Monday, 25 October 2021

Movie Review: Dear John (2010)

A drama and romance, Dear John enjoys picturesque stars and old-fashioned romance-by-letter, but never rises above elemental cliches.

In the spring of 2001, John Tyree (Channing Tatum) of the US army's special forces is enjoying a vacation in Charleston, South Carolina, where his father (Richard Jenkins) lives. At the beach John meets college student Savannah (Amanda Seyfried) on her spring break, along with her friend Tim (Henry Thomas) and his young autistic son. John and Savannah fall in love, although she notices he has a quick temper. Savannah also befriends John's dad, a soft-spoken coin collector on the autism scale.

John reports back to the army to complete his remaining year of service, and the lovers continue their romance by letter. But after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, John is obligated to re-enlist, and the long-distance relationship is severely tested.

An adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel, Dear John is a predictable sombre romance. Director Lasse Hallström adds a veneer of quality, Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfriend make for an appealing photogenic couple, and Jamie Linden's script is bearable. But the good components cannot overcome embedded character triteness and contrived mini-crises.

John is sensitive and brooding, but can also be triggered into violence at the slightest provocation. Channing Tatum therefore wears the same expression throughout, his acting consisting of a chiselled physique and hardened presence. Savannah is pure, innocent, and helpful, placing the needs of others ahead of her own. She is so good that Amanda Seyfried is given little to work with, although she does get to jump-hug onto the relatively gigantic Tatum at regular intervals. 

Predictably, both characters make all the necessary poor and incomprehensible decisions at exactly the wrong times to artificially impose as many obstacles as possible in the path of their happiness.

With Tim's son and Mr. Tyree both on the spectrum, the narrative appears to want to say something about autism, but never quite gets there. Richard Jenkins bring poignancy to the role of John's father, and the bond Savannah forges with him is promising, but the sub-plot is all but abandoned. Equally half-hearted are the father-son travails scattered among the coin collection motif.

In long hand and on paper, Dear John finds little new to write about.

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Sunday, 24 October 2021

Movie Review: 36 Hours (1964)

A clever battle of wits centred on the seminal secret of World War Two, 36 Hours is a twisty and often audacious intelligence thriller.

In early June 1944, final preparations are underway for the D-Day invasion, and Normandy as the location of the landing beaches is the most important secret of the war. The Germans have made the wrong assumption and massed their defences at Calais, and the Allies are doing all they can to maintain the deception. Major Jefferson Pike (James Garner) is one of the few to know the battle plan, but on a trip to neutral Lisbon, he is drugged and kidnapped by the Germans and transported to a remote site in Germany near the Swiss border.

Major Walter Gerber (Rod Taylor) is a German doctor specializing in memory control, and with the help of nurse Anna Hedler (Eva Marie Saint) has devised an ingenious plan to fool Pike into revealing the invasion details. Otto Schack (Werner Peters) of the SS is sceptical about Gerber's methods and wants to use more brutal interrogation tactics. Gerber has less than 36 hours to extract the information he needs, while Pike has to overcome drug-induced confusion to try and escape his predicament.

Directed and written by George Seaton with Robert Dahl's 1944 magazine story Beware of the Dog serving as inspiration, 36 Hours is an engaging and unique spy showdown. Smart, sharp, and unpredictable, the film is always ready with another bluff. Philip H. Lathrop's black and white cinematography evokes representations of the war era, and the story maintains an edge with deceptor and deceived trading the advantage.

Gerber's elaborate ruse is at the brainy and well-resourced scale of The Manchurian Candidate, and involves creating an illusionary setting for Pike to feel comfortable giving away the invasion plans. Within this tense locale, four distinctive central characters contribute to the cinematic success of the premise. Pike is confident and capable but not beyond being fooled, Gerber is a doctor at heart and not impressed with military buffoonery. In another world Pike and Gerber can be friends and colleagues, their emerging bond adding a layer of disorienting mutual respect to the clinical business of war. Off in the dark corner, Schack combines the characteristics of the consummate intelligence agent with an excellent understanding of careerism.

But Anna emerges as the real catalyst. She is asked to play the most difficult role in deceiving Pike, and also provided with a deep and conflicted backstory revealed in measured increments. Eva Marie Saint rises to the challenge with Anna's multiple layers of stress casting shadows on her face.

Seaton maintains brisk pacing, packing plenty of incident and momentum changes within 115 minutes. The set-up is efficient, Gerber initially seizing the initiative but his rivalry with Schack immediately creating a schism within the German ranks. The outcome remains uncertain, as the three men take turns controlling the psychological upper hand. And while pressure is sometimes applied openly, small and nuanced tricks are just as effective in turning the tide.

The third act is relatively weaker than the preceding material and devolves to a standard escape-and-chase. But the final scene is an unforgettable human connection, capturing in one look why the war needed to be won. With the clock ticking down towards one of history's most important battles, 36 Hours is subterfuge at its best.

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Saturday, 23 October 2021

Movie Review: Tin Cup (1996)

A sports romance and comedy, Tin Cup does not lack charm but struggles to justify itself.

In West Texas, Roy "Tin Cup" McAvoy (Kevin Costner) runs a ramshackle golf driving range with his friend Romeo (Cheech Marin). In his college years, Roy and his friend and rival David Simms (Don Johnson) both showed great promise on the golf course. Simms is now a star on the PGA tour, while Roy never tamed his aggressive play with the necessary discipline to compete.

Simms and his girlfriend Dr. Molly Griswold (Rene Russo), a psychologist, show up at the driving range and old rivalries are rekindled. Simms convinces Roy to be his caddie for a charity tournament, an experience that ends badly, while a mutual attraction develops between Roy and Molly. To prove himself worthy of her love, he decides to enter the U.S. Open.

A bloated exercise in celebrating a maverick character, Tin Cup attempts to recreate the vibe of Bull Durham. Director and co-writer Ron Shelton re-teams with star Kevin Costner, and the setting switches from baseball backwaters to golf hinterlands. This is a retread with less interesting characters who really don't deserve the attention, the seams showing in a patched-up attempt to remix an old formula at an inexcusable length of 134 minutes.

For a movie about golf, there is too much golf. The final chapter is an endless recreation of Roy's US Open run, passing through all the regional qualification tournaments, and the pacing starts to resemble a long night of tedium watching the Golf Channel with no off button on the remote. An unknown's Quixotic quest to win a major tournament carries traditional underdog appeal, but it's still a relief when the William Ross music soars to predictable levels of nauseous melodrama to celebrate a heroic inability to compromise principles.

Nuggets of enjoyment do rescue a basic level of watchability. Kevin Costner admirably invests in a man content with his chosen lot in life, a living example that raw talent alone is far from a sufficient condition for success. The west Texas desert milieu provides a beautifully desolate backdrop to a proud life happily wasted, and Don Johnson is quite good as the suitably smarmy but still quite clever counterpoint.

Rene Russo struggles with the underwritten and frequently unconvincing role of Molly - for a doctor she is none too clever and quickly falls for the charms of a flawed man - but nevertheless provides some comic relief and the occasional spark. Cheech Marin is a classic sidekick, equally entranced and frustrated by his hero.

Despite a wild swing aiming for old glories, Tin Cup settles for a middling round.

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Movie Review: Perfect (1985)

A drama and romance, Perfect awkwardly attempts to wedge two unrelated and underdeveloped stories into the same narrative. Predictably, both fail.

New York-based Rolling Stones investigative reporter Adam Lawrence (John Travolta) is attempting to secure an interview with businessman Joe McKenzie, who is under investigation for drug dealing. Concurrently Adam receives permission from his editor Mark Roth (Jann Wenner) to pursue a story about fitness clubs as the new singles bars. He travels to Los Angeles and visits the Sports Connection club, where he meets aerobics instructor Jessie Wilson (Jamie Lee Curtis).

She is not interested in granting Adam an interview because of a past bad experience with the press, but club regulars Sally (Marilu Henner) and Linda (Laraine Newman) are thrilled to be part of his story. Adam and Jessie start a romance, and McKenzie finally agrees to be interviewed, thrusting Adam into the middle of a high profile FBI investigation. He has to decide how to write both stories, and risks damaging his reputation and relationships.

Featuring endless scenes of women in leotards (with a few sprinkled men) jumping up and down, thrusting their hips, and gyrating their pelvises, Perfect is a mess. Director and co-writer James Bridges seems to know both his stories are unworthy of cinematic treatments, and so takes the easy way out by parking his cameras at the gym and sweating it out. One of the many problems is that all the extras bouncing in the aerobics classes already appear quite fit rather than working their way to fitness, an obvious Hollywoodian choice. A generic and forgettable soundtrack does not help.

The McKenzie plot never progresses beyond cursory headlines before suddenly occupying centre stage in a final, incongruous act. The revelation that fitness clubs are a mingling place for singles with over-clocked hormones starts and ends with a shrug. Not newsworthy and far from a basis for big screen drama, it is no surprise when the magazine fumbles the supposed exposé into a sordid hack job.

The film is saved from a total loss by the two photogenic stars. John Travolta and Jamie Lee Curtis both exude cool charisma and provide good visual distraction as they grapple with an asinine script. Travolta's Adam Lawrence is exceptionally poorly written, falling into the huge gap between sensitive and contemptible. Curtis is provided with a half-decent back-story and convinces as an energetic and confident instructor riding the wave of a fitness craze.

Perfect expends enormous physical energy, but stays in one place.

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Movie Review: Promised Land (1987)

A drama about dreams both broken and non-existent, Promised Land threatens to say something important but remains mired in the company of uninteresting characters.

It's 1984, and in the small town of Ashville, Utah, David Hancock (Jason Gedrick) is the high school basketball star, dating cheerleader Mary Daley (Tracy Pollan) and destined for a college scholarship. Their classmate Danny Rivers (Kiefer Sutherland) is socially awkward and sarcastically nicknamed Senator. He also has a crush on Mary. Despite having no plans or prospects, Danny quits school and leaves town without telling his parents.

Two years later, David is a police officer back in Ashville, his college and sports dreams already shattered. Mary comes back from her college for a Christmas visit. Meanwhile, Danny is in Nevada, squatting in an abandoned warehouse. On a whim, he marries Bev Sykes (Meg Ryan), a woman he met just three days prior. Danny and Bev start the long drive to Ashville where he wants to reconnect with his parents. Meanwhile, David and Mary are unsure where their relationship is going.

Apparently based on real events, Promised Land never quite gets to whatever profound statements it was seeking. With the backing of executive producer Robert Redford, writer and director Michael Hoffman has potentially interesting small-town social topics to work with and an eye for beauty within sparse landscapes. But the movie lands flat, bogged down with David and Mary as one bickering maybe-couple, while Danny and Bev embark on an tedious road trip. 

The jock who peaked in high school, the cheerleader blossoming in college, the misfit still discovering himself, and the wild free-spirit are all defined within the opening 30 minutes. The script lacks meaningful context, progression, and compelling arcs, and the acting often dips into melodramatics. The young cast members do their best while in some cases still learning their craft, but are far from rescuing the sparse material and clunky dialogue.

David as a police officer loves shooting his service revolver at a makeshift shooting range, and the borderline unstable Bev also has a gun, so the hints of something bad about to happen are clear. Similarly obvious is the theme of young men from small towns struggling to make something of themselves with minimal familial support, while Ronald Reagan hovers over the country from his television perch. Promised Land is an idea waiting to happen, getting lost both in small town angst and the featureless desert.

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Sunday, 17 October 2021

Movie Review: Elizabethtown (2005)

A romantic drama-comedy exploring themes of loss, Elizabethtown is a sweet but uneven journey through the complexities of family ties and coping with failure.

In Oregon, Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) is a superstar shoe designer at the Mercury sportswear company. When his latest design flops, eccentric owner Phil DeVoss (Alec Baldwin) faces a billion dollar loss, and Drew's girlfriend Ellen (Jessica Biel) distances herself from their relationship. Drew considers suicide, but his sister Heather (Judy Greer) calls with news their father Mitch has died suddenly while on a trip to his hometown of Elizabethtown, Kentucky.

On the near-empty overnight flight, Drew befriends perky flight attendant Claire Colburn (Kirsten Dunst). In Elizabethtown he meets his father's friends and relatives, and understands the depth of affection towards Mitch, although the Baylors never welcomed Drew's mother Hollie (Susan Sarandon). Over the coming few days Drew and Claire continue to see each, while Hollie causes waves by showing up for the memorial service.

Written, directed, and co-produced by Cameron Crowe, Elizabethtown is an uncoordinated but still engaging mishmash. Humour, drama, romance, culture shock, grief, a travelogue, and familial conflicts take turns setting the tone. The result is awkward, sometimes jarring, but always reasonably watchable despite an overstuffed, often whiny, soundtrack, although the inclusion of Lynyrd Skynyrd's Freebird makes up for a lot of the dross.

The film suffers most trying to define a narrative flow and logical transitions, and never really finds the magic formula. Segments exist in isolation almost as stand-alone ideas. A chunk of time is occupied in developing the romance between Drew and Claire, although their conversations border on obtuse. Frustratingly, Claire is confined to the prototypical perfect potential girlfriend who just happens to land in the protagonist's lap as an emotional saviour in his most desperate hour.

Then another long sequence gives the stage (literally) to Susan Sarandon as Hollie, trying in one night to make up for a lifetime of estrangement from Mitch's family. A final chapter steers (again, literally) into a road trip of southern landmarks. Drew grieving his career fiasco and the loss of his father are supposed to provide an arc, but the dramatic themes are only modestly refined.

The humour is derived from some typical familial quirks, including the uncles, aunts, cousins, and nephews Drew has to get to know in a hurry. Cousin Jesse (Paul Schneider), once in a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band, is now raising a very loud kid and is a particular source of laughs. At the hotel, Drew's room is on the same floor as a raucous wedding event, another venue for passable chuckles. 

A running joke is that Elizabethtown is difficult to find on the map. This hometown contains some charm, but is also easy to bypass.

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Saturday, 16 October 2021

Movie Review: Man On Fire (2004)

A revenge action thriller centred on a child kidnapping, Man On Fire is gripping, violent, and stylish.

With Mexico City experiencing a high rate of abductions for ransom, businessman Samuel Ramos (Marc Anthony) and his wife Lisa (Radha Mitchell) hire Creasy (Denzel Washington) as a bodyguard for their young daughter Pita (Dakota Fanning). Creasy is ex-military, but now has a drinking problem. He remains friends with Paul Rayburn (Christopher Walken), a former colleague who runs a security firm.

The dour and despondent Creasy gets off on the wrong foot with the talkative and curious Pita, but they then establish a deep bond of friendship. When heavily-armed kidnappers do target Pita, Creasy is unable to save her despite killing four assailants and being shot several times. While he recuperates, Samuel and lawyer Jordan Kalfus (Mickey Rourke) handle the ransom negotiations. But with corruption reaching the highest levels of the police force, the deal goes bad. Creasy vows revenge on all those who harmed his young friend.

Directed by Tony Scott from a Brian Helgeland script adapting A.J. Quinnell's 1980 novel, Man On Fire is a standard revenge story spiced-up by strong character development, hyperactive cinematography, and star power. While the man-on-a-mission-wasting-bad-guys premise offers little that is new, here the people are made to matter with smart pacing choices.

The first hour patiently introduces the flawed and self-aware Creasy, the smart and precocious Pita (short for Lupita), and the connection between them. At first she irritates him but then he helps her develop competitive swimming techniques and becomes a friend and trusted mentor. Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning invest genuine humanity into the roles, adding a potent emotional punch to the subsequent violence.

Once the killing starts it does not stop, Creasy working his way up the criminal food chain from foot soldiers to mid-level operatives, corrupt officials and finally the masterminds. He is calm, methodical and outwardly emotionless, dismantling a shadowy organization consisting of thugs and sleazoids hiding behind uniforms and officious titles. All the bad guys call themselves professionals, but Creasy demonstrates what the term really means. The usual methods of torture are deployed to expeditiously extract the necessary information in time for the next rocket-propelled grenade to impart the required damage. And along the way a conspiracy twist is revealed, adding internecine venom.

Creasy is helped by a couple of locals to balance out the Mexican portrayals. Rachel Ticotin is reporter Mariana Garcia Guerrero, eager to expose government corruption and incompetence, and Giancarlo Giannini plays Miguel Manzano, a federal police director willing to provide assistance in exchange for the right perks.

The Mexico City locations add vibrant authenticity, while Scott's insistence on manic visual flair and demented editing borders on nauseating but achieves the intended kinetic buzz. Man On Fire is both cool and blazing.

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Movie Review: Winchester '73 (1950)

A revenge western adventure, Winchester '73 enjoys a rich set of characters and multiple story lines connected by a prized rifle.

Lin McAdam (James Stewart) and his friend High-Spade Frankie Wilson (Millard Mitchell) track down Dutch Henry Brown (Stephen McNally) in Dodge City. Lin has a personal revenge motive and wants Dutch dead, but marshal Wyatt Earp (Will Geer) seizes all weapons in the name of law and order. Instead, Lin and Dutch compete in a target shooting competition, with a coveted Winchester '73 rifle as the prize.

Lin: Awful lot of law for a little cowtown.
Wyatt: This is the kind of cowtown that needs a lot of law.

Lin wins the competition but Dutch seizes the rifle and scampers out of town. Dutch is headed to Tascosa, but along the way he loses the rifle in a poker game to weapons trader Joe Lamont (John McIntire). Lin persists in hunting down Dutch, and still ahead are encounters with Indian leader Young Bull (Rock Hudson), saloon girl Lola Manners (Shelley Winters) and her fiance Steve (Charles Drake), an inexperienced cavalry squad led by Sergeant Wilkes (Jay C. Flippen), and reckless criminal Waco Johnnie Dean (Dan Duryea), the fastest gun in Texas.

The first collaboration between star James Stewart and director Anthony Mann, Winchester '73 provides Stewart an opportunity to harden his image. Intent on revenge, capable of violence, and undeterred by any obstacle, Lin McAdam is a template for a redefined, morally more vague and much more interesting western protagonist. He has purposefully entered a moral grey zone by seeking vengeance the old fashioned way, but he comes from an honourable background and may still find a pathway to future domesticity.

The eloquent and witty script by Borden Chase and Robert L. Richards provides rich surroundings for a complex adventure. The rifle, marketed as "The Gun That Won The West", is a clever plot device, regularly changing hands and at some point owned by all the character types associated with the frontier: lawmen, criminals, Indians, cowards, traveling salesmen and soldiers. 

Dutch: Haven't I seen you somewhere?
Lola: I've been somewhere.

The episodic structure works in the movie's favour. The revenge story provides an arc, but otherwise Fleischer never reveals where the action will move to next, and even Lin's quest contains twisty revelations. Notable characters are introduced late, act unpredictably, and some meet an abrupt demise. Other than the drawn-out target shooting competition, the pacing is brisk, and the drama alternates between showdowns, edgy dialogue interactions, and soulful reflections. William H. Daniels contributes crisp black and white cinematography, while editor Edward Curtiss strives for coherence during the many action scenes.

And as much as Lin is a memorable protagonist and Dutch a worthy villain, Winchester '73 is stocked full of other colourful characters brought to life by a stellar cast making the most of limited screen time. Millard Mitchell as High-Spade is not only a loyal friend but also a sage conscience, keeping an eye on Lin's pursuit of vengeance and always reminding him of his essence. 

High-Spade, referring to Lin's father: Did you ever wonder what he'd think about you hunting down Dutch Henry?
Lin: He'd understand. He taught me to hunt.
High-Spade: Not men. Hunting for food, that's alright. Hunting a man to kill him? You're beginning to like it.
Lin: That's where you're wrong. I don't like it. Some things a man has to do, so he does 'em.

Will Geer offers a unique and impressively laid-back take on Wyatt Earp, while John McIntire as weapons trader Joe Lamont exerts dominant authority even when outnumbered by Dutch and his ragtag men. Sergeant Wilkes is new to the west, and Jay C. Flippen affords him the curiosity to learn from Lin and High-Spade, even as the trio discover they met before on a different battlefield. And then Dan Duryea arrives to steal the back-end of the movie as the over-energized Waco Johnnie Dean.

Waco: What was I saying?
Lola: You were talking about yourself.
Waco: Where did I stop?
Lola: You didn't. But you can now. I already know all about Waco Johnny Dean, the fastest gun in Texas.
Waco: Texas? Lady, why limit me?

Shelley Winters enjoys some good lines but otherwise suffers as the only woman in world defined by men. Rock Hudson is an unconvincing Indian leader and Tony Curtis has a small role as a member of the cavalry who briefly gets to hold the rifle.

A formidable weapon, Winchester '73 is owned by many, but only rests in rightful hands.

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Movie Review: The Boston Strangler (1968)

A crime drama based on real events, The Boston Strangler recreates the horrific actions of a deeply disturbed evil perpetrator who assaulted and strangled 13 women in the early to mid 1960s.

Opening text introduces the film as the story of Albert DeSalvo, the self-confessed Boston Strangler. Starting in 1962, an unknown assailant later revealed to be DeSalvo (Tony Curtis) embarks on a murder spree in Boston and the surrounding towns, sexually assaulting and strangling to death single women in their homes. Initially the victims are elderly, but eventually women of all ages are murdered. The killer talks his way into his victims' apartments, avoiding forced entry and leaving no clues.

With the murders gaining national attention, Detective Phil DiNatale (George Kennedy) and Sergeant Frank McAfee (Murray Hamilton) are among the investigators assigned to the case. They interrogate all known violent offenders and sexual perverts, but the murders continue. Assistant Attorney General John Bottomly (Henry Fonda) is appointed to coordinate across jurisdictions, but the killer remains frustratingly elusive.

With DeSalvo's identity revealed from the start and his fate commonly known, The Boston Strangler lacks narrative tension. Edward Anhalt wrote the script as an adaptation of the Gerold Frank book, and director Richard Fleischer uses split screens and a documentary-style grittiness to recreate a few of the murders, the police response, and the public reaction. The film achieves decent engagement more through style than content.

The murderer is not fully shown on the screen until about halfway through the film, leaving the generic representations of detectives DiNatale and McAfee as the rather dull main characters for long stretches. With the strangler not making mistakes, Anhalt and Fleischer invest in the arduous work of identifying, tracking down, and interrogating numerous persons of interest. The public is keen to help, and soon phone calls are flooding in about every creepy guy in town.

Perhaps sensing the investigation is floundering, the bookish Bottomly is reluctant to get involved. Henry Fonda is equally rather listless in a hesitant role, meandering from lawyer to detective then psychologist without much explanation. Tony Curtis stretches in a serious role as DeSalvo, an intriguing and not unsuccessful experiment.

Most of the acting showcase moments arrive in a final chapter staged almost entirely in a sparse white hospital room, DeSalvo now a captive and Bottomly eager to get into the mind of a murderer. The drama is stripped down to cerebral levels, lacking excitement but striving for insight.

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Friday, 15 October 2021

Movie Review: Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom (1984)

The first sequel (and nominally a prequel) to Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981), Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom is undoubtedly imaginative, but also dark and claustrophobic.

The setting is 1935. Adventurous archaeologist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) tangles with an unscrupulous tycoon in Shanghai, then bails out of a crashing plane along with his young sidekick Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan) and lounge singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw). They land in India and stumble upon a village in misery, because an evil cult based at Pankot Palace stole the villagers' sacred rock and all their children.

Indiana, Willie and Short Round travel to the palace and encounter Prime Minister Chattar Lal and priest Mola Ram. They have a plot to dominate the world by reviving the Thuggee cult in a cavernous temple beneath the palace, engaging in human sacrifice, black magic, and child slavery. Indiana has to retrieve the missing sacred rock and rescue the children.

Directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by George Lucas, Temple Of Doom tries hard to do something different and not simply retread the original Indiana Jones experience. While the determination to carve a unique identity is commendable, writers Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, working from a Lucas story, first adopt a frantic over-the-top attitude then lock themselves into the temple and throw a mishmash of horrors at the screen, ranging from slithering snakes to hearts ripped out of live humans. The result is an uneven, uncomfortable, and forced adventure.

The film is never dull, filled with just-in-time rescues, good stunts, and high quality special effects, while bits of humour wriggle free from the shroud of darkness. But the production is also perforated with weaknesses. The character of Willie Scott is an abominable irritation, screaming incessantly and worrying about broken nails. Kate Capshaw is not helped by the script, but still delivers a wooden and unconvincing performance. The treatment of Indian culture is always insensitive and sometimes insulting, alternating between victimhood and savagery, and reaching a low point with a grotesque dinner scene. 

On at least two occasions Spielberg and Lucas brazenly rip themselves off. Jones and Short Round endure the slowly-getting-squished-in-a-small-room Star Wars episode, and the boulder from Raiders is replaced by gushing water. With the dominant success of E.T. fresh in Spielberg's mind, children are inserted for cringey manipulative purposes. From Short Round to the abducted child villagers and culminating in the ill-defined young Maharajah, kids carry the load of counteracting barbarism. 

On the positive side, several highlights contribute to the Indiana Jones legacy. The opening sequence in the Shanghai nightclub, featuring a Busby Berkeley-style musical, is fun. A chase on rickety rail cars through mine shafts injects a jolt of energy, and the final showdown at a rope bridge is spectacular. 

Harrison Ford's star power and latent charisma just about drag Indiana Jones out of the temple of doom, but it's a narrow escape.

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