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.
October 22, 2004 10:46am EST
Martha Stewart appeals conviction from Camp Cupcake
Martha Stewart is urging a federal appeals court to overturn her conviction because she claims her trial was "tarred" by suggestions she was charged with insider trading, The Associated Press reports, although she was never with insider trading, only deceiving investigators. But the appeals brief argues prosecutors and the trial judge kept the jury from understanding the difference. "Martha Stewart was never charged with insider trading," lawyers for the homemaking maven wrote. "But a barrage of pretrial leaks and in-court accusations left the indelible impression that she was guilty of that offense." Stewart, who was sentenced to five months in prison followed by five months of house arrest, is serving her time at the minimum-security federal women's prison in rural Alderson, W.Va., also known as Camp Cupcake. She reported to prison Oct. 8 and has posted at least one letter on her Web site saying she is being treated well. Her lawyer, Walter Dellinger, said on NBC's Today that Stewart is exploring "innovative ways to do microwave cooking" with her fellow inmates. He also said Stewart, who has hinted she may write a book about her experience with federal law enforcement, spends up to three hours a night writing on a typewriter. Stewart will be released from prison in March, but it is unlikely the appeals court will hear the brief by then.
Cojo shoots pilot for one-hour talk show
Style guru and Entertainment Tonight correspondent Steven Cojocaru has shot a pilot for a one-hour talk show. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the show features Cojocaru's colorful commentary of fashion and pop culture trends, combined with celebrity interviews. Star Halle Berry is said to have been a guest on the pilot episode, but the show's producer, Paramount Domestic TV, declined comment Thursday. Cojocaru, whose memoir Red Carpet Diaries: Confessions of a Glamour Boy was published in March 2003, is a frequent contributor to NBC's morning show Today. The show's debut has not been announced.
MPAA warns of the dangers of piracy
The Motion Picture Assn. of America said piracy could cost the movie industry up to $15 billion over the next four years if bold measures are not taken at once, Reuters reports. MPAA chief John Malcolm told a luncheon panel Thursday at the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce that civil and criminal actions needed to be taken to stop the growth of illegal file trading and worldwide DVD bootlegging, otherwise the film industry would suffer as the music business did. Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn said 92 percent of the movies made available for illegal downloading originate from camcorders. Hahn noted the entertainment industry represents a $30 billion slice of the Los Angeles economy, employing about 200,000 people.
Stolen U2 briefcase returned 23 years later
A stolen briefcase full of notes and lyrics intended for U2's 1981 album October was returned--23 years after it was stolen at a Portland concert, the AP reports. The briefcase was allegedly stolen by some women who joined the band backstage at a now-defunct Portland nightclub. U2 frontman Bono had to rewrite the lyrics to October in the studio, and band members called it their worst recording experience ever. When the band returned to Portland a few years later, Bono asked the audience if anyone knew about the briefcase and asked the question again when the band played at the Rose Garden in 2001. A woman said she found the briefcase in the attic of a rental home in Tacoma, Wash., in 1981 but didn't know it had been stolen until many years later. She spent much of the past year contacting U2's management about the briefcase.
Bo Diddley gets toe amputated
Bluesman Bo Diddley canceled a Thursday concert at the Lancaster Performing Arts Center in Lancaster, Calif., because he needed more time to recover from a toe amputation. Scott Free, the musician's longtime friend and business partner, told the AP Diddley checked into the North Florida Regional Medical Center in Gainesville about two weeks ago because of a hyperglycemic condition. Diddley, 75, is diabetic. Free said doctors kept Diddley for a few nights to make sure they wouldn't have to amputate his foot. Diddley, whose real name is Ellas Bates McDaniel, popularized rhythm 'n' blues in the 1950s with hits including "Bo Diddley" and "Mona." Free didn't know whether Diddley would make scheduled performances in Connecticut on Saturday and in Texas on Oct. 31.
Judge rules out Blake defense theory
A judge ruled Thursday Robert Blake's lawyer can't present jurors a theory that others, including Marlon Brando's son, Christian, conspired to kill the actor's wife, the AP reports. "I've found there was no link, direct or circumstantial, with Mr. Brando," Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp said. "It's pure speculation." Last week, Schempp also ruled out as evidence a taped phone call between Brando and Bakley in which he told her she was lucky someone didn't put a bullet through her head. Blake has pleaded not guilty to the 2001 killing of Bonny Lee Bakley, 44, whom he married after DNA testing showed he was the father of her baby. Schempp said a jury selection for Blake's trial, which is expected to last four months, will begin Nov. 15.