Yesterday, Sony released the first trailer for Men in Black 3, the next installment in the series of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones alien action/comedy flicks, set to open in the U.S. in late May.
You can view said trailer here if you want to, but know this: it looks perfectly abysmal. There are movies I’ve wanted to see less — Jack & Jill and New Year’s Eve, among current options — but the amount I want to see each of them is so close to zero that the order doesn’t matter much.
I wasn’t a big fan of the first MIB installment, but I can see how it made a ton of money. It had Smith and Jones at or near the top of their respective popularity curves and it offered a visually impressive, lighter take on the extraterrestrial conspiracy theory stuff popularized by The X Files. It was a pretty good time. The second one came along five years later (which seemed like an eternity, at the time — who knew they’d turn another one round nearly a decade later), and revolved around a complicated-yet-uninteresting scheme by alien evildoers that could never be satisfactorily explored in the just a little over an hour that the movie runs.
And the third one? Smith’s character goes back in time to see a Tommy Lee Jones-impersonating Josh Brolin in the 1960s. The trailer suggests that it’s mostly encountering new types of aliens among us and Will Smith mugging for the camera. We can hope it comes in as short as II did, and that’s about all there is left to hope for.
So in honor of MIB3 (displayed in the logo as though it’s “MIB cubed” for some reason), and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked, and New Year’s Eve (which is not, but essentially is, a sequel to Valentine’s Day), here’s a tribute to some of history’s most disastrous film sequels:
Dierdre Pujols’ attempted explanation of her family’s decision to leave St. Louis for Los Angeles is difficult to comprehend and, frankly, implausible. That reminds me of history’s most crassly impossible sequel premise: Weekend at Bernie’s II.
We also would’ve accepted The Hangover Part 2, but that’s simply entirely implausible because the exact same thing happens to the same group of people twice; Bernie’s has the added bonus of a new, befuddling storyline. In the original Bernie’s – hardly a classic — a couple of goofy insurance agency employees discover their boss dead, and in a wacky mix-up, believe they are responsible and that they themselves will be killed if anyone finds out, so they need to conceal his demise. So they wander around propping up his corpse like it’s a live person, and hilarity ensues.
And then, four years later, they made a sequel. Involving the same dead guy, which I guess (hope) must have meant it took place pretty quickly after the 1989 original. They find out Bernie had embezzled $2 million and buried it in the Virgin Islands, so naturally, they dig up his presumably rotting corpse and, try to get it reanimated in a voodoo ceremony (which partially works), and head off after the money, chased by the cops, the voodoo people, and various other foils. It’s terribly overcomplicated, yet incredibly stupid, as anything whose main purpose is creepy slapstick humor with a corpse would pretty much have to be. If there’s one movie from which a traditional sequel really can’t be made, it’s one where one of the three main characters was a corpse. And yet, they made it.
Dierdre Pujols — Albert’s wife, obviously — made about as much sense on Monday, when she appeared on St. Louis radio station Joy FM. (The clip seems to have been taken down; read a kind of a summary here.) I’m certainly not in the business of mocking a person’s faith, and it’s a Christian radio station, so okay, the interview opened with a prayer, and there was a lot of very frank talk about God and the devil and all that. Where she loses me is where she asserts that St. Louisians have been misled, or flat-out lied to, about the extent of the Cardinals’ offer to Pujols. She goes on about this for quite some time, but never really explains how they’ve been lied to, or what the truth is. She says they were only guaranteed five years, $130 million…but stresses that word, “guaranteed,” and it’s not clear what the difference really was between that and the rumored ten-year $210 million deal that may or may not have been on the table.
And then she gets to the part where it’s not about the money at all, but rather, it’s God’s will, and toward the end she even says, “It’s just like God to put us on the team called the Angels.” Again, not criticizing her religion, and it’s the audience she’s speaking to and all that, but you might at least mention that in this particular instance, God’s will also perfectly matches up with all humans’ rational self-interest, right? What’s wrong with saying the Christian radio version of “oh, yeah, and of course it was a s#@tload more money, too”? Mrs. Pujols was speaking to an audience that (one presumes) wanted to hear that sort of thing, but she had to know that at this point in time, anything she said would very quickly reach a much larger, more secular audience, and to that audience, her explanations sound bizarrely evasive, vague and implausible. Crazily and hilariously so, in fact, kind of like the plot of Weekend at Bernie’s II.
The Dodgers are trying to fill roles in the club with similar, but worse, replacements for the departing pieces. Which is like that time they tried to remake Caddyshack with none of the things that made Caddyshack Caddyshack.
A ton of sequel-makers have committed the same sin since 1988, and I’m sure this wasn’t the first case of it, but it’s certainly one of the most egregious. Having scored an unlikely comedic smash with Caddyshack in 1980, Warner Bros. decided to do it all again eight years later. It was expected to revolve around the character of Al Czervik, portrayed by the great Rodney Dangerfield; Dangerfield pulled out, however, and then original film co-writer Harold Ramis pulled out, and the director pulled out, and the studio just kept pushing on anyway. Ultimately, what they ended up with was a set of the same character sketches, but different characters and actors: Dan Aykroyd taking Bill Murray’s whack-job role, Jackie Mason taking Dangerfield’s irreverant ethnic rich-guy role, Robert Stack in Ted Knight’s place as the snooty old-money rich guy. Of the cast of actors and characters from the original film, only the animatronic gopher and Chevy Chase’s Ty Webb remained, and the latter got only a cameo. And, predictably, it was terrible, wildly hailed as one of the worst sequels ever created.
I got a good laugh about a month ago out of this profile by Tom Verducci, declaring that the Dodgers and GM Ned Colletti had “gone sabermetric” and joined the “‘new school’ franchises with a strong belief — not just an obligatory nod — that quantitative analysis plays an important role in building a winning team.” And it’s just kept getting funnier as the weeks have passed, and it’s become apparent that if there’s one sabermetric term Colletti has grasped onto, it’s “replacement player,” and he’s made it his mission to go out and sign as many of those to multi-year deals as possible. To replace the departing and very useful Jamey Carroll, Colletti nabbed Mark Ellis and/or Adam Kennedy, both slightly younger, but with less defensive flexibility and OBPs around 40 points lower since 2006; to replace the cheap and useful Juan Rivera, Colletti signed a more expensive and eminently replaceable Juan Rivera; to replace the not particularly useful, replacement level Tony Gwynn Jr., Colletti signed the still-replacement-level and now slightly older Gwynn Jr. to a two-year deal; to replace Rod Barajas, they got Matt Treanor, which is probably a slight improvement, but, you know, who cares; and they signed two-year deals with two pitchers, Chris Capuano (who is OK) and Aaron Harang (who is not). at least one of whom will be expected to replace the much better Hiroki Kuroda.
The Dodgers are a mess, at least as 82-win teams go, but they play in a pretty poor division, which could become winnable with a few shrewd, actually-sabermetrically-inspired moves. Instead, Colletti has proceeded to lock down a bunch of totally replaceable players, mostly to multi-year contracts. It’s the same basic team it was in 2011, with similar but sometimes worse players, with worse deals, filling the same roles. Colletti’s putting a Caddyshack II type of supporting cast together.
Bill Plaschke has always been kind of over-the-top and hacky, but he really slathered it on thick on Monday. Like how Batman and Robin took the always-kind-of-ludicrous Batman franchise and tried to destroy it with ludicrousness…
If you stop and think about it at all, even the darkest, most serious Batman film (or other media) is completely ridiculous. There’s an element of that to all superhero/comic book stuff, I think, but perversely, there’s something even more ridiculous about a guy who doesn’t actually have any superpowers, just a crazy suit and a bunch of cool gadgets. But the good Batman films have ignored all that and taken themselves very seriously, and have been engaging enough to get past the innate silliness.
In the nineties, though, the franchise trended toward the old 1960s-TV-series camp with Batman Forever, then jumped in completely with Batman & Robin, only where the old series completely embraced the camp and was great because ridiculous, B & R went high-budget and kind of tried to be tense and dark in spots. and it just failed completely. George Clooney was the worst Batman ever, Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy had basically no personality, and Arnold Schwartzenegger got to half-intelligibly growl out classic lines like “Allow me to break the ice. My name is Freeze. Learn it well, for it’s the chilling sound of your doom!”
I don’t know if the L.A. Times‘ Bill Plaschke has ever written anything thoughtful or worth reading, but if he has, it happened before I started paying attention. His work is inherently inflammatory and silly, and was a regular fixture on Fire Joe Morgan back in the day. Yesterday, though, he went and really Batman & Robined it up with his mercifully short but preachy, sanctimonious piece on the Ryan Braun story and what he imagines are its implications for the state of baseball today. I can’t really get into all the flaws with his thinking here in any detail, but in short, here they are:
(1) he sets up a “fight it or admit it?” choice when we don’t even know what “it” is, whether Braun actually did it, or when;
(2) he then makes the choice for him, saying that Braun needs to “admit” “it” despite that, again, we don’t know what “it” is, and Braun really isn’t really at liberty to admit or deny anything right now;
(3) he rather misleadingly says that Braun has been the subject of “two positive tests”;
(4) he demands that Braun voluntarily give up the award and that the 2011 NL MVP slot remain empty “as an eternal reminder of the cost of cheating while representing the only real punishment for an active cheater,” which is self-contradictory, unbearably sanctimonious and frankly insane;
(5) he derides the draconian fifty-game suspension for first-time offenders (whose offenses we never really know) as “not real punishment” and “not even one-third of a season”;
(6) he states that Braun “will not even have to give up much money other than the missed salary during those 50 games” (emphasis added), which, in point of fact, is actually a very, very large sum of money;
(7) he seriously overstates the big-picture statement one player’s failure of a test for an unidentified substance with unidentified effects might make about the game’s efforts to clean itself up; and
(8) he tortures us with twenty-one mostly-one-sentence paragraphs of completely hacktastic writing, ending with this little bit of journalistic gold: “If Braun is the cheater that the evidence says he is, he needs to listen to himself from three years ago, face himself today, and finally become the real MVP by giving it up.” If your only goal is to piss reasonable baseball fans off, you couldn’t craft a better closing sentence than that.
I’ve never seen Plaschke write anything that wasn’t kind of terrible, but this piece went above and beyond. The inherent ridiculousness of the whole Batman concept was no excuse for the disaster that was Batman & Robin, and Plaschke’s status as a regular provider of lazy writing and PED sanctimony can’t explain away the entirety of the particularly pungent dung pile he laid at Ryan Braun’s feet on Monday.
Image courtesy imgross.