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A first look at Harrison Ford in the new Indiana Jones movie

Indy_lI don’t care how much you might hate the idea of a 64-year-old Harrison Ford putting his battered fedora back on for next summer’s Indiana Jones 4 — don’t you look at this first official photo, taken yesterday on the set (by this fella named Steven Spielberg), and get at least a little excited?

Indy doesn’t look that elderly. And it’s great that nobody’s hiding the gray hairs and peppery stubble. With Spielberg directing, a movie about Indiana Jones as an old guy still bouncing around is inherently mysterious. I wanna see where they go with it — more than I wanna see any movie coming out between now and then, honestly.

And I’m telling you, Ford can still handle the action. In June 2005, I spent two days on the set of Firewall in Canada, and I watched Ford fly through windows and fall down a lot as he shot that movie’s fisticuffs-packed climax. I don’t care who you are; the Harrison Ford I saw two years ago could still kick the crap out of you. Indiana Jones lives!

addCredit(“Steven Spielberg/Courtesy Lucasfilm Ltd.”)

Sean Connery won't be shaken or stirred out of retirement

Sean_lDon’t count me among those disappointed that Sean Connery (pictured, right, with Harrison Ford) won’t be reprising his role as indiana Jones’ father in the fourth Indy movie, which begins shooting in 10 days. Connery posted an announcement at the official Indiana Jones website, saying that not even the prospect of working with Steven Spielberg and Ford again could coax him back in front of the camera because "retirement is just too damned much fun."

That sounds like an awfully glib excuse, but whatever the real reason — maybe he’s not mentally or physically up to the demands of the role anymore, or he doesn’t want audiences to see the ravages of his 76 years, or he really is having too much fun playing golf — I won’t begrudge him his desire to sit this one out. His announcement echoes the one made a couple weeks ago by Paul Newman; the 82-year-old told ABC News he’s happy to devote his working hours to his food businesses and that he’s not up to the challenges of acting anymore. Both men had world-class runs in movies, and both deserve to rest on their laurels.

Sure, we’d all like to see Connery and Newman continue to sparkle on screen, but then again, movie history is littered with late-career embarrassments by performers who didn’t know when to hang it up, who didn’t observe the showbiz adage that you should always leave ‘em wanting more. What say you, PopWatchers? Should we try to coax these guys back into action, even if they’re not in fighting shape, or should we let them be and just enjoy their bodies of work?

Will Shia LaBeouf help or hurt 'Indiana Jones'?

Indy_lLess than a month ago, Shia LaBeouf was denying, to PopWatch and anyone else who would listen, that the reports of him being cast in Indiana Jones IV were anything more than rumors. Now, however, the Disturbia star’s casting is a done deal, and as much as I think LaBeouf is a funny and inventive young performer, I’m on the fence as to whether his casting is a good idea.

On the minus side: Do we really need to see Indy distracted from his adventures by some midlife father-son drama, the playing out of some abandonment issues that will read like an allegory of the midlife crisis of a busy Hollywood power player? Been there, done that, in both Last Crusade and Temple of Doom (pictured). Or, if LaBeouf isn’t playing Indy’s son, but perhaps some impostor who claims to be the whipcracker’s offspring in order to scam him into an adventure, would that really be any better? Either way, there’s something artificial about using these old warhorse/young hipster-geek pairings to prop up long-dormant action franchises, which is why I have similar apprehensions about Bruce Willis and Justin Long in Live Free or Die Hard. If Adam Brody pops up as a junior freedom fighter in Stallone’s fourth Rambo, run for the hills.

On the plus side: Kid’s got talent, Cate Blanchett and Ray Winstone are also going to be on hand to step up everyone’s game, the franchise could certainly use some youthful energy, and Spielberg can usually be trusted to know what he’s doing. And if Shia gets out of line, Ford’ll make him feel the sting of the lash.

What do you think, PopWatchers? Does LaBeouf’s casting make you more or less eager to see Indy don his fedora one more time?

ShoWest: And finally, some made-up awards!

Steve_lDid you beware the Ides of March, PopWatchers? Well, beingin Las Vegas for ShoWest afforded me the rare opportunity to mark dear Julius’ demise inunique style. I started out yesterday, March 15, by hoofing it across the Stripto, yep, Caesar’s Palace. But — Ecce, PopWatcheri! — I seemed to bethe only one who remembered. Nothing was going on. No mock betrayals. No stagedexecutions. Vegas, great home of the meticulous re-creation of the outsideworld, you disappointed me!

In actual fact, I could say the same thing about ShoWest, which wrapped up itsleast-flashy, least-newsworthy, least-star-studded installment in years. Theconvention’s final day saw the obligatory annual 3-D digital cinemapresentation, an event that included footage from U2 3D, which may soundlike a Star Wars droid but is actually a concert film featuring Bono& Co. Every year they say digital cinema and 3-D is fast on its way totheaters near you; I’m still waiting.

Then, Sony hosted the obligatory annual animated-movie clip reel, this in honorof the talking-animals pic Surf’s Up (June 8). I totally dug thefaux luau atmosphere that they had concocted for all the ShoWesters inattendance: Everybody got leis and mai-tais and pineapple slices. And the 20minutes of the film were kinda fun, too. The flick is all about wave-riding penguins who hang 10 in a big competition on a tropical island. In introducing the footage, producer Chris Jenkins winked at recent films like March of the Penguins and Happy Feet when he quipped, "More bloody penguins!" But then he added that this is "not just another penguin movie," and it seemed like he had a point, for Surf’s Up is set up likea clever mockumentary. Think The Office — but animated, feature-length,and featuring surfing fowl. Cute!

Anyway, the day wrapped with the convention’s obligatory annual awards banquet,in which a number of random stars trot out to receive made-up prizes like"Animation Directors of the Year" (that’d be Shrek the Third‘sChris Miller and Raman Hui), "Female Star of Tomorrow" (Nancy Drew‘sEmma Roberts)  and "Comedy Star of the Year" (Steve Carell, pictured).It’s always a good time. All the nation’s theater owners get dolled up for the bigoccasion, and I get to talk to most of the talent on hand. A few highlights:

addCredit(“Steve Carell: Jesse Grant/WireImage.com”)

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Is Hollywood's next big movie star named Shia LaBeouf?

Shia_lShia LaBeouf must have done something extremely good in a previous life, because he’s getting hit with a truckload of good karma casting. Not only is the Disney Channel breakout the star of this summer’s Transformers (pictured), a practically surefire fit from director Michael Bay and executive producer Steven Spielberg, but the latter is apparently so besotted with the 20-year-old actor that he’s cast him as Harrison Ford’s son in the finally-moving fourth Indiana Jones installment. Though precious few other details have been released about the film, it’s expected to begin shooting this summer for a 2008 release.

Between his trippy performance last year in Emilio Estevez’s Bobby and winning turn in 2003′s family flick Holes, LaBeouf certainly has the potential to make more of name for himself, but I’m not fully convinced that he’s a major star in the works. In the past few years, he’s primarily played the quirky sidekick (in such films as Constantine and I, Robot), and he has an obligatory teen gorefest — the Rear Window-ish Disturbia — in the can. Then again, who am I to second-guess Steven Spielberg? One thing’s for sure: entertainment journos are going to be spell-checking his name a lot in the upcoming year.

What say you, PopWatchers? Can LaBeouf pass as Harrison Ford’s son? Is he primed to become a ShoWest Star of Tomorrow?

addCredit(“Transformers: Everett Collection”)

Call it 'Indiana Jones and the Long Wait Till '08'

Hey, good lookin’! What you got cookin’? Got any plans for Memorial Day 2008? Wanna go to the movies with me that day? You do? Great! Because I know what I want to see: the next Indiana Jones movie. If you’re really in, lemme know, because I think we should probably buy our tickets early.

Oh, I jest — though maybe not the part about reserving seats in advance. Certainly, the film (which Paramount calls The Fourth Installment of the Indiana Jones Adventures) is going to be a white-hot ticket when it opens on May 22, 2008. That’s the Thursday before Memorial Day, a.k.a. the same day on which highly anticipated blockbusters with words like Star Wars and Matrix in their titles have debuted in recent years. Considering the two-decade wait and all the starts and stops and, you know, Harrison Ford’s 64th birthday, fans everywhere are clamoring to see what happens to Indy in his advanced years. Maybe the Nazis poison his Centrum Silver. (Oh, if Paramount actually uses that, I’m going to go all Buchwald on their ass!)

But will The Fourth Installment of the Indiana Jones Adventures crack a whip on the competition? I mean, I’m psyched, but the franchise is awfully old: Folks born when Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade premiered are now entering college. And, amazingly enough, we already know that Speed Racer is due the same weekend, while Iron Man and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian are set to open in the preceding weeks. Will they keep our hero from tracking down his latest treasure at the box office?

Will we ever see 'Indiana Jones 4'?

95223__indiana_l_1What are Indiana Jones fans to make of this? It’s George Lucas, talking to Empire Magazine about the long-awaited (bordering on quasi-mythical) Indiana Jones 4: "We’re basically going to do The Phantom Menace … “

Holy Grail! Imagine what that might mean! Kid-Indy, youthful midichlorians raging, enters a big whip competition! Sallah delivers massively elliptical speeches about destiny! Indy falling in with a prat-falling Nazi officer named Gestapo Binks (Ahmed Best)! But wait, wait, don’t seethe yourself into a coma just yet, Joe Indy-fan, there’s more:

“We’re basically going to do The Phantom Menace … People’s expectations are way higher than you can deliver. You could just get killed for the whole thing… We would do it for fun and just take the hit with the critics and the fans… But nobody wants to get into it unless they are really happy with it."

OK, you could take this one of two ways: Either it’s a bold, damn-the-torpedoes approach to the pure fun of the Indy franchise… or it’s a man who’s been so richly rewarded for sucking, he’s decided sucking ain’t  so bad.

Let’s go tentatively with the former, and parse some of George’s other comments. He cites a creative disagreement as one cause of Indy 4’s long delay. Apparently, George’s idea for a new quest objective — the Ark in Raiders, the Grail in Last Crusade, the, uh, Short Round in Temple (what was the goal there again? Those glowy egg things?) — wasn’t a hit with Spielberg or Harrison Ford. Seems like the difference of opinion on this “area of the supernatural” was enough to derail the project for years.

Two questions, PopWatchers: What’s your favorite McGuffin? The briefcase in Kiss Me Deadly? The briefcase in Pulp Fiction? The briefcase in any of those other get-the-briefcase movies?

More intriguingly, I ask you this: What potentially radioactive “area of the supernatural” do you think George is talking about? The sacred black stone (possibly a meteorite) in the Kaaba of Mecca? Yeah, we might not want Indy to go poking around that particular religious relic at the particular moment.

Or, much more likely, it’s a vintage L. Ron Hubbard-shaped paperweight kept in a vault on the 13th floor of the Scientology Celebrity Center. But I could be completely wrong: Maybe Indy’s after Madonnah’s Kabbalah bracelet. (Hint: Only the penitent man shall pass.)

So let the speculation begin. It’s all we have for now. But maybe someday, we’ll know if George chose wisely, or… poorly.

addCredit(“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: Everett Collection”)

E3: News from Electronic Arts and more

Day 2 of E3 began with an appointment with SonyComputer Entertainment prez Kaz Hirai, who rather graciously saidnothing about our arriving 10 minutes late to the meeting. It ended 13hours (and three strawberry smoothies and two chalky power bars) lateras we made a sad trip back to our hotel from Dodger Stadium, where wewere denied entry into the Sony press party. Was it the doing of anirate Mr. Hirai? Nah, it turns out we just forgot to pick up our ticketsat the Sony booth.

Anyway, back to the games. Since the PopWatch staffrather unbelievably chooses not to work weekends (slackers!),we’ll be wrapping up our tireless coverage today. And though wevisited countless (okay, 14) game publishers, limited space (and thelate hour) compels us to offer this abbreviated summary of E3 2006:

ELECTRONIC ARTS

What we liked: Army of Two, an action-packedshooter starring a strangely contentious pair of mercenaries (think: The Odd Couple-meets-Commando) and Madden ’07 for the Wii, in which youcan score a TD with a dazzling 60-yard bomb — and still look like anidiot while using the Wii’s motion-tracking controller.

What we likedbest: Create a space-faring civilization from a single critterof your design with Spore, an utterly fascinating PC title from designer-deityWill Wright.

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E3: News from Lucasarts, Microsoft

The first day of E3 left us bone tired (not so muchbecause of the convention as it is our annoying inability to adjust toa new time zone), near deaf (why do exhibitors feel it necessary toturn all their TV monitors and sound systems up to 11?), and burstingwith news to report to you, our gaming readers (oh, GatorBait, toanswer your question you posted yesterday: many specialty stores likeGameStop will accept pre-orders in exchange for a small down payment).We met with a bunch of game publishers on Wednesday — and offer youthese two quick impressions:

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Harrison Ford tells EW about 'Indy 4'

95453__ford_lHarrison Ford says he has ”no doubt” that a fourth Indiana Jones movie will come together. ”We’re closer than we’ve ever been. There’s a script upon which there’s pretty general agreement,” he tells EW writer Gregory Kirschling in the magazine’s new issue. Why the holdup? ”George [Lucas] has been a bit busy making these sci-fi films he likes. And Steven [Spielberg] has had a film or two, in turn. So it really is not that easy to pull the pieces together, but I think everybody feels it’s a worthy ambition. I know in my heart it’s gonna happen.” Besides, he says, ”I’d like to get it over with so I don’t have to answer the god-damned questions [about it] anymore.”

Among the oft-asked questions: Can the 63-year-old actor still handle the franchise’s action demands? It appears so to Kirschling, who watched Ford throw himself into some punishing-looking stunts on the set of his new movie Firewall. Oops, don’t call them stunts. ”I don’t do stunts! I do physical acting! That’s a big f—ing difference,” Ford tells Kirschling. ”I have no ambition to do stunts. I have an ambition to tell a story with physical action.”

Okay, then, what story with physical action would you like to see Ford tell in Indy 4? And which costars should he tell it with? (I’d suggest sending Ford’s whip-wielding archaeologist to find the Fountain of Youth, but I think Hugh Jackman is going to beat him to it in Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain.)

addCredit(“HARRISON FORD PHOTOGRAPH BY ANTHONY MANDLER”)

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