Thunderbirds

  • Title:  Thunderbirds
  • Director:  Jonathan Frakes
  • Date:  2004
  • Studio:  Working Title, Universal
  • Genre:  SF, Adventure, Action, Children
  • Cast:  Brady Corbet, Bill Paxton, Sophia Myles, Ron Cook, Ben Kingsley, Anthony Edwards, Genie Francis
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Alan, This equipment’s only to be used in an emergency! [Tin Tin and Alan look at each other] I guess this qualifies.” – Fermat

“It’s the children. They have it.” – The Hood
“No way. They’re dead. No one could live through something like that.” – Mullion
“I did.” – The Hood

“Alan? He’s just a kid.” – Gordon Tracy
“He’s a Tracy.” – Jeff Tracy

Thunderbirds is a live-action children’s adventure film based on the ITV Gerry Anderson Supermarionation series of the same name. For more information on the original television series see this post. The film is an origin story of sorts, set early in the career of International Rescue and the Thunderbirds. Jeff is very much an active part of the organization, and Alan – the youngest Tracy, is still at school, attending Wharton Academy, an all-boys boarding school, with Fermat, Brains’ young son.

Alan dreams of the day he can leave school behind and join his brothers in International Rescue as a full Thunderbird.  In this film, the Thunderbirds are the pilots of the machines as well as the machines themselves. Alan’s at school when he’s caught daydreaming by a teacher – and is given an extra report to write during Spring Break. However, soon all the students are watching a news cast – the Thunderbirds respond to an fire at an oil rig in Russia and rescue the trapped men, despite heavy rain and other problems. Alan and Fermat watch with the other students, but Alan, far from being worried about his older brothers and father – mimes their actions and wishes to be with them.

Lady Penelope, the family’s London agent, arrives at Wharton and picks-up Alan to bring him home to Tracy Island, because the rest of the family is obviously busy. Not only does she arrive in her 6-wheeled pink Rolls Royce – but Lady Penelope’s entire wardrobe is pink. Once she, Alan, Fermat, and Parker have driven away from any traffic the car turns into a flying car – and Parker pilots it to the Island.

Unbeknowest to Scott Tracy, however, when he and Virgil drop off the rescuees at a local hospital, one of them shoots a tracking compound onto Thunderbird 1. Scott doesn’t notice. At dinner, Alan asks his father when he can become a Thunderbird, and Jeff rebukes him saying he’s too young.

Alan and Fermat sneak into Thunderbird 1 where they accidentally start the launch sequence. The sequence is stopped without incident, but Jeff is so mad at Alan’s behavior he doesn’t give Alan a chance to tell him about the tracking goo he and Fermat found. (At this point the children don’t realize what the goo is for.)

John’s on Thunderbird 5, a manned satellite and communications station. He reports to Jeff on a couple of minor problems but his report is it’s basically a quiet night. Then, suddenly, and without warning, The Hood (Ben Kingsley) fires a rocket into Thunderbird 5. The satellite is crippled and John is in trouble.  Jeff, Scott, Virgil, and Gordon take Thunderbird Three, the giant, red rocket ship into orbit to rescue John/fix the satellite.

Meanwhile, The Hood invades Tracy Island.  Alan, Fermat, and Tin Tin see his sub – but are unable to stop the attack on Thunderbird 5.

The Hood bursts into the house on the island, looking around he recognizes Jeff’s picture. The Hood’s vendetta seems personal. The Hood forces Brains to activate command and control. Jeff and his boys enter Thunderbird 5, but The Hood locks the door so they can’t get out.  Jeff handles the emergency on Thunderbird 5 well, and finds and cares for his injured son, John.  However, the five men are unable to escape the satellite because The Hood’s locked and jammed the door from Command and Control.

Alan, Fermat, and Tin Tin (Kyrano’s daughter) go the Thunderbird Silos – they use the Firefly and the Thunderizer to escape The Hood’s henchpeople, Mullion and Transom.  They slide down an exhaust pipe into the Ocean surrounding the Island, then get to shore. The three need to come up with a plan. They decide to cross the Island on foot, through the jungle to the Island’s satellite dish to try to contact Jeff on Thunderbird 5. After a few adventures, they make it.  They have some difficulty with the transmitter, but eventually get it working.  Alan asks what to do – but Jeff tells him to follow protocol and get to Lady Penelope.

Alan would rather have an more active role. He finds one of the family’s old hover-sleds, and builds a sidecar-like device so he can carry Tin Tin and Fermat as well behind them. They are chased by the Hood’s Henchpeople, Mullion and Transom.  Fermat and Tin Tin are caught, and put in a freezer with their fathers, Brains and Kyrano.

Meanwhile, Alan is still free, and he sees Lady Penelope and Parker arrive. He follows and sees them challenge and fight the henchpeople in the Tracys’ living room.  Although the British agents fight extremely well, they are no match for The Hood’s mind control – the are caught and put into the freezer with everyone else.

The Hood, Transom, and Mullion head off to the Bank of England in Thunderbird 2 – having gotten the guidance computer chip Fermat had taken out of the machine.

In the freezer, Parker remarks that he can open the lock if he had a small piece of wire. Lady Penelope offers him the underwire from her bra. Everyone had discretely turned away as she retrieved it.

The group manages to rescue Jeff and the boys on Thunderbird 5 just before the satellite burns up in a decaying orbit, as well as reversing the sabotage to the satellite airlock door to Thunderbird 3. Then, the group, including Lady Penelope take Thunderbird 1 to London.

The Hood lands Thunderbird 2 in Jubilee Gardens, near the London Eye.  They take the Mole and dig a route under the Thames towards the Bank of England, their route cuts the supports of the monorail – causing a disaster.

Meanwhile, Jeff and his boys head directly to London in Thunderbird 3.

Alan arrives in Thunderbird 1 – he lands and uses Thunderbird 4 (the yellow sub) to rescue the monorail car, with help from Tin Tin who secures the line around the monorail, which is then lifted by Thunderbird 1.

Jeff watches his youngest son in action, and is proud of how his handles himself. He lands Thunderbird 3 in Jubilee Gardens next to the other Thunderbirds.

Once the people from the monorail are safe, the Thunderbirds and Lady Penelope go to the Bank of England to stop The Hood.  Lady Penelope, thanks to The Hood’s special powers, and Jeff end-up locked in a vault.  Alan, with the help of Tin Tin’s use of her own special powers, defeats The Hood.

At a celebratory beach party, Jeff gives International Rescue pins to Fermat, Tin Tin, and Alan – and welcomes Alan officially into the family business.

Thunderbirds is a fun family movie. It always makes me smile whenever I watch it, from the opening animated sequence, to the ending credits theme tune by Busted, “No strings to hold them down,” indeed.  Yes, it’s a kids movie, and Jeff and the older Tracy sons are basically stuck in Thunderbird 5, completely helpless for the majority of the movie. The movie emphasizes Alan – and shows us his journey from teenager, to full-fledged International Rescue member. Jeff Tracy does come off as an, excuse the expression, bit of an hard-ass, but explanations are given. The Hood hates him because when International Rescue responded to the collapse of his illegal diamond mine – he wasn’t rescued, but stranded. Being trapped led him to develop his mental powers. When Alan asks if The Hood’s story is true – Jeff tells Alan, yes, it is, and that sometimes you can’t save everyone, even though International Rescue saved 600 people that day. Alan then asks, “What was Mom like?” To which Jeff replies, “She was like you.” Jeff had been inspired to start International Rescue after his wife was killed in an avalanche.

There are some notable differences from the TV show the movie is based on – one of the most notable is that the International Rescue members, that is, the Tracy boys who pilot the Thunderbird machines call themselves Thunderbirds as well. In the series, their organization was always International Rescue, the machines were Thunderbirds, and the pilots were the Tracys. Though, as it was a secret who IR was – I could easily see the public also calling the pilots Thunderbirds rather than members of International Rescue as they do in the TV show. Also, in the series, Alan is an adult – an astronaut who is also famous as a race car driver (which was almost a hobby for him). And Alan’s a competent member of International Rescue, and the pilot of Thunderbird 3 – who splits space monitor duty with John, aboard Thunderbird 5.  Jeff leads his boys from the ground as base commander. And Lady Penelope doesn’t wear so much pink. Though I must admit her wardrobe in the film, is fantastic.

Still, even with the shift of focus to Alan, Fermat (a new character for the film), and Tin Tin, the film is fun. It’s an excellent family film. And I always enjoy it every time I watch it.

Recommendation:  See It! Especially appropriate for families and pre-teens.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Thunderbirds Are Go

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The Librarian Curse of the Judas Chalice

  • Title:  The Librarian Curse of the Judas Chalice
  • Director:  Jonathan Frakes
  • Date:  2008
  • Studio:  TNT (TV movie)
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
  • Cast:  Noah Wyle, Bob Newhart, Jane Curtin, Stana Katic
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen (HD)
  • DVD Format:  NTSC, R1

“Maybe some women are OK with the wild and unpredictable lifestyle of dating a librarian, but I’m not.”  — Katie, when she dumps Flynn

“Charlene, How big is the library?”  – Flynn
“As big as we need it to be.” – Charlene

“You cannot escape your destiny, Flynn.” – Simone
“I was trying to take a little vacation from it but it didn’t seem to work out.” – Flynn
“No, if you fight your destiny you will be miserable.  You must embrace it and revel in every moment.” – Simone

The third film starts with Flynn, wearing a black tuxedo, and attending a high priced auction.  But rather than having the sophistication of James Bond, this is still our Flynn – the free champagne causes him to sneeze, though he also points out it’s not technically champagne but an Italian sparkling wine.  During the auction, not only does Charlene call to remind him of The Library’s budget, but his girlfriend, Katie calls to break up with him. Between the two conversations on his cell phone, and the auction itself, Flynn is distracted and accidentally raises the bid much too high several times.  Finally, it total frustration, he bids L1 million Pounds Sterling.  He wins the vase, and back at The Library, Charlene nearly faints. After the auction, Flynn picks up his vase, intentionally drops it, and shatters it into a million pieces, he finds and takes a small cloth bag, and hides it in his jacket pocket.  The other bidder arrives, and when he sees what’s happened, tries to take the item from Flynn. It turns out it’s the Philosopher’s Stone which can turn anything it touches into gold. Flynn and his rival fight, with anything at hand, including a throw pillow that Flynn’s quickly turned to gold. The fight merges into a stolen sword, sword-fight. Flynn, after some difficulty, escapes with the Stone.

Flynn goes to the hotel bar to meet his girlfriend, but she’s left.  He returns to the Library, where Charlene and Judson show him the Large Collection Annex, which, among other things, includes Noah’s Ark.  However, Flynn, though impressed, is fed-up.  He mentions his relationships that haven’t worked out:  Nicole, Emily, now Katie.  And how he can’t even tell his mother the importance of his work.  In short, he has a meltdown and threatens to quit.  Judson and Charlene ask him to take a vacation instead.

So Flynn does, but he merely stays in his apartment, eating take-out.  Charlene drops by one night at drops off a bunch of travel brochures.  Flynn is polite to her, but doesn’t take her suggestion seriously.  That night he has a dream of a Siren calling him, then sees a statue of a rearing horse.  When he wakes, he looks at the brochures again and finds one with the same rearing horse.  He decides to head to New Orleans on vacation.

In New Orleans, Flynn seems determined to have a very boring vacation, at first.  But one night he wanders into a bar, and sees the woman from his dream singing on stage.  During her break, he sits at her table and tries to buy her a drink.  This seems to be going terribly, when some heavies show up and come after the girl.  She and Flynn escape.

Flynn and the girl, Simone, spend the night together.  The next day, she’s gone.  Flynn runs into Judson in a barbershop, and learns a bit about the plot.  It seems that the Judas Chalice, an artifact made by melting the 30 pieces of silver paid to Judas Iscariot to betray Christ, is in play.  The Chalice has the power to re-animate dead vampires.  Meanwhile, the coffin of Dracule – aka, Vlad the Impaler, has disappeared.

Flynn and Simone, attempt to follow the clues to solve this new riddle.  Simone, guards a key that leads to the hiding place of the chalice.  Through a series of adventures they solve the puzzles.  However, Simone is a vampire – this isn’t too bad, she keeps blood in her fridge and has no desire to snack on Flynn.  Flynn also runs into a famous professor, whom he thinks is killed by the vampires chasing him.

The conclusion, is much more bittersweet than the previous Librarian films.  However, Flynn has once again, learned how important it is that he remain The Librarian.  He’s also learned that The Library is part of a larger struggle of Good vs. Evil.  And he’s picked up a little background on Judson.  Flynn, once at the verge of quitting, returns to The Library.

The third and final Librarian film, The Librarian Curse of the Judas Chalice, is a little weak in spots. The entire film, for the most part, is set in New Orleans, though it makes use of the location. I liked Flynn’s pal, the cabbie – who continuously shows-up to help Flynn and get him whatever he needs – a cemetery tour, a rental boat, etc.  Simone, a 300-year old vampire with a desire to take revenge on the one who made her, is a new twist on Flynn’s female companion du jour.  Bob Newhart and Jane Curtin round out the cast to make the film that much more fun.  Still, I missed the more global-trotting aspects of the previous films.  Though having the humor back was a bonus.  Overall, the film was enjoyable and fun.  Later this year, in December 2014, TNT will bring The Librarians to the small screen, starring Wyle, Newhart, Curtin, John Larroquette, and Christian Kane (of TNT’s Leverage). I’m actually looking forward to seeing it.

Recommendation:  See It – this film is especially appropriate for children
Rating:  3.8
Next Film:  Star Trek:  Into Darkness

The Librarian Return to King Solomon’s Mines

  • The Librarian Return to King Solomon’s Mines
  • Director:  Jonathan Frakes
  • Date:  2006
  • Studio:  TNT (TV Movie)
  • Genre:  Action, Adventure
  • Cast:  Noah Wyle, Gabrielle Anwar, Bob Newhart, Jane Curtin, Olympia Dukakis
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen (HD)
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Flynn, I trust you, we send you on missions alone.  It’s just you have a lot to learn.”  – Judson

“Sometimes, you have to give up what you want for the greater good.  You see that’s the difference between a good librarian and a great one.” – Judson

“Be safe.  Don’t get killed.  Save your receipts.” – Charlene

“You’d be surprised what you can learn at the Library.”  – Flynn

This film starts with Flynn Carson on a quest to retrieve the Crystal Skull of Atlantis.  He manages to grab it from some pot hunters, but before he can sneak away, he’s distracted by finding a Sioux arrow head, which would be unusual to find in Utah.  In attempting to retrieve it also, he catches the attention of the pot hunters.  They give chase to Flynn and his Native American companion.  The two run away, and eventually reach a high gorge.  Flynn and his partner jump their horses into the gorge and land in a rushing river.  Flynn’s companion is shocked he knew there would be a deep river at the base of the gorge.  Flynn gives him an explanation about average rainfall – only to have his companion tell him he had the month wrong.  Flynn’s blasé response is, “huh, we should have been flattened like pancakes.”

Back at The Library, Flynn’s expecting congratulations for finding the Crystal Skull.  And although Judson is happy about it, he still reins Flynn in for taking too many risks.

That night Flynn heads to his mother’s, only to walk in on his own surprise party.  His mother tries to set him up on a blind date with his third cousin.  Flynn is not amused.  The evening turns out to not be a total loss though when he runs into his “Uncle” Jerry, his father’s best friend, who works in “Import/Export”. Jerry gives Flynn his father’s amulet.  Flynn’s birthday is somewhat bittersweet, Flynn’s father died when he was thirty-two and Flynn was eight.  Now Flynn is thirty-two.  When Flynn gets home to his apartment he finds it’s been trashed.  He calls Judson, but is knocked out before he can tell him much of anything.

Judson sends him on a quest for the two-part Key of Solomon a map Legend to decode the Map of Solomon to King Solomon’s Mines, but warns Flynn that sometimes a Librarian must give up what he most wants – for the greater good.

In Casablanca, Flynn meets Emily Davenport (Anwar) an archeologist with twenty-five degrees who’s possibly smarter than he is.  Together they set out on the quest.

Flynn is attacked, but when he sees the Mason Symbol amulet Flynn wears that was his father’s, the man backs off, shows his own amulet, and explains he’s part of a Secret Society of Masons protecting King Solomon’s Secret and that the “secret must be passed”.  Flynn gets the first part of the Legend, and the guy tells Flynn the second part is in Kenya.

In Africa, Flynn and Emily find a man buried in the sand up to his neck.  They rescue him and Jomo becomes their guide.  Flynn tells Emily that his father was mugged coming home from work, and the “coward” shot him.  According to Flynn, they never caught the guy.  So, Flynn’s father was shot dead when Flynn was 8-years old, by a mugger.  Does that sound familiar?

The scenery in Africa is beautiful.  Because the second film really emphases Flynn’s background, especially his loss of his father, the story has more heart, and less comedy than the previous film.  Flynn is also experienced and professional, and no longer bumbling in his role as the Librarian.

Flynn and Emily find the second piece of the Map Legend, and run into Flynn’s Uncle Jerry who helps them. Jerry explains to Flynn that the reason he has his father’s amulet, is that his father got it from his father, who got it from his father before that.  Flynn responds, “The secret shall be passed.”

Flynn and Emily examine the map and the two pieces of the legend.  Flynn realizes the map is sheet music. He plays the music on one piece of the map legend, and the map becomes a 3-D map showing them how to get to the mines.  Flynn and Emily leave the train, and Uncle Jerry, who goes his own way. Once again, Flynn and Emily are off on an adventure, in search of  the Mines.

As they follow the map, Flynn realizes that the pictures he drew as a child, based on his father’s bedtime stories, are actually places they will find while searching for King Solomon’s Mines.  Flynn realizes with some astonishment, that his father was preparing him for this quest his entire life.

Eventually, they reach the ante-chamber to the Mines, Flynn and Emily have to cross a stone bridge over a river of  lava.  They do, and Flynn discovers his father’s amulet is literally a key to the treasure chamber. Inside, Flynn opens the web-covered book, which sits on a plinth in a shaft of light.  Emily distracts Flynn before the weird stuff the book is doing to Flynn completes.

The concluding scenes are quite good, and I don’t want to spoil them.

This chapter in The Librarian series isn’t as funny as the first – it’s definitely more adventure than comedy. However, the story, by emphasizing Flynn’s relationship with his father, and that history, has more heart. The conclusion is wrapped around the relationship between Flynn, his father, Jerry, and Flynn’s mother, so it works well.  Flynn is no longer the bumbling professional student.  He is now an experienced Librarian and adventurer.  Emily is impressive, an archaeologist with twenty-five degrees, she’s smarter than Flynn but knows nothing about The Library.  And, The Library is only seen at the beginning and very end of the film.  Once the quest is over, Flynn does go back to the Library, having learned about his own personal history, as well as having first-hand experience as to exactly what Judson meant by, “Sometimes, you have to give up what you want for the greater good,” and has progressed in his career as the Librarian.  Emily goes off on another dig, continuing her own personal quest to discover more about the Queen of Sheba.

The Librarian Return to King Solomon’s Mines is still a good, light adventure film.  Although it doesn’t have the strong comedy elements of  The Librarian Quest for the Spear, it makes up for it by having more heart, and delving deeper into the character of Flynn Carson, Librarian.  There are references to the Indiana Jones films, especially Last Crusade, but also references to Batman and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It’s quite the enjoyable film.

  • Recommendation:  See it!  This film is especially appropriate for children and pre-teens.
  • Rating:  3.5 of 5
  • Next Film:  The Librarian  Curse of the Judas Chalice