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Tag Archive: Men in Black


Review by C.J. Bunce

A stroll through the spy units in movies like the 007s of James Bond, the Kingsmen of Kingsman: The Secret Service, the spies of Mission: Impossible, the dueling and partnering international agents of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and even the heroine of Atomic Blonde all provide an avenue for fans of the spy genre to see how an actor could also portray a spy of another franchise.  An example of this is Pierce Brosnan’s run on Remington Steele as prep for his destined role as James Bond.  How would Colin Firth look as a Bond, or Charlize Theron?  A similar comparison can be found in the new film, Men in Black: International, and its new novelization by author R.S Belcher.

How would Chris Hemsworth, formerly Captain Kirk’s dad in the first Star Trek reboot movie, but now engrained in the psyche of moviegoers everywhere forever as Thor, especially after his character change-up in Thor: Ragnarok, which tweaked the character with the humor that the actor seems to infuse into his other films and public appearances.  As Men in Black’s London division Agent H, Hemsworth is this character–they are indistinguishable.  It makes sense–it’s how good casting works–but it will be impossible to read the character and not think of the actor’s persona, charm, and smile as you read it.  You may try, but the character of H seems to be one that only Hemsworth could play.  Not so much directly written for Tessa Thompson is the new Agent M.  The character is a solidly conceived rookie in a wild, fun, and faithful follow-on for the Men in Black franchise.  But even with roles in Veronica Mars, Heroes, Creed, and Valkyrie in the Marvel movies, she doesn’t have that same star power–yet.  But the novelization is quite a vehicle for that Hemsworth persona, and his fans will love the book as much as they loved the film.  How would Hemsworth appear in an Ian Fleming novel?  You’ll find out here in this new novel of the British spy genre.

Credit is due to the underlying screenplay written by Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, but the novelization of Men in Black: International also has some of the finest alien supporting characters of the series, and the story is every bit as consistently full of fun and futuristic science fiction as the first and third movies (far surpassing the second entry in the franchise).  The alien Pawn character Pawny is right up there with Michael Stuhlbarg’s Griffin.  Pawny is lovable and loyal, a bit like Dobby from the Harry Potter movies.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

What defines the Men in Black the best?  The neuralyzer?  The Noisy Cricket?  The suits?  Or maybe its the sunglasses.  1997, 2002, 2012, and 2019.  Plenty has changed in 22 years since the first Men in Black movie, but readers of a new book on all four films in the MiB franchise will learn a lot hasn’t changed.  As part of the release of the latest entry in the series, Men in Black International, Titan Books partnered with Columbia Pictures to put together Men in Black Films: The Official Visual Companion to the Films, an oversized, chrome, hardcover guide spanning the creation of the MiB universe and each film from the original comic books to the new movie.

Writers Lisa Fitzpatrick and Sharon Gosling interview the directors, writers, visual effects crew, and other artists and actors from each movie to find out why the series has resonated with sci-fi audiences.  Moving between images from the film, the characters, and plots, to what happened behind the scenes to develop the ideas from page to final film, readers will get two views of the films: one in-universe and one real-world.  It’s told chronologically, giving equal treatment to each film.  Along with stars Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, James Brolin, and now Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, you’ll see familiar characters from the past played by Tony Shalhoub (Galaxy Quest), Michael Stuhlbarg (The Shape of Water), Luke Cage stars Rosario Dawson and Mike Colter (Luke Cage), and Rip Torn (Defending Your Life), and you’ll meet new characters played by Emma Thompson and Liam Neeson.

The writers find lots of common threads with the first three films because of the overlap in creators, so look for some deep dives into the moviemaking process from director of the first three films, Barry Sonnenfeld, producers Laurie MacDonald and Walter F. Parkes (and how they coordinated ideas with executive producer Steven Spielberg), production designer Bo Welch, set decorator Cheryl Carasik, and, of course, Rick Baker, monster (and alien) maker, plus dozens more.  It’s all a nostalgic look back to some of the major creators that guided the look of Hollywood in the 1980s and 1990s.  It includes commentary from comic book creator Lowell Cunningham and the several writers that had a hand in the screenplays.  From the great futuristic props to those sunglasses and black suit changes, every major talent behind the camera gets to share where the ideas came from, with full-color photographs documenting the production steps along the way.

Here is a look inside Men in Black Films: The Official Visual Companion to the Films, courtesy of Titan Books:

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If you agree 2017’s Marvel movie Thor: Ragnarok was the best of the bunch, and you don’t get enough of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson this month in Avengers: Endgame, just wait a little longer.  In June, Men in Black International arrives, and the next trailer for that fourth film in the Men in Black franchise is here.  Check it out below.  Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones first created the fun alien invasion series with their Agents J and K in the three films, only to be eclipsed by the man who would be Thanos–Josh Brolin–as a young Agent K in Men in Black III.  Also in that movie Emma Thompson joined the agency as Agent O, taking over the role Rip Torn played as the character Zed in the earlier films.

Although we rarely hear about the other 00 agents in the James Bond movies, the Men in Black are branching out.  Chris Hemsworth arrives as Agent H–“one of the best ever” to wear the suit, joined by Tessa Thompson as new recruit Agent M.  They both join Emma Thompson who is back again as Agent O.  And if that wasn’t perfect casting enough, Liam Neeson joins the series as the London-based leader of the UK branch of MIB.

And of course, there are aliens, because that’s what the MIB is all about.  Sony released two great first trailers back in December for Men in Black International (check ’em out here).  Here’s the next:

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Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones created a fun alien invasion series with their Agents J and K in the first three films in the Men in Black series.  But they were eclipsed by an even funnier performance by Josh Brolin as a young Agent K in Men in Black III.  Also in that movie Emma Thompson joined the agency as Agent O, taking over the role Rip Torn played as the character Zed in the earlier films.  Although we rarely hear about the other 00 agents in the James Bond movies, the Men in Black are branching out, with new agents for the fourth movie in the franchise coming your way next year, Men in Black International.

Thor: Ragnarok star Chris Hemsworth arrives as Agent H–“one of the best ever” to wear the suit, joined by Tessa Thompson as new recruit Agent M.  They both join Emma Thompson who is back again as Agent O.  And if that wasn’t perfect casting enough, Liam Neeson joins the series as the London-based leader of the UK branch of MIB.

And of course, there are aliens, because that’s what the MIB is all about.  Sony released two great first trailers this week for Men in Black International.  Which do you like best?  One features Agent M already as an agent, the other U.S. version shows her joining the agency.  Take a look:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the sequel to the 2014 spy movie Kingsman: The Secret Service, is coming to the theaters in a few weeks.  If you didn’t see the original, it was probably because of its rather uninspired title.  But don’t wait any longer.  Kingsman: The Secret Service is a blast.  And it’s streaming right now.  Kingsman: The Secret Service stars Colin Firth as a secret agent in a new brand of 007 series, as he attempts to recruit the next member of the Kingsman organization, the son of a former agent, played by Taron Egerton.  It’s stylish.  It’s wall-to-wall action.  It’s part dark comedy.  And its over-the-top violence is operatic and epic.  The last time we had this much fun was watching Roddy Piper and Keith David in They Live.

For those hoping Firth would ever be tapped as Bond, this is every bit that, only Firth’s master spy has moves like no Bond ever had.  One scene provides so much hand-to-hand combat you’d think you were watching Kill Bill, and the Quentin Tarentino influence doesn’t stop there.  You’d almost think the retired director was the ghost director behind the mayhem in the film’s climactic battle.  It’s just as well, as actual director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Kick-Ass 2, X-Men: First Class, Layer Cake) proves again he knows the action genre.

Every great British spy story needs a Bond girl, and Sofia Boutella’s Gazelle is up there with the best.  Her missing lower legs (no, we never learn why) were replaced with steel blades, blades that can kill–and very much do.  Think of Bond girls played by Famke Janssen and Grace Jones, and Boutella fits right in.  Every bit the combat equal to Firth and Egerton’s spies, Gazelle is practically a character missing from Tarentino’s Kill Bill movies. Continue reading

Along with the pile-on of comedies coming from CBS All Access this Fall previewed earlier here at borg.com, Fox has its own new comedies entering the mix.  In addition to the Seth McFarlane sci-fi comedy Orville (previewed here), the network is offering a new half-hour paranormal comedy, Ghosted.  Known for his offbeat comedies, Jonathan Krisel, co-creator of FX Network’s Baskets and showrunner on Portlandia, will be directing the pilot and is an executive producer on the series.

In part a spoof on The X-Files, the series stars Craig Robinson (Mr. ROBOT, The Office, Mr. Robinson, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Hot Tub Time Machine series) as Leroy Wright, the skeptic, and Adam Scott (Angie Tribeca, Parks and Recreation, Party of Five, Veronica Mars, Wonderfalls) as Max Allison, the believer, in a show about alien abductions and an underground Men in Black-inspired government agency.  Longmire’s Ally Walker is the captain of the agency.

Check out this preview for Ghosted:

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MIB IV Jump Street Men in Black

Men in Black is now firmly footed in the annals of modern classic sci-fi.  With Men in Black III, starring Will Smith as Agent J, Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K, and Josh Brolin as a young Agent K., MIB delivered one of the best third entries in any movie franchise.  Check out our earlier review of Men in Black III here at borg.com.

We have not yet discussed the movie reboot of the TV series 21 Jump Street or its hilarious sequel 22 Jump Street–a very different series than the Men in Black.  We loved the buddy cop comedy team.  Multiple Academy Award nominee Jonah Hill (Moneyball, Superbad), and action star Channing Tatum (G.I. Joe, The Hateful 8) provide the ultimate comic relief as two cops that go undercover in high school and Spring break.  Hill is one of the best actors of his generation and Tatum’s suave charm can do no wrong.

2121 Jump Street

In the end credits for 22 Jump Street, mock-ups of any and every sequel were shown as sort of a forward-looking flashback of all the sequels that could one day be made.  So why not a mash-up where the Jump Street duo go undercover with the alien defenders?

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The 5th Wave invasion

The aliens have arrived.

It’s flat-out one of our favorite sci-fi sub-genres.  The alien invasion flick.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), The Thing from Another World (1951), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), E.T, the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Predator (1987), Alien Nation (1988), They Live (1988), Independence Day (1996), Star Trek: First Contact (1996), Men in Black (1997), Starship Troopers (1997), Signs (2002), War of the Worlds (2005), Cloverfield (2008), District 9 (2009), Cowboys & Aliens (2011), Edge of Tomorrow (2014).  These are some of the most exciting and fun sci-fi movies to watch and re-watch.

Kick-Ass and The Equalizer’s Chloë Grace Moretz stars in a new Sony/Columbia Pictures release, The 5th Wave, which looks like it’s mixing the alien invasion film with the disaster movie, the epidemic movie, and the body snatcher movie.  The only thing missing is zombies.  But body snatchers are close enough.

Alien ship in The 5th Wave

The 5th Wave co-stars Office Space star Ron Livingston, X-Men Origins and The Sum of All Fears’ Liev Shreiber, and Prime Suspect and Assault on Precinct 13’s Maria Bello.  Is Moretz a normal Earthling or one of us taken over by the aliens?

Check out this first trailer for The 5th Wave:

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D4VE_01-pr-1    D4VE variant cover 1

It’s not every day a cool new mash-up comes your way.  When you think comedy meets sci-fi, Spaceballs, Galaxy Quest, Men in Black or Guardians of the Galaxy may come to mind.  Today IDW Publishing is releasing the first book in a new limited edition comic book series that has a new spin on sci-fi comedy, called D4VE.

D4VE (not D-A-V-E) is a robot in our future.  Hey–all good robots must have a number in their name.  (Ain’t that right, B-9, B-4, R2-D2, C-3PO, IG-88, and 4-LOM?)  D4VE is also everyman.  Or at least everyrobot.  And he’s going through a mid-life crisis.

D4VE excerpt

Imagine a world with a Planet of the Apes ending for mankind, but with humanoid robots left to run the show–as if that friendly android Chappie, from the coming film of the same name, is fruitful and multiplies and his kind decimate the Earth.  Only in a light-hearted way.

Check out a preview of Issue #1, after the break, courtesy of IDW Publishing.

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Yes, I said “nearly perfect!”  While everyone is oohing and aahing over Avengers, don’t make the mistake of missing Men in Black 3.  It’s absolutely not Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  Barry Sonnenfeld & Company have turned in a textbook example of how to make a sequel, even more than a decade since the last.

The winning buddy cops-slash-intergalactic INS agents formula has lost none of its freshness since the 1997 original team-up of Agents J and K played by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.  If anything, the bit has grown and deepened as the actors and the franchise have gotten a little older.  The worldbuilding remains original and exciting, and the time travel storyline only builds on that, in really fun and impressive ways.

As is pretty clear from the trailer, the story involves Agent J (Smith) traveling back in time to 1969 to work with a young Agent K, played by Josh Brolin (Milk, No Country for Old Men, Jonah Hex, Goonies).  It makes for a great mash-up of two classic sci-fi favorites, aliens + time travel.  The details of life in 1969–from Andy Warhol (SNL’s Bill Hader) to the Apollo 11 moon launch–are wonderfully wrought, particularly the gorgeous retro/space-age technology used by the MIB agency (watch for Agent K’s battery-operated neuralizer).

Performances turned in by all the cast range from solid to fantastic.  Plenty has been said in the press already of Brolin’s eerie channeling of Tommy Lee Jones’s established Agent K–but his performance is more than mere imitation.  He fully inhabits the role and makes it his own, a la Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films.  And his performance as the younger K shows us an entirely new side of the gruff agent, which drives the film’s emotional arc and provides much of the story’s heart.

Will Smith is top notch, as ever, proving that he remains one of the best actors of his generation.  Thanks to sharp scriptwriting by Etan Cohen (King of the Hill, Tropic Thunder), Agent J’s unique brand of swaggering humor rattles through the whole picture, providing many of the film’s sensational high points, from needling prickly partner K to guzzling chocolate milk to mouthing off to 1969 police officers.  But the best line of the whole movie is delivered by little Violet O’Hara of Apartment 5K.  It’s quiet, so keep your ears open.  Most of the audience in our showing missed it completely.

Equally impressive, and for which the filmmakers should be complimented, is the secondary cast, including several less recognizable actors.  In particular, Michael Stuhlbarg (Boardwalk Empire) provides some of the movie’s best moments, and was a real pleasure to watch as Griffin, a sort of prescient alien whose combination of knowledge and innocence makes him curiously endearing, reminiscent of a young Robin Williams’s Mork from Ork.  Rounding out the cast is Emma Thompson, in a fun role as Agent O (replacing Rip Torn’s Agent Zed as director of MIB).

If there are missteps, I’d have to say that Jones looks a little tired, and not in the worn-down-by-the-job way from MIB 1 and 2. Fortunately, most of Agent K is performed by Brolin in the scenes taking place in the past, and his energy leaves nothing wanting.  My biggest “complaint,” and the only reason I didn’t think the movie was perfect… well, unfortunately, that would be a spoiler.  Suffice it to say that there was a moment in the resolution we were led to expect, but the actual finish (although surprising) packed that much less emotional punch.  Hence, the teeny-tiny deduction.  Definitely not any reason to miss this great summer flick!