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Friday, May 6, 2011

Men in Black (1997)

#2 - 1997 Box Office: Gross $250,690,539

Protecting the Earth from the scum of the Universe
The Men in Black are a top secret organization that monitors and polices alien activity on Earth, keeping regular humans completely in the dark about both their & aliens' existence.  After NYPD officer James Edwards (Will Smith) crosses paths with a very acrobatic alien who can climb up the side of the Guggenheim, MiB agent Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) is sent to erase his memory.  However, he's impressed when he finds out James ran down the Cephlapoid on foot and convinces his boss Agent Zed (Rip Torn) to invite him to an MiB recruiting test.  James' unorthodox methods help him pass and he becomes Agent Jay.  Soon Jay and Kay are stuck in a galactic game of keep away.  An entire galaxy was being hidden on earth, and a species of Bugs are after it.  One Bug kills a farmer (Vincent D'Onofrio) and uses his skin as a disguise as he searches for the galaxy.  The galaxy's protectors decide it'd be better to destroy the Earth than let the energy within this galaxy fall into the wrong hands.  Will Jay & Kay be able to find the galaxy before the Bug does?

Trivia (mostly courtesy of the IMDb)
  • The film grossed over $587 million worldwide against a $90 million budget; it was followed by a 2002 sequel (Men in Black II), an animated series (Men in Black: The Series) as well as a second sequel that will be released in 2012 (Men in Black III)
  • The known aliens visible on the screen inside MiB headquarters include Al Roker, Isaac Mizrahi, Danny DeVito, director Barry Sonnenfeld, his daughter Chloe Sonnenfeld, Sylvester Stallone, Dionne Warwick, Newt Gingrich, Anthony Robbins, George Lucas, and executive producer Steven Spielberg
  • The space ship flies over Shea Stadium in Queens NY and the player that gets hit on the head with a fly ball is then Mets outfielder Bernard Gilkey
  • MiB headquarters are located in the ventilation tower of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, which connects Manhattan with Brooklyn
  • Henrik Thor-Larsen, the designer of the Ovalia Egg Chair, received punitive damages from the film studio after they copied his chair without permission in order to have enough of them for the scene where the recruits assemble at MiB headquarter
  • In order to achieve his character's distinctive walk, Vincent D'Onofrio wore knee braces so he couldn't bend his legs and taped up his ankles
  • The noise the neuralyzer makes when it flashes is the sound of a strobe flash reloading
  • After K neuralyzes James, the scene cuts to a diner where K is telling the punchline of a joke.  Unlike other films that create fake jokes (e.g. The Breakfast Club's naked blonde, dog, salami) this one actually exists
  • The sunglasses used in the film are Ray-Ban's Predator 2 glasses. After the film was released, Ray-Ban reported that sales of these glasses tripled, from $1.6 million to $5 million
You know the difference between you and me? I make this look good.
I started watching this movie and had a double take (listen?)—is this a Danny Elfman score?! Then (as if there was any doubt) came his credit... I thought "This ought to be fun!"  And then the opening scene (which also sort of disappeared from my memory banks) played out and I realized Men In Black opens with a scene featuring an illegal alien hidden amongst illegal aliens.  So meta!  The movie isn't anything too wonderful, but it delivers what it promises.  It posits that certain celebrities (e.g. Stallone & Dennis Rodman) are really aliens hiding in plain sight and in the end reveals that our entire galaxy is nothing more than the core of another alien's marble.  Director Barry Sonnenfeld took the source material (from what I hear, a sort of dark Marvel comic book) and with the help of screenwriter Ed Solomon, adds plenty of one-liners and funny alien effects. The actual plot of the movie is a little hard to summarize—I had to go back and edit Rip Torn's character into my summary above, and just couldn't figure out a simple way to mention Linda Fiorentino's role as coroner Dr Laurel Weaver (well... I guess I did just now).  The "climax" of the film is over pretty quickly—in my search for trivia, I read that the original ending was a dialogue scene between Kay and an animatronic Bug, however this was scrapped late in production and replaced with the fairly expensive CGI battle that's there now.  I guess when your script is written without a climax, it's hard to shoehorn one in there.  But it's easy to look past the problems given the chemistry shared by Smith and Jones (Lee Jones?).  The two are sort of a modern day/sci-fi version of Abbott & Costello.  Jones plays the straight man well to Smith's crazy rookie, and the pairing was good enough for two sequels!  And that's good enough for me!

Ponch's Rating:

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