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.
Jackson family arrives in court Jackson 5 style
In a bizarre show of solidarity, Michael Jackson's family, including his parents, Katherine and Joseph Jackson, and siblings Janet, LaToya, Jermaine, Randy and Jackie, attended a hearing Monday in Santa Maria, Calif., to watch the singer's lawyers question the prosecutor in his child molestation case. The self-proclaimed "King of Pop" and his family arrived at the courthouse in a chauffeured double-decker bus, all of them dressed head-to-toe in white. According to The Associated Press, Jackson sat for hours staring intensely at prosecutor Thomas Sneddon, who was grilled for more than three hours by the 45-year-old singer's defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. Mesereau attempted to show that Sneddon violated Jackson's attorney-client privilege by searching the office of a private investigator who worked for the singer's previous lawyer, Mark Geragos. If Mesereau is successful, the evidence taken from the private eye's office, including videotapes, computer hard discs and other items, could be thrown out of court because it is protected by attorney-client privilege. After Sneddon finished his testimony, the Jacksons retired to the modified gold and black tour bus to the screams of about 100 fans chanting, "Innocent, innocent." Jackson had not been required to attend the five-day pre-trial hearing and is not expected to return. He has pleaded innocent to charges of child molestation, kidnapping and false imprisonment and is free on $3 million bail.
Oprah selected to serve on jury
Talk show guru Oprah Winfrey, who was picked to serve on a jury at Cook County Criminal Court in Chicago, told reporters she didn't think she'd be selected because she's too opinionated. But Winfrey added that if she was picked, she hopes it wouldn't take longer than a week "because I've got shows to do." Although Winfrey entered the courthouse Monday through an alternate entrance to avoid crowds, officials said she wouldn't receive any special treatment once inside the courtroom. When Judge James B. Linn was asked how Winfrey was selected for a murder trial, he responded, "This was a straight-up jury selection." A Cook County sheriff's office spokeswoman said last week Winfrey was among some 300 prospective jurors scheduled to appear at court Monday.
Lane and Brolin marry in secrecy
Diane Lane and her beau of two years, Josh Brolin--the son of actor James Brolin and stepson of Barbra Streisand--were married in a hush-hush ceremony, the couple's publicist told the AP Tuesday. Spokeswoman Kelly Bush confirmed the wedding but said her clients banned her from saying anything else except, "they're hitched." The 39-year-old star of Unfaithful and Under the Tuscan Sun told AP Radio in August 2002 that Brolin, 36, got down on one knee and proposed on the Fourth of July. "It was early, early, early, early in the morning. Like dawn," Lane said at the time. "I had no idea what was coming."
Zeta-Jones stalker mentally fit to stand trial
A court-appointed psychiatrist said Monday the woman accused of stalking and threatening actress Catherine Zeta-Jones is mentally fit to stand trial. The AP reports Dr. Kal Sharma examined Dawnette Knight in jail, where she is currently being held on $1 million bail. Superior Court Judge John Riley Jr. halted criminal proceedings last month and ordered a mental evaluation of Knight after she overdosed on barbiturates while in county jail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled to resume Sept. 9. Knight, 33, who was arrested June 3 at her Beverly Hills, Calif., apartment, is charged with one felony count of stalking and 24 felony counts of making criminal threats. If convicted, she could face up to 19 years in state prison.
Blair Witch crewman killed in plane crash
Cinematographer Neal L. Fredericks, best known for his work on The Blair Witch Project, was killed Saturday while shooting the independent film Cross Bones, when the single-engine plane he was in crashed into the water off the Florida Keys coast. He was 35. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Fredericks was filming aerial shots for the movie from a single-engine Cessna 206 when the plane's engine sputtered twice at about 500 feet before going down in 50 feet of water, according to Cross Bones writer-director Daniel Zirilli. Zirilli, the pilot, a co-producer and a first camera assistant escaped the wreckage through an open door, but Fredericks, who was strapped into a safety harness beneath camera equipment, was unable to free himself from his seat before the plane was submerged. "It was sunny, no wind; the hurricane had passed 36 hours before," Zirilli said. "It was a glorious day. The pilot called us to go out. As far as we know, it was engine failure."
AFI honors Penn clan
The Penn family, including brothers Sean, Chris, and composer Michael; Michael's wife, singer Aimee Mann; Sean's wife, actress Robin Wright-Penn; along with matriarch Eileen Ryan Penn, will receive the American Film Institute's Platinum Circle Award Oct. 1 in Los Angeles, Variety reports. The luncheon event will also include a tribute to the late patriarch of the family, producer, writer, director and actor Leo Penn. The Platinum Circle Award is presented to a family the AFI considers to have had a significant creative influence on the entertainment industry. Previous winners include the families of Debbie Reynolds, Walter Matthau and Henry Fonda.
Fahrenheit DVD to hit stores soon
Michael Moore's searing and controversial anti-Bush documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 is set to release on home video Oct. 5 through Sony's Columbia TriStar home entertainment unit, AP reports. The announcement Monday confirmed Moore's initial intention to have the film out shortly before Election Day, a time frame the director has favored since winning the top honor at the Cannes Film Festival in May. The film has grossed $115 million domestically, the first documentary ever to top the $100 million mark.
Rapper Shyne loses phone privileges
Jailed rapper Shyne, a former protégé of Sean "P. Diddy" Combs who has been in jail since 2001 for the 1999 nightclub shooting that involved Combs' then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez, had his phone privileges revoked Monday and was barred from conducting in-person interviews as authorities investigate whether the rapper violated prison rules in making about 100 phone calls, AP reports. Shyne, whose real name is Jamal Barrow, signed a $3 million record deal and recorded part of his new album, Godfather Buried Alive, while in prison. He has been in great demand with the media since the album was released last week. Already, MTV has aired a special about him, The New York Times conducted a phone interview, and he's on the cover of the September issue of Vibe wearing his dark-green prison uniform.
Kit Bowen contributed to this report.