team is rerouted and will hopefully make it before Air Force One runs out of fuel.  They do arrive and send jumpers in with a cable to ferry people to the new plane.  It’s descending too fast and they only have time for a few relays.  The President’s family is first to leave, then his injured advisor.  That’s when the secret service agent reveals himself to be the traitor and shoots Caldwell.  He’s ready to shoot Marshall, but he holds the cord out of reach and just manages to hook on before the plane hits the water.  He’s reunited with his family and they have survived the ordeal.

I have always liked this film because Harrison Ford is an excellent action star.  He’s the kind of guy you want with you when a crisis arises.  And Gary Oldman is utterly brilliant as Ivan the radical.  He’s calm and collected at times, yet when he loses it and shouts, you jump back with a twinge of fear.  He will do what is necessary to achieve his goal.  What’s a bit funny is NCIS‘s first episode is based on Air Force One and Agent Gibbs (no relation to the mole in the film) references the movie more than once.

Certainly worth a watch!

My schedule is a bit crazy this month, so it may be a bit before I update again, but when I come back, we’ll jump in Firefly and continue on to the new Star Trek movies and finally make our  way to other superhero films and the expansive Marvel Cinematic Universe.  (And after that, never fear, there is more, like Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings, but those are far down the line).

Be Safe. Don’t Get Killed. Save Your Receipts.

The Librarian

First, a trilogy of movies put out by TNT; then developed into a television series.  It stars Noah Wyle (he was on E.R. for many years [no intention of watching] and he briefly appeared in an episode of Lab Rats) as Flynn Carson. Jane Curtin is Charlene and Bob Newhart (he’s popped up in other television shows like Big Bang Theory, and I had no idea he was the voice of Bernard in Disney’s The Rescuers movies) is Judson.  There’s a familiar face, David Dayan Fisher (bad guy in NCIS and National Treasure) in the first film, Quest for the Spear; and Gabrielle Anwar (the Queen in The Three Musketeers with Chris O’Donnell, Princess Margaret [Henry VIII’s sister] in The Tudors, Fiona in Burn Notice, and Victoria Belfrey/Lady Tremaine in Once Upon a Time) joins the second film Return to Solomon’s Mines as Emily Davenport.  The third film, Curse of the Judas Chalice, brings in Stana Katic (briefly glimpsed at the end of Quantum of Solace, and opposite Nathan Fillion in Castle) as Simone Renoir.

Quest for the Spear introduces us to Flynn Carson, who holds 22 degrees and intends to be a lifelong student.  Until his professors agree to cut him off and force him out into the big, bad, real world to find a job.  An invitation arrives at his home (he doesn’t see it until a pile of books drops on his head), to interview for a prestigious position at the Metropolitan Public Library.  He’s not the only applicant, the line wraps down the staircase.  He faces Charlene, who wants to know “what makes you think you could be the Librarian?”  And she means more than knowing the Dewey Decimal system; what makes him different than every other librarian.  His observational skills rival Sherlock Holmes and he can tell when Charlene broke her nose, when she divorced, and how many kinds of cats she owns.  Then another voice calls out “what’s more important than knowledge?”  Flynn echoes his mother’s statement that the things that make life worth living are not thought (in his head), but felt (in his heart).  Flynn wins the position and will begin a wondrous new adventure, from which he will never be the same.  Judson appears and leads Flynn downstairs, through a secret door and security guards, opening to a grand hall filled with shelves and display cases.

Judson explains that magic exists, but it is dangerous and must be kept out of the wrong hands.  That is the Librarian’s job.  And he must keep it secret [so I object to his mother’s dismissal of his job as simply shelving books…I wanted to become a traditional librarian at one point.]  That evening, Judson is knocked out at the Library; Charlene and Flynn find him the next morning and discover that the Serpent Brotherhood has stolen a piece of the Spear of Destiny.  The Serpent Brotherhood opposes the Library and wants to use magical artifacts to rule the world.  And the Spear was used by Charlemagne and Napoleon; Hitler had one piece; so if the Serpent Brotherhood has it, they can certainly control the fate of the world.  Flynn, as Librarian, is the only one who can go after them (which Flynn points out is a little sad).

Clues to the other pieces are in a book, written in the Language of the Birds, the universal language all people spoke before the Tower of Babble.  Flynn has to decipher it on his flight to the Amazon.  He succeeds in 7 hours and 26 minutes.  And the beautiful woman he meets on the plane is Nicole Noone (so when Judson says to “trust no one”…that’s what he meant), whose job is to protect the Librarian.  Nicole is a bit dismissive of Flynn at first, bodily dragging him out of danger, since the Brotherhood is chasing them.  But Flynn proves his brilliance; he memorized the globe as a child.  They uncover the second piece of the Spear, but are met by the Brotherhood outside, including the previous Librarian whom Nicole saw die.  He desires power now and plans to wield the Spear.  But he can’t read the Language of the Birds, so Flynn argues Edward needs him.  Oh, and the final piece of the Spear is in Shangri-La.  Edward forces Flynn to grab the spearhead, then the monastery begins to collapse.  Nicole grabs the spearhead and escapes with Flynn (and the helicopter is “horrible, horrible, high velocity pie of death!” Flynn discovers while trying to fly it).  Nicole kisses Flynn in his room in Mongolia, but she is gone when he wakes up. He has a brief discussion with Judson and realizes that the Brotherhood has to fuse the Spear back together at the pyramid display with the golden capstone that Flynn was working on at the university in the beginning.  “Call the Marines, Judson.  I’m coming home.”  But, clothes first.

Edward does manage to fuse the Spear and tests it on his minion [that bad guy we see a lot].  Nicole and Judson take on the other mooks, though Flynn does get to punch his former professor in the nose.  Flynn goes after Edward and gets beaten up a bit.  But as Flynn pointed out to the students earlier, if one stone is out of line be even one inch, the whole pyramid collapses; and Edward has been hitting stones trying to get Flynn.  Edward is crushed by the capstone and the Spear floats to Flynn.

Back at the Library, Flynn is worthy enough to pull out Excalibur and there is a new portrait hanging, featuring Flynn with the Spear.  Three months later, Flynn’s mother is still trying to hook his son up, despite hearing Nicole on the phone earlier.  Nicole zooms in on a motorcycle and kisses Flynn hello, then briefly introduced to his mother.  But they have to go (time-traveling ninjas are on the loose).

The opening of Return to Solomon’s Mines is very similar to the opening of Last Crusade; it takes place in Utah and Flynn interrupts someone digging up something that doesn’t belong to them.  Back at the Library, he receives a package while Judson instructs him that he has a lot to learn and that to be a truly great Librarian, one must sacrifice what one wants for the greater good.  Flynn stops by his mother’s house for a surprise birthday party for him and briefly speaks to his father’s best friend, Jerry.  Flynn’s father passed away when the man was thirty-two, which is the age Flynn is now.  His mother has saved some of his old drawings from bedtime adventures his father told him.  She pulls out a [Masonic-looking] medallion, which his father used to joke was their family crest.  At Flynn’s apartment, he discovers that he was mailed an odd-looking scroll, then is knocked out.  Judson wakes him and realizes that the symbol Flynn saw on the scroll leads to Solomon’s Mines, holding great treasure.  It also holds the Key of Solomon which can summon the undead.  Judson sends Flynn to Morocco.

Flynn meets Emily at her Roman dig in Morocco; she’s searching for evidence of the Queen of Sheba’s (the wife of King Solomon) rule there.  They discover the secret tomb and are briefly attacked after finding the legend piece.  But their attacker recognizes the medallion Flynn wears; it symbolizes a society bound to protect Solomon’s Mines.  More bad guys come and they are sent to Kenya to find the second piece.  Emily insists on accompanying Flynn; if she can find more items like the legend piece, her own research will be funded for years.  Emily also has 25 degrees (to Flynn’s 22), so they spend a great deal of their journey arguing history and archeology.  Then they come across a man buried in the sand.  For freeing him, he will take them to Gedi.

Bad guys have followed them to Gedi, but luckily they run into Jerry boarding a train.  He treats them to dinner, then Flynn and Emily discover the key to the map is playing the legend pieces like an instrument; the map is music notes.  It comes to life and leads them to another mountain.  Judson pops into instruct Flynn to return home; but Flynn and Emily continue on.  Flynn’s father’s bedtime stories lead the way to the oldest tree in Africa, underneath which is a temple.  They find the treasure, but bad guys interrupt their exploration, led by Jerry.  Jerry wants the Key, which Flynn found, so he can re-write history.  Jerry blames Flynn’s father for stealing his mother’s heart; Jerry should have had the family; and he was responsible for the father’s death.

Jerry incants from the book, opening a portal and beginning to raise the dead.  Flynn goes after Jerry and threatens to destroy the book, but Jerry tempts him with the idea that Flynn can bring his father back.  Flynn takes over the chanting, but Emily manages to distract him.  Flynn throws the book into the lava and Jerry jumps in after it.  Emily, Flynn, and the man they saved all manage to escape the explosion and Flynn is left to return home alone.  Judson encourages Flynn that he did the right thing in destroying the Key of Solomon; only a great Librarian would have done so.

Flynn is at an auction in the beginning of Curse of the Judas Chalice on Library business, but also trying to keep his girlfriend happy.  He battles against another collector to retrieve the Philosopher’s Stone.  He wins, but his girlfriend leaves him.  He’s depressed once he returns to the Library and Judson’s comment that he’s a celibate monk does not help.  When Flynn looks around the Library he doesn’t see artifacts anymore, he sees the bits of his life he gave up to retrieve them, like his college reunion.  Charlene suggests that Flynn use a few vacation days, then stops by his apartment later (a little drunk) to drop off travel brochures.  Flynn dreams of New Orleans and decides to give it a try (a woman called to him in his dream).  He hears the same voice singing and meets Simone.

Meanwhile, a former KGB Russian, Kubichek meets up with a Romanian history professor.  The professor is teaching a lesson on Prince Vlad Dracul, known as the Impaler, but all his students want to know is whether the man was a vampire.  Kubichek is interested instead with the Judas Chalice.

The Russians end up chasing after Flynn in New Orleans and Simone helps him escape, such as hitting a high C in an echo chamber.  Simone takes Flynn out for a night on the town and he perks up a bit.  Judson appears to Flynn (again; he has a habit of doing that) and explains that Flynn needs to go after the Judas Chalice.  The Chalice has the power to resurrect vampires, because apparently, Judas was the first vampire, cursed to walk the Earth for all eternity after he was hung for his transgressions.  Oh, and Dracula’s tomb has been stolen.

The bad guys grab Flynn, explaining that they want to use the army of the undead to bring Russia back to its former glory [seems like lots of Russians want to do that in these types of movies].  Flynn happens to know the Romanian professor and they decipher the lens that was found.  Simone drops in to help rescue Flynn, except she’s shot.  Flynn drags her out and briefly mourns her…turns out she’s not dead.  She’s a vampire.  She was turned in Paris in 1603 where she had been an opera singer for the royal court.  Now, she’s trying to hunt down the vampire who turned her and kill him.  (She also hints that Judson is a lot older than he appears and there is a larger battle to be had with the Library, between good and evil).

Flynn and Simone find the Chalice aboard Lafitte’s shipwreck [no, not Lafayette that many now know from Hamilton.  Lafitte was French as well, but was a smuggler based out of New Orleans in the early nineteenth century.  He did aid America in the Battle of New Orleans.]  The Russians interrupt the couple and Simone seems to know the professor.  The Russians trap them, but Flynn rigs a cannon to blow open a way out.  Simone leaves him behind and Flynn fears she wants the Chalice for herself.  When they meet up at the plantation again, turns out, no, she recognized the professor as the vampire who turned her.  And who turns out to be Dracula.  And he has no intention of actually helping the Russians.  Sure, he’ll raise the undead, but so he can rule the world.  Flynn goes after Vlad and the Chalice.  Simone helps fight Vlad, who drops the Chalice.  Flynn stabs him with a stake from an aspen tree.  Simone then watches the sun rise with Flynn, one last time.  Her duty to protect the Chalice is done now; she’s gotten her vengeance.  But she encourages Flynn to live out his destiny as the Librarian.

Flynn returns to the Library in a better mood and ready to fight the larger battle that is coming.  As he and Judson walk away, it is revealed that the walkways of the Library create the Tree of Knowledge.

I love these movies.  I want the Librarian job.  Again, it makes learning fun.  History is not dry and dull [well yes, at times it is], but hunting for artifacts uses so many aspects of knowledge.  And I appreciate that the three different women who help out Flynn are all strong, independent women.  Yes, they have brief romances with the lead man, but they are also smart in their own right.  Nicole is the one to kick butt.  And they don’t look down on Flynn for being a bookworm.  Being a bookworm actually saves their butts occasionally.

Next Time: The adventure continues with the first season of The Librarians

Nazis Are Also After Historical Artifacts

Indiana Jones

The heart of modern action-adventure, true classics.  I’ll focus on Raiders of the Lost Ark and Last Crusade.  I have never watched Temple of Doom since my parents mainly recall creepy bits and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, while is has funny throwbacks, is just weird.  There is talk of a fifth Indiana Jones movie coming soon, but I will believe that when I see it.

Directed by Steven Spielberg and story by George Lucas [yep], these movies have a great cast.  Harrison Ford leads as Indiana Jones, John Rhys-Davies (Gimli in Lord of the Rings) is his friend Sallah along with Denholm Elliott as Marcus Brody.  Sean Connery joins Last Crusade as Indiana’s father, Henry.  Julian Glover (Grand Maester Pycelle in Game of Thrones, he made an appearance in Merlin, The Young Victoria, and Troy and was General Veers in Empire Strikes Back) is Walter Donovan.

Raiders opens with a trek through the jungle where Indy discovers a golden idol.  He uses a sandbag as a weight to fool the booby trap, but it still triggers and eventually sends a huge bolder rolling after him (a now iconic scene).  His treasure is taken by fellow archeologist, Belloq and Indy manages to escape to a waiting sea-plane and we first hear of his hatred of snakes [and briefly hear a few notes of the theme, superbly composed by John Williams]. Turns out our adventurer is a professor of archeology at a university.  Marcus Brody, from the nearby museum fetches Indy to meet with two gentlemen from Army Intelligence.  They ask Indy about his former mentor Ravenwood, whose name came up in a Nazi report about Tanus.  (Hitler was actually very interested in the occult).  Well, the Nazis are digging in Cairo to find the Ark of the Covenant.  Indy and Marcus have to explain to the Army what the Ark is and Marcus remarks that an army that marches with the Ark would be unstoppable, armed with the wrath of God.  Ravenwood studied the Ark and knew the whereabouts of the headpiece for the Staff of Ra, a way to find where the Ark is actually kept.  Indy takes the job to track down Ravenwood, starting with his daughter, Marion.  Indy’s in the quest for the historical and archeological significance; he doesn’t believe in magic.  Hence why he packs his whip and gun.

Marion owns a bar in Nepal and had a previous romantic relationship with Indy, that ended badly.  She’s relatively happy to see him, but still holds a grudge.  Her father is dead and she won’t tell Indy where the headpiece is, he has to come back tomorrow.  Well, the Nazis are on the trail and threaten Marion, even starting a fire in her bar.  Indy to the rescue, but he’s gained Marion as a partner.  A Nazi tries to grab the metal piece while it’s in the fire, burning his hand, but Marion is smart enough to use a cloth real quick.  The couple heads to Cairo and meet up with Sallah.

Things do not go fully according to plan in Cairo; a monkey spies on Indy and Marion, resulting in Marion getting taken and supposedly killed.  Indy shoots a fancy swordsman instead of crossing blades with him while he’s looking for Marion (another iconic scene now).  Sallah and Indy have the headpiece translated and with both sides, they have the actual height of the staff, meaning they have the actual location of the Ark.  Indy briefly runs into Marion, but he can’t free her, it would be too suspicious.  So Marion plans her own escape from Belloq (he’s almost the equal to Indiana, but more selfish).

Sallah and Indy in fact uncover the Ark, but it is taken from them by the Nazis; Belloq spotted them in the morning.  Marion is thrown in with Indy, along with a pit full of snakes.  Indy uses a statue to break down a wall so they can escape.  They come across a Nazi airfield and manage to create a huge fireball, after Indy’s taken a few punches.  They meet up with Sallah again, though Indy had to go after the truck the Nazis put the Ark in [here, the full theme kicks in].  Indy knocks out some of the bad guys, but also gets shot in the arm, then thrown through a windshield.  He’s almost run over by the truck, but instead goes underneath and climbs back up.  Bye-bye bad guy and Indy has control of the truck now, running Belloq and his Nazi companions off the road.  Locals help hide the truck and Sallah arranges a ship back to England to carry the Ark and Marion and Indiana.

Marion tries to help Indy clean up and kisses the only spots that don’t hurt.  “It’s the years, not the mileage,” he quips.  Come morning, the Nazis are back on their trail and retrieve the Ark and Marion.  Indy manages to hide, then swim over to the sub.  In the hanger, he steals a uniform to follow the group to a Greek island, where Belloq plans a Jewish ceremony to unveil the Ark to ensure its true power.  Indy threatens to blow up the Ark, but Belloq calls him on it; Indiana could never destroy such a significant find.  And he can’t.  So he and Marion are tied up at the back of the ceremony and once a mist creeps out of the Ark, they close their eyes.  Spirits from the Ark take out all the Nazis and Belloq.  Marion and Indiana are unharmed and return to the United States with the Ark of the Covenant.  Instead of the museum getting the Ark as agreed, the government hides it away in a warehouse full of other crates.

Last Crusade actually begins with Indy’s childhood in 1912 Utah, as a Boy Scout.  (And as Boy Scouts are prone to do, they wander off when they’re specifically told not to.)  Indy and his friend come across a group uncovering the Cross of Coronado.  Indy can’t stand to see these men take it; it belongs in a museum.  So he swipes it, not minding the snakes about, and gallops off.  He’s pursued by the group and they make their way onto a traveling zoo train, dodging giraffes and rhinos.  Falling into a snake pit is where Indy gets his fear of them (understandable), and he gains his trademark whip and scar on his chin when he has to get past a lion.  The group hauls him out, but he still gets away, running home.  His father makes him stop and count to twenty in Greek; he’s busy with his own work.  Unfortunately, the sheriff takes the group’s side, since they were financed by a rich guy, so Indy loses the cross.  But the leader, wearing a leather jacket, tells Indy to buck up and gives him his fedora.

Time skip to our current Indiana, he’s on a boat during a storm, recovering the Cross of Coronado again, from the same guy.  “It belongs in a museum!”  “So do you!” the guy retorts.  Indy makes it off the boat before it collapses and explodes.  Marcus eagerly accepts the cross to put in their Spanish display.  We also get a good lesson on archeology, that Indiana doesn’t necessarily follow himself.  70% of all archeology is done in the library, reading and researching.  Archeology is the search for fact, not truth.  There are no maps to buried treasure and X never marks the spot.  When Indy returns to his office, it’s overrun, so he escapes out the window.  There, he’s picked up by some men and taken to a swanky house, where he meets Walter Donovan.  Donovan has been a generous benefactor of the museum and has a piece for Indy to look at.  A partial stone tablet that mentions the cup that holds the blood of Jesus Christ: the Holy Grail.  Grail lore is Indiana’s father’s area of expertise, aside from the medieval literature classes he teaches [I’d like to take a class on the subject, among others].  Donovan reveals that a project has been started to uncover the Grail, but their leader has vanished.  That leader is Indiana’s father, Henry Jones.

Indy heads to his father’s house along with Marcus and find it ransacked.  Indy recalls he got a package sent from Venice, where the next clue was possibly located.  It’s his father’s Grail dairy.  Marcus agrees to accompany Indy to Venice.  There, they meet Elsa Schneider.  Indy of course flirts with her, but they get to business in the library inside a converted church.  Henry’s last note was of Roman numerals; there’s a connection between the stained glass window and the pillars from the Holy Land.  The final Roman numeral, “X” for ten, is in the floor.  (Indy’s banging coincides with a librarian’s stamping for a funny scene).  Elsa and Indy venture below into the rat-filled catacombs.  A few men sneak up on Marcus and knock him out, then light the petroleum that is underground.  But Elsa and Indiana have found the second knight’s tomb and his shield is a copy of the tablet, though complete.  Indy finishes a rubbing, but the tomb is sacrificed to keep him and Elsa safe from the fire.

The same men pursue the couple once they’re above ground and Indy heads for the docks.  Elsa driving their boat between them, while crazy and dangerous and not what Indy shouted, does help deplete some of the men.  Indy grabs one of the men and threatens to chop him to bits with a propeller, but keeps him alive for information.  The man is part of a society guarding the Grail, the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword.  They know that Henry Jones is being held at a castle on the Austrian-German border.

The rubbing reveals Alexandreta as the starting point for a map Henry has in his diary, pieced together to the Canyon of the Crescent Moon, but no names.  Now they have the starting point.  Indiana sends Marcus ahead to meet Sallah.  Indy finds his and Elsa’s rooms ransacked; someone was looking for the diary.  The angry flirting continues between them.

Indy and Else pretend to be Scottish for a minute, switching hats and coats to gain entry to look at the tapestries.  The butler doesn’t believe them, but Indy knocks him out.  And discovers the castle holds Nazis as well.  He hates those guys (wonder why), but goes off to find his father.  He crashes through the window, then gets a vase to the head.  Henry and Indiana are happy to see each other for a few seconds, then back to work.  They’re interrupted by the Nazis and Henry is mad that Indiana brought the diary after he mailed it away from him.  Being called “junior” is a button for Indiana his father likes to push, so Indy takes care of matters like he usually does.  They’re almost out until Elsa is threatened.  Indy puts down the gun, but Henry was right; she’s with the Nazis and now they have the dairy.

But not the map.  The map is with Marcus.  And Donovan is with the Nazis as well.  Indy bluffs to the Nazis that Marcus is brilliant, knows the languages and customs wherever he is and will blend in.  Sadly, the man is a bit bumbling and got lost in his own museum once.  Marcus does indeed meet up with Sallah, but is shortly afterwards picked up by the Nazis.  The Jones men are tied up and will be disposed of.  They’re tied back to back and while alone, Indy has his father take out his lighter.  But Henry drops it, lighting the floor and then the room on fire.  “Dad!”  “What!”  “Dad!”  “What!”  “Dad!”  “What!”  “Head for the fireplace!”  (so amny iconic scenes: this is why they’re classics).  The fireplace is a secret passage and Indy manages to slip out of his ropes so they can escape.  And the escape is rather funny at times.  Indy is used to doing his own stunts, but now he has to pull his father along.  [Harrison had fun driving Sean around in the motorcycle].  His father should be pleased with Indiana jousting against the Nazis, but he disapproves of his son’s smile once the Nazis are dispatched.  Henry urges Indiana to head to Berlin to retrieve the diary; there’s more than a map.  There are clues to passing the three challenges, clues he wrote down so he wouldn’t have to remember.

There is a parade going on and Indy once again wears a German uniform to blend in.  He grabs the diary off of Elsa and she pleads that she disapproves of the Nazis burning books [I also strongly disapprove…ignorant fools].  They part, but Indy is caught in the crowd and brought before Hitler.  Luckily, Hitler thinks he just wants an autographs, so signs the diary.  Father and son board a Zeppelin, but they are pursued again.  Indy knocks the one man out of the window and passes it off to passengers as “no ticket.” He tries to have a conversation with his father and they hit on the point that Henry gave his son self-reliance, which Indy interpreted as being less important than men who lived and died centuries prior in another country.  He learned it so well they haven’t spoken in twenty years.  Well, Indiana left just when he was becoming interesting.  But right now, they need to focus on locating the Grail.

The Zeppelin turns around, prompting Indiana and Henry to make for the airplane attached.  They’re pursued and shot down, then one plane tries to follow them through a tunnel (does not end well for him) and Henry scares a flock of birds to take out the other plane.  The two men make it to meet up with Sallah and Marcus is being held by the Nazis.  The good guys find the bad guys and luckily a distraction comes from the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword.  Henry finds Marcus in the tank, then they’re both kept inside.  One Nazi wants to know why Henry came back for the diary, what does it tell him that it doesn’t tell them?  Well, goose-stepping morons should “try reading books instead of burning them.” (love that line)

My brother was in Petra once

Indy jumps onto the tank and tries to get Marcus and Henry out.  The men help a bit in their own way and Sallah gets Henry before he can be crushed by the tank’s tread.  Then the tank goes over a cliff, Indy with it.  Henry is remorseful, there was more he should have taught his son.  But Indiana is okay and even gets a hug from his father.  For a minute.  Then the quest is back on.  The Canyon of the Crescent Moon leads to a large temple [Petra in Jordan].  When Donovan’s mooks fail to make it past the booby traps, he threatens Indiana to get it.  And to do so, he shoots Henry.

The first task is the Breath of God, only the penitent man will pass.  Penitent, meaning humble, meaning he will kneel before God.  Ducking allows Indy to avoid a set of blades.  The second task is the Word of God, following the footsteps of God will allow one to proceed.  The name of God: Jehovah.  Except, in Latin, Jehovah starts with an “I.”  Indy almost falls through the floor, but he’s lucky.  And the final task is the Path of God, a leap from the lion’s head will prove one’s worth.  It’s a wide chasm that no one can jump across, not even Indy.  It will take a leap of faith.  Actually, the bridge just blends in really well with the wall [remarkable effect].  Indy encounters the final knight, but their discussion is interrupted by Donovan and Elsa.  Elsa agrees to give Donovan the Grail.  She selects a golden and bejeweled cup, worthy of the “king of kings”.  But when Donovan drinks the water, he rapidly ages (rather creepy).  He chose unwisely, the knight states.  Indiana selects a wooden cup, like a carpenter would make.  He tests it, and chose wisely.  But the knight warns him that the Grail cannot pass the great seal.

The Grail heals Henry and causes the mooks to scatter.  But Elsa tries to take it with her, causing the temple to collapse.  She and the Grail drop and Indy grabs Elsa.  She tries to reach the Grail, but he can’t hold her.  She drops and is lost, then Indiana drops.  Henry grabs him and finally calls him Indiana instead of Junior when Indy tries to reach the Grail himself.  The good guys escape and Sallah asks why Henry keeps calling Indiana “Junior.”  Because his actual name is Henry Jones Junior.  They named the dog Indiana.  And the heroes gallop off into the sunset with the theme playing.

There are a few things I liked in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; Cate Blanchett, John Hurt, and Jim Broadbent were great additions to the cast.  They at least mentioned Marcus Brody and Henry Jones Senior.  And Indiana and Marion officially get back together, and Indiana discovers he has a son.  Oh, and we catch a glimpse of the Ark of the Covenant in a crate.

These movies are so full of adventure; don’t we all wish we could go on an adventure and find priceless treasures and be the hero?  Thwart the Nazis?  History comes alive…and occasionally tries to kill us, but we’re smart enough to get away.  Harrison plays the role with charm.  He’s not suave like James Bond, but we like a rough and tumble hero.  And hey, he still gets the girl.

We can see where many of the elements of the past movies get their influence.  And I have commented that I prefer this version of the Holy Grail legend; less controversial.  As least pays homage to the time period that the Grail legend surfaced?  (And who are we to argue with Sean Connery?)  Overall, just fun movies to watch. At the end of the day, the good guy wins, with a bit of brain and brawn. And John Williams’ score is brilliant as well…everyone knows the theme; a cheerful march to victory.

Up Next: Adventures with the Library, starting with The Librarian movies

Lots of Running Around Historical Sites

Da Vinci Code

A very popular and controversial book by Dan Brown.  The movie starred Tom Hanks as Professor Robert Langdon, a symbologist [fictional career] at Harvard.  Sir Ian McKellan (Gandalf and older Magneto, amongst other roles in his illustrious career) appears as Sir Leigh Teabing.  Alfred Molina (the bad guy in the live-action Sorcerer’s Apprentice, briefly appeared in Prince of Persia, he voiced bad guy Viggo Grimborne in the How To Train Your Dragon series Race to the Edge [love the show, we will definitely cover it down the road]; but he’s most notable as Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2…and may be reprising the role in the upcoming Tom Holland Spider-Man movie) pops in as a bishop.  And the talented Paul Bettany (Dr. Stephen Maturin in Master and Commander, Geoffrey Chauce in A Knight’s Tale, Jarvis/Vision in the MCU, Dryden Vos in Solo: A Star Wars Story, and Lord Melbourne in The Young Victoria) is once again naked at some point as Silas.  The film is also directed by Ron Howard (who has directed Tom Hanks in these movies as well as Splash and Apollo 13).

Angels and Demons was the book’s prequel, but the film’s sequel since they didn’t know if Da Vinci Code would be successful [there are further books in the series, including The Lost Symbol (which I have read) and Inferno, which I just started reading [not nearly as engaging at the moment as Once Upon a Time or Librarians] and unaware they made into a film as well…I shall have to investigate].  Hanks returns as Langdon, joined by Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi, Lumiere in the live-action Beauty and the Beast [where McKellan was Cogsworth], as well as appearing in Miss Potter, Moulin Rouge, and Down with Love) as Camerlengo Patrick McKenna [he was Italian in the book; they changed him to Irish because McGregor is certainly not Italian].  Stellan Skarsgård (Bootstrap Bill Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean, Bill in Mamma Mia, Captain Tupolev in The Hunt for Red October, and he even appears in the MCU as Eric Selvig) is Commander Richter.  If the Inspector looks familiar, he was General Glozelle in Prince Caspian.  (And yes, Alfred Molina provides the opening voiceover).

Da Vinci Code opens with an old man’s death inside the Louvre, Silas searching for answers.  Robert Langdon is called in because of the strange markings…and the police believe him to be a suspect.  He’s helped out by Sophie, who turns out to be the curator’s granddaughter.  Langdon was supposed to meet with the curator, but the man never showed.  Invisible ink at the crime scene reads “O Draconian devil, O lame saint,” and the Fibonacci sequence out of order.  If you rearrange the letters, it spells out Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa.  There are painted the words “so dark the con of man,” leading to Madonna of the Rocks where a cross topped with the Fleur de Lis is found.  Langdon and Sophie follow the clues, after distracting the police.

Langdon goes on to tell Sophie about the Priory of Scion, that worked against the church because it guards the secret of God’s power on Earth.  Opposing the Priory is another secret society, Opus Dei (to which Silas belongs).  Langdon claims that the Templar Knights were the military arm of the Priory, and that the reason for the Crusades were to find an artifact.  They did, but then the church turned on them and killed them.  Langdon tells Sophie they are searching for the Holy Grail.  The key leads to a Swiss bank with a long term safety deposit box.  Inside the box is a wooden box topped with a rose, supposedly the symbol for the Holy Grail.  But the police are onto Sophie and Robert, though they escape thanks to the manager because of a “safe passage clause” that came with the deposit box.  Except he turns on them once they’re safe and tries to kill them.  Robert manages to knock him out and they drive to an old friend of his who is a Grail historian, Leigh Teabing.

Inside the rose box is a cryptex, designed by da Vinci.  A five letter word will open the cryptex, but if it is forced, the secret map inside will be destroyed.  Teabing lets Robert and Sophie in after they have answered three questions.  He then explains that the Holy Grail is not a cup, but instead is a woman.  The bloodline of Jesus Christ; he married Mary Magdalene, but that was not the image that the Church wanted of their Savior, so they hid the secret [I must admit, McKellan pulls off academic speech rather well].

Silas has been after this secret as well and has made his way to Teabing’s house and attacks.  Leigh and Sophie take him down after he knocks Robert out.  Leigh determines they need to head for England now.  They find a clue beneath the rose in the box; they must find a knight interred in London, overseen by a Pope.  They first head to Temple Church, but the knights are effigies, not tombs.  Silas pops back up and kidnaps Leigh.  Sophie and Robert make a run for it and Robert finally deduces that “A. Pope” means Alexander Pope, who oversaw Newton’s funeral (because Newton’s work on gravity angered the church, supposedly). 

We discover that Leigh has been playing both sides of the game.  He is the voice of the “Teacher” that has been instructing Opus Dei.  He sends cops to kill Silas, who accidentally shoots his bishop mentor while trying to escape.  The bishop was also the one who planted the idea with the French police that Langdon was responsible.  Leigh catches up to Sophie and Robert at Westminster Abbey, where they’re trying to figure out what orb is missing from Newton’s tomb.  That orb will be the five letter word they need to unlock the cryptex.  Leigh admits he will do anything to find the Grail.  When he threatens to shoot Sophie, Robert works out the clue.  He then throws the cryptex to Leigh, who crashes to the ground, breaking the cryptex.  The police arrive then and arrest Leigh.

But Robert had worked out the clue: apple.  The scroll inside points Sophie and him to ancient Roslyn, where the tomb of Mary Magdalene lies under starry sky.  Their next stop is Roslyn Chapel in Scotland (supposedly built by the Templars [it was built by the Sinclair family in the fifteenth century]).  The couple ventures into the basement where there are carvings of stars and they find a secret door down further.  But there is no sarcophagus. There is research, detailing the bloodline and Robert finally makes the connection; Sophie was not the curator’s actual granddaughter.  The curator was the Grand Master of the Priory of Scion and he took Sophie in when the rest of her family were killed.  He trained and guarded her; for she is the descendant of Mary Magdalene [yes, the Sinclairs are descendants of the Saint-Clairs of Normandy, France…which Saint-Clair is actually a place name, so not really “the oldest family in France”].

They meet more of the Priory, who will protect Sophie.  Robert advises that she could reveal her secret to the world, but would the living descendent of Jesus Christ destroy or renew faith?  Back in Paris, Robert mulls over the Rose Line, which is a trail that runs through Paris.  He follows it and finds one over the Louvre, where the bottom of the glass pyramid meets a mirrored sculpture.  We’re shown that deep below that lies the actual sarcophagus, beneath the starry sky of Paris.

Angels and Demons begins with a Pope’s death and the ceremonial events that follow.  At the same time, the collider in Cern creates anti-matter for the first time in a large enough quantity to be studied.  Then one of the canisters is stolen.  The Vatican Police visit Robert Langdon at Harvard, requesting his help because it appears that the Illuminati have resurfaced.  He wrote a book on the subject and his recent involvement with the church (meaning the Da Vinci Code) have recommended him to their service.  The Inspector is pleased for Langdon to help, but Commander Ritcher doesn’t trust him.  The four favored Cardinals have been kidnapped and are threatened to be executed once an hour, by the Illuminati.  The Illuminati are a secret society made up by scientists who were persecuted by the church for their radical thinking.

Robert teams up with Vittoria, the lead scientist on the antimatter that was stolen and is now shown to be beneath Vatican City somewhere, where thousands have gathered to find out who will be named the new Pope.  It’s now a race around Rome to discover where the Cardinals are hidden, which may lead to the secret Illuminati church.  First, Robert needs access to the Vatican archives in order to find the first clue, hidden in Galileo’s journals.  Robert is granted access by Patrick; he holds some authority now since he was the Pope’s chamberlain.  (It is an exciting dash around Rome, but hard to write out.)

Robert manages to rescue the last Cardinal; they are too late to save the others each time they get to the marker.  He begins to suspect Commander Ritcher and is almost proven correct when Ritcher is discovered threatening Patrick.  Patrick has the final brand on his chest from the Illuminati.  It is also discovered that the previous Pope was poisoned, but now they have an idea where the antimatter is located.  Patrick agrees to take a helicopter up and let it detonate in the air, rather than below ground.  It seems like Patrick is the hero.

Until Robert has a hunch.  He finds security footage showing Ritcher confronting Patrick.  It was Patrick who arranged for the antimatter to be stolen because he feels that the church is going soft by embracing science.  If he resurrected the Illuminati, it would unite Christianity and bring faith back to the forefront.  Robert and Vittoria go to the head Cardinals and show them the footage.  Instead of them electing Patrick, he is to be arrested, though he burns himself alive before he can be handcuffed.  Instead, the Cardinals elect the final preferred Cardinal, who takes the name Luke, signaling that the world needs faith and science.  In thanks to Robert, he allows Robert to access the archives in order to finish his book, on the condition that in his will, the works are gifted back to the Vatican.

I first read Da Vinci Code for a project in high school; I recall the teacher not wholly agreeing with my assessment on the book, though we did go as a class to see the film when it released.  My friend, who was strongly religious, whispered disagreement with the film during the show.  It has also been proven after the release of his books, that statements Dan Brown makes as “fact” are inaccurate.

My take?  These are exciting and interesting books, a good page-turner.  The movies are also fantastic action-adventure films, but yes, a bit controversial.  I made the remark to a teacher once that I prefer the “Indiana Jones version of the Holy Grail.”  And really, da Vinci and Arthurian legends have little in common; they’re from different cultures, one born in Italy, the other with a strong basis in Britain with influences from France…yeah, you can thank the French for the love triangle.  But because a lot of history is unknown since records are hard to find for some things,  conspiracies are born to explain what we don’t know.  I do recommend both the books and movies as a good time, just don’t take them at face value.

Up Next: The best action-adventure movies, Indiana Jones

Gotta Do Crazy Things to Protect American History

National Treasure

I love these movies for the history.  They also feature an all-star cast.  Nicholas Cage leads as Benjamin Franklin Gates, Diane Kruger (you may recognize her as Helen from Troy) is Abigail Chase.  Jon Voight is Ben’s father, Patrick Gates.  The ever diabolical Sean Bean (GoldenEye, Patriot Games, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones) is Ian Howe.  Christopher Plummer (we sadly lost him recently, but he will forever be Captain Von Trapp) is the grandfather, John Adams Gates.  And if some of the FBI guys look familiar: Sandusky is Harvey Keitel (Sister Act, the bad guy) and Agent Johnson is Mark Pellegrino (Lucifer in Supernatural).  And that is David Dayan Fisher (Trent Kort, not a very good guy in NCIS, and he’ll appear briefly as another baddie in The Librarian: Quest for the Spear) as Shaw. 

Helen Mirren joins the party for Book of Secrets, as does Ed Harris (funny note; he played Beethoven in Copying Beethoven along with Diane Kruger) as Mitch Wilkinson.  Agent Spellman is played by Alicia Coppola (who has been in several television series, including JAG, NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, Castle, and MacGyver).  Yes, that is Bruce Greenwood (Admiral Pike in the newer Star Trek movies) as the President, and William Brent (or Billy Unger, he was my favorite character, Chase in Lab Rats) as the young Charles Gates.

Grandfather John Adams Gates tells young Benjamin Franklin Gates about their family history; in 1832, the last signer of the Declaration of Independence was dying.  He had his driver, Thomas Gates, take him to the White House to see President Andrew Jackson, so he could pass along important information.  But the President was out.  So he whispered it to young Thomas instead.  There is a treasure beyond all imagination, collected over the centuries, hidden in America.  The Knights Templar discovered it in vaults beneath Solomon’s Temple and smuggled it out.  They eventually became the Freemasons and members included prominent Founding Fathers, such as Paul Revere, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin.  The old man’s dying words to Thomas were “the secret lies with Charlotte.”  Sadly, he had no clue what that meant, but the Gates men pass it down through the years.  Patrick interrupts story time, but John “knights” Ben before he leaves.

Fast forward to a more present day expedition in the Arctic Circle.  Ben’s theory is proven correct, Charlotte refers to a ship.  Ian is his investor and accompanies him below deck once they uncover the ship.  The skeletal captain is guarding one barrel in particular; Ben digs out a package, revealing a carved pipe.  Ben rubs blood over the carvings and rolls the pipe, revealing the next clue.  He works out the phrasing and figures out that there is an invisible map on the back of the Declaration of Independence.  Ian speaks up that he has a grey past and he can arrange to steal the Declaration.  Ben opposes the idea, so Ian has Shaw threaten to shoot him.  Well, Ben lights a flare in a room full of gunpowder, then dives for cover with Riley.  (Great guys, you just destroyed a historical artifact.) 

Now, Ben and Riley have to stop Ian.  They try to leave a tip with the FBI, but they’re dismissed.  Ben figures they need someone passionate about historical documents, so he heads to the National Archives and meets Abigail Chase [fun fact, she is part German like her character].  They bond briefly over her collection of Washington campaign buttons, but she still does not believe “Mr. Brown” (the name Gates has poor standing in the academic community).  Ben is then inspired by a line from the Declaration that means if one has the ability, they have the responsibility to take action against something wrong.  So, the only way they can protect the Declaration from Ian is to steal it.  Riley takes Ben to the Library of Congress to prove that Ben cannot, but Ben knows of a way they can.  If they use the upcoming Archives Gala as a distraction, raise the heat sensors in the casing so the document is in the preservation room, it will be far easier to sneak the document out.

Riley sets up his equipment, Ben sends Abigail the remaining campaign button she requires (dipped in a solution that will dye keys).  Ben sneaks into the event as maintenance, but switches to a tux so he can give a glass of champagne to Abigail, so he can retrieve her fingerprint.  Meanwhile, Ian and his crew use explosives and such to sneak into the lower levels.  So far, Ben’s plan is working, until he runs into Ian.  Ian starts shooting.  Ben takes a slight detour through the gift shop where there are reproductions of the Declaration for sale.  Ian’s entrance is discovered and security is alerted.  Abigail begins to suspect “Mr. Brown” and follows him outside.  Ben tries to get away, but now has to chase after Ian, who has grabbed Abigail.

Ian ends up with the reproduction, but Ben had to use a credit card to pay for it, so he can’t return to his house.  He heads for his father’s, letting Abigail know he is actually Gates, not Brown.  And the FBI start investigating, Sandusky as lead.  They had received a tip about the Declaration being stolen, but it wasn’t deemed credible, so no file was open.  Patrick Gates is not thrilled with Ben showing up at his house and still does not believe in the treasure.  He thinks it was a myth to distract the British.  But Ben carries on and Abigail helps him rub lemon juice onto the back of the Declaration.  Ink is revealed.  There are sets of numbers, creating a cipher.  Ben asks his dad for the Silence Dogood letters; written by Benjamin Franklin at fifteen under a pseudonym.  They used to have the letters, hidden in a desk, but Patrick has now donated them to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.  Ian has also figured this out.

While Ben and Abigail change out of their party clothes, Riley hires a boy on a field trip to retrieve the letters from the cipher. Ian eventually notices the boy, but doesn’t catch Riley.  The clue leads to the Liberty Bell and its original housing, at Independence Hall.  They need to be standing at the right spot at the right time to find the next clue.  (I love seeing the singing room…it reminds me of 1776 [because no doubt they filmed there])  Ben retrieves a pair of spectacles, invented by Franklin.  “Heere at the Wall” with a Celtic cross is revealed.  And they catch sight of Ian’s goons.  They split up and split their pieces up; Ben has the glasses, Riley and Abigail have the document.  A chase begins in Philadelphia and Abigail almost gets hit by a truck, and loses the document to Ian.

The FBI intercepts Ben at his car, though Riley and Abigail get away.  Abigail has an idea to get Ben out of custody, though it means working with Ian.  Ben is to meet Shaw at the U.S.S. Intrepid in New York, then jumps over the side so he can meet with Ian at the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street, at Trinity Church.  The glasses have different colored lenses that can be combined to read different parts of the map. 

Now, they venture into the crypts beneath the church, joined by Patrick, who was captured by Ian’s men.  There is an ancient shaft they discover, leading lower.  But the years have rotted the structure and it falls apart on them.  Shaw plunges to his death and Ben and Abigail almost join him.  Ben had to drop Abigail so he could save the Declaration, but there was a landing below her; and she would have done the same thing.  Riley would have dropped both crazy people.  Ian insists they continue.  They find another chamber, but it is small and empty.  Patrick makes up a clue regarding the lanterns and sends Ian and his goon to the Old North Church in Boston.  That was just to buy him and his son time.  Ben finds another door to another chamber, but it is still empty.  Ben despairs.  He really thought he was going to find it.  Patrick points out that Ben has followed all the clues; they’ve led this far, they’ve worked, which means the treasure was real.  Ben ponders that there has to be another way out, in case of cave in.  The pipe comes in handy again and turns another door leading to a larger chamber.  A torch lights a line of oil revealing the treasure [the music almost sounds like Pirates of the Caribbean for a moment, considering Brukheimer was producer on both].  There are scrolls from the Library at Alexandria (drool), Roman and Egyptian artifacts.  And oh look, stairs!  (Riley cries).

Back topside, they call the FBI and Ben hands the Declaration over to Sandusky.  It is not a bargaining chip.  He would really like to not go to prison; maybe Sandusky will take a bribe.  How ’bout ten billion dollars?  Sandusky points out Masonic teaching states that it should not all go to one man; he is sympathetic to Ben.  Ben agrees, it should be split between various museums; it belongs to the people and the world should see it.  Credit goes to the Gates family, along with Abigail Chase and Riley Poole.  And if you really want to arrest someone, he knows someone who is breaking into Old North Church.  [So Sean Bean doesn’t die in this movie, but he does go to prison].

Riley spends his minuscule percentage on a Ferarri, while Ben buys a historical house; and starts a relationship with Abigail.

Book of Secrets starts on April 14th, 1865 in Washington D.C., five days after the end of the Civil War [which puts this prologue close to the prologue of Sahara].  Thomas Gates is hired to decode a message, at the same time that John Wilkes Booth shoots President Lincoln.  Thomas hears the commotion and realizes who has asked him to find the lost city of gold.  He attempts to burn the page, but is shot for his trouble.  His son, Charles is watching, but spared.  Thomas is able to pass the phrase “the debt that all men pay” to his son.  Another time jump to Ben giving a lecture on this event.  A man in the audience comes forward with the missing page from the Booth diary, and claiming that Thomas Gates was a co-conspirator in the assassination since his name was listed in the diary.  Ben is now determined to clear his ancestor’s good name. 

Except, he and Abigail are split at the moment so he tries to sneak in to gain access to the page.  She allows him to run scans on the page (they negotiate furniture) and they discover residual ink from the opposing page.  The FBI agents are thrilled that Gates is in hot water, but Sandusky points out that they need to know why Wilkinson has come forward with the page now.

The residual ink shows some of Thomas’s work and Patrick recalls “the debt that all men pay,” that was passed down from his grandfather Charles.  This breaks the cipher to Laboule Lady; referring to the man who created the Statue of Liberty.  There is a smaller version in Paris that he referred to as his lady.  Riley uses a drone to capture an inscription on the flame and Ben charms French security to translate the message.  This leads them to the Resolute desks and Ben heads to Buckingham Palace.

Wilkinson attacked Patrick at night so he could clone his phone so he can keep abreast of the search.  Abigail has also shown up at Buckingham Palace and will unknowingly put a wrench into Ben’s plan, so he stages an argument with her so they are escorted to lockup.  This leads them to a service elevator so they can see the desk in the queen’s apartments [the desks are not actually identical and the queen does not actually use the Resolute desk, but it’s cool for the movie].  The desks are actually puzzles and are hiding a carved plank.  Ben gets the plank out of the palace, but they’re pursued by Wilkinson.  Ben tosses the plank after he gets a picture of it.

Now, they need it deciphered.  And his mother happens to be an expert on that language, though estranged from his father.  She teaches at the University of Maryland.  She is pleased to see Ben and Abigail, but snips at Patrick.  They think one of the symbols means Cibola, the City of Gold.  A more accurate translation is simply the Center of the World, or Sacred Temple.  And they’re missing half of the plank anyways.  Which means, Ben has to break into the Oval Office to look at that Resolute desk.  Abigail’s new boyfriend is their ticket in and she stages a kissing session with him so Ben can find the plank.  Except it’s not there, just a stamp.

Riley knows what that stamp means; he wrote a book on it (which doesn’t sell well and his friends haven’t read it yet).  It’s the President’s secret book; written by Presidents, for Presidents only and filled with every conspiracy America has.  Sandusky can tell Ben, outside of the FBI office, that the book does in fact exist, but only the sitting President knows where it is.  And, you guessed it, Ben has to talk to the President.  But away from everyone.  So he manages to get the President’s birthday party moved to Mount Vernon where Ben know there are secret passages.  One of these days, he’ll wear his tux to a party he is actually invited to.  But he does get the President interested in his map written by George Washington.  The door shuts on the passage, sealing the President away from Secret Service.  Ben will show him the way out regardless, but does ask about the book.  Once they’re outside, the President gives Ben the clues he needs to find the book, but he has to hurry, Ben is now the target of a federal manhunt for kidnapping the President.  Oh, and if he has a moment, check out something on page forty-seven.

Ben meets Riley and Abigail at the Library of Congress and they head for the special collections.  The call number is the combination to reveal the book.  He gets a picture of what he needs, sending Riley and Abigail ahead when the FBI shows up.  There’s a brief car chase where Ben has to get into Abigail’s car.  But they have what they need. 

Wilkinson has been following Ben’s progress and goes to his mother first to threaten her; she cannot reveal the true translation to Ben, only to Wilkinson, who has further information.  She drops a hint to Patrick and Ben meets up with them at Mount Rushmore.  Wilkinson wants credit for finding the treasure and Ben hints that Wilkinson may also need the money.  Rocks in the lake behind the mountain lead to an underground temple.  They all get trapped and must find their way through.  Lots of traps lay in wait, like balancing on a board on top a pillar. They do find the golden temple, after water drains away.  Sadly, the water begins to rush back in and they’re almost trapped again.  Ben is willing to sacrifice himself to save his parents, Riley, and Abigail, but Wilkinson ends up drowning instead.  His final request is that credit goes to his family.

Ben meets with the President, who clears him of charges. Ben instructs that credit is to be shared with Wilkinson.  And there is another sequel hook that hasn’t come to fruition, when the President asks Ben about page forty-seven.  The film ends happily, Riley meets a girl, Abigail and Ben get back together, and even his parents may be on better terms now.

I do wonder how there is a connection between “pre-Columbian” culture and the Sioux of North Dakota; there is a lot of land between something that is reminiscent of Aztec or Inca and the Black Hills, and a lot of different people in between.

The action and adventure portions keep the suspense going; though I do wonder how these cultures created the booby traps.  Sure, they make sense trying to find the treasure, but how did they work creating them and how did they decide on those clues and such?  Probably a result of watching so many of these kind of movies.  Still like them; just have to suspend disbelief for a little bit.  And of course, the history!  If  these movies get more people interested in history, great!

Riley is comedic relief, though a bit whiny in the second film.  I think Nicholas Cage was a good leading man; he delivered a believable performance.  And I like Abigail; she’s intelligent, but not afraid to handle things on her own if need be.  And I really wished they had made the third movie, because I still wonder, what was the President looking for on page forty-seven?

Up Next: More history conspiracies with Da Vinci Code and Angles and Demons

They Did a Panama

Sahara

Based on a Clive Cussler novel [I have not read this particular volume, but I have read his first in the Dirk Pitt series, The Mediterranean Caper; it was quite good, I’d readily read more…and we have a whole collection in the house].  It’s an action-adventure film that I categorize as a cross between Indiana Jones and James Bond.  Familiar faces abound; Matthew McConaughey stars as Dirk Pitt.  William H. Macy (a pilot in Air Force One) is Admiral Sandecker, Penélope Cruz is Eva Rojas, Steve Zahn is Al Giordino, and Lambert Wilson (he’s appeared in The Matrix franchise, and was Charles, the King of France in The Hollow Crown’s Henry V) is Yves Massarde.

The backstory of the movie is the last ironclad ship of the Civil War, the Texas runs the Union blockade, carrying gold coins from the Confederacy.  Fast forward a bit and we’re introduced to NUMA through newspaper clips, photos, and memorabilia.  Our main character, who hasn’t actually appeared on screen yet, was part of the Navy SEALS, then became a salvager through NUMA.  And another plot point is introduced, W.H.O. doctors are in Nigeria, tracking a disease that is spreading out of Mali.  Eva really wants to find the source of the disease, but is blocked by red tape.  She is attacked while tracking down a patient and rescued by a diver in the water; Dirk.  She wakes up aboard a ship and is briefly introduced to Al Giordino, Admiral Sandecker, and Rudi before Dirk makes another appearance, bringing up salvage from the ocean.  NUMA is presenting the sarcophagus at the museum that evening, which means Eva can pitch her plea to businessman Yves Massarde.  She gets her trip to Mali.

What we then find out is that Yves is actually in partnership with the local dictator who is making it dangerous to travel to Mali.  Dirk is also pursuing a lead on the Texas; he has a theory and a few supporting documents that the ironclad ship got caught up in a major storm and ended up in the Niger river.  He just has to find concrete evidence.  So he wheedles the use of Sandecker’s boat and agrees to take Eva up river.  They part, though agree to hook up again in Monte Ray.  Dirk finds evidence of the storm.  Eva and her partner are attacked again, though Eva hides in the well she is gathering evidence from.  Her partner is killed and by untying the rope and hiding her glow stick, she is not discovered. 

Dirk, Al, and Rudi run into local trouble on the water; bad guys are searching for the doctors.  They evade the bad guys, with Sandecker on the phone, asking about his boat.  Well, they “pull a Panama” [one of my favorite parts of the whole film] and the boat gets blown up.  Al and Dirk will go after Eva, Rudi is to report to Sandecker.  They’ve got some red algae that needs tested.  Al and Dirk make it in time to help rescue Eva, though she does quite fine climbing out of the well and shooting a bad guy.  They’re waylaid from getting out of the country by the local rebel group.  Eva finally figures out that the “plague” is a toxin.  Something is poisoning the water system, but far apart from each other.

Al finds the puzzle piece playing with the kids; when he has to retrieve a ball, there is a drawing of Dirk’s ironclad ship.  Years ago, what was desert was water, letting the ship ride upriver.  Then it dries out, burying the ship.  Which is how the toxin is spreading, through the underground river.  They find the Texas, they find the river, and they’ll find the source of the toxin.

Meanwhile, Sandecker is trying to wrangle up help to get “his boys” out of Mali, including going to an old CIA contact.  And Rudi runs his chemistry, discovering the toxin as well.  Which, if it hits the ocean, the whole world is in trouble.  But the U.S. Embassy guy doesn’t do anything, so it’s up to NUMA.

Al, Dirk, and Eva discover Yves solar power plant.  It has the side effect of storing some toxic barrels underground, which leaches into the water supply.  Yves finds them meddling and takes Eva hostage and dumps Dirk and Al in the desert.  The two buddies rescue themselves and fix up an airplane wreck into a ride (to the awesome tune of Magic Carpet Ride by Steppenwolf.  Sweet Home Alabama played earlier).  Dirk calls Sandecker and works out a plan.  He and Al head back to the power plant to rescue Eva, but she has told Yves what his plant is causing.  So he decides to cut his losses.  (Here comes the Bond element) he’ll plant a bomb to blow up the plant, while he gets away in his helicopter.  Al goes after the bomb, Dirk goes after Eva.  He faces off with a bad guy on the top of the solar tower, and Eva jumps out of the helicopter.  Plant does not explode, but Yves still high-tails it out of there.

Now our heroes have to deal with the local warlord, Kazeem.  They hide in the ruins they find and discover the Texas while blowing up a sand dune.  They could hide out in the tough old ship, except Kazeem has armor-piercing bullets.  So they shoot an old cannon ball at him, blowing up his helicopter.  The rebels swoop in to intimidate the rest of Kazeem’s army.  Oh, and the Texas is full of Confederacy gold.  Which Sandecker reports to the Embassy guy, there is no gold belonging to the United States aboard the ship.  But he will consider to work for the U.S. government on a project-by-project basis in exchange for a new boat.  And of course, Dirk gets the girl.  And the fancy car.

To me, Sahara is a fun action movie that shows that history can be very interesting at times.  Who would have thought that a Confederate iron clad ship could end up in Africa?  History always ties to the present and there are several novel series out there that hit on that.  And it is really cool that an old cannon can blow up a helicopter! And kind of want to know what actually happened in Panama, and why did it involve blowing up a boat?

Up Next: More history in National Treasure

History Really Comes to Life

I’m back! I apologize for the hiatus, but between the holidays and working more and trying to read the very long list of books I have, it’s taken a bit to get back to blogging. But, we have lots of fun movies ahead, continuing with the action-adventure category. Onward!

Night at the Museum

A trilogy of films, more comedy than action/adventure per say, but considering they deal with history and a museum, they get placed here.  Headlining is Ben Stiller as Larry Daley.  Dick Van Dyke (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mary Poppins) appears as Cecil, Mickey Rooney (whose career stretches back to the 1920s) is Gus, Rickey Gervais (funny man most famous for The Office [no, I haven’t watched]) is the no-nonsense museum director Dr. McPhee.  Robin Williams (y’all should know who he is; Mork from Ork, Genie in Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, etc) plays Teddy Roosevelt.  Rami Malek (recently played Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody) appears as Ahkmenrah and Owen Wilson is Western miniature Jedediah.  In Battle of the Smithsonian, Amy Adams joins as Amelia Earhart and the Jonas Brothers are the three singing cherubs.  Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey, the Beast in the live-action Beauty and the Beast) joins as Lancelot in Secret of the Tomb, as does Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect; and honestly, not one of my famous actresses; not my kind of humor) as a security guard.  Ben Kingsley is Merenhahre, Ahkmenrah’s father, and Brennan Elliott (very popular in Hallmark movies) is Cecil’s father.

In the first movie, Larry ends up taking a job as a night guard at New York City’s Museum of Natural History so he can have a steady income to support his son.  The former trio of guards act a little odd and hand him an instruction book, and warn him to not let anything in or out of the museum.  Then he’s very surprised when he turns around the first evening and the giant Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton is missing.  He finds it and it proceeds to chase him, until he reads he is supposed to throw the bone.  The skeleton really is just a huge puppy and wants to play fetch.  The Easter Island head calls him a dum dum and wants gum gum.  Animals are alive, as are all the displays.  Luckily, Teddy Roosevelt helps Larry out.  He explains that the tablet of Akmenrah brings everything in the museum to life at night.

Come morning, Larry initially wants to quit, but when his son tells him how proud he is, he keeps the job.  Cecil the guard suggested he read up on history, so Larry hits the books and even asks questions of the pretty museum docent, Rebecca.  Things go better the following night; he sets up his son’s remote-controlled car to drag “Rexie’s” bone around, lets Dexter the monkey steal fake keys, and tries to make peace between the Roman and Western diorama figures.  Sadly, it all goes nuts and Dexter lets some of the displays out.  The monkey gets in a slapping match with Larry, until Roosevelt puts a stop to it; “who is evolved?” 

Larry is almost in danger of losing his job, but begs one more chance.  He takes his son to work that evening and puzzlingly, nothing comes to life.  The tablet is gone.  They discover the three old security guards have stolen it, along with other artifacts.  Turns out, the tablet brings back their youth every night and they intend to keep that.  They planted evidence, hoping to get Larry fired.  It becomes a fight for the tablet and Larry gets the museum displays to work together so they can keep the magic alive.  They also release Akmenrah, who is very polite and knowledgeable.

Larry wins out, but is again in danger of being fired.  There are news reports of the exhibits outside the museum.  Except it has drawn in record crowds, so Larry gets to keep his job, and throws a party at night.

The second film takes place two years later and the displays are getting packed up, ready to be shipped off to the Federal Archives for permanent storage.  Larry is now the CEO of Daley Devices, thanks to inventions he’s come up with inspired by his time as a night guard.  He visits the museum and speaks to Teddy and finds out what is going on.  The museum board wants to see progress, so they are installing lots of new holographic displays.  Teddy will remain in New York, as well as Akmenrah and the tablet.  Meaning, it is the last night many of the characters will be brought to life.  Some blame Larry for not being around for the past year or so to speak for the museum; he’s too busy on his phone.

The next night, Larry gets a call from Jed; they’re in trouble, the monkey has stolen the tablet and its now on its way to D.C. and Akmenrah’s brother, Kamunrah is a bad guy.  So Larry is off to D.C., aided a bit by his son.  It is his son who points out that there are nineteen museums that make up the Smithsonian Institute and the archives run underneath all of them.  Larry finds his friends and the tablet, then Kamunrah, who wants to rule the world and bring back his undead army.  Larry escapes, meeting Amelia Earhart and Custer along the way.  [I love how Sacajawea finds Custer to be an utter idiot.]  Kamunrah gathers Ivan the Terrible, Napoleon, and Al Capone to help him.  They capture Jed and that forces Larry to agree to find “the secret at the heart of Pharaoh’s tomb” in order to save him.  The bust of Teddy Roosevelt helps a bit, but Larry has to find the Einstein bobble-heads at the Air and Space museum.

That is indeed me, as a child, in Captain Kirk’s chair

Side note: I’m a huge fan of the Smithsonian; history major and all that.  At one point, I thought of finding a job there (hard to come by).  I’ve visited them several times, including as a child.  A few memorable experiences: there is a picture of me in Captain Kirk’s chair from the original Star Trek series, and I can distinctly remember looking up at a camouflaged Italian WWII plane and telling my mother it was a “pizza plane.”  Mom looks up and yeah, looks like pizza to a three-year-old, with spots that resembled pepperoni.  My dad loves planes and flying so we make sure to visit the Air and Space museum and it was nice to revisit a few places when I was on a trip in college.

Back to the film: Darth Vader and Oscar the Grouch try to join Kamunrah, but they’re not evil enough.  The Tuskegee airmen thank Amelia for “clearing the runway” for them and all the planes and shuttle almost take off in the museum, but Larry says no-go.  Einstein reveals the answer is pi.  Kamunrah’s men catch up, so Amelia and Larry have to use the Wright flyer to escape.  Then crash through the beautiful stained-glass window at the Smithsonian castle.  Kamunrah claims the tablet and the combination and opens the door to the Underworld.  Half-bird, half-men emerge.  Then Abraham Lincoln stomps in and scares the birdmen back to the Underworld.  Back-up arrives and Larry gets the bad guys to fight amongst themselves.  He pushes Kamunrah through the gate and all is right with their world.  Amelia agrees to fly the New Yorkers back before the sun rises.

Larry gets his old night guard job back and implements night hours at the museum, using the living displays instead of holograms.  The museum director reveals that a mysterious benefactor donated a large endowment, on the proviso that everything remains the same.  Larry happens to spot a woman who looks suspiciously like Amelia Earhart.

In the third movie, the crew heads to London because the magic of the table it fading.  This accidentally ruins a huge night at the museum and is close to costing the director his job.  Larry finally explains what has been going on and convinces him to send Larry, Akmenrah, and the tablet to the London museum.  Teddy, Sacajawea, Atilla, Jed, and Octavius manage to sneak along.  They meet Sir Lancelot and journey to find Akmenrah’s parents.  The full back story comes out, between Cecil being the boy on the original expedition to find the tablet and the history of the tablet.  It must be recharged by the moon every night to keep its power.  But it’s been locked floors underground for fifty years.  Now it’s a race to get it recharged before all the characters die.

Sadly, Lancelot is a little delusional and takes the tablet, thinking it to be the fabled Holy Grail and he’s determined to find King Arthur (not realizing he is a mythical character).  Who he does find is Hugh Jackman playing King Arthur in a production of Camelot.  (Yep, that is really Hugh Jackman.  He even does a Wolverine bit [hilarious!].)  Larry talks Lancelot around and the tablet it recharged just when you think all hope is lost.

The displays come to an agreement; Akmenrah should stay in London with his parents, and the tablet.  Teddy and the others will go back to New York, knowing they won’t waken again.  Lancelot has come around and will keep the triceratops skeleton in line.  Larry’s not ready to lose his friends, but says goodbye nevertheless.  Teddy’s final words are “it’s time for your next adventure.  Smile, my boy, it’s sunrise.”  Larry takes the heat for the disaster at the planetarium opening, losing his job but allowing the director to keep his.  Larry goes back to school to get his degree to become a teacher.  He watches outside the museum three years later when a display visits from London, including the tablet.  The director gets to finally see everything come to life and party.

The film ends “In Loving Memory of Mickey Rooney.  And For Robin Williams.  Magic Never Ends.”  This was their last film…so it makes the ending really sad.  Overall, I find these movies hilarious. For me, I already knew a lot of this history, but I hope it inspired others to read more about some of the figures brought to life.  Owen Wilson as Jedediah and his conflict with Octavius is probably my favorite part; these little guys taking on a huge world.  Robin Williams is superb and it was very surprising the first time to discover that Dick Van Dyke was a bad guy!  He’s lovable Bert!  And can still dance.  Great to see Hugh Jackman’s cameo and Dan Stevens was great as Lancelot.

Next Time: Sahara

Some Analysts are Good in the Field

Jack Ryan Wrap-Up

Clear and Present Danger follows Patriot Games and also stars Harrison Ford.  It involves drug cartels in South America [those, sadly, still exist], and the movie is quite frankly boring.  There’s no action until an hour into the movie.  It doesn’t get interesting until the last half hour.  Jack keeps getting sent into the field even though he’s only an analyst.  But he handles himself reasonably well in a fight.

There’s the threat of a political scandal reaching all the way to the President [and I have to stop and think, when this takes place, Nixon and Watergate were recent memory.]  But Jack is determined to do what is right; Admiral Greer’s final advice to Jack (he passes away from cancer in this film, so Jack has to do his job) is Jack took an oath to the people, not just the President. And Jack will not let the mess that happened stand.  And this is why I dislike politics; everyone is out to screw everyone else over.  One man takes it upon themselves, at the President’s quasi-orders, to start an unauthorized war in Colombia and of course there is corruption within the cartels and people will take advantage of a situation and innocent people end up getting hurt.  The first two Jack Ryan movies are much better.

Sum of All Fears came out in 2002 as a quasi-reboot and was not well received, particularly in my family.  It completely threw the book out the window.  We watched it once and refuse to ever watch it again.

Shadow Recruit is a more proper reboot from 2014 with an all-star cast.  Chris Pine is now Jack Ryan, Keira Knightley is his girlfriend, Cathy.  Kevin Costner is Jack’s handler, Harper, and Kenneth Branagh directs and plays the Russian villain.  It’s not based off of one of Clancy’s books; it re-imagines Jack post-9/11.  Actually, the film opens with the television report of the attack on the World Trade Center [bad timing, I managed to re-watch the film the evening of September 10th.]  Jack enlists and deploys to Afghanistan; there is a helicopter attack like the typical backstory and Jack meets Cathy during his physical therapy.  Harper recruits him because he notices patterns others miss.

It’s a good action film and continues to demonstrate that Jack Ryan is an analyst, not a field agent.  Of course, he survives and Chris Pine is an excellent leading man and handles action very well. Even watching the film more than once, it keeps the suspense.

There is a recent series titled Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan that airs on Amazon Prime.  I have not watched it (I think I’ll keep to my originals, thanks.  And I really don’t need another series to get involved in)

Next Time: After the holidays, we will return to Harrison Ford in Air Force One.  Never fear, I’m not going anywhere, just trying to make time for reading and my own writing; and balance a job.  I love action movies, so I definitely want to cover these…and we haven’t even hit the major movies that claimed my heart and soul!

Harrison Ford to the Rescue

Patriot Games

This is a favorite of mine and has a rockstar cast.  Harrison Ford has taken over as Jack Ryan.  Sean Bean (Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings) is the Irish Sean Miller.  James Fox, ironic that he’s Lord Holmes here since he was in Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes film.  There’s a young Samuel L. Jackson (before he was Nick Fury) as Robby and James Earl Jones reappears as Admiral Greer.

Jack is on vacation in London with his wife and daughter, though he does give a speech to the Royal Naval Academy.  He happens to be a passing bystander when an IRA splinter group makes an attack on the royal family (a cousin of the queen).  [Yeah, this takes place during the Troubles, a violent era between Ireland and England; lot of hate…boils down to the Irish want England out of Ireland]  Jack stops the group from shooting the royal family, disarms one man, shoots several others, and gets shot himself.  One of the men he shot was Sean Miller’s younger brother; you can see in Sean’s eyes that he would kill Jack for it.  Jack’s wife, Cathy, is a doctor and treats her husband at the scene; she’ll forgive him since he lived.  Jack is lauded as a hero and the royal, Lord Holmes, bestows the honor of Knight Commander of the Victorian Order.  Sean essentially vows revenge on Jack during the trial.

The Ryans return home and Cathy discovers that she is pregnant.  In the meantime, Sean is being transferred, but there is still a mole somewhere; his transport is attacked and his fellow Irishmen get him out.  The CIA visits Jack at home to let him know that Sean has escaped, but feel it is unlikely that Sean would be able to get to Jack and his family in the states.  They do ask if he would like to return to the CIA; Jack turns them down and Cathy agrees with him.  The IRA faction leaves Ireland so they can train and Sean struggles with his thoughts of revenge, while his leaders want to focus on the goal of freeing Irish political prisoners.

We see Jack in his element, teaching history at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland [my brother, a naval officer, did teach at the Academy for a few years; it is beautiful and there is indeed a picture of Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan, listed as a former professor in the history department].  Robby presents his friend with the Purple Target for actions beyond the call of duty of a civilian: in hopes that “he will duck next time, lest he become a part of history, instead of a teacher of it.” [one of my favorite quotes, lol]  Catherine has also returned to her job.  And the CIA was wrong; Sean is in Annapolis, targeting Catherine and Sally.  There’s a young man waiting for Jack when he leaves the Academy out of Gate 3, to Hanover Street [it is known as the Jack Ryan gate now].  The man eventually pulls a gun, but Jack is prepared, sort of.  A guard shoots the man when he pulls the gun and Jack notices a Jeep following him as well.  He also realizes that it’s Sean after him and his wife and daughter may be in danger.  He tries to get a car call through to his wife, but has to wait for her to finish her call to work.  Sean’s van pulls alongside the car right after she hangs up with her husband and he opens fire.  They crash into a barrier.

Cathy and the baby are alright, but Sally is in critical condition for a day.  She will ultimately be okay, but Jack is perturbed at the IRA leader, Patty O’Neil denying that the IRA has anything to do with the incident.  Jack walks back into the CIA and gets put on the team investigating the splinter group.  He starts making connections and remembers seeing a red-haired woman at both attacks; in a car in London and in the Jeep in Annapolis.  If they find her, they’ll find the leader (Kevin), and they’ll find Sean.  Sean places a call to Jack at home, taunting him.  Cathy tells her husband to get the man, whatever it takes.  Jack decides it’s a good idea to provoke Patty O’Neil.  O’Neil may disagree with the actions of the faction, but he’ll never sell out a fellow Irishman.

The faction has relocated somewhere in North Africa and manage to keep out of the satellite sweeps for a most part, until Jack asks for them to be re-tasked.  It’s not great information they get, but it’s something.  O’Neil even passes along information to Jack; the woman is English, not Irish, so he’s not betraying his countryman.  Jack watches the hit made on the camp from a room inside the CIA; welcome to the new world.

Lord Holmes is making a visit to the U.S. and wants to stop by to see the Ryans and ends up invited to their welcome home celebration for Sally.  He presents a medal to Jack, then the lights go out.  They first think it’s the storm, but Jack has a feeling.  He can’t raise anyone on the radio, so he tells everyone to hide.  Indeed, Sean and his team are at the house, ready to invade.  Jack discovers that the secretary was the mole in Holmes’ staff.  The CIA gets word of the attack and sends back-up, but Jack fights off the team at the house first.  He gets everyone outside and heads to the boats.  He takes one and the team hurries to the other, Sean determined to follow him.  When Kevin protests, shouting that the royal is more important, Sean shoots him and the woman and continues his pursuit.  He jumps on to Jack’s boat and they struggle while the boat catches fire.  Jack eventually forces Sean back on the anchor and bails before the boat hits rocks and explodes.  It at least gives the rescue team an idea where he is.  He holds on to his wife and daughter during the aftermath and in the final scene, they’re about to find out what the gender of the new baby will be.  Well, Cathy knows.

Harrison Ford plays a great hero; he’s one who will always take a punch.  Then he comes back swinging.  It’s all very realistic.  I like seeing the Academy and I like the action at the beginning and the end of the film.  Research is understandably boring, but very necessary (never let anyone convince you it is glamorous).  Are Hunt and Patriot Games outdated since the Troubles are over and the Soviet Union disbanded?  Not to me.  I may not have been around during their heyday, but I remember the aftermath.  I’ve been to Belfast; I’ve seen a school that had metal coverings on the windows to protect the children from rocks being thrown.  There are murals mentioning Oliver Cromwell and his atrocities against the Irish.  And that was probably twenty years or so after the Troubles ended.  These are great action movies; yes, a bit dated due to the technology, but it’s advancing at such a rapid pace, it’s impossible for anything to stay current.

Next Time: A wrap up on Jack Ryan

Research Helps Save the Day

Hunt for Red October

The 1990 film based on the first and most famous novel by Tom Clancy.  The film stars Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan, Sean Connery (the original James Bond, we’ll see him in Last Crusade, early in his career he was in Darby O’Gill and the Little People [playing an Irishman, he even sings] and who sadly passed away on Halloween at the age of 90) as Marko Ramius, Sam Neill (he was Merlin in a short movie series, and Cardinal Wolsey in The Tudors; some of you may recognize him from Jurassic Park; I have not seen those movies) as Captain Borodin, James Earl Jones (Mufasa, Darth Vader; need I say more) as Admiral Greer.  Tim Curry (Wadsworth in Clue, he starred in the disturbing Rocky Horror Picture Show, Rooster in Annie, a wonderful Cardinal Richelieu in the 90’s Three Musketeers, and a plethora of voice roles, including the recent Clone Wars series) appears as Dr. Petrov and a young Stellan Skarsgård (Bootstrap Bill Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, part of the MCU as Erik Selvig, Mamma Mia)  as Captain Tupolev.  Gates McFadden (Dr. Beverly Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation) has a very brief appearance at the beginning of the film as Jack Ryan’s wife, Caroline.

Some interesting trivia bits:

Three main actors had prior military experience; Sean Connery joined the Royal Navy when he was fifteen and served onboard the aircraft carrier H.M.S. Formidable.  Scott Glenn (the captain of the U.S.S. Dallas) was  U.S. Marine, and James Earl Jones was an Officer in the U.S. Army.

The U.S. Naval Institute, a private, non-profit professional military association, located on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, has been publishing books and magazines related to Naval strategy and maritime history since 1874 (we see a copy of their monthly magazine, Proceedings in an opening scene).  In 1984, they published their first work of fiction, The Hunt for Red October.

Clancy, who passed away in 2013, is known for his thorough research.  My mother, who has read most all of his books (which are 600+ pages) remarked that when The Hunt for Red October was first released, Clancy had to prove that all of the information he included was available publically; officials were worried he had gotten a hold of classified information.  The Hunt for Red October is the only Clancy book I have read and I found it very good and would not be opposed to reading more (though they are very long and detailed).  I had to read it and a Cussler book in exchange for making my brother read Mists of Avalon.

Carrying on with the plot:

There is an opening scrawl explaining “In November of 1984, shortly before Gorbachev came to power [set during the Cold War], a typhoon-class Soviet Sub surfaced just south of the Grand Banks [Nova Scotia].  It then sank in deep water, apparently suffering a radiation problem.  Unconfirmed reports indicated some of the crew were rescued.”  According to the Soviet and American governments, none of what we are about to see ever happened.

We begin on a Soviet sub as it leaves its base in northern Russia [and I adore the theme for the movie; though if you listen to it a dozen times, you get Russian stuck in your head] and briefly meet Ramius and Borodin.  Next, we see a study full of books [pretty sure my brother, a naval historian, either owns or has read most of those books]; Dr. Jack Ryan is getting ready to leave and fly from England to the U.S.  He’s not fond of sleeping on flights, but it is imperative that he sees Admiral Greer of the CIA.  The Soviet sub, Red October has launched with Ramius as its captain.  The sub has odd doors on it and Ryan wants to discover what they are for.  Meanwhile, we’re introduced to the sonar team of the U.S.S. Dallas.

Onboard the Red October, the orders are opened.  They are to rendezvous with Captain Tupolev and run through drills to test the new sub.  Ramius has other intentions; he kills the political officer and passes it off as an accident.  He later announces to the crew that they will indeed test the new sub, but the Soviet fleet will be unsuspecting; they will also attempt to get through the American navy.  Ryan has also discovered that the doors on the Red October are for a caterpillar drive; the sub will run nearly silent [technically not true, but we don’t know enough about how subs run anyways that we’re honestly not going to know the difference].  The U.S.S. Dallas has found the Red October and begins tracking her.

In Russia, Ramius has sent a letter to Soviet command, resigning.  Russia now wants their sub back and sends their fleet after it; with orders to kill Ramius.  Dr. Ryan’s question is no longer simply research; he needs to brief the Joint Chiefs and the President’s Security Advisor.  The military feels the Red October is a threat and obviously, must shoot it.  Ryan ponders a little longer and realizes Ramius means to defect.  He has three days to find the Red October and determine if his hunch is correct.  Now, Ryan has to get out to the aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Enterprise.  Then hop over to the U.S.S. Dallas.

Ramius is indeed attempting to defect, along with the rest of the officers of the Red October.  They’re worried though, that the crew may mutiny and what sort of punishment they will face if they’re captured.  But Ramius has been teaching the submarine captains of the Soviet navy for forty years; he knows their tactics.  They just have to find the right American.  After they enter an underwater canyon, their caterpillar drive overheats and they have to shut it down; meaning they will no longer be running silent (sabotage from a crewmember onboard).  The U.S.S. Dallas already has gotten in position at the end of the canyon; their superb sonar man has figured out a way to listen for the Soviet sub.  Unfortunately, they have to surface to get Ryan onboard.  Then he has to convince the captain he’s not crazy.  Has Ramius done any Crazy Ivans (turning the sub to see if it’s being followed, meaning the sub tailing it {in this case, the Dallas} has to stop and hopefully not run into the enemy sub)?  Yes.  Ryan predicts he’ll do another one.  He’s right.  Well, let’s see if they can get a hold of the Red October.

By this point, the Russian ambassador (played by Joss Ackland, who has appeared in the Mighty Ducks movie and the 90’s Miracle on 34th Street) asks the White House for assistance in “rescuing” a “lost” sub.  While the Red October is no longer silent, one of the Russian planes searching for it detects it and drops a torpedo in the water.  Ramius holds his position longer than normal in the canyon, moving at the last possible second so the torpedo hits an underwater mountain.  After this, the Russian ambassador has to admit that Ramius has gone crazy and intends to fire missiles on America, causing a war (this is a lie; but Soviet naval command won’t want the truth getting out).  So now the ambassador is asking for American help to find and kill Ramius.

The Dallas and Red October have found each other and weapons are aimed at each other.  They don’t fire.  Instead, they both go to periscope depth to take a peek.  Dallas signals Red October, betting that Ramius will be at the scope; does he want to defect?  He sends a signal, yes.  Very well, meet them due south in a deep trench.  When Red October arrives at the location, the radiation alarm goes off in the nuclear reactor.  Ramius surfaces the sub and evacuates his men.  He sends the doctor (who is not in on the plan) with the men.  Ramius and the officers will go back down with the sub and fend off an impending American “attack.”  A torpedo is dropped, but Admiral Greer makes sure it detonates early.  Ryan, the captain and sonar guy from the Dallas make their way over to the Red October.  Ryan luckily speaks a little Russian and endears himself to Ramius.  Ramius officially presents the Red October to the Americans and declares that he and his officers wish to defect.   Before they can get too friendly, another torpedo comes through the water.  Not American, Russian.  Captain Tupolev has found Red October and will follow orders and sink her.

Ryan is in a spot of trouble; he’s a former Marine helicopter pilot, not a naval officer, he doesn’t know how to operate a sub.  He now writes history books for the CIA.  But he’ll follow Ramius orders to turn into the path of the torpedo.  The torpedo breaks apart on the hull; they closed the distance so the torpedo wasn’t armed yet.  But the next one will be.  On the surface, the Russian crew believes that their captain is fighting the Americans.  Tupolev’s next torpedo locks on to Red October.  Dallas dives to the rescue and distracts the torpedo long enough to turn it back on to Tupolev, blowing him up.  They have to surface quickly, again, making the Russians believe their captain is winning; until they see an explosion.

After that, the saboteur shows his face, attempting to shoot Ramius.  Borodin pushes his captain out of the way and is shot.  Ramius and Ryan go after the shooter while the Dallas captain pilots the sub.  The saboteur?  A cook.  He runs towards the missile bay, most likely to blow up the ship.  Ramius warns Ryan after Ramius is nicked, be careful where he shoots.  Ryan corners the guy and fires.  Ryan suggests the Red October head towards Maine; they can sail it up the river, far from any naval station and far from where people are going to look.  The Russian ambassador now has to admit they have lost another sub (Tupolev’s).  As the theme plays again, Ryan is on a flight back to his wife and daughter, accompanied by teddy bear brother for the daughter’s bear.  And he actually manages to sleep.

The movie is very faithful to the book.  While not as non-stop action as some other classics, or even later Jack Ryan films, I like that it can show “enemies” getting along.  And even professors can be heroes.  Let’s give a cheer for research and history!  [Am I the only one cheering?  Oh well, may just be me then, lol].  It’s great to see some of these famous actors a little younger, like Alec Baldwin, and even Sam Neill and Tim Curry.  And who do they get to play a Russian submarine captain?  Sean Connery, complete with Scottish accent; but it’s Sean Connery, so we’re okay with it.  He’s a quiet, but firm lead and Alec Baldwin is kind of adorable in a dorky way; a professor a little bit out of his comfort zone.  This movie has grown on me over the years; as a kid, I thought it was boring.  Now, older and wiser, hey, these things make sense!

Up Next: Patriot Games

A Tribute to Sean Connery:

Alec Baldwin reported to Rolling Stones on Saturday, October 31, that Connery wasn’t chatty, “he was there to work.  But he was happy to help you get the job done.  He’d been through what I [Baldwin] was going through.”  To Alec, “Sean was always the most impressive combination of actor and star that I’ve ever seen.”  “Connery had that trifecta dynamic of knowing where masculinity, sensitivity, and intelligence intersected.  You gotta be emotive, you gotta be tough, you gotta be smart.”

Sean’s successor to Bond, Daniel Craig noted to Variety that Connery “defined and era and a style…he helped create the modern blockbuster.  He will continue to influence actors and film-makers alike for years to come.”  The Bond producers made the statement “Connery was and shall always be remembered as the original James Bond whose indelible entrance into cinema history began when he announced those unforgettable words, ‘The name’s Bond…James Bond.'”  Pierce Brosnan also commented that Sean Connery was “my greatest James Bond as a boy….You cast a long shadow of cinematic splendor that will live on forever.”  Of the Bond role, Brosnan also wrote on Instagram, “you led the way for us all who followed in your iconic footsteps.  Each man in his turn looked to you with reverence and admiration as we forged ahead with our own interpretations of the role.  You were mighty in every way, as an actor and as a man, and will remain so till the end of time.”

Harrison Ford made the comment “‘You don’t know pleasure until someone pays you to take Sean Connery for a ride in the side car of a Russian motorcycle bouncing along a bumpy, twisty mountain trail and getting to watch him squirm.  God, we had fun – if he’s in heaven, I hope they have gold courses.  Rest in peace, dear friend.'”