2003 Milk Plus Droogies

Best Picture
Kill Bill Vol. I

Best Director
Quentin Tarantino, Kill Bill Vol. I

Best Actor (tie)
Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean

Best Actor (tie)
Bill Murray, Lost in Translation

Best Actress
Uma Thurman, Kill Bill Vol. I

Best Supporting Actor
David Hyde Pierce, Down With Love

Best Supporting Actress
Miranda Richardson, Spider

Best Screenplay
Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation

Best Foreign Film

Best Cinematography
Harris Savides, Gerry

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The Blog:
Friday, July 05, 2002
Men In Black 2: F

During the end credits of Men In Black 2 Will Smith instructs the audience via song to “nod their heads,” and by that point I was practically nodding off. The sequel to 1997’s original sci-fi action-comedy proves that Barry Sonnenfeld’s atrocious misfire followup Wild Wild West was no fluke in director’s career. MIB2 is ridden with just as many pointless special effects, flat jokes and who-cares-if-it-makes-any-sense plot elements as his western disaster, except this film actually had potential. The first film survived on the natural pairing of a dead-pan Tommy Lee Jones and a motor mouth, wise cracking Will Smith but illogically enough the plot of its sequel keeps them apart for the first 30 minutes of the film. They have little time to chat once they get back together, as every frame of every scene of the movie is filled to the brim with distractingly bad computer generated effects fights sequences, chase sequences, and pseudo-clever in jokes (ugly aliens have to stick to the East Village during daylight, ha-ha). Even though both Lucas-FX house ILM and makeup-wiz Rick Baker both contribute to the film, neither the creatures nor the wild car and subway chases that make up a majority of the production design seem to have any character. Vincent D’Onofrio’s itchy, lose skinned giant alien from the original film has no equal in this movie, even the villain here is a boring and redundant Medusa replica.

Mr. Sonnenfeld seems to have taken a cinematic step back, doing what George Lucas is always accused of-relying on the creativity of his production crew to make a wild movie instead of focusing on his actors. Somehow he misuses Jackass’s Johnny Knoxville, Seinfeld’s Patrick Warburton, Rip Torn and even the usually wonderful Tony Shalhoub; all the jokes and characters from the first movie seem to be back again, except this time they are poorly written and given little direction from Sonnenfeld, who seems to let the shoddy FX do the talking instead of the characters. Will Smith’s comedic alter ego (the guy he plays when he is not in non-smiling movies like Ali or The Legend of Bagger Vance), that guy who always is losing the fight but pretends he’s winning, the one who cracks hip jokes against some sort of granite wall of seriousness, be it Tommy Lee Jones here or, say, Gene Hackman in Enemy of the State or Jeff Goldblum in Independence Day, is getting pretty played out. Usually the repetition of Smith’s only comic character would be foiled by the dry wit of someone like Mr. Jones, but here Tommy gets precious few lines (even those are pretty lousy, the script reeks of the Charlie’s Angels 30 uncredited rewrites syndrome) and when the crabby Jones is missing for the first third of this very short film he is filled in by various CGI gimmicks like a smart aleck talking dog (wow, a talking dog!) or a giant worm that roams the New York Subway.

The plot of Men In Black II is so fluff like it’s obvious that it is not important. Yet somehow the interaction between the film’s two leads, the delightfully charming element that let me grudgingly forgive its nonsense plot, is here replaced with so much lost-love, old-flame, this-job-is-sure-lonely, lets-save-the-universe sci-fi pseudo male bonding b.s. that it makes it clear that the best part of the first movie is nowhere to be seen. Banter between Jones and Smith is undercut by massive CGI nonsense and jokes by secondary characters that barely even make sense (apparently the U.S.P.S. is run by aliens…but why? Postal employees are unusual looking? It has poor service because extra terrestrials handle the mail? I don’t get it). There is no climax, and no real conclusion because the fight at the end is no different from the uninspired fights that occur throughout the film. What the movie really feels like is an episode of a long running TV series which has finally run out of steam, and this particular episode is an filler one, where the entire 30 minutes is one long chase and you have to wait until next week to get the episode where the characters actually progress their stories. Actually Men In Black II feels more like a bad-clips episode of a series, showcasing all the flat jokes and special effects bloopers they kept out of the first movie. Avoid.