HERE COME THE ASGARDIANS IN BLACK

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Pairing Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth helped revitalize the "Thor" franchise (though together they're just a sliver of the talented "Ragnarok" cast), and clearly Sony hopes the duo can do the same for the "Men In Black" series with the release of "MIB: International," out June 14. Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and series director Barry Sonnenfeld are all out, so it really is up to the new folks to save the world and the "MIB" series. Here's what the reviews have to say:

Like The Original, This 'MIB' Pairs A New Agent With A Veteran On A High-Stakes Mission

The latest Men in Black sequel stars Thompson as Molly, a young woman who encountered an alien when she was young and has spent her life obsessing over the mysterious "men in black." She wants to know who they are—and, more important, become one of them. She spends decades trying to uncover the truth, and succeeds. She's recruited by Emma Thompson's impeccable Agent O into the Men in Black.

[io9]

When she overhears that legendary Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) has been assigned to babysit a visiting envoy from an allied planet, Molly—now just M—volunteers to back him up. But M's adventures lead her to a mysterious device that comes with an ominous warning: someone within MIB is not what they seem, and the ramifications to this infiltration could be intergalactic war.

[Nerdist]


The Pairing Of Hemsworth And Thompson Still Works, Though Not As Well As It Did In 'Thor: Ragnarok'

Hemsworth's self-depreciating "himbo" act earns him good will, and he and Thompson mischievously bat at each other like kittens play-fighting throughout. But their sibling-rivalry energy, while endlessly charming, is similarly unfocused. Besides, Men In Black: International rarely stays still long enough for the audience to really savor the chemistry between the two.

[AV Club]

Thompson and Hemsworth do their damnedest to brighten the limp material presented to them. The film wants to be loose and improvisatory, but also needs to follow the beats of a sci-fi mystery story. It gets caught, then, in some awkward middle place, where the wan, off-hand jokes can't hold up to the zipping alien action. I'd love to see Thompson and Hemsworth paired up in something else, non-Thor-related; a project that doesn't have them trying to distinguish themselves against other people's legacies.

[Vanity Fair]


Thompson's Doing The Heavy Lifting Character-Wise While Hemsworth Does A Bit Of A Bond-Turn

Thompson's unique blend of snark and self-deprecation has been evident since "Dear White People," and in this context, suggests she could be the natural heir to [Will] Smith's appeal (though he's still chugging along for now). There's enough charm and intrigue in these opening stretches to make the case for a whole movie about Molly's quest, but once she tracks down the MiB headquarters with remarkable ease, it's business as usual.

[IndieWire]

Thompson remains a joy to watch, making flat lines like "I have no dog, no cats, and absolutely no chill," work in her favor.

[Refinery29]

The most surprising thing about the film is that it functions best as a send up of old-school espionage capers, with Hemsworth essentially doing 007 with a taste for more exotic dalliances. Early on a high-stakes poker game ends with him copping off with a tentacled floozy, while a brief sojourn to Naples later on reunites H with old flame Riza, a similarly limby arms dealer played by Rebecca Ferguson.

[Little White Lies]


Kumail Nanjiani's Pawny Is A Memorable — Perhaps Even Lovable — Alien Addition To The Cast…

Along for the ride with the duo is a wisecracking alien creature called Pawny, a sort of cross between a tiny iguana and a chess piece; he's voiced by Kumail Nanjiani and given a lot of insistent, overly cute interjections that feel more desperate with each passing minute.

[Vulture]

Goddammit, I loved Kumail Nanjiani's stupid pawn alien, as much as I wanted to loathe him. He felt tacked on, to the point where I think they added dialogue for him in scenes that had already been shot, but I didn't care. Nanjiani is a delight, and got the most laughs at the screening I went to.

[io9]

Pawny's the funniest creation in a movie that often doesn't go far enough with its outlandish parade of bug-eyed creations, as Industrial Light and Magic populates the story with an anonymous parade of half-baked creations.

[IndieWire]


… But The Movie's Sorely Lacking For Awesome Aliens

The aliens M meets on her journey from "probe" to full MIB agent are all imaginatively designed but look awkward and out of place next to their human counterparts. That's typical of Men In Black: International's elaborate but lukewarm world-building: Nearly every scene features aliens or spaceships or top-secret technologies from beyond the Milky Way, but none of them evoke amazement, wonder, delight, or any of the other emotions one would hope to experience while encountering beings from another galaxy. And sure, this is part four in the series, so expecting a full tank of astonishment might be unrealistic. But is a little awe too much to ask for a film that lists Steven Spielberg among its executive producers?

[AV Club]

"Men in Black: International" begs for more attention to its zanier inhabitants and the tone they serve. Instead, they dangle there, as leftover signifiers of a nineties franchise that never asked for a face-lift.

[IndieWire]


The Writers Fail To Hit On Interesting Characters Or A Truly Intriguing Plot

Not only do writers Art Marcum and Matt Holloway (Iron Man, and more recently, Transformers: The Last Knight) woefully overcomplicate the story of a "mole hunt" in Men in Black without making it any more intriguing, they barely seem interested in alien cultures as a counterpoint to our own, and seem to assume that Thompson and Hemsworth will provide all of the necessary buddy-cop chemistry that their characters lack.

[Nerdist]

Thor: Ragnarok showed that she and Hemsworth have great on-screen chemistry, so more fool screenwriters Matt Holloway and Art Marcum for failing to give them the platform to spar as we know they can.

[Little White Lies]

Writers Matt Holloway and Art Marcum seem too concerned with making sure that everyone likes these characters at every moment, and that means keeping them blandly competent and charming, with minimal faults and mistakes.

[The Verge]

Pair That With Just-OK Direction From F. Gary Gray…

That frenetic plotting, combined with workmanlike direction from F. Gary Gray (a once-exciting filmmaker who brings as little to this film as he did to The Fate of the Furious), overwhelms whatever natural spark Hemsworth and Thompson might have had together.

[The Atlantic]

Gray directs dutifully, but all these cutesy aliens and goofy sight-gags feel outside his wheelhouse. Yes, he's done a Fast and Furious movie, which is about as silly as movies can get—but that series still has some real-world grit and grime binding things together. The Men in Black universe is cartoonish, gleaming, antic in a way that needs a director who's a little lighter, wackier, maybe. Gray does a respectable job (as he always does), but there's not a ton of style or personality livening up MiB: International. It's functional, but perfunctory.

[Vanity Fair]


… And You Get An Utterly Forgettable International Romp

The story trudges through an uninteresting series of permutations and CGI detonations. The "International" of the title means we travel from New York to London and Marrakesh, although our trio's appearance in each location could as well have been achieved via a green screen.

[The Guardian]

After a perilous nightclub showdown, the pair wind up in Marrakech, where their encounters include an underground mechanic who wears an alien for a beard and a monotonous flying motorcycle chase in which everyone says "Ahhh!" a lot.

[IndieWire]

It's not that this new movie has forgotten the fleet-footed charm of the original MIB films; it's just that it doesn't quite know how to conjure it again, so it confuses levity with listlessness.

[Vulture]

Where It Tries To Be A Little Bit More Than A Breezy Summer Blockbuster, It Barely Hangs With The Original

The original Men In Black had something to say. The very first scene, in fact, opens with MIB agents wresting possession of a convoy of undocumented migrants from border patrol, a scene that reads very differently in our current climate. One could imagine that the first film in the franchise to feature a woman of color in a lead role might take advantage of that to really grapple with the implications. Do gender constructs exist beyond Earth? What about race? Do our petty human biases really matter in the wider universe? In director F. Gary Gray's hands, MIB: International takes the easy road, choosing bombastic moments to declare its feminism instead of showing it throughout, a trap too many blockbusters have fallen into in the last year or so.

[Refinery29]

This MiB tackles the idea of aliens as migrants who are not necessarily to be reviled, although this notion goes nowhere and the film can find no way to handle it as anything other than a tricky complicating factor.

[The Guardian]

TL;DR

MIB:I is a perfectly fine piece of summer entertainment, easy on the brain and big on the shiny spectacle. But it feels polished to a fault, packed with straight-faced sincerity instead of Will Smith's smarmy self-satisfaction or Tommy Lee Jones' crisp, brutally insensitive professionalism. It's a kinder, gentler Men In Black, without any of the sharp edges, which makes it feel curiously calm and inert.

[The Verge]


Watch The Trailer

 

Still want to go see Men in Black: International in theaters? Fine, get your tickets here.


Is The Seth Rogen Comedy 'An American Pickle' Any Good? Here's What The Reviews Say
IN A REAL PICKLE HERE

Digg · Updated:

The movie, which streams on HBO Max on August 6, has an enticing premise: a man gets preserved in a jar in the early 20th century and wakes up 100 years later in contemporary Brooklyn. But does the movie itself live up to its zany plot? Here's what the reviews say.


Seth Rogen Plays Two Men, Herschel Greenbaum, A Man Who Wakes Up After 100 Years In A Pickle Vat, And Greenbaum's Great-Grandson, Ben

An Eastern European labourer named Herschel (Seth Rogen) arrives in America, only to be pickled for 100 years in a factory accident. He awakes in 2020, and moves in with his only surviving relative: great-grandson Ben (also Rogen). Things are going swimmingly — until Herschel wrecks Ben's business, leading to a vengeful game of oneupmanship.

[Empire]

While Hershel is low-key confounded by these modern times (what with interracial dating, women's rights, and the high cost of produce), he is most perplexed by his descendant's priorities. Ben doesn't observe Jewish religious traditions and hasn't visited the family graves in years. He has no wife, no children, and no career that Herschel can comprehend. So tensions rise. In no time at all, the pair declare each other enemies. Herschel strikes out on his own with a pickle cart with wares pulled freegan-style from dumpster diving. Meanwhile, Ben stews over how to ruin his eccentric great-grandfather.

[IGN]


The Movie Probes Into Issues Of Jewish Immigration Identity — Though Perhaps Not Deeply Enough

In its best moments, An American Pickle knows how to thread the needle between fish-out-of-water comedy and retaining a thoughtful look at Jewish ancestry in America, but those moments are few and far between […] Every time the movie has a chance to go deeper, whether it's with immigration or legacy or American comfort or Judaism, An American Pickle skims the surface and moves on.

[Collider]

Made in the midst of a resurgence in blatant anti-Semitism across the US, it's a strange choice for "An American Pickle" to reveal that Herschel's greatest backlash comes from...violent Christians? The movie sidesteps the most alarming aspect of Jewish persecution — its resurgence in public over the last four years — and never even gives Herschel a chance to learn about the Holocaust.

[IndieWire]


As A Comedy, It Sometimes Falls Flat In Delivering Laughs

There are some scattered laughs but it's not particularly funny, and "American Pickle" […] is generally all over the place, aiming to be an abstract comedy about family and religion but losing its way trying to also poke fun at modern culture.

[USA Today]

 [T]he film fails to build its laughs into substantial comic momentum, or even construct many substantial scenes. (Tellingly, one of its funniest is a mid-credits bonus.) As it progresses, the material feels more and more like a series of slightly amusing paragraphs, with sentimentality wedged uncomfortably between flights of satirical whimsy.

[The AV Club]

There are laughs along the way with Herschel and Ben's mirror-image intergenerational, culture-clash roommate bromance. But, inevitably, as with so much high-concept comedy, the real laughs, the ones built on detachment, self-aware flippancy and cynicism, come at the beginning, with the establishment of the premise.

[The Guardian]


The Story's Emotional Beats, However, Manage To Shine Through

 Despite the acrimoniousness of their split, you root for their inevitable reconciliation, which closes the movie on a warm note […] "An American Pickle" is neither the most substantial nor the most sophisticated comedy, but its soulful sweetness outweighs its flaws.

[The Hollywood Reporter]

It may not always succeed as a comedy but as a drama, this is the real dill. Part time-travelling family drama, part idiosyncratic immigrant-adventure comedy, "An American Pickle"'s gags underwhelm, but its emotion and originality will surprise you.

[Empire]

[T]he thread of leaning on family to process grief is touching, and Rogen manages to make Herschel and Ben's longing to connect feel real. The movie is frequently funny, sometimes sweet, and never particularly deep, but it does have a uniquely odd relationship to time that gives it a peculiar extra layer. Call it the proprietary brine.

[Wired]


And Rogen's Charisma Helps To Keep The Audience Entertained, Even When The Rest Of The Movie Falters

[I]t's enjoyable enough to watch the actor single-handedly rescue the high concept surrounding him.

[IndieWire]

Rogen is an always likable actor whose reputation was built largely on playing crude, sophomoric stoners. But there's an inherent sweetness in his screen persona that's been there since the very beginning on "Freaks and Geeks," notably in the affecting story arc in which his befuddled character, Ken Miller, struggled with the revelation of his tuba-playing girlfriend Amy's intersex birth origins. It's a variation on Ken — the tender, passionate bear of a guy occasionally stymied by his blind spots — that steers "An American Pickle" through its narrative rough patches.

[The Hollywood Reporter]


TL; DR

Nothing in "American Pickle" can match the silly storybook fantasy of its opening moments, but they do a good job of getting us hooked. 

[IndieWire]


Watch The Trailer Here


Is The Google Pixel 4A Worth It? Here's What The Reviews Say
NOT PHONING IT IN

Digg · Updated:

The Pixel 4A, which will be released on August 20, is incredibly affordable at $349, but can it compete with other smartphones? Here's what the reviews say.


The Best Feature Of The Phone Is The Camera

[W]hen it comes to photos, the Pixel 4A goes toe-to-toe with the iPhone 11 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S20 — and often wins.

[The Verge]

There is no distinguishable difference between the $350 Pixel 4a's and the Pixel 4's camera, a phone that starts at $800. That's incredible, and if you like your photos to look good, it's a major reason why the Pixel 4a should be at the very, very top of your list. 

[Business Insider]


Design-Wise, It's Not The Flashiest Phone

The Pixel has always been a phone that felt a lot nicer than it looked — it's not the most stylish. The Pixel 4a's design is even more basic than ever, though. It comes in Just Black and... that's it. There are no other sizes available, either. Keeping to one size and color was part of Google's strategy to reduce production costs. 

[Engadget]

The word I use most often to describe Pixel hardware is "unassuming." It's basic: no frills, no fanciness, just an easy-to-hold phone without any embellishments. It's a little boring, but at least it isn't tacky.

[The Verge]


But Helpful Software Features Like Live Captioning Might Be Drawing Points For Users

Google's software tends to make up for its basic hardware, and as usual, the company has some helpful tools that make the Pixel experience better than any other Android phone. Most of these have already been announced, like its personal safety and car crash detection feature, Google Docs integration for the Recorder app, as well as adaptive battery management. With the Pixel 4a, though, Google is bringing its Live Caption feature to calls.

[Engadget]

I like Google's bonus software features that it includes on Pixel phones. The voice recorder app is able to transcribe text, for example, and accurately transcribed about 90% of my interview with Google during a Pixel 4a briefing. It just saves me a ton of time that I'd otherwise spend trying to jot everything down. Other unique software features include crash detection, which can automatically call 911 if you get in a car accident.

[CNBC]


The Performance Of The Phone Is Generally Fine, Though It Can Be Slow Sometimes

The Pixel 4a has a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. It's fine and fast enough to keep the phone running smoothly. There are a few hiccups at times, though. I noticed it would stutter while scrolling through long lists, like in Twitter, but that problem generally resolved itself after a few days. Google was aware of this, too, and it may just be that it takes some time for things to store inside the phone's memory.

[CNBC]

Anecdotally, the phone works quickly with most tasks. Unlocking the screen with my fingerprint, launching Assistant and opening apps went off without a hitch. But the Pixel 4A isn't the smoothest phone I handled. After I downloaded Call of Duty and PUBG, I had to restart the phone because both apps stalled while loading.

[CNET]


Some Of The Phone's Drawbacks Are Its Lack Of Wireless Charging And Waterproofness

Google left out one big feature that does matter: water resistance. That would save a phone that was accidentally dunked in a toilet or left out in a storm. So it was disappointing not to have it because durability was another feature that people wanted most in their smartphones.

[The New York Times]

This phone doesn't have some of the premium flourishes, like wireless charging, water resistance, a triple-lens camera, or 5G connectivity. But, it gets the core features so right that those extra flourishes seem irrelevant. 

[Business Insider]


Most Importantly Though, The Phone Is A Great Bargain With Its Cheap Price

The Pixel 4A is about $50 cheaper than its closest competitors and has 128GB of storage, instead of 64GB like years past, so it really is a solid value. And these days, any amount of money that can be saved is crucial.

[CNET]

The Pixel 4A is cheaper than high-end devices largely because it lacks the frills in fancy phones, like wireless charging and a face scanner. But for what you pay, it's a great value. Its camera quality and bright screen are on a par with many of the best smartphones out there.

[The New York Times]


TL; DR

The Pixel 4A is cheap and basic, but most cheap phones don't get the basics right. The Pixel 4A does. And just to remind you: it does so for $349.

[The Verge]


You can pre-order the Pixel 4A at Google Store and BestBuy. And if you're interested in buying a Pixel 4, you can buy one here.


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