The tagline for Men in Black II sums up the film quite succinctly: ‘Same planet. New scum’. Or, to put it anoth- er way: Same film. New special effects. Once again we are introduced to the quasi-official government agency, MIB, which secretly polices the multitude of alien immi- grants who, unbeknown to Joe Public, have made a home on Earth (more specifically, New York City). Once again a particularly powerful extra-terrestrial ( a shapeshifter who assumes the form of Lara Flynn Boyle’s

Same film, new special effects

an extra-terrestrial, it re-grows instantaneously, albeit very painfully). The joke in Men in Black II is exactly the same, only twice.

The main difference between the two films is that where first time round, Jones’ veteran agent was respon- sible for the indoctrination into MIB of Smith’s rookie, the second shot sees Jones retired and Smith taking his place as a workaholic professional. When an old case is re-opened, the memories of Agent Kay (K for Kevin, who’s now a postman) are needed. But as with everyone without MIB clearance, Kay’s memory of the agency and the alien immigrants has been erased, and so it falls to

underwear model) arrives on Earth to wreak havoc. And once again Agents Jay (Will Smith) and Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) don shades and black suits to save the world in

cool, laconic fashion.

The funky humour of the first film is also once again present. Newly arrived extra-terrestrials being processed at MIB headquarters are told they may not frequent public areas of the city during daylight hours, except for Greenwich Wllage (so groovy, presumably the odd two-headed, four-tentacled visitor wouldn’t stand out in the crowd). But while the humour, lifted from Lowell Cunningham’s source comic book, takes the focus away from the kaleidoscope of visual effects, sec- ond time around it begins to wear thin. The great char- acter actor Tony Shalhoub reprises his role as sleazy snitch Jack Jeebs. The joke in the first film was that mean old Agent Kay loved blowing his head off (being


Lost in La Mancha Operates around two

very Cruel ironies: First. Terry Gilliam failing to Complete his ten year journey to make a movie based on Cervantes‘ Don Quixote. thch. as admirers Of classic Spanish literature will know. is the story Of a deluded old man undertaking a chivalrous quest. unachievable because it exists only in his head. The second Irony Is that although Gilliam's production of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote fell apart. two other filmmakers. Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe. who were on hand shooting a 'makIng Of’ documentary. got a film Out of Gilliam's failure. Their film. Lost in La Mancha. might more properly be termed an ’unmaking Of'. All of which makes Lost in La Mancha morbidly InterestIng viewing. In fact. the early stages Of Fulton and Pepe's film. when they were still shooting a 'making Of'. are less compelling than the later scenes. when Gilliam's world crumbles around hIm. Watching Don QUIxote stars Johnny Depp and Jean Rochefort (playing Quixote) do a script read thrOugh or costume fitting is diverting

10 TNE LIST ‘I-—8 Aug 2002

Smith to re-indoctrinate Jones. Actually, that inversion of the first film’s plot is no great innovation is it? However, that said, Men in Black II is

still fun. The gags come thick and fast, many of them

revolving around extra-terrestrial visual effects. In the opening scene, for example, Agent Jay and his new and short-lived partner are found interrogating a flower stick- ing out of a subway vent. But when they play good cop, bad cop the flower gets angry and reveals itself to be gigantic worm which proceeds to drag Jay through the city’s subway system.

The chemistry between Jones and Smith remains, the running time is mercifully short and Barry Sonnenfeld directs with the kind of flare he completely lost on the dreadful Wild Wild West. As summer blockbuster sequels go, this is about the best you can expect. (Miles Fielder) I General release from Fri 2 Aug.

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Unfortunately, horribly, fascinatingly Quixotic

enough. but witnessing a flash flood sweep everything from Gilliam‘s cameras to his Crew catering van away into the desert is positively riveting. Or. rather. negatively so.

And though this act Of god is what fucked the film (the insurance men refused to cough up cash. citing force majure as their get-out clause. and effectively buggering Gilliam's already tight budget). plenty else went wrong. For a start. the elderly Rochefort. the only actor Gilliam could enVIsage as Quixote. suffered a double hernia shortly after filming began and had to be

carried off his horse, relieved of his lance and armour and flown to hospital. Fulton and Pepe secured Gilliam's trust with their Twelve Monkeys documentary The Hampster Factor and were thus afforded fly-on-the-wall access to this filmmaking and unmaking process. They document everything in the kind of detail that provides us uninitiated with a fine insight into the tOrtuous process of making movies. (Miles Fielder) I Fi/mhouse. Edinburgh from Fri 2 Aug; GFT, Glasgow from Fri 76 August. See feature. pages 6- 7.


HAPPY TIMES (XINGFU SHIGUANG) (cert tbc) 95min 0.

Zhao (played by Chinese television comic Zhao Benshan) is a retired fiftysomething factOry worker who's desperate to marry a plump divorcee (Dong Lifan). whom he met through a dating agency. She. however, insists that he should stump up 50.000 yuan towards their wedding expenses. as well as provide her blind teenage step-daughter Wu Ying (newcomer Dong Jie) with a job at the hotel he claims to Own (this establishment is in fact nothing more than an abandoned bus that he converted into a love-nest for courting couples). Rather than admit the truth and risk romantic rejection. Zhao‘s bizarre solution is to mock up a massage parlour in a disused building, where his friends will pretend to be Wu Ying's customers. Aware Of the deception. the girl decides to play along with the scheme . . .

Compared to the recent work Of younger Sixth Generation directors like Wang Xiaoshuai (Beijing Bicycle) and Jia Zhang- ke (the forthcoming Platform), this urban tragi-comedy from Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern. To Live). in which two lonely souls in the 'new‘ China gain fulfilment from an unexpected friendship. feels disappointingly insubstantial and lacking in a distinctive sense of place.

Based on a novel by MO Yan. the film's sentimental melodrama seems targeted at an international audience: hence the reductive characterisations in which fatness is equated with wickedness. and slenderness with innocence. The performances are prOfICIent (especially from Yimou's latest female discovery Dong Jie). but the bursts Of tear-jerking music and the kitsch production design prove more distracting than appealing. (Tom Dawson) I Selected release from Fri 2 Aug.

Disappointingly insubstantial