Men in Black 3

If you were to be flashed with a neuralizer and made to forget the first two MIB movies, you’d love MIB 3. But compared to the other two, this action comedy lacks just a bit of the magic.

Have we missed you, Will Smith? Yes. After being MIA for over three years, he is back on the big screen, bringing all the charisma that has made him a star. He’s funny and has attitude.

The movie’s plot involves time travel back to 1969 and gives us Josh Brolin as the younger, less jaded, version of Tommy Lee Jones’ character, K. (Did Jones loop some of Brolin’s dialogue? Because the vocal timbre and inflections are dead on.)

The 60’s flashback is fun and, interestingly, addresses racial behaviors that were quite different from those of today. Will Smith’s character J is pulled over by NYC cops who wonder why a black man would be wearing such a nice suit and driving a luxury convertible.

Also, interestingly, MIB 3 reprises the shot in the first MIB that had St. Louis native Bernard Gilkey, then a Met, getting hit in the head with a fly ball. In MIB 3, the shot of an outfielder getting plunked signals the mid-season ’69 Mets ineptitude that somehow transitioned to a World Series title in October.

J and K face off against evil alien Boris the Animal (who always reminds them that his name is now “just Boris”) at Cape Kennedy where Apollo astronauts are about to be launched for the moon. The battle atop the missile support beams is an impressive sequence—within a notch of two of Cruise’s Dubai scenes in MI 4.

As in the two previous MIB’s, the aliens are the result of some clever imaginations, creative costumers and hard-working special effects crews.

Is MIB 3 satisfying? Yes. Will it blow you away? No. Following the first two MIB’s and, especially in the wake of the effects-laden “The Avengers,” MIB 3 may need good WOM to become a major hit. (That’s word of mouth.) The popularity of Will Smith and the two earlier MIB’s will fill theaters this first weekend. Stay tuned to see what happens beyond May.

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What to Expect When You’re Expecting

It was better than I was expecting. (And much funnier than the book!)

Like most ensemble romantic comedy movies with large casts of interacting characters, WTEWYE is predictable. How predictable? Five seconds into the movie, you know exactly how the first scene will end.

WTEWYE does have more laugh out loud funny moments than the Garry Marshall ensemble movies, such as “Valentine’s Day.” Here we have five Atlanta area couples dealing with fertility issues, planned pregnancies, surprise pregnancies and adoption. Of course, there is also a fair amount of poignancy with the pregnancy.

Interestingly, the only mother-to-be in the film who has given birth in real life is Jennifer Lopez, whose character is infertile. She and her husband adopt a child from Ethiopia. The pregnant women are Cameron Diaz, Elizabeth Banks, Anna Kendrick and Brooklyn Decker. Elizabeth Banks is the funniest of the five.

A good bit of the WTEWYE’s humor comes from a group of dads who get together to push their offspring in strollers. Thomas Lennon of “Reno 911” fame and Chris Rock are part of that group.

For men and women who are new parents (and for many of us whose youngest offspring are now teens), the film will bring back memories of pregnancies, some of which you may have forgotten. Along with the pregnancies, we follow the development of romantic relationships between the couples to predictable outcomes.

Maybe the most impressive aspect of WTEWYE is how realistic the prosthetic tummies appeared on the film’s moms.

WTEWYE is a pleasant enough amusement. But if you are newly pregnant, don’t count on the movie to be instructive. Buy the book.

Dark Shadows

It’s simple: if you are a Depp fan, you must see “Dark Shadows.”

“Dark Shadows” is not Tim Burton’s best film. It has flaws. But it has Johnny Depp in a meaty role as the vampire Barnabas Collins. Depp is the reason to see the movie.

Another good is Eva Green as the witch Angelique. She looks great and she has fun with the role.

The two share a lovemaking scene that’s a classic. It’s not particularly sexy, but the way they literally bounce off the walls is ridiculously outrageous. At the end of their tryst, the room looks more like the site of a violent brawl than that of a hookup.

The story is set in 1972. After spending over two centuries underground in a casket, Barnabas is dug up by a construction crew. As he encounters modern life, he experiences some amusing culture shock.

We, the audience, get to enjoy our time travel backward 40 years to the cars and culture of ’72. “Deliverance” and “Superfly” are on movie marquees; the Carpenters sing “Top of the World” on a TV show. (One notable anachronism: Lyrics are recited from Steve Miller’s “The Joker,” which did not come along until 1973. And the Raspberries 1972 hit “Go All the Way,” which played over the closing credits, was not the original hit version—shameful!)

Since Barnabas spurned Angelique’s romantic overtures in the 1700’s, she turned him into a vampire and sent him to his 200+ year dirt nap. When he comes alive again in ’72, she’s still around and still desiring Barnabas.

Another reason to see the movie is the amazing 15-year-old Chloe Grace Maretz as the daughter of the ’72 era matriarch of the Collins clan. This young woman (best known for “Hugo,” “Kick-Ass” and “30 Rock”) sparkles on the big and small screens. With the right role, she could be an Oscar winner by age 21.

Add in Alice Cooper performing “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” and you have another hook to lure you in.

“Dark Shadows” is uneven and may fall short of some expectations/anticipations. But I like Depp, even in his less-than-awesome movies, and he’s fun to watch here.

“The Avengers”

Marvel’s “The Avengers” is too much and too many.

Not that you shouldn’t see it. You should. Just prepare yourself to be stuffed. Like a huge holiday meal, “The Avengers” will leave you totally sated.

It’s also analogous to a sports All-Star game. Sure, it’s great to see all the Marvel heroes together. But as an All-Star game is not always an entertaining game, so does “The Avengers” fail to deliver a truly great movie.

The interaction—including verbal and physical battles—among the characters is fun and often funny to watch. It’s amusing as Captain America (Chris Evans) tries to assimilate into the 21st century world, after awakening from a 70-year nap.

Thankfully, the film’s writers and director give the biggest chunk of screen time to Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man/Tony Stark. This is good because Downey is a much better actor than the rest of the cast. Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk/Bruce Banner is also excellent in his Marvel debut.

The other main players: Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye and Tom Hiddleston as the villain Loki.

The movie’s pacing brings to mind the latter Star Wars movies with long periods of exposition between the action scenes. The film’s final battle is spectacularly good, but overlong—not unlike having three pieces of pumpkin pie at the end of a holiday feast.

Clocking in at 2:20 or so, it’s a long movie. But with so many characters to feature and so much action to fit in, it has to be.

“The Avengers,” like a Transformers film, is critic-proof. Even if every reviewer in America from Ebert on down said the film sucked, it would still gross $100 million plus this weekend.

It doesn’t suck. But it’s not as good a movie as one might have hoped for.