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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LASERLINKS 10-28-11

Happy Halloween, everybody! If you don’t already know, LaserLinks is a collection of news bits, casting announcements, trailers, and other geekery that I didn’t get a chance to write about during the week. And away we go….

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COSPLAY HOTTIE OF THE MONTH – OCTOBER 2011

Welcome to Cosplay Hottie of the Month – LaserCola’s monthly showcase of beautiful and sexy female cosplayers! This month we talked to the lovely and talented Cassandra, who goes by the alias “Breathlessaire Cosplay.” Cassandra is an award-winning cosplayer from our nation’s capital with hypnotic eyes and gorgeous hand-crafted costumes.

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MOVIE REVIEW – ‘COWBOYS & ALIENS’

Back in the brutal cold of winter, when the promise of warm summer nights spent basking in the glow of countless blockbuster explosions and superhero battles felt like nothing more than a distant dream, a trailer for one of those far off event films played at my local multiplex. It was chock full of everything summer blockbuster audiences flock to: Directed by Iron Man’s Jon Favreau! Dazzling explosions! Spaceships! Gunfights! Laser Blasts! Seat-rattling sound effects! And most importantly, James Bond and Indiana Jones together in one movie! An epic western mixed with an alien invasion!  Then, the title card came up – “Cowboys & Aliens”.

As the text faded from the screen, something about the combination of those words caused the audience I was with to chuckle and snicker. I knew right there that the mainstream audience wasn’t sold and the film was doomed. In a Summer already packed to the rafters with big-ticket sequels, giant robots, and more superheroes than you could shake a power ring at, this movie with the blunt yet high-concept title was going to get lost in the shuffle. I however, held out hope that it would still be an awesome combination of Daniel Craig pseudo “man-with-no-name” bad-assery and Alien-level extra-terrestrial menace.  Unfortunately, while it’s heads and shoulders above similar Old-west meets technology disasters like Wild Wild West and Jonah Hex, Cowboys & Aliens is a mildly entertaining clash of clichés rather than a compelling mixture of genres.

The plot is set in motion when outlaw Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) awakens in the desert with no memory of who he is, and a strange alien weapon strapped to his wrist. He eventually makes his way to the town of Absolution, a small mining community that barely survives thanks to the cattle trade lorded over by the fearsome former war hero Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford). After getting into some trouble in town, Lonergan runs into the mysterious Ella (Olivia Wilde), and is taken into custody by sheriff Taggert (Keith Carradine). However, before Lonergan can be delivered to Federal Marshalls, Dolarhyde rides into town and demands Jake’s head for robbing him of some gold bullion. At this point, alien spaceships appear in the night sky, snatching townsfolk with high-tension ropes. After the attack, Lonergan and Dolarhyde band together with the survivors to track down the aliens and rescue their captured loved ones.

With a title like Cowboys & Aliens, one would expect the aliens to be a unique and  frightening  presence in the film,  but once again, we are subjected to generic grunting creatures in the ID4/Battle L.A./Cloverfield mold that do not communicate their motives or intentions to the humans at all.  We know nothing about them other than what a key character reveals about them late in the movie in an out-of-nowhere exposition dump.  They also happen to be inexplicably dim-witted for such an advanced species.

For instance, why does a technologically advanced alien race come to Earth and capture humans one by one with simple wires shot from their ships? Do they not have tractor beams or transporter technology? Why not simply fly over the town in the giant ship, capture as many humans as needed, then annihilate the rest of the entire town? Why engage the inferior humans in hand-to-hand combat on the ground when you could simply rain laser beams down upon them? I understand that in order to make it seem believable that a technologically inferior race has a fighting chance against the monsters some liberties must be taken, but these plot holes are just a little too nonsensical to overlook.

Despite being populated by stock western characters like the badass drifter, the vicious cattle baron, the honorable sheriff, the bumbling saloon owner, the beautiful prairie woman, the obligatory black-toothed outlaw gang, and of course a tribe of stereotypical hootin’ and peyote-pushin Apache Indians, The classic western aspect of the film is its strong point.  But considering how ineptly handled the aliens are, unfortunately that’s not saying  much.

Harrison Ford is eminently watchable as always, even though he lays the “surly cattle rancher” shtick on a bit too thick at times. Daniel Craig is captivating  in his usual steely eyed way, dismantling humans and aliens alike with a graceful brutality. Sadly, it’s a one-note role  that never develops much of an arc. Olivia Wilde, who manages to make a frumpy prairie dress look impossibly hot, spends most of the film spouting the exposition necessary to help Lonergan regain his memory and get the audience up to speed on his fairly predictable back story. Veteran faces like Clancy Brown, Keith Carradine,  and Sam Rockwell do the best they can with the so-so dialogue that their old-west ciphers spout in between the explosions.

Jon Favreau continues to lose steam as a big summer blockbuster director. Continuing a trend that has only gotten worse since the second half of the first Iron Man film, Favreau drops the ball when it comes to delivering truly spectacular action sequences that have a sense of danger for the characters involved. Although Cowboys & Aliens is competently shot and has a decent narrative structure, it’s ultimately pulled down by clichéd dialogue and a flat screenplay that surprisingly took five screenwriters to produce.

Cowboys & Aliens promises an intriguing mash-up of two successful genres, but delivers only an adequate summer diversion, nothing more. The whole thing  sort of stays on an even keel, shuffling along like a drifter on horseback who sticks to the safe main path and never deviates into unknown frontiers. It’s shame, there might have been more satisfying adventures off  in the caves and valleys.

9 GOOD THINGS ABOUT THE ‘FANTASTIC FOUR’ MOVIES

A while back, I wrote an article titled Top Ten Good Things About The Star Wars Prequels in which I  attempted to disprove the notion that the universally loathed Episodes I-III had absolutely no redeeming qualities. It was fairly well-received, so I began to think about other much-maligned movie franchises that might make for suitable sequels to the piece.  A friend suggested that I should try mining the dank, black coal caves of the two painfully mediocre Fantastic Four films for some valuable cinematic gems. Now, most Marvel Comics fans agree that Fantastic Four (2005) and the slightly better Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) leave a lot to be desired (many will tell you, quite bluntly, that they outright suck giant rhino balls). These duds feature unimaginative direction by Tim Story, a lack of epic scope, weak action scenes, a lousy latex Thing costume, the infamous “Galactus Cloud”, and a horribly mis-cast Julian McMahon as a weaselly business tycoon version of Dr. Doom. Yet, despite all of these shortcomings, I managed to dig up a few things – 9 to be precise – that will make you feel like you haven’t completely wasted precious hours of your life watching them. So, without further ado, LaserCola.com presents:

9 Good Things About The Fantastic Four Movies!

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