Box Office Preview: Here come the ‘Men in Black,’ also ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ and another crap Hollywood horror flick


Men in Black III

The Men in Black are back, with time travel! Let me start off by saying I fucking hate sequels. And threequels? Fuggedaboutit. Speed round: name ten threequels that didn’t suck, no cheating. I’ll try, there’s “Return of the Jedi, “The Return of the King,” “Toy Story 3,” uh, uh, Jackie Chan!

So what is “Men in Black III” about? Time travel, duh, I already told you that. But seriously, the beginning of the movie has Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones still running around doing their alien-fighting thing. But suddenly, history has been rewritten and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) is somehow at the center of it, or at least that’s what the trailer told me. With K’s life and the fate of planet at stake, Agent J (Will Smith) “will have to travel back in time to put things right.” Along the way, he’ll discover “there are secrets to the universe that K never told him—secrets that will reveal themselves as he teams up with the young Agent K (Josh Brolin) to save his partner, the agency, and the future of humankind.” Also, Andy Warhol is an Agent.

Could “Men in Black III” be the rare exception that makes the rule? Or will the filmmakers wish they could go back in time and put a fat red light on this thing? The film is at a 68 percent on the Tomatometer, but no consensus has been reached yet. So as with any series, if you’re a huge fan of the first two, sure, you’ll like it. For us average folks, meh, it’ll probably be alright. However, as A.O. Scott of The New York Times points out, people will have low expectations of the movie specifically because it’s a threequel. When the bar is low, it’s easy to jump over it.

Apart from the urgent necessity of reminding us that Will Smith is a movie star (and the usual need to wring a few more dollars out of a profitable franchise), “Men in Black 3” arrives in the multiplexes of the world with no particular agenda. Which may be part of the reason that it turns out to be so much fun. You don’t need to study up on the previous installments or master a body of bogus fanboy lore to enjoy this movie for the breezy pop throwaway it is. Your expectations may be pleasantly low, and you may therefore be pleasantly surprised when they are exceeded.


Moonrise Kingdom

Well, unfortunately for my sarcastic side (which is actually both of my sides), “Moonrise Kingdom” looks really good. It’s been certified fresh on the Tomatometer with a 98 percent rating. Also, Bill Murray is in it, nothing else need be said. Shit, Wes Anderson directed and Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Bruce Willis and Jason Schwartzman are in it too? I know, fuck me right?

So “Moonrise Kingdom” is the story of two twelve year-olds who fall in love and run away together on a New England island in 1965. Much to the dismay of the local police captain (Willis), and the boy’s scout troop leaders (Norton and Schwartzman), and only slightly to the dismay of the girl’s father (Murray).

Seriously, I’m not too good at this whole “wow this should be a really good movie” thing. Most of what Hollywood churns out is mindless trash. I hate it, but it makes my life easier. What else can I say? It’s a Wes Anderson film, perhaps his best one yet, and 47 of the 48 critics listed by Rotten Tomatoes loved it. See this movie.


Chernobyl Diaries

Speaking of mindless trash, “Chernobyl Diaries,” brought to you by Oren Peli, the director of “Paranormal Activity,” will also be released this week. I don’t really have much to say about it yet, Rotten Tomatoes hasn’t posted any reviews nor could I find one in any major publication. All I’ve got to work from is the trailer and the official synopsis, which states:

The film follows a group of six young vacationers who, looking to go off the beaten path, hire an “extreme” tour guide. Ignoring warnings, he takes them into the city of Pripyat, the former home to the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, but a deserted town since the disaster more than 25 years ago. After a brief exploration of the abandoned city, however, the group soon finds themselves stranded, only to discover that they are not alone…

“Extreme tourism,” ooooo… Scary… I’ll say what I do about most movies that look like crap, if you’re into the genre or the director’s earlier work, this film could be for you. Otherwise, stay away. When you’ve got “Men in Black III,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” and “The Avengers” (for all four of you who haven’t seen it yet), there’s little to no reason to see a movie like this.

  

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Met Them at the Greek — a press day chat with Russell Brand, Jonah Hill, Rose Byrne and Nicholas Stoller of “Get Him to the Greek”

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If you saw “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” — and I hope you have as its one of the stronger comedies to be made over the last several years — you’ll likely have noticed the strong comic chemistry between British comedy sensation Russell Brand as three-quarters insane, recovering addict rock star Aldous Snow and Jonah Hill (“Superbad“) as a resort waiter and somewhat overly devoted fan of Snow’s. Well, you’re not the only one, and so we have the somewhat slapdash, sometimes brilliant, and ultimately winning new comedy, “Get Him to the Greek,” which once again brings us Brand as Aldous Snow, who, since the events of “Sarah Marshall” has suffered a failed marriage to rocker Jackie Q (Rose Byrne), had a seven-year old son, and removed the “recovering” from his addiction — kind of impressive since “Sarah Marshall” was only two years ago.

Nevertheless, having fallen headlong off the wagon, Snow needs help arriving on-time and semi-cognizant for an important TV appearance, a sound check, and a special comeback performance at L.A.’s Greek Theater. The task falls to ambitious young record company assistant Aaron Green (Hill, playing a different character than in “Sarah Marshall”), a huge fan of Snow’s in a sweet but rocky relationship with his improbably adorable doctor girlfriend (Elizabeth Moss of “Mad Men“). Frequently vomit-stained hijinks ensue as Green and Snow barely survive a number of unfortunate events, including a nearly apocalyptic visit to the set of “The Today Show,” one of the most truly mad Las Vegas sequences in film history, and the kind of freaky three-ways that would make most porn producers blanch. It’s all wrapped up with the sort of good-hearted traditional morality which reminds us that the producer is the Walt Disney of male-centric, R-rated comedies, Judd Apatow.

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The epic epicness of “Scott Pilgrim”

For those of you who haven’t read Bryan Lee O’Malley’s “Scott Pilgrim” comic series — about a twentysomething slacker who must defeat the seven evil ex-boyfriends of his new girlfriend, Ramona V. Flowers — well, there’s a good chance you’ll want to pick them up after seeing the first trailer for Edgar Wright’s big-screen adaptation. There has been a lot of buzz around the Twitterverse about “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” with directors like Jason Reitman calling it a “game changer for the genre” and Kevin Smith saying that “nobody is going to know WTF just hit them.”

I’ve been excited about this project for quite a while. The source material is wildly original, Wright is one of the most creative directors working today, and the cast is absolutely perfect — from Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the lead roles, to Chris Evans, Brandon Routh and Jason Schwartzman as the evil exes. The movie doesn’t come out until August, so to help whet your appetite until then, check out the trailer below.






  

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Greetings to the New Show: “Bored to Death”

You may recall that, during my TCA press tour wrap-up, I declared the panel for HBO’s new series, “Bored to Death,” to be the funniest of anything presented to us by any cable network. But in fairness, I also admitted during my coverage of the panel itself that, at the time, I still hadn’t actually seen the show, though I was still willing to take what I’d seen in advance clips and heard from the panelists and say, “Basically, if this show isn’t a hit, then it’s at least destined to be remembered as one of the greatest cult sitcoms of all time.” I think I’m still pretty safe in sticking with that theory, but now that I have seen the first few episodes of “Bored to Death,” I have to admit that, although it gets a good head of steam during the second episode, it’s rather slow-going when it comes out of the gate tonight.

HBO’s press release for the series summarizes “Bored to Death” thusly: “Jonathan Ames, a young Brooklyn writer, is feeling lost. Heʼs just gone through a painful break-up, thanks in part to his drinking, canʼt write his second novel, and carouses too much with his magazine editor. Rather than face reality, Jonathan turns instead to his fantasies – moonlighting as a private detective – because he wants to be a hero and a man of action.” That doesn’t really do tonight’s premiere justice, though. Things do kick off with Jonathan (Jason Schwartzman) watching his girlfriend move out of their apartment, but it’s in a moment of quiet desperation – and with a coffee cup full of white wine – that he spontaneously decides to put an ad on Craigslist, claiming to be a private detective. Despite admitting that he’s not licensed, he nonetheless gets a call in short order, and he’s off on his first case…though it’s probably not a good sign that his client, before their first meeting is over, has asked, “Are you sure you’re a detective…?”

As with all first episodes, we spend more time setting the stage than anything else. We meet Jonathan’s best friend, comic book illustrator Ray Hueston (Zach Galifianakis), as well as his boss, magazine editor George Christopher (Ted Danson), but the predominant purpose of tonight’s premiere (“The Stockholm Syndrome”) is to give us an idea who these guys are and what roles they play in Jonathan’s life. Rest assured that, in the subsequent couple of episodes, they will find a much larger place within his new profession…and also rest assured that, if the premiere of “Bored to Death” does indeed leave you feeling like its title, the odds of the sensation continuing next week are few.

  

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TCA Tour, Day 3: “Bored to Death”

HBO’s “Bored to Death” panel wins the award for Most Likely To Make Me Want To Watch My Advance Screener When I Get Home, but, then again, it’s already a testimony to how freaking busy I was before I left for California that I couldn’t find the time to check out a series that features a triple-threat cast of Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson, and Zach Galifianakis. When the panel kicked off with this trailer, however, I knew that, even though much of my pre-TCA time was spent trying to help my wife put together our daughter’s 4th birthday, I’d clearly spent that time poorly.

By the way, that was obviously a joke about spending my time poorly (the party was a huge success), but I’m completely serious about wanting to watch the screener as soon as I get home. In addition to the trailer, though, every single person on the panel was hilarious…even Schwartzman, who appeared via satellite due to filming commitments on “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.”

HBO’s nutshell synopsis of the series…or, at least, the opening paragraph of the press release for the show, which generally tends to be about the same thing…reads as follows: “Jonathan Ames, a young Brooklyn writer, is feeling lost. Heʼs just gone through a painful break-up, thanks in part to his drinking, canʼt write his second novel, and carouses too much with his magazine editor. Rather than face reality, Jonathan turns instead to his fantasies – moonlighting as a private detective – because he wants to be a hero and a man of action.” The idea of Schwartzman as a man of action is funny enough in and of itself, but then you’ve got Danson as the aforementioned magazine editor, Galifianakis as Ames’s eccentric best friend, and a premise (and cast) which lends itself to high-profile guest stars. Basically, if this show isn’t a hit, then it’s at least destined to be remembered as one of the greatest cult sitcoms of all time.

Oh, and did I mention that Jonathan Ames is actually a real person? True story. He’s apparently a rather prolific author, in fact. (My apologies: I wasn’t familiar with him before this.) Having listened to him chat during the panel for “Bored to Death,” I think it’s fair to say that the stars of the shows are going to be in good comedic hands. Personally, I was convinced of this when he was asked to explain why the show – which would appear on the surface to be anything but boring – was given a name which so readily offers journalists a chance to fire back with snarky punchlines.

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