Sunday, May 27, 2012

Reel To Reel: Men In Black 3

Still hunting the original illegal aliens.

Going Rate: Worth matinee price.
Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Emma Thompson
Rated: PG-13
Red Flags: Creepy alien violence, mild language, one gross make-out scene

Men In Black debuted in 1997, made a forgettable sequel in 2002, and now comes back with another go in 2012. Columbia Pictures and Amblin Entertainment (Steven Spielberg is executive producer) still see life in a stale franchise. Perhaps it's time to throw the reins to a new generation of space cops.

MIB3 does that, sorta, by prequeling while sequeling. Agents K (Jones) and J (Smith) are still chasing extraterrestrial baddies and erasing memories, but now J is having to do that in two different centuries. It turns out an alien super criminal, Boris "The Animal" (Clement), has just busted out of the supermax lockup on the moon. You could call him the original Spider-Man because he releases these insect-like creatures from the palm of his hand. I'd tell you more if it didn't make me nauseous.

Boris wants to kill K, who not only locked him up but also shot off one of his arms. Worse, Boris wants to do it retroactively -- time-traveling back to 1969, when they first tangled, but offing K before the agent can cuff him. The killer finds a way to do it, and suddenly J finds his partner is reduced to a memorial bust. Worse, the "ArcNet," an Earth-protecting shield, is gone. That was also K's idea.

So now J must get back to 1960's, save his partner, and save Earth from invasion. Remember that the next time you complain about your job. After going way back, he runs into a younger version of his partner, played perfectly by Josh Brolin. I wondered whether CGI, makeup effects, or dubbing enhanced Brolin's younger K. Nope, it's just good old-fashioned casting and performance. He mimics Jones to the letter.

I like how MIB3 moves along before it has a chance to get boring, although Smith's character wore me a bit thin at times. The film also throws another genuinely interesting creature at us, Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg), the lone survivor of an alien race who can see multiple future events at the same time. I'm not sure if he's somebody you'd want with you at the Vegas sports books.

MIB3 is better than it could've been, but it still seems dated, like a classic rock group getting back together for a reunion gig. I hear production on Ghostbusters 3 is moving forward with or without Bill Murray. If can be interesting as the Men In Black, it may have a chance.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Official Patriot

At left, Chapter President James Williamson pins the SAR rosette on your humble servant under the admiration of SAR officer Al Niemeyer.

HUZZAH!  Two years with the Sons of The American Revolution as a prospective member, participating with the color guard, and I'm finally in after getting my act together on the research part.  It took at least two false starts.  I thought I would be able to do it on my own, but I found it's handy to have an experienced genealogist who knows what to do, where to get the documents, how to get the documents, and how to lay everything out so that the application gets through.

Your humble servant's patriot ancestor is Robert Foresman, Sr., who fought in the Pennsylvania Militia during the Revolutionary War, traced back through my father's bloodline.  I am also trying to "prove out" another patriot in the family, this one a member of the Continental Army.  Research has also found a redcoat who surrendered to General Washington at Yorktown... but, psst, we don't discuss him a lot.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Reel To Reel: The Avengers

The gang's all here!

Going Rate: Worth full price admission.
Starring:Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson
Rated: PG-13
Red Flags: Comic book action violence, mild language

I'll let you in on a little secret: Iron Man steals The Avengers. With that in mind, this all-star comic-book superhero movie is a highly enjoyable ride that takes itself only moderately seriously, and most of that is due to Iron Man (Downey), whose motor-mouth wisecracks put a reality check on an over-the-top fantasy.

A superhero film filled with superheroes requires the evilest threat a screenwriter can think up. This time, it's the Tesseract, a self-generating energy source so powerful it can punch a hole into the universe and bring forth a whole host of ugly superbaddies. Only in movies does such technology always suck from the bottom of the barrel. What if it brought in a race twenty times smarter than us? Would we resist sharing our turf with a superior intellect or defend our dumbness to the death? I dunno.

This energy source, held by a super-dark security group called S.H.I.E.L.D., brings out Loki, a sinister authoritarian bad guy with a scepter that flips people's allegiances. Imagine what it would do to Rush Limbaugh. Loki inverts a scientist and ace archer Hawkeye (Renner) and takes off with the Tesseract. Not good.

S.H.I.E.L.D.'s topper, Nick Fury (Jackson), realizes this problem will require him to do more than stand around and be cool with one eye, so he starts putting together a team: Captain America as Steve Rogers (Evans), Natasha Romanoff as Black Widow (Johansson), Thor as his Shakespearean hammer-throwing self (Hemsworth), Hulk hiding inside Bruce Banner (Ruffalo), and the aforementioned Iron Man doing business as Tony Stark. Put this many egos in a room, and you're bound to have trouble, especially if you get Dr. Banner angry -- something he doesn't want to do anymore, thus leaving doubts about his viability as a team player. Captain is the born leader, even if he's a little too flashy-looking. Widow really doesn't have any superpowers beyond bringing a lot of creative hurt to people. We're really not sure whose side Thor is on, given Loki is a relative. And Stark? Let's just get this done and go eat Chinese.

The film delivers everything expected of a summer blockbuster in its genre: lots of CGI, lots of explosions, lots of impossible stunts. What saves it from being a forgettable thrill-ride is Joss Whedon's touch. He made the film for fanboys without making it a fanboy movie, avoiding the mistake that doomed Watchmen. Seeing Captain America and Thor is not a prerequisite. Prepare to be more than a bit surprised. And stay through the end of the credits. I didn't, but a friend tells me it's worth it.