Men In Black III

The first thing that hits you is the 15 years or so of this franchise. Unlike many other which were milked to death, these have been given a chance to mature. There is more characterisation than most comedies and indeed one of the main aspects of the story line is Agent J (Will Smith) trying to get the ever so taciturn Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) to open up more. The obituary for Agent Z just about says it all…or not.

The long story short; a really bad bad guy/alien escapes from a maximum security prison on the moon. He knows how to go back in time and rewrite history, and so he does this.  Agent J realises something is wrong and persuades people of the alternate timeline.  He then has to go back and try prevent the alternate history events from happening.

Along the way we meet the usual assortment of aliens, one that stands out is Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg (Flight of the Conchords, 2007-2009) who can see multiple future events based on probabilities. He brings both character and story to the offering. The main cast Agent J, (Will Smith, Robert Neville, I am Legend 2007), Agent K, the elder (Tommy Lee Jones, Colonel Chester Philips, Captain America: The First Avenger, 2011) and Josh Brolin (True Grit, Tom Chaney, 2010) all give the performances we have come to expect; we have the charged and excitable Agent J trying to force out some human expressionism from the stone faced K, only to come up against the young K. When J joins up with K he quickly realises that the younger man is more positive, optimistic and open that the older K he knows and asks “what happened you?” to no response, as the movie works to the climactic ending we eventually learn just what was that life changing event that transformed Agent K.

It should be pointed out that this is a movie that does exactly what it sets out to do, it entertains well.  One piece of the movie which stands out it Josh Brolin’s take-off of a young Agent K, it was great and produced some genuine laughs from the audience.  I saw this movie in China – 3D IMAX.

MIB is a rare thing in a franchise set, it works. This might be why the producers felt they could afford to leave so long between offerings. We now have three entertaining movies which will withstand the test of time.  Will there be a fourth? I don’t know. Will go see it if there is? Yes. So let’s wait and see, but in the meantime you might do a lot worse with your time than go see this third offering.

There are some side jokes and statements on 1969 America and these largely work well and serve to place the movie in the times.

Rating 7/10 – it is not the type of movie that would be happy with a 9 or 10 out of 10.

Prometheus

If ever there was a film which was the victim of its own hype Prometheus, was probably it. Many have slated it. I have to say, I think unfairly. Okay so we expect great things from thoroughbreds out of leading stables and let’s face it, the blood-line for Prometheus is as good as it gets and the stable is one of the best in the world so perhaps there was a certain justifiable expectation.  I’m going to forget about all of that and think about what I saw. Some good old fashioned Sci-fi.

The movie’s opening credits are essentially a fly over of what seems like the Icelandic interior (I was almost booking another flight back!) then move to Scotland about 70 years into the future and the discovery of the rock drawings by two of our heroes, the good doctor Shaw (Noomi Rapace, Lispbeth Salander, The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, 2009) and Logan Marshall Green (24, 2005) as Doctor Charlie Halloway.  From here we go to the Prometheus  a couple of years into the future.  I have to say this was where my first upset kicked in.  The distance from earth given for the craft is physically impossible in the time scale given, it would have needed to have moved many times faster than light. No indication was given that this could be achieved, but this is another story.  As with any long-distance Hollywood space travel our crew are all in stasis until the ships reaches its destination.

We see Michael Fassbender’s (Haywire, 2010) robotic David looking after things, touring the ship,  with a photography style reminiscent of those early shots in Moon (Duncan Jones, 2009) and indeed you eventually begin to get the old Alien (1979 Ridley Scott)  feel to the ship.

The plot line is convenient at best. No sooner is the team at the planet than they find the sites to investigate. It also seems that Scott has some unanswered personal questions regarding God, the universe, creation and intelligent design, the questions are asked, but never fully answered, which works for me as a summer movie is not the place to answer such.

From the perspective of individual acting, it was by and large excellent, Sean Harris  (Stretch in Harry Brown, 2009) though I do have to ask if Charlize Theron was value for money, she does not seem to have been best used.

What does standout is the visuals, the graphics and CGI, this is first class and add to the movie substantially. The rating I’m giving below is in relation to the theatrical version which I watched, when the director’s cut comes out I expect significant change as with other Scott movies which received the same treatment.

At the end of the day, I was wanting to dig-up the DVD of the original Alien.

 

Rating 6/10 entertaining, well knotted together cast, some excellent photography

Battleship

Directed by Peter Berg (Hancock, 2008) and co written by Eric and John Hoeber (Red, 2011), the movie is apparently based on the Hasbro’s children’s game Battleship, indeed that would explain a certain plot twist.  Is this the greatest movie ever made? No, nor is it the worst. It has been scoring a solid set of 4/10 – 6/10 from the critics. You will have to wait until the end to see my score.  It is actually a reasonably entertaining movie.  Ever since Independence Day (Roland Emmerich, 1996) I have resisted going too technical on movies which are designed only to entertain; indeed the technical deficiencies of some movies still provide far more entertainment value than the movies themselves.  With this in mind I parked my brain at the theatre door and proceeded to watch what was served up to me, gone were all thought of geo-politics, coordinated military responses etc.  I sat down to see how our stars saved the world.

Staring Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood 2008+) as the older brother who drags his y feckless irresponsible undisciplined younger brother (Taylor Kitsch, John Carter, 2012) in to the navy (where as a lieutenant is the TAC on the USS John Paul Jones); I’m not going to ask how a young man with such obvious personality flaws got to such a position. The older brother who as a Commander is the master of his own ship and is sailing along side his kinsman in the naval war games programmed off Hawaii  is so positioned to be one of the three vessels to investigate our alien visitors when they arrive.

The afore mentioned alien visitors only dropped in to Earth as a result of NASA sending a focused radio message out to space. The message was heard and the invading aliens rush straight to Earth. The only problem is that the aliens manage to crash into the only satellite they will be able to use to “phone home”.  As a result they also need to take over the radio observatory from which the Earth signals were being broadcast.  As only can happen in the movies, Brooklyn Decker, who plays the girlfriend of Kitsch’s character, is walking up the side of the mountain the observatory is on to help an army colonel who is a double  amputee and is learning to walk again.  It does not help that she is also the admiral’s daughter (no point for guessing which one of the brothers the admiral does not get on with).

Long story short, by land and sea the combined forces of our stars fight by various ways to defeat the enemy. Despite the budget this is a B movie, this is not necessarily a bad thing (just think of the classic offerings from the 1950’s and 1960’s. This is a movie that knows its place.

You may have noticed I have not gone in to the plot too much – it is obvious and so I won’t take away from the fun…Everything said, I could not but feel there was a message being sent out with the movie; the time for our old quarrels is over, there is a new stronger enemy which requires that we put aside old enmities, prejudices and assumtions and come together to defeat it.  This may just be me being over philosophical in a movie which generally requires no brain power, but that’s me; who the new enemy is, that is for you to decide. I mentioned this was a B-movie, its predecessors from 50 years ago also had similar messages and then the targets were obvious…If I have a significant issue it is in the use of a certain naval vessel which is now a museum; there was a lot of live armament on a very old vessel, not in active service; I’m going to stop now.

Rating =  5/10 it will keep you entertained, some good one-liners and it is easy to follow.  Some interesting cameo appearances also.

Chronicle

The key question here is: how do you view this movie? Is it an allegorical view of the pressures teens  are under today, or a science fiction based thriller revolving around three  young men who discover super human powers? I viewed it as the latter but the former struck me as I thought about the movie.

Looking at the movie itself, these may be dark times to be a camera-man in Hollywood with the ever increasing number of movies which seem to need hand-held home movie cameras, be it the Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield or even Troll Hunter (the recent Norwegian offering). Where this movie differs is that it is not meant to be a mockumentary (similarly to CLoverfield) but rather a movie which allows the protagonists to be portrayed from their own perspective, through the use of the handheld. Their musings to the camera give a view to their frame of mind and allow for a glimpse of their view on the world around them.

John Trank directed this debut offing after co-writing it with Max Landis (John Landis’ son) and what we have here is three young men from different social and school backgrounds who some how also manage to be friends (two of the characters are actually cousins). Looking at them, they seem to represent a fairly “typical” cross-section of high-school life.  Recent movies like “Fright Night” (Craig Gillespie 2011) and “Red State” (Kevin Smith 2011) are shying away from using high-school jocks & “cool” kids and using more main-stream examples of high-school students and this movie carries on this trend.

What you don’t get in this movie is answers; you don’t learn where the mysterious crystal came from, you don’t know much about the boys’ backgrounds (like what really brings them together) other than what is immediately necessary for the story and unlike most other sci-fi movies there are no swarms of government agencies descending to control the situation as in Super 8 (J.J. Abrams 2011).

Soon after their discovery they begin to notice their own growing powers and realise that it is like a “muscle” that needs to be trained in order to gain in strength. What unfolds is a view of what happened Clark Kent or Peter Parker in their respective stories, only is it from the perspective of the struggle in dealing with how to adapt to these news powers. There is no sense of romantic dreaming here, the guys are thinking no further than the fun these powers can generate. The boys react differently to their gifts and ultimately it comes down to a battle between good and evil (as ever) or as they put it in the film – hubris and responsibility.

The hand-held camera work which might have threatened to derail the movie is carefully rationed and only used for plot purposes to move us to a climax worthy of Iron Man (John Favreau 2008) as we witness a modern urban clash of the would-be titans.

This is a well crafted work which is to the credit of the writers and director, as well as the young cast. It explores the boys’ reactions to their abilities and how, ultimately, they must find their respective places in very differing worlds. As I mentioned earlier we can read much in the way of allegory into this movie, but I prefer to witness how the director cuts away any un-necessary backstory to focus purely on the young men in question.  This not a cheap standard Sci-fi B movie, in my view, but rather a thriller, or even a coming of age movie which uses the sci-fi genre as its vehicle, rather like Brick (Rian Johnson 2005) used Noir in that classic.

Not the longest movie in the world, it moves along at a steady pace, well worth going to see.

Rating 6/10 maybe 7/10 a solid 3 *** movie that should entertain.