Men in Black 3 Review – Neuralyzed!


Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

Writer: Etan Cohen (screenplay), Lowell Cunningham (comic)

Stars: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jermaine Clement


Release date: May 25th, 2012

Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 106 minutes


2½/5

Best part: Josh Brolin.

Worst part: The goofy humour.

Fifteen years after the original, and inexplicably popular, Men in Black introduced the world to noisy crickets, neuralyzers and the buying power of mega-star Will Smith, Men in Black 3 proves this series has out stayed its commercially successful welcome. Despite the cleverness of some of its many zany ideas, both sequels have now illustrated that the original was nothing more than a fluke.

Will Smith & Tommy Lee Jones.

Will Smith & Tommy Lee Jones.

The controversy surrounding the unwritten script and muddled ideas thrown into the film’s production has proved costly for the finished product. Its confused story somewhat establishes nothing more than a hate-filled maniac villain and a time travel premise. After the smiley yet deadly Boris the Animal (Jermaine Clement) breaks out of jail, his path leads him to agents K (Tommy Lee Jones) and J (Smith). After K is sent packing due to his murder in the 1960’s, its up to the perplexed J to travel back to 1969 to prevent Boris’ reign over mankind via alien invasion. Enlisting the services of the younger K (Josh Brolin), Boris is not the only thing he may re-discover in an era of outrageous costumes, clunky technology and Andy Warhol.

Jermain Clement & Nicole Scherzinger.

Jermain Clement & Nicole Scherzinger.

Men in Black 3 unfortunately makes many of the same mistakes as the utterly mediocre 2002 sequel. Director Barry Sonnenfeld, director of both previous instalments and Smith’s biggest flop Wild Wild West, shows off his skills and major failings. His biggest fault is the lethally unfunny comedy throughout. Everything feels like the punchline to bad satirical joke. A wink and nudge at the camera may have been fine in the glory days of Ghostbusters and The Naked Gun, but this film straddles awkwardly between sci-fi actioner and slapstick comedy. Sonnenfeld’s tired humour isn’t helped by Smith. Despite delivering his usual alluring charisma, his constant mugging at the camera, given no brakes by Sonnenfeld, quickly tires. Involving nothing more substantial than constant jokes about K’s grumpiness and old age and Smith’s ‘hilarious’ funny faces when faced with the film’s many reaction shots, prove just how uninspired this series has become. The costume design is also a huge letdown. Despite being the work of make-up effects master Rick Baker, the glaringly fake, plastic look of the practical make up also gives the impression of the punchline to a cheesy joke heard too many times before. The set designs and cinematography do however lend an allure of creativity to this otherwise pointless affair. Fluid scene transitions and constant tracking shots are impressive at the best of times, but Sonnenfeld knows how to immerse the viewer in J’s baffling experiences.

“O? No, I call ladies “O”. To me O is feminine, and K is masculine. You know, I see a couple, I’m like, “O-K”.” (Agent J (Will Smith), Men in Black 3).

Josh Brolin.

Josh Brolin.

The stand out of Men in Black 3 is the time jumps. J’s leaps off tall buildings prove to be the film’s ‘highest’ points, as the special effects fluidly transition from one important historical event to another. Its the only time one may ever see the dinosaurs, the end of WWII, and the moon landing placed in the same context. The action set pieces also prove to be a fun relief from the film’s consistent cheesiness and unfunny, conventional dialogue. The unicycle chase through Manhattan streets and the fist-fight atop the tallest point of Cape Canaveral are filmed flawlessly and provide plenty of fun distractions. Thankfully the performances also strive to defeat the film’s conventional yet confusing plot hole filled narrative and character arcs that seem to have ably fallen into a black hole. Despite constantly hearing about K’s issues in the first half, the chemistry between Smith and Jones as partners, with their yin and yang relationship, is still as palpable as it was in previous adventures. Brolin is a standout here as a perfect representation of K and Jones himself. Capturing is speech, facial twitches and chemistry with Smith proves he is worthy to take over the reigns in future time warping instalments. Predictably however, the miscast Clement (one half of Flight of the Conchords) is uncomfortably over the top as the slimy, ugly antagonist; with his Kiwi accent shining through every gravely line.

Coming out a whopping one and a half decades after the original, Men in Black 3 comes off like an unearthed tomb hidden under layers of Hollywood schlock. Sadly, like a lot of sci-fi staples, it’s better to leave the tomb underground. This sequel takes a big step backwards for franchise filmmaking.

Verdict: An underwhelming and unwarranted third instalment. 

Dark Shadows Review – Bad, Bad Burton


Director: Tim Burton

Writer: Seth Grahame-Smith 

Stars: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Grace Moretz 


Release date: May 11th, 2012

Distributors: Warner Bros. Pictures, Roadshow Entertainment

Country: USA

Running time: 113 minutes


 

2/5

Best part: Johnny Depp.

Worst part: The underdeveloped characters.

This tale from the crypt proves once and for all that Tim Burton has directorally run out of steam. His use of the same narrative tricks and visual motifs over and over again may please the die-hard Burton geeks, but non- believers may wish to steer clear of his latest white-faced, gothic adventure-comedy Dark Shadows.

Johnny Depp.

Johnny Depp.

Based on the 1960/70s soap opera of the same name, the film begins in 1782 with the Collins’s; a wealthy family leaving Britain for the new world. Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is the bright son of the Collin’s family and their new fortunes in the newly built Collinsport, feeling so powerful he rejects the maid of the Collin’s estate, Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), who has a craving for both which-craft and revenge. She sickeningly murders his family and new love while cursing him forever as a vampire. Awakened in 1972 with a thirst for blood and a fresh start with his once great wealth, Barnabas must contend with the manor’s new inhabitants; his wacky ancestors. With a stuck up head of the family (Michelle Pfeiffer), a rebellious teen girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), a drunkard (Jackie Earle Haley), a hired live-in Psychiatrist (Helena Bonham Carter) and a strange little boy (Guliver McGrath), Barnabus must deal with clashing personalities, a vastly different time in history, a sexy yet vindictive Collinsport hotshot and alluring new visitor to the manor, Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote).

Eva Green.

Eva Green.

The real name of Dark Shadows should be ‘Tim Burton on auto-pilot’. Everything you think a Burton film involves is here in some sort of slithering form or another. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter show up in important roles, white, sour faces cover the characters in every frame, beautiful set and costume designs and one underused yet significant actor after another. With Burton’s recent slate of uninspiring and unnecessary remakes and interpretations such as Alice in Wonderland, Planet of the Apes and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he can now add this adaptation of the infamous gothic yet satirical soap opera to the list. The story problems stem from Burton’s blatant disinterest in the unfolding of beautiful yet scary events. Much like his other remakes, the story begins with a whisper of promise. The prologue illustrating Barnabas’ violent fall from uptown grace by dark forces, starts Dark Shadows off in a necessarily dark fashion. Soon after however, the film heads to the 1970’s, where one obvious joke on the styles and stereotypes of the 70s, and ironic vampire humour, rise from the grave.

“I have already prepared my counter-proposal. It reads thusly: You may strategically place your wonderful lips upon my posterior and kiss it repeatedly!” (Barnabus Collins (Johnny Depp), Dark Shadows).

Michelle Pfeiffer.

Michelle Pfeiffer.

The hip soundtrack, featuring a blatantly pointless concert performance from Alice Cooper, rings throughout this fish-out-of-water tale, while clashing ideologies between Barnabus and the 70s itself surprisingly click in several of the slow dialogue moments. Several talented actors are forced into small, underused roles. Moretz, famous for her ass-kicking, potty mouth portrayal of Hit Girl, is creepily forced to grow up too fast in her portrayal of a slightly filthy teenager in the era of free love. Bonham Carter is only used to bring colour to many dull moments of character based dialogue. Aussie newcomer Heathcote is charming as the other new introduction to the Collin’s family, while Earle Haley is sadly wasted in a role entirely based on silly slapstick comedy, a real shame after his brilliant and sickeningly disturbed portrayal of the anti hero Rorschach in Watchmen. Burton’s typical auteur symbols do manage to keep the film together. Depp provides his usual charismatic and intensifying abilities as yet another indistinguishable and supernatural character from Burton’s disturbed mind. While Burton’s contrasting style of bright colours and soul sucking darkness in every scene portrays a fitting representation of this supernatural yarn. 

Burton, once considered the breakthrough auteur of Hollywood cinema, has transitioned from Edward Scissorhands to a parody of himself. With Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter holding him down, Dark Shadows solidifies his journey from greatness to messiness.

Verdict: A dull and convoluted fantasy flick.