The question with "Men in Black 3" was either "Why did it take so long to get made?" or "Why did anyone bother?"
The first "Men in Black," released in 1997, was a lively adaptation of Lowell Cunningham's comic books. But by the time "Men in Black II" arrived in 2002, any charm of the first was sucked out and replaced by overblown special effects.
The good news is that "Men in Black 3" has recaptured the fun of the first. There still may be no particular reason for it to get made except the dollar signs in studio executives' eyes, but at least you can have a good time watching it.
Will Smith returns as the wisecracking agent "J," now a veteran member of the super-secret team that monitors extraterrestrials on the planet. His way more veteran partner "K," played by Tommy Lee Jones -- having a good year with his roles in "Hope Springs" and "Lincoln" - is as grouchy as ever. More so, even, because something in his past is threatening him and in turn, naturally, the entire planet.
The film sort of treads water for a while until the appearance of a supervillain named Boris who had been imprisoned on the dark side of the moon.
With his escape, the movie begins to travel into its own loopy universe, which includes a trip back to the summer of 1969, where J encounters a younger K, played by Josh Brolin doing an almost eerie and very amusing Jones impersonation. And Jemaine Clement ("Flight of the Conchords") is terrific as the pompous alien bad guy.
"MIB3" even manages at the end to squeeze out a little unexpected emotion about fathers and sons. Not bad for a movie that seemed a dubious project at best.
-- Moonshine and bullets
The latest film from John Hillcoat, whose last two movies -- "The Proposition" (2005) and "The Road" (2009) -- had a jagged edge to them, is "Lawless," which is more jagged than edgy.
Set in the Appalachian bootlegging world of 1931, the screenplay is by Nick Cave, adapted from "The Wettest County in the World," a novel by Matt Bondurant, which he wrote from family tales.
"Lawless" is, itself, a family tale, albeit a violent one.
The Bondurant brothers -- Forrest (Tom Hardy), Howard (Jason Clarke) and young Jack (Shia LaBeouf) -- have a nice little moonshine business selling to local customers when Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) arrives from Chicago. A bit of a psychopath, he wants in on the moonshine action, but the Bondurants would rather deal with a regional mob boss (Gary Oldman). Guns being aplenty, a bloody little war breaks out.
Hillcoat tried to modulate the violence with Forrest's attraction to Maggie (Jessica Chastain), a redhead who shows up one day as a waitress in the cafe that the Bondurants use as a headquarters. Meanwhile, Jack courts the preacher's sweet daughter Bertha (Mia Wasikowska).
"Lawless," ultimately, is a serviceable action film with a good cast, but if the filmmaker had greater ambitions, they were lost amid the flying bullets.
-- Keep in mind
"Sparkle" will be remembered for Whitney Houston's final role. The film, a remake of the 1970s movie of the same name, is uneven at best, but it's hard not to be reminded of Houston's talent and appeal. And young star Jordin Sparks in the title role shows she has a future beyond "American Idol."
The HBO series "Luck" never quite coalesced, but the plug was pulled before it could in the wake of the deaths of three horses during production. Starring Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, it revolved around a racetrack and the fortunes of horse owners, trainers, jockeys, mobsters and bettors. The first and only season comes out on DVD Tuesday.
DVDS OUT TUESDAY
Men in Black 3 $30.99/ Blu-ray $40.99
Lawless $29.98/ Blu-ray $39.99
ParaNorman $29.98/ Blu-ray $34.98
Sparkle $30.99/ Blu-ray $35.99
Step Up Revolution $29.95/ Blu-ray $35.99
The Day $26.98/ Blu-ray $29.99
The Apparition $28.98/ Blu-ray $29.98
Luck: The Complete First Season $59.99/ Blu-ray $79.98
Perry Mason: Season 8, Volume 1 $55.98
Hot in Cleveland: Season Three $29.98
Transformers Prime: Season Two $29.99/ Blu-ray $59.99
Winged Seduction: Birds of Paradise $19.97
Forks Over Knives: The Extended Interviews $19.99
Men in Black Trilogy: Men in Black/ Men in Black 2/ Men in Black 3 Limited Edition Giftset Blu-ray $95.99
The Greatest Miracle $14.99
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