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'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull': It's a Hit!

Crystal Skull: It's a Hit! | Indiana Jones and the Bow Tie | Woody Allen: 10-Minute Standing O

Crystal Skull: It's a Hit!

It's not the best movie of all time, but "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is a thrilling, thoroughly enjoyable romp that should please even the most devout fans of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas' franchise.

What you need to know is that Spielberg and Lucas have taken pieces of their most popular ideas and woven them together. There are major riffs on "American Graffiti," "Star Wars" and "E.T." Just dissecting all the references is half the fun.

The cast, tone and look are perfect. The first screening crowd in Cannes cheered this afternoon for Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett and Karen Allen. Shia LaBeouf makes a very convincing Indy Jr.

In fact, there is plenty to love, jam-packed into these two hours starting with Ford. He may be 65, but he is still a vital virile movie star. His Indiana Jones performance should be a lesson to wannabe action stars. Sequels featuring him will be welcome.

How completely absurd then the bad buzz created by wayward blogs and the completely bogus review in the British papers.

But even Ford would agree that the big picture is what counts most. The team has moved "Indy" into the mid-1950s using atom bomb tests in the desert, the red scare and cheesy alien films of the decade as crisscrossing themes. There's a nod to Spielberg's "Close Encounters," too.

In the end, as Lucas said in this column on Friday, you get nothing more or less than chapter four in a continuum. There are several winks at the first installment too, like Allen's entrance (same as in "Raiders of the Lost Ark") and Indy's fear of snakes.

There are also lots of "parallel" chases involving various vehicles and the trading back and forth of passengers. The action never stops, and it's always richly textured with humor and wit.

So get the record books out. "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" lives up to the Spielberg/Lucas tradition, particularly in parodying the great action reels of the '50s. Bravo!

Indiana Jones and the Bow Tie

Harrison Ford had one question for this reporter over the weekend: did he really have to wear a bow tie on the red carpet for his “Indiana Jones” premiere? After all, he’s Harrison Ford!

Let’s ask the expert, I answered. We were standing in the entry to the Eden Roc restaurant at the Hotel du Cap, just above the big hall where Vanity Fair’s annual Cannes Film Festival party swings into high gear.

The expert was Bono, a rock star who doesn’t wear ties of any kind. He was sporting an open-collar black button-down shirt that looked as though it came from a designer slightly more esoteric than Van Heusen. Had he worn a bow tie to his “U2 3D” red carpet premiere last year?

“I went in the side door,” he replied with a wink. Ford looked crushed. He was not able to enter that way on Sunday night. It’s through the front and up the grand staircase.

Vanity Fair’s party was jam-packed, which may have been a result of the ceaseless cold rain that caused the terraces to be closed at Eden Roc.

Still, there was a big "Indiana Jones" contingent: Ford with Calista Flockhart, Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw, George Lucas and Mellody Hobsin, Allen, Shia LaBeouf and Ray Winstone all nestled in a quiet, darkened area, joined by Sean Penn and recently reconciled wife Robin Wright Penn.

Petra Nemcova, Penn’s companion of last winter, was also nearby, as was Natalie Portman, Penn’s fellow Cannes juror.

Blanchett, Indy’s new nemesis, dressed in a hot black Chanel dress with vinyl ornaments, stayed just for dinner. “I have to go back to my room now and breastfeed my child!” she declared.

Bono wasn’t the only rock star. His superior in the field, Mick Jagger, arrived with statuesque girlfriend L’Wren Scott.

Harvey Weinstein, both Dolce and Gabbana, Valentino, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett, Christian Slater and Tamara Mellon, Brett Ratner, Faye Dunaway, Dominick Dunne, Tommy Hilfiger, “Control” star Sam Riley, producers like Ryan Kavanaugh, Victoria Pearman and agent chiefs Wiatt, Berg, Berkus, et al, were among those spotted.

Graydon Carter knows how to throw a party, that’s for sure. His gets even included News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng, and 20th Century Fox chief Jim Gianapolous. (Fox, you know, is the home of Lucas’s six-volume “Star Wars.” )

The DJ was smokin’ at night’s end, and the last thing we saw was Shia — the new “Indy” —chatting up Portman — “Princess Amidala” from the later “Star Wars.” The new generation is here!

Woody Allen: 10-Minute Standing O

Woody Allen has lots of Oscars and much praise over the years for his many classic films. But at the 61st annual Cannes Film Festival, he got a nice surprise: a 10-minute standing ovation —actually maybe longer — for his new comedy, “Vicky Christina Barcelona.”

To say the audience loved this sophisticated romantic tale is an understatement. They adored it, and not just because the French have always been fans of Allen. Everyone in the theater acknowledged the wonderful fact that Allen had found a new way to shape a story that made it seem fresh and new.

Not only that: the cast is a hit. Penelope Cruz completely stole the show, and newcomer Rebecca Hall grabbed the attention of the jaded Cannes audience.

Later at the dinner thrown by the Weinstein Company for “VCB,” none other than Bono turned up as Cruz’s platonic “date” to sing — pun intended — her praises. Bono, like most men, is smitten by Cruz and doesn’t miss a chance to marvel at not only her beauty but her still blossoming acting talents.

In the film, Cruz plays the highly neurotic, polysexual, suicidal and homicidal ex-wife of Javier Bardem (who gives his own brilliant performance as a suave, convincing ladies’ man). Her character Maria Elena is manic, frantic and sensual. Cruz’s delivery is nothing short of a self-contained opera. Who knew, I asked her at dinner, that she was such a great comedienne?

“Not me, that’s for sure,” she said. “I was playing drama. I was so upset most of the time! I played her very seriously. There was no time for laughing. I was crying.”

Allen, who came to the premiere with wife Soon-Yi and sister/producer Letty Aronson, accepted champagne toasts at dinner from Cruz, and looked around the crowded after-party with incredulity.

The later part of his career, since “Husbands and Wives” in 1992, has been nothing but a roller coaster. Some of his films, like “Bullets over Broadway,” “Match Point” and “Mighty Aphrodite,” have hit the bull's-eye. Others, such as “Celebrity,” “Anything Else” and “Scoop,” have been unnatural disasters.

Holding the reins of his legacy hasn’t been easy. The list of film classics created by him prior to ’92 is unprecedented. He was the first to make a film in which the cast broke out in song — the underrated “Everyone Says I Love You” — and everyone hated it. Then everyone copied him. It isn’t easy being king. Again.