Friday, May 25, 2012


'MEN IN BLACK 3' (PG-13) (3 STARS)

Written by Etan Cohen
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
Actors: Will Smith, Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Jermaine Clement, Alice Eve, Michael Stuhlbarg, Emma Thompson, David Rasche

After ten years in between the last "Men In Black" and "Men In Black 3" you would think the new movie would be trumped by all the other movies dealing with aliens in the last few years. Besides the wonderful "Super 8" in the last few years alien movies have mostly stunk and have not captured the magic of the original "MIB". I think the distance makes the heart grow fonder for the great relationship between our friends Agent K and Agent J is still a strong point in "MIB 3". I also missed the chemsistry between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones who have an unusual but successful and funny rapport with each other.

This time "Men In Black 3" takes Tommy Lee Jones out of the equation when the plot goes back 40 years when Agent K was a young agent. That might sound like failure but happily Josh Brolin plays the young Agent K and Brolin is fantastic here perfectly capturing the inflection of voice and mannerisms of Jones.It is not just a case of mimicking Jones, Brolin gives us much more as he fleshes out the depth and emotions of the character and it is a major plus for the movie.

The movie's plot takes us back 40 years because an alien baddie who Agent K imprisoned and who lost his arm thanks to Agent K goes back in time to try to assassinate K. Agent J goes back in time to try to stop it all and Will Smith is again dependable here. The bad alien is played by Jermaine Clement from HBO's "Flight of the Concords" and Clement is very funny and fantastic here. Part of the strength of the movie is because his bad alien is a strong and evil presence but also has some funny lines. There is some good writing and one liners and the movie buzzes along with decent special effects and some cool aliens.

This is a major improvement on "Men In Black 2" and at some points I think it is as good as the first one but of course it is not because the first one was all new and fresh. We have seen some of the same stuff we see in the other movies but there is a lot of funny stuff here mixed with the occasional dead spot. Brolin and Clement steal the movie with great performances and compensate for some of the same old schtick. A funny thing happened at the end of this movie that hooked me and sold me on this being worthwhile. There is a surprise ending that is emotional and I had a lump in my throat for I knew that the actors and writer Etan Cohen made us remember we really like these characters. I just hope we don't get a "Men In Black 4", it would ruin the series I think.

Thursday, May 24, 2012



Written by Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer and Sacha Baron Cohen
Directed by Larry Charles
Actors: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, Jason Mantzoukas, Ben Kingsley

Sacha Baron Cohen's movies will never be for the faint hearted and politically correct and a lot of his movies are hit ot miss. I was on the fence a lot with "The Dictator" because it is a hit or miss comedy like Cohen's last movie "Bruno". "The Dictator" doesn't come off as the funniest movie Cohen has done and I was dissapointed a little. I expected this to be his funniest movie what with the premise and all. Still I laughed out loud a few times and I love Cohen's go for broke mentality of not curbing his humor, that involves a lot of vulgarity and shock moments, to fit the mainstream. "The Dictator" has more of a streamlined story that was missing from "Borat" and "Bruno" and I thought some parts of the story were predictable and ho hum. My favorite movie of Cohen's is still the consistently funny "Borat".

"The Dictator" has Cohen playing a mad ruler of a fictional Middle East country and Cohen's Aladeen is loosely based on Sadam Hussein and Ossama Bin Laden. He is summoned to go to New York City for a United Nations meeting because the United States fears that Aladeen has a nuclear weapon so the story here is topical and that is a bonus. Aladeen is kidnapped by a very funny John C. Reilly and released into the city. Aladeen's right hand man, played by Ben Kingsley, hatches a plot to replace Aladeen with a double who will take Aladeen's place in the meeting with the U.N. The plot is very simple and much of the humor comes out of Aladeen trying to adapt to the states and New York City. There are moments that I really found funny and moments that were predictable targets of comedy.

I loved moments like the running joke of how Aladeen uses his name to manipulate his country's every day language. I loved Sacha Baron Cohen's chemistry with Jason Mantzoukas as Aladeen's head nuclear scientist who Aladeen inexplicably hooks up with in New York. They have some funny moments that reminded me of a very funny Abbot and Costello act. Some of the obscene and shocking comedy moments come off as desperate and in no way as funny as the ones in "Borat". Though there are some good ones including a running joke that deals with a severed part of a body that made me laugh out loud and made me grateful I wasn't drinking anything during those moments. Anna Faris is also good here but she has been much funnier and better before. "The Dictator" made me laugh enough even though my initial reaction was dissapointment at the end product, it could have been funnier. That being said I think it is worth a matinee showing because there are enough moments that made me laugh.



Written by Erich and Jon Hoeber
Directed by Peter Berg
Actors: Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson, Jessie Plemons, Hamish Linklater, Peter MacNicol

"You Sunk My Battleship!" "Drats!"
There you go, I just displayed more energy just now than is found anywhere in the stiff and dull "Battleship". Imagine the "Transformers" movies slowed down to a crawl and throw in the usual stuff that clouds up all these action franchises lately. Besides the superhero movies I am begging for a smart, energetic and thrilling action movie. "Battleship" is a nice movie compared to the last two crappy "Transformers" movies and the loud "Battle: Los Angeles" and what I mean by that is there is actual sense and strategy in the action here. That is a good thing but the movie is still silly, dumb and ordinary in that strategy. I guess we will have to wait for something smart and complicated like "Risk:The Movie!"

"Battleship" stars the unfortunate Taylor Kitsch as a screw up who breaks into a convenience store to buy a beautiful blonde a chicken burrito. His Navy brother says enough is enough and tells him he must join the Navy. The blonde is actually the daughter of a powerful Admiral played by Liam Neeson who seems like he has a bad case of constipation.
Kitsch joins the Navy with his brother when his ship is attacked by aliens, the brother gets killed and Kitsch will be in charge. There is also a woman played by Rihanna and comic relief by Kitsch's buddy from the "Friday Night Lights" television show, Jessie Plemons. The aliens do not look different from any alien in any of the last few years of alien movies. This is basically "Battle:L.A." in water but this is more of a family type picture. Everything is safe, not that bloody and the movie is very derivative of "Top Gun" with a little "An Officer and a Gentleman" thrown in, um the PG-13 version of that classic.

Everything is just plain dull, safe and very silly here and most of the humor, besides Plemons, is non existant. There is no sense of danger or fun and the action is very blah. Like "Transformers" and it's ilk you get the requisite model type beauty, the wisecracking friend, the father who dissaproves and the final showdown that gets sillier as it goes. This is not a bad movie but it just doesn't bring anything new to the table. I can tell you this about me and that is I don't mind movies having cliches and copying other movies. For me you just have to breathe new life and bring a new twist to the usual cliches or you wind up with something dull like "Battleship". The movie just treads out the usual action and characters without bite and I am surprised that a good director like Peter Berg phones this one in. There is something new here that I guess is cool at first, there is a Navy man who has lost both legs and at a certain point he takes on a bad alien in a fight. I like that ideal but the execution of it comes off as awkward and silly looking.

I feel sorry for Taylor Kitsh who earlier appeared in a box office bomb that was better than "Battleship" called "John Carter" which was good in spots but boring in others. Kitsch had major sex appeal and charisma as the quiet and rowdy Riggins in "Friday Night Lights". He had a little charisma in "John Carter" and comes off a little better here than he was in Carter. He still hasn't been given a role in something that gives him a showcase to show off his talents. I am now figuring out what Kitsch's talent agent is doing wrong with Taylor's career that maybe the agent has corrected finally. Kitsch needs to be in R rated, adult stuff with some juice and I think he has found it. The new Oliver Stone movie "Savages" that Kitsch is in is coming out later this summer and it looks very good!

P.S. For a better movie than "Battleship" with aliens and cliches that are given new life and energy try out one of the best movies of last year "Super 8".

Friday, May 11, 2012



Written by Seth Grahame Smith
Directed by Tim Burton
Actors: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Grace Moretz, Jonny Lee Miller, Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Earle
Haley, Bella Heathcoate

It's funny how a Tim Burton movie can suck you in even when you know the movie is just not working. "Dark Shadows" is a great dissapointment coming from Burton and Johnny Depp but bits and pieces sucked me in. I know without the beautiful set designs, cinematography and two of my favorite actresses giving two more great performances I would have dismissed this movie totally. I love the music and the haunting and beautiful look of the movie. I love that Michelle Pfeiffer comes back in a big way still looking breathtaking. I also think that Chloe Grace Moretz as young Carolyn is going to be a major actress equal to Jodie Foster and Natalie Portman. Add to that the fact I am a huge, huge sucker for movies set in the 1970's!

"Dark Shadows" is an adaptation of a vampire soap opera that played after school in the 70's and I have never seen it. If it was a soap opera then Burton gets the job done here because this movie plays like a soap opera. The plot is over the top with dialogue that is soap opera nutty and a plot that is silly. Johnny Depp plays Barnabas Collins who in the 1700's was cursed by the evil Angelique turning him into a vampire and having him buried alive in a coffin for eternity. Barnabas wakes up in 1972 and breaks out of his coffin in a nifty scene where he kills some construction workers that dug up his coffin. Barnabas was part of an influential family and most of the movie deals with Depp's reactions to 70's culture. His descendants now reside in his mansion and there is the beautiful matriarch Elizabeth and her rebel daughter Carolyn. Angelique comes back to take over the family business and get rid of Barnabas.

There is also a love story involving Barnabas and the lovely Victoria who is reincarnated into Josette in 1972 and who becomes the Governess to the Collins family. That love story shows promise in the beginning but the movie drops the ball in the second half losing that promise. The movie is more involved with the sexy battle between Barnabas and Angelique. "Dark Shadows" has a strong first half hour with a solid set up and then meanders and gets lazy after that. There is a lot of down time and nothing exciting or big happens. That is until the very funny and sexy fight/love scene where Barnabas and Angelique fly and crash everywhere destroying walls and furniture while they fight and then get it on. That is my favorite scene of the movie and the first time I felt the movie was really alive and this is an hour in!

The movie needed more juice, energy and bigger laughs. I laughed a few times, smiled a lot but I never felt the movie was truly funny or exciting. There are moments where the movie is a lot of fun but I was sucked in more by the beautiful cinematography and the perfect recreation of the 70's down to the sets and the costumes. I also love the movie's soundtrack and there is a wonderful moment where Alice Cooper plays a concert in the Collins house and his second song that I have never heard before is beautiful and leads to a sweet montage. Johnny Depp is funny and his performance is more alive than a lot of the movie. Though I really loved the three major women in this movie the best. Eva Green is beautiful and sexy as Angelique, Michelle Pfeiffer looks stunning and is still got it (her best performance in years!) I also can't say enough about Chloe Grace Moretz who steals every scene she is in and is probably the best young actress working in movies today.

So I think the plot of "Dark Shadows" is uninspired but after I walked out I couldn't get the look of the movie out of my head. I couldn't stop running the soundtrack through my head of great 70's songs. Burton picks some winners including a beautiful end credits song by The Killers. I love Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer and Chloe Grace Moretz a lot here and want to see them again. I also think the look of the movie and the feel of it is still with me and I did want to see it again to find out if it might get better the second time. Can I fully recommend this movie? I think a lot of people will walk out of this mad and dissapointed as I first thought I was and some might hate it. It needed more juice and electricity like Burton's "Beetlejuice" and a better love story like "Edward Scissorhands". Burton has slipped a little lately and maybe he will never achieve the glory of arguably his best two movies "Scissorhands" and "Ed Wood". Though this is way better than his misguided "Planet of the Apes" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". Most critics didn't like this movie but this is "The Regular Moviegoer" and the movie's strong parts sucked me in and I enjoyed myself.

Thursday, May 10, 2012



Written by Zak Penn and Joss Whedon
Directed by Joss Whedon
Actors: Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Samuel Jackson,
Tom Hiddelston, Jeremy Renner

"The Avengers" is like a Marvel Comic's fever dream with an all star cast of superheroes working together to save the World from a despotic madmen. It is like the Rat Pack of superheros in a movie like "The Cannonball Run" but much better. The charm and power of the movie comes from the repartee between the superheroes and the great actors playing them plus you get one of the best sight gags I have ever seen in a movie like this. It also has a great, snide bad ass bad guy played very well by Tom Hiddleston. I can do without the big metallic monsters doing destruction until I write my "Johnny Socko and His Flying Robot" screenplay. The attacks by the monster in this movie is not much better than the Transformers crap but I love the fight scenes between the Avengers themselves and then against the villain Loki .

Loki is the brother of Thor and he wants to open a hole in a vortex so he can destroy the World I guess. I tuned out the plot which is simple and didn't make sense to me because this movie is really about "Hey, Thor, Captain America, Hulk and Ironman are in a movie, all at one time!" Nick Fury recruits the Dean Martin roast like collection of superheros to form S.H.I.E.L.D. and defeat Loki. Then the Avengers start fighting with each other because they can't get along. Of course they wouldn't, they all have giant egos right? The big ego belongs to Robert Downey Jr as Ironman and yes Downey steals the movie of course with all the best lines. Though I was quite surprised that The Hulk steals the movie after Ironman. Yes the two Hulk movies got blasted though I like both but Hulk has some great action scenes and some funny visual smashings including the aforementioned classic sight gag. Mark Ruffalo also as Hulk's alter ego David Banner is by far the best Hulk of all three.

I am not the biggest superhero fan though I am a Superman nut but the last few years has had some really good Superhero movies. Of all these Avenger hero movies nothing will come close to the original "Ironman" movie and "Captain America" is a very close second and "The Avengers is third right under those two. It is not the best superhero movie and it can't hold a candle to "Superman II" (original and director's cut) "Dark Knight", "Spiderman 2" and "Ironman" but it also could have sucked. Like I said I love the fights, the one liners and the 3D actually looks good and enhances the movie. Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo steal the movie as does The Hulk and Ironman and Tom Hiddleston's Loki is a great bad guy plus Chris Evans is also underrated and great as Captain America. I also love little scenes like the adorable, quick witted, sexy and funny repartee between Ironman and Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts. "The Avengers" is good fun and a great teaser for the eagerly awaited "Ironman 3" with Downey and Paltrow, can't wait!

P.S. Stay for the end credits because you get a sneak of a bad guy I don't even know for "Avengers 2" plus a classic and funny scene after the credits have stopped rolling!