Category Archives: josh brolin

Men in Black 3

Men in Black 3 ~ This movie beats the odds several ways. First it’s fun and entertaining, which for a sequel, let alone a second sequel, let alone a second sequel almost fifteen years after the original, and a decade after the lackluster first sequel. To be a good movie, and do well, against those odds is definitely an achievement.

The Men in Black concept is based on the brief and rarely seen Malibu Comics feature by Lowell Cunningham, which is in turn based on the ufology myth of the men in black from the government who cover up alien encounters. Through three movies now, Tommy Lee Jones as senior agent K and Will Smith as junior agent J have protected Earth from the scum of the universe as part of a top secret organization who do what you would expect them to do – kicking alien ass and erasing everyone’s memories of said ass-kicking.

The films have been successful mainly because of Jones and Smith’s almost perfect extreme buddy cop chemistry, as well as the sharp humor of the writing, and of course the cutting edge special effects. Even with all that, the first sequel was a weak entry almost ensuring MIB3 would not happen, but here we are.

The plot of Men in Black 3 bucks the odds even further, as it’s about time travel. The common thinking in Hollywood, even in scifi movies, is that time travel makes people’s heads hurt. Only when it is done well, like in the Back to the Future or Terminator series, does it come off successfully with mainstream audiences. MIB3 does it as well.

An alien villain, Boris the Animal (played by Jemaine Clement from HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords” although you’d never guess it), escapes prison and goes back in time to 1969 to kill K before he can put him in jail. K vanishes from the present, so J must go to 1969 to save him and put time right. And here’s where we hit the third odds-breaker. The younger K, played by Josh Brolin, is Will Smith’s partner for most of the movie. His impression of Tommy Lee Jones as K is dead on, and half the entertainment of the flick. The chemistry is intact despite a new actor in an old role.

This movie is so much fun, captures the spirit of the original, and covers new territory while being funny, exciting, and fresh. The only thing that could have made this better would have been a Will Smith theme song. Recommended. I wouldn’t have thought I would say this, but bring on Men in Black 4.

The End of the Western

When I heard that they were remaking True Grit I was very conflicted. The original True Grit – the one with John Wayne’s first Oscar, Kim Darby playing much younger than usual, and nowhere near as annoying as usual, non-actor Glen Campbell and his terrific title song, along with Robert Duvall and the late Dennis Hopper – that movie is a classic, and I love it. It’s in my top twenty movies of all-time, and my favorite western, period. There’s no way a remake could do it justice.

And then I heard who was doing it. I also love the Coen brothers. Ethan and Joel are among the best filmmakers of our time. The problem is that as absolutely brilliant as they are, the Coen brothers unfortunately can be hit or miss. For every Big Lebowski and O Brother, there’s a Ladykillers and Burn After Reading. While I can’t think of anyone better to remake it if it had to be remade… it still bugged me. Why did it need to be remade anyway? I just bet if they released the original to the theaters, it would be doing just as well as this new one.

The story, based on the novel by Charles Portis, in which the lead character was incidentally based on John Wayne, has young girl Mattie Ross seeking revenge on Tom Chaney, the man who killed her father. To this end she hires Marshall Rooster Cogburn and Texas Ranger LaBoeuf. Fourteen year-old and age-appropriate to the story, Hailee Steinfeld shines as Mattie Ross. I might even see an Oscar nod in her future she’s so good, and a far cry from Kim Darby. The problem is that’s about the only advantage this remake has over the original.

The number one problem is that the Coen brothers have clearly forgotten what makes a western a western. The western is a great American artform which has over the last three or four decades been forgotten in favor of the grim, gritty realism of what the old West may have really been. Like the concepts of cyberpunk, and rocketships and rayguns, this may have not been how it was, it is how it is done. Westerns have sweeping panoramic landscapes, big orchestral soundtracks, hokey country title songs and reasonable hygienic cowboys who are easily identifiable as the good guys and the bad guys. The new True Grit has none of these things.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not dissing realism, nor am I dissing terrific stuff like “Deadwood” or Unforgiven, it’s just that not all westerns have to be like that. One critic said of Unforgiven that it was a proper eulogy for the American western. If that’s so, then the Coen’s True Grit is the final nail in that coffin. Any of the old timey brightness mentioned above that signify the westerns of old could have saved this flick in my opinion.

The movie is also very slow, a cardinal sin when it comes to action flicks of any genre, but that’s not where the rest of the problems lie – that would be in casting. As I said, Steinfeld is fine, and may yet be headed for Oscar-land, and Josh Brolin almost makes up for Jonah Hex as Tom Chaney, but the two male leads are near disastrous.

Matt Damon’s LaBoeuf is two-dimensional and boring, and when he does break free from the cardboard, he is more than a little bit creepy, especially in his interactions with his fourteen year-old employer. It was just a touch too much “To Catch a Predator” for me. Jeff Bridges is most unsatisfying filling the Duke’s shoes as Rooster Cogburn. He is neither heroic nor charismatic, or even interesting. He also mumbles and grumbles throughout, as if he had taken Batman lessons from Christian Bale. Honestly, if he had done The Dude in this flick like he did in Tron: Legacy, it would have been more tolerable.

I am stunned that this is on several folks’ top ten lists for 2010. I can only imagine they haven’t seen the original. I can only recommend this new True Grit as a curiosity or to see Hailee Steinfeld’s performance. I did not like it. See the original version, it’s far superior.

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Jonah Hex

Jonah Hex ~ My online friend Terry Willitts, who’s done a few guest blogs for me both here and at French Fry Diary, summed up this movie pretty well for me on Twitter recently. He said, “It’s not as bad as everyone made it out to be, but it’s not that good.” That just about covers it from a distance.

To me, when I heard they were making a Jonah Hex movie I was excited. This was a comic and a character that could translate to the screen well and gain a mainstream audience, and would also help convince the mainstream that comic books were not just guys flying around in their underwear. Unfortunately, the folks who made this flick didn’t read much of the source material.

While Jonah Hex is primarily a western anti-hero, the character has worked well in both supernatural and even science fiction trappings, while maintaining his own identity. He was never supernatural himself, which is why it bothered me that the movie sought to imbue him with spiritual powers like talking to the dead or to animals. It seems out of place, or worse yet like the Hex character was rewritten to fit this movie.

It’s bad enough that there are scenes and pieces of dialogue lifted from other movies, but quite a lot of this anachronistic nightmare feels like it was once a bad Wild Wild West sequel or even a rejected episode of “Brisco County Jr.”

The film, despite its numerous flaws, looks very good. And Josh Brolin both looks and acts the part of Jonah Hex. If the folks behind the scenes could get their acts together and make a real Hex flick, I would love to see Brolin once again. On the other hand, Megan Fox is just barely eye candy and John Malkovich is just over the top, and that’s saying a lot for him. Tom Wopat is surprisingly good.

On the whole, I would say that Terry got this one right. It’s not “the end of the comic book movie era” as one critic put it when it was first released, but it’s not bad. It certainly could be better however. Check it out as a curiosity, or if nothing else is on.

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Jonah Hex Trailer

A special Free Comic Book Day treat for y’all – the new Jonah Hex trailer. The film, starring Josh Brolin in the title role, along with Megan Fox and John Malkovich, opens on June 18th.

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Jonah Hex on the Big Screen

For those folks who think comic books are just about people who wear their underwear on the outside of their pants and strike dynamic poses as they punch bad guys, you obviously haven’t heard of Jonah Hex.

Mysterious scarred bounty hunter of the old west, Hex was created a few decades back by John Albano and Tony Dezuniga, and has become one of DC Comics most celebrated western anti-heroes. Jonah Hex has even met the Justice League, and visited Earth’s apocalyptic future, but for the majority of his history he remains closer in tone to Clint Eastwood’s man with no name than any costumed clown. The character’s most recent comic series by writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti is simply one of the best on the shelves consistently.

Next year, director Jimmy Hayward (Horton Hears a Who, sigh) will bring Jonah Hex to the big screen. With Josh Brolin in the title role and co-starring Megan Fox and John Malkovich, it should be very interesting. I know I can’t wait.

Jonah Hex will be released June 18th, 2010.

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