“I have been and always will be, your friend.”

Star Trek

I will be the first to admit that I am not a huge Star Trek fan; I got more into Star Wars in my teens, but I fondly remember watching Next Generation while growing up.  So my captain was Jean-Luc Picard.  My parents watched the original series and there are pictures of me as a young girl in displays at the National Air and Space Museum when there was an exhibit; so I was at least aware of the original series.  But when a new movie was announced, I first dismissed it because I didn’t watch the original, why would I watch the new one?  My parents saw it and enjoyed it, so I eventually decided to go one evening when I was home from college.  And thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was filled with action, filled with characters in my generation.  I cannot speak for how it was received or how it measures up to longtime fans, but the new movies did create a new fan.  Can I quote minutia about the series or the craft or the larger universe?  No.  But I can do that with other shows, so I think it balances out, lol.

The rebooted movie series premiered in 2009 (and that is how it tends to be listed within fanfiction communities, or sometimes NuTrek), directed by JJ Abrams (who has gone on to do Star Wars Force Awakens and Rise of Skywalker).  It stars Chris Pine (a bit dashing as Nicholas Devereaux in Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, then voiced Jack Frost in Rise of the Guardians, Cinderella’s Prince in Into the Woods, and became the ‘Chris’ for DC in Wonder Woman playing Steve Trevor.  He played a younger Jack Ryan in Shadow Recruit and stars as Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick in Outlaw King…which I really need to watch) as James Tiberius Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Zoe Saldana (Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy, Neytiri in Avatar, and before all of that success, she was Anamaria in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl [Jack Sparrow had stolen her boat]) as Nyota Uhura, Karl Urban (yes, I know he joined the MCU as Skurge in Thor: Ragnarok and is one of The Boys [which recently gained Jensen Ackles, but no, I don’t believe I will be watching the show], but for me, he will always be Eomer in Lord of the Rings) as Leonard “Bones” McCoy, and Simon Pegg as Montgomery “Scotty” Scott.  Leonard Nimoy appears as Spock Prime, and that was wonderful.  Eric Bana (Bruce Banner in the 2003 Hulk movie [which is not part of the MCU], Hector in Troy, Henry Tudor in The Other Boleyn Girl)is Nero and Bruce Greenwood (the President in National Treasure: Book of Secrets) is Christopher Pike.  Rounding out the bridge crew is John Cho as Hikaru Sulu and Anton Yelchin as Pavel Andreovich Chekov.  Chris Hemsworth (before he was Thor) briefly appears in the beginning as George Kirk and Jennifer Morrison (Emma Swan in Once Upon a Time) is Winona Kirk.  [My father has made the humorous connection that in Thor  you join Kirk’s father and Anakin Skywalker’s  mother].  And Winona Ryder (I know her best from 1994’s Little Women) plays Spock’s mother, Amanda Grayson.

The film begins with the USS Kelvin facing a lightning storm in space.  A huge ship emerges and begins firing on the Kelvin.  The captain (played by Fahran Tahir, who has appeared in numerous television shows from JAG to Supernatural [Osiris] to Once Upon a Time [Nemo] and a bad guy in Iron Man) orders an evacuation and puts George Kirk in charge when he goes to meet the enemy.  George’s wife is in labor and anxiously awaiting her husband to join her, but autopilot has been knocked out, so George must pilot the starship manually in order to buy everyone else time to escape.  Winona delivers a son in the shuttle and they decide to name him after both their fathers: Jim Tiberius.  They’re a family barely a minute before the Kelvin is destroyed.  We fast forward a couple years and a young Jim Kirk is racing his stepfather’s antique car in Iowa, then crashes it into a ravine, barely escaping himself.  Meanwhile, on Vulcan, a young Spock is teased by agemates for being half human.  He cares not for his sake, but when one boy calls his mother a whore, Spock initiates a fight.  His father encourages Spock to embrace the Vulcan way of life and control his emotions, lest they control him.  And when asked why he married Spock’s mother, his response is “it was logical.”  Another time skip and Spock is being accepted into the Vulcan Scalene Academy.  A fine honor indeed, until one points out Spock’s disadvantage of having a human mother.  While Spock tells the leaders “live long and prosper,” you can tell he means something else and he elects to join Starfleet.

Back in Iowa, Jim starts flirting with Uhura at a bar and honestly, everything was going fine until other cadets got involved and started a fight.  Captain Pike enters the bar and a sharp whistle gets everyone’s attention.  He speaks to Kirk afterwards, commenting that the young man’s aptitude tests are off the charts and calls him a genius repeat-offender.  He encourages Jim to join Starfleet, then dares him to do better than his father; he was captain for twelve minutes and saved eight hundred lives.  Jim shows up for the shuttle the next morning (and riding the motorbike like he did reminded me of Top Gun [which apparently was an influence in Pine’s performance, along with Harrison as Indiana Jones and Han Solo]).  A man sits next to him, a doctor who is scared of space and flying, but only has his bones left.  “I may throw up on you.”

Three years later, which Kirk bragged he would complete his coursework compared to four, and Kirk takes the infamous Kobyashi Maru test…and wins.  By cheating.  Spock brings him up on charges, but they’re interrupted by a distress call from Vulcan.  Cadets are assigned to ships, but not Kirk, pending his hearing.  Bones sneaks him aboard the Enterprise under the pretense of a medical emergency.  Captain Pike comments that the maiden voyage of Starfleet’s newest flagship deserves more pomp and circumstance, but they will follow through on their mission.  Sulu is piloting (after a little bump) and Chekov makes his first shipboard announcement.  Jim hears about the “lightning storm in space,” and instantly knows they’re flying into a trap.  Despite some hilarious side effects, he manages to grab Uhura who intercepted a Klingon transmission earlier and reports to the bridge.  Spock first tries to get him off, but once Kirk calmly explains his logic, Spock backs the notion that all may not be as it seems.  Uhura takes over at communication and the Enterprise braces for battle when they drop out of warp, to find the rest of the fleet decimated.  Nero hails them and once again requests the captain to board his vessel.  Pike has Spock, Kirk, and Sulu follow him; Spock will have command while Pike is gone and Sulu and Kirk are to try to knock out the drill that is aimed at Vulcan.  And he makes Kirk second in command.

Sulu does get to break out his sword while battling Romulans on the platform and they succeed in knocking out the drill.  But the Narada shoots a pinprick of red matter into the core of Vulcan, which will eat the planet and create a black hole.  Chekov luckily is able to beam Sulu and Kirk aboard as they’re falling and Spock beams down to save the elders and his parents.  But Amanda falls to her death at the last second.  Spock orders the ship to rendez-vous with the rest of the fleet in another system, and we see Uhura privately comfort him, but Kirk urges they return to fight.  Spock works out that Nero is from the future and by coming back, has altered events, creating an alternate reality; their destines have changed.  “When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”  (Funny note: this was originally a quote from Sherlock Holmes, which Spock in the original series claimed was a distant ancestor.  Then, in the newer Sherlock series, Sherlock makes this remark and John calls him Spock.  It’s all just a big ball of wibbly wobblly, timey wimey stuff)

Onboard the Narada, Nero demands that Captain Pike tell him about Earth’s defenses so he may destroy it and continue with his retribution against Spock.  And…he uses creepy bugs.  Then Spock kicks Kirk off the Enterprise, stranding him on an ice planet.  Lo and behold, Kirk is saved by Spock…not the young one, the original Spock.  Who relates to Kirk, through a mind meld, how 129 years in the future, Spock tries to save Romulus from an exploding supernova, armed with red matter.  But he was too late.  And Nero, a “particularly troubled Romulan,” vows vengeance.  They both get sucked through the black hole, but Nero arrives first, destroying the Kelvin.  What was seconds for Spock was actually twenty-five years before he emerged.  Nero captured him and stranded him so he could witness the destruction of his home, Vulcan.  They find Scotty and Spock Prime gives him Scotty’s own equation on trans-warp beaming so the two young men can board the Enterprise.  Spock advises Kirk to gain captaincy of the ship; Spock has just lost his home and is of course, emotionally comprised.  Then Kirk can take on Nero.  But Spock Prime will not accompany them; he implies a catastrophe may occur  if both Spocks would meet.  Kirk points out before they leave that coming back to the past to change events is cheating.  Well, Spock learned from an old friend.

The bridge crew is obviously surprised to discover Kirk and Scotty aboard the Enterprise and Kirk has a rather uncomfortable confrontation with Spock, resulting in a fight.  Spock’s father has to call him off and Kirk does gain command.  Spock and his father share a quiet moment, and his father finally reveals that he married Amanda because he loved her.  So Spock rejoins the bridge as Chekov reveals his idea to hide behind Saturn’s moon so Kirk can beam aboard the Narada.  Spock volunteers first and Kirk insists on joining him.  “I could cite regulation, but I know you will just ignore it.”  Spock is learning.

Nero is starting the drill at Starfleet Academy while Spock and Kirk sneak aboard.  Well, they end up fighting Romulans pretty quick, but Spock makes it to the futuristic shuttle and escapes so he can blow up the drill.  Kirk goes after Captain Pike.  And Nero just shouts after Spock, “I want Spock dead now!”  Spock returns on a collision course, which of course would ignite the red matter, creating another black hole.  But Nero is past reason now and shouts to “fire everything!”  The Enterprise to the rescue (and it is so darn cool to hear the theme play and the ship rises up) and Scotty proudly manages to beam three people from two ships onto one pad.  Kirk tries to take the high ground and offer Nero and his crew compassion, which in this case Spock argues against, but Nero refuses.  Kirk has all weapons fire and destroys the Narada.  But the Enterprise is caught in the gravitational well of the black hole and while Scotty is giving it everything she’s got, they’re falling.  He suggests as a last ditch effort to eject the cores and they ride the blast wave out.

On Earth, the two Spocks do indeed meet; Spock Prime may have lied a little to Kirk.  The elder encourages his younger counterpart to remain with Starfleet and forge a friendship with Kirk it will define them both.  Put aside logic, do what’s right.  Kirk is given commendation and captaincy of the Enterprise, relieving Pike who is now an Admiral (and confined to a wheelchair as a result of those creepy bugs).  He enters the bridge of the repaired starship, finally wearing a gold command shirt.  Spock the enters and offers to be Kirk’s first officer.  The gang is back and ready for new adventures.

Leonard Nimoy gives us the final voiceover: “Space, the final frontier.  These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise.  Her ongoing mission, to explore strange new worlds.  To seek out new life forms and new civilizations.  To boldly go where no one has gone before.”  [The original tagline was a five-year mission, and was ‘where no man has gone before.’  I appreciate that they kept the  slight revision for this film.]  And the exit music is the original theme.

I felt this film was a good balance of action and drama, with the right amount of comedy thrown in.  The soundtrack is cool.  Poor Kirk gets beat up a lot throughout the story.  And ultimately, they got the characters to all be where they’re supposed to be.  It’s more fun to see Spock and Kirk at odds with each other and it will make their ensuing friendship deeper and the crew respects Kirk for his actions; keeping everyone safe and pulling them through a fire.  Scotty is hilarious, I certainly believe that Uhura could kick butt.  Bones is long-suffering but caring and Chekov is quite frankly adorable. 

Everything fit with the basics that everyone knows about the show simply from pop culture, without having to know every episode or movie and for someone who doesn’t know that, it made it an easy film to watch.  It was also written so it can all go together; they’re all canon because this is recognized as an alternate reality.  These familiar characters can have new adventures without taking anything away from the original.  (Of course, fanfiction comes up with their own ideas, which I’ll post my favorites with the last movie).  This was a solid update; technology was advanced enough to put it in our future without being cheesy or completely improbable.  Great cast, they made the roles their own and I certainly recommend this film.

Up Next: Star Trek Into Darkness

Ain’t We Just Big Damn Heroes

Firefly

Take my love, take my land

Take me where I cannot stand

I don’t care, I’m still free

You can’t take the sky from me.

Take me out to the black

Tell ’em I ain’t comin’ back

Burn the land and boil the sea

You can’t take the sky from me.

This has become a pop culture hit, Fox cancelled the series after only one season.  But it gained a following and Joss Whedon fought to bring it back as a feature film.  Now, I did not watch it when it originally aired; I came to it one evening at a friend’s apartment in college and saw the second season.  At the end, I asked about another season and found out there was only the one, but I did track down the movie.  It’s a mixture of Western and science-fiction; Whedon explains that humans left Earth, found another galaxy and terra-formed the planets to support life and America and China, being the two big superpowers, melded to form one culture.  So yes, you have space ships and laser pistols, but you also have horses and regular pistols.

The show follows the tales of the crew of the Firefly-class ship named Serenity.  Captained by Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds (played by Nathan Fillion, a self-proclaimed geek who later starred in ABC’s Castle drama [it’s excellent, check it out and he even brought back his Browncoat costume in a Halloween episode]), he brings aboard his former cohort Zoë (Gina Torres; she’s actually appeared in the Matrix movies and has gone on to the series Suits and other television series, including a few voice acting roles like in Star Wars: Rebels) to be his first mate.  Piloting the ship is Hoban “Wash” Washburne (the ever-hilarious Alan Tudyk from Knight’s Tale and recently voicing secondary characters in Rogue One and Moana), who has married Zoë.  Inara Serra (Morena Baccarin; she’s appeared in V on ABC and is in both Deadpool films) is a registered Companion on board who uses Serenity to provide services to far-off clients.  Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin, no, he’s not one of the big-name Baldwin brothers, but he did show up in two episodes of Castle and even an episode of JAG and NCIS) is their onboard mercenary, good with a pistol, not so good with manners.  Kaywinnit Lee “Kaylee” Frye (Jewel Staite,  a lot of guest appearances, even on Castle and part of Stargate: Atlantis) is the cheerful and brilliant mechanic who keeps the ship in the sky.  Shepherd Derrial Book (Ron Glass; he sadly passed away in 2016, he has a filmography back to the seventies) joins as a passenger and occasionally disagrees with Captain Reynolds in regards to religion.  And Dr. Simon Tam (Sean Maher; he’s voiced Nightwing/Dick Grayson in several recent shows and movies) and his younger sister, River (Summer Glau, well known for Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles  [which I don’t intend to watch], she made an appearance on Castle as well, Hawaii Five-0 and Big Band Theory, and she was even in an Hallmark Christmas movie, Help for the Holidays [it’s adorable]) round out the crew.

Now, apparently, the show was aired out of order due to Fox executive meddling, but the DVD released them in the correct order.  We start the show off with a two-part opener: Serenity.  There was a civil war in this galaxy [Whedon was influenced by Jeff Shaara’s Killer Angels novel, also the basis for the film Gettysburg], between the Alliance and the Independents, or Browncoats.  Mal and Zoe fought for the Independents and it came to a head at the Battle of Serenity Valley.  The Independents are desperate for air support, but it never comes.  Orders come in for them to lay down arms.  It killed Mal’s sense of faith and nearly killed his spirit.  But six years later, he’s doing odd jobs to keep flying and keep out of the Alliance’s way, so sticking to the Rim worlds.  We catch up to the crew pulling an illegal salvage job; and Wash plays with dinosaurs: “We shall call it, this land.”  “I think we should call it your gave!”  “Ah, curse your sudden, but inevitable betrayal!”  “Now die!”  But he gets it in gear to put out a distraction to save his cohorts.  They make their way to Persephone to finish the deal, the captain remarking “there is no power in the ‘verse to keep Kaylee from being cheerful” [and why my friends remark I am most like Kaylee].  They meet with local “businessman” (use that term loosely) Badger (played by Mark Sheppard, who has been in several geeky shows, including Supernatural as Crowley, Doctor Who as Canton Everett Delaware III [he plays a Brit in an American show and an American in a British show], as well as X-Files, Battlestar Galactica, NCIS, Star Trek: Voyager, Charmed and many others) to complete the deal, but he weasels himself out.  The goods they stole are marked and that makes it difficult to unload.  So, they’ll try Patience on another planet, and hope she doesn’t shoot the captain again.  But, they need legitimate business as well and take on passengers, including Sheppard Book, Dr. Tam, and Dobson.

Makes things a bit interesting for the crew and Mal informs Zoe “if anyone gets nosy, just shoot them…politely.”  Shooting happens, but only after Mal has figured out one of their passengers hailed the Alliance.  He thinks it is Simon, but it’s actually Dobson, who shoots Kaylee when she surprises him.  Simon won’t treat Kaylee unless the ship runs; he does not want the Alliance onboard either.  Mal helps Simon, then opens his special box in the hold and discovers a young woman curled up inside.  This is River, Simon’s younger sister that he broke out of an Alliance facility because they were hurting her for her intelligence.  Captain has to continue with the job and isn’t dumb enough to not realize that Patience will set up an ambush.  There’s a shoot out, but he gets his money.  That’s how things are supposed to work; “I do the job and then I get paid.”  He comes back to the ship to discover Dobson is free and threatening River. Mal shoots the federal agent and tosses him off his ship.  They also have to run from Reavers, dangerous people on the verge of being creatures that has the whole universe terrified.  Wash pulls a Crazy Ivan [remember that term from Hunt for Red October?], turning quickly and blowing the engines into their pursuers (Kaylee is fixed up enough to help out).  Mal offers Simon and his sister a place on his ship; they’ll be safer on the run and the ship could use a doctor.  And assures Simon he’s not the kind of man to kill another in his sleep.  If he aims to kill you, you’ll be awake and armed.  At the end of the day, Serenity is still flying.  It’s not much, but it’s enough.

After a little trouble at a small bar, Mal and the rest of the crew are on their way to a new job.  Inara holds Kaylee enthralled in her shuttle, brushing her hair and having some girl time, which Mal has to interrupt.  While it is manly and impulsive, Inara’s request is that the captain does not march into her quarters.  But he needs his mechanic, Mal requests, the engine room looks like terrifying  space monkeys have been at it.  Niska has a certain reputation [and seems to be the quintessential Russian-type villain] and wants the crew to pull a train heist.  Easy enough it sounds.  Until they discover there is a squadron of Alliance guards onboard.  Just makes it more fun, Mal quips to Zoe.  They complete their end of the job and unload the goods, only to discover once an investigation begins that it was medicine they stole, sorely needed in the backwoods town.  Inara uses her respectability to get Mal and Zoe out of custody, but Mal now needs to plan how to return the medicine.  Deep down, Malcolm Reynolds is a good and honorable man.  Slight problem; Niska’s men have shown up.  Jayne gets a lucky shot and Mal explains that they’ll return the money to Niska to square things away, but they won’t be delivering the stolen medicine.  The first henchman disagrees and gets thrown through the engine.  The second man hastily agrees and Mal and the crew get to be heroes for a second, giving the medicine to the sheriff under the cover of night.

Serenity comes upon a drifting ship in Bushwacked and receive more trouble than they intended.  It looks deserted, which is a bit odd in the middle of space.  Until they discover one man.  Mal has him locked in the infirmary, surmising that the ship had been hit by Reavers.  Then they run into an Alliance ship, hide Simon and River, and are detained and questioned (Wash’s interview is funny).  The survivor begins to attack the Alliance crew and Mal finally gets the Alliance officer to help, even saving his life.

Shindig is one of my favorite episodes.  Inara plans to meet with a regular client, Atherton Wing (played by Edward Atterton.  He was much nicer as King Arthur in Mists of Avalon and then plays Mordaunt in Charmed and has a possible connection to Arthur.  He also appeared in Man in the Iron Mask as a relative good guy).  Mal meets up with Badger, who has another job for him; the sleaseball figures that Mal can cozy up to a potential client at a local party.  It does give the captain a chance to apologize for accidentally insulting Kaylee earlier; she gets to wear the poufy dress she saw in a shop earlier and accompany him to the party.  They run into Inara and while Kaylee gets surrounded by men to talk engines, Captain “Tightpants” dances with Inara, then gets in an argument with Atherton.  Atherton challenges Malcolm to a duel, with swords.  The client is impressed by Malcolm, but the captain has to survive first.  Inara, as a trained Companion, has some knowledge with swords and helps her friend out, despite some disagreements.  Mal has the bad habit of calling Inara a whore to her face, but took exception to Atherton’s mere implication.  Well, Atherton was insulting Inara as a person, Mal explains.  Atherton appears to have the upper hand, but Mal comes back after breaking his sword to beat Atherton; and Inara providing a distraction by appearing to take Atherton’s offer to exclusivity.  Mal leaves Atherton breathing, which will bring the man shame.  “Mercy is the mark of a great man,” and he stabs his opponent.  “Guess I’m just a good man,” another stab.  “Well, I’m alright.”  Atherton tries to threaten Inara, but she points out guild law; Atherton is the one who will be blacklisted.

Now, the crew intended to mount a daring rescue, but Badger sits onboard to keep an eye on them.  There is a humorous interaction between the man and River, who copies his accent.  Then she sweeps by her brother, remarking “call me if anyone interesting shows up.”  That would have worked as a distraction, but they missed their opportunity.  Inara and Mal show up before the second plan can go into effect.  And the cargo that the client wishes to offload?  Cattle.

We get some flashbacks to the Tam siblings (young Simon is played by a young Zac Efron) when they were younger in Safe.  The crew is unloading the cattle, after the captain warns Simon to keep his sister under control.  Kaylee continues to be interested in Simon, who is a bit oblivious and demeaning.  River wanders off and finds a wedding dance.  She shows a bit of the girl that remains under the weird dreams and sayings.  Then Simon is kidnapped.  Unfortunately, things do not go smooth with the cattle transfer and Sheppard Book is shot in the ensuing confrontation.  Serenity has to leave the Tams behind in order to save Book.  They’re desperate enough to go to the Alliance for help, but it’s not until the officers see Book’s ID card that they agree to help, which is a bit suspicious.  Back on the planet, Simon and River are taken to a hill village where Simon is to be the local doctor.  River understands what Simon has given up to rescue her; a promising career, safety, wealth; all to save her.  Simon unfortunately remembers their father essentially disinheriting him for attempting to rescue River.  Their parents never suspected anything was wrong with the government school and their father was more concerned with their image, than helping either of his children.  He bailed Simon out of trouble once, he vowed not to help again.  Then a local woman declares River a witch for knowing what people were thinking.  The town gets riled up and prepares to burn River at the stake.  Simon climbs up with her, the ever-protecting big brother.  Serenity appears in the sky and Mal and Zoe walk into town in the nick of time.  What does that make them?  Big damn heroes.  River is their witch, so cut her down, he instructs the leader.  He insists that they are part of the crew; it doesn’t matter if he necessarily likes them.

Mal dresses up as a woman to complete their next job in Our Mrs. Reynolds, telling their opponent, “I swear by my pretty floral bonnet, I will end you.”  A celebration is thrown by the locals for their help and Jayne and Mal get pretty drunk.  So the next morning when Mal discovers a young woman onboard, he’s a bit confused as to how she got there.  And even more confused when she tells him they’re married.  Book looks up the customs, and yes, they are technically married.  He later warns Mal that if he takes advantage of Saffron, he will burn in the “special Hell, reserved for child molesters and those who talk at the theatre.”  Jayne even offers Mal his prized gun, Vera, in exchange for Saffron.  Mal firmly declines and shows himself to be a bit of a gentleman.  He is certain he will be a bad husband and will not take advantage of Saffron and even advises her to toughen up.  Turns out she didn’t need to toughen up; this was all a con to get the ship.  She attempts to seduce Wash, who is loyal to Zoe, so she has to knock him out after she’s knocked out Mal.  She gains control of the ship and steers it to salvagers before escaping.  She almost has Inara fooled, but the Companion recognizes the training and goes after Mal.  She passes out after kissing Mal’s lips.  Luckily, Jayne and Vera manage to shoot out the net intended to hold them and Mal eventually tracks Saffron down to knock her out.

Jaynestown turns out to be a place where the people worship Jayne as a Robin Hood-type hero.  He had pulled a job years back that resulted in him dumping the magistrate’s money into the town square.  The locals are poor and dirty and suppressed, but the actions they viewed as heroic gave them the courage to stand up for themselves.  Why, there’s even a ballad about “the hero of Canton/ the man they call Jayne!”  [Captain Stout will sing the ballad, complete with the hat, at faire for Tyme Travellers weekend.]  It does provide an excellent cover for the crew to steal what they need.  And meanwhile, onboard Serenity, Book and River differ over the Bible and then River hides from Book once she sees his hair unbound…it really is hilarious.  “Too much hair,” she moans to Zoe and almost doesn’t want to come out because “it’ll still be there, waiting.”  And the magistrate in question had hired Inara to make his son into a man.  Well, it worked.  He stood up to his father and made sure Serenity could escape.

Odd as it may sound, I like Out of Gas.  We get some back story on how the crew members ended up on Serenity.  Mal bought her, on purpose, though Zoe wonders.  Wash was brought on as a pilot and Zoe initially wonders at his mustache and they pinch Jayne from another gig, promising him better pay and his own rom.  Kaylee wasn’t the first mechanic brought aboard, but she fixed the other mechanic’s problem despite having sex with the guy.  But the main problem at present is an explosion in the engine.  Zoe knocks Kaylee out of the way, but she’s hurt.  And life support got knocked out.  Despite some disagreements, Mal gets Wash to send out a distress beacon, then orders the rest of the passengers to split into the two shuttles.  Mal will stay aboard incase their miracle comes.  Inara tries to convince Mal that this isn’t the ancient sea, the captain doesn’t have to go down with the ship.  And some stranger does come to the rescue, but they shoot Mal, obviously intending to take the ship as their own.  Mal won’t let that happen; he orders them off his ship, but leave the part they need.  He bleeds across the ship, putting the engine back to rights, then passing out right in front of the button Wash wired to bring the shuttles back.  He wakes up to discover his crew disobeyed his orders and returned for him; very lucky for him.  It’s just so sweet how they are all one big family.

Events almost come to a head on Ariel, a Central planet.  River is getting worse, but Simon doesn’t have all the tools he needs in order to treat her.  He comes to the crew with a job; sneak him and River into diagnostic room in the hospital.  In exchange, he’ll tell them what drugs to take that will bring the most on the black market.  And being a Central hospital, it will be re-stocked in a matter of hours, meaning no one should die from their theft.  Wash and Kaylee get an ambulance up and running; Jayne, Mal, and Zoe will be the crew.  They’ll take Simon and River in as corpses, then wake them up.  Jayne is in charge of the siblings while Mal and Zoe do the thieving.  Except, Jayne got stupid.  He alerted the feds and changed the plan.  They don’t show up for the pick-up.  Instead, Jayne gets taken with the siblings and River has to get them away before worse men come.  The “two by two, hands of blue,” men show up with blue gloves and sticks that resonate at a high frequency, causing blood to pour out of their victims.  Mal figures out what Jayne tried to pull and has a discussion with him through the back door as they’re lifting off.  Simon and River are part of Mal’s crew, so any betrayal against them is a betrayal against Mal.  Jayne is a bit repentant and Mal doesn’t end up killing him.  His final warning to Jayne is “if you want to stab me in the back, do it to my face.”

Niska returns in War Stories.  Wash is getting concerned that there is more to the relationship between his wife and the captain than simple Army buddies.  Wash and Zoe argue the fact while River and Kaylee chase each other like children in the cargo hold.  “Ah, the pitter patter of tiny feet in huge combat boots,” Mal remarks.  “Shut up!  One of you is gonna fall and die and I’m not cleanin’ it up!”  Wash claims that he can handle himself and decides to go on the drop with Mal instead of Zoe.  Well, things don’t go smooth again and their contacts are killed and Mal and Wash are captured.  Zoe, Jayne, and Book go to investigate when they’re late and Book proves he’s a strange Sheppard; he knows an awful lot about the Alliance and guns for a preacher.  Meanwhile, Wash discusses the issue of his wife with Mal; he figures they’ve never slept together which is causing sexual tension.  Mal points out one time that Zoe didn’t obey him; by marrying Wash.  All the while, Niska is electrocuting the pair.  Mal keeps Wash talking to keep him alert.  Zoe plans to offer Niska a deal, all the money the crew can put together in exchange for their captain and pilot.  Niska takes the money, but it’s only enough for one.  Zoe immediately chooses her husband.  Well, maybe more than one…Niska cuts off Mal’s ear.  One of the few times you hear Mal scream.  Wash insists they go back to rescue Mal.  Zoe agrees and the two arm themselves.  Jayne eventually agrees to come and even Book, Simon, and Kaylee gear up to save Mal.  Book will stick to shooting kneecaps, the Bible is fuzzy on that subject.

Too bad Niska’s killed him; this is not the age for heroic men.  He brings Mal back so he can prolong the torture.  The three most experience enter the compound first.  But Book and Simon have to soon follow them.  Kaylee can’t; she’s scared.  But men come towards the ship.  River picks up the dropped gun, takes one look, then turns away and shoots each man once.  “No power in the ‘verse can stop me.”  Kaylee had used that line earlier, playing with River.  Mal goes after Niska in all the commotion, but his henchman takes over.  Niska escapes and Mal continues fighting, but he won’t say no to some help.  Simon borrows a tool from Inara’s female counselor client in order to re-attach Mal’s ear.

Saffron pops back up in Trash, portraying the wife of an old friend’s of Mal.  Mal is wise to her antics, but is still tempted by a high paying gig she has lined up.  They’ll sneak in and steal the first laser pistol from a wealthy officer who certainly deserves to have the piece taken.  Not everyone is keen on following “Yosaffbrig’s” plan, particularly Inara.  But the crew gets the drop on Saffron.  Inara was their back-up for when Saffron double-crossed them.  She locks Saffron in the garbage bin for the feds to pick up.  And River also knows what Jayne tried to do on Ariel, so when Simon has to patch up the mercenary, he promises that the man will always be safe from Simon; they’re on the same crew, so they gotta trust each other.  Oh, and Saffron made Mal take off his clothes before leaving him stranded, so he gets to walk back on his ship proudly butt-naked.

The Message reunites Mal and Zoe with an old friend from their squadron, Tracey.  Except Tracey is dead and shipped himself to Mal and Zoe.  And Kaylee’s not speaking to Simon because he managed to put his foot in his mouth…again.  But Tracey’s dead body brings a whole mess of trouble to Serenity’s crew.  They need to know how the boy died.  Except when Simon goes to do an autopsy, Tracey wakes up.  He managed to fall in with the wrong crowd and tried to make big bucks carrying organs.  Then he tried to double-cross those people, who are now after him.  He just wants to make it home now, but he doesn’t trust the rest of the crew.  Mal has a plan, but before he can enact it, Tracey gets trigger-happy and Zoe puts a bullet in Tracey.  He manages to take Kaylee hostage, who has gotten sweet on him, but Jayne (who has gained a ‘cunning’ knitted cap from his mother) shoots him in a standoff.  If the boy had waited a minute, Mal could have explained that Book realized the feds chasing them were far out of their jurisdiction, meaning this whole deal was off the records.  But they do right by Tracey and take him to his parents for burial.

“Wash, tell me I’m pretty.” “If I were unwed, I would take you in a manly fashion.” “‘Cause I’m pretty?” “‘Cause you’re pretty.”

Inara’s friend, Nandi is in trouble in Heart of Gold. [And the above is my favorite quote.]  The local leader, Rance Burgess (played by Fredric Lehne, the father-in-law in Greatest Showman, appeared in an episode of Castle as well, and big bad Azazel of the early seasons of Supernatural and many other guest appearances) is trying to claim an unborn child from one of Nandi’s girls…she does run a legitimate whorehouse.  But Rance is cruel and could make a real difference in the town, but decides he likes to retain all the power. Mal agrees to meet the man, with Inara deigning to be on his arm, once he washes it.  And he does not like what he sees; Rance is determined he is right and will use any justification.  So Mal’s first plan is for everyone to run.  But Nandi refuses.  So, they’ll board up and fight.  At this point, Zoe brings up to Wash that she wants a baby.  Wash argues that it is a dangerous world to bring a helpless child into, but Zoe is adamant.  That evening, the pregnant girl goes into labor and Nandi spends time with Mal.  She finally kisses him and takes him to bed.  Inara discovers it the next morning and is seemingly fine with it.  With no puritanical view on sex, she doesn’t mind when her friends engage in it.  But we see her crying later.  And Nandi realizes what we all have been seeing for a while; Mal and Inara have feelings for each other, only they don’t recognize it. There’s no time to make up to each other; Rance and his men attack.  Thanks to a traitor in the girls’ midst, Rance is able to get to the newborn baby.  Inara holds a knife to his throat so he’ll give up the child, but he pushes her away, then shoots Nandi.  Mal goes after Rance and punches him.  The pregnant girl comes out with the baby and briefly introduces the boy to his father, then shoots Rance.  The crew stays for the funeral and afterwards, Inara talks to Mal.  Mal feels like he failed Nandi, but Inara comforts him.  We think they will finally admit the truth, but instead, Inara announces she’s leaving.

Objects in Space rounds out the series.  River walks about the ship and can’t help but hear everyone’s thoughts and be a bit disturbed by them.  Then she thinks she’s found a stick, but it’s really a gun.  Everyone freaks out, but Mal gets the gun off her.  Kaylee finally admits what River did when they rescued Mal from Niska.  Mal has his own theory; River is a Reader, a psychic.  Everyone eventually goes to be a bit disgruntled.  Then bounty hunter Jubal Early sneaks aboard Serenity.  He knocks out Mal and locks the crews’ quarters.  But Kaylee is in the engine room.  She at least picks up a wrench for defense when she hears something, but he threatens to rape her if she makes a sound.  (Oh yeah, he’s a creep and everyone pretty much hates him for making Kaylee cry).  She has to tell him where Simon and River are.  Jubal finds Book first and knocks him out, then finds Simon (shirtless), but no River.  The creep tries to be philosophical and even mistakes Simon’s question on the Alliance for asking if Jubal is a lion.  Simon puts up a bit of a fight, but Jubal threatens Kaylee again and forces Simon to help him look for River.  He hits Inara when she tries to talk him out of his search.

Then we hear River over the speakers.  She has become Serenity, because no one else wanted her.  Jubal questions Simon, who quips “I can’t keep track of her when she not incorporeally possessing a ship…we had a complicated childhood.”  Meanwhile, River comforts Kaylee and tells her she needs to be brave; then hatches a plan with Mal.  River starts to get to Jubal, telling him he’s a liar and despite his supposed code, he likes causing people pain.  Jubal finally figures out River is on his ship.  But River agrees to go with Jubal, to save everyone else.  Well, Simon’s not going to let his sister walk into danger, and tackles Jubal.  He gets shot in the leg for his trouble, but still goes after the bounty hunter.  Kaylee has managed to secretly unlock the dorms and Mal sneaks out.  He’s waiting for Jubal when he leaves Serenity and punches him into space.  Mal catches River on her way back and comments on her brother messing up their plan.  It all ends happy with River and Kaylee hanging out.

The Big Damn Movie, Serenity gives a bit more of the back story of how everyone came to be in space, but it’s actually a memory’s of River.  Well, not really; someone is watching a playback of how Simon broke River out.  The Operative will be hunting them down and is not afraid to get messy, speaking of how some ancient cultures threw themselves on their swords when they failed.  Serenity is still flying, though they may have an interesting landing, as in “oh god, oh god, we’re all gonna die.”  Mal insists that he takes River on a robbery job; she may warn them of trouble.  Simon is not pleased, but Mal is captain.  River indeed senses trouble: Reavers.  Our favorite crew escapes, but we also see that Mal has become a bit harsher in the time between the series and the film.  Simon punches Mal for endangering his sister and declares they will be getting off at the next port.  Kaylee is unhappy they’re leaving, but Mal has business to attend to.  River wanders into the bar and a commercial on the television makes her attack everyone.  She pulls a gun on Mal just as he pulls his pistol.  A phrase from Simon knocks her out and it’s Mal who carries her back to the ship, to handcuff her.  Simon finally reveals that he was warned this may happen and was given the safe phrase.  But Mal suggests there is something going on, something to do with the Alliance.  River had murmured “Miranda” before she went wild.  (Unfortunately, the Operative has seen the same footage).

Wash suggests they go to Mr. Universe (David Krumholtz, Bernard from the first two Santa Clause movies) for information.  The crew gets a little break, visiting Sheppard Book on Haven, then Mal has to go rescue Inara.  He knows he’s walking into a trap, but he does it anyway.  And the way he knows it’s a trap; he didn’t get into an argument with Inara.  Inara is pretty handy when Mal attempts to take on the Operative and her incense is actually an explosion, allowing her and Mal and escape.  Onboard Serenity, Jayne has let River out and she attacks him, then hits Simon.  But she has discovered that “Miranda” is a planet.  Unfortunately, Reaver territory lies between Haven and Miranda.  When they hit planetside again, the colony is in flames.  Mal gets one last conversation with Book before he dies.  All of their friends have been hit; the Operative admits he is a monster, but it’s not his place to question why the Alliance has sent him after River.  And now Mal’s mind is made up.  They’ll disguise his ship in order to sneak through Reaver territory. 

They make it through and discover the secret that River has been holding in her mind.  The Alliance had added an element to the air on Miranda to make it peaceful, to stamp out aggression.  A team investigated on why everyone had died.  Well, all aggression and fight was gone from them; they just laid down and died.  Barring one tenth of a percent of the population; it strengthened their aggression…turning them into Reavers.  Well, Mal and the crew need to get this information out; someone has to speak for these people.  Because one day, the powers that be will decide they can make people better.  “So no more runnin’; I aim to misbehave.”  They’ll go back to Mr. Universe.  Sadly, the Operative has beat them there and there is an Alliance blockade between Serenity and their goal.  Well, they’re ready for that and bring a whole Reaver contingent behind them.  So the Alliance has to fight them instead of our heroes.  Wash manages some fancy flying, “I’m a leaf on the wind, watch how I soar.”  And he lands, destroying bits of Serenity in the process.  Before we can cheer, he’s run through with a spear [Whedon is cruel!]. 

The rest of the crew will make their last stand to buy Mal time to get to the backup equipment.  Kaylee even picks up a gun because now she’s got something to live for; Simon regrets never being with her.  But Kaylee is injured, as is Zoe.  They retreat a bit and then Simon is shot.  River declares that he has always taken care of her, now it’s her turn.  She sprints into the other room, tosses his medical bag in, but the door closes before she can make it back through.  She’s now locked in a room full of Reavers.

The Operative has caught up to Mal and shot him, then tries to paralyze him so he can dispatch him with his sword.  But Mal had taken shrapnel there during the more and that nerve cluster was moved, so he disables the Operative instead and slides his sword down so he can’t move.  He inputs the message and sets it to broadcast.  Mal finds his crew and the doors finally open to reveal that River has dispatched all the Reavers.  The Alliance breaks in and asks for orders.  The Operative finally tells them to stand  down; “we’re finished.”  The Operative lets the crew go, after everyone pitches in to repair Serenity.  There is a memorial service for Mr. Universe, Book, and Wash.  Kaylee and Simon ever get their time together (with River watching).  The Operative cannot guarantee that the Alliance won’t eventually come after the crew; the regime may be weakened, but not gone, nor are they forgiving.  He will disappear.

Happy news, Inara decides she won’t leave.  Mal becomes the pilot and takes River as his copilot, nicknaming her “albatross.”  The first rule of flying?  Love.

I like Firefly; maybe not as much as some other series and movies, but it was fun to re-watch the series.  I adore the family dynamics; Mal is certainly the father of the group, keeping an eye on everyone, protecting them.  Zoe and Wash are adorable together; and Zoe is totally badass!  Kaylee is fun, as is River, when her mind is kind to her.  Summer Glau has a background as a ballerina, so she is naturally graceful, which is cool to watch in fight scenes and that’s how she’s able to do some interesting stunts.  And it’s heartwarming how much Simon cares about his sister.

Honestly, not as fond of the movie.  It’s filmed darker and doesn’t have the warmth visually in the shots that the series had.  It is a logical progression from the show, but totally wish Whedon hadn’t killed Wash!  I have heard there are comics that continue the story, but I have not read them. The encyclopedia is fairly interesting.  And I absolutely love the bloopers!  I will watch them over and over just for the laughs.  The sarcastic quips are another great element of the show.

Of course, I have discovered some fanfiction stories related to Firefly:

The first was actually a huge crossover with the anime Zoids (the only anime I ever watched, I think it was on Cartoon Network when I was in high school).  But totally check out Ancient Legacies by Dragon-Raptor.

And A.Windsor’s Pirate Children series can be a fun read (depends on the story, but warnings accompany the write-ups)

Up Next: We continue a little with the space theme and cover the new Star Trek movies.

“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!