A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
Director Alexander Payne's (Election Sideways) new film opens over sprawling landscape shots of Hawaii's scenic suburbia accompanied by George Clooney's character Matt King summing up his current predicament: "Paradise can go fuck itself." The reaction unfortunately is reasonable.
We pick up with King an ancestor of Hawaiian royalty in the middle of deliberations over a plot of land handed down through his family over generations. With every uncle aunt and cosign whispering opinions into his ear King is suddenly presented with an even greater problem: taking care of his two daughters. A boating accident leaves his wife in a coma forcing Matt to take a true parenting role with his young socially-troubled daughter Scottie (Amara Miller) and his rebellious teen Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) who was previously shipped off to boarding school. Matt awkwardly hunts for the emotional glue necessary for the mismatched bunch to become "a family " but matters are made even more complicated when Alex reveals that her mother was cheating on him before the accident. Murphy's Law is in full effect.
With The Descendants Payne continues to explore and discover the inherent humor in life's melancholic situations unfolding Matt's quest for understanding like a road movie across Hawaii's many islands. Simultaneously preparing for the end of his wife's death and searching for the identity of her lover Matt crosses paths with a number of perfectly cast side characters who act as mirrors to his best and worst qualities: his father-in-law Scott (Robert Foster) who belittles Matt for never taking care of his daughter; Hugh (Beau Bridges) an opportunistic cousin who pressures Matt to sell the land; Alexandra's dunce of a boyfriend Sid (Nick Krause) who always has the wrong thing to say; and Julie (Judy Greer) the wife of the adulterer in question. Colorful yet real Matt experiences a definitive moment with each of them yet the picture never feels sporadic or episodic.
Clooney and Woodley help gel these sequences together as they observe experience and butt heads as equals. Clooney's own magnetism stands in the way of making Matt a fully dimensional character but he shines when playing off his quick-witted daughter. His reactions are heartbreaking—but it's the moments when he has to put himself out there that never quite ring true. But the script by Nat Faxon Jim Rash and Payne gives Clooney plenty of opportunities to work his magic visualizing his struggle as opposed to vomiting it out like so many of today's talky dramas.
The Descendants is a tender cinematic experience an introspective and heartwarming film unafraid to convey its story with pleasing simplicity. Clooney stands out with a solid performance but like many of Payne's films it's the eclectic ensemble and muted backdrop that give the movie its real texture. The paradise of Descendants isn't all its cracked up to be but for movie-goers it's bliss.
Based on the popular American Girl series of books and doll line this first edition focuses on Kit Kittredge (Abigail Breslin) an aspiring young cub reporter who during the Great Depression finds her sunny world turned upside down when her father’s (Chris O'Donnell) car dealership goes under and he must leave Cincinnati to find other work. This leaves Kit and her mother (Julia Ormond) to fend for themselves selling eggs and home-grown veggies and renting out rooms in order to keep the family home. Kit always has time for others bringing home a stray Basset hound or convincing her parents to let a couple of hobo friends (Max Thieriot Willow Smith) help out around the house in return for meals. They are among the colorful characters in her life including the Kittredge’s new tenants a magician (Stanley Tucci) a man-hungry dancer (Jane Krakowski) and a ditzy librarian (Joan Cusack). Kit also spends a lot of time writing articles including a glowing one on the hobo community which she hopes to sell to the craggy publisher (Wallace Shawn) of the local newspaper. When a crime spree suddenly hits and the Kittredge’s savings are wiped out blame is pointed at the hobo camp. With the help of her buddies Stirling (Zach Mills) and Ruthie (Madison Davenport) Kit must solve the mystery and save the day. With a part tailor-made for her Breslin is the perfect Kit endlessly optimistic determined and hopeful. Clearly she is the child star of the moment walking capably in the footsteps of the Culkins and Fannings of the world. The film not designed for anyone over 10-years-old really belongs to the kids with both Mills--as the awkward Stirling--and Davenport--as best friend Ruthie--add a lot of charm to the proceedings. Also doing nicely is Thieriot (Jumper) as one of the young hobo boys and Will Smith’s daughter Willow in a surprising turn as his good friend (who may or may not be who she seems). Adult roles are largely one-dimensional but a good supporting cast makes the most of them particularly Tucci and the colorful Cusack. Shawn is fun as the editor Kit keeps trying to impress and O'Donnell and Ormond are sympathetic parents. Director Patricia Rozema (Mansfield Park) competently directs this old-fashioned live-action family film that is so “G” and squeaky clean it seems out of place with all the hipper CGI-type of fare aimed at younger audiences today. Since this film was obviously designed to sell the enormously popular American Girl dolls you can’t expect a masterpiece. Still there is a certain sweetness and longing for a life long ago that makes this more a cousin to something out of the ‘30s or ‘40s like Judy Garland’s Meet Me in St. Louis than to Breslin’s previous hits Nim's Island and Little Miss Sunshine. How her fans react will be interesting but clearly the filmmakers (which include executive producer Julia Roberts) are just hoping to move some merchandise and put a smile on the faces of the very youn--and very female--target audience. If Rozema’s pleasant film does that you can expect a slew of sequels based on other American Girl dolls.
HBO cancels hit drama series
With the cast of Six Feet Under headed into their fifth season of taping, the HBO television network announces that this will also be their final one. According to the Associated Press, Six Feet Under's creator and executive producer, Alan Ball, recently informed HBO executives of his decision to end the series. "Working on Six Feet Under has been enormously fulfilling creatively, but if the show is about anything, it's about the fact that everything comes to an end," said Ball. With the end of Sex and the City and now Six Feet Under in the recent future, HBO will soon have plenty of spots to fill in their primetime lineup. With dozens of Emmy nominations to brag about, the drama series has yet to win the top prize of outstanding drama series.
Actor Howard Keel dies at age 85
Former Dallas star Howard Keel, also known for his good looks and broad shoulders, died of colon cancer on Sunday morning in his Palm Desert home, the AP reports. Before landing a role in the hit show Dallas, Keel starred in a number of hit musicals. Always finding a way to keep himself busy, Keel starred in Man of La Mancha, South Pacific, Annie Get Your Gun and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. In addition, Keel also appeared in a number of western movies including: Waco, Red Tomahawk, The War Wagon and Arizona Bushwhackers. Keel was married three times and divorced twice. Married to former airline stewardess Judy Magamoll until his death, Keel is also survived by his four children, 10 grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter. The funeral is scheduled be private, with a memorial service to follow.
Jackson's legal team denying allegations of scheduled rallies
Prosecutors in the Michael Jackson child molestation case say that Jackson's legal team may have set up organized rallies for the pop star. According to Reuters, prosecuters found evidence that Jackson's defense team coordinated demonstrations to generate media buzz and crowds outside the courtroom. Jackson's legal team denies the allegations that they attempted to create media and fan involvement. Superior Court Judge, Rodney Melville, did not allow the materials to be shown in court, stating that organized rallies on behalf of the defendant did not break any rules. Jackson is charged in a 10-count indictment with child molestation. The trial is scheduled to begin in January.
Colin Firth speaks out about Zellweger's weight gain
Renee Zellweger, who plays Bridget Jones in the new film, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, has gained lots of media buzz for gaining weight to play the role--again. According to the Associated Press, co-star Colin Firth is amazed that any celebrity who gains weight must be subject to this rush of media attention. "It's not that unusual for actors to alter their appearance to play a part. But I think if I did it, it wouldn't get anywhere near the amount of attention," said Firth, who plays Zellweger's lawyer boyfriend in the sequel.
Actor Jim Belushi sues neighbor Julie Newmar
Reporting over $4 million in damages, actor Jim Belushi is suing his neighbor and former Catwoman star Julie Newmar for attempting to drive him from his Brenthood home, the AP reports. On Nov. 2nd, Belushi filed a lawsuit against the actress for destroying a fence and landscaping on his property and for making defamatory statements about him to his friends and family. Belushi also claims that Newmar spied on his family and played loud music targeting his backyard. "Newmar has engaged in a malicious and premeditated campaign to prevent and destroy Belushi's quiet peace," the lawsuit claims. Newmar could not be immediately reached for comment.
Barker gives $1 million to UCLA for animal rights
Longtime game show host on The Price is Right, Bob Barker, has given $1 million to the UCLA law school for an animal rights law endowment. According to the Associated Press, UCLA announced last week that Bob Barker donated the money with hopes that the money will get more law students involved in supporting animal rights. "Animal exploitation happens throughout this country and elsewhere," Barker said. "Animals need all the protection we can give them."
Notorious B.I.G. lawsuit is altered
According to the Launch Radio Networks, mother of the late Notorious B.I.G., Voletta Wallace, has altered her wrongful death lawsuit with the Los Angeles Police Department. Voletta Wallace dismissed Harry Billups as a defendant in the lawsuit. Billups was dismissed after he offered to take a lie detector test to prove that he was not involved in the killing of the former rapper. Wallace filed the lawsuit in 2002 alleging that former police officer, David Mack, planned the murder and hired Billups to kill her son. Now that Billups is out of the picture, the theory might be hard to prove in court. Originally, Voletta offered to settle the lawsuit for $105 million, soon lowering the amount to $18 million. The Los Angeles City Council would not approve the settlement.