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.
Director Alexander Payne's (Election Sideways) new film opens over sprawling landscape shots of Hawaii's scenic suburbia accompanied by George Clooney's character Matt King summing up his current predicament: "Paradise can go fuck itself." The reaction unfortunately is reasonable.
We pick up with King an ancestor of Hawaiian royalty in the middle of deliberations over a plot of land handed down through his family over generations. With every uncle aunt and cosign whispering opinions into his ear King is suddenly presented with an even greater problem: taking care of his two daughters. A boating accident leaves his wife in a coma forcing Matt to take a true parenting role with his young socially-troubled daughter Scottie (Amara Miller) and his rebellious teen Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) who was previously shipped off to boarding school. Matt awkwardly hunts for the emotional glue necessary for the mismatched bunch to become "a family " but matters are made even more complicated when Alex reveals that her mother was cheating on him before the accident. Murphy's Law is in full effect.
With The Descendants Payne continues to explore and discover the inherent humor in life's melancholic situations unfolding Matt's quest for understanding like a road movie across Hawaii's many islands. Simultaneously preparing for the end of his wife's death and searching for the identity of her lover Matt crosses paths with a number of perfectly cast side characters who act as mirrors to his best and worst qualities: his father-in-law Scott (Robert Foster) who belittles Matt for never taking care of his daughter; Hugh (Beau Bridges) an opportunistic cousin who pressures Matt to sell the land; Alexandra's dunce of a boyfriend Sid (Nick Krause) who always has the wrong thing to say; and Julie (Judy Greer) the wife of the adulterer in question. Colorful yet real Matt experiences a definitive moment with each of them yet the picture never feels sporadic or episodic.
Clooney and Woodley help gel these sequences together as they observe experience and butt heads as equals. Clooney's own magnetism stands in the way of making Matt a fully dimensional character but he shines when playing off his quick-witted daughter. His reactions are heartbreaking—but it's the moments when he has to put himself out there that never quite ring true. But the script by Nat Faxon Jim Rash and Payne gives Clooney plenty of opportunities to work his magic visualizing his struggle as opposed to vomiting it out like so many of today's talky dramas.
The Descendants is a tender cinematic experience an introspective and heartwarming film unafraid to convey its story with pleasing simplicity. Clooney stands out with a solid performance but like many of Payne's films it's the eclectic ensemble and muted backdrop that give the movie its real texture. The paradise of Descendants isn't all its cracked up to be but for movie-goers it's bliss.
An autopsy has shown Bee Gees brother Maurice Gibb died because his bowel and small intestine were so severely twisted it caused a restriction of blood flow, The Associated Press reports. Gibb, 53, died Sunday three days after suffering cardiac arrest prior to undergoing emergency surgery for an intestinal blockage. The Miami-Dade County medical examiner told AP Gibb suffered from a condition known as ischemic enteropathy, which can be severe enough to cause cardiac arrest because of the restricted flow of blood. Dr. Jeffrey Raskin, interim chief of gastroenterology at the University of Miami, also told AP, "People (with his condition) can live to middle age with no symptoms. They can have minor problems off and on. Or, they can present on the first time with a catastrophic event, as it seems in this case." Gibb's brothers, Barry and Robin, have questioned the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami about the decision to operate after their brother's cardiac arrest.
Singer Bobby Brown was sentenced to eight days in jail Friday after pleading guilty to a 1996 drunken driving charge in Georgia, AP reports. He is also to perform 240 hours of community service, pay $2,000 in fines and $800 in court costs, as well as getting couseling. Brown will be on probation for two years.
Variety reports the Directors Guild of America will award Martin Scorsese its lifetime achievement award at the 55th annual DGA Awards March 1. In its 67-year history, the union's highest achievement has been given out to only 29 directors. Steven Spielberg was the DGA's last recipient, winning the honors in 2000.
DreamWorks has joined Paramount Pictures to co-finance the Ben Affleck sci-fi thriller Paycheck, Variety reports, making it the third deal the two studios have set up together lately. The other two include Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events and Killing Pablo. Paycheck is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick about a guy whose memory is erased by his employer but who tries to collect his paycheck anyway.
Samuel L. Jackson will join Juliette Binoche in the indie drama Country of My Skull for director John Boorman. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the story is based on the book Country of My Skull: Guilt, Sorrow and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa and chronicles the account of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated human rights abuses during apartheid.
The Simpsons are sticking around for another two seasons, Variety reports. The animated show has been renewed by Fox through May 2005, which will make 16 seasons and 360 episodes total. This will surpass the classic The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, television's longest running show in history.
Cybill Shepherd will don the apron and play Martha Stewart in an upcoming NBC telefilm, tentatively titled Martha Inc.: The Story of Martha Stewart. Seems fitting, no? The project is based on Christopher Byron's biography Martha Inc.: The Incredible Story of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, which was released in bookstores last spring, just as Stewart became embroiled in the insider trading scandal with the biotechnology firm ImClone.
Rocker Jackson Browne is calling for the removal of some scenes from the TBS telepic America's Prince: The John F. Kennedy Jr. Story, which suggest the singer assaulted a former girlfriend, actress Daryl Hannah, who also dated John Jr. Reuters reports Browne's attorney, Lawrence Iser, demanded in a letter to TBS that it "cease and desist" airing the program again "until false and defamatory scenes accusing Mr. Browne of assaulting actress Daryl Hannah are removed." The film aired Sunday on TBS.
The William Morris Agency will be opening a branch in Miami, Fla., to accommodate their Spanish-speaking clients, including Luis Miguel and Enrique Iglesias. The office will open in April.
Further shaking up the record industry, Jay Boberg, president of Vivendi Universal's MCA Records, resigned his post Thursday, Reuters reports. This follows the resignation of Sony Music Entertainment head Tommy Mottola last week. Boberg will be replaced in the interim by Craig Lambert, MCA's senior vice president of promotion.