Men in Black 3

Men in Black 3

Will Smith: 21st Century cool even in the 60s.

(2012) Science Fiction (Columbia) Will Smith, Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Emma Thompson, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, Alice Eve, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mike Colter, Bill Hader, David Rasche, Michael Chernus, Keone Young, Cayen Martin, Lanny Flaherty. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld


Men in Black is an iconic film from the 90s, one which helped establish Will Smith as the superstar he is today. It has been 15 years since that film came out and ten since its sequel. Does the world need a third, or care about it?

Judging from the early numbers, it does. Agents J (Smith) and K (Jones) are doing what they do best, taking care of aliens violating the law in and around the Manhattan area, but they are both getting too old for this sh….stuff. The two are like a couple that has been married so long that there’s no longer any passion; and J is frustrated that he doesn’t know the close-mouthed K any better than he did when they first met.

On the moon, one of the most dangerous and nastiest aliens to ever be arrested by the MIB organization – Boris the Animal (Clement) – has been imprisoned for forty years, his arm shot off by Agent K at the time of his arrest. He has his first visitor in 40 years – a pen-pal girlfriend (Scherzinger) who brings him a cake that appears to be mostly organic. Not that a file baked into it would do any good – his cell is solid steel. However, there’s a nasty little surprise in the cake that helps him get out of the lunar hoosegow.

Back on Earth, the MIB are mourning the late Zed who is eulogized by O (Thompson), the new leader of MIB, in an alien language that sounds something like seals mating. J and K are continuing to be catty to one another like that previously mentioned old married couple. The next morning J comes to work – and K has been dead for 40 years. He’s also got an insatiable craving for chocolate milk, which according to O is a sure sign of temporal displacement.

But that’s the least of their worries now. The Earth is under attack by the Boglodites, the race of Boris the Animal which should have been impossible because his race died off 40 years early when K had captured Boris and enacted the ArcNet shield around the Earth, preventing the Boglodites from invading back then and causing them to starve to death as a species.

O and J deduce that Boris the Animal must have gone back in time and killed K, leading to the events that were now transpiring. It’s up to J to go back to 1969, rescue K, allow him to put the ArcNet shield up and restore the space-time continuum to where it belongs.

Once in 1969, J discovers that it’s not that easy. Trying to ambush Boris at Coney Island (where J knows he’ll be, owing to the file on the killer stating that he would murder an alien named Roman the Fabulist), unfortunately, J is too late and winds up being captured by the younger K (Brolin) and the 1969 MIB team. It takes a little bit of convincing but J manages to get K to understand that he’s from the future trying to prevent an invasion of Earth – although J leaves out the part that he is also there to prevent K’s death. They are aided by Griffin (Stuhlbarg), a gentle alien who lives five-dimensionally and is able to see every possible future. Now that’s a big help, although it would be, as Griffin himself puts it, a pain in the ass.

However, that is easier said than done. K has no idea what an ArcNet shield is, or how to erect it. There are two Boris the Animals out to murder K, who to J’s astonishment, has a romantic link with the young O (Eve). Plus in order to save the world, J and K are going to have to get through one of the tightest security nets in the history of the United States.

It’s nice to see Smith back on screen again (it’s been three and a half years since he’s been in a movie) and especially in a role that is so identified with him and let’s be frank – a role he does better than anybody else. His chemistry with Jones is scintillating but what’s surprising is that Brolin steps right into the role as the young K and not only mimics Jones perfectly, but also in terms of the chemistry with Smith – it’s almost indistinguishable between the actors. That’s part of what makes the movie worth seeing.

The movie holds up pretty well with the second (although not as well with the first). Rick Baker returns to make plenty of oddball aliens, including Boris the Animal (who has a little spider-like thing that resides in his remaining arm which is able to shoot out fang like darts that can be lethal). I can’t help think about what’s missing from the other films – notably Frank the Pug (who only shows up as a painting in J’s living room), the worm aliens (who make a brief cameo) and Rip Torn as Zed, whose funeral is near the beginning of the film. These were part of the indelible charm of the first two movies and their absence is noticeable.

Other than the time travel element, this is really business as usual for the franchise. Strangely, the filmmakers opt not to use the 60s as much more than a background for the movie (other than a scene set in the Factory of Andy Warhol (Hader) who turns out to be an MIB agent) which is a wasted opportunity; the setting could have enhanced the film a lot more than it did. In some ways, they could have easily set the past sequences in any decade from that standpoint. I would have liked to have seen a bit more use of the time period as a part of the movie.

Don’t get me wrong; this is fine summer entertainment and anyone who chooses to go see it is not going to leave disappointed unless they’re incredibly anal about time travel continuity and the franchise in general. Of course, if you didn’t like the first two films in the franchise, chances are you aren’t going to like this one either since it pretty much is more of the same. Which, to my mind, is a good thing.

REASONS TO GO: Brolin does a great job of channeling Jones. Will Smith is, well, Will Smith. Touching coda.

REASONS TO STAY: Not quite as memorable as the first MIB.  

FAMILY VALUES: There’s just a little bit of sci-fi violence and a smidgeon of sensuality – mostly implied.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The mother and daughter in K’s apartment (after he disappears from the timeline) that J gets chocolate milk from are an actual mother and daughter.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 5/27/12: Rotten Tomatoes: 68% positive reviews. Metacritic: 58/100. The film got decent reviews.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: X-Files: Fight the Future

CHRYSLER BUILDING LOVERS: Will Smith makes his leap into the ’60s from one of the gargoyles at the top of the Chrysler Building.


NEXT: A Town Called Panic


Four-Warned: May 2012

May 2012Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

2. MEN IN BLACK 3 (1.4)

2. POLISSE (1.3)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

MAY 4, 2012

A LITTLE BIT OF HEAVEN (Millennium) Genre: Romance. An irreverent young woman with health issues falls in love with her doctor. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Sounds like a lot of different movies, but this one has the great Peter Dinklage in it.
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Dramedy. Seven English retirees lured to an Indian resort with the promise of posh amenities arrive to find it not quite ready for occupancy. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Looks charming and fun from the trailer with a solid cast.
DEATH OF A SUPERHERO (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. A young boy with a brilliant future as a graphic novelist discovers his life is in danger from a real life enemy. Release Strategy: Seattle only. RATING: 1.5 Andy Serkis is rapidly becoming one of my favorite actors; I hope this sees a more general or at least a limited release.
FIRST POSITION (IFC) Genre: Documentary. Filmmakers follow six young ballet hopefuls through the trials and tribulations of one of America’s most prestigious ballet competitions. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 Kids chasing their dreams in the arts; haven’t we seen this before?
JANNAT 2 (FIP) Genre: Crime Thriller. A streetwise gun runner infiltrates a vicious gun smuggling ring to help the cops take it down but when he falls in love with a beautiful doctor everything is thrown into chaos. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Trailer was a little disjointed; kinda looks cheesy.
LAST CALL AT THE OASIS (Participant/ATO) Genre: Documentary. Looks at the very real and grim possibility that in the not too distant future there may not be enough water to sustain life on this planet. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Looks very grim and haunting.
LOL (Lionsgate) Genre: Dramedy. A mother reads her daughter’s diary and realizes she doesn’t know her at all. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Nice cast but a little bit heavy on the teen angst.
MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS (Disney/Marvel) Genre: Superhero. The world’s most powerful heroes must take on an alien invasion led by a disgraced god. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.0 Long anticipated, finally here.
MEETING EVIL (Magnet) Genre: Thriller. A depressed unemployed family man offers to help a stranger with his car and becomes involved in a murder spree. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 They had me at Samuel L. Jackson.
MOTHER’S DAY (Gigapix) Genre: Horror. A sadistic mom and her bank robbing sons take control at a birthday party held at their former home, terrorizing the new residents. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 I don’t think this has anything to do with the 80s slasher film of the same name.
THE PERFECT FAMILY (Variance) Genre: Drama. A matriarch up for the Catholic Woman of the Year award tries to get her dysfunctional family to pull it together. Release Strategy: New York City (Opens in Los Angeles May 11). RATING: 2.2 Kathleen Turner gives what looks to be a marvelous performance.

MAY 9, 2012

PATIENCE: AFTER SEBALD (Cinema Guild) Genre: Documentary. A group of artists and writers interpret the work of W.G. Sebald, one of the 20th century’s most challenging writers. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.8 Black and white images and music pass by while the text is being read; just shoot me now.

MAY 11, 2012

A BAG OF HAMMERS (MPI Media Group) Genre: Caper Drama. A pair of charming con artists find themselves “adopted” by a neglected young boy and consequently their world view begins to change. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Looks very indie but not in a good way.
THE CUP (Myriad) Genre: True Sports Drama. A rising star in the Australian horse racing world must decide whether to participate in the prestigious Melbourne Cup race days after his brother dies in a tragic accident. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only. RATING: 2.8 Even though this put goosebumps on me, I still couldn’t help thinking “Gee, another inspirational sports story.”
DANGEROUS ISHHQ (Reliance Big Picture) Genre: Thriller. A supermodel whose wealthy industrialist boyfriend has been kidnapped must rescue him before time runs out – and the clues to his freedom lay in her past lives. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Not typical Bollywood fare but definitely shows some visual flair.
DARK SHADOWS (Warner Brothers) Genre: Gothic Comedy. A vampire is inadvertently released from captivity in the 1970s after centuries of imprisonment. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.9 The legendary 60s gothic soap opera as reinvented by Tim Burton – what’s not to love?
DRAGON EYES (After Dark Action) Genre: Action. A town ruled by gangs and corrupt police vie for the services of a newly arrived martial arts phenom, but he has another agenda in mind. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 While it does have the great JCVD, the trailer makes him look like more of a cameo and the film like a B movie Walking Tall clone.
EL GRINGO (After Dark Action) Genre: Action. A violent thief crosses the border into Mexico with his ill-gotten gains, intending to live out his life on a beach with the rest of it but the townspeople have other ideas. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Certainly a riff on El Mariachi but why not take from the best?
GIRL IN PROGRESS (Pantelion) Genre: Coming of Age. A single mom immersed in her career and in the affections of a co-worker fails to notice her own teen daughter’s move into adulthood. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 The tagline “Lessons in motherhood – taught by a kid” sure doesn’t help this movie’s cause any.
GOD BLESS AMERICA (Magnet) Genre: Black Comedy. A man, tired of rudeness, crudeness and the cult of personality goes on a killing spree aided by an eager teen. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Caught Bobcat Goldthwait’s latest at the Florida Film Festival – read my review here.
HICK (Phase 4) Genre: Dramedy. A small town girl with big dreams hitchhiking to Las Vegas runs into some shady characters on the way there. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Sounds like a cross between Hunter S. Thompson and Neal Cassady.
I WISH (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. A young Japanese boy separated from his brother by divorce dreams of a miracle that he believes will happen when bullet trains on a new line pass each other at full speed. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 From acclaimed director Hirokazu Kareeda comes this look at fractured families and faith.
NESTING (Steele) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A 30-something couple, fearing the loss of their relevance, squats in their old apartment with unforeseen consequences. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Kind of like John Hughes in reverse.
THE PHILLY KID (After Dark Action) Genre: Action. A former wrestling champion, fresh out of prison, takes up underground MMA fighting to help his best friend get out of debt and winds up in more trouble than he bargained for. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 Another *yawn* underground fighting movie.
PORTRAIT OF WALLY (Seventh Art) Genre: Documentary. Egon Schiele’s painting Portrait of Wally, the pride of the Leopold Gallery in Austria, becomes the focus of a legal battle which brings light to bear on Nazi art looting and the ramifications of private collectors vs. public museums. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 A very complex case that deserves a serious examination which I hope this documentary gives it.
THE ROAD (Freestyle) Genre: Horror. When a cold case of three teenagers who disappeared on a country road is re-examined, it’s discovered that there is more to that stretch of road than meets the eye. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Looks deliciously creepy and sensationally scary.
SLEEPLESS NIGHT (Tribeca) Genre: Crime Thriller. A previously honest cop steals a bag of cocaine from a vicious drug dealer who kidnaps his son and demands the drugs back in exchange. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Looks like a non-stop top notch action film.
SMALL BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS (Long Shot Factory) Genre: Comedy. An anxious pregnant technophile goes on a road trip to meet her technophobic mom. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 The trailer has some wonderful heart; this is inspired by the syndicated web series “Sparks.”
STASH HOUSE (After Dark Action) Genre: Suspense. A family moves into a new home only to discover that a stash of heroin is stored in its walls – and the criminals want it back. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Generic home/fortress action flick.
TONIGHT YOU’RE MINE (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Romantic Comedy. During a big music festival, a star performer is handcuffed to a brand new performer. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Could have an excess of indie preciousness.
TRANSIT (After Dark Action) Genre: Action. A man returns home after serving out a tax evasion sentence goes on a camping trip to reunite his family, but discovers that they are being pursued by four ruthless killers after the stolen money they hid in his family’s car. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Jim Caviezel is moving higher on my list after his work on “Person of Interest” this year.
UNDER AFRICAN SKIES (A&E Indie) Genre: Musical Documentary. Paul Simon in making the album Graceland defied a UN ban to work with South African artists; 25 years later he returns to South Africa and discusses the fallout of his actions. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Has the potential to examine an art vs. politics question that rarely gets examined.
WHERE DO WE GO NOW? (Sony Classics) Genre: Dramedy. A group of women in a Lebanese village of Muslims and Christians try to hold on to peace when tensions threaten to bring violence back to the village. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.0 Charming and heartrending at once.

MAY 16, 2012

THE DICTATOR (Paramount) Genre: Comedy. A heavy-handed dictator of an Arab nation goes to New York City to address the UN. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.0 I’ve never really been a big fan of Sacha Baron Cohen but this one looks like it could have potential.
ELENA (Zeitgeist) Genre: Thriller. A golddigging Russian wife hatches a scheme to maintain her inheritance. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.2 Looks veritably Hitchcockian and the Philip Glass score doesn’t hurt.

MAY 18, 2012

AMERICAN ANIMAL (Screen Media) Genre: Fantasy. A young man whose roommate is moving out tries to get him to stay in one night of partying. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.3 From the trailer, seems to promote the idea that crazy is better. Crazy is just crazy.
BATTLESHIP (Universal) Genre: Science Fiction. Naval vessels are trapped in an ocean-based alien invasion. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 Alien invasion films have been remarkably bad of late; this doesn’t seem to be much better based on what I’ve seen.
BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW (Magnet) Genre: Sci-Fi Mystery. A young woman in the 1980s undergoes experimental therapy that opens up new vistas but threatens her sanity. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Looks a bit avant garde.
CROOKED ARROWS (Freestyle Releasing) Genre: Sports Drama. A coach at a primarily Native American school leads the lacrosse team to a State championship game against their prep school rivals. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Meant to be an allegory on the treatment of aboriginals in South America.
DIANA VREELAND: THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL (Goldwyn) Genre: Documentary. The story of one of fashion’s most influential figures of the 20th century. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 As I’ve said before, fashion is a subject that I’m absolutely not interested in.
FOLLOW ME: THE YONI NETANYAHU STORY (International Film Circuit) Genre: Documentary. The tale of the young soldier who led the Israeli commandos on the Raid on Entebbe. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.5 Sounds kind of interesting but at the same time maybe has a bit of an agenda.
HYSTERIA (Sony Classics) Genre: Romantic Comedy. The story of the guy who invented the vibrator, a man whom many lonely housewives should bless. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Looks hysterically funny (pun intended) and has a great cast.
LOVELY MOLLY (Image) Genre: Thriller. A young newlywed returns to her childhood home only to have the memories of her past abuse creep back – and maybe something else as well. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 The newest from The Blair Witch Project director Eduardo Sanchez – but it’s nothing like that film.
MANSOME (Paladin) Genre: Documentary. Morgan Spurlock takes a look at modern male grooming in the age of metrosexuality. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 The newest from the suddenly prolific Morgan Spurlock looks kind of irreverent and fun.
POLISSE (Sundance Selects) Genre: Drama. This intense Cesar-nominated film follows the daily lives of the police Child Protection Unit in Paris. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 Gritty, heartbreaking, intense and funny – could be one of the best films of the year judging from the trailer.
THE SAMARITAN (IFC) Genre: Action. A grifter trying to make a new life after a 25-year prison stint is ensnared by his old life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 With Samuel M*****F****** L. Jackson in the house, that’s all I need to hear.
VIRGINIA (EOne) Genre: Drama. A single mom’s life gets harder when her affair with the married sheriff threatens to become exposed in an election year. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Looks kinda offbeat but with Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly in the cast, you can’t go wrong.
WHAT TO EXPECT IF YOU’RE EXPECTING (Lionsgate) Genre: Romantic Comedy. Five couples discover that their lives become much more complicated once they get pregnant. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 A strong ensemble cast but looks kinda weak in the humor department.

MAY 25, 2012

THE CHERNOBYL DIARIES (Warner Brothers) Genre: Horror. A group of “extreme tourists” visit Chernobyl and when their van breaks down quickly discover that the town and plant aren’t quite as deserted as they were led to believe. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 From the creators of the Paranormal Activity series this looks balls-out scary.
COWGIRLS ‘N ANGELS (Goldwyn) Genre: Family. A little girl searching for her absent dad (a rodeo rider) is brought into the Sweethearts of the Rodeo after displaying skills as a trick rider. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 A little bit – shall we say – over-sweet.
HIDE AWAY (MMC Joule) Genre: Drama. A broken once-successful businessman tries to turn his life around by refurbishing a dilapidated boat in an idyllic seaside village. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Sounds kinda maudlin but SXSW doesn’t usually book maudlin.
THE INTOUCHABLES (Weinstein) Genre: Limited. A disabled French man develops an unexpected bond with his caregiver, an ex-con with an unusually upbeat attitude. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 A box office record-holder in France, this was a big hit at the recent Florida Film Festival.
MEN IN BLACK 3 (Columbia) Genre: Science Fiction. Agent J must go back in time and save Agent K and correct the time line or the Earth is doomed. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.4 Looks like one of the big hits of the summer.
MIGHTY FINE (Adopt) Genre: Dramedy. A man relocates his family from Brooklyn to New Orleans in the 1970s in search of a better life. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.8 Why cast Chazz Palminteri as a Jewish man? Aren’t there enough Jewish actors?
MOONRISE KINGDOM (Focus) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A New England town in 1965 is turned upside down when a pair of kids run away into the woods when a big storm is brewing. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 3.0 Doesn’t sound like a romantic comedy but with Wes Anderson in the director’s chair anything can happen.
OSLO, AUGUST 31 (Strand) Genre: Thriller. An alcoholic gets a day pass out of rehab in order to go to a job interview in Oslo but the pressures of the day and of family and friends puts his sobriety in jeopardy. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.1 Looks like another home run from Norway.

MAY 30, 2012

5 BROKEN CAMERAS (Kino Lorber) Genre: Documentary. A documentarian and a farmer together decide to document five years in the Occupied Territories of Palestine. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.6 The title refers to five cameras during the course of the filming of the documentary that were shot or broken by Israeli soldiers.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Marvel’s The Avengers, Dark Shadows, Where Do We Go Now?, Battleship, What To Expect When You’re Expecting, Lovely Molly, The Intouchables, Men in Black 3