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.
The King has finally been dethroned.
The Ben Stiller/Jennifer Aniston farce Along Came Polly debuted at No. 1 this weekend with $27.6 million*, officially ending The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King's four week reign at the top of the box office. Polly is the second biggest January debut since Star Wars: Special Edition, which opened in 1997 with $35.9 million.
After weeks of heavy dramas angling for awards considerations, sometimes all an audience wants is a laugh, Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracker Exhibitor Relations told The Associated Press.
"[Ben Stiller] does seem to play this role a lot, but he does it well," Dergarabedian said. "The audience obviously loves Ben Stiller in this type of movie."
Polly also becomes the biggest opening film of all time for the Martin Luther King weekend and, if the estimates hold through Monday, the figures could put this weekend as the fourth best MLK holiday weekend overall. The same weekend in 2001, led by the dance drama Save the Last Dance at $23.4 million, still holds the record as the best MLK weekend at $124.9 million for the top 12 films over four days.
The real race this weekend seemed to be between second, third and fourth places, with a scant $200,000 difference between the three. As of Sunday's estimates, second place belonged to Big Fish at $10.4 million, which nearly came in first last weekend when it first expanded wide. The high-octance Torque revved up in its opening weekend, coming in third with $10.27 million, while The Return of the King slid down to fourth place with $10.2 million. These spots could be adjusted in the final tally, which will be released Tuesday.
The family comedy Cheaper by the Dozen rounded out the Top Five with $8.7 million, while another newcomer, the animated Disney's Teacher's Pet, failed to make the Top 10 in its opening weekend, taking in a piddly $2.4 million.
THE TOP TEN
Universal Pictures' PG-13 rated romantic comedy Along Came Polly debuted at the top of the list with an ESTIMATED $27.6 million in 2,984 theaters. Its $9,249 per theater average was the highest of any film opening wide this weekend.
The story revolves around an insurance risk assessor on the rebound who falls for an avowed risk taker.
Directed by John Hamburg, it stars Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Debra Messing.
Sony's PG-13 rated drama Big Fish held onto second place in its sixth week with an ESTIMATED $10.4 million (-25%) in 2,514 theaters (+108 theaters; $4,137 per theater). Its cume is approximately $37.9 million.
Directed by Tim Burton, it stars Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter and Alison Lohman.
Warner Bros. PG-13 rated actioner Torque premiered in the third spot with an ESTIMATED $10.27 million in 2,463 theaters and averaging $4,170 per theater.
On the mean streets of Los Angeles, a biker gang member must outrace his enemies if he wants to clear his name and live to ride another day.
Directed by Joseph Kahn, it stars Ice Cube, Martin Henderson, Monet Mazur, Matt Schulze and Jaime Pressly.
New Line Cinema's PG-13 rated fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King fell down a few spots to take fourth in its fifth week of release with an ESTIMATED $10.2 million (-28%) at 3,003 theaters (-529 theaters; $3,397 per theater). Its cume is approximately $326.7 million.
Directed by Peter Jackson, it stars Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Liv Tyler, Miranda Otto, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Twentieth Century Fox's PG rated family comedy Cheaper by the Dozen dropped two notches to fifth place in its third week of release with an ESTIMATED $8.7 million (-26%) in 3,025 theaters (-213 theaters; $2,893 per theater). Its cume is approximately $111.9 million.
Directed by Shawn Levy, it stars Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Hilary Duff and Tom Welling.
Miramax Films' R rated Civil War drama Cold Mountain slid two places to sixth place in its fourth week of release with an ESTIMATED $7 million (-11%) at 2,802 theaters (+500 theaters, $2,499 per theater average). Its cume is approximately $65 million.
Directed by Anthony Minghella, it stars Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger.
Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated romantic comedy Something's Gotta Give followed the trend and dropped two spots to seventh in its sixth week of release with an ESTIMATED $6 million (-22%) at 2,502 theaters (-374 theaters; $2,398 per theater). Its cume is approximately $100.9 million.
Directed by Nancy Meyers, it stars Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Keanu Reeves, Amanda Peet and Frances McDormand.
Miramax's R rated comedy My Baby's Daddy dropped to eighth place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $3.6 million (-52%) in 1,446 theaters (-1 theater; $2,527 per theater). The bachelor buddy comedy's cume is $12.3 million.
Directed by Cheryl Dunye, it stars Eddie Griffin, Anthony Anderson and Michael Imperioli.
Warner Bros.' R rated period actioner The Last Samurai stayed in ninth place in its seventh week of release with an ESTIMATED $3.12 million (-31%) in 1,403 theaters (-498 theaters; $2,224 per theater). Its cume is approximately $101.9 million.
Directed by Edward Zwick, it stars Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Tony Goldwyn and Timothy Spall.
Buena Vista's PG-13 rated British comedy Calendar Girls moved up the list from last week's 12th place to No. 10 in its fifth week with an ESTIMATED $3.1 million (-17%) in 967 theaters (+10 theaters; $3,206 per theater). Its cume is approximately $17.2 million.
Directed by Nigel Cole, it stars Helen Mirren and Julie Walters.
Buena Vista's PG rated animated Disney's Teacher's Pet failed to make the Top 10 in its opening weekend, taking in an ESTIMATED $2.4 million in 2,027 theaters with an average of $1,184 per theater.
The film is a quirky animated kid's movie about a dog who dreams of becoming a human boy, and his master, who just wants a dog.
Directed by Timothy Bjorklund, the vocal cast includes Nathan Lane, Kelsey Grammer, Shaun Fleming, Debra Jo Rupp, Jerry Stiller and David Ogden Stiers.
This week, the Top 12 films grossed an estimated $95.5 million, up 5 percent from last week's $91 million, but down 3.99 percent from last year's $99.5 million.
Last year, Warner Bros. PG rated comedy Kangaroo Jack opened at No. 1 with $16.5 million in 2,818 theaters with a $7,770 per theater average; Sony's PG-13 rated National Security opened at No. 2 with $14.3 million in 2,729 theaters with a $6,161 per theater; and 20th Century Fox's Just Married fell to third place in its second week with $14.6 million in 2,769 theaters (+3 theaters; $4,974 per theater).
Top Story: The Olsen Twins Head to NYU
The Olsen Twins: College Bound. No, it's not the name of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's next feature-length, straight-to-video release. People magazine reports in its Dec. 29 issue that New York University has invited the teen actresses to join the class of 2008. According to the magazine, Mary-Kate and Ashley, 17, will be enrolled next fall at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study--a small, innovative college within NYU that gives students the opportunity to design a program of study tailored to their own needs. Michael Pagnotta, the twins' representative, said they were excited about their acceptance. "Like every other senior, they had been sweating out their acceptance and they are absolutely thrilled," Pagnotta told People. "They have always taken academics very seriously. This is a major achievement for them." Mary-Kate and Ashley rose to fame in the alternating the role of Michelle Tanner on the ABC sitcom Full House, which ran from 1987-1995. Their upcoming feature film, New York Minute, is set for release May 7.
Hilton, Richie Ring in New Year in Vegas
Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie are leaving the farm for Sin City. Hilton and Richie, the stars of Fox's hit reality series The Simple Life, will help count down the final moments of 2003 on the network's America's Party airing live on New Year's Eve from Las Vegas. The show, to be broadcast from the Venetian Resort Hotel & Casino starting at 11 p.m. EST, will feature performances form Ashanti, Metallica, Puddle of Mud, Hootie and the Blowfish and keith urban, The Associated press reports.
Prisoner of Azkaban To Be Shown on IMAX
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third feature film in the Harry Potter franchise, will be released in large-format IMAX theaters when it hits conventional theaters June 4, the AP reports. IMAX, a Toronto-based projection equipment developer, has been expanding its market beyond documentary films for science centers and institutional venues by adapting its technology for mainstream Hollywood productions and movie theaters. Based on the popular book by J.K. Rowling and directed by Alfonso Cuaron, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint.
WB Launches 3-D Game To Promote Torque
For its upcoming motorcycle flick Torque, Warner Bros. is launching a broad new-media marketing campaign. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the studio is introducing "Maximum Torque," a promotional 3-D game available on WarnerBros.com and web portals such as Yahoo, MSN and AOL to market the film. Game players can choose one of four motorcycles and customizable outfits, then pitch their skills against a computer-controlled racer. Torque, starring Ice Cube, Martin Henderson, Monet Mazur, Adam Scott, Matt Schulze, Jaime Pressly and Jay Hernandez, opens nationwide Jan. 16.
Elton John To Perform on World Idol
Singer Elton John will perform on the Jan. 1 results episode of World Idol, a show in which winners of 11 international Idol series will compete for global supremacy, Billboard.com reports. The competition will air worldwide Dec. 25 and New Year's Day. American Idol network Fox will air the specials in the U.S. The third season of American Idol is set to begin Jan. 19, with three audition shows shown over consecutive nights Jan. 19-21. The show will then return to its regular times slot, Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT and Wednesdays from 8:30 p.m. ET/PT.
Janet Jackson To Perform at Super Bowl Halftime Show
Janet Jackson will perform at the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show set to air live on CBS on Feb. 1 from Houston's Reliant Stadium, Billboard.com reports. The show is being produced by MTV, which produced last year's halftime event with Shania Twain, No Doubt and Sting and the 2001segment that featured Aerosmith, 'N Sync and Britney Spears. Jackson is currently working on her still-untitled follow-up to her 2001 album All For You, which is set for release sometime in 2004 on Virgin Records.
Source Can't Distribute Eminem Track
Manhattan federal Judge Gerald Lynch handed down a ruling Thursday preventing hip-hop magazine The Source from enclosing in its February issue a CD of a previously unreleased track by rapper Eminem that includes lyrics such as "black girls are dumb." The Source said it uncovered the recording while investigating the forces corrupting hip-hop, including racism and had planned extensive coverage of it in the February issue, the AP reports. Eminem has called the recording "foolishness," something he made as a teen "out of anger, stupidity and frustration" after breaking up with a black girlfriend.
Nas Arrested on Assault Charges
Rapper Nas was charged with assault stemming from a Dec. 10 altercation in a New York nightclub. According to Reuters, Nas, whose real name is Nasir Jones, allegedly smashed a bottle against the head of an unidentified man during who entered the VIP area of the Ciclo nightclub. He reportedly surrendered to police Wednesday and was arraigned before posting $7,500 bail. Nas, who is currently working on his seventh studio album, is due back in court Jan. 20.