Films featuring
Tommy Lee Jones


Abolishing slavery by constitutional provisions settles the fate for all coming time. Not only of the millions now in bondage, but of unborn millions to come.

Daniel Day Lewis has received so much attention for his incomparable performance as Abraham Lincoln that we have somewhat ignored the other master stroke of this film. Rather than try to forge a sweeping biography of 16th president, something better suited to a television miniseries, director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner have chosen to focus on one critical interval late in his presidency, to show the full weight of his political genius brought to bear on the most critical issue of that presidency.

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Captain America: The First Avenger

For moviegoers, the Marvel Comics universe has been hard to avoid these past few years. We’ve been treated to the excellent (Spider-Man 1 and 2), the pretty damn good (Iron Man), a nice try (The Incredible Hulk), and the god-awful (the Fantastic Four movies). Captain America: The First Avenger slides comfortably into Iron Man territory.

As comic book film-making goes, Captain America is everything it needs to be, with a likeable hero, the right tone, nice retro touches, and a straightforward story, briskly told. Continue reading

Men in Black 3

You know, we been doing some pretty smart stuff over the past day or so. How about we do something stupid?

After ten years, the only real impression left behind by Men in Black 2 was a vague sense of dread at the announcement of Men in Black 3. After such a badly misfired sequel, the third film in a franchise can do one of two things: either drag the series further down the rat hole, or like Die Hard: With a Vengeance, actually redeem the series. Chalk this one down for option B.

The original film prospered on the casting of Tommy Lee Jones as an anchor for Will Smith. Wouldn’t you know that the third film’s success is the result of an equally inspired bit of casting. More about this later.

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Men in Black

Did anything about that seem odd to you?

The success of this movie, creatively as much as commercially, is down to a triumph of casting. Of course, they had Will Smith, fresh off his breakthrough role in Independence Day, but that coup carries some hazards. Smith’s high-energy presence can dominate and unbalance a movie if allowed, requiring an actor of equal weight and with a complementary presence to even the scales. Thus, pairing Smith with the deadpan Tommy Lee Jones is half the key to the success of Men in Black.

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No Country for Old Men


Ten years ago, movies like this didn’t win Best Picture. They lost to safe, happy movies like Forrest Gump and Shakespeare in Love. By their usual standards, the Academy voters would have gone with Michael Clayton, the safe and respectable choice. In the last couple of years, however, the Academy has been on a serious indie kick, and the Coen Brothers’ dark character study is about as indie as mainstream movies get. Was the best film of 2007? Perhaps, perhaps not. At least this makes up for Fargo losing out to The English Patient.

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Oliver Stone‘s JFK is a movie as admirable in its technique as it is troubling in its agenda. Much like Birth of a Nation sought to rewrite the early history of the original Ku Klux Klan, JFK represents a concerted effort on Stone’s part to insert certifiable falsehoods into the historical record of the Kennedy assassination. He gets two basic facts correct. John F. Kennedy was indeed assassinated on November 22, 1963 and New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison did actually prosecute businessman Clay Shaw for his role in an alleged conspiracy. After that, the facts and Mr. Stone have a strained relationship at best. I sincerely hope that this movie will be as routinely dismissed by future generations as Birth of a Nation is today.

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The Fugitive


When Hollywood announces that it’s going to rape the collective childhood memories of the baby boomer generation and desecrate another television classic for the big screen, the results usually resemble what comes out of the southbound end of a northbound horse. There are rare exceptions, like The Addams Family, which take on a new life of their own when translated to the movies, but having that level of talent on board is pretty rare for such an enterprise. Speaking of enterprises, the Star Trek films are a different kind of exception, being more of a resurrection using the original cast than an actual adaptation.

Hollywood often likes to say they are “re-imagining” these TV shows, which is a laugh. Between the TV adapations, the endless sequels and remakes, “imagine” is a dirty word in that town. For them to re-imagine anything is not only an execise in futile absurdity, but also a violation of the laws of physics.

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