Posts tagged #MIB

I'm looking for K, have you seen him? Sort of a surly, older gentleman, smiles like this...

The last MIB film came out in 2002. Quick mental math...that's ten years ago. I suspect there have been people wondering if the story of MIB3 was worth bringing back a film franchise that has been dormant for a decade. All I can say is that, in my opinion, this was definitely a story--the basics of which were conceived by Will Smith during the filming of MIB2--worthy of being told. A story worth bringing Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Barry Sonnenfeld, Steven Spielberg, Rick Baker, and Danny Elfman back together for. But, there's also a newcomer...who doesn't feel like a newcomer but rather one of those folks being brought back. Of course I'm referring to Josh Brolin, who plays a young K. But we'll get to that in a minute.

Though I had been excited about MIB3, so much so that I was concerned others might not be, it still took me by surprise how much of that kid at the movies feeling I had from the moment the Columbia Pictures logo faded up on the screen and the first two notes of Danny Elfman's minimal (but very fitting) MIB theme came booming out of the very powerful IMAX speakers. You know what I'm talking about, right? That feeling of "I've been so looking forward to this. I've been missing these characters, this particular movie world. Ah, there's the music. There's the opening titles done in that distinctive way. I'm seeing another MIB [or insert fiml franchise here] movie. This is great." It was a good feeling to have, and it continued throughout the film. From start to finish, it felt like a Men In Black film. The same quirky sense of humor. The same imaginative alien designs. The same great banter between the main characters. And yet, there was something different. Something new...or at least improved. That being heart.

Now, back to young K. "Young K? What's that all about?" Well Jerry, as anyone who knows anything about the movie knows, the plot involves time travel. The other day I read an article that named 10 conventions in current science fiction that, in that writer's mind at least, need to go away. One of them was time travel. After praising films like Back to the Future (at least he's safe from the wrath of Josh), he argued that time travel has been done to death and that no new interesting stories using said plot device can be told. I didn't agree with him when I read that, and I definitely don't agree with him now. The story of MIB3 is quite interesting, and the time-travel element is integral to it.

And while we're on the subject, let me just say that the handling of time travel was, in my opinion, very well done. The overall approach seems to be the Back to the Future Style (the past can be changed), with perhaps a bit of predestination paradox/Bill and Ted style thrown in as well (see our podcasts on The Terminator series for a discussion of what we've identified as the various approaches to time travel used in fiction). Using a BTTF style opens the door in terms of potential complexity, and also increases the likelihood that the writer(s) will make a goof somewhere. I didn't see any glaring examples of this though. Sure, not every question related to the time travel elements of the plot was answered. And honestly, I'm ok with that. What I consider to be the important questions were answered, so I was good.

On a less dorky level, the use of time travel was nice as it allowed the environments to be a bit more varied. In addition to modern day NYC which, let's be honest, is in lots of movies (I'm looking at you...umm...lots of movies), we also get to see late 1960's New York City (and a few other locales which shall remain nameless). This was a fun change of scenery, what with the big cars, 'interesting' clothes, 60's specific jokes, and canister-of-hairspray-emptying hairdos and all. Plus, and now maybe I'll finally get to it, it allows us to see Agent K as a younger man.

I'm not sure about anyone else, but for me, although just knowing there was a third MIB movie coming out was enough to motivate me to go see it, the first time I saw a trailer with Mr. Brolin as K, I was instantly excited. All he said was, "A'ight" and "How do you know my name?" But that's all it took. This movie was going to be great...or at least had the strong potential. (Had Tommy Lee Jones not been it at all I might have been skeptical. But since I'd already seen him in the trailer by the time Josh Brolin shows up, I was fine.) It was clear to me by just those couple of lines that Brolin had nailed the part. (When my wife first saw the trailer she wondered aloud if Tommy Lee Jones had dubbed the lines.) And the idea of a young K and a current day J together, with an actor so perfectly playing K, felt like it was going to be a lot of fun.

And it was. Maybe this is the newness talking, but I'm fairly certain this is my favorite MIB film. It's definitely my wife's. As we were talking about this on our way back to our minivan, she commented that she feels a bit bad about that, since Tommy Lee Jones isn't in the film as much as he was in the previous two. And that's when it consciously hit me just how great Josh Brolin did in the film. Don't get me wrong, I'd already consciously been thinking that he did an absolutely wonderful job. But when Liz made her observation, it hit me: Though true, it didn't feel like Tommy Lee Jones wasn't in the movie as much as in the previous two films. That's how great Mr. Brolin did. Upon leaving the movie theater I felt like I'd seen a movie with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.

But there's more to this sequel than a young Kevin Brown. The all-new characters are also done very well. The main villain, Boris (I'm not calling him The Animal, as I value my life), has sort of a no-good space-biker vibe going on (helped by the fact that in parts of the film he actually rides a bike). I could totally picture him driving through space (or the open roads of America) with "Bad to the Bone" playing in the background...except that I don't know if Boglodites have bones. Our heroes are aided through much of the film by Griffin, a 5-dimensional alien who, as Todd points out, is a very likeable and interesting character. He has a sort of innocence and child-like ability to find enjoyment to him that is heartwarming. On the other hand his knowledge of all the various ways the timeline could branch out makes not only for some enjoyable fast-moving dialogue, but also helps build dramatic tension. (By the way, how helpful would he have been to Sam Beckett and the rest of the folks working on Project Quantum Leap? Although Ziggy probably would have been jealous of him. She does have Barbra Streisand's ego after all.) As a bit of a side note, it also makes him appear to have a short attention span at times. In fact, part of me wondered if the ending of the movie would have Griffin changing his name and entering into the entertainment business under the alias Robin Williams. Weird, I know. But hey, that's what part of me was wondering.

As for the nuts and bolts of the film, all was executed well. The actors gave great performances, and the directing was consistently spot on. This is impressive since the film has humor, action, and poignancy. The art design and special effects, both cg and practical, looked great. The score was classic MIB (again, with more heart than the previous two installments). And as for the 3D, unlike some big 3D movies these days, MIB3 was shot in 3D. As a result, it looked great.

On the whole, running up to its release MIB3 might not have been getting the hype that The Avengers was, but in my opinion it deserved to. It's a great summer film and a great addition to the MIB series. As Todd said while the credits were rolling, "If they want to make another, I'd be perfectly ok with that." So make our wish come true...go see MIB3. (It's already turned a profit, but making even more money can't hurt.)

Oh, one last thing: Without delving into spoiler territory, I'll just say that NASA gets some visibility here. This is, in my book, always nice, but especially more so during this gap between the Space Shuttle and the next manned-spaceflight system.

Nod ya head.

 - Nic

Posted on June 5, 2012 .

!!Jada Pinkett Smith Finally Let Will Out Da House (My Review Of MIB 3)!!

My Delorean, strangely ended up in 1997!?!

Now, newly fresh and spoiler free!!

This is a momentous occasion. What you are about to read will be my first "written" movie review, ever! I feel oddly proud that I will be able to take the passion that I have for the great pastime of cinema and share my thoughts and feelings about it with all of you. More than likely, you (the reader) will not always agree with my humble observations. This is the way it should be (the way it was meant to be) and certainly the intention of those creative minds behind films as a whole. I have always said that if you feel something while you watch a movie, whether that is happiness, sadness, laughter, hate, love, suspense, fear, or anticipation, then the film makers did exactly what they intended to do. If you felt nothing (hard to believe, even if it was hate for everything about a film) then someone failed in the mandate of movies to immerse you in a different world (or you just have problems that you might want to see a specialist about). I don't think I have ever not felt anything when it comes to film. I am of the mind that even the worst films can have redeeming qualities (even if you have to make those qualities up on your own, ah la MST3K style. I'm looking at you "Manos: The Hands of Fate!").  My love of movies outweighs any flaws that I might find in a film. Does that mean that every movie I see is great and above criticism? Absolutely not, I may really like a movie but dislike some aspect of it. Case  in point, I love the Star Wars Prequels but I think that some of the dialog in some scenes (some would say most, not I) borders on the ridiculous. Like Harrison Ford said, "George can write this $***, you just can't say it." So my goal is to try to provide you with my honest opinion and maybe entertain you a little, so you can make up your own mind to go see a movie or not (so I basically do very little). So now you have a little background into my thought process let's get to the review (it's about time, gosh this guy is long winded).

I got to see (finally) "Men In Black 3" this weekend and the first thing that entered my mind when the movie ended was, "How did I end up in 1997?" Seriously, I felt like I had just seen the first "Men In Black" movie again. That's not to say that MIB 3 is exactly like the first one. What I mean is that I got the same feeling of fun and happiness that I felt the first time around. In my book, the first MIB is a classic. Will Smith can make a summer popcorn flick and we, as an audience, tend to follow the man on whatever adventure he has in store (he is a very likable guy). He is still the same guy from all those other movies, but here he seems more comfortable and laid back in his delivery. MIB has always been a two man show and Smith plays well with others. The buddy formula of the first movie really set it apart from the standard sci fi "one man against a overwhelming force" thing. These guys (the Men in Black) were proactive to the threats they faced, always on offense never in defensive mode. You put a dynamic actor, like Smith, with the stoic straight man (the masterful Tommy Lee Jones) and you can only have two outcomes. First, it could fail miserably and feel unnatural in its execution. Second, it could work like a charm and be one of the great comedy teams on film. Well, it worked in the first two MIBs, and I'm happy to say that it works for the third. It felt great to see these two actors playing off one another and in MIB 3 there is the added layer of many years spent together between Jay and Kay that really comes across in their shared performance.

MIB 3 has the standard "bad guy has grudge, bad guy escapes to exact revenge, bad guy goes after our heroes, bad guy has an elaborate plan to accomplish this, and then fun ensues". But this film has the added bonus of having actors that understand how to play off each other and a director who can handle both action and comedy. There were many reports from the set that talked about the unfinished state of the script when filming began. There was a break halfway through the production in order to finish the script. This would seem to indicate that there were major problems during filming. I am happy to report that the rumors of doom and gloom were greatly exaggerated (thank you Mark Twain for the quote).  This feels like a well thought out concept and the execution is handled well. This brings me to the time travel aspect.
As you may or may not know, Josh is a huge "Back to the Future" fan (I think he has a man crush on Doc Brown). He loves, as you would think, all things related to time travel (he can't actually go back in time, but he has tried) so he would be right at home with this movie. The creative forces behind MIB 3 handle the time travel aspect with all the well planned forethought of a bunch of the theoretical physicists on a marijuana bender. I can just imagine these guys sitting in a room, hitting the bong, and planning every possible outcome of everyone's story depending on the changes that Will Smith's Jay makes when he goes back to the past. The bulk of this planning shows up in the character of Griffin, played to the fullest by Michael Stuhlbarg. The multiple futures, seen by Griffin and then articulated by Stuhlbarg to the audience, had to have a planning session all to themselves (do you just use a whiteboard or is there an app for that?).  Griffin is a great character and Stuhlbarg is great in this movie. The time travel in MIB 3 works and does so well. It can be easy for a film maker to paint his or herself into a corner with this plot device, but it never feels like that happens here. It all seems natural and not overly complicated where it would be easy to lose the audience.

Can I just say (because I'm going to anyway), that Rick Baker is a master. The man is a national treasure and the world of film is better because of his work. From Star Wars right up to this movie, he has always delivered some of the best makeup effects ever seen on celluloid (and digital too). Even in movies that were panned by critics, Mr. Baker's designs and executions have never been in question. It is no different here. The  Contrast between the aliens of today as opposed to the aliens of yesteryear is breathtaking to behold. Mr. Baker has won his share of Oscars, but the current trend of giving the award to those who do minimal facial work, while certainly not to be discounted because it does take skill to do that aspect too,  is a disservice to the incredible work that he brings to every film he works on. I'm not saying that he should be an automatic win at the Academy Awards (yes I am) but let's be truthful the man is the pinnacle of physical makeup effects (holy cow, this guy's a fanboy and have you noticed how he talks in third person sometimes? That's just weird...  wait, what?).
The bad guy in MIB 3 reminded me a lot of that character in the first film (played by Vincent D'Onofrio). Here he's played by Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords fame (also those funny Outback commercials from not so long ago). If you don't know who that is stop reading right now, go to youtube (look, I gave you a link), and search for the Hiphopapotamus vs. the Rhymenocerous, and then come back...  go ahead I'll wait.
Back? Good, let's move on.

Here Clement is in another zone entirely. Gone is the affable weirdness he shows in his comedy acts and in its place we have this evil creature bent on the destruction of Agent Kay. If I hadn't known going in that it was him and couldn't place his voice (which at times is highly masked behind voice modulation) it would have floored me to find out who was playing the character of Boris the Animal (don't call him the Animal). If Clement is this versatile an actor, hey Hollywood sign this man up for as many roles as possible.
Which brings me to the pièce de résistance (oh sorry, I used French there. That was uncalled for), Josh Brolin. Josh Brolin is a god (not "the God", but a god) and he proves that here, for like the hundredth time. Why does someone not cryogenically freeze Josh Brolin's sperm, then impregnate as many women as they can find (willing of course) so that those mini Josh Brolins can grow into big Josh Brolins and then we can enjoy his acting for decades to come? WHY?!? Sorry, got a little carried away there. But like I was saying, Josh Brolin is fantastic in MIB 3. He is not just doing an impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones he literally becomes Agent Kay as a younger man. He had me convinced that they were the same person just separated by many years. It's not too over the top and it's not too understated, it's just right. Only an actor of Josh Brolin's talent could pull this off and he does so in spades. If for nothing else, see this movie for Josh Brolin alone.

This movie only works if everyone from the original productions are back. Thankfully they are. From Steven Spielberg as executive producer (a role that no one really acknowledges him for) to the director Barry Sonnenfeld, this movie is dead in the water without their guiding force. It is also nice to see Danny Elfman back to do the score. I don't always like everything that he does (too repetitive), but without his music it wouldn't have felt like Men In Black. Everyone put in a top notch effort and it shows on the screen. Thank you very much.

From the return of action stars like Stallone and Schwarzenegger to the journey of Ridley Scott back to the world of "Alien" in "Prometheus", I can't help but feel like that young man who could not wait to get into a theater to see the latest blockbuster. Men In Black 3 is just another welcome return to a beloved and familiar series. It adds a layer of understanding to these characters and their world that takes me right back to the happiness It felt like seeing Men In Black (the original) for the first time. It also adds a wonderful bit of heart to the relationship between Jay and Kay that I was not expecting (and I always like surprises). As much as I liked The Avengers, I had just as much fun watching MIB 3. I could not recommend this movie more. Quit reading my silly comments and go see MIB 3 now. What are you waiting for? Huey Lewis to sing you a song?

Todd (just bounce with me) B.

For the record, My infant daughter thought it was "just alright, nothing special." Can't win'em all I guess!?!


We'll have a full review (or maybe reviews) up later. But I just wanted to post a that Todd and I (and our respective wives and Todd's new baby) saw MIB3 last night. We both highly recommend it. I don't know about Todd, but I think it's actually my favorite of the three. It has the same quirky sense of humor as the other two, but also adds in some heart. And the 3D was done very well.

So if you haven't seen it, GO!

 - Nic

Posted on June 3, 2012 .