The Essential Will Smith

 

Gemini Man opens October 11.  The name Will Smith has become synonymous with  sci-fi action films.  Smith has had a long and varied career, even if his genre roles are my favorite.  I’ve been a fan of his since I was a kid.  Somewhere I have a Soundtracks cassette of eight-year-old me rapping (or attempting to)  “Parents Just Don’t Understand.”  (Once upon a time, kids, we paid to do karaoke and they gave us recordings of it.)  On the eve of Will Smith’s latest movie, let’s take a look at his most essential performances.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Will Smith’s first significant acting job was starring in this long-running sitcom.  He played a fish out of water who left a rough neighborhood in Philadelphia to live with his rich relatives in California after getting in a fight.  But you probably already knew that from the famous, catchy theme song.  I had loved Will aka The Fresh Prince for his novelty rap songs like “I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson.”  This show was what made him a household name though.

Six Degrees of Separation

This was one of Will Smith’s first movie roles and it proved he could play serious parts.  Smith’s character interrupts a rich couple’s dinner party claiming to be a friend of their Ivy League children.  He charms his way into their home but there may be more to him than there appears.  This movie, adapted from John Guare’s play, is the basis of the Kevin Bacon game aka Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.   (I can link Will to Kevin in 2 degrees.  Will Smith stars with Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black.  Tommy Lee Jones stars with Brad Pitt in Ad Astra.  Brad Pitt is in Sleepers with Kevin Bacon.)

Bad Boys

Will Smith joined fellow sitcom star Martin Lawrence for this action film where they play detectives.  The duo proved to be so popular that not only did they make a second movie, a third one is slated to come out next year and a fourth one is in pre-production.

Independence Day

Man, I miss 1996!

This blockbuster set a precedent for a while.  It just wasn’t summer without a Will Smith movie, most of them coming out on Fourth of July weekend.  Smith plays a military pilot who helps defend Earth against an alien attack.  The special effects may seem dated today, but at the time the White House getting blown up by a UFO was the coolest thing any of us had ever seen.  The movie became the highest-grossing film of 1996.  The following summer would see Smith working with aliens again.

Men in Black 

Don’t look at this or they’ll flashy-thing you.

Based on a comic book, this sci-fi comedy blockbuster paired Will Smith with Tommy Lee Jones.  They made for a winning team.  They play secret agents who are part of an organization that supervises alien lifeforms on Earth and hides their existence from humans.  The movie spawned three sequels and a cartoon series.

Ali

Smith plays boxer Muhammad Ali in this biopic.  His performance earned him his first Oscar nomination.  (I’m not going to discuss his second Oscar nomination for The Pursuit of Happyness.  If you want to see Smith in an inspirational role, watch The Legend of Bagger Vance instead.  It’s much less schmaltzy.)  Sadly, this is one of those films where the movie isn’t as good as the performance.  But it’s still worth seeing.  Will Smith becomes Muhammad Ali.

 

I Am Legend

I still feel like Smith was within a hair’s breadth of getting an Oscar nomination for this role.  You can feel his loneliness and isolation as the last man on earth after a zombie apocalypse.  The scene where he begs a mannequin to talk to him is SO GOOD!  This is easily one of my top films of 2007.  It’s a change from the more humorous sci-fi roles of ID4 and MIB.  This one’s more serious.  And he still rocks it.  It’s amazing how they were able to film/create an abandoned New York City, especially Times Square.

Focus

I love movies about con men.  And this one has Margot Robbie to boot.  Usually, Smith plays the hero.  It’s rare to see him play an antihero (like in Hancock).  This is a fun movie with some twists.

Concussion

Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu in this important film about how football can lead to brain damage.  He was nominated for a Golden Globe but snubbed by Oscar for his performance about a doctor who takes risks to do the right thing.  This underrated performance is one of his best roles.

Suicide Squad

Deadshot putting up with Harley.

There aren’t words for how bummed I am that Smith won’t be reprising his role as Deadshot for the new Suicide Squad movie.  He made a great antihero, a villain you cared about.  He was a badass but he was also a loving father and made both halves of that believable.  He also had great rapport with Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn.  My only consolation is that he’ll probably play someone equally badass in the Marvel Cinematic Universe eventually.

Aladdin

No one else will ever be Robin Williams.  However, Smith brought his own original spin to the role of the Genie.  It’s hard not to enjoy this new version of the classic.

Don’t miss the best parts of Gemini Man or any of your other favorite movies.  Always use the RunPee app to get Peetimes for the latest movies like Ad Astra, Joker, and the upcoming Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.  You can also keep up with the latest movie news and reviews by following us on Twitter @RunPee and liking us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/RunPee/).

 

 

All Men In Black Films, Ranked

men in black posterTo prep for Men In Black: International, I did a little series rewatch, and discovered a few things: the original movie is still fresh and funny, the second film still hurts to watch, and I totally forgot everything that happened in the third MIB outing. But that’s actually a good thing. It was like getting a brand-new bonus movie. 🙂

Here’s my ranking of all four Men in Black flicks, because ranking things is fun:

  1. The original Men In Black is far and away the best one. The quality of this movie is so high when compared to every other film in the series — you can pretty much stop watching these movies right here. (It’s not like any of the other films are required viewing.) This one had everything: cool characters, amusing aliens, a coherent storyline (this is crucial), and enough world-building to make the imagination soar. It’s legit funny.  Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones have outstanding chemistry, bickering like an old married couple. Vincent D’Onofrio is a pleasure as a sadistic cockroach (never thought I’d ever write a sentence like that one). The effects still look good and it’s fun to think about what public figures might really be aliens hiding in plain sight. Movie Grade: AMen in black tommy lee jones and will smithSmith and Jones, rocking their suits.
  2. Men In Black 3 was a pleasant surprise after the awful sequel. If felt more nimble and recalled the playfulness of the first film. But instead of dredging the lake to recall old gags (Frank the Pug and the Worm Gang make an appearance and no more), there are new characters, and even a new (old?) version of Agent K, who did such a great job being Tommy Lee Jones that I forgot it was another actor (Josh Brolin) playing him. Also in spite of basing the plot around time travel — which can go badly wrong very fast — it somehow made narrative sense. MIB 3 doesn’t really expand on the world-building, but it didn’t need to. Lightweight fare. Movie Grade: B-
  3. Men In Black: International was the return to the MIB universe that no one asked for. Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson proved they had great chemistry in Thor: Ragnarok, so transplanting that here should have been a slam dunk. Hemsworth showed he could be very funny. So it was a huge disappointment that MIB 4 was so…lame. It was sub-average. I’m not sure what to even say about it, because the plot made no sense, the characters had understandable motivation, and honestly, this was such a miss-step. When the best movie chemistry is between one half of a buddy duo (Thompson) and a CGI character (that would be Pawny), you know something’s wrong. I’ll let the official movie review say the rest. What a wasted opportunity.  Movie Grade: C-
    pawny from men in black international
    You’ve been pwned.
  4. Somehow MIB 2 sunk all the goodwill from the original with a messy, unfunny sequel. The villain is so bad that she drags the rest of the movie into a black hole around her. There isn’t one scene with her that isn’t cringe-worthy. Frank the Pug was a great gag in the first film, but they overused him here. I can’t even think about what does work in MIB 2 because I keep getting distracted by what didn’t, but I’ll try: Smith and Jones still have a good knockabout dynamic, although it’s starting to fray at the edges, and Jones in particular seemed like he didn’t want to be there. I liked the repeat of the worm gag, but their extended cameo, like the Pug’s, verged on too much. Even though I just rewatched this, I’ve already totally forgotten the plot. Was there a MacGuffin? Did someone neuralize me? Oh, wait: this is the one with a universe hiding inside a locker, with little beings who worship Agent K. That got an actual laugh out of me. Movie Grade: D
    neuralizer and will smith
    Say “Cheese”…

The MIBs, Overall:

I could say the series is played out, but I actually don’t believe that. The premise is so  interesting, so ripe for exploration. If someone made a good script with fresh ideas that MADE SENSE, Men in Black could continue having epic adventures all over the galaxy. Come on, guys!

Movie Review – Men in Black: International

What Makes Men In Black Tick? Looking Back on the MIB Series and Why It Works

Men In Black Theme Song – Forget Me Nots Remix – Will Smith Lyrics & Video

Want to be a MIB? A Satirical Review of the Original Men in Black (1997)

What Makes Men In Black Tick? Looking Back on the MIB Series and Why It Works

Elvis is not dead. He just went home.

Note: contains minor spoilers for the Men in Black trilogy

Men In Black: International opens this week.  Now is as good a time as any to revisit the series and examine it.  What makes these films so successful?  What is their secret?  Let’s take a look at the original trilogy to find out.

Men In Black

Surprisingly, most of the elements that make the MIB films tick are present in the first act of the first film (roughly the first 22 minutes).  The blueprint for the series’ success is set up at the beginning of the very first film.

Creatures

One of the most important elements of the MIB series are the memorable creatures.  From the pawn shop dealer Jack Jeebs, to the sarcastic worms who love caffeine and cigarettes, to the baby alien J helps deliver to Geoff the giant subway worm, and to Frank the Pug, the Men in Black movies always have memorable aliens.  This is thanks in large part to the legendary make up artist Rick Baker, who won an Oscar for his work on the first MIB.    

The first film opens with Agent K busting a space alien named Mikey posing as an illegal alien crossing the border.  K shoots him when he tries to run…which brings us to another element that makes these movies tick.

Technology

Guns.  Noisy cricket.  Neuralizers.  Monocycles.  Jetpacks.  What is a Men in Black film without some high-tech fun?  We get our first taste of this when K shoots the alien Mikey with his futuristic-looking sidearm.  Then K uses a neuralyzer on the border patrol agents to erase their memories.  The neuralyzer — or “flashy thingy” as Agent J calls it — is perhaps the most useful (or at least) piece of MIB equipment. There is even one in the Statue of Liberty’s torch for city-wide emergencies.  

Smooth Dialogue

After neuralyzing the border patrol agents, Agent K gets his first memorable line.  “I’m just a figment of your imagination,” he says in response to someone asking who he is.  The Men in Black movies are known for slick dialogue, but the first film is probably the most quotable.  Especially Agent J’s line, “I make this look good.”  Later in the film, Zed describes MIB agents, saying, “”You are a rumor disguised as deja vu.”  And, of course, near the end K explains, “Elvis is not dead.  He just went home.” 

Comedy

Comedy is another essential ingredient to the MIB movies.  After the introduction to K, the audience gets to meet Will Smith’s character, the soon-to-be Agent J.  He gets one of my favorite Will Smith moments of all time.  He’s a cop.  While chasing a suspect, he jumps off a bridge onto a double decker tour bus.  He says, “It just be raining black people in New York,” and keeps going.  It’s hilarious. 

Later in the film, the audience finds out Sylvester Stallone and other famous people are aliens.  This gag gets even better as the series goes on.  The twist with Andy Warhol in Part 3 is the best! 

Agent J also gets the other piece of dialogue that always makes me laugh from the original.  He’s trying to tell Gladys to create a better life for herself after neuralyzing her.  “…And hire a decorator to come in here quick ’cause damn.”  (You have to hear him say it.)

MIB 3 introduces a quirky comic role who is one of my favorite movie characters of all time.  Michael Stuhlbarg plays Griffin, a being that can see all future timelines at the same time. Stuhlbarg’s manner — how he is friendly and frantic — reminds me of a young Robin Williams.    

A Good Villain

Each of the MIB movies has a strong villain.  Vincent D’Onofrio’s Edgar is a tough act to follow, with his odd speech and mannerisms.  It’s a performance that sticks with you.  However, Lara Flynn Boyle as Sarleena and Jemaine Clement as Boris the Animal are pretty scary in their own right.  In the original, the audience gets to meet Edgar the man, who is a monster even before an alien force takes over his body. 

Chemistry

The chemistry between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones (and later with Josh Brolin) has been essential to the success of the franchise.  Act one of the first film ends with Agent K taking Will Smith’s character to the pawn shop to see if he can identify an alien weapon.  Even though Smith is not K’s partner yet, he and K easily fall into a good-cop-bad-cop routine as soon as they walk into the store.  The two agents have a great partnership throughout the series, and they feed each other great dialogue even when K doesn’t recognize J due to amnesia or time travel.  

MIB: International

So how much of this formula will the new Men in Black movie adhere to?  The film has new creatures. Kumail Nanjani voices a small alien called Pawny in the trailer that provides some comic relief.  The bad news is that Rick Baker retired some time after the third film and was not available to lend his talents to this film. There is also some new technology, including a new car with different features, and a powerful weapon the agents try out in the desert.

The trailers are lacking in smooth or memorable dialogue and the comedy is a little corny. The Thor reference has been the best joke so far. Rebecca Ferguson’s character Riza seems to be the main villain, but we’ve only gotten glimpses of her in the trailers. It’s hard to tell if she’ll be as menacing as Edgar or Boris.  As far as chemistry goes, Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson have worked together as Thor and Valkyrie on Marvel films. Hopefully some of the chemistry from those films will translate here. They seem to work okay together in the trailers, but there isn’t much to go on.

The Men in Black universe is a lot of fun. It would be nice if this turns out to be a way to keep it going.      

Before you take on the scum of the Universe, make sure you have the RunPee app on your phone.  You won’t want to miss any of the good parts of your favorite science fictions films. Whether you’re planning to see MIB: International, Gemini Man (so that’s where Will Smith is!), Ad Astra (so that’s where Tommy Lee Jones is!), or Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (so what’s where Emperor Palpatine is!), we’ll have Peetimes for your movie so you don’t miss out.  You can also keep up with the latest movie news by following us on Twitter @RunPee.

Men In Black Theme Song – Forget Me Nots Remix – Will Smith Lyrics & Video

Want to be a MIB? A Satirical Review of the Original Men in Black (1997)

Men In Black Theme Song – Forget Me Nots Remix – Will Smith Lyrics & Video

Will Smith sings the Men In Black Theme song
He makes the suit look good. 😉

So, on the eve of viewing and getting Peetimes for the new Men In Black International (Men in Black 4), we thought we’d revisit Will Smith’s song from the original 1997 MIB.  The MIB theme song is a remix of the classic 1982 tune Forget Me Nots (a perfect song for this…think Neuralizer. Scroll down for video to compare the two songs).

Sing along with this video and learn the Men in Black lyrics (below). This is super catchy. Also, Will Smith is pretty much good at anything he does (sing, dance, play comedy, drama, and action). And hey…watch this video. It’s super fun, with scenes that play like brand new MIB movie footage.

Video to Men In Black Movie Song

Lyrics to Men in Black Movie Song

(Performed by Will Smith)

Hohh!

Here come the Men In Black
It’s the MIB’s, uh, here come the MIB’s
Here come the Men In Black, Men In Black
They won’t let you remember

Nah nah nah.
The good guys dress in black, remember that
Just in case we ever face to face and make contact
The title held by me, MIB

Means what you think you saw, you did not see
So don’t blink be what was there is now gone
The black suits with the black Ray Bans on
Walk in shadow, move in silence

Guard against extra-terrestrial violence
But yo we ain’t on no government list
We straight don’t exist – no names and no fingerprints
Saw somethin’ strange, watch your back

‘Cause you never quite know where the MIBs is at
Uh, eh

Here come the Men In Black, Men In Black
Galaxy defenders

Oho oho oho
Here come the Men In Black, Men In Black
They won’t let you remember

Aha, aha
Now, From the deepest of the darkest night
On the horizon, bright light enters sight tight
Cameras zoom, on the impending doom

But then like BOOM black suits fill the room up
With the quickness, talk with the witnesses
Hypnotizer, neuralizer
Vivid memories turn to fantasies

Ain’t no MIBs, can I please
Do what we say, that’s they way we kick it
D’ya know what I mean
I see my noisy cricket get wicked on ya

We’re your first, last and only line of defense
Against the worst scum of the universe
So don’t fear us, cheer us
If you ever get near us, don’t jeer us, we’re fearless

MIB’s freezin’ up all the flack
What’s that stand for? Men In Black

The Men In Black
The Men In Black

Let me see ya just bounce it with me
Just bounce with me
Just bounce it with me
Come on, let me see ya just slide with me
Just slide with me
Just slide with me

Come on, let me see ya take a walk with me
Just walk with me
Take a walk with me

Come on, and make your neck work
Now freeze

Ohhhhhhhhoh

Here come the Men In Black, Men In Black
Galaxy defenders. Ohh, Ooohh
Here come the Men In Black, Men In Black
They won’t let you remember. Oh nohh

Alright check it
Let me tell you this in closing
I know we might seem imposing
But trust me, if we ever show in your section

Believe me, it’s for your own protection
‘Cause we see things that you need not see
And we be places that you need not be
So go on with your life

Forget that Roswell crap
Show love to the black suit, cause
That’s the Men In…
That’s the Men In…

Here come the Men In Black, here they come
Galaxy defenders. Galaxy defenders
Here come the Men In Black, oho, here they come
They won’t let you remember. Won’t let you remember

Here come the Men In Black, ohh, here they come
Galaxy defenders. Oho oho oho.
Here come the Men In Black
They won’t let you remember…

(Songwriters: Willard C Smith / Fred Washington / Patrice Rushen / Terry Mcfadden. Men in Black lyrics 1997 © Silvia’s Music Services.)

Compare to the original Forget Me Nots Song — Enjoy!

Want to be a MIB? A Satirical Review of the Original Men in Black (1997)

What Makes Men In Black Tick? Looking Back on the MIB Series and Why It Works

Newbie Movie Review – Suicide Squad (2016)

margot robbie as harleyquinn in suicide squad
What? We’re bad guys.

Surprise, Surprise. Justice League is Actually a Good DC Flick

Movie Truism: Maybe going into a movie with low expectations makes it better. I didn’t bother to see DC’s highly anticipated 2016 Suicide Squad in the theaters because it was so lowly-regarded among critics and viewers alike. So I just let it slip by.

Cut to 2019. When I heard James Gunn  — beloved director of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy — was taking over the creative reins of Suicide Squad 2 (as a ‘soft’ reboot), hope flared anew that finally DC would have a group film brilliant enough, funny enough, and just damn worthy enough to counter the amazing ensembles produced by the MCU.

A Whole Lot of Good

The stars of Suicide Squad come down to two charismatic roles — Will Smith’s Deadshot — a decent man trapped by a nasty super-skill set, and Margo Robbie’s gleefully, lethally, nutso Harley Quinn.

Here’s Quinn’s efficient backstory from the movie:

Honestly, I enjoyed the whole misfit group. There was a one-take moment where I grinned from ear to ear, as the misfit crew executes a dynamic Hero Shot. It’s an expected trope in superhero films, right? In Suicide Squad, it felt earned and triumphant…until the next second, where you realized, hey, this is a Villain Shot. An Anti-Hero Shot? An Anti-Villain Shot? The sheer amount of dissonance was delightful.

(Some spoilers for Suicide Squad 1 follow)

This is good story making. Really. Suicide Squad had a ton of viewer treats that broke from DC’s usual grim-is-good comic world. I too wanted to see “The Bat” put away: as Quinn says, “He ruins all the fun.” Batman shows up, but he’s relegated to the background. Superman’s only mentioned in passing. Good and good. This isn’t about them.

There are so many Easter Eggs in the background, with great signage, throwaway lines, and outright allusions to other characters inside the DC universe and out. [They even predicted 2019’s “Evil Superman” Brightburn! ] This is some lively shit.

Another treat: the appropriately brief cameo of Flash. (Ezra Miller can do a lot in a small role, and was a bright spot in the mostly dreary Justice League.)

Suicide Squad has Two Great Music Tracks

As on Guardians of the Galaxy (which Suicide Squad was supposed to mirror) the extensive rock playlist is perfectly used. It’s great that movies list their songs during the credits, so I can remember to add them to my tune rotations. Suicide Squad leaned heavily into The Rolling Stones, which felt just right.

The second track — that instrumental background music we generally consider the “soundtrack” — was top-notch. In my notes, I scribbled several scenes where the music greatly underscored a character’s growth, emotional confusion, or was just plain…well…heroic. No other way to put it.

Another movie truism: bad guys can be heroes, and heroes can be bad guys. I think DC’s entire oeuvre is an ode to this concept.  (Exceptions: Wonder Woman and maybe Shazam.)

I’ll say this, though — the over-reliance on Queen tunes in genre films is starting to wear on me. When a scene perfectly uses a song in one film, said tune should be retired, like a great athlete’s number. So hearing Bohemian Rhapsody used by this crew was a nice moment, but as far as I’m concerned, BoRhap belongs to the wonderfully wacky Wayne’s World, forever. Can’t Stop Me Now was jarring in The Umbrella Academy, because why would anyone want to compete with the iconic zombie scene in the Winchester in Shaun of the Dead? (“Kill the Queen!”) And ripping Spirit in the Sky off the back of Guardians of the Galaxy went beyond homage.

Exposition and the Suicide Squad Characters

This is how you do it. With a large cast of super powered and/or crazy people to introduce, the best solution is to make the movie about THEM, not a MacGuffin plot. In a surprisingly smart move, that’s what Suicide Squad did. I loved the stylized flashback scenes of these criminals doing what they do best, their blink-fast list of skills, and how they each got taken down. These were very amusing scenes. Killer Crock especially was a hoot (Crock doesn’t seem actually evil, unlike most of the crew). His line about being beautiful was unexpected and well-played.

We also got some meaningful scenes with DeadShot in a text-book example of how to tell an emotional backstory in an efficient, effective way.

Speaking of DeadShot, he was a natural group leader, and Will Smith carried the movie effortlessly. Strangely, Smith apparently bugged on the James Gunn Suicide Squad 2 sequel. The news is Idris Alba is slated to recast Smith, which seems like a fair trade. Alba is the man, woefully underused as Heimdall in the MCU.

How About The Big Bad?

What really brought Suicide Squad down was the villain, and here I mean The Incubus. I’ll treat him separately from his sister, The Enchantress.

Actually, I don’t have time to discuss bad writing. The Incubus has zero development and isn’t worth delving into. He’s overpowered and boring. Next!

The Enchantress showed some promise in her CGI form, but when little June Moon started writhing around, it looked ridiculous. I appreciated the line that Mankind worships machines instead of gods now, but nothing was done with that intriguing concept. Fail. I don’t care. Bad villains are an ongoing superhero problem, but I mostly ignore that at this point.

An ensemble origin movie isn’t about who they fight, in any case. It’s about  group-building and world-building, which Suicide Squad got very right.

And the Joker?

Now, let’s talk about the real controversial role: Jared Leto’s Joker. So many Jokers over the years. Some get it right. All are distinctive.

I’ve got my favorites, but Leto’s not one of them: I’ll just say I’m glad his role was little more than an extended cameo. Let’s keep it that way in the sequel. Quinn on her own is much more fun and I prefer her out of the Joker’s shadow. With the Suicide crew she’s a fascinatingly deranged soul, instead of being a pet to the Joker. (Seriously, he whistles for her like a dog.)

I’ll give this Joker one thing: he had one deeply interesting line. It resonated so strongly for me that I wrote it down to think about —

“Desire becomes surrender…surrender becomes power.”

Suicide Squad, Overall

Something I hoped Suicide Squad would do is create real stakes and jeopardy…where not everyone you like is going to make it out alive. I had a feeling who that would be if they went there, and was satisfied with the payout when they did. It’s a brave gamble to take when you’re working with an ensemble you’re hoping to grow.

However, I didn’t buy their warm family feelings after sharing feelings over a few drinks, but I’ll give them this — bonds can form fast in life-threatening situations. And they had so much in common on a fundamental level: severely misguided people, good at being bad, damaged moral compasses, isolated, frequently abused, seen as the dregs of humanity, then abandoned in a dark hole with no hope of atonement.

Still, I’ll forgive some storytelling shortcuts in a movie this amusing.  With Gunn in the saddle, I’ve high hopes for Suicide Squad 2.

Color me pleased. I’m happy to add a third movie to the DCEU that I actually enjoyed, along with Wonder Woman and Shazam.

(BTW, stay through to the end credit scenes. Justice League was no Avengers, but it was thrilling to see JL’s inception anyway.)

Movie Grade: B

Guardians of the Galaxy Ex-Director James Gunn to Direct Suicide Squad 2

Movie Review – Batman vs. Superman

Movie Review – Justice League (RunPee Jilly’s POV)

Is Shazam Part of the DC Universe or a Stand-Alone Film? How Shazam Could Fix the DCEU

Want to be a MIB? A Satirical Review of the Original Men in Black (1997)

men in black poster
Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, out to save you from the scum of the universe

*Flash*

Everyone listen now: what you may think you just experienced is a house party with drunk teenagers and a crazy, lonely lady. In actuality, you traveled back in time 22 years to help us, the Men in Black, save the galaxy from an alien invasion. We’re looking for some new recruits and think all of you have potential, so you can call me Agent N. Let me explain what happened here today, so you can determine if you want to join us.

Let me set the scene. First, the Men In Black is an organization that keeps track of every alien life form not from Earth.

Second, we recently got a rookie named Agent J (former name Will Smith), who was partnered with our ace in the hole Agent K (former name Tommy Lee Jones).

Third, it just so happened that an alien bug decided to crash land here in search of something. We later found out he was looking for an alien prince hiding himself and a whole galaxy here on Earth. Long story short, the rook’s first day on the job somehow was smooth sailing — even though you may be hearing all of this thinking, “There’s no way this can go well”. No matter what you think, that’s the basics of what you need to know.

Now, let me explain some tiny details that might help you determine if you want to join the Men in Black permanently or not. Without a doubt, some of the jokes we like to crack on the job don’t land like we wish, but our aim is still pretty good. Especially between Agent J’s strong charisma and Agent K’s deadpan delivery, bouncing off each other.

You may also see some of our alien companions and realize they actually do look good, even though you all are from the future. Our 1997 technology advanced the human eye to make everything seem much better. When our alien friends are there, you can’t properly distinguish them from when they’re not there. And don’t tell them otherwise.

If you haven’t seen the report yet, consider this a warning. Our job may not be glamorous, even at the climax of our mission, which in this most recent mission was exactly the case. From what I’ve seen on the report, apparently all that happened was Agent J distracted the alien by swinging some sticks and getting flung around, while Agent K damaged the creepy-crawly in a slow but effective way…just for some girl from the morgue to give the final blow.

Everyone who has seen the report keeps talking about Frank the Pug and the Noisy Cricket, since apparently they stole the show. So if a dog they talked to for 3 minutes oozes enough charisma to leave a lasting impression, so can the Men in Black.

And of course, we need to have a moment of silence for Agent K…who at the end of his mission revealed that he wasn’t looking for Agent J to be a partner, but to be a replacement. For Men in Black agents who show no emotion to begin with, we were heartbroken to see Agent J use the neuralyzer on Agent K. Thankfully, we had a happy ending, but a heart-wrenching one at that.

Now it is time for you to decide if you’re going to join us in the Men in Black or not. If you are, you can stop here and you’ll get further notice later. If not, then let’s walk this way and let me explain what the neuralyzer is. ↓

……

……

A neuralyzer is a special tool we use to make sure you don’t remember anything we don’t want you to, so look right here at the red dot and…

*Flash*

…What you just witnessed here today is a couple of high school girls who decided to live it up a little after not going to any parties at all and instead spent all their time studying…

– – Written by RunPee guest writer Nicholas Collier, who secretly wants to join the MIB. Nick says, “I’ve been watching movies since I got my glasses in 5th grade. Movies are what I love, what I know, and what I aspire to create. Find me @LightCameraNick on twitter, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.”  

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Movie Review – Aladdin (2019) – A Live Action Remake, Good for the Target Audience

Movie Review - AladdinThe 2019 live-action remake of Aladdin is a difficult movie to review, because I’m not the target audience — that’s mainly young kids. Personally, I found the movie to be occasionally entertaining at best, and barely tolerable for the rest. There were a few laughs here and there, and rarely did the song and dance bits drag on too long.

If you’re a parent taking their kids to see this movie, then you could do worse.

Based on the audience reaction in my theater, (mostly kids under 16) it will be a hit. Three teenage girls sat in the back row and laughed throughout.

The plot is simple and clear enough that young children will be able to follow along, and if not, there’s enough singing, dancing, and action to entertain them.

Will Smith is one of the few actors with the charisma to perform the role of Genie. I think Will did fine, but he fell short of making it iconic. I’d give him a B+.

I only vaguely remember the plot of the Disney Aladdin from 1992. From what I recall this retelling is generally the same, except Jasmine’s character has been fleshed out more. It wouldn’t be misleading if they changed the title to “Jasmine” or at the very least, “Jasmine & Aladdin,” since it’s mainly about womens’ empowerment, like “Mulan”. What do you think?

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: I have 2 recommended Peetimes, both near the middle of the movie. The 1st of the Recommended Peetimes is a song/dance scene that young kids may enjoy, but it’s easy to summarize. The 2nd Recommended Peetime is all dialog. There’s a little humor, but not much. You choose which works best for you.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Aladdin. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for some action/peril
Genres: Adventure, Comedy, Family, Remake

Rewatch Review – Disney’s Animated Aladdin (1992) – A Classic Film with Deeply Modern Flaws

Aladdin –  Animated vs Stage vs Live Action

A Whole New World – Aladdin Lyrics and Video (1992 Animated Version)

Aladdin –  Animated vs Stage vs Live Action

aladdin disney live action posterThe Aladdin remake will be flying into theaters soon.  This will be Disney’s third version of this popular story, including the 2014 Broadway musical.  So how does it compare to its predecessors? Let’s find out.

NOTE:  Aladdin article contains SPOILERS.  

Aladdin Sidekicks

In the animated film, Aladdin has a monkey pal named Abu and an anthropomorphized magic carpet.  Princess Jasmine has a pet tiger named Rajah.

In the musical, Aladdin has a magic carpet but it does not high-five.  It mainly has one big moment — and you can guess what that is. Abu is missing from the stage version.  One can imagine how difficult it would be to train a small monkey for this part. Or how ridiculous a man in a monkey costume might look playing the role!  Similarly, Jasmine does not get her tiger. However, Aladdin does get three new human friends named Babkak, Omar, and Kassim who provide plenty of comic relief.  

In the live action movie, Rajah appears to be back.  And I’ve seen Abu and the magic carpet interacting with each other briefly in one promo.  

Sadly, Babkak, Omar, and Kassim were not included in the new film.

New Characters in Aladdin

The live action remake introduces two significant new characters not found in the musical or the animated film.  One is Dalia, Princess Jasmine’s loyal handmaiden and confidante, who provides some comic relief. The other is Prince Anders, a suitor and potential husband (yeah, right) for Jasmine from the kingdom of Skånland.  

Iago – Jafar’s Henchman

Jafar’s loud parrot henchman, an audience favorite, was voiced by Gilbert Gottfried in the original film.  

On Broadway, the role of Iago was originated by Don Darryl Rivera, and Iago is not a parrot but a human being.  He is still Jafar’s henchman.

In the new movie, Iago is a parrot again.  However, the character is voiced by Alan Tudyk.  It’s the first time the character has been voiced by someone other than Gottfried, who has been the voice of Iago since 1992.  Gottfried has voiced the character in movies, TV shows, video games, and even in a Disney World attraction.

will smith as the aladdin genieThe Genie

Robin Williams played the Genie in the animated film in one of his most beloved roles of all time.  Williams was already like a living cartoon character, and now he got to be one. The medium was the perfect vehicle for his manic energy and his gift for impersonation.    

On stage, the song “Friend Like Me” remains a showstopper — even with a live human being who only has the benefit of stage magic and back-up dancers.   (The televised Tony performance does not do justice to the effect of the full set and stage effects.) The actor does not wear blue paint on their body (think Elphaba in Wicked), but has a flashy blue outfit on instead.  He does not try to be Robin Williams because no one can replicate that performance. Rather, he puts his own spin on the character and finds his own way to make the Genie charming and larger than life.

Will Smith’s Genie is a mix of live-action and CGI and is even blue for part of the movie.  He is able to do things that can’t be done on stage — closer to the animated version.  It will be fun to see what the filmmakers do with this new version of the Genie that exists between live action and animation.

The Music of Aladdin

The original animated film is famous for the romantic ballad “A Whole New World” and the humorous “Friend Like Me.”  These are both previewed in the trailer for the new film, and footage has been released of Will Smith singing “Prince Ali.”

The track list for the new movie has not been released yet.  However, it’s safe to assume that most (if not all) of the songs from the original film will be reappear in the new one, including opening number “Arabian Nights” and “One Jump Ahead”.

The Broadway show contains these same songs, but also some new numbers, including “Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim” about the main character and his three troublemaker buddies.  

Other New Songs from the Musical Include:

“Proud of Your Boy”  (sung by Aladdin)

“A Million Miles Away” (sung by Aladdin and Jasmine )

“Diamond in the Rough” (sung by Jafar to convince Aladdin to get the lamp)

“High Adventure”  (sung by Babkak, Omar, and Kasim)

“Somebody’s Got Your Back” (sung by Aladdin to his friends)

The Cave of Wonders

(Note: From this point on, I am mostly comparing the animated film and the Broadway musical.  I have not been able to see the new movie yet, and there is still an embargo on reviews.)

In the animated version, Jafar seeks the lamp at the Cave of Wonders and is told only a diamond in the rough may enter, at the beginning of the film.  In the musical, this happens later in Act I after the audience has already met Aladdin and Jasmine.

In both versions, Jafar figures out Aladdin is the diamond in the rough, and Aladdin is captured by the palace guards after meeting Jasmine. Jafar uses him to try to get the lamp.  In the movie, Jafar disguises himself as an old man, and frees Aladdin and Abu before taking them to the cave. In the musical, Jafar keeps his original form and stops Aladdin from being executed.

In both versions, Aladdin is instructed to touch nothing but the lamp.

In the movie, Aladdin finds a magic carpet and Abu takes a jewel in addition to the lamp.  Aladdin and Abu rush to fly out of the collapsing cave on the carpet. They give the lamp to Jafar, who pushes them back into the cave, but not before Abu steals the lamp back.  In the musical, Aladdin is tempted to take some golden coins along with the lamp, and is trapped when the cave seals itself off.

In all three versions, this is when Aladdin rubs the lamp, meets the Genie, and Genie sings “Friend Like Me” by way of introduction.  Aladdin then tricks Genie into freeing him from the cave without using up one of his wishes.

aladdin magic carpet with jasminRomancing Jasmine

In both versions of the story, Jasmine escapes from the palace and visits Agrabah in disguise, where she meets Aladdin.  This is where the story begins. Aladdin’s first wish, even in the trailer for the newest movie, is to become a prince so that he can woo the princess.  (“There’s a lot of gray area in ‘Make me a prince.’”) Act II of the musical begins with “Prince Ali” — in which Genie and Aladdin’s three besties lead a parade announcing his arrival.  

It’s one of the highlights of the animated film as well, minus his friends. In both versions, Jasmine is angry when she overhears Prince Ali discussing her future with the Sultan. He makes it up to her with a magic carpet ride and one of the most romantic songs in Disney history (“A Whole New World”).  Only then does Jasmine recognize him as Aladdin. He lies and says he only dresses as a peasant to get away from everything, like she does.

will smith as genie in Aladdin and the live action disney remakeThree Wishes

Aladdin’s first wish is always to be a prince and he always promises Genie his last wish will be to set Genie free.  In both the animated and musical versions, Aladdin is captured by the palace guards immediately following the romantic interlude.  In the animated film, he is thrown into the sea. Genie decides that the unconscious Aladdin would want to use his second wish to be saved and rescues him.  

In the musical, Aladdin is arrested for impropriety. His three buddies storm the castle to rescue him..and end up in the dungeon as well. Aladdin uses his second wish to rescue them.  Aladdin meets the Sultan in the hall and he gives Aladdin his blessing to marry Jasmine. Overwhelmed at the responsibility of being Sultan one day, Aladdin goes back on his word, telling Genie he needs to save his last wish in case he needs it someday.  In the movie, Aladdin also refuses to free Genie, fearing he’ll lose Jasmine if the truth comes out.

In both versions, Jafar steals the lamp and becomes Genie’s new master.  Aladdin tricks Jafar into wishing to become an all-powerful Genie, and then traps him in the lamp.  

In the movie, Genie encourages Aladdin to use his final wish to regain his royal title so he can be with Jasmine.  However, Aladdin sets Genie free instead. The Sultan, seeing the nobility in Aladdin, then proclaims that the princess can marry whoever she wants.  

In the musical, Aladdin sets Genie free, saying he can’t pretend to be someone he’s not. The Sultan decrees the princess can marry whoever she wants.  Aladdin’s buddies are made royal advisers.

Final Aladdin Thoughts

There are a few ways the new movie may stand apart from its predecessors.  With Guy Ritchie directing (Snatch, Sherlock Holmes, Lock Stock), this is supposed to be the most action-packed version of Aladdin we’ve seen so far.  

Early rumors were that the story is supposed to be told non-linearly, which would also fit with Ritchie’s style.

Princess Jasmine gets more of a narrative arc.  Actress Naomi Scott told Reuters, “[Jasmine] finds her voice and she goes through a journey to find it. …I want little girls to see that.”  Some viewers have complained the film is about twenty minutes or so too long.  It is a half hour longer than the animated film, and does not have an intermission like the musical.  

Be sure to use the RunPee app to get Peetimes for Aladdin.  And if you’re riding your magic carpet to see Toy Story 4, The Lion King, and Artemis Fowl, we’ll have Peetimes for them too.  You can also follow us on Twitter and FaceBook @ RunPee for the latest movie and Peetime news. 

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Prepare for #Disney’s #Aladdin with this comparison of the animated film, the #Broadway #musical, and the live action #remake.  #GoldenMan will keep you one jump ahead with his cinema knowledge. #Genie #Jasmine #Iago #Jafar #Abu #MagicCarpet #RobinWilliams #GuyRitchie #WillSmith #AWholeNewWorld #FriendLikeMe

A Whole New World – Aladdin Lyrics and Video (1992 Animated Version)

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Movie Review – Suicide Squad

Movie Review - Suicide SquadI have to admit it, I was hoping Suicide Squad would be the Guardians of the Galaxy of the DC universe. It didn’t come close. My wife and I talked about it, and if I had to compare it to another comic movie, I’d say it was about as good as the Thor movies.

Margot Robbie was awesome as Harley Quinn, but you knew that already from the previews. Will Smith was enjoyable as Deadshot. I think they have something good to work with as they grow from here.

My biggest disappointment was the villain. There was no character development of the villain at all.

The best part of the movie is the character development of the suicide squad. The main members had enough screen time, including back story, to flesh them out pretty well. There were a few members of the team that were completely forgettable.

I’m going to be nit-picky for a second, but there was some clunky story telling. Little things like, where did those soldiers get the scuba gear? Were they just carrying it around with them the whole time? I don’t think so. It’s one of those things that happen in movies like this, where the writer needs some characters to have some equipment, or something, so they just make it handy. There were a few other things like that that aren’t worth getting into. There were some other issues with the plot, but I don’t want to bring them up because it might spoil some of it.

Suffice to say, enjoy the movie for what it is. Just try not to analyze it too much, or the plot will crumble.

Grade: C

About The Peetimes: I managed to find 2 good peetimes, and one “emergency” peetime. Overall I would recommend the last peetime at 1:18.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Suicide Squad. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Buy the movie from Amazon.com on DVD or Blu Ray