Archive for Tommy Lee Jones

Review: Men In Black 3

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , on June 7, 2012 by Tom Austin-Morgan

A full 10 years on after the second film, which was more than a little forgettable, comes the third installment of Men In Black, which is imaginatively titled Men In Black 3. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are reunited – albeit briefly – as Agents J and K, two senior members of the M.I.B., a secret government agency which is the last line of defence between us and all manner of extraterrestrial life threatening our planet.

The film opens with a breakout from a maximum security prison on the moon by a character who is all bristles and fingers (you’ll get it when you see it!) called Boris the Animal who, for some unexplained reason, insists on being called ‘just Boris’. He is also completely indistinguishable from the actor playing him, Jermaine Clement (of Flight Of The Conchords fame), who really tears up the scenery as this larger than life bad guy. The news of the breakout seems to change something about K, who becomes even more introverted than usual forcing a bigger wedge between himself and J. Before long K is found by Boris who kills him causing a rift in the fabric of time.

J is the only person now who believes that K was alive the previous night instead of the reality that now faces him: K was killed by Boris in 1969 and now the Earth is defenseless against the invasion about to be launched by his race, the ludicrously named Boglodites (Come on, Boris the Boglodite?!). So now J must travel back to 1969 to stop K being killed and avert the destruction of the planet.

Thus ensues some high jinks action involving all the kitch-ness of the 60s mixed with the futuristic design of the M.I.B. universe; with sleek sliver weapons and gadgets, and where the cars have one-wheeled motorbikes hidden under them, just in case. There is even a scene at one of Andy Warhol’s parties, Warhol here being an undercover M.I.B. agent, played by Bill Hader. Another thing that it looked like they were going to address is the question of race in the 60s; just before J time jumps he is warned that it was ‘difficult for your people back then’. But apart from a brief scene early on after his arrival this potentially interesting plot point is all but forgotten.

The young Agent K is played by Josh Brolin who does a tremendous impression of Tommy Lee Jones, and the interplay between Brolin and Smith is so much more dynamic than between Smith and Lee Jones. This is probably to do with the fact that brolin’s K hasn’t become Lee Jones’ K yet, but I suspect it may also be about how much the actors want the role. You get the feeling that Lee Jones is only in it for so little because he doesn’t want to be there, he doesn’t have the same twinkle in his eye that he did in the first film.

The most interesting character, though, had to be Griffin, a nerdy looking humanoid alien who sees all possible eventualities who is played by Michael Stuhlbarg. He is a nervous character who both helps and hinders J and K on their way to their goal of destroying Boris and launching the device that will prevent the invasion happening in the future.

The final showdown happens on the launch pad of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon and had an element of the opening fight scene of Casino Royale about it, with the protagonists fighting on the crane-like structures that hold the rocket in place. It all ends with a final confrontation which sees a military commander being shot and the origin of the story between J and K which was quite cleverly and emotionally handled by all. I have a thing where seeing Will Smith well up makes me want to cry too, because in a lot of his films he is the light-hearted comedy character, not to mention the guy you’re always rooting for.

In short; Men In Black 3 still hasn’t lived up to what made the first film such a success back in the 90s, but it’s going to stay with me a hell of a lot longer than the second. However, this is yet another trilogy that should stay as it is, no matter how much the actors need the pay cheque.

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Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2011 by Tom Austin-Morgan

‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ is the final installment of introductions to the characters appearing in ‘The Avengers’ next Summer. Chris Evans, whose last superhero role was as The Human Torch in the ‘Fantastic 4’ movies (also a Marvel comic adaptation), takes to another famous spandex-clad role as the red-white-and-blue-est good guy this side of DC’s Superman.

Steve Rogers is a small, thin, asthmatic, weedy kid who wants to join the army to fight the Nazis as he dislikes bullying (’cause that’s what the Nazis were, right?!). After being turned down time and again at various recruiting stations he is spotted by a German doctor, Dr Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), who signs him up for an experimental project which might see him signed up and on the front line.

During training he stands out, much to the disapproval of Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), by displaying less-than-adequate physical ability. But his ability to think outside of the box, as well as selflessness, bravery, determination and his sense of right and wrong mark him out to be selected for a revolutionary scientific procedure to produce the perfect soldier to uphold America’s ideals.

The experiment succeeds, and a German spy steals some of the serum that has affected Rogers’ genetic make-up and kills Dr Erskine in the process. Rogers chases the spy down and takes back the serum. This is the first scene where he uses his new-found strength and provides a couple of slap-stick moments as he is finding his feet, being that he is a couple of feet taller and wider, and immeasurably stronger than before. It also sees him wielding a taxi door as a makeshift shield in the iconic pose of Captain America.

Despite all this, Colonel Phillips still denies him the chance to fight on the front line; instead he becomes the face of U.S. propaganda against the Nazis at home, performing in theatres in the garish Captain America suit from the comics and the awful 1990 film. While all this is happening an SS officer, Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), has found a religious artefact called the Tesseract which Schmidt describes as “the jewel of Odin’s treasure room”, linking it in with the Thor storyline. He and his assistant, Dr Arnim Zola (Toby Jones), decide to distance themselves from the Nazi party. Their scientific division, HYDRA, starts focusing its research into producing the ultimate weapon using the power of the Tesseract.

While on a tour of the forces, Rogers gets a fleeting chance to show exactly what he’s made of when he realises his brother has been captured by HYDRA, so he commandeers a plane with the help of love interest and  stiff-upper-lipped Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), Tony Stark’s dad, and parachutes behind enemy lines.

Rogers infiltrates the base, rescues the captured soldiers and brings them all back to the U.S. base after coming face-to-face with Schmidt, who reveals himself to be the Red Skull, the original experimental soldier created by Dr Erskine. Rogers is hailed a hero and is welcomed into the army by Colonel Phillips and straight into the role of Captain in his own elite division; talk about a backtrack!

Thus ensues a long montage of this group of soldiers fighting all across Europe against HYDRA’ s (not the Nazis) super-weaponary; his suit has now become a little more military-issue and less star-spangled, though the colours are still red, white and blue. This ends with what seems to be the final battle where our heroes infiltrate the mountain hideout of HYDRA in the biggest underground warehouse in cinematic history (it has a runway for the biggest bomber you’re ever imagined that has to be 5 miles long – it is ridiculous)! The sequence ends in a chase after the plane as it is taking off, a fight in a part of the plane with six HYDRA soldiers around massive bombs and then yet another fight – this time to the death with the Red Skull, who was planning to destroy America (not any of the other allied countries as we have been miraculously edited out of World War II by Hollywood).

Rogers cannot turn the plane from its course so ditches it somewhere in the freezing waters around the North Pole. He wakes up in a suspicious room somewhere in his native New York; when he realises he is being lied to he escapes and breaks out into modern-day New York where he is quickly apprehended by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and inducted into the Avenger programme whereupon the film ends. Talk about an anti-climax.

But then this is, as I said at the beginning of the article, an introduction to a character who will be expanded upon in ‘The Avengers’. But it would have been interesting to see how Steve Rogers adapts to his modern surroundings and what the impact of his situation has on his psyche. Somehow I get the feeling we will find out about this in ‘The Avengers’.

That movie aside, ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ is an interesting film. Its visuals are pretty good and the casting is top-notch; it far outstrips the rubbish 1990 straight-to-release outing. The supporting cast was outstanding; Toby Jones, Stanley Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones especially seem to relish the roles they are given by really hamming it up. Hayley Atwell however, was no good at all. A bit of a charisma vacuum really.  Hugo Weaving was brooding and sinister as the Red Skull, though quite why his head turned red, his hair fell out and his nose dropped off were never truly addressed other than his inner faults manifested themselves. This still doesn’t explain why Captain America didn’t have some sort of physical defect to do with being good, like an enormous chest to support his big heart or something. Chris Evans loves these kind of over-the-top roles and dials the cheesy lines up to 11.

I found the CG a little distressing at the start of the film where Chris Evans’ head is placed on top of a skinny man’s body. But probably because I know what he looks like in real proportions. The Red Skull effects, on the other hand, are flawless. But the big gripe I have with the film as a whole is the ending; it is far too abrupt and anti-climactic, though I do realise that it is merely an introduction to a character. I think the director, Joe Johnson, handled it well given that Captain America is a bit of a cartoon and previous outings have been panned. Now we just have to wait for ‘The Avengers’ next year, though if you stay ’til the end you get a teaser trailer for said film.