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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.

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

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A somewhat creepy, very late night end of week movie news dump

It’s late, so I’ll keep it brief tonight/this morning.

* Given the wave of movie science fiction we’ve had since the release of “Star Wars” back in 1977, it’s always been a disappointment to me how few of the most respected SF novels (“sci-fi” isn’t a term literary science fiction geeks approved of back in my day) have been made into movies. So, even though the book kind of baffled me when I read it not too long after it’s original release in 1984, it’s nice to see that a film version of William Gibson’s Neuromancer, the novel which is the original source of the word “cyberspace” — whatever that means. Vincenzo Natali (“Cube”) appears to be the helmer.

* It’s looking like “Iron Man 2” will not be a huge record breaker after all and may make (horrors!) significantly less than the $140 million “floor” we were originally given.

* The RZA (pronounced “The Ri-zuh”) is joining the select club of successful pop musicians turned movie directors that includes Prince, David Byrne, Rob Zombie, Paul McCartney (on the ill-fated telefilm, “Magical Mystery Tour”) and I’m sure some others I’m forgetting. Not surprisingly for the Kung-fu loving Wu-Tang Clan founder who worked on part of the “Kill Bill, Volume 1” score, it’s a stylized martial arts epic co-written with fellow Tarantino associate Eli Roth.

* Speaking of Paul McCartney, the one time Beatle, an outspoken vegetarian in real life, may be going in a very different entirely unauthorized and fictional direction as a brain-eating mop-topped zombie in a possible film version of yet another comic zombies-in-history novel, “Paul is Undead” which envisions a zombified fab four.  Sure, why not.

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“I cut myself shaving”

I couldn’t tell you how many comic stories I read back in the day featuring Jonah Hex, the slightly creepy and not-so-slightly disfigured DC comics gunslinger, but I can tell you they were the only western comics I ever read and I that I once liked some of them quite a bit. The only problem is that I can’t help staring at that little piece of skin-and-what-not that goes from the top to the bottom of his mouth. It never quite made anatomical sense to me. Besides, I can’t help but think it would devilish hard to eat with that thing. If I’d were Hex, I’d probably find a doc who wasn’t too stingy with the laudanum and ask him to remove the dang-blamed thing and just hope he was up to date on that newfangled Louis Pasteur sanitation stuff.

Anyhow, that’s just me. Below, we have the trailer for the film starring Josh Brolin, Megan Fox, and John Malkovich. It comes via AICN’s Beeks, who is none too positive. At the same time, a good, silly B-picture can really be fun sometimes, so maybe this will be better than he thinks. It doesn’t look particularly witty, but it doesn’t look boring either. Who knew there were so many massive explosions in the era of western expansion? Hex is also the first western hero that I know of to have his own Q.

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Midweek movie news

Getting a bit of an early start and catching up with some news we didn’t discuss yesterday.

* In terms of raw cash, the movies had a record March this year, largely thanks to those inflated, and then extra-inflated, ticket prices for “Alice in Wonderland” in 3-D. We’ll see how long this lasts.

Alice in Wonderland

* RIP Corin Redgrave, of one of the world’s great acting families.

* Reading this Nikki Finke item about what sounds like the increasingly fraught auction of MGM, it really does make it seem like a million years ago when MGM was the absolute epitome, for better and for worse, of Hollywood power.

* I’m breaking a confidence here with this super-secret Twitter leak by Jon Favreau, but it appears that Harrison Ford will be in “Cowboys and Aliens.”

* Universal, which hasn’t exactly been rolling in cash lately, has pulled the plug on “Cartel.” It would have been a remake of the fact-based Italian mafia thriller from 1993, “La Scorta,” set admidst Mexico’s drug wars. Josh Brolin was set to play the lead. Mike Fleming doesn’t specifically mention insurance or the cost of security, but considering the topic and what’s been going in throughout Mexico — apparently including Mexico City where the film was to be shot — it must have been through the roof.

* Master cinephile blogger Dennis Cozzalio checks in and brings word of some cool film fests.

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Hit and run

I’m a busy guy tonight, so let’s see how brief I can manage to be tonight with bits and pieces of movie news…

Ricky Gervais in * Ricky Gervais will be hosting the Golden Globes. I’m usually a one-award-show-yearly kind of a guy (and guess which show it is) but the fates and cool hosts like Gervais and Neal Patrick Harris are forcing me to actually watch more of the things.

* This post by Nikki Finke doesn’t really add much of anything new that I could see to a very good two week old L.A. Weekly piece about “coming out” PR specialist Howard Bragman, but it does underline the big changes that are surely coming in terms of how Hollywood, and the world, treats gay people.

* The Coen Brothers first ever real western — a new version of the not terribly critically or cinephile acclaimed 1969 John Wayne Oscar-winner, “True Grit” — may have a pretty high flying cast: Matt Damon and Josh Brolin are “in talks” to play bad guy and foil to Jeff Bridges’ Rooster Cogburn. Presumably Brolin is stepping into the role played by Robert Duvall, who was not quite famous a couple of years prior to “The Godfather,” while Damon will be playing the character first performed by my older sister’s all-time crush, singer-guitarist temporarily turned actor and TV variety host, Glen Campbell.

* A movie theater that serves samosas — that’s what I call movie going living, American Bollywood style.

Okay, that was pretty quick. Why can’t I do this every time?

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Comic-Con mess o’ stuff


I might have missed my Joss Whedon panel yesterday (clearly, I didn’t want it enough and failed to get in line an hour early), but lots of other folks aren’t missing a thing.

* Apparently, Robert Downey, Jr. is claiming his martial arts using, womanizing (at least that’s how I remember the trailer), and druggie Holmes is closer to the Arthur Conan Doyle character that the scads of cinematic and TV Holmesessess we have had up to now. Well, the literary Holmes did use cocaine. Let’s just say I share Luke Thompson’s differing memory on those points.

Maybe it was all a product of the squirrelly Downey sense of humor we’ve seen in so many unusual performances over the years. I’m also skeptical of why Steven Zeitchik thinks the Guy Ritchie-directed Holmes is a particularly tough sell to geeks. Isn’t Data one of our patron saints? The geeks I grew up with actually used words like “Holmesiana.” The Aleister Crowley-cult thing won’t hurt with a certain breed of gothy nerd, either.

* John Lasseter presented one of the real greats, still very active and hoping for his first stateside hit: Hiyao Miyazaki.

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Josh Brolin interview

Josh Brolin discusses his incredible performance in W.


W. – Josh Brolin Interview – Watch more free videos

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Bush gets Stoned in new GQ interview

Admit it: you were too busy drooling over Megan Fox on the cover of the October issue of GQ that you completely forgot to check out director Oliver Stone’s candid interview about his new film, “W.” It’s all right if you haven’t, because the brief chat can also be found online, and let me tell you, it’s well worth reading. Though it may seem like Stone is gunning for the incumbent president with his self-proclaimed political satire, the veteran director actually appears to have a good understanding of the man. In the article, Stone admits he’s cut from the same cloth as Bush, and if it weren’t for the fact that he took a completely different route growing up, he may have turned out the same way. Oh yeah, and “Vietnam drove out whatever arrogance [he] carried.”

The rest of the interview covers everything from the difficulties of making such a film to his long-running problems working within the studio system. Posted below are some excerpts, but to read it in full, click here.

On his first choice for the lead role:

“Originally I went for Christian Bale. We did some rigorous prosthetic tests and spent a lot of dough—thousands and thousands of dollars—and then Christian said, “I just don’t feel like I can do it.” I met Josh and liked him. He was more rural Americana. But man, he was scared shitless.”

On why “W” could be considered a comedy:

“Well, it has to be done with an ebullience and a certain fun, because the guy is goofy. He’s a goofball! And I think he endeared himself to people because he couldn’t get anything right. Kubrick was an idol of mine. I grew up on “Strangelove” and movies like “Network,” and they made a big impact on me. So yeah, W. is a satire.”

On the state of his Mai Lai massacre project, “Pinkville”:

It can probably only come back if UA would give us the movie without paying them the money they’ve already spent. We started to make the movie. I mean, we built a whole village in Thailand! We have tons of stuff sitting in crates! There’s $6 million against the movie. And I don’t have that kind of money. They didn’t even pay all the bills. They stuck us with a bunch of them.

First they kept cutting our budget. We had our locations, we had our actors, we had everything picked out, and it was a very reasonable plan. Then Bruce Willis walked, and they were thrilled, because that gave them the final excuse to call it, even though we got Nicholas Cage. That was three weeks before shooting and right before Christmas. Let me remind you, that’s 120 Americans and 500 Thais put out of work right before Christmas. It was a cruel, heartless decision, and it was probably made because “Lions for Lambs” was perceived as a mess, a failure, and we were linked to these Iraq movies that weren’t working.

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