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.
Out of the 10,000 pop star hopefuls competing to become an overnight "American Idol," one shone brightest: Kelly Clarkson.
The 20-year-old Texan with a booming set of pipes beat out rival Justin Guarini based on more than 15 million telephone votes. Clarkson's win, however, was no landslide; she captured 52 percent of the vote, defeating Guarini by a slim margin.
The two hugged after the winner was announced, and Clarkson held back tears as she belted out her final song for the night, her rendition of "A Moment Like This."
For the first time since the show debuted on June 11, judges Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell all agreed on one thing: Clarkson was most deserving of the title.
"Kelly, your voice makes grown men cry and young boys wish they were grown men," Abdul gushed.
There was no argument from Guarini. "Kelly Clarkson deserves it," the 23-year-old from Doylestown, Pa., said backstage. "I can't sing those songs nearly as good as she can."
Wednesday's two-hour finale featured the 10 finalists singing '60s and Motown-inspired medleys, peppered with hits like the Temptations' "My Girl," The Drifters' "Under the Boardwalk" and Janis Joplin's "Piece of my Heart." Clarkson and Guarini also performed a duet of "It Takes Two."
In fact, Clarkson said she and Guarini are planning to write a song together that they will perform as a duet on her debut album slated for release Sept. 26.
Clarkson now walks away with a recording contract with RCA Records, a management deal with 19 Management--the British agency behind the show and a lot of British pop stars--and an upcoming American Idol tour. She will also join the show's 30 finalists for a live performance in Las Vegas on Sept. 23 and her debut single, "For Your Love," is set for release Nov. 17. Not bad for a former cocktail waitress from Burleson, Tex.
Other finalists may also land recording deals, but are barred from releasing any music until three months after Clarkson releases her album.
All of them are also contractually bound to record for Cowell's label, S Records, and be represented by 19 Management. The finalists, however, will be free to record for other labels if Cowell and 19 Management don't exercise their options after a given grace period.
Here's an update on the other nine American Idol finalists.
Justin Guarini: In addition to his duet with Clarkson, Cowell also has said that he would work with Justin, provided RCA agrees. He'll join the upcoming American Idol tour and the live performance in Las Vegas on Sept. 23.
Nikki McKibbin: When Nikki got tossed, the judges basically all said, "Good luck and good for you for getting this far." To date, McKibbin has not had any recording contract offers. McKibbin will take part in the upcoming American Idol tour and the live performance in Las Vegas on Sept. 23.
Tamyra Gray: When Gray was voted off, all three visibly upset judges said they would help her in any way. Obviously they meant what they said: Just a week after her exit, Gray signed a management deal with one of the show's producers, her first step on the path to a music career. 19 Management has picked up an option to manage Gray, who was once considered by fans and the judges to be a shoo-in for one of the final slots, if not the winner. Gray will take part in the upcoming American Idol tour and join the show's 30 finalists for a live performance in Las Vegas on Sept. 23.
RJ Helton, Christina Christian (pictured right), Ryan Starr, A.J. Gill, EJay Day, Jim Verraros: All will take part in the upcoming American Idol tour and join the show's 30 finalists for a live performance in Las Vegas on Sept. 23.
The Fox network hopes to produce a sequel to the hit reality series American Idol: The Search for a Superstar in time for a January or February bow, Variety reports. The show, which premiered June 11, has averaged 9.8 million viewers over a six-week period. It follows wanna-be pop stars competing for a recording contract, with viewers eliminating contestants via viewer phone calls. British judge Simon Cowell is expected to return, but it's uncertain whether judges Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson, as well as hosts Brian Dunkleman and Ryan Seacrest, will return for the second installment.
Leadfoot publicist Lizzie Grubman, who mowed down 16 people outside the Conscience Point Inn in Southampton with her Mercedes SUV last July, broke down in a tearful apology after a judge said he would soon set a date for her trial. The 31-year-old has pleaded innocent to a 26-count indictment for second-and third-degree assault, vehicular assault, leaving the scene of an accident and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. If convicted, she faces seven years behind bars.
The 1960s British cult TV series Thunderbirds, which used puppets and models in a process dubbed "supermarionation," will be turned into a live-action movie to be directed by Jonathan Frakes, Variety reports. Frakes, who played Commander William Riker on the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation, last directed the children's adventure Clockstoppers for Paramount Pictures.
Twentieth Century Fox will produce a Bollywood thriller called Ek Hasina Thi, with Ram Gopal Varma attached to direct. A Fox official told Variety this is the first time a Hindi film will be produced by a foreign company. The film is expected to start shooting in August.
The Simpsons will make its 14th season debut this fall in an episode titled How I Spent My Summer Vacation, featuring rockers Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Tom Petty, Brian Setzer, Lenny Kravitz and Elvis Costello. But according to Reuters, there are more star cameos to come next season by skate legend Tony Hawk, Blink 182, Adam West, Little Richard and David Lander (Squiggy from Laverne & Shirley). The show's executive producer, James L. Brooks, will also appear as himself in the upcoming episode A Star Is Born Again with Marisa Tomei.
In other Simpsons news, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has renamed several hundred drainage ponds at highway interchanges after characters from The Simpsons, including Apu, Clancy Wiggum, Maggie, Seymour, Bart, Barney and Milhouse. State hydrologist Patrick McLarnon told The Associate Press it was a better naming scheme than the numbers and letters system previously used.
Rapper Mystikal, whose real name is Michael Tyler, and two other men were jailed Thursday on charges they raped an acquaintance at his house, the AP reports. All three were also charged with extortion. Tyler allegedly threatened to tell police that the 40-year-old woman had received checks from the rapper's account without his permission when she showed up at his house on July 3. He also threatened to hurt her with bodily harm is she did not comply. If convicted of aggravated rape charges, Tyler could face a mandatory life sentence.