'Indy 5' Back to Basics?

Indy-1stP_W

File It Under Rumors—For Now

According to Stuff.co.nz there’s definitely a fifth INDIANA JONES movie coming, and this one will be heading “back to its roots”, following the critical drubbing of THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL.
However, this information comes from an un-named source, so reader beware.
Both Harrison Ford and Shia LeBouf are said to be onboard for a new adventure to begin shooting next year, and that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have agreed on a storyline “centred around the Bermuda Triangle”.
The New Zealand-based site also quotes this source as saying ” …This will be a blockbuster made in the old fashioned way, rather than the CGI efforts of the last movie.”
Sounds good,  if true. 
Personally, I enjoyed the flawed CRYSTAL SKULL well enough, as much as an exercise in nostalgia as anything else. Like many fans, I found the “nuking the `fridge” scene more than a little over the top, and might have frowned briefly at some of the less well executed CGI—but was otherwise fairly content with my popcorn.
UPDATE 6/10/2010: Not too surprisingly, it seems that the un-named source was unreliable.
According to OhNoTheyDidn’t producer Frank Marshall debunked the story via Twitter:
“The rumor about INDY 5 is completely false. Nothing has changed, we are not shooting next year and [are] still in the research phase…”

Revisiting Raiders

Decades later, a trio of teens look back on their home movie remake of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.

It’s amazing to realize that it took Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Harrison Ford 19 years to conjure up a fourth Indiana Jones adventure, one they called INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, which was released this past summer. The film first premiered at Cannes, France and it was quite well received. The film went on to gross big-time box office with $783 Million worldwide. Now, on October 14, 2008, the DVD edition is being released by Paramount Pictures on DVD and Blu-Ray discs.

But it’s also just as amazing to realize that there is another Indiana Jones production that you’ve probably never heard about. It’s the adventure story of how three kids from Mississippi, just hitting into their teens, decided to film their own adaptation of one of Hollywood’s most successful blockbusters. Their story is the one about bonding friendship and relentless determination.

When Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb decided in the summer of 1982 to hand-craft a personalized version of Steven Spielberg’s RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, it was just the beginning of a long, fractious and arduous seven-year journey for the trio. They scraped every penny from their allowances and called in favors from classmates, adults and kids in their orbit towards filming a shot-for-shot remake of Spielberg’s $20 million homage to the movie serials of the 1930s.

“To Strive, To Seek and Not to Yield…”

In summer of 1981, Chris, Eric and Jayson (who ranged in age from 11 to 13 years old) were living and going to school in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Ordinary kids, they became friends and discovered a shared passion for RAIDERS and Strompolos was eager to become Indiana Jones. He roped in Zala, who agreed, and then Lamb joined the team. The three assigned themselves multiple roles to play in front and behind the camera.

In addition to being the star Strompolos also handled the producer and sound mixer duties. Zala cast himself as Belloq, the arch-rival archaeologist working for the Nazis, and then constructed the storyboards and art direction. Lamb kept himself behind the camera as cinematographer, editor and special effects.

Often filming in their own bedrooms, their parents’ basements or on location, the boys soon came to understand the challenges of their filmmaking tasks. This was in the days before RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK was commercially released on videotape. No scripts were available, so the entire adaptation had to be fashioned from memory and help from references like the comic book and the novelization.

To complete all the shots they needed, the boys had to film over the course of seven consecutive summers, finishing in 1989. In the final film, it showed: The ages of the actors often fluctuated from scene to scene, depending when it was filmed.

However, RAIDERS THE ADAPTATION was so carefully crafted that anyone familiar with the actual Spielberg production could easily recognize characters, costumes, locations and sets. And yes, the boys even managed to find themselves a submarine to use in their film. Cannily, many camera angles are eeriely close to the original film’s look and feel. Even the editing’s tempo are very close to the original film.

When RAIDERS THE ADAPTATION finally finished production after six tough summers, it was 1989; editing was handled at the local television station, which lent equipment and space so that the boys could complete their work.

Shortly thereafter, a cast and crew screening was held at a local PepsiCo auditorium to an audience of about 200 people. Everyone laughed and cheered and the boys were happy. Life could now go on.

It wasn’t until years later, on December 2002, that a filmmaker named Eli Roth gave a videotape dub of the movie to Harry Knowles, webmaster of the ¨uber-film geek website Aint It Cool News. (Roth got obsessed with the film after it was passed on to him by other fans who had caught an NY University screening when Eric was a film student there.)

As an unannounced, and impromptu screening, the audience was at first simply stunned to see RAIDERS THE ADAPTATION. And as they absorbed the film, they responded with delight and cheers. Five months later, in May 2003, the filmmakers reunited in Austin, Texas for another screening, and the reaction was equally enthusiastic. That’s when the three boys realized their private little film project finally had broken out into the world.

“Crack the Whip”

Today, Chris Strompolos says that what kept the three of them, over seven years of hard work, going on the project was simply that they were confident and had strong support from their family and friends. “We were surrounded by a lot of naysayers, “When are you going to finish that RAIDERS thing!?’ We were inspired to prove them wrong,” he says. “The most prominent point was that the working team of Eric, Jayson and I — the working chemistry was so strong — particularly between Eric and I. We just found each other as friends and that’s been the nature of our relationship.”

It was truly a collaborative effort, says Strompolos. The many who worked behind the scenes were conscripted into the adventure when problems were needed to be solved. “It was just a volunteer effort from summer to summer,” he says. “There were people who stayed around for the whole time,” like Eric’s little brother Kurt, who snagged at least six different on-screen roles.

As an example of the tribulations endured by the boys, the actress originally cast as Marion Ravenwood filmed a few scenes but then something unexpected happened. “She had moved to Alaska without telling us!” recalls Strompolos. “We were unable to finish. We had to reshoot everything.” Another girl, Angela Rodriguez, who was spotted by Zala at the local church, agreed to take on the role. “She was a perfect match and it ended up being really great,” he sighs.

“We just wanted to do the best we could. We never had any plans or intentions to ever show it to anybody. We were just doing it for the love of it, for ourselves. It was a fun project. We never had an end goal in mind. We weren’t going to sell it or distribute it. After many years of trial and error, we had a shot that we loved or something that really worked, we just got even more excited.”

Strompolos says when the three of them reunited at the Austin, Texas screening with Harry Knowles in attendance in May 2003, they were stunned at how many people actually showed up to see the film. “Our hearts sank because we thought, ‘My god! Don’t they know that they’re going to watch something that was shot in Mom’s basement!’ We didn’t know what we had,” he chuckles.

“It Belongs in a Museum!”

Since 2003 the three boys, now in their 30s, have continued as friends and working together. “The RAIDERS movie gave us a certain momentum,” says Strompolos. He asked Zala to join him in business and the collaboration has worked out well, bringing to fruition a film production company, appropriately titled Rolling Boulder Films.

In fact, since that year, the boys have been touring with their RAIDERS adaptation at charity screenings all across the country with a few international countries like Australia, Germany and Canada. “We always do it in affiliation with a charity,” he says. “For example, in Vancouver, all proceeds went to the Canadian Cancer Society.” Strompolos estimates they’ve flown to about 40 or 50 U.S. cities. Earlier this year the film had its Los Angeles premiere screening. “We’re booked for events all the way to the end of the year and in fact we’re looking into events for 2009,” he says. “We’re trying to get overseas. We’re in discussions about Iceland, Norway and the U.K.”

Sitting in with an audience who is discovering the film for the first time is a constant revelation, says Strompolos. “Obviously, we’ve screened it so much and I don’t sit with the audience every time,” he says. However, there are special moments that happen. “When the energy in the room is just so incredible, Eric and I will say, ‘Let’s watch it!’ For us to view it with an audience is pretty incredible because when we finished the movie, I was done with it. I was burned out and moved on to other things. Screening it for audiences, and seeing the joy and inspiration it brings to them, has allowed me to revisit that chapter in my life all over again. It’s incredible to me, in a room with 500 people, watch them whoop, holler and cheer and just have an amazing time.”

During one of those screenings last year in Mississippi, in a large turnout at a theater, the boys were reunited with their Marion — Angela Rodriguez, whom they hadn’t seen in about 18 years. “Angela’s really happy,” says Strompolos. “She’s completely cool that [the film has] gotten as much attention as it has. She’s a shy sort and doesn’t like the spotlight, which is ironic. She’s a single mom. She’s doing well. I was just in Minneapolis and saw Angela again. She’s still delighted to have had a part of the whole thing.”

Armed with three copies of the film on VHS tape, a DigiBeta copy and a DV Cam copy, Strompolos reports that “We sell out theaters. We get cheers and standing ovations. People are inspired and overjoyed. It’s taken on an incredible life of its own. Someone said our story is an evergreen story. And I think there’s always going to be someone who wants to see our movie, so we can keep touring.”

As a result of their fame with the RAIDERS adaptation, the boys sold their life story to film producer Scott Rudin and Paramount Pictures, which has a completed script by Daniel Clowes. “They’re going to hit the pause button on it for a bit,” says Strompolos, who notes the film is in active development. “Because INDY IV is out in the theaters, they are going to wait until that rides out its wave, and then start putting together the film.”

Rolling Boulder’s next project is a bona-fide feature film. They snagged for themselves a Paramount development deal with their production company. The film is titled THE RIVER CHASE. “It’s sort of a ‘southern gothic action-adventure film,’ says Strompolos. “It’s a river quest. It takes place in present-day Mississippi which is our home state. The script is done. The concept artwork is done and we’re putting it together.”

Another item on their slate is a “passion project” spearheaded by Jayson Lamb, a behind-the-scenes documentary of their RAIDERS experience titled WHEN WE WERE KIDS. “He’s taken all of the footage and digitized them,” notes Strompolos.

When INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL bowed at movie theaters this summer, Strompolos, Zala and Lamb once again revisited with their favorite hero. “It was a real pleasure to see Harrison do his thing again,” notes Strompolos. “It wasn’t a perfect script. But I think the mythology of the Indiana Jones saga, the excitement of watching him again, was everything it could be. I’m so happy that the fourth movie happened in my lifetime!” he laughs.

The trio’s association with Indiana Jones got as far as receiving a personal letter from Steven Spielberg, who screened their adaptation and he expressed his admiration for their work and telling them that their work was the best homage to RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Later, the three filmmakers were granted a personal audience with Spielberg at his office at Universal Studios.

Although RAIDERS THE ADAPTATION was filmed and cut together using primitive videotape equipment, today Strompolos and Zala tour with the film by carrying a VHS tape copy, a DigiBeta copy and a DV Camcorder copy. The three of them are resisting any notion of taking today’s advanced video editing and special effects tools and taking it through a restoration process to upgrade the quality. “There are some dangers in that and the reason we haven’t done that yet is there’s a purist’s quality of the film being edited by a child’s hands,” notes Strompolos. “Aside from the opening scroll, we haven’t touched a frame of it. That’s part of its charm. People like that it hasn’t been touched. We’ve had people come to us and say, ‘Don’t you touch a frame of this!’ I’m sure curiosity will get the better part of us at some point. We’ll clean it up, take it through a restoration and re-cut it just to see what we end up with. It’s on our list of things to do.”

Box Office: Indiana Bows Big But Breaks No Records

Hoping to stretch the Memorial Weekend even longer, INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL opened a day early – on Thursday instead of Friday – earning $25-million in 4,260 U.S theatres. The impressive number put it as the fourth biggest Thursday opener ever, after STAR WARS: EPISODE III – REVENGE OF THE SITH, THE MATRIX RELOADED, and STAR WARS: EPISODE II – ATTACK OF THE CLONES.
The film simultaneously opened worldwide, posting strong numbers in France and Belgium, where it grossed $2.2-million on Wednesday.
UPDATE (5/26/08): The fourth INDIANA JONES film made approximately $101-million from Friday through Sunday, for a total of $126-million counting tickets sales from Thursday’s early release. That puts the film just behind PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END for biggest Memorial Day opening. (For comparison purposes, one should not that PIRATES had only limited theatrical preivews on Thursday.) Paramount expects that KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL will add another $25-million on Monday, thanks to the extended weekend.
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Cybersurfing: Reviews of "Crystal Skull" & "Center of the Earth"

Shia LeBeof and Harrison FordINDIANA GROANS: Rich Heldenfels of Beacon Journal laments the latest RAIDERS movie, INDIANA JONES AND THE KINDGOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL:

Crystal Skull, the fourth big-screen movie in the Jones series, puts up a fight here and there. But history is too much for it. Crystal Skull ends up a disappointment and, even more sadly, an unnecessary addition to the Jones canon.

[…] The stunts can occasionally dazzle. One extended car chase, complete with shootouts and a sword fight, is a dandy. But it’s also something we’ve seen before, in this film and others.

[…] the tricks are only sporadically entertaining. The big plot twists are not very surprising. (The audience will be ahead of Indy on at least one of them.) Part of one chase makes no sense.

I did feel a grin slipping across my face when we first see the shadow of Indy in his iconic hat. And the grin was back at times near the end, when the movie felt as comfy and familiar as a 20-year-old T-shirt I am reluctant to give up.

But that T-shirt is tattered at the neck. And Crystal Skull is full of holes.

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH: At EVLiving.com, Richard Dennis tells us that the new 3D version of Jules Vernes classic adventure novel – starring Brendan Fraser (THE MUMMY) – may not be great cinema, but it is great fun for families looking to take their kids to the movies:

I was very surprised to find that we all had an absolute ball watching this film. Truth be told, the whole audience seemed to be having a good time. Is it a good film? Probably not. Is it derivative of Temple of Doom (mine car chase), Jurassic Park (dinos), and a dozen other action/fantasy films. You bet…derivative as all hell. Did we enjoy it? You betcha.

The Real 3D employed in the film looked fantastic and gave the whole shebang a great texture, some fun/scary jump out moments, and a fresh colorful look that made for an above average time-passer. I didn’t even mind the obligatory “stuff flying at you” scenes.

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Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull – San Francisco Preview

Harrison Ford and Shia LeBeof in INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL 

Actually, while George Lucas, Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg and all the other stars of INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL were holding court at Cannes, in the south of France, I was watching their new film at San Francisco’s legendary Castro theater – the same theater where I’ve seen Mr. Lucas as a special guest several times. So while Mr. Lucas didn’t turn up in his home town this week, I’ve seen him often here. I’ve also been fortunate to attend the first preview screenings Lucas held for both INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM and INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE, which Lucas insisted be held in San Francisco. Read More

Cybersurfing: Indiana Jones Raids Cannes Film Fest

John Hurt, Karen Allen, Harrison Ford, Shia LeBeof, and Ray Winstone 

The Age.com.au has a report on INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, which had its premier at the Cannes film festival. Their response is not as negative as some have been, but they do seem to think the film is a bit of a disappointment:

 The new film is – largely – more of the old films, but with more stars, bigger stunts and considerably more computer-generated imagery.
Led by Indy and Mary, his first love from Raiders of the Lost Ark– again played by an impressively mature (in Hollywood terms) Karen Allen – our gang of adventurers plunge down a series of massive waterfalls, fight gargantuan creepy-crawlies, find ways into Mayan tombs that have beaten generations of determined but less wily tomb-raiders, find treasure and beat off some spectacularly evil bad dudes, led by Cate Blanchett as a Soviet scientist with an accent thicker than borscht and a neat sideline in swordplay.
[…]
There were only sporadic cheers from diehards at the end of the film; it was not, as one early reviewer had said, the Indiana Jones film everyone had been dreading, but it wasn’t an ecstatic experience either, even for the movie geeks.

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Steven Spielberg's "Raiders of the Crystal Skull"

one-of-the-13-crystal-skulls.jpgLegend says that a crystal skull was once stolen from a mystical lost city of gold in the Amazon jungles of Peru. It is supposedly guarded by the living dead, and it is said, that whoever returns the mystic skull to the Temple of Akator, will be given control over its powers.
Today at the Cannes film festival, the world press will get it’s first glimpse of INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL. However, advance internet reviews have already spread like wildire, causing a minor sensation with their largely negative assesments. Perhaps most importantly, The New York Times deemed the bad early reviews worthy enough for a feature story.
Read More

Cybersurfing: Looking Back on Indiana Jones

Fortune Favors the Brave: With INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULLS about to be released, The Times.co.za offers a look back on the franchise that nails the social-political that helped make the original RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK  a blockbuster in 1981:

The one thing nobody could have foreseen was the film’s intersection with a social and political shift. Stanley Kauffman wrote: “In this film the future is the past, spiffed up with the latest technology and the belief that the best has already been.” The key factor was the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, a movie star who was indelibly connected with the movie past and with a rugged, frontiersman style that galvanised the US out of its post-Nixon, post-Vietnam slump into a decade of optimism and prosperity. Indiana Jones, so defiantly American, with his bull-whip and his leather jacket, was like a poster boy from Reagan’s America, and Reagan’s own aura evoked that old movie magic. Instead of looking dated in 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark was riding the crest of a new mood in America.

Unfortunately, in trying to define the original RAIDERS as a nostalgic flashback to old-fashioned Americana, the Times’ cover feature makes an unconvincing attempt to paint the film as a box office gamble. We’re supposed to find some significance in the fact that Spielberg was paid “just” $1.5-million for directing the film, as if this indicated that, after the box office disappointment of 1941 (1979) Spielberg’s career was in the toilet and only the intervention of George Lucas saved him.
Let’s get real. During the 1970s, the two filmmakers had overseen four of the biggest blockbusters of all time: Spielberg directed JAWS (1975) and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977). Lucas wrote and directed STAR WARS (1977) and executive produced THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1979). CE3K reveled in the kind of feel-good tone that pleased audiences, and the two STAR WARS films were clearly inspired by old-fashioned movie serials – as was RAIDERS.
All in all, I’d say this “gamble” had all the odds tilted in its favor.

Laserblast: Indy Raids Again, Timber Falls, and Blu-ray Chronicles Narnia

Action-Adventure and Family Fantasy dominate this week’s home video releases, followed by two gruesome horror shows and a couple box box sets filled with cult films and classics. Up first is the inevitable DVD re-release of the Indiana Jones films, which I find truly inspiring. Not the movies, and not the DVDs. No, what I find inspiring is the fact that fans can maintain their warm enthusiasm for the franchise (and their eager anticipation for the upcoming INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULLS) in spite of their openly acknowledged awareness of the filmmakers’ greed that led to these rather unnecessary new DVD releases. Only a few years ago there was a box set titled “The Adventures of Indiana Jones: The Complete DVD Movie Collection,” which claimed to be the “ultimate anthology.” Obviously, it was not so ultimate after all, since there is now a new one, “Indiana Jones: The Adventure Collection.” Read More

Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – Fantasy Film Review

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)

The story incorporates exotic locations, lost cities, and mad ambitions, pitting power-crazed villains against well-matched rivals.”The thing to keep in mind abut this film is that it is only a movie,” says Steven Spielberg. “It takes all the license of an exotic entertainment that aims to thrill and scare and strike one with a sense of wonder.”

—from advance publicity for RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981).

There is little doubt that George Lucas’s and Steven Spielberg’s first RAIDERS film in 19 years, INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, is the most anticipated film of the summer.
So in advance of it’s nationwide opening on May 22, here with the help of the studio press notes, are a few thoughts about the fourth Indiana Jones film. Read More