Friday movie roundup: Back 'in Black'
For the three-day weekend, Hollywood is going back to the futuristic.
"Men in Black 3" is the sequel you didn't know you wanted - and it's better than the first movie (which isn't as good as you remember; go back and watch if you doubt it). Will Smith's Agent J discovers that a nasty alien (Jemaine Clement) has gone back in time and altered history, killing his partner, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). So J goes back to 1969, and teams with a young K (well played by Josh Brolin) to put things right. Director Barry Sonnenfeld brings back the swanky retro look, and throws in a great performance by Michael Stuhlbarg as an alien who can visualize multiple futures. Not all the jokes hang together, but Smith's cool confidence keeps you watching.
The other big studio movie of the week is "Chernobyl Diaries," a found-footage horror thriller co-written by "Paranormal Activity" director Oren Peli. It was not screened for critics.
Best of the week is "Monsieur Lazhar," a French-Canadian drama that is the last of this year's foreign-language Oscar nominees to hit theaters. The title character is an Alergian immigrant (played by the one-named comic actor Fellag) who takes over a Montreal elementary-school classroom after their teacher kills herself. Director Philippe Falardeau shows a sure hand navigating through this story of overcoming tragedy and treating children with respect.
"Darling Companion," filmed in Utah, is a gentle comedy featuring Diane Keaton and Kevin Kline as a married couple who find themselves drifting - which is why she gravitates toward caring for a dog she rescued off the side of the highway. Director Lawrence Kasdan gathers a charming cast (including Dianne Wiest, Richard Jenkins and Mark Duplass) who are just fun to hang around with. (Read the Cricket's interview with Kasdan about filming the movie in Utah.)
"Bernie" is an odd duck of a movie, a quasi-documentary, half-reenactment true story of a Texas mortician (Jack Black) whose relationship with a cantankerous widow (Shirley MacLaine) ended in murder. Director Richard Linklater (who directed Black in "School of Rock") goes for a "Fargo"-lite approach, with a well-modulated performance by Black.
Lastly, the family-friendly indie "Cowgirls 'n' Angels" is a predictably treacly drama about a 12-year-old rebel (Bailie Madison) who signs up with a trick-riding rodeo troupe - in an effort to track down the father she never knew. It's a schmaltz-fest from start to finish, but at least James Cromwell (playing the troupe's founder) gives it some spice.