Mike Fleming

Given the way studios have cut back on lavish movie premieres in recent years, the New York debut of Sony Pictures’ Men In Black 3 was something to behold, and harkened back on to more fun days. The post premiere party was held at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and if that wasn’t lavish enough, the night included a lengthy fireworks display from the Grucci clan, endless food choices, even a surprise performance by the rapper Pitbull, who did the film’s soundtrack. I’m told that he was later joined by Smith and his kids Jaden and Willow. Most important for Sony Pictures, MIB3 showed itself to be a well constructed summer thrill ride.

Smith, who hasn’t headlined a blockbuster since 2008′s Hancock, hasn’t missed a beat. I was surprised how satisfying the film was, particularly after director Barry Sonnenfeld and Smith halted production partway through the shoot to work on the script. That is often a sign of trouble, but whatever they did was well worth the trouble. The film is much better than the first sequel and in a summer that will be defined by sequels (I consider Avengers to be in that category), this one holds its own. Whether it reaches profit is another question, considering all the gross players involved in the film, the high budget and the extra costs for the production hiatus. Sequels have proven a lot more rewarding for studios than so-called “branded” properties, like Battleship, which is on course to lose a lot of money.

In hindsight, I wonder if having a first dollar gross player in Hasbro hurt Battleship more than helped it. The tie-in to the board game brought mostly scorn, since the storyline had nothing to do with the brand at all and didn’t benefit from the name recognition. Had it been an alien invasion movie, the picture could have been sold differently. It was a big blow for Universal, which hopes to right the ship with Snow White and the Huntsman. The preoccupation with fairy tales will be tested with that one. The picture tells the Snow White story with a Lord Of The Rings-like flourish, but the question is whether Snow White fans want a dark LOTR-like fairy tale or LOTR fans want a film about Snow White. That conundrum is reflected in the film’s early tracking.

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