Thursday, June 20, 2019

Men In Black - International

22 years ago, the Men in Black comic books came to the big screen, led by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.  As always, with a successful first film, a sequel came with MIB II in '02 and MIB 3 came 10 years later in '12.  Although neither one of us ever read the comics, goofy sci fi is right up our alley and we saw them all. 

I started hearing about an extension of the franchise several months ago, and more details since then.  Men in Black: International opened last weekend to a worldwide gross of $104 Million versus an estimated production cost of $110 M.  I think it's safe to think there will probably be another sequel. 

From the view of the cast, this is virtually a complete reboot.  Only Emma Thompson, who headed the New York office as Agent O in MIB 3, comes from the previous movies.  The new agents are straight outta the Marvel Universe, Chris Hemsworth (Thor) as Agent H and one of the fan favorites from Thor Ragnarok, Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie) as Agent M.  As I've mentioned many times, I thought Thor Ragnarok was the peak of the Marvel movies.

MIB: International comes close.  First off, I've become a fan of Chris Hemsworth.  For a guy who could easily play the "too good looking to be true" action hero, he has a self-deprecating quality that comes across well on screen.  (It's rumored the "beer belly Thor" from Endgame was his idea - and that idea really struck me funny).  To be honest, I didn't think much of Tessa Thompson in Ragnarok.  She was important to the plot, but I just didn't notice her much.  In this movie, I thought she had a good on-screen personality and brought the character to life.  In the IMDB universe, they talk about pairing the two of them for their "on-screen chemistry" in Ragnarok and moving that to the MIB universe.  Ms. Thompson brings up the point that all of the other MIB movies are "buddy films" that are all about the relationship between the two main characters, agents J and K and this one becomes a buddy film, as well.

The movie opens with Agent M (Molly) as a young girl.  Her family has an encounter with some aliens and are visited by the MiB.  A mainstay of the movie franchise is the agents flash a "Neuralyzer" in the eyes of witnesses, which wipes the memories of what they've just seen so that the general public doesn't get terrified that aliens live among us all the time.  When the agents Neuralyze her parents, Molly is hiding behind curtains talking to the furry little alien in her room.  She grows up constantly searching for everything she can learn about the mysterious MiB, eventually tracking them down and walking into MiB headquarters to try and join.

The plot of the movie concerns a problem in the organization.  There's a leak from MiB in London where they send Probationary Agent M on assignment.  As always, the fate of the world is at stake as different alien races bring their hostilities to Earth.  As always, tons of sight gags, many different alien costumes, alien weapons, amazing MiB technology, and lots of witty one-liners.  

Definitely worth the time to go see.  Left me wishing there was a bit more movie; at 114 minutes, not quite two hours duration, it's much shorter than Avengers Endgame.

Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson riding a rocket-powered, levitating "motorcycle" through the streets of Marrakesh.


  1. Thanks for the recommendation, SiG. We'll look to see when it's playing here.

  2. Okay . . . the SECOND movie you've talked me into watching. (Still haven't seen the first, but I'm gonna.)

  3. If production costs are $110 million, a movie would have to pull in $200 million or so to break even. Part of the movie gross goes to the theater chains (10%? 20%?). And then there's the advertising costs, which for a movie this big was probably around $100 million. Now, that said, Hollyweird does creative book keeping like the mob. Even when they "lose" money on a movie they usually make money. Sometimes they'll "lose" money to keep from paying actors or directors a cut of the "profits". 'Tis a very crooked buisness. Oh, and yeah, I want to see this too.

    1. I've heard some of those stories of someone signing onto a movie for a percent of profits, and the bosses "cooking the books" to make it look like they lost money.

      Since they've almost recovered that estimated production cost in one weekend and it's likely to run for over a month, I suspect it will do well enough to trigger a sequel. If it isn't already budgeted for. The way they left the movie left me with no firm belief that either Hemsworth or Thompson will be back or that they'll be partners.

    2. a) The production costs do not include advertising, which Rule of Thumb is generally equal to actual production cost.
      IOW, a $100M movie actually costs $200M, and a $500M movie is a $1B investment.

      b) What the studio recoups from any given gross is about 50% of the published totals.

      c) So a movie that had a $100M budget has to pull $400M gross to break even.

      This reality has been explained in a number of open-source inside-baseball books on "Hollywood accounting", so I'm not telling anybody who knows the business anything.

      people who sign for a percentage, are always signing for a "percentage of the gross. Hollywood doesn't have to "cook the books", the entire movie always loses money.
      The movie is always produced by an LLC.
      When completed, the movie consists of fourteen bank boxes of receipts for bills, payments, rentals, and salaries, for everyone from the First Assistant Director down to the lowest Production Assistant (gopher), and the office staffs, and those actors too minor to get any points off the gross (which is most of them, in most pics). That's a metric f**kton of liabilities and expenses, off the bat.

      On the other side of the ledger are 10 reels of final cut film (or digital equivalent), another 100 or so of cutting room crap, a fistful of legal rights and contracts for the film itself, the soundtrack, the likeness of all concerned, the merchandising rights, etc.

      All of that other side is sold from the LLC to the studio (or retained jointly by anyone with an interest, like writer(s), producer(s), etc. Oh, and anyone with rights to "a percentage of the gross". Because those people get paid first. Necessarily, if not chronologically.

      If a movie flops, the studio can write off the entire loss.
      If it succeeds, the studio can (and does) write off their other flops' losses against the successful film(s) profits, and still tamp down their tax liability.

      But they cannot monkey with the gross, so "points off" it must , and are, paid in full.

      Who gets screwed, in order are
      A)Uncle Sugar, and his IRS (boo frickin' who)
      b) investors in the studio's stock
      c) investors in the actual movie who don't bring a reason not to get screwed, such as "Well then, I guess I won't fund your next eight movies, losers". (Generally, they get their money out when the studio buys the film from the LLC, so that this doesn't happen. Mostly.)

      And if a movie grosses $100M, and you're a star, or director, or writer, getting, say, 0.5% of the gross, you absolutely get your $500K. Probably spread over several years, so as not to get tax-reamed with a lump-sum disbursement either. It may even be literally invested in a retirement fund, so as to pay out only after an actor's earning years are over, and they'
      re unemployed former circus acts. Just like you get money from your 401k. Except Hollywood pays more attention to how theirs are invested.
      Those who don't either retire to live on dog food, or go back on tour in their 60s, like certain musicians who trusted their business managers right up until the yacht and Mercedes got repo'ed.

      You take points off the gross, because net, nothing makes money, which is how Art Buchwald "successfully" sued Paramount for stealing his idea for 1988's Coming To America, and Paramount ended up showing in court how he owed them money (several million$, in fact) for the movie. But it grossed $288M worldwide on a $39M budget. It netted -Million$$$. Buchwald proved the idea for it was his, and never saw a single penny for it. But Paraount pocketed the $240M difference, and then massaged the books to prove it never happened.

      This is also why any movie that doesn't recoup 4X its stated production cost in short order is a total flop.


  4. Tessa Thompson's statement that the title "Men In Black" was inadequate and producers should maybe consider a change to something like "Humans In Black" or "People In Black" means she's just another libtard moron and we should NEVER patronize the work of idiots like her.

  5. I must be the only person on this planet that hated Thor Ragnarok.

    1. Well, with all due respect, you do call yourself peculier.

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