[caption id="attachment_128756" align="alignleft" width="300"] Columbia Pictures[/caption]
This week: Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones return as Agents J and K, respectively, in "Men in Black 3." In this long-awaited time-traveling sequel we meet a young Agent K, played to perfection by Josh Brolin.
Also new this week is the Prohibition drama "Lawless," Whitney Houston's last performance in "Sparkle," the spooky stop-motion animated feature "ParaNorman," and the modern-dance showcase "Step Up Revolution."
'Men in Black 3'
[caption id="attachment_155313" align="alignright" width="220"] Sony[/caption]
Box Office: $179 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 69% Fresh
Storyline: Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) are back as the titular sharp-dressed men regulating alien activity on Earth, but this time J must travel back in time to the '60s and help a young K (Josh Brolin) prevent a future cataclysm for his partner and the planet.
Extras! The Blu-ray has fun exclusives like the "Spot the Alien Game" and "The Evolution of Cool: 'MIB' 1960s vs. Today." The Blu-ray 3D has even more bonus features, like "The Case of Boris the Animal: the 3D Models of 'MIB 3'" and a featurette on how the movie was converted to 3D.
We Say: After the uneven tone of 2002's "Men in Black II," which went too far in the comedy direction, Brolin's spot-on impersonation of a young Jones breathes new life into the sci-fi series. No one will hand out awards for a movie like this, but Brolin is that good and his on-screen chemistry with Smith makes this time-traveling sequel a trippy treat.
[caption id="attachment_155092" align="alignright" width="220"] The Weinstein Company[/caption]
Box Office: $37 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 67% Fresh
Storyline: The latest collaboration between director John Hillcoat and screenwriter-composer Nick Cave is based on the true story of the Bondurant boys (Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke) who operated a bootlegging operation in Franklin County, Virginia toward the end of Prohibition. Complicating matters for the popular outlaws are a deadly gangster (Gary Oldman) and a corrupt special deputy (Guy Pearce) who wants to squash them and their moonshine business.
Extras! The best extras on the DVD and Blu-ray are the ones that give you some background information on the real story, including "The True Story of the Wettest County in the World," "Franklin County, VA: Then and Now," and "The Story of the Bondurant Family."
We Say: This gritty, violent drama about outlaws who became heroes features some outstanding performances, particularly Pearce with his severely parted hair that speaks volumes about his character's mental state. Hardy, per usual, still speaks as if he has a mouthful of marbles and peanut butter, but that actually works in his favor for playing a mountain-dwelling moonshiner. It's also refreshing to see a post-Michael Bay LaBeouf fight adversaries that aren't giant robots from outer space.
[caption id="attachment_155314" align="alignright" width="220"] Sony[/caption]
Box Office: $24 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 58% Rotten
Storyline: This musical drama is a love letter to old Motown and stars Jordin Sparks as the titular singer who is struggling to become a star while trying to overcome issues that are tearing her family apart. Whitney Houston stars as Sparkle's mother, Derek Luke plays Sparkle's music manager/love interest and Carmen Ejogo and Tika Sumpter play Sparkle's sisters who try to become a Supremes-like sensation of the Motown era.
Extras! Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain "A Tribute to Whitney Houston"; the Blu-ray adds exclusives like the music video "Celebrate" with Houston and Sparks and an extended performance of "Hooked on Your Love."
We Say: "Sparkle" is notable for featuring the last performance of Houston before her untimely death but, aside from that, it's an underwhelming, cliché-littered offering that steals bit and pieces from better movies like "Dreamgirls," "What's Love Got to Do with It" and others.
[caption id="attachment_155315" align="alignright" width="220"] Focus Features[/caption]
Box Office: $56 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 86% Fresh
Storyline: This stop-motion animated feature from the makers of "Coraline" tells the story of Norman, a shunned little boy with the ability to see and speak with the dead who must use his talents to save his town from being destroyed by a centuries-old curse. Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Man, Jeff Garlin and John Goodman provide voices for the colorful characters.
Extras! Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D, "ParaNorman" includes such bonus features as seven making-of featurettes, preliminary animatic sequences, and a behind-the-scenes look at the stop-motion magic.
We Say: Although it's not as weirdly wonderful as "Coraline," this imaginative PG-rated spook show tests the limits of scariness for children's movies and has enough references to the ghosts of pop culture past to keep adults interested.
'Step Up Revolution'
[caption id="attachment_155316" align="alignright" width="220"] Summit[/caption]
Box Office: $35 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 43% Rotten
Storyline: The latest "Step Up" sequel moves the cutting-edge flash-dancing "Mob" to Miami where a local businessman threatens to develop the Mob's historic neighborhood and displace thousands of people. An aspiring professional dancer (Kathryn McCormick) and a dance-crew leader (Ryan Guzman) team up to turn their performance art into protest art.
Extras! Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D, "Step Up Revolution" has choreography featurettes, dance sequences, deleted scenes and music videos from artists like J. Lo and Timbaland.
We Say: The two leads are an MMA fighter and a "So You Think You Can Dance" survivor, so dispense any thoughts of this having a chance to be a compelling drama with nuanced performances. If all you're looking for is some kinetic modern-dance numbers, put on your 3D glasses and let the Mob shimmy right out of your TV screen.
Also New This Week:
"6 Degrees of Hell"