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.
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
The Chicago moviemaker accepted the Jason Robards Award at the Roundabout Theatre Company's Spring Gala, and during the event at Manhattan's Hammerstein Ballroom, he received tributes from many of the attendees including Gere and Julie Andrews.
Marshall also received messages from absent friends Alan Cumming, Sophia Loren, Marion Cotillard and Daniel Day-Lewis, as well as Dame Judi Dench and director Sam Mendes, who are currently filming the new Bond movie in the U.K.
The gala, which was hosted by funnyman Martin Short and featured performances of famous movie songs, raised more than $2 million (£1.3 million) for charity and some of the proceeds came from the night's auction.
Prizes included a walk-on role in TV show Smash, lunch with composer Stephen Sondheim, and a voicemail message from last year's (11) honouree, Alec Baldwin.
The 30 Rock actor joked about his auction prize by telling the crowd, "I know you're probably thinking I'm the last person you'd want to record the voicemail greeting on your phone," in reference to his infamous 2007 voicemail rant to his daughter Ireland.
Baldwin went on to persuade a number of other stars in the audience, including Julie Andrews, Jeff Goldblum, Vanessa Williams and Jane Krakowski, to also offer up voicemail greetings as prizes.
The Spanish star played lead male character Guido on the award-winning Broadway show before it was turned into a film starring Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman and Kate Hudson.
Banderas admits he was originally disappointed when he was dropped from the cast and replaced with Daniel Day-Lewis, but now he's adamant he's pleased he didn't make the cut.
Banderas tells Empire magazine, "I was a little bit (disappointed), at the beginning. Not for anything special, just because I had an interview with (director) Rob Marshall in New York and he practically said, 'You're going to do it.' And then they didn't pick me up. It was weird because he didn't even call me and just tell me, 'Antonio, I'm sorry...' or whatever.
"But then I thought it happened for the same reason that I left the show in the moment of most success: because sometimes things like that happen in life that are very good and you don't want them to be spoiled.
"(The Broadway production) was eight months, 230 performances, two hours and 45 minutes every day on the stage. And I was very tired. I was thinking, 'I don't want to drag myself onto the stage... I have to get out of here.' And the producers went, 'What the f**k are you doing, man? Everybody is wanting to have what you have every night... We won the Tony! It's great.' And I said, 'Yeah, but I want to keep this in a stand in my home: this beautiful package with a pink ribbon saying, 'I did this and I left at the right moment and it was perfect.'
"And the movie could have broken that, too. In fact, it would have. Because... I wasn't crazy about the movie. It was like a Champagne commercial. I liked Penelope though, in it! And Marion Cotillard."
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
The Tourist is about as difficult to get through as spotting the vowels in the name of its director. Florian Henckel von Donnersmark was last seen receiving a Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2007 for The Lives of Others which was about a couple living in East Berlin who were being monitored by the police of the German Democratic Republic. Its positive reception made way for the assumption that Donnersmark would continue to populate the USA with films of seemingly otherworldly and underrepresented themes. But his current project is saddening in its superficiality and total implausibility.
The film’s only real upside is its stars: two of our most prized Americans. Johnny Depp plays Frank Tupelo a math teacher from Wisconsin who travels to Europe after his wife leaves him presumably because of his weakness and simplicity. While en route to Venice he meets Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie) who situates herself in his company after she receives a letter from her criminal lover Alexander Pearce (who stole some billions from a very wealthy Russian and the British government) with instructions to find someone on a train who looks like him and make the police believe that he is the real Alexander Pearce to throw the authorities and the Russians off his track. Elise picks Frank and after they are photographed kissing each other on the balcony of Elise’s hotel everyone begins to believe Frank is the real Pearce and so begins the chase.
While Donnersmark could not have picked two better looking people to film roaming around Venice his lack of faith in the audience is obvious. Every aspect of the characters is hammed up again and again as if Donnersmark felt burdened with the task of making us see his vision. Doubtful that we’re capable of getting to where he wants us he has crafted a movie completely devoid of subtlety. Elise’s strength and superiority over Frank are portrayed by close-ups and repeated instances of men burping up their lungs upon seeing her (as if her beauty is in any way subjective?). And in case we forgot that Frank is the victim in this story -- even though he’s been tricked chased and shot at - Donnersmark still felt the need to pin him with a lame electronic cigarette to puff on. Frank and Elise somehow manage to lack mystery even though we get very few factual details about each of them.
Nothing extraordinary comes to us in the way of the film’s structural elements either. There is very little of the action that The Tourist’s marketing led us to believe and the dialog is often painful. The plot itself is almost shockingly unbelievable especially when we’re asked to believe that Elise falls in love with Frank after a combination of kissing him once and her disclosed habit of swooning over men she only spent an hour with (yes that was on her CV).
The Tourist is rather empty and cosmetic. It’s worth seeing if you’re a superfan of Jolie or Depp but don’t expect to walk out of the theater with anything more than the stub you came in with.
Salt the propulsive new thriller from Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger Patriot Games) has been dubbed “Bourne with boobs ” but that label isn’t entirely accurate. In the role of Evelyn Salt a CIA staffer hunted by her own agency after a Russian defector fingers her in a plot to murder Russia’s president Angelina Jolie keeps her two most potent weapons holstered hidden under pantsuits and trenchcoats and the various other components of a super-spy wardrobe that proudly emphasizes function over flash.
But flash is one thing Salt never lacks for. Its breathless cat-and-mouse game hits full-throttle almost from the outset when a former KGB officer named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) stumbles into a CIA interrogation room and begins spilling details of a vast conspiracy. Back in the ‘70s hardline elements of the Soviet regime launched an ambitious new front in the Cold War flooding the western world with orphans trained to infiltrate the security complexes of their adopted homelands and wait patiently — decades if necessary — for the order to initiate a series of assassinations intended to trigger a devastating nuclear clash between the superpowers from which the treacherous Reds would emerge triumphant.
The Soviet Union may have long ago collapsed (or did it? Hmmm...) but its army of brainwashed killer orphan spies remains in place and if this crazy Orlov fellow is to be believed they stand poised to reignite the Cold War. It’s a preposterous — even idiotic — scheme but no more so than any of our government’s various harebrained proposals to kill Castro back in the ‘60s. As such the CIA treats it with grave seriousness even the part that that pegs Salt who just happens to be a Russian-born orphan herself as a key player in the conspiracy.
Salt bristles at the accusation but suspecting a set-up she opts to flee rather than face interrogation from her bosses Winter (Liev Schreiber) and Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor). A former field agent she’s been confined to a desk job since a clandestine operation in North Korea went south leaving her with a nasty shiner and a rather unremarkable German boyfriend (now her unremarkable German husband). She’s clearly kept up her training during while cubicle-bound however and in a blaze of resourceful thinking and devastating Parkour Fu she fends off a dozen or so agents of questionable competence and takes to the streets where she sets about to clear her name and unravel the Commie orphan conspiracy before the authorities can catch up with her. That is if she isn’t a part of the conspiracy.
The premise which aims to resurrect Cold War tensions and graft them onto a modern-day spy thriller is absurdly clever — and cleverly absurd. But Kurt Wimmer’s screenplay isn’t satisfied with the merely clever and absurd — it must be mind-blowing. Salt is one of those thrillers that ladles out its backstory slowly and in tiny portions every once in a while dropping a revelatory bombshell that effectively blows the lid off everything that happened beforehand. No one is who they seem and every action every gesture no matter how seemingly trivial is imbued with some kind of grand significance. The effect of piling on one insane twist after another has the effect of gradually diluting the narrative. When anything is possible nothing really matters.
But spy thrillers by definition trade in the preposterous and the principal function of the summer blockbuster is to entertain. In that regard Salt more than fulfills its charge. Noyce wisely keeps the story moving at pace that allows little time for asking uncomfortable questions or poking holes in the film’s frail plot. And he has an able partner in the infinitely versatile Jolie who having already exhibited formidable action-hero chops in Wanted and the Tomb Raider films proves remarkably adept at the spy game as well.
It’s well-known that Jolie wasn’t the first choice to star in Salt joining the project only after Tom Cruise dropped out citing the story’s growing similarities to the Mission: Impossible films. But she’s more than just a capable replacement; she’s a welcome upgrade over Cruise not least because she’s over a decade younger (and a few inches taller) than her predecessor. Should Brad Bird require a pinch-hitter for Ethan Hunt he knows where to look.
Cotillard, who was previously feted at the event in 2008 for her role in La Vie En Rose, will take home the best actress prize for her performance in movie-musical Nine.
Tarantino will be handed the Sonny Bono Visionary Award, named after the festival's founder, for his contribution to film.
A statement from festival chairman Harold Matzner reads, "Following a distinguished career in French cinema, Marion Cotillard has firmly established herself as a major actress in American films. Her performance in Rob Marshall’s Nine is nothing short of breathtaking.
"Quentin Tarantino is one of the most gifted, iconoclastic film-makers of his generation, and with Inglourious Basterds, he’s created a hugely entertaining, revisionist take on history as it might have been.”
British actress Dame Helen Mirren is slated to pick up the coveted Career Achievement Award at the festival's gala prizegiving on 5 January (10), at the Palm Springs Convention Center.
The festival, which will run from 5-18 January (10), was set up in 1990 by the city's then-Mayor, singer-songwriter Sonny Bono, who turned to politics before his death in 1998.
Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds and movie musical Nine are leading the awards-season charge with 10 nominations apiece from the Broadcast Film Critics Association.
The World War II film and Rob Marshall's all-star musical will both compete for the coveted Best Picture prize at the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, alongside Avatar, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Invictus, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, and Up in the Air.
James Cameron's epic Avatar picked up nine nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, while The Hurt Locker and Up in the Air received eight nominations, and The Lovely Bones and Precious each scored six.
George Clooney will battle it out in the Best Actor category for his role in Up in the Air, alongside Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart), Colin Firth (A Single Man), Morgan Freeman (Invictus), Viggo Mortensen (The Road), and Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker).
In the Best Actress category, Emily Blunt has won a nomination for The Young Victoria, along with Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side. They will go up against Carey Mulligan (An Education), Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), and Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia).
The filmmakers nominated for Best Direction include Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds and James Cameron for Avatar, along with Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), Lee Daniels (Precious), Clint Eastwood (Invictus) and Jason Reitman (Up in the Air).
The Critics Choice Awards will take place on Jan. 15 in Los Angeles.
The main list of nominees is as follows:
The Hurt Locker
A Serious Man
Up In the Air
Jeff Bridges - Crazy Heart
George Clooney - Up In The Air
Colin Firth - A Single Man
Morgan Freeman - Invictus
Viggo Mortensen - The Road
Jeremy Renner - The Hurt Locker
Emily Blunt - The Young Victoria
Sandra Bullock - The Blind Side
Carey Mulligan - An Education
Saoirse Ronan - The Lovely Bones
Gabourey Sidibe - Precious
Meryl Streep - Julie & Julia
Best Supporting Actor:
Matt Damon - Invictus
Woody Harrelson - The Messenger
Christian McKay - Me & Orson Welles
Alfred Molina - An Education
Stanley Tucci - The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz - Inglourious Basterds
Best Supporting Actress:
Marion Cotillard - Nine
Vera Farmiga - Up In The Air
Anna Kendrick - Up In The Air
Mo'Nique - Precious
Julianne Moore - A Single Man
Samantha Morton - The Messenger
Best Acting Ensemble:
Up In the Air
Kathryn Bigelow - The Hurt Locker
James Cameron - Avatar
Lee Daniels - Precious
Clint Eastwood - Invictus
Jason Reitman - Up In the Air
Quentin Tarantino - Inglourious Basterds
(c) 2009 WORLD ENTERTAINMENT NEWS NETWORK LTD. All global rights reserved. No unauthorized copying or re-distributing permitted.
Star-studded movie musical Nine is leading the way at the 14th annual Satellite Awards with 11 nominations.
Rob Marshall's movie spectacular, adapted from the Broadway hit, could be the ceremony's big winner, as stars Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard and Daniel Day-Lewis all compete for top acting honors.
Nine will also go up against The Informant, It's Complicated, Julie & Julia, A Serious Man and Up in the Air for the Best Picture in the Comedy or Musical category.
Meanwhile, the highly acclaimed Precious has been shortlisted for Best Drama, along with Bright Star, An Education, The Hurt Locker, The Messenger and The Stoning of Soraya M..
The awards, selected by the International Press Academy, will be handed out on Dec. 20 in Los Angeles.
(c) 2009 WORLD ENTERTAINMENT NEWS NETWORK LTD. All global rights reserved. No unauthorized copying or re-distributing permitted.