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.
In This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
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Well golly gee, I hope you didn’t mark your calendars in pens because Disney has rattled its release schedule, changing the dates for two of its sure-to-be hit films of 2012!
Frankenweenie was originally scheduled for release on March 9th, 2012 but has been bumped back to October 5th! Is this a sign of a troubled production? Is Frankenweenie being a bad boy? Does Disney not have faith in the film? Only time will tell! As consolidation for those who are upset about having to wait seven more months for a film that's a year and a half away, John Carter of Mars is taking Frankenweenie’s original release date so you can line up to see it March 9th instead of in June 8th!
Frankenweenie is a stop motion 3D bonanza from Tim Burton with the talents of Winona Ryder, Martin Landau, Catherine O’Hara, and Martin Short. John Carter of Mars stars Mark Strong, Willem Dafoe, Bryan Cranston, Thomas Haden Church, Polly Walker, and Taylor Kitsch. Does it make me a "Frankenweenie" for being super excited about these two films? Oh, I don’t even care!
HOLLYWOOD, Oct 26, 2000 - Look for "Blair Witch 2" to do killer business this Halloween weekend.
Artisan Entertainment's R-rated sequel "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2," opening at about 3,000 theaters, should scare up enough ticket sales to end "Meet the Parents'" three week reign in first place.
"'Blair Witch' is going to play very young," explains an insider. "They ought to be able to open to $20 million." The original "Blair Witch Project," last summer's sleeper blockbuster, was made independently for about $35,000 and picked up by Artisan. It grossed about $140.5 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Joe Berlinger, "Blair Witch 2" stars Kim Director, Jeffrey Donovan, Erica Leerhsen, Tristen Skylar and Stephen Barker-Turner.
Universal's PG-13-rated comedy "Meet the Parents" should slide one slot to second place in its fourth week after finishing first with $16 million last weekend.
"'Meet the Parents' dropped 24% last weekend," a distributor says. "If they drop that way again this weekend, they'll do $12-13 million."
Directed by Jay Roach, "Parents" stars Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller. There could be a close race for third place between Paramount's opening of its R-rated romantic comedy "Lucky Numbers" at about 2,500 theaters and 20th Century Fox's second weekend of its PG-13-rated comedy "Bedazzled."
"Bedazzled" opened in second place to a better-than-anticipated $13.1 million. "Let's say they're down 35%," a studio source speculates. "That puts them at $8 million. 'Lucky Numbers' could do $8-10 million."
Directed by Harold Ramis, "Bedazzled" stars Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley.
Directed by Nora Ephron, "Numbers" stars John Travolta and Lisa Kudrow.
Another battle is shaping up for fifth place between Buena Vista/Disney's PG-rated football theme drama "Remember the Titans," which finished third last weekend with $9.9 million, and Warner Bros.' PG-13-rated drama "Pay It Forward," which kicked off to $9.6 million in fourth place.
"'Titans' was only down 24%. Let's say it drops another 24% and does $7.5 million," an insider speculates. "'Pay It Forward' will be doing good if it's down 23% or 24%. That's going to put both of them at around $7.5 million."
Directed by Boaz Yakin and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Chad Oman, "Titans" stars Denzel Washington.
Directed by Mimi Leder, "Pay" stars Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment.
The weekend's other wide release, New Line Cinema's PG-rated family film "The Little Vampire," probably won't sink its fangs into the Top Five, although it's opening at about 2,000 theaters.
"I would look for 'Little Vampire' to be somewhere in the low single digits," predicts an insider.
Directed by Uli Edel, "Vampire" stars Jonathan Lipnicki.
Filling out lower rungs: "The Contender," "The Legend of Drunken Master," "The Exorcist" and "Lost Souls."
On the expansion front, Fox Searchlight Pictures will start going wider with its R-rated drama "Bootmen."
Directed by Dein Perry, "Bootmen" stars Adam Garcia and Sam Worthington.
Also expanding is Miramax's R-rated drama "The Yards."
Directed by James Gray, "Yards" stars Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Charlize Theron and James Caan.
In limited release activity, Buena Vista's reissue of its 1993 PG-rated animated family film "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas" will open at 72 theaters in select cities.
Directed by Henry Selick, its voice talents include Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon and Catherine O'Hara.
Lions Gate's R-rated drama "Once in the Life" opens in New York, L.A. and Chicago.
"Life" was written and directed by Laurence Fishburne, who also stars in the film.
Lions Gate's R-rated dark comedy "Stardom" goes into limited release.
Directed by Denys Arcand, it stars Dan Aykroyd and Frank Langella.
USA Films' R-rated dark comedy "A Room For Romeo Brass" opens exclusively in New York and L.A.
Directed by Shane Meadows, "Romeo" stars Andrew Shim and Ben Marshall.