They Are The Men in Black

What do you to stop your 13-year-old from playing video games? Put in Men in Black.

The sci-fi comedy premiered in 1997, along with one of the greatest duos of our time. An unlikely pair to some became a crowd favorite, so much so that a third sequel was made some 16 years later.

The tag team:

J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) make this movie. The know-it-all Smith and the seasoned Jones create an on-screen presence that’s hard to ignore. It’s one full of wit, sarcasm, and meanness, but of the best kind. Whether it’s the banter or the two men bullying Tony Shalhoub or a pug, they’re a perfect mix of rookie and veteran. The script and gestures are hysterical, and I just noticed Jay scratching his eyebrow with his middle finger for the first time this weekend. I always see something new.

Is there other life out there?

One of my favorite parts is the discovery phase. I love finding out there is a secret organization that manages the aliens on the planet. There aren’t a lot of aliens in this movie, but you know of bugs, the little worm guys in the break room, and the cute baby squid, to name a few. I remember seeing this movie as a kid and thinking, Wow… that would be a cool job. MIB made me question if we were alone in the universe.

Special effects don’t have to be over the top.

As we watched Friday, my son turned to me and asked, “Mom, how did they make that look so real?” The answer is a great movie crew and some CGI. The bad bug in this movie looks vicious, not cartoony. The spaceships don’t look fake or so unbelievable that you can tell a computer was used. The producers used real New York landmarks and celebrities, which adds something special. The effects aren’t so fast that you can’t keep up, and it’s a perfect mix of real and digital — certainly a lesson some directors should pay attention to now.

Take the time to rewatch.

I admit the sequels are not as good, as most sequels, but the series is super fun and entertaining. There are some light life lessons and touching moments, but overall Men in Black just takes you on an adventure without traveling too far from home.

Here are some of my favorite lines:

Beatrice: You here to make fun of me too?

Kay: No, ma’am. We at the FBI do not have a sense of humor we’re aware of. May we come in?


Kay: All right… That’s confiscated. All of it. And I want you on the next transport off this rock or I’m gonna shoot you where it don’t grow back.

Jay: [shaken] Yeah and… and… and I’m gonna be back to talk about them Rolexes.


Jay: [stepping on some cockroaches] Oh, I’m sorry. Was that your auntie? Then that must be your uncle over there!


Jay: You know what they say. It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Kay: Try it.


Kay: I don’t suppose you know what kind of alien life form leaves a green spectral trail and craves sugar water, do you?

Jay: Uh, wait, that was on Final Jeopardy! last night. Damn, Alex said…

And don’t forget the song!

Off the Charts: Clue the Movie

Off The Charts Header

I didn’t play a lot of board games as a kid.  I played Candy Land, Cooties, Don’t Break the Ice, and Battleship, but we never really got a lot of board games to play.  One I DO remember playing a lot of and enjoying was Clue.  I had no idea about the Agatha Christie story on which it was based or even what the mystery genre was, but the grisly nature of it and the investigative thinking always made it fun.

I don’t recall ever winning…or losing at it to be honest.  I’m not sure if I ever played through an ENTIRE game before my sister and I quit.  But I loved to play it.

I was a young kid when the film adaptation came out so it totally passed me by.  In fact I never saw it until the mid-1990s when it came out on HBO or Showtime, which ever movie channel our cable company offered at the time, and after seeing it ONE time it became absolutely one of my favorite comedies and likely has a place in my top ten favorite films list.

The cast of Clue!

The premise is essentially the game.  A group of strangers are in an old house.  An individual, Mr. Boddy, is murdered and they go through the house looking for clues to see whodunit.  The addition of the brilliant Tim Curry as the butler Wadsworth (adding to the mystery classic “the butler did it” cliché of the genre), the 50s setting, and the blackmail subplot all set the background of the manic plot, which plays out in a It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World kind of frenzy.

The entire casting is superb, my favorites (other than Curry….who is EVERYONE’S favorite) are Michael McKean as Mr Green, Martin Mull as Colonel Mustard, and the irreplaceable Madeline Kahn as Mrs. White.  That’s not to downplay any of the rest of the cast, there wasn’t a single misstep in the casting which also includes Christopher Lloyd as Professor Plum, Lesley Ann Warren as Miss Scarlet, Eileen Brennan as Mrs. Peacock, and Colleen Camp as the first French maid I ever saw on film…

In addition to the great acting and cast, the film offers some of the funniest dialog set pieces and is as quotable as the Godfather and Scarface combined.  From Tim Curry’s patented “NNnnnoo” (which is delivered at its best here), to the finest rapid-fire comedy exchanges this side of Abbot and Costello.

Favorites include:

Mrs. White: We had had a very humiliating public confrontation. He was deranged. He was a lunatic! He didn’t actually seem to like me very much; he had threatened to kill me in public.
Miss Scarlet: Why would he want to kill you in public?
Wadsworth: I think she meant he threatened, in public, to kill her.

The Motorist: Where is it?
Wadsworth: What? The body?
The Motorist: The phone. What body?
Wadsworth: There’s no body. Nobody. There’s-there’s nobody in the study.

Professor Plum: What is your top-secret job, Colonel?
Wadsworth: I can tell you. He’s working on the secret of the next fusion bomb.
Colonel Mustard: How did you know that?
Wadsworth: Can you keep a secret?
Colonel Mustard: Yes.
Wadsworth: So can I…

And what has become my person favorite moment:

Wadsworth: You see? Like the Mounties, we always get our man.
Mr. Green: Mrs. Peacock was a man!?
(Colonel Mustard slaps Mr. Green, who spins from the recoil and is slapped again by Wadsworth)

One of the innovations with this film was multiple endings.  No, not the lame dvd extra fodder that every movie makes now…but actual endings, released with different prints of the film.  There were three endings and depending when and where you saw the film you may see a completely different ending from someone who saw the film elsewhere or at a different showing.  It’s the kind of gimmick that harkens back to the William Castle days of showmanship and shows real deference to the source material.  I never got to see it in theaters, but I can only imagine discussing this movie with friends and arguing over the ending…without realizing we were all (technically) right!

Clue is without a doubt fast-paced fun.  Detractors describe it as overly frantic and silly, but it IS that kind of movie.  It’s also very smart, incredibly well-written, and still one of the funniest films about a series of gruesome murders ever to be made.  To quote Joe Bob, “Four Stars…check it out!”

As an aside, I’m such a fan of this movie that I find dialog and quotes seeping into my daily language almost subconsciously.  This can go remarkably awry.  Once in college I was at lunch with a very attractive girl who was telling me an interminable and flaky story.  She ended said story with the classic “To make a long story short…” to which I reflexively responded “Too late!” thanks to Clue she was not happy…and the date, so to speak, met its end killed by me, in the Dining Room, with a smart-ass comment…

Best Christmas Movie: Scrooged

Scrooged came out in 1988 when I was six years old. Ten years later it was on in the background at someone’s house. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I sat down to watch this hilarious version of a Christmas classic.

The movie stars the lovable Bill Murray (as Frank Cross) who is mean, selfish, and witty, which entertains those of us with a darker sense of humor. (I hold a special place in my heart for Murray because he is my favorite Ghostbuster). The plot is a spin-off of the all-time favorite A Christmas Carol, and the ghosts are a perfect fit for our Scrooge. I cannot help but watch this movie year round because it’s more than a Christmas classic; it’s just a good movie.

Here are my top reasons why this is my favorite Christmas movie:

1. Bill Murray – He’s a genius. Biting, cold, and yet childlike, you see the sparkle deep down inside that cynical heart. The Scrooge part seems very natural for him, and I never felt that he was that bad of a guy. His snide remarks to everyone around him are some of the best parts of this movie.

2. The little things – Pay attention while watching this movie. You’ll see a definition of ‘cross’ in the background, and Frank leaves his humanitarian trophy in the cab. You would have to watch this movie a dozen times to see all the small things that add to the movie.

3. The dialogue and script – The script was well-written, and all the actors did a great job and improvised where they saw fit. The story took a timeless classic and made it modern and funny with a twisted 80s-style spin. Some of my favorites are lines are, “Now, I have to kill all of you,” “Oh my gosh, does that suck,” “Come!” and “I care!,” and “Ah Haaaaaaaaaaaaa!”

4. The ghosts – The ghost of Christmas past (David Johansen) is as demented as Cross. He gets inside Cross’ head and makes him regret his past. The ghost of Christmas present (Carol Kane) is my favorite though. She beats the crap out of Cross and shows that even fairies have a dark side. Sometimes the truth is painful, and she teaches us all that lesson. The ghost of Christmas future has a small part, and the special effects are pretty cool.

5. Eliot Loudermilk – The disgruntled employee who comes back to get Cross. Eliot (Bobcat Goldthwait) is the equivalent of Bob Cratchit with more of a helpless drunkenness about him. I like his character because he’s innocent and insane at the same time.

The end is not your typical heart-felt ending either. It’s light, funny, and everything wraps up well. And as much as you love mean Frank Cross, you’re still okay with him turning into a good guy. He still has that wit and edge to him, and the final song is a lot of fun.

With that, I encourage you to give a little more this season and ask you to remember those who need a little miracle right now. Put a little love in your heart!