Men in Black 3: While it might the least necessary sequel ever, this film is a lot of fun. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones once again play members of the eponymous secret agency, this go around aided by a younger version of Jones played by James Brolin. Actually for most of the film, Brolin replaces Jones as most of the movie takes place in the past where Smith and the young Agent K try to stop Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) from irreparably damaging the timeline. The film has the same balance of wonder and humor that made the first film so enjoyable but it also slathers on a surprisingly welcome layer of sentimentality. Michael Stuhlbarg plays an alien psychic who can see not only the future but every possible timeline, an ability that seems to be a gift and a curse in equal measure. His performance, which would have been unbearably saccharine in the hands of a lesser actor, is thoroughly charming. Brolin is also great; not only doing a credibly imitation of Jones’ mannerisms and cadences but also gives a good performance in and of itself, especially in the film’s most surprisingly devastating finale. Though not as good as the first Men in Black, this film is incredibly entertaining. Also starring Emma Thompson, Mike Colter and Alice Eve.
Special features: A 3D presentation of the film, a digital copy of the film, seven featurettes, a mini game, and a music video featuring Pitbull.
ParaNorman: Tim Burton-esque tale of a young loner (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) who’s ability to communicate with the dead comes in handy when they rise in mass. While the film has an amazing stop motion look and an original plot, it tanked during its theatrical release earning $97 million against a $60 million production budget. That subpar performance in way reflects the quality of this above average kid’s movie. ParaNorman is funny, childishly creepy film that celebrates the macabre through the eyes of a child. Such is the fate of original material in the current marketplace. Also featuring the voices of Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick and Casey Affleck.
Special features: A 3D presentation of the film, a digital copy of the film, eight featurettes, preliminary animatics, and commentary by writer and co-director Chris Butler and co-director Sam Fell.
Step Up – Revolution: The fourth film in the Step Up series, this film follows yet another dancing street team trying to cross America’s nigh impenetrable class barriers and make it big while also battling (though the art of dance) a ruthless real estate developer with gentrifying designs on their neighbor. So as with the rest of the series, the energetic dancing is great while everything else from the acting to the ludicrous plotting is terrible and its trivialization of the serious economic disparity that worsens the lives of millions of American’s every day is more than a little disgusting. Starring Ryan Guzman, Kathryn McCormick and Peter Gallagher.
Special features: A 3D presentation of the film, a digital copy of the film, four featurettes, two music videos, deleted scenes, a dance sequence only scene selection, commentary with director Scott Speer, actors Guzman and McCormick and choreographer Jamal Sims.
The Apparition: Ashley Greene (The Twilight Saga) stars as a young woman menaced by a supernatural entity brought into our world by a group of reckless college students. This film feels like it was stitched together from various genre in way that makes the film feel terribly unfocused. Its visual aesthetic feels borrowed from Takashi Shimizu’s back catalogue and the plot seems like something fished out of Oren Peli’s waste bin. If the film committed itself to either thoroughly played out style, it might have been coherent if not fully entertaining but as it stands, it’s neither. Also starring Sebastian Stan, Julianna Guill and Luke Pasqualino.
Special features: A digital copy of the film and four featurettes.
Sparkle: A totally sincere film covering that same material that was covered in the vastly superior Dreamgirls. The main problem here is that Jordin Sparks in the Diana Ross role in the film’s faux Supremes story, isn’t as good in the role that won Jennifer Hudson an Academy Award. As Toby Jones knows, living memory is very difficult thing to overcome and even with the sentimental power of Whitney Huston’s last performance behind it, Sparkle fails to step out of the shadow of its contemporaries and as such leaves no impression. Also starring Mike Epps, Derek Luke and Cee Lo Green.
Special features: A digital copy of the film, two featurettes and a commentary with director Salim Akil.
Mario McKellop has written about film on Examiner for the last three years and can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org