Protecting the Earth from the scum of the universe
A lot of people over the years have tried to make a popular, entertaining comedy about UFO aliens. Tim Burton's Mars Attacks turned out so goofy, at least in his opinion, that Burton didn't make another movie for 3 years. But Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as agents J (Jay) and K (Kay) made the perfect team, with just the right amount of humor. Now throw in top-notch special effects and a super-secret government agency that tracks and interacts with friendly (and not-so-friendly) aliens. Add an extraterrestrial terrorist, and a spaceship in orbit ready to destroy Earth if the nasty alien isn't captured or destroyed. Supposedly based on the comic book of the same name, but Will Smith makes the movie his own to a much greater degree than he did his role in Independance Day. Rip Torn, the Admiral in comedy movie Down Periscope, plays the head of the secret agency here (an agency hinted at by Hitchcock's North By Northwest, in which Martin Landau played a particularly nasty man in black at the end).
At the end of the movie, Tommy Lee Jones retires, but the chemistry between Smith & Jones was so good, the writers figured out a way to bring him back for the sequel, "MIB2." Tommy Lee starred in the movie Volcano the same year (1997), but there haven't been any sequels to that one. He had had better luck with "The Fugitive" (1993, as a Federal Marshall tracking down Harrison Ford), also starring in it's sequel "U.S. Marshalls" (1998, with Wesley Snipes).
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, music by Danny Elfman (Beetlejuice), and the special effects by Rick Baker won him an Oscar
Additional cast: Linda Fiorentino, Tony Shalhoub. 98 minutes rated PG13. Followed by a sequel and a Saturday morning cartoon series
Wild Wild West
Director Sonnenfeld returned with Will Smith for this western/spy spoof loosely based on the 1960s TV-series Wild Wild West. But TV fans thought Smith was miscast in the role originated by Robert Conrad (and the idea of a black man passing as an undercover agent in the old West and South just after the Civil War in 1867 is a bit of a stretch). And Smith's fans complained that he should have immediately done a sequel to Men In Black instead of heading west. The plot itself is somewhat interesting: a bitter Confederate officer (Kenneth Branaugh) plans to use his giant steam-powered mechanical torantula to destroy towns and cities, and to assassinate the President. Kevin Kline is miscast in the Artomus Gordon role, using a human head as a magic lantern in one scene (that one really set off Siskel & Ebert).
Music by Elmer Bernstein. 4 writers are credited with the script. Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Picture, Worst Directing, Worst Screenplay, and Worst Themesong...but if you want to see it anyway, don't turn off your player when the credits come up. Will Smith has a music video in character as West at the end. I won't spoil it for you, but just remember this: spiders. Complete cast list
"Will Smith" availability on video and on DVD from Amazon.com
Fun fact: In the 1999 movie My Favorite Martian starring Christopher Lloyd, he is tracked down by a goverment man in black: Ray Walston of the original 1960s TV-series
Fun Facts from IMDb.com
* After both agents shoot down the alien ship near the end of the film, K arrests the alien, citing his violation of the "Tycho Treaty." Tycho was the crater on the Moon (named after 16th century Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe who incidentally had a false nose made of a copper alloy) where the monolith was found in 2001: A Space Odyssey
* When K reveals there are about 1500 aliens on Earth and most of them are on Manhattan just trying to make a living, James asks "Cab drivers?" In "So long and thanks for all the fish" (part of the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series), Ford Prefect submits an entry to the Guide hinting that driving a cab is a good way to make a living for aliens visiting New York
* The MIB headquarters are located in the ventilation tower of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, which connects Manhattan with Brooklyn.
* The film's climax takes place on the site in Flushing Meadows, New York, where the 1964 World's Fair was held. To make them into credible flying saucers, the CG renditions of the towers at Flushing Meadows, Corona Park, where the finale takes place, are substantially different from the actual buildings. Primarily, there are actually three structures of varying height, not two as shown in the film. Additionally, the saucer dish of the shortest tower intersects with the poles of the taller ones, and the dish of the mid-sized tower intersects with the pole of the largest one. Therefore, there is really only one complete saucer - on top of the tallest building.
* Crazy Credits "The animals and aliens used in this film were in no way mistreated and all scenes in which they appeared were under strict supervision with the utmost concern for their handling"
* Chris O'Donnell was first offered the role of J.
* David Schwimmer' was asked to play the role of J before Will Smith, but turned it down.
* Clint Eastwood was offered the role of K but turned it down.
* Quentin Tarantino was originally offered the chance to direct, but turned it down
* In the scene where K takes J through the arrivals and customs area, there is an alien father and son. The actress who played the father is Debbie Lee Carrington, who went on to play Mini Mimi on "The Drew Carey Show" (1995), while the son was played by Verne Troyer, who went on to play Mini Me in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)
* When Kay tells EdgarBug that he is in violation of section 4153 of the Tycho Treaty, this is a reference to director Barry Sonnenfeld's birthday, 1 April 1953
* To attain a PG rating rather than a more restrictive M15+ in Australia, the following changes were made: When the alien jumps from the building in the beginning, rather than hitting the ground with a "thud", he now sparkles away in midair; The scene describing what the bug does to Edgar's skin has been snipped; The fumigator's death has been shortened, removing the shot of the spray gun being rammed down his throat. The shot of the dead waiter stuffed under the counter is shortened (when did the land of Mad Max go so soft?)
Trivia for MIB2 from IMDb.com
* The original ending of the film included a scene in which the World Trade Center towers opened up, releasing a swarm of UFOs into the air. Following the towers' destruction, the film's ending was changed.
* The original pug from Men in Black was used to play Frank again, but since the pug was now seven years old, they used makeup to hide the gray fur around its nose.
* Alien makeup effects master Rick Baker appears in the MIB Headquarters at the Alien Registration counter, his trademark hair gives him away.
* The film's Special Effects supervisor appears as the split alien guy at the mail post
* Director Cameo: [Barry Sonnenfeld] The husband in the family watching TV when Jay, Kay and the Worm Dudes walk in to collect some guns.
* Cameos include: Tommy Lee Jones' daughter (as the daughter in K's old apartment) and Will Smith's sons (the two boys who look up as J and K fly overhead). The little girl at the post office who wants to buy Rugrats stamps is Chloe Sonnenfeld, daughter of director Barry Sonnenfeld.
* Famke Janssen was originally cast as Serleena, and even completed some of the filming, but was forced to drop out of the project due to a death in the family. Lara Flynn Boyle was then cast in her place.
* When J and K go to the Worms' apartment, they are speaking Huttesse to each other. Huttesse is the language of the hutts from the Star Wars films.
When J & K are watching the Light of Zartha video in Newton's room, J comments on the corny video, saying "Looks like Spielberg's work," the film's executive producer
* When Agent J first "kills" Serleena and after a quick cut, Serleena grows back and says, "Feed Me." This is a reference to the musical Little Shop of Horrors
* Crazy Credits: In the theatrical trailer, the Columbia Pictures woman wears the trademark MIB sunglasses. At the beginning of the movie, the torch in the hand of the Columbia Pictures logo flashes (like a neuralizer).
* Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones jointly came up with an idea for Men In Black 3's plot, but as of 2007 there are no plans to make such a movie yet. Producer Walter Parkes told TV Guide in 2003 that "The studio (Columbia/Sony) wants one," though he thought MIB2 was disappointing creatively: "There were many disagreements among the different principals, and what came out was not a movie worthy of the franchise." In 2005, he told CINEMA CONFIDENTIAL that there are still no plans for MIB3 or even a sequel to his "Gladiator," but he has scripted a third "Ring" movie and plans to do it even if it has to go with a small budget.
Trivia for Wild Wild West from IMDb.com
* When this film swept the 20th Annual Razzie Awards, "winning" 5 statuettes including Worst Picture, Robert Conrad, who played James West in the original 1960s TV series, accepted three of the awards in person as his way of expressing his low opinion of what had been done with his source material
* George Clooney (Peacemaker) was attached to play Artemus Gordon, but turned it down reportedly because it was a supporting part.
* At an official $150 million (unofficial $180 million) it stands as the most expensive movie produced by Warner Bros. and the most expensive movie released in 1999. The film underwent costly re-shoots in an attempt to inject some humor after it was found that test audiences weren't sure if it was supposed to be a comedy
* Robert Conrad was initially approached by Barry Sonnenfeld to make a cameo appearance as President Ulysses Simpson Grant. He turned down the offer after reading the script due to what he felt was its poor quality and lack of respect for the original series it was based on
* Kevin Smith has said that the giant spider was producer Jon Peters's idea for the later-abandoned "Superman Reborn" project with Nicolas Cage and Tim Burton.