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.
Audiences were in the mood for a "gutsy" Tarantino movie this weekend.Quentin Tarantino's kung fu chopping, samurai sword slashing, body part flying Kill Bill Vol. 1 filleted the competition this weekend, opening in the top spot with a respectable $22.6 million* and beating out last week's champ, School of Rock, which dropped to second place with $15.4 million.While far from a blockbuster debut, Kill Bill delivered solidly at the box office for a genre picture steeped in violence, Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracker Exhibitor Relations, told The Associated Press. "Kill Bill is a very specialized film. It appeals to an important segment of the audience, but kind of a limited audience," Dergarabedian said. "Grandma does not want to see Kill Bill."Making his way back into theaters after a six-year absence, Tarantino's blood-soaked tribute to grindhouse cinema now stands as his best opener ever, topping his last film, the 1997 Jackie Brown ($12.8 million) and the 1994 Pulp Fiction ($9.3 million). Kill Bill can also claim the fourth best October opener ever, besting School of Rock, which took the fifth best October slot last week at $19.6 million. Both films follow the likes of October champ Red Dragon, which debuted in 2002 with $36.5 million.Tarantino and Miramax chose to chop three-hour Kill Bill into two parts rather than dish it out to audiences in one big gulp, and exit polls indicated 90 percent of the audience looking forward to Kill Bill Vol. 2, Rick Sands, Miramax chief operating officer, told AP. "The gamble paid off," Sands said. "We think it was a smart decision to split the movie." Vol. 2 opens in February.Newcomers Intolerable Cruelty, the eccentric Coen brothers' stab at a classic battle of the sexes, debuted in third place with $13.1 million, while Good Boy!, a spirited dog tail, er tale, opened with $13 million. Last week's No. 2, the noirish Out of Time, rounded out the top five with $8.6 million.The other notable opener this week was Clint Eastwood's taut Oscar bait Mystic River, which premiered in limited theaters but managed to take in $591,390 over the weekend.THE TOP TENMiramax Films scores again. The studio's R rated Kill Bill Vol. 1 premiered at the top of the box office this week with an ESTIMATED $22.6 million in 3,102 theaters. The film took in $7,312 per theater, making it the highest average of any film playing wide this week.The revenge tale centers on the Bride, a highly trained former assassin looking for a little payback after being left for dead on her wedding day by those she once worked with. Directed by Tarantino, it stars Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah and David Carradine.Losing its No. 1 title, Paramount Pictures' PG-13 rated rock 'n' roll comedy School of Rock, still managed to jam in second place with an ESTIMATED $15.4 million (-22%) in 2,929 theaters (+315 theaters; $5,258 per theater). Starring Jack Black as a hell raising guitarist who impersonates a substitute teacher and turns a class of high achieving fifth graders into high-voltage rock 'n' rollers, the film's cume is approximately $39.5 million.Directed by Richard Linklater, it stars Black, Joan Cusack and Michael White. Universal Pictures' PG 13 rated offbeat romantic comedy Intolerable Cruelty opened in third place with an ESTIMATED $13.1 million in 2,564 theaters, averaging $5,109 per theater.The story follows a successful divorce attorney who meets his match when he runs into a professional divorcee.Produced by Ethan Coen and directed by Joel Coen, it stars George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones.*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.MGM's sweet-natured PG rated Good Boy! debuted at No. 4 with an ESTIMATED $13 million in 3,225 theaters, averaging $4,031 per theater.Owen, a 12-year-old who has been working as the neighborhood dog walker to earn the privilege of getting a dog of his own, finds the new dog of his dreams. Only this dog is different: for one, Owen can talk with him, and two, he isn't from Earth.Directed by John Hoffman, it stars Liam Aiken and the vocal talents of Matthew Broderick, Brittany Murphy, Carl Reiner and Vanessa Redgrave as the dog Hubble and his four-legged friends.MGM Pictures' R rated police thriller Out of Time fell several spots to the fifth spot in its second week with an ESTIMATED $8.6 million (-47%) at 3,076 theaters (unchanged; $2,796 per theater). Its cume is $28.7 million. Directed by Carl Franklin, it stars Washington, Eva Mendes, Sanaa Lathan and Dean Cain.Artisan's R rated horror flick House of the Dead debuted at No. 6 with an ESTIMATED $5.5 million in 1,520 theaters, averaging $3,618 per theater. The film follows a group of unsuspecting teens who stumble upon the living dead after one of them is killed during a rave at an abandoned house. The others band together to get revenge on the monsters responsible.Directed by Uwe Boll, it stars Michael Ecklund, Enuka Okuma, David Palffy and Jurgen Prochnow.Universal Pictures' PG-13 rated jungle actioner The Rundown, dropped to seventh place in its third weekend with an ESTIMATED $5.3 million (-45%) in 2,823 theaters (-331 theaters; $1,877 per theater). Its cume is approximately $40.3 million.Directed by Peter Berg, it stars The Rock, Seann William Scott, Rosario Dawson and Christopher Walken.Buena Vista's PG-13 rated romantic comedy Under the Tuscan Sun fell four notches to No. 8 in its third week with an ESTIMATED $4.8 million (-38%) in 1,701 theaters (+4 theaters; $2,822 per theater). Its cume is approximately $28.2 million. Directed by Audrey Wells, it stars Diane Lane, Sandra Oh, Vincent Riotta and Raoul Bova. New Line's PG rated family drama Secondhand Lions also dropped four spots to take ninth place in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $3.2 million (-37%) in 2,563 theaters (-469 theaters; $1,278 per theater). Its cume is approximately $35.3 million.Directed by Tim McCanlies, it stars Haley Joel Osment, Robert Duvall and Michael Caine.Focus Features' R rated dramedy Lost In Translation slid three positions to round out the top 10 in its fifth week with an ESTIMATED $2.8 million (-31%) in 882 theaters (+18 theaters; $3,240 per theater average). Its cume is approximately $18.1 million.Directed by Sofia Coppola, it stars Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson.OTHER OPENINGSWarner Bros.' intensely dramatic R rated Mystic River debuted in 13 theaters on Wednesday and managed to take in $591,390 over the weekend, with a whopping average of $45,492 per theater. Its cume since Wednesday is $778,997.The film centers on three childhood friends who share a tragic event from the past and cross paths again 25 years later when one of the men's daughters is found brutally murdered.Directed by Clint Eastwood, it stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Laura Linney and Marcia Gay Harden. WEEKEND COMPARISON The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $98.7 million, up 22.48 percent from last weekend's $80.5 million. The Top 12 movies were also up 5.72 percent from this time last year when they took in $93.3 million.Last year, Universal's R rated thriller Red Dragon stayed at No. 1 in its second week with $17.6 million in 3,363 theaters ($5,250 per theater); Buena Vista's PG-13 rated comedy Sweet Home Alabama also stayed in second place in its third week with $14.2 million in 3,313 theaters ($4,305 per theater); and Fox Seachlight's PG-13 Brown Sugar opened in third place with $10.7 million in 1,372 theaters ($7,827 per theater).
Go to our Box Office section for recent weekend movie analysis.
Clint Eastwood and Oscar-winning writer Brian Helgeland will team up on an adaptation of the best-selling novel, Mystic River, for Warner Bros.
The novel, now in its ninth week on the top 10 New York Times bestseller list, follows three childhood friends whose relationship breaks apart after a tragic incident. They are brought back together 25 years later when they are all linked to a murder investigation.
Eastwood and Helgeland also are collaborating on another Warner Bros. project, the mystery/thriller Blood Work, an adaptation of a novel by Michael Connelly. Eastwood is set to produce, star and direct from Helgeland's screenplay.
Academy Award-winning scribe Helgeland (L.A. Confidential) wrote and directed the upcoming A Knight's Tale with Heath Ledger. Eastwood directed last year's hit Space Cowboys.
Tatum O'Neal is a "Scoundrel"
Making a comeback after more than a 10-year absence, Oscar-winning actress Tatum O'Neal (Paper Moon) will star opposite Tim Curry (Charlie's Angels), Julian Sands and Lacey Chabert (Party of Five) in The Scoundrel's Wife, an independent project.
Set in Louisiana in 1942, a young widow (O'Neal) is suspected of helping the Germans in a small bayou town, after the German U-boats have sunk American ships.
O'Neal, divorced from ex-husband John McEnroe, returns after spending the last decade raising their children.
Hoop dreams for Lil' Bow Wow
Fourteen-year-old double platinum rap singer Lil' Bow Wow will get his feature film debut in Like Mike for 20th Century Fox.
Lil' Bow Wow will play a kid who finds a pair of magical sneakers worn by basketball superstar Michael Jordan. Suddenly, the teen is transformed into a NBA hero.
Written by Michael Elliot, the story was inspired by Lil' Bow Wow, whom Elliot met on the set of MTV's seriesHip Hopera.
"He loves basketball, loves Michael Jordan, and he's an exceptional basketball player" Elliot told Variety.
"It's every kid's dream to play in the NBA, and it's not like Big, where he becomes a man. In this case, it's more fun if he stays a kid."
Lowe gets "Framed"
Rob Lowe, hot off his acclaimed role as deputy communications director in the hit NBC drama series The West Wing, will star in the TNT original movie Framed, based on a BBC miniseries of the same name.
Lowe will play a New York detective who takes a key member of a money-laundering scheme into custody and prepares him to testify in court. Things gets complicated as the detective's strong ethical code is placed in jeopardy when the witness offers him millions of dollars to help him escape.
The film will be directed by Daniel Petrie Jr. (Toy Soldiers) and executive produced by David Brown (Along Came a Spider) and Kit Golden (Chocolat).
Foley is a "Fuddy" Duddy
NewsRadio star Dave Foley has signed to star in Fox's comedy pilot, What's Up, Peter Fuddy?, with David Steinberg set to direct and co-written by Emmy winner Jay Kogen (Frasier).
The show's premise is Truman Show-esque: a Nightline-style news show follows the daily activities of an insurance adjuster Fuddy (Foley), who is forced to appear on the show to defend his actions.
Foley re-teams with Steinberg and Kogen after working together on the comedy The Wrong Guy. The feature was never released but it won the best screenplay award at the 1999 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.
The pilot also stars Jamie Denbo (Lost Souls), as Fuddy's wife, and Craig Anton (The Army Show), as Fuddy's next-door neighbor.
"MiB2"'s villainous Janssen
The X-Men's heroine Famke Janssen is in negotiations to play the villainous vamp in Columbia Pictures' Men In Black 2 for director Barry Sonnenfeld.
Production is scheduled to start in June. Although the plot is under wraps, most of the original film's stars will be in the sequel, including Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as agents J and K, respectively. Janssen will play bad bombshell Serleena and Johnny Knoxville (MTV's Jackass) will be featured as a two-headed alien. The cast also includes Rosario Dawson (Josie and the Pussycats) as Smith's love interest.
"Annie" and Reba: together again
Country superstar Reba McEntire will reprise her role as Annie Oakley in a CBS-TV movie version of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun.
Currently starring in the Broadway smash hit, McEntire is a perfect choice to play Annie for the CBS movie, producer Howard Braunstein told Variety. She also will executive produce the film.
Currently in development, the movie could air by the February sweeps, depending on the potential strikes. McEntire will continue with the Broadway production through May 27. She's concurrently starring in an untitled comedy pilot for the WB Network.
"Crouching Tiger" creates Chinese boom
Hot off the tremendous success of Ang Lee's Oscar-winning film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, co-production partner Columbia Pictures Film Production (an offshoot of Sony Pictures Entertainment) has announced plans for four pictures to go into production in 2001.
First up is Big Shot's Funeral, a comical film about a world-famous director who comes to China to make an epic about the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty (can anyone say The Last Emperor?). It will star Donald Sutherland, Ge You and Rosamund Kwan and directed by Feng Xiaogang. It will be shot in English and Chinese.
Next is another Chinese/English film, a mystery, called Double Vision starring Tony Leung, Ka Fai and David Morse (The Green Mile). The film followed the hunt for a serial killer by a determined Taiwanese police detective and an American FBI expert.
Third is an untitled action flick directed by Corey Yuen, who choreographed The X-Men and Romeo Must Die. The film will kicked it up with technological wizardry while centering on family bonds. Finally, set for production later this year is Heroes of Heaven and Earth, a Chinese-language adventure epic to be directed by He Ping and starring Jiang Wen.
Miramax wants in the "Know"
Miramax Films is negotiating to handle the North American distributions rights for Al Pacino's next film, People I Know.
The film, already in production and co-starring Kim Basinger, Tea Leoni and Ryan O'Neal, is about a New York press agent who gets into the corrupt world of politics, celebrity and illegal drugs. O'Neal plays a client, a famous actor, who is embroiled in a scandal that hurts his plans to become a senator.
Pesci as The Bull
Mafia hitman Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, to be exact.
Oscar-winner Joe Pesci is in negotiations to play the mobster for New Regency Productions. Gravano left the federal witness protection plan to go into partnership with a band of wealthy suburban kids selling ecstasy.
The film, tentatively titled Sammy the Bull, will only have Pesci's involvement if it is released as a feature film. Originally, New Regency was developing the project as a television movie.
"Bridget Jones" part II
Working Title Films, producer of the recent box office hit Bridget Jones's Diary, is already considering a sequel.
Based on Helen Fielding popular novel series, Working Title has optioned her second book Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and is negotiating with her for the screenplay.
The producers of other hits, such as Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill, have never previously made a sequel, "but when you get numbers like this, you've got to think about it," Working Title co-chairman Eric Fellner told Variety.
It is still undetermined whether Renee Zellweger will reprise her role, as well as Hugh Grant, whose smarmy character is not in the second novel.