Men in Black II July 3, 2002 89 min United States (English) Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld Written by Robert Gordon and Barry Fanaro
If you've seen "Men in Black" you've seen what "Men in Black II" can only hope to be again and falls short in trying. Our world is yet again threatened when Kylothian queen (Lara Flynn Boyle in human form) lands on Earth and seeks for the Light of Zartha. Despite the foreign terms the film's plot is pretty simple to follow, mainly because it is basically the same rehashed plot of the first film. It is up the Men in Black to rescue their fellow oblivious Earthlings. Agent J (Will Smith) is on the job, the only problem is he needs a partner. Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) retired at the end of the first movie (belated spoiler alert), but during his legendary career with the agency he dealt with this crowd before. What follows is a pretty amusing scene where Agent J has to re-recruit Agent K who is now civilized and working at a post office. The "Twilight Zone" inspired faux-TV show used from the start to deliver the exposition is clever and it shows up again with a fun scene with David Cross. Besides these moments there is not a lot of novel enjoyment to be had. Boyle has fun playing the villain but Johnny Knoxville as her two-headed idiotic sidekick is as stupid as it sounds. Aliens come and go without much threat or significance. The absurd yet not-so-humorous misadventures along the way drag things even further. The film's (anti)climax is even weaker than the first. Rosario Dawson adds her pretty face to the scenery, but the potential romance between her and Agent J comes from nowhere and returns from whence it came. Unless you are absolutely craving to see some new alien designs, because Rick Baker and his talented team return, you can absolutely afford to miss out on this sigh of a sequel.
Clocking in at just over thirty seconds, the trailer for "Extraterrestrial" has me extremely intrigued. Spanish writer/director Nacho Vigalondo is being called "the Woody Allen of science-fiction," but we don't really see much to support that claim. We see some of the alien invasion the morning Julio wakes up from his one night stand with Julia, though it becomes clear that her ex-boyfriend might be more of a threat. This will receive a very limited release on June 15th.
Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgarton play parents who cannot seem to conceive a child and so they grow one. "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" is a family fantasy film that showers us with an "it's okay to be different" message. On top of that this appears to be yet another plot summary trailer. Writer/director Peter Hedges ("What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" and "Dan in Real Life") plants this seed in theaters everywhere on August 15th.
"Wreck-It Ralph" recently made the top ten list of films I'm most looking forward to for the last half of the year. From Disney Animation comes the story of Wreck-It Ralph, a popular arcade game character who is sick and tired of playing the bad guy. So he leaves his game and enters another. Think "Roger Rabbit" meets "Tron." Dorkly, a site for gamers, commented, "Movies based on videogames always suck, so maybe making one up will help.” (For more on this topic see "And the Random" below.) Fun cameos and dazzling visuals are a plus, but it is this novel concept that is pulling me into theaters on November 2nd.
Remember the memorable plane crash on the onset of "Cast Away"? Well, director Robert Zemeckis will likely top his own with "Flight." iTunes is calling this thing an action-packed mystery thriller as well as a drama. The trailer is very intriguing as well. Denzel Washington is responsible for a miraculous landing after the commercial airline he pilots heads for the ground. The gist of the film takes place during the aftermath where we see how he deals with celebrity status from some and speculation by others. There is something this trailer is not telling us and that is great advertising. November 2nd if you want to know more.
Yeehaw all ya want, I reckon it's prime time for the Trailer Round-Up Awards!
Yet another trailer for "The Expendables 2" has been unleashed upon our senses. This time around we hear an array of one-liners from the action stars of yesterday and today. A painfully CGI plane is hard to forget among the snippets of their warfare. The first film was not received particularly well and I have a sinking feeling this will follow suite. August 17th if you care.
Lasso of the Week:
Speaking of the films I'm most looking forward to this year, last week the trailer for Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" set the internet ablaze as film geeks marveled at what looks to be an exceptionally fun time in theaters this Christmas. Jamie Foxx (a freed slave) and Christoph Waltz (a bounty hunter) embark on a quest to free Django's wife from the infamous Brittle Brothers. Expect an expertly photographed (Robert Richardson is on the job), cleverly written, and uniquely action-packed Western. This is Tarantino's follow-up to the bloody brilliance of "Inglourious Basterds," our expectations are high. Also, what a fabulous selection of music to sell the trailer!
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Check out this retro fan-made take on last weekend's big release. Everything here calls attention from our eyes making for a very alluring poster. The 3D and Cinemascope icons look so right among the clutter. And how about that face creeping in from the back?
Here's an actual poster used in the "Prometheus" ad campaign. One astronaut sheds light on something big... It creates the ideal feel for this IMAX event film. It's minimalist and marvelous.
Screen Crush discloses their "10 Best Movies of 2012." I still haven't seen half of these, but strongly approve of the ones I have.
Gizmodo has a list of over 500 full-length movies that you and I can stream for free!
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With each passing day we get closer to December (or as I like to call it, The Month of the Hobbit). To hold us LOTR-geeks over until then they've released another production diary!
"The Secret World of Arrietty" is one of the best films of the year. I was so happy to finally be able to see a Studio Ghibli film in theaters. As it turns out, that will not be a rarity. "From Up on Poppy Hill" will be distributed in the States next March! (Source: Variety)
"Tangled" was a huge success for Disney Animation. The team's first CGI musical since that tale will be "Frozen" (not to be confused with the somewhat worthwhile horror film). This is an adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson story, "The Snow Queen." Idina Menzel (of "Wicked" fame) will lend her voice to the Snow Queen herself. More interesting is that Robert Lopez, who helped write the music for "The Book of Mormon" musical on Broadyway will be taking care of the songs. Look for it on November 17th, 2013. (Source: The Film Stage)
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There's a blog called "Roger Ebert's Worst Reviews" entirely dedicated to slamming certain critiques from the king of film criticism. Guess how I found out about it... a Rober Ebert tweet. He himself admits some of these are not so good.
Here's Scott Mendelson with his weekly "Weekend Box Office." "Madagascar 3" actually came in at number one over "Prometheus"!
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OR THE COOL
If you saw "Prometheus" over the weekend you also saw one of the best performances of the year so far in Micchael Fassbender's Dave, an android. Slate put out a pretty interesting post about other robot performances (good and bad).
Keeping on with this zeitgeist-of-a-motion-picture you should check out the newest edition of "Spoilers," the movie love fest hosted by Kevin Smith. Not only is their subject "Prometheus," but they have screenwriter Damon Lindelof as a guest.
There's a line in "Prometheus" about God not building in straight lines. Slate has a rebuttal to this.
Men in Black July 2, 1997 98 min United States (English)
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld Written by Ed Solomon
"Men in Black" was fun then and still is. Science fiction comedies rarely work this well and the lead partnership is the reason it succeeds amongst its misdeeds.
Barry Sonnenfeld's adaptation of the Marvel comics was one of the standout blockbusters of the 1990s. At its essence, this is a buddy-cop movie, only instead of a serial killer or terrorist in Manhattan they must contend with extraterrestrial visitors who do not have our planet's best interests in mind. The seasoned Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) seeks to recruit a fresh whippersnapper from the NYPD, James (Will Smith). The memorable examination process to determine if James, among others, is Men in Black material remains memorable and entertaining after all these years. As we could expect, James chooses to forfeit the only life he's known in exchange for the secrets of the universe. "Imagine what you'll know tomorrow," Agent K tells James as they watch the sun set on another day in New York City. He becomes simply known as Agent J.
Jones is a little bit country while Will Smith is whole lot of hip-hop. The old/young white/back polarizing partnership is as good as any story and remains the key relationship throughout the film. The result is consistently and cleverly funny. Together (but not always together) they contend with Earth's unwanted guest who has taken human form in an unforgettable performance by Vincent D'Onofrio. Most of the supporting cast do their part to keep things fun.
While the CGI is dreadfully dated, the makeup and effects by the legendary Rick Baker ("The Exorcist" and "An American Werewolf in London") are highlights along the ride. The film's climax has all sorts of pacing issues, but a good sense of humor and plenty of payoffs go a long ways to make "Men in Black" the fond film that it is
CONTENT: language, sexual humor, and sci-fi violence
Prometheus June 8, 2012 124 min United States (English) Directed by Ridley Scott Written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof
You'd be hard pressed to find a more visually impressive film than "Prometheus." However, this exquisite science fiction also confounds those most eager to see it. "Prometheus" is the kind of film I could write exquisite poetry about... the kind that glistens with love and weeps with lament. In fact, I'm going to stray from traditional review format (if I even have one here in "the tome") and do so: O Prometheus That I could always gaze upon your rays and never look away O Prometheus That I might someday better understand your ways and strive to ne'er disobey O Prometheus That David could attend each moment that he might sleep and dream O Prometheus What the hell happened here?! The crew of "Prometheus" approach LV-223, a moon over two years of space travel away. The year? 2093. Their mission? Find our makers. Led by Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Repace), who found a star map leading them here from her archeological digs all over Earth, they land and explore what appears to be a preexisting structure. The film takes off with a simple concept and a completely coherent geography that is crucial to the on-ship/off-ship thriller that follows. We actually see how a certain area is scanned and mapped. This overall effort appears to be the film's greatest strength: It shows us things so very well. Ever since I heard of Ridley Scott returning to form with this prequel to "Alien" (let's not pretend it's not) I have been most attentive. The early images were geek-worthy for taping inside our gym locker doors. Then the trailer made us bow down in unison. I am so happy to report that "Prometheus" fully delivers in terms of a galactic vision. I would go so far to say this is one of the most visually impressive films of our day. The technical competence on display is a staggering achievement this side of "Avatar." Speaking of which, see this in 3D if you get the chance. It makes the splendor all the more splendid. All this praised, the "Prometheus" ventures off the fulfilling track of the first half with one head-scratching scene after another. Motivations and intentions get lost in space as we try to follow the crew and their decisions. The most interesting character is David and he's an android and he's played brilliantly by Michael Fassbender. Even though some of the film's best moments take place in the latter half (including a scene reminiscent of Scott's original film, only astonishingly superior) it is hard not to be disappointed for such a highly anticipated film. One significant nitpick: How could a film that is this groundbreaking in filmmaking have some of the worst "old man" make-up in the history of cinema? Would it hurt to cast a senior citizen for an age-appropriate role? Unbelievable. At one point Shaw states that she deserves to know why another character changed his/her mind (a very crucial piece of the plot). I think we deserve to know that too, among a dozen other things. I am anguished over "Prometheus" as my poem should demonstrate. Fans of the "Alien" franchise will no doubt have lots to talk about afterwards (as I've done with a few people now), but they may not be able to make sense of it all. These outside influences should not affect this outing in and of itself, but even as a standalone story it has significant let downs and complications. "Prometheus" is amazing, you can quote me on that, but it could have been so much more with a cleaned up script.
CONTENT: some graphic violence, extremely disturbing images, and brief language
Attack the Block May 11, 2011 88 min United Kingdom (English) Written and Directed by Joe Cornish
"Attack the Block" is an alien invasion film like we've never seen before. By the end of the night it will likely win over audiences just looking for a good time, but is ultimately redeemed by the lead character/actor. Remember the London riots that went down last year? This indie British film could not have picked a better/worse time to find an audience. We follow a motley yet adolescent crew of street thugs on a night in the hood. They mug a young white woman (Jodie Whittaker). Then they kill a baby alien. It is going to be a long night, but the film clicks along (to the sensational soundtrack of Basement Jaxx) at a brisk enough pace. That said, "Attack the Block" can still feel long and rehashed at moments. Teen actors, second only to child actors, can be an absolute curse. The cast here may be young, but they are extremely talented. Front and center is Moses in a terrific lead performance by John Boyega. He gives the otherwise nothing-but-summer-fun film real heart and worth. In fact, if it weren't for him I would have dismissed the film for too much stoner comedy (and the like) and hardly any substance. I had the blessed opportunity to see "Attack the Block" at a special screening in the L.A. Film School last summer (part of a the former Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith series) . Writer/director Joe Cornish was in attendance. After the Q&A I was able to briefly chat with Cornish about the alien design in this film. Rotoscoping was used to achieve their iconic appearance. We referenced the Ralph Bakshi animated "classic," "The Lord of the Rings." They remain an interesting part of the story throughout. Just wait for a slow motion sequence with Moses being chased, it is one of the best scenes from 2011. (Yes, slo-mo is one of those things I love/hate. There is no in-between. Here I loved.)
CONTENT: strong language, drug content, violence (all involving minors)
College September 27, 1927 66 min United States (English)
Directed by James W. Home and Buster Keaton Written by Bryan Foy and Carl Harbaugh
Buster Keaton proves his place as one of the great silent comedians yet again in "College."
The film commences upon high school graduation. Ronald (Keaton) is awarded for his excellence in academics and speaks about "the curse of the athlete," much to the approval of his teachers and principal, but much to the chagrin of his fellow graduates. The love-interest Mary (Anne Cornwall) informs Ronald that unless he changes his mind about sports, she won't change her mind about him. Ronald goes to college, not to further his education, but to win the heart of Mary. So many Keaton classics follow this same mantra. This doesn't make it stale, rather, straightforward. Besides, it is difficult for such premises to become humdrum when Keaton and his collaborators fashion up one genius hilarity after another.
It is a simple set up, which paves the road for many gags along the way. My favorite has to be when Ronald is bullied and tossed up and down with a blanket by his peers. This takes place outside a woman's window while she dresses. Ronald is not so much interested in her as he is his own safety, he pulls out an umbrella to slow-down his fall. It works!
As you'd expect, Ronald tries his hand at baseball, track, and field all to win Mary over. Crazy antics ensue each time. We also see the part-time jobs he tries his hand at. Keaton dons blackface to work as a colored waiter in one madcap side plot. At just over an hour this film never loses steam. In fact, I am confident they could have successfully and easily made a three-hour epic out of this; many sports are completely left untouched. This nimble showpiece has perfect payoffs that result in an incredible climax and a truly daft denouement. Put this one in the hall of fame.
So, this guy lost a bet and had to get Edward (from "Twilight") tattooed on his leg. Talk about embarrassing! Luckily a skilled tattoo artist was able to perform an emergency coverup. RUFIO! RUFIO! RUFIO!
(Festival de Cannes wrapped a week from yesterday. If you want to see trailers and clips from all films that were in competition click here.)
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" made a splash at Sundance (where I saw it) and skipped across the pond where it won at Cannes for its cinematography. It is a very imaginatively visual film, but the heart rests in its very young star, Quvenzhane Wallis. The film will receive a limited release on June 27th. Expect a review from me sometime soon.
We now have a third trailer for "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter." This film taking itself so seriously is one of its strongest assets. The Gettysberg Address is juxtoposed with the vampires of 19th Century America. A strong vocalized chorus brings the action to an epic home for a film some of us are very excited for on June 22nd.
Sarah Polley turns in a writer/director effort for "Take This Waltz," her follow-up to the much acclaimed "Away from Her." Michelle Williams (who Filmspotting justly calls a "national treasure") stars as a married woman who finds herself infatuated with another man she meets on a plane. True-to-life emotions with an added layer of cinematic prestige give "Take This Waltz" some mighty appeal. This mature dramedy hits theaters and iTunes on June 29th.
"The Bourne Legacy" gets a bare-all trailer. The teaser definitely left me more excited because there was much more left unsaid and un-shown. It is a "Bourne" film so we can expect to see some wall-to-wall action. With a new director and new star is should still be a breath of fresh air like the best moments in this otherwise marginal trailer are. In terms of fabulous action movie trailers go back to last week's winner, "Skyfall." "The Bourne Legacy" busts into theaters on August 3rd. There was never just one.
Leonardo DiCaprio is "The Great Gatsby." After I saw this visual tour de force of a trailer my first thought was, "Holy crap!" Baz Luhrmann, the visionary behind the dazzling "Moulin Rouge!" and trippy "Romeo + Juliet" bring high production values to the big screen yet again. I would not have expected as stylish a treatment as this for one of the Great American Novels (F. Scott Fitzgerald), but considering who is doing the adaptation, what else could I have expected. See Tobey Maguire onscreen again and Carey Mulligan who is in every other film these days. Christmas Day. Double feature with "Django Unchained" perhaps? You'll have to wipe your mind of Leo's characters in-between though.
"One Day on Earth" is the first documentary to be filmed in every country (yes, even North Korea) the world over on the same day (October 10, 2010). I like this type of experiment better when it was called "Life in a Day." In theory this seems like a shameless knock-off of that brilliant YouTube experiment, which resulted in one of my favorite film's from last year. That said, you cannot deny the crowd-sourced offering this is. I love the world and its inhabitants and so I am sure I will love yet another look at them. This hits select cities on June 1st.
Don't fall off the bridge in your wagon, I reckon it's prime time for the Trailer Round-Up Awards!
"The Apparition" is a fantastic example of a horror film that tries too darn hard to no avail. Mixing found-footage with traditional storytelling and placing our young protagonists at home alone again and again, it quickly starts to bore. This story gets at the idea of what we fear feeding on our fears, in other words, a perpetual case of jump scares. Some visuals are distractingly clearly influenced from "The Grudge." Tom Felton (yes, Draco Malfloy) won't stop describing the outcome of what began as a psychological experiment. For someone who knows so much he sure does scare easily. August 24th if you dare care.
"Hick" appears to be all fangs and no bite, but I think I am grateful for that. Chloe Grace Moretz plays a thirteen year old girl who runs away from her alcoholic and abusive parents and embarks on a road trip, toting a gun along the way. The trailer actually throws up words like ABSURD and CONTROVERSIAL to describe itself. Is that all you can strive to achieve? The film is currently rockin' a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. That's something. I am most worried about the affect this would have on Moretz, though she's already been through films like "Kick Ass" and "Let Me In." She's actually slated to star in the upcoming "Carrie" remake. Poor girl... Seek it out on your own or not at all.
Lasso of the Week:
"Les Miserables" took the film world by surprise last week and made time stand still as Anne Hathaway sung "I Dream a Dream." Tom Hooper's follow-up to "The King's Speech" is the first film adaptation of the Broadway musical. Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Helena Bonham Carter, Amanda Seyfried (hmm) and even Sacha Baron Cohen (umm) all appear as well. This eclectic cast, stirring songs, and a powerful story make this one of the year's most promising. Just like when we heard of "The King's Speech" about two years ago, you can expect this to be an early Oscar contender. December 14th.
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Jared Gilman, the young star of "Moonrise Kingdom," shares his five favorite films with Rotten Tomatoes. Pretty mature stuff for a kid! He also talks about working with Bill Murray.