4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

“I make this look good” — The Men in Black Trilogy

As we close out 2018, “4-Color to 35-Millimeter” is firmly ensconced in the 21st-century renaissance of superhero movies. However, your humble rewatcher did miss a few 20th-century flicks that fit the bill, so in this final week of the year, we’ll take a look at those forgotten films. We started with 1985’s Red Sonja and 1990’s Dick Tracy, and we conclude with the three films starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as the Men in Black.

The Men in Black was a three-issue comic book miniseries written by Lowell Cunningham and published by Aircel in 1990. In 1991, Cunningham did a second miniseries about this government conspiracy to cover up the existence of aliens, monsters, etc., but by then Aircel had been bought up by Malibu Comics, and they published the comic.

The comic was also optioned for a feature film by Amblin Entertainment, and by the time they got the film to theatres in 1997, Malibu had been purchased by Marvel Comics (mostly because Marvel wanted their state-of-the-art coloring process; the 1990s was a big revolution in coloring comics), so on a technicality, you can say that Men in Black was Marvel’s first successful movie (beating Blade by a year).

The producers wanted Barry Sonnenfeld to direct their adaptation of Cunningham’s comic, as they loved the work that the Coen Brothers’ erstwhile cinematographer did on The Addams Family and Addams Family Values, and were willing to wait for him to be available. Once Sonnenfeld was done filming Get Shorty, he got to work on Men in Black.

Ed Solomon’s original script was set in multiple locations around the world, but Sonnenfeld though it would work better filmed and taking place in New York City, as New Yorkers, he felt, would be more blasé about aliens living among them, plus he wanted to make use of several Big Apple locations like the ventilation structure for the Battery Tunnel (used as the entrance to MIB headquarters) and the World’s Fair grounds in Queens.

Neither Tommy Lee Jones (last seen in this rewatch in Batman Forever and Captain America: The First Avenger) nor Will Smith (next to be seen in this rewatch in Suicide Squad) were impressed with the initial drafts of the script, but they both signed on as the two leads because of Steven Spielberg being the executive producer. (For what it’s worth, your humble rewatcher was also unimpressed with the initial drafts. At the time I was working for a book packager, and we were given the opportunity to bid on the novelization rights. We passed because we thought the script was terrible, but the final movie was much stronger than the script we saw.) The main cast of the first movie was filled out by Linda Fiorentino as Dr. Weaver, Vincent d’Onofrio as the bug, Tony Shalhoub as Jeebs, Tim Blaney as the voice of Frank the Pug, and Rip Torn as Zed, the head of MIB, along with Carel Struycken, Siobhan Fallon, Mike Nussbaum, and Richard Hamilton.

The first movie was a massive hit, spawning an animated series, amusement park rides, various other bits of merchandise, and, finally in 2002, a sequel. Despite being set up as K’s new partner at the end of the first film, Linda Fiorentino was not brought back for the sequel, though Jones, Smith, and Torn were, as well as Shalhoub and Blaney. Lara Flynn Boyle played Serleena, while Rosario Dawson joined the cast as Laura, who was both love interest and Macguffin. The movie was filmed in 2001, and had a climax involving the World Trade Center towers, which had to be reshot after the towers’ destruction in September of that year.

Men in Black II was not a hit, either financially or critically. A strong opening weekend was followed by a massive dropoff, as word of mouth was poor to say the least. Because of that, it took a decade for a third movie to be made, with the eventual feeling that the first movie was still a strong performer on home video, and Smith and Jones were still draws. Torn did not return, replaced by Emma Thompson as Agent O. The third film was a time-travel adventure, with Smith’s Agent J going back to 1969, where he meets younger versions of Jones’s Agent K (played by Josh Brolin, last seen in this rewatch in Jonah Hex and to be seen as Thanos in multiple MCU films and as Cable in Deadpool 2) and Agent O (played by Alice Eve), with Michael Stuhlbarg, Mike Colter, Jemaine Clement, David Rasche, Keone Young, and Bill Hader rounding out the cast. Smith and Jones are the only two actors who appear in all three movies, though there is a reference to Frank the Pug in the third film (there’s an ad in the Coney Island of 1969 for “The Incredible Speaking Pug”).

While Sony has remained open to doing more films, as have Smith and Jones, there’s been no movement on another MIB film, though a Men in Black International movie starring Thor and the Valkryie—er, that is, Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson—is currently filming for a 2019 release.

(The series also has several veterans of the Netflix Marvel TV series: d’Onofrio, who played the Kingpin in Daredevil; Dawson, who played Claire Temple in most of the Netflix series; Eve, who played Mary Walker in Iron Fist; and Colter, who played Luke Cage in Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and The Defenders.)


“Elvis is not dead, he just went home”

Men in Black
Written by Ed Solomon
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
Produced by Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald
Original release date: July 2, 1997

A truck in Texas is taking illegal Mexican immigrants into the U.S. They’re stopped by Border Patrol, who are then, in turn, stopped by Agent D and Agent K of the Men in Black. The latter are there to get a different type of illegal alien: a tentacled creature named Mikey, who isn’t supposed to be there. They’re forced to kill Mikey, and then use their neuralyzers on the Border Patrol so they don’t recall what happened.

D hesitated during the confrontation, and he feels he needs to retire. K neuralyzes him so he can live the rest of his life in peaceful ignorance.

In New York City, Detective James Edwards III is chasing a perp down, eventually confronting him at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Edwards is confused to see that a) the perp has a weird ray gun (which disintegrates), b) he can climb walls, and c) he has two sets of eyelids. The perp jumps off the roof and dies rather than be captured.

Edwards makes his report, but then K shows up and neuralyzes the medical examiner and the other cops. He explains that the second set of eyelids were gills and asks if Edwards remembers what the ray-gun looked like, and then takes him to a pawn shop owned by Jeebs. Both K and Edwards are familiar with Jeebs, but Edwards is rather shocked to learn that Jeebs doesn’t just deal in watches and jewelry, but also alien ray-guns (including the one the perp had). He’s even more shocked when K shoots Jeebs’s head off, only to see it grow back.

Now that he knows where the perp—who is a Cephalopoid—got his gun, K neuralyzes Edwards, but also invites him to come to MIB headquarters the next morning.

Edwards is present for a recruitment test, along with various military personnel. They’re seated in egg-shaped chairs with no tables, making it awkward to take the written test—only Edwards thinks to move the table over to lean on. The recruits are put in a room with strobe lights and shown a situation filled with weird monsters and alien creatures. While the military dudes take multiple shots at the monsters, Edwards only takes one shot, at the eight-year-old girl holding a quantum physics textbook. He actually explains, in graphic detail, why he thought she would be starting some shit while the monsters don’t appear to be doing anybody any harm.

Zed is reluctant to hire him, but K insists, and so Edwards is brought into the fold, actually meeting a quartet of alien worms in the coffee room. K explains that the MIB grew out of an underfunded government agency in the 1960s that actually made contact with aliens. Earth became a waystation for alien refugees, with the MIB monitoring their activity on Earth and keeping it secret from the rest of humanity. To join MIB, Edwards must give up his entire existence. K gives Edwards the night to think about it, and he accepts the next day.

A flying saucer crashes on an upstate farm. Edgar, the farmer, investigates, only to be killed and skinned by the alien bug, who then puts Edgar’s skin on over his own form to blend in better. The bug asks Edgar’s wife for sugar water, then takes his flying saucer into New York City, where he goes into a restaurant. Two aliens disguised as humans are having lunch when the bug shows up, kills them both, and takes the diamonds one of them is giving to the other as a gift.

Zed sends K and the newly christened Agent J to New Jersey, where an alien has left Manhattan against regulations (he’s restricted to Manhattan). Turns out his wife is pregnant and about to give birth. J has to midwife the alien baby—who has very powerful tentacles and pukes slime—while the alien explains to K that he wants to leave Earth and has a ship lined up.

K is concerned, as a warp journey with a newborn is dangerous. And lots of other aliens are leaving the planet as well. K checks the “hot sheets”—supermarket tabloids, which he says has the best investigative journalism on the planet—and finds the story of a flying saucer crashing in upstate New York. They go talk to Edgar’s wife and check the crater. Spectral analysis indicates that it’s a bug, and K is now really worried.

Zed sends K and J to clean up after the triple homicide in the restaurant (the two aliens and also the waiter the bug killed), so they go to the morgue. Dr. Weaver, the medical examiner, is fascinated by the humanform construct, thinking it’s a really weird body. Weaver also now has custody of one of the aliens’ cat.

The cat owner turns out to be a very tiny alien manipulating controls inside the fake head. Just before he takes his last breath, he says that to save the world, the galaxy is on Orion’s belt.

This makes no sense to J or K, as a galaxy is huge and Orion’s belt is a (comparatively) small constellation. Also, the alien turns out to be a member of the Arquillian royal family, and the Arquillians are pissed. They show up with a battle cruiser (the arrival of which is why so many aliens are suddenly leaving Earth) and say that MIB has to hand over the galaxy or the Earth will be destroyed.

Not having any idea how to make that happen, J and K go to the Arquillian prince’s jewelry shop. The bug has already been there, having trashed the place, but not taken any of the jewelry. J sees tons of pictures of the prince’s cat on the wall.

They confront the bug, who manages to get away, but without his flying saucer, which MIB confiscates.

K questions Frank, an alien disguised as a pug, who explains that the galaxy is a power source, but it’s very tiny, about the size of a marble. The Arquillians will do anything to keep the bugs from getting their grubby mitts on it.

J figures out that Orion is the name of the cat, and the galaxy is on his collar. They head to the morgue, but the bug is already there. He has the galaxy, and he takes Weaver as a hostage. But the bug no longer has a way off-planet, and Zed and K try to figure out how he plans to get off-world. It’s J who asks if the two flying saucers on the World’s Fair grounds still work.

J and K head to Queens. The bug takes off in the saucer, but the MIBs shoot it down. The bug then rips off his Edgar suit and confronts them in his full cockroach-y glory. He eats K’s gun, having already swallowed the galaxy, and K encourages him to eat K himself, after K tells J to not let him leave the planet.

K swims around in the bug’s gullet looking for his gun, which he finds and blows the bug in half, freeing him and covering him and J in slime. J has spent that time distracting the bug by getting beaten up and by stepping on cockroaches, which enrages the bug. The bug makes one last attempt to kill them, but Weaver shoots him with J’s discarded gun. Zed informs the Arquillians that the galaxy has been retrieved and Earth’s destruction is avoided.

They return to HQ, and K explains that he’s retiring. He hasn’t been training J to be his partner, but rather his replacement. J neuralyzes K and sends him off to be with the woman he loves (whom he hasn’t seen in thirty years, because he’s been with MIB), while Weaver is recruited into MIB and is J’s new partner, L.


“Old and busted—new hotness”

Men in Black II
Written by Robert Gordon and Barry Fanaro
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
Produced by Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald
Original release date: July 3, 2002

We open with a 1970s “true fact” show called Mysteries in History, hosted by Peter Graves, that tells the story of the secret “men in black” who foiled an alien invasion. In a cheesy re-creation, Graves explains about how the Light of Zathra was on Earth, with the Zathrans begging to keep the Light on Earth where it would be safe from the alien creature Serleena. But Earth has to remain neutral, so they refuse, and the MIBs send the Light into space.

Serleena spends the next twenty-five years searching for the Light, destroying many worlds in her quest. But she returns to Earth at the behest of one of her lackeys, a two-headed alien named Scrad, who learns that the Light is still on Earth. Serleena, a multitentacled creature of changeable size and shape, takes on the form of an underwear model in a discarded magazine in Central Park, where her spaceship landed.

Meanwhile, in the five years since the first movie, J has had a hard time keeping a partner. L has gone back to her M.E. job, and J keeps neuralyzing partners when they don’t work out. The latest is T, an ex-Marine who screws up a confrontation with a giant worm named Jeff, who eats inorganic garbage in the subway, but who has strayed from his designated subway lines.

Serleena finds a Zathran, who is posing as a pizza shop owner named Ben, but he refuses to talk. Serleena kills him, but doesn’t notice Ben’s part-time employee, Laura Vasquez, who hides in the back.

Zed rebukes J for constantly neuralyzing his partners, and the other MIB employees are all frightened of J neuralyzing them. Zed sends J and his new partner, Frank the Pug, to the pizza place. J interviews Laura, and finds himself sufficiently captivated by her that he doesn’t neuralyze her after the interview like he’s supposed to.

J and Frank check Serleena’s ship in Central Park, at which point Zed tells J the whole story about the Light of Zathra. K was the one who handled that case, so Zed sends J and Frank to rural Massachusetts, where Kevin Brown is working at the post office. Turns out all his coworkers are also aliens, which is enough to convince Kevin to come with J, even though he remembers nothing.

Unfortunately, before K can be de-neuralyzed, Serleena attacks MIB HQ. J and K are flushed and sent through pneumatic tubes to Times Square. J summons an MIB car and they drive to Jeebs’s pawn shop, as Jeebs has a bootleg de-neuralyzer that he’s been selling on eBay. They use it on K—and then several aliens whom Serleena has freed from imprisonment show up and attack. J and K manage to take down the aliens, especially once K gets his memory back.

Or, rather, most of it. He doesn’t remember anything about the Zarthans, which means he neuralyzed himself after the incident. But he has a picture in his pocket from around that time.

J wants to take MIB HQ back, but K thinks that’s a terrible idea, as Serleena took over HQ to get her hands on K, and it will be a trap. Instead, they check out the pizza place and talk to Laura. (K has words with J on the subject of her not having been neuralyzed.) K realizes that the picture he has in his pocket is half of a picture with Ben, and when he puts them together, he’s pointing at a hook on the wall that holds a key to a locker in Grand Central Station.

After leaving Laura in the care of the worms, they go to the locker to find a tiny universe that has built their entire culture around the two things K left in there: a watch and a membership card from a video store. They go to the video store in question, and it turns out that K opened an account there, but only reserved one video—and he never picked it up. They no longer have that video in stock, but the store owner—a rabid conspiracy theorist—has it: the episode of Mysteries in History that we saw earlier.

Watching it opens the floodgates of K’s memory, and he remembers everything. Turns out, he tricked Serleena and left the Light on Earth. They check in with Laura—K realizes that her bracelet is the same one that the Queen of the Zarthans wore—and head over to her. But by the time they arrive, the worms are cut in half and Laura is gone.

Luckily, the worms heal. They go to a secondary armory hidden in a family’s apartment and gear up, breaking into MIB HQ. K faces off against Serleena while J faces an alien he imprisoned, who obtained a spaceship for Serleena. Laura is in that ship, but J manages to rescue her and K both.

However, there’s a ticking clock. If they don’t get the Light off Earth soon, it will destroy the planet. They go to a rooftop that has a sunroof that looks the same as one of the charms—and the same as a pizza slice, which is why Ben opened a pizza joint to keep an eye on Laura. There’s a ship on that roof, and Laura has to be on it. Her bracelet isn’t the Light, it just points the way—the Light is actually Laura herself, who is the daughter of the Queen.

J is heartbroken, as he has fallen in love with Laura—K deliberately didn’t tell him, as he wouldn’t have been able to let her go. They finally defeat Serleena, who has been chasing them all the way from MIB HQ, and Laura goes into space.

J is concerned that most of New York saw Serleena chase them with her spaceship, but K uses the big neuralyzer that’s in the Statue of Liberty’s torch…


“Let’s agree to disagree”

Men in Black 3
Written by Etan Cohen
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
Produced by Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald
Original release date: May 25, 2012

Lunar Max is a prison on the moon where the worst alien prisoners are kept. One such is Boris the Animal (who hates that nickname, and prefers just to be called “Boris”), a one-armed alien who escapes with the help of a woman who sneaks a cake in for him—said cake contains a small creature that usually lives inside Boris’s hand (the one he has left). He kills many guards, and the woman who freed him, and then heads to Earth.

The Men in Black are somber, as Zed has died. After completing a mission, J and K head back to HQ for the funeral, where K gives a very short eulogy. J and K then check out Wu’s, a Chinese restaurant run by an alien who is serving alien food—which is against the rules, unless he’s serving aliens. In particular, he’s serving a type of fish favored by Boglodites. Boris is the only Boglodite left, as the rest of the species was wiped out when they tried to invade Earth, but were stopped by a net that K himself put up in 1969, right after he shot Boris’s arm off. K deduces that Boris broke out of Lunar Max, proven when he finds Wu’s corpse killed by the spikes that Boris shoots from his hands.

Boris promises to destroy K, and runs off. K tries to exclude J from the case, but J returns to HQ and looks up Boris in the computer. Zed’s replacement, Agent O, urges J not to look too deeply into the case.

That night, K calls J and starts to tell him the truth of what happened in 1969, but he can’t get it out. And then K disappears. History has been changed, and only J can remember it. At first everyone thinks he’s crazy, but O notices that he has a sudden craving for chocolate milk, which is a symptom of being stuck in a temporal disturbance. She therefore believes him. According to the new records, Boris is still alive, having escaped Earth in 1969 after killing Agent K.

To add insult to injury, the Boglodites are now invading, and the net doesn’t exist. Earth’s only hope is for J to go back in time—using illegal technology—to 1969 and stop Boris from killing K.

J does so, which involves jumping off the Chrysler Building. He steals a car—and gets caught driving around in a nice car, thus getting pulled over, and is only saved by his neuralyzer—and goes to Coney Island, where Boris is supposed to have killed an alien. J arrives too late—and can’t stop Boris because he’s found by a young Agent K.

K brings J back to MIB HQ, where they also meet a young Agent O. Eventually, J tells the truth—the alternative is to be put in the primitive neuralyzer—and K actually believes it.

Boris attacked three locations where he killed people in July 1969: Coney Island, the Factory, and Cape Canaveral. They go to the Factory, where we learn that Andy Warhol is actually an undercover MIB agent, Agent W. W is keeping an eye on Griff, an alien who can see possible futures. The Boglodites destroyed his world, and he’s the last of his kind left. He’s the one who gives K the net that defends the planet. When Boris attacks the party and kills at least one partygoer, J and K manage to drive the younger Boris off, but Griff escapes in the confusion.

They go for pie—K believes that sometimes you just need to eat and think about anything but the case—and a conversation about the Mets leads J to realize that Griff is going to Shea Stadium. (Griff made reference to an amazing miracle, and only J knows that those terms apply specifically to the 1969 Mets, who will win the World Series three months hence.)

Griff’s favorite moment in human history is the Mets winning the ’69 Series. He’s so distracted by enjoying it that he forgets that Boris is going to kidnap him. Boris takes the box containing the net from Griff and leaves him behind. But Griff switched the net with a tube of Rolaids.

They have to get the net onto Apollo 11 when it goes to the moon the next day. J wants to go alone so K doesn’t risk his life, but Griff insists that the only way J can restore the future is if K is there. They use jetpacks to fly to Florida. Griff also insists that the only way they’ll get in is to tell the truth. J tries that, and they’re arrested and taken to the military commander of the base. Griff touches the colonel and reveals the truth to him, at which point he helps them.

2012 Boris has teamed up with 1969 Boris, and K fights the younger version, while J takes on the older one-armed edition. Both are victorious, with K shooting Boris’s left arm off, and J dropping Boris down into the spillway where the blast exhaust will go when Apollo 11 takes off. K gets the net onto the rocket.

K uses the zipline to get off the service structure and land on the ground, where he’s met by the colonel, who gets him to safety. However, young Boris isn’t dead yet, and he kills the colonel, who dies saving K’s life.

Unlike the first time through history, though, K doesn’t arrest Boris. He shoots him and kills him.

Then K sees the van belonging to the colonel—whose name is James Edwards Jr.—and out comes his young son. J has just come down on the zipline, and he sees K talking to his child self, belatedly realizing that the colonel was his father, whom he never really knew. K has to neuralyze J so he’ll forget what happened.

Suddenly, J understands why K is the way he is. He goes forward in time to learn that Boglodites are all extinct (they tried to invade Earth to avenge Boris and were destroyed by the net). K almost gets mushy with J, and they go off to their next mission.


“This definitely rates about a 9.0 on my weird-shit-o-meter”

The Men in Black was a very dark comic, a conspiracy-theory story along the lines of The X-Files (though TMIB predates XF by a couple of years). These movies took it in a simpler, funnier direction, losing the supernatural aspects and focusing entirely on the alien-invasion element.

This is all to good effect, though the true source of whatever success this series has is almost entirely on the backs of its stars. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are two of our finest actors, both with superlative comic timing as well as an ability to land the dramatic moments. Their chemistry is equally superlative, and indeed one of the biggest flaws of both sequels is that the pair of them don’t spend enough time together as a team in either of them.

The first movie is the jewel in the crown, and deservedly so. It’s eminently quotable (to this day whenever I drive by the World’s Fair grounds, I have a tendency to call out, “Hey—old guys! Do those still work?”), the plot moves along nicely, the acting is fantastic, and the whole thing has the signature macabre look that Barry Sonnenfeld made his trademark with The Addams Family.

Indeed, the look of all three is perfect, from the wild designs of the various aliens to the retro-futurist look of MIB HQ and much of their equipment. (It’s the same look that Brad Bird would give The Incredibles and which we also see in The Venture Bros., to wit, what everyone thought the future would look like in 1965 or so.)

Plus, the first film surrounds Smith and Jones with a great cast, from Linda Fiorentino’s perky-Goth M.E. (“I hate the living”) to Tony Shalhoub’s pleasantly sleazy Jeebs to Siobhan Fallon’s overwhelmed widow to Rip Torn’s no-nonsense Zed.

But the standout—as he almost always is no matter what he does—is Vincent d’Onofrio as the bug in the Edgar suit. He’s a nasty, brutal antagonist, and d’Onofrio, as usual, throws himself entirely into the part, beautifully giving us the body language of a bug awkwardly stuffing himself into a human skin. And his rants on the subject of his own superiority are hilarious.

One of the biggest flaws of the sequels is that neither of the villains can hold a candle to what d’Onofrio pulls off here. Lara Flynn Boyle’s Serleena is okay, but nothing special (and Johnny Knoxville is mostly just annoying as her dumb-but-loyal sidekick), and Jemaine Clement doesn’t make Boris anywhere near as scary and menacing as the script asks him to be.

MIB3 is better than MIBII, at least, mostly because it remembers one of the most important parts of J’s character: James Edwards III was a very good detective, very observant, very smart, able to notice things that not everyone would pick up on. This was utterly forgotten in the second movie, as J is just a blunt instrument, going around neuralyzing partners and frightening subordinates and forgetting that MIB HQ would be pressurized in a lockdown and taking half an hour to figure out that K’s picture is pointing at a hook in the wall. The J of the first movie would’ve noticed the key on the wall first thing before even K did, not stumbled around the pizza place finding clues where none exist. And in general, J is just, well, dumb in MIBII and it’s a disservice to the character and to Smith.

In addition, rehashing the recruitment scenes of MIB with the roles reversed isn’t as funny as it wants it to be, and mostly just tries our patience. The second movie is a decent next installment, but it doesn’t really rise above that. One of the things I loved about the first movie is that it indicated that there was a history there. This wasn’t the first time the Earth has come close to destruction, and it wouldn’t be the last. K has done all this before—and, indeed, both sequels use old cases of K’s as a catalyst for the plot.

But, as I said above, the sequels also keep Smith and Jones apart way too much, and even when they’re together in the second one, K isn’t K for a lot of it, he’s still Kevin Brown, postmaster. Jones plays Kevin with a delightfully hokey aspect, but the joke wears thin after the flushing scene.

(Having said all that, the second film wins a lot of points back by establishing Lady Liberty’s torch as a neuralyzer. I laughed my ass off at that both in 2002 and again this past week.)

The third movie spends most of its time in 1969, and while Sonnenfeld does a superb job of re-creating the era, and Josh Brolin does a frighteningly good Tommy Lee Jones impersonation, we’re still once again denied the main appeal of the series, which is Smith and Jones bantering. (What we do see is golden, mind you, especially J’s legitimate concerns over K’s eulogy of Zed.) It’s not clear what the point is of killing Zed off—Rip Torn is alive and well, after all, and O doesn’t really serve much purpose in the plot that couldn’t have been accomplished by Torn. (Yes, there’s the sexual tension between K and O, but that’s thin and doesn’t really go anywhere.) Edited to add: with thanks to John Hudgens in the comments, Torn was arrested and pled guilty while MIB3 was in production, and so wasn’t available.

Still, MIB3 is a lot more fun than its predecessor, partly due to the time travel, partly due to Brolin’s fine impersonation, mainly due to Michael Stuhlbarg’s great performance as Griff. His endless babble about future possibilities is the high point of the movie. I particularly love his colloquy of the final moments of the 1969 World Series, including all the odd details, like the fact that Cleon Jones would’ve been born female if his parents had had less wine on the night of his conception, or that the ball hadn’t been wound properly because a guy at the Spalding Company was fighting with his wife, and so on. Stuhlbarg has been one of my favorite actors since his bravura role as Arnold Rothstein in Boardwalk Empire, and he deserves more stardom than he currently has.

This is a fun series, though the sequels are far less than the original. That original, though, is a classic for a reason, and remains eminently delightful, watchable, and hilarious twenty years later.


Thus endeth our look back at some forgotten films in this here rewatch. Next week, we’ll kick off 2019 by diving into the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s “Phase 2” films that showed the fallout from Avengers, starting with Iron Man 3.

Keith R.A. DeCandido wishes everybody the happiest of holidays.


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