MOVIE REVIEW – MEN IN BLACK 3′

From the moment Men in Black 3 started, I immediately felt  like I was watching a relic from a bygone era; a movie that would’ve been a huge blockbuster in the days of the Lilith Fair and glittery Puff Daddy videos, but now seemed quaint and moldy next to bar-raising, budget-busting spectacles like The Avengers. There’s just something about director Barry Sonnenfeld’s style here that screamed 1990′s cinema, and though the first Men In Black was released only 15 years ago, it might as well have been 115 years.  The whole thing simply felt out-of-place in today’s cinematic climate.

Luckily, Will Smith’s Agent J is still very charismatic and charming, and his chemistry with the perennially surly Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K (and Josh Brolin as the younger Agent K) melted away enough of my cynicism to allow me to settle into Summer popcorn entertainment mode, and enjoy the breezy, airy, generally weightless nature of the movie which – in all fairness – is leaps and bounds better than its painfully awful predecessor from 2002.

MIB 3 features some truly fun sequences like a shootout with aliens and a giant alien fish beastie in a Chinese restaurant; a  fairly well-done time-travel aspect that helps freshen up some of the staleness of the franchise; and a great cast including Emma Thompson as the new head of the Agency, Alice Eve as the younger version of her character Agent O, and Michael Stuhlbarg as a very inventive and sweet character named Griffin, who is blessed and cursed with the ability to see all probabilities in all realities at once. The creature effects by the greatest makeup artist in movie history, Rick Baker, are imaginative and wonderful as usual — his best work  is on the always quirky and awesome Kiwi Jemaine Clement (building a nice little career out of HBO’s Flight of the Conchords), as the film’s gnarly antagonist Boris the Animal.

MIB 3 famously (or infamously) went into full-scale production without a completed screenplay, and it certainly shows, because every time the plot felt like it was gaining momentum, it stopped dead in its tracks to feature yet another neuralizer scene chock full of Smith’s mugging and snappy one-liners. It was as if the writers were actually typing out the script as the days went on, and just stuck these little “interrogation/wacky antics with Agent J” scenes in any time they got writer’s block and weren’t sure how to proceed to the next set piece. Still, it’s kind of astonishing how coherent the story turns out, given the potentially convoluted time-travel element.

Shifting the action back to 1969 accomplishes the most important thing in this movie: removing Tommy Lee Jones from the proceedings. His “performance,” if you can call it that, is mercifully short and completely bizarre. Jones clearly phones it in here, and genuinely feels like he’s just being a cranky asshole to everyone around him. Agent K is supposed to be a gruff, ornery son of a bitch, but it felt like Jones was actually behaving this way, and didn’t really want to be a part of the production at all. Fortunately for MIB3, Josh Brolin saves the day with his uncanny impersonation of a younger Tommy Lee Jones. I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of reports about how amazing his portrayal of  the 1969 Agent K is, and these reports are entirely accurate. It’s an astonishing (and fun) transformation.

Men in Black 3 is like a vanilla soft serve ice cream cone – bland, predictable, nondescript, and not really the high quality, flavorful hard ice cream with the luscious toppings you’re craving; yet it’s pleasing and familiar, and you’ll consume it because it’s there.

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‘THE MUPPETS’ POSTER SHOWS OFF CREEPY KERMIT LEGS

Disney released the first teaser poster for their upcoming cinematic Muppets re-launch today, and well, it’s kinda…creepy? Call me a purist, but I feel the Muppets function better as characters when you only see them from the waist up. All previous attempts to make Muppets ambulatory have come across as a little odd at best, and downright terrifying at worst (except the dude-in-a-suit Sweetums, of course). Kermit’s appendages are so long and eerie, it conjures up the haunting imagery of The Slender Man urban legend. That’s the last association you want made with Jim Henson’s beloved felt creations, believe me. The Muppets is written and directed by Jason Segel and is in theaters on November 23.

MOVIE REVIEW – ‘YOUR HIGHNESS’

Imagine if you will, a fantastic realm born out of the mists of time – a world of legend, filled with mighty warriors brandishing gleaming broadswords forged from magic Unicorn horns. A mystic land where majestic dragons soar over the tallest castles, and horrible minotaurs prowl the passageways of the deepest labyrinths. A place full of wonder and mystery beyond comprehension, where noble knights embark on perilous quests to rescue beautiful virgin maidens from evil wizards…Now imagine a few of your former college stoner pals showing up in this fantastical kingdom with enough weed to satisfy an Allman Brothers concert crowd, while cracking endless dick jokes, and you’ll have a good idea of what Your Highness is all about.

Understandably, that reads like a premise devoid of any appeal beyond dudes who smoke lots of pot or own a ton of Dio and Tenacious D albums. However, the key factor that prevents Your Highness from being a forgettable descent into the muck and mire of vulgarity for vulgarity’s sake, is the terrific work of the ensemble cast led by Danny McBride as the bawdy Prince Thadeos, and his dashing knight brother, Prince Fabious, played by recent Oscar nominee James Franco. In the face of absurdities like randy, well-endowed Minotaurs, kinky pedophile wizards, metallic falcons, hooba-smokin’ satyrs, unicorns, cyclopses, and a menagerie of assorted medieval miscreants; McBride, Franco, and especially Natalie Portman as the warrior-Goddess Isabel, embrace the ridiculousness surrounding them – delivering their insane dialogue with sincerity and a complete lack of irony.  If you can’t derive a hearty laugh from an Academy  award-winning Best actress spouting lines like, “These feelings have burned in my beaver for years” with utter conviction, the charms of Your Highness will be lost on you.

One of the most surprising aspects of Your Highness is how capably it functions as a creative, energetic action/fantasy film. Set pieces like a rip-roaring medieval horse-and-carriage chase, and a final battle with the evil wizard Leezar and his creepy “Mothers” in his sinister, lightning bolt-riddled tower are zippily-paced, well-executed, and even outshine recent action blockbusters like the tedious Clash of the Titans remake, or the utterly lifeless Prince of Persia. This feat is accomplished despite the sophomoric (and mostly improvised script),  because Pineapple Express director David Gordon Green and his cast create loveable, fleshed-out  characters that you actually care about.

Your Highness takes the most ridiculous elements of fantasy movies like Ladyhawke, Labyrinth, The Princess Bride, and even the original Clash of the Titans, and stirs in a healthy serving of stoner humor and perversion.  The result is a ribald laugh riot that successfully marries Dungeons & Dragons players with the Pineapple Express crowd.  Make no mistake, this film is jam-packed with silly, crude, juvenile, toilet humor, and I loved every minute of it. Rest assured, the film isn’t going to garner any attention during Awards season, but for anyone who appreciates swords-and-silliness, it’s destined to become a quotable comedy classic for eons to come.

FOCK YOU, AMERICA

The Coen brothers are genius auteurs who have made masterpieces for over 25 years, and their latest, True Grit, entertained audiences to the tune of $24.5 million this weekend. So naturally, because the majority of American movie-goers are mouth-breathing ass-tards, the film placed second to that monumentally stupid and artless piece of shit, Little Fockers. Honestly, I don’t even understand how any human being with a shred of dignity or taste can even say Little Fockers to a ticket collector without dying a little inside. Congratulations, morons.

Here are your top 3 films at the box-office for the weekend of Dec. 31 – Jan. 2

1.) Little Fockers – $26.3 million

2.) True Grit – $24.5 million

3.) Tron Legacy – $18.3 million

Complete weekend chart can be found at Box Office Mojo.

TRAILER FOR KEVIN SMITH’S “RED STATE”

Love him or hate him, Kevin Smith is a huge (literally and metaphorically) geek icon, and one of the pioneers of 90’s “slacker cinema”. Now he’s throwing his hat into the horror ring with the mysterious Red State, a movie he’s been developing for several years that centers around an ultra-conservative, bible-thumping midwestern Preacher. This teaser doesn’t shed much light on the plot of the flick, and it looks a tad sloppy and amateurish, but it seems like an interesting departure from the usual dick and fart jokes Smith has delivered for almost 20 years. Red State debuts at the Sundance Film Festival on January 23. Credit: /Film.