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.
S3E7: There’s something to be said for an hour-long episode of a television drama that feels like it covers three hours worth of ground. The majority of the focus this week's Justified stays on Raylan, as per usual, with second place going to the show’s newest gleaming villain Robert Quarles. Tack on a few scenes of Boyd trying to further his career and two of Limehouse doing his same stoic sociopath shtick—it doesn’t seem like much on paper, but this week’s “The Man Behind the Curtain” puts a whole lot on our plates.
"We want to know if you were born before disco or after." - Bar girl It’s good to see Tim. I like Tim. There’s a lot to Tim—or, at least, there could be, if the show bothered with him. I invite anyone familiar with Elmore Leonard’s writings to discuss how the author treats the Tim character (or any counterpart that might exist if a direct source character does not) in his literature, and whether or not his characterization comes through on the show. Anyway, Raylan and Tim contribute to the investigation of Quarles, who approaches Raylan in the marshal’s new residence: a bar (he lives in an apartment above the bar, but who can sleep with that music?). Raylan and Tim tap the latter’s FBI friend to find out more on Quarles, and his visiting associate, Sammy. I have made previous hypotheses, due to the context of their conversations, that Sammy was Quarles’ son. Further speculation led me to the statement that Sammy was Quarles’ dead son. Clearly, he is neither of these things—Sammy is actually the son of Quarles’ Detroit mob boss, and the heir to the proverbial mob throne (which “rightfully” belongs to Quarles).
"Tell the old man that I do not need a second chance." - Quarles Quarles is working on a pretty elaborate scheme, when the nuisance that is Sammy comes into town to contribute next to nothing to the ordeal. Quarles pays off a local sheriff to ensure that he is the chief oxy supplier in the locale (it’s just assumed that lawmen are corrupt in this show). And as we’ve seen, he’s got quite an operation out of his place of business: MRI machines, doctors on call, the works. All to, apparently, make up for something wrong he did way back when, as alluded to by Sammy (referring, of course, to his father). Though Sammy may not be of much substance in the crime syndicate, he’s not stupid. He knows that Quarles would probably rather him be dead so that he might usurp his position as next-in-liner. So when Raylan approaches the cowardly Sammy for some questioning and learns this, he realizes that the two might be able to work together to stop the diabolical, and more emotionally charged and erratic than ever (and believe me, he is much more interesting this way) Quarles.
"I was under the impression I might have to put a horse's head in your bed." - Raylan Raylan and Sammy aren’t the only two interested in keeping tabs on, and possibly running down, Quarles. At the dawn of the episode, Limehouse institutes a constant surveillance on Quarles’ operation. This comes in handy for Boyd, who, as Limehouse’s business partner, is privy to all of the information that Limehouse acquires. However, Limehouse seems to be getting a little fed up with Boyd on a personal level, which will likely affect their business relationship for the negative. One of my favorite parts of the episode is treated with only a small amount of attention, but promises to play a large role later in the season I’m sure. Arlo, who, as we learn, has been on meds for some significant amount of time, is beginning to lose it. We find him wandering in Limehouse’s territory, mumbling to himself and calling out for his dead wife Frances (Raylan’s mother), as if she has just run off on him. Arlo losing his senses will surely spark some interesting story, either in the form of him failing to uphold some kind of responsibility for Boyd, or, preferably, something more emotional between he and Raylan.
"I got mad ninja skills, buddy." - Raylan Oh, and let us not forget how awesome it is that Stephen Tobolowsky stops by to play an uptight jerk of an FBI agent who is infringing on Raylan’s investigation of Quarles and Sammy. Is somebody a crooked fed? As long as this means more Tobolowsky, I’m on board. The episode ends with Quarles following up on Wynn Duffy’s Tulsa “connection” that he knows to be a source of profit: welcome back Gary. …He doesn’t seem to be doing too well.
"Hell is empty and the devils are here." - Boyd Things were much simpler back in Season 2. The villains weren’t dispersed all throughout the county—they all lived in the same house. Those were the days of the Bennetts. Of course, Boyd was still up to no good back then—but his stories seemed to work in greater harmony with theirs than do his and Quarles’, or even Limehouse’s. Season 3 seems to be opting for too much, and complicating itself in the process. Season 2 was so much better than its predecessor due to the real meat and depth in the characters we got to know. Sure, Quarles is an increasingly interesting figure—but his stories, along with Limehouse’s, Boyd’s, Dickey’s, Arlo’s, Ava’s (how much of either of those last two have we seen this season anyway?), the embezzling evidence room guard’s, and those belonging to whomever I am forgetting, are all spread too thin, in a fit of combat with one another. If the show continues to instill Quarles with the same kind of bizarre vigor that we’ve seen these past two weeks, then it could all work out. If they apply the same to Limehouse without sacrificing from the other stories’ development, it might end up being perfect. But that’s a lot of work to be done, and already so far into the season. We’ll have to see if it actually comes into fruition. What did you think of this week’s episode? Is the show spreading itself too thin? Does anybody know what Leonard’s Tim is like, if there is one? What will happen with this new Arlo development? Let us know in the comments section, or on Twitter @Hollywood.com and @MichaelArbeiter.