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Men in Black 3

‘Men in Black 3’ provides evidence of Hollywood’s insatiable thirst for sequels.  Returning to the money well a decade after its last outing the franchise’s producers seem ready to break the box office drought.   Unlike the less than amazing first sequel this third entry shows such action wasn’t without merit.  Reasonably fun despite the haggard looking leads some new additions refresh the ongoing alien-infused series.

 

When alien criminal Boris (Jemaine Clement) wipes Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) from present day existence, it’s up to K’s partner Agent J (Will Smith) to set things right.  Travelling back to 1969 in order to save his life, he meets a younger Agent K (Josh Brolin).  Teaming up to foil Boris’ plans, their crusade in maintaining order between aliens and humans becomes severely tested.

 

Fans of the rapid fire wit, cool action and dazzling special effects of previous entries should find much to enjoy.  Graced with a better script and some inventive flair third time seems to be the charm.  It isn’t perfect but it sets out to entertain – managing a bit of authentic characterisation amongst the expected cinematic bells and whistles.  Scenes featuring Agent J learning of his partner’s past are interwoven well in a mostly diverting and fun tale.

 

Generally the cast have a fine time with the guest performers conveying a frenetic energy the main leads lack.   Smith and Jones seem completely bored and just go through the motions with Brolin and Clement counter-acting against this lack of enthusiasm with flair.  Their performances ignite a somewhat glacially paced script.  Director Barry Sonnenfeld does his best to keep events moving with the 60’s setting enabling moments of genuine humour.

 

Still having much of its original comic-book gloss, Men in Black 3 is reasonably entertaining.  Now may be the best time to conclude the series even if the temptation to plunder the sequel well one more time may be too great for Hollywood’s money-men to resist.

 

Rating out of 10:  6

Bel Ami

Adapted from Guy de Maupassant’s classic novel ‘Bel Ami’ revels in a golden era’s trappings.   Set in the Parisian Belle Époque period in the late 19th Century its costume designers have a field day with its visual splendours.  The rich imagery goes a long way in hiding some of the film’s faults with the boudoirs and salons looking suitably dazzling.  Film-makers love playing ‘dress-up’ although in this case some time spent on a decent script would have worked wonders.

 

Georges Duroy (Robert Pattinson) unexpectedly meets an old friend who suddenly changes his life. Happily lead along a path littered with untold riches and unbridled desires, he studies the ways of the nouveau riche.  Using good looks and charm on various ladies including Clotilde (Christina Ricci) and Madeleine (Uma Thurman), his sexual and monetary conquests are many.  Whilst much fun is had, harsh lessons await with society’s upper echelons keeping a close eye on his progress.

 

‘Bel Ami’ is a classic example of a ‘name’ star ruining a production.  Whilst Robert Pattinson has found great fame as the surly vampire in the Twilight films, his limited range is easily seen.  Indulging in the smouldering and pouting which gained him many fans, this doesn’t equate to characterisation.  Georges is meant to be a morally bankrupt and wicked person using any means to climb the top.  His dogged determination drives his actions – emotions Pattinson fails to register.

 

Not helping is a screenplay more focussed on sexual shenanigans than drama.  When it explores the latter ‘Bel Ami’ works reasonably well even if there’s a feeling of much being left out of the original novel.  A shame as the period setting looks spectacular.  As with any film the story is the prime concern and it fails to leave any memorable mark.  Ricci, Thurman and the rest of the cast are fine and seem to have a better grasp of their roles than their lead co-star.

 

Barely registering on the radar, ‘Bel Ami’ becomes a well-designed exercise in emptiness.  The dearth of strong direction is evident and this is one of the poorer recent costume dramas with the lack of passion diluting much of the book’s power.

 

Rating out of 10:  5