When a writer sits down to create a fictional world and decides to mix genres that seem to be opposite from one another, it requires a certain amount of skill. While being true to each category, there also has to be a way for them to co-mingle successfully.
Men in Black II (2002) is the sequel to Men in Black (1997). Its been four years since Kay (Will Smith) and Jay (Tommy Lee Jones) have been in the same room. Jay has since retired from the job and has erased his memories of his previous work experience. When Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle) and her henchman Scrad (Johnny Knoxville) sets her sights on Earth and MiB, Jay has two seemingly impossible tasks on his hand. He has to save the world (again) and somehow remind Kay of his past.
I remember liking this film. It has the charm and the comic sensibilities of its predecessor while building on the previous narrative. The only issue that I have is that the two female characters are built on stereotypes. Serleena is a temptress whose main weapon is her sexuality. Laura Vasquez (Rosario Dawson) is the princess/love interest who has to be rescued. Unfortunately, this is not the first, nor is this the last story in which women are not just limited in number, but forced into boxes while the men are given wings to figuratively fly.
The crime drama genre has had a pull on audiences for many generations. The cat and mouse game between the criminals and the police makes for a riveting narrative, if done properly.
In 1993, Harrison Ford starred in The Fugitive, a reboot of the 1963 television series of the same name. Ford plays Dr. Richard Kimble, a man accused of murdering his wife. While he hunts down the real killer, Dr. Kimble is also running from Deputy U.S. Marshall Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones). Deputy Gerard does not believe that Dr. Kimble is innocent and is determined to see him locked up.
Before we go any farther, I must warn that I have never seen the television series, this review is strictly based on the movie. What I like about this movie is that the action works well with the narrative. While some other films in this genre never quite have the right mix of action and narrative, the film finds the perfect balance between the two. I also thoroughly enjoy the game of one-upmanship that Dr. Kimble and Deputy Gerard play, trying to prove that the other is wrong and he is right.
There is something immortal about the superhero. No matter what era s/he was created in or the world that they inhabit, these characters continue to live on.
Hollywood has had it’s fill of superhero movies over the years. One of the most popular is Batman, who has returned to big screen again and again.
In 1995, Val Kilmer stepped into the suit in Batman Forever. In this movie, Batman must face not just one villain, but two. Harvey Dent/Two Face (Tommy Lee Jones) is of the belief that Batman was responsible for the accident that changed his face, his revenge is to create chaos and fear in Gotham City. The other villain, Riddler/Edward Nygma (Jim Carrey) works for Bruce Wayne, the man under the mask. When his inventions are rejected, the Riddler will get his revenge by draining the brains of Gotham citizens and learn the secrets of his former boss. Adding to the mix of chaos is Robin/Dick Grayson (Chris O’Donnell), a young man from a circus family whose family has been killed by two face and wants revenge. And there of course, the love interest, Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman).
I happen to think Batman Forever is the best Batman movie. While it is dark enough (as any Batman movie should be), there are pops of color and elements that remain true to it’s comic book origins.
Ten years later, Batman returned to the big screen in a much darker vision in Batman Begins. This time Christian Bale suites up as Gotham City’s protector. After loosing his parents when he was still a young boy, Bruce Wayne travels to Asia to learn from Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) and Ra’s Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe). His goal is to return to Gotham City and fight off the forces of darkness that threaten to consume his city.
This movie and the following sequels are much darker than any of the previous Batman movies. But it is a refreshing take on the story, especially considering that Batman returns to the big screen every 5-10 years to begin with.
Over the years, Will Smith is known for playing a variety of roles.
In 1997, he entered the buddy comedy/science fiction genre with Men in Black. Jay (Will Smith), a streetwise New York City police officer is drafted to join the Men In Black, a secret organization whose job is to police the aliens who have landed on Earth. His partner is Kay (Tommy Lee Jones), a veteran of the MIB. When a bug’s space ship crashes and it takes the human form of a farmer to find the galaxy, an energy source that could be dangerous if it fell into the wrong hands. Jay and Kay must find the galaxy and protect it before the bug finds it first.
This movie is just so good. It’s funny, entertaining and very well done.
Seven years later, in 2004, Smith played another police officer. This time, it was in the movie, I Robot. It is the year 2035, human like robots have taken over the menial tasks that humans once did. Del Spooner (Will Smith) is a technophobic police officer who is investigating the murder of a doctor. The accused is the robot that he created.
What I liked about this movie was that it asked questions. We have all become so dependent on technology. What happens when the technology instead of working for us, thinks for itself?
A year after that in 2005, Smith jumped into the rom-com genre with Hitch. Hitch (Will Smith) is a professional coach of sorts. He helps the male schlubs of the world to win over their dream partners. While helping Albert (Kevin James), become the man that Allegra (Amber Valleta) would fall in love with, Hitch also falls in love. Sara (Eva Mendes) is a cynical gossip columnist whose latest subject is Allegra. Sara is hot on the trail of Allegra’s new boyfriend. It won’t be long before she connects the dots that lead back to Hitch.
I like this movie. While it has the predictable tropes of a rom-com, it is different because of protagonist, Hitch. Many rom coms have a female protagonist. Overall, it is an enjoyable film.
In every movie franchise, for every individual movie that succeeds, there is one that bombs horribly. In the Batman movie franchise, for every Batman Begins (2005) or Batman Forever (1995), there is a Batman & Robin (1997).
Gotham City is under a two pronged attack. Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) and Dr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) are looking to control the city. Poison Ivy uses her feminine charms and poisons while Dr. Freeze just wants to see the city frozen over. Our heroes, who were able to successfully defeat Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) and the Riddler (Jim Carrey) in Batman Forever, find that their relationship is at a crossroads. Can Batman (George Clooney), Robin (Chris O’Donnell) and Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone) defeat the villains and return Gotham City to peace and security?
I will give the production team points for trying. Sometimes when a franchise becomes too serious, a little lightening up is required. But this movie goes too far in trying to put the humor back into the story. It was just a little too over the top for me.