(Photo by Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection)

All Will Smith Movies Ranked

It’s now 20 years into the Willennium, and how has our reigning Fresh Prince fared since the 1990s? On the Oscars front, Will Smith notched two Best Actor nominations for 2001’s Ali, and then for The Pursuit of Happyness in 2006. He’s adapted two genre literary classics into blockbusters (I Am Legend and I, Robot), and he was there during the 2008’s summer of superheroes with Hancock, which released one month after Iron Man and one before The Dark Knight and Hellboy II.

Of course, that’s not to say Smith was slacking in the ’90s (though if he was, certainly no one would have noticed), which saw a diversified pop culture portfolio that includes a beloved TV show at the beginning of the decade, and a slew of hip-hop crossover hits at the end. Sandwiched in between were films like Independence Day, which at the time felt like the biggest movie event ever, and Men in Black, which got its first Smith-less sequel in 2019.

But on the subject of sequels that didn’t disappoint, and even surprised: Bad Boys For Life, which reunited Smith with Martin Lawrence for some Certified Fresh throwback buddy action. Next, you can see him in the inspirational family drama King Richard. Now, we’re ranking the best Will Smith movies by Tomatometer!

#30

After Earth (2013)
11%

#30
Adjusted Score: 19471%
Critics Consensus: After Earth is a dull, ploddingly paced exercise in sentimental sci-fi -- and the latest setback for director M. Night Shyamalan's once-promising career.
Synopsis: People were forced to leave Earth a millennium ago to establish a new home on Nova Prime. Now, Gen. Cypher... [More]
Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan

#29

Winter's Tale (2014)
13%

#29
Adjusted Score: 18374%
Critics Consensus: Winter's Tale tries to retain the grandiose sweep of its source novel, but fails to fill it in with characters worth rooting for or a sensible plot.
Synopsis: One night in early 20th-century New York, master thief Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) breaks into a Central Park mansion --... [More]
Directed By: Akiva Goldsman

#28
#28
Adjusted Score: 24348%
Critics Consensus: Well-meaning but fundamentally flawed, Collateral Beauty aims for uplift but collapses in unintentional hilarity.
Synopsis: When a successful New York advertising executive (Will Smith) suffers a great tragedy, he retreats from life. While his concerned... [More]
Directed By: David Frankel

#27

Wild Wild West (1999)
17%

#27
Adjusted Score: 21787%
Critics Consensus: Bombastic, manic, and largely laugh-free, Wild Wild West is a bizarre misfire in which greater care was lavished upon the special effects than on the script.
Synopsis: When President Ulysses S. Grant (Kevin Kline) learns that diabolical inventor Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh) is planning to assassinate... [More]
Directed By: Barry Sonnenfeld

#26

Bad Boys II (2003)

#26
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The drug ecstasy is flowing into Miami, and the police want it stopped. Police Detective Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and... [More]
Directed By: Michael Bay

#25

Gemini Man (2019)
26%

#25
Adjusted Score: 45941%
Critics Consensus: Gemini Man's impressive visuals are supported by some strong performances, but this sci-fi thriller is fatally undermined by a frustratingly subpar story.
Synopsis: Henry Brogan is an elite 51-year-old assassin who's ready to call it quits after completing his 72nd job. His plans... [More]
Directed By: Ang Lee

#24

Suicide Squad (2016)
26%

#24
Adjusted Score: 50734%
Critics Consensus: Suicide Squad boasts a talented cast and a little more humor than previous DCEU efforts, but they aren't enough to save the disappointing end result from a muddled plot, thinly written characters, and choppy directing.
Synopsis: Figuring they're all expendable, a U.S. intelligence officer decides to assemble a team of dangerous, incarcerated supervillains for a top-secret... [More]
Directed By: David Ayer

#23

Bright (2017)
27%

#23
Adjusted Score: 34870%
Critics Consensus: Bright tries to blend fantasy, hard-hitting cop drama, and social commentary -- and ends up falling painfully short of the mark on all three fronts.
Synopsis: In an alternate present day, humans, orcs, elves and fairies have been coexisting since the beginning of time. Two police... [More]
Directed By: David Ayer

#22

Seven Pounds (2008)

#22
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A life-shattering secret torments Ben Thomas (Will Smith). In order to find redemption, he sets out to change the lives... [More]
Directed By: Gabriele Muccino

#21

Made in America (1993)
31%

#21
Adjusted Score: 32812%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: An honor student (Nia Long) discovers her father (Ted Danson) is a flashy car salesman and sperm-bank donor her mother... [More]
Directed By: Richard Benjamin

#20

Shark Tale (2004)
36%

#20
Adjusted Score: 41565%
Critics Consensus: Derivative and full of pop culture in-jokes.
Synopsis: Underachiever Oscar (Will Smith) is a pint-sized fish with grand aspirations. When mob-connected great white shark Frankie (Michael Imperioli) is... [More]

#19

Hancock (2008)
41%

#19
Adjusted Score: 50171%
Critics Consensus: Though it begins with promise, Hancock suffers from a flimsy narrative and poor execution.
Synopsis: A scruffy superhero named Hancock (Will Smith) protects the citizens of Los Angeles but leaves horrendous collateral damage in the... [More]
Directed By: Peter Berg

#18

Bad Boys (1995)
42%

#18
Adjusted Score: 45970%
Critics Consensus: Bad Boys stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence have enjoyable chemistry; unfortunately, director Michael Bay too often drowns it out with set pieces and explosions in place of an actual story.
Synopsis: Miami-Dade detectives Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) blow a fuse when $100 million worth of heroin... [More]
Directed By: Michael Bay

#17
Adjusted Score: 47760%
Critics Consensus: Despite the talent involved in The Legend of Bagger Vance, performances are hindered by an inadequate screenplay full of flat characters and bad dialogue. Also, not much happens, and some critics are offended by how the film glosses over issues of racism.
Synopsis: During the Great Depression, Georgia socialite Adele Invergordon (Charlize Theron) announces a publicity-garnering high-stakes match at her struggling family golf... [More]
Directed By: Robert Redford

#16

I, Robot (2004)

#16
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In 2035, highly intelligent robots fill public service positions throughout the world, operating under three rules to keep humans safe.... [More]
Directed By: Alex Proyas

#15

Focus (2015)
56%

#15
Adjusted Score: 65221%
Critics Consensus: Focus may have a few too many twists and turns, but it nearly skates by on its glamorous setting and the charm of its stars.
Synopsis: Nicky (Will Smith), a veteran con artist, takes a novice named Jess (Margot Robbie) under his wing. While Nicky teaches... [More]
Directed By: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa

#14

Aladdin (2019)
57%

#14
Adjusted Score: 80006%
Critics Consensus: Aladdin retells its classic source material's story with sufficient spectacle and skill, even if it never approaches the dazzling splendor of the animated original.
Synopsis: Aladdin is a lovable street urchin who meets Princess Jasmine, the beautiful daughter of the sultan of Agrabah. While visiting... [More]
Directed By: Guy Ritchie

#13

Concussion (2015)
58%

#13
Adjusted Score: 65278%
Critics Consensus: Concussion lands a solid, well-acted hit on its impressively timely subject matter, even if its traditional sports drama structure is a little too safe to deserve a full-on dance in the end zone.
Synopsis: While conducting an autopsy on former NFL football player Mike Webster (David Morse), forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith)... [More]
Directed By: Peter Landesman

#12
#12
Adjusted Score: 74434%
Critics Consensus: Will Smith's heartfelt performance elevates The Pursuit of Happyness above mere melodrama.
Synopsis: Life is a struggle for single father Chris Gardner (Will Smith). Evicted from their apartment, he and his young son... [More]
Directed By: Gabriele Muccino

#11

Independence Day (1996)
68%

#11
Adjusted Score: 71582%
Critics Consensus: The plot is thin and so is character development, but as a thrilling, spectacle-filled summer movie, Independence Day delivers.
Synopsis: In the epic adventure film "Independence Day," strange phenomena surface around the globe. The skies ignite. Terror races through the... [More]
Directed By: Roland Emmerich

#10

Ali (2001)
68%

#10
Adjusted Score: 72998%
Critics Consensus: Though perhaps no film could fully do justice to the fascinating life and personality of Muhammad Ali, Mann's direction and Smith's performance combine to pack a solid punch.
Synopsis: With wit and athletic genius, with defiant rage and inner grace, Muhammad Ali forever changed the American landscape. Fighting all... [More]
Directed By: Michael Mann

#9

I Am Legend (2007)
68%

#9
Adjusted Score: 77383%
Critics Consensus: I Am Legend overcomes questionable special effects and succeeds largely on the strength of Will Smith's mesmerizing performance.
Synopsis: Robert Neville (Will Smith), a brilliant scientist, is a survivor of a man-made plague that transforms humans into bloodthirsty mutants.... [More]
Directed By: Francis Lawrence

#8
#8
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Even though agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) have been protecting the Earth from alien scum for... [More]
Directed By: Barry Sonnenfeld

#7

Hitch (2005)
69%

#7
Adjusted Score: 75402%
Critics Consensus: Despite Hitch's predictability, Will Smith and Kevin James win praise for their solid, warmhearted performances.
Synopsis: Dating coach Alex "Hitch" Hitchens (Will Smith) mentors a bumbling client, Albert (Kevin James), who hopes to win the heart... [More]
Directed By: Andy Tennant

#6
#6
Adjusted Score: 76561%
Critics Consensus: An entertaining, topical thriller that finds director Tony Scott on solid form and Will Smith confirming his action headliner status.
Synopsis: Corrupt National Security Agency official Thomas Reynolds (Jon Voight) has a congressman assassinated to assure the passage of expansive new... [More]
Directed By: Tony Scott

#5
#5
Adjusted Score: 94674%
Critics Consensus: Loaded up with action and a double helping of leading-man charisma, Bad Boys for Life reinvigorates this long-dormant franchise by playing squarely to its strengths.
Synopsis: The wife and son of a Mexican drug lord embark on a vengeful quest to kill all those involved in... [More]

#4
#4
Adjusted Score: 83141%
Critics Consensus: A cheerfully undemanding animated adventure that's elevated by its voice cast, Spies in Disguise is funny, fast-paced, and family-friendly enough to satisfy.
Synopsis: Super spy Lance Sterling and scientist Walter Beckett are almost exact opposites. Lance is smooth, suave and debonair. Walter is... [More]
Directed By: Troy Quane, Nick Bruno

#3
#3
Adjusted Score: 38746%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: King (Dermot Mulroney) is a young man, but he's already a veteran of life on the streets of Los Angeles.... [More]
Directed By: Marc Rocco

#2
Adjusted Score: 89101%
Critics Consensus: Though it betrays its theatrical roots, Six Degrees of Separation largely succeeds thanks to astute direction and fine performances -- particularly from an against-type Will Smith.
Synopsis: Privileged art dealers Flan (Donald Sutherland) and Ouisa (Stockard Channing) are hosting a dinner party when Paul (Will Smith), a... [More]
Directed By: Fred Schepisi

#1

Men in Black (1997)
92%

#1
Adjusted Score: 97654%
Critics Consensus: Thanks to a smart script, spectacular set pieces, and charismatic performances from its leads, Men in Black is an entirely satisfying summer blockbuster hit.
Synopsis: They are the best-kept secret in the universe. Working for a highly funded yet unofficial government agency, Kay (Tommy Lee... [More]
Directed By: Barry Sonnenfeld

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This week’s Ketchup covers ten stories from the arena of film development news. Included in the mix this week are headlines for such movies as the Ghostbusters reboot, The Girl on the Train, and Sicario 2; and new roles for Benedict Cumberbatch and Jake Gyllenhaal.


This Week’s Top Story

MEN IN BLACK TO BE REBOOTED AS A TRILOGY (WITHOUT WILL SMITH)

MenInBlackNoWillSmith

Often times, stories about film development as you read them in columns like this one get their start as fully fleshed out stories in trades like Variety, or these days, on blogs like Deadline. There are other situations, however, where the “story” itself can be expressed in very few words, and then from there, writers can (and do) feel free to extrapolate and speculate at great length. Such was arguably the case this week when an interview with producers (and spouses) Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald ended with two brief statements about the future of Men in Black. Those ten words tell us that Will Smith is likely done (at least as the star) with his biggest franchise, and that Men in Black will be rebooted as a new trilogy of movies. This update also doesn’t conflict with the news earlier this year that Sony Pictures is considering connecting two of their franchises with the third Jonah Hill/Channing Tatum movie that we could just call 23 Jump Street.  (Though it doesn’t actually go all the way and confirm that those plans will indeed happen; that probably would have required at least three more words.)


Fresh Developments This Week

1. AT LEAST 5 GHOSTBUSTERS STARS TO APPEAR IN NEXT YEAR’S… GHOSTBUSTERS (REBOOT)

Ghostbusters1984

In July, we first heard that next year’s reboot of Ghostbusters (7/15/16) would feature an appearance by one of the stars of the original film, when Dan Aykroyd confirmed that he had filmed a scene with Kristen Wiig.  Then, about a month later, Bill Murray also confirmed that he had filmed a “cameo” appearance in the reboot. Neither Aykroyd nor Murray are playing their original characters (Ray Stantz and Peter Venkman), and indeed, Dan Aykroyd was reportedly cast as a skeptic of the paranormal. This week, two more casting stories doubled the number of original stars returning, starting with the news that Ernie Hudson had also filmed at least one scene (on what was also the last day of principal photography). Hudson’s participation might be the most surprising, since he created something of an online stir several months ago, with the question, “If it has nothing to do with the other two movies, and it’s all female, then why are you calling it Ghostbusters?” Annie Potts, who played the Ghostbusters’ receptionist Janice, also was seen in Boston for filming recently.  Finally, director Paul Feig took to Twitter this morning to announce that Sigourney Weaver has also agreed to be in the reboot. With the passing in 2014 of Harold Ramis, that now leaves only Rick Moranis (who played Louis) as the one of the original seven stars who hasn’t yet been mentioned as appearing in the Ghostbusters reboot.


2. SICARIO ALREADY GETTING A SEQUEL, A WEEK BEFORE WIDE RELEASE

Sicario

The drug war movie Sicario has only been in limited release a week, and won’t get its wide release until October 2nd. The film has had, however, a high per-screen box office average (the year’s highest to date), and is already being discussed by pundits as a strong contender in this year’s awards season. Perhaps for these reasons, Lionsgate has already begun development on a Sicario sequel, having hired the film’s screenwriter to start work. As explained in the linked article (which may reveal or suggest spoilers, be warned), the focus of the second movie will be on Benicio Del Toro’s “mysterious hitman” character. It is not yet known if director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy) would return for the Sicario sequel.


3. CUMBERBATCH AND GYLLENHAAL TO WAGE THE CURRENT WAR

BenedictCumberbatch

(Photo by Feng Li / Staff / Getty Images)

In the 72 years since his death, something of a cult of personality has built up around the legacy of inventor Nicola Tesla. A frequent target of Tesla’s acolytes is American inventor (and former Tesla employer) Thomas Alva Edison, with much of that debate stemming from the late 19th century competition over which system would be used in widespread transmission of electricity. Tesla, however, actually sold his patent to an entrepeneur named George Westinghouse, so the “The War of Currents” was actually waged between Edison and Westinghouse, not Tesla himself. That little history lesson is important to explain this week’s news that Benedict Cumberbatch and Jake Gyllenhaal have been cast by the Weinstein Company in The Current War. Cumberbatch will play Thomas Edison, and Gyllenhaal will play George Westinghouse. The Current War will be directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, whose first two films as director were last year’s remake of The Town That Dreaded Sundown, and this year’s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. George Westinghouse was something of a “portly” gentleman, and it’s not yet known if Jake Gyllenhaal will be bulking up on a diet of carbs to match Westinghouse’s look (it might just be easier to sport Westinghouse’s awesome ‘stache).


4. CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THE JOKER BOARD THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

GirlonTrain

Captain America and the Joker may come from opposite sides of the DC/Marvel superhero movie competition, but this week, the two actors playing those characters — Chris Evans and Jared Leto — joined the same movie in similar roles.  Now that the three female leads in the adaptation of the popular novel The Girl on the Train are cast, the production is moving on to two husband characters. If their deals come through, Chris Evans would play the husband of the character played by Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation), and the ex-husband of Emily Blunt’s title character. Likewise, Jared Leto would play the husband of the character played by Haley Bennett (The Equalizer). The Girl on the Train will be directed by Tate Taylor (The Help, Get On Up) for DreamWorks Pictures.


5. IS EMMA STONE OR KATE WINSLET THE FAVOURITE?

KateWinsletEmmaStone

Although it does not yet have a release date in the States, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ English language debut, The Lobster, has been a hit on the international festival circuit, most notably winning the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. This week, even as the US waits to actually see The Lobster, Lanthimos’ next film already started casting up. Kate Winslet, Emma Stone, and Olivia Colman (TV’s Broadchurch) are all in talks to costar in Yorgos Lanthimos’ next film, The Favourite. The premise is described as following the “political machinations behind the scenes during the reign of Queen Anne, the last monarch of the House of Stuarts” during the years 1702 to 1707. If the deals go through, Olivia Colman would play Queen Anne, Winslet would play a close confidante of the Queen, and Stone would play a distant, poor cousin of Winslet’s character who gains a court position serving the Queen.


6. BRIE LARSON REPLACES EMMA STONE AS BILLIE JEAN KING IN BATTLE OF THE SEXES

BrieLarson

(Photo by Stephen Lovekin / Stringer / Getty Images)

The idea of a movie based on the 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” tennis matches between male player Bobby Riggs and female player Billie Jean King has been bouncing around Hollywood for several years now. In that time, the delay has allowed three different projects to emerge and compete to be the one that beats the other two to actual production and eventual release. Two of them are a HBO/Playtone movie called Proof (starring Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti) and another called Match Maker, which has Will Ferrell attached to play Bobby Riggs. The project that appears it may be getting closest to happening is Fox Searchlight’s Battle of the Sexes. Steve Carell has long been attached to star as Bobby Riggs, but Emma Stone recently departed from starring as Billy Jean King.  That casting conundrum was solved this week with the news that Brie Larson (Short Term 12Trainwreck) is now in talks to replace Emma Stone. If the deal works out, Battle of the Sexes will be directed by the team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who are best known for the indie comedy hits Little Miss Sunshine and Ruby Sparks.


7. RACHEL WEISZ TO STAR AS MY COUSIN RACHEL

RachelWeisz

(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez / Staff / Getty Images)

It’s obviously more common for actors and actresses with common names like “John” or “Tom” or “Jennifer,” but for most, it’s rare that they land a role where the character has the same name they do. (Although sometimes the character name is chosen based on the name of the actor playing them.)  In the case of Rachel Weisz, who knows, perhaps she’s always dreamed of starring in a movie based on Daphne Du Maurier’s classic 1951 novel My Cousin Rachel. Well, if that were true, she would be in luck, because she is now in talks with Fox Searchlight to play the title character in a new adaptation of My Cousin Rachel. The novel was first adapted as a 1952 film starring Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton. This new adaptation will be directed by Roger Michell (Le Week-End, Notting Hill, Hyde Park on the Hudson). Rachel Weisz’ Rachel is a woman suspected of murdering a cousin by one of her other cousins. There sure is a lot of double wordplay in this story.


8. GEORGE WASHINGTON GETS ACTION MOVIE TREATMENT IN THE VIRGINIAN

GeorgeWashington

Although Hollywood does experiment with the era every once in a while (Last of the Mohicans, The Patriot), 18th century America is represented a lot less in modern movies than, say, the 19th century. You might think such movies would be much more common, considering that the late 1700s is the setting of the Revolutionary War, and the founding of the United States. This week brought news of at least one new movie attempting to correct that oversight. In a mid-six-figures deal, New Line Cinema has acquired the rights to a script called The Virginian about George Washington when he was a young colonial soldier. The Virginian is described as an action thriller about how a “down-and-out, young George Washington — desperate to join the British Army — accepts a dangerous mission to conquer a French fort and save the American colonies.” New Line’s acquisition of The Virginian may spark a race to production with another George Washington movie called The General, which is reportedly more of a traditional biopic about Washington’s later life. The Virginian was written by Michael Gunn, who has worked as a story editor on Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series, The Newsroom.


9. JORDAN PEELE TO DIRECT HORROR COMEDY GET OUT

JordanPeele

In his 1983 stand up comedy film Delirious, Eddie Murphy riffed on The Amityville Horror, mocking the spooky whisper “GET OUT!” as something that would make him leave any house (NSFW clip here), regardless of how nice it was (“too bad we can’t stay, baby!”).  Thirty years later, that refrain is now being used as the title of a horror comedy  to be written and directed by Jordan Peele, best known as one half of the comedy duo Key & Peele, along with Keegan-Michael Key, who will costar with Peele in the comedy Keanu (4/22/16). Get Out is about “a young African-American man who visits his Caucasian girlfriend’s family estate.” Jordan Peele is writing and will make his feature film directorial debut, but is not expected to star as the lead character (though he may take a supporting role). Get Out will be produced by Blumhouse Productions, the company behind such horror films as Insidious, the Paranormal Activity franchise, and next year’s Amityville: The Awakening.


Rotten Ideas of The Week

All three of the movies opening in wide release this week might have Rotten Tomatometer scores, but here in the Weekly Ketchup, we’re pleased to announce… no major “Rotten Idea” stories this week!

He’s been a chart-topping rapper, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and the undisputed king of the July 4 movie blockbuster — and this weekend, Will Smith returns to the big screen alongside Margot Robbie in Focus, so we knew now would be the perfect time to pay tribute to some of the brightest highlights from his blockbuster filmography. You’ll obviously find some of the biggest hit films of the last 15 years in here, but Big Willie Style isn’t always about the big-budget smash hit; his efforts include a few eclectic diversions that may surprise you. Let’s find out how many of your favorites made the cut — it’s time for Total Recall!


10. I, Robot (2004)


Isaac Asimov’s classic short story collection had a long journey to the screen — and when it finally arrived in 2004, the end result bore little more than a passing resemblance to its literary namesake. It may have disappointed purists, but I, Robot was another in a line of hit summer films for Smith — and although its transformation into a big-budget action thriller may have sacrificed thought-provoking subtext along the way, it was still enough for Nev Pierce of the BBC, who argued, “Whether there’s anything substantial under the sheen and CGI of Alex Proyas’ glistening future vision is debatable, but this enjoyable, engrossing picture is at least intelligently artificial.”

Watch Trailer

9. Independence Day (1996) 68%


After establishing himself as an action star with Bad Boys, Smith kicked off a string of July 4 blockbusters with Independence Day, Roland Emmerich’s 1996 ensemble sci-fi thriller about the worldwide chaos unleashed when an armada of terribly unfriendly aliens stops by Earth for a visit. With a worldwide gross of over $815 million, Independence Day was the biggest hit of the year, and although Smith had a lot of help along the way, his wisecracking heroics were a big part of what inspired critics like Empire’s Angie Errigo to hail it as “a throwback to traditional entertainment with an old-fashioned, gung-ho good time thrilled up by ’90s-style state-of-the-art technology.”

Watch Trailer

8. Ali (2001) 68%


Smith trained for a year to prepare himself for the title role in Michael Mann’s Muhammad Ali biopic, both inside the ring and out, with a workload that included everything from live sparring to Islamic studies and time with a dialect coach. While Ali ultimately packed a somewhat disappointing punch at the box office, where its $87 million gross failed to earn back its budget, all that preparation paid off handsomely for Smith, who walked away with a Best Actor Oscar nomination — as well as glowing reviews from critics like Jay Carr of the Boston Globe, who wrote, “Smith makes contact with enough of Ali’s swagger, sweetness, wit, and pride to convince us that justice is being done to the boxing champion.”

Watch Trailer

7. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) 67%


Otherwise known as the film that proved Will Smith’s cinematic dynasty would eventually extend to his kids, The Pursuit of Happyness used the real-life story of Chris Gardner’s journey from homeless single parent to stockbroker as the basis for an inspirational drama starring Smith alongside his son Jaden, who was all of eight when the movie came out (and stole the picture anyway). It takes a special kind of performance to make audiences believe a multimillionaire box-office king as a desperate dad on the brink of losing everything, and Smith delivered it here; as Tom Meek wrote for the Boston Phoenix, “Smith turns in a career-capping performance, and director Gabriele Muccino ingeniously turns the material inward, cautioning us all to be grateful for what we have, for we’re closer to the edge than we think.”

Watch Trailer

6. Hitch (2005) 69%


Romantic comedies get a pretty bad rap, but when they’re put together with enough sensitivity and skill, the results can be pretty hard to resist. Case in point: 2005’s Hitch, starring Smith as a legendary “date doctor” who’s playing matchmaker for a schlub (Kevin James) and his celebrity crush (Amber Valletta) while wooing a gossip columnist (Eva Mendes) whose latest assignment puts her on an unwitting collision course with Hitch. It’s all familiar stuff, but that was just fine with critics like Terry Lawson of the Detroit Free Press, who wrote, “Smith and Mendes are terrific together. He brings her game up so high you’d think she has had as many good parts as Smith.”

Watch Trailer

5. I Am Legend (2007) 68%


After languishing in development hell for more than a decade and passing through the hands of a list of stars that included Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Richard Matheson’s classic novel finally made its way to the screen for the third time in 2007, with Will Smith starring as Robert Neville, the virologist who just happens to be one of the last healthy people left after a government-engineered vaccine goes awry and turns the human race into vampire-like beings. Although its deviations from the book — particularly in the final act — made the movie something of a blown opportunity as far as some fans were concerned, most critics enjoyed Legend on its own merits, with an appreciative Rex Reed calling it “a grenade that goes off when least expected. It has more horror than heart, but it is never boring.”

Watch Trailer

4. Enemy of the State (1998) 72%


Depending on your ideological leanings, Enemy of the State‘s pre-9/11 warnings of an encroaching government surveillance state are either quaint or chillingly prescient — but either way, this techno-thriller, which united Bruckheimer with director Tony Scott for their fifth film, is a solidly built piece of big-budget entertainment. Starring Will Smith as a lawyer targeted by the NSA, Gene Hackman as the retired spook who helps him evade capture, and Jon Voight as the creepy bureaucrat who will stop at nothing to ensure the passage of a key piece of legislation, State blended good old-fashioned man-on-the-run action with state-of-the-art technology, and scared up a healthy $250 million along the way — as well as praise from critics such as Marc Savlov of the Austin Chronicle, who called it “a thriller straight through to its sleek, millennial-fever heart, an onrushing, giddily paranoiac roller-coaster ride with bad brakes, clever dialogue, and a reach that only occasionally exceeds its grasp.”

Watch Trailer

3. Where the Day Takes You (1992) 80%


As a rapper and an actor, Smith spent the first several years of his career largely in comedy mode — so when he decided to make the jump into film, he chose the decidedly unfunny role of a handicapped, homeless Los Angeles youth in the ensemble drama Where the Day Takes You. Surrounded by a crowd of veteran actors that included Dermot Mulroney, Lara Flynn Boyle, and Kyle MacLachlan, Smith was able to test the dramatic waters without having to carry a movie on his own — and it paid off for critics like Roger Ebert, who wrote, “Maybe the director, Marc Rocco, is good with actors. Or maybe these actors haven’t had this kind of strong material to work with before.”

Watch Trailer

2. Six Degrees of Separation (1993) 88%


The fascinating story of real-life con artist David Hampton formed the basis for Six Degrees of Separation, adapted from the John Guare play about a smooth-talking young man named Paul (Smith) who shows up on the doorstep of a wealthy New York couple (Donald Sutherland and Stockard Channing) and convinces them he’s not only friends with their college-age kids, but that he’s the son of Sidney Poitier. Before the night is out, he’s sleeping in their guest room — and before the closing credits roll, the extraordinary truth of Paul’s story is revealed. While far from a blockbuster on par with Smith’s future efforts, Separation earned Channing an Oscar nomination and won praise from critics like About.com’s Fred Topel, who called it “a compelling drama” and “Will Smith’s greatest performance.”

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1. Men In Black (1997) 92%


The success of The Fugitive catapulted Tommy Lee Jones from “distinguished character actor” to “leading man” status, and after Bad Boys, the mid-to-late 1990s pretty much belonged to Will Smith — so Men in Black wasn’t just your average action/comedy/sci-fi summer blockbuster, it was an Event Movie with almost $590 million in ticket sales (and a pair of sequels) waiting to happen. It didn’t win any awards for storytelling depth (although it did win a Best Makeup Oscar), but its unapologetic popcorn thrills, fueled by Smith and Jones’ easy interplay, entertained a whole lot of people — including Slate’s David Edelstein, who called it “The smartest, funniest, and best-looking sci-fi comedy since the movies learned to morph.”

Watch Trailer

 


Finally, here’s one of the Fresh Prince’s oddest recordings — a surrealist nightmare called “Then She Bit Me”:

Comic book movies are all the rage these days, and every year we see more of them hitting theaters than before. Whether you’re into quirky indie comics (Ghost World, American Splendor), superhero action titles (The Dark Knight, The Avengers), graphic novels (300, Persepolis), or even manga (Oldboy), there’s probably a big screen adaptation on this list for you. Read on to find out what’s available to watch online (whether through full purchase, rental, or streaming subscriptions) right now.


Batman Begins
84%

In the origin story of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, Christian Bale stars as Bruce Wayne, orphaned billionaire who dons the cape and cowl to uncover a conspiracy to poison Gotham City’s water supply.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


The Dark Knight
94%

Batman faces a treacherous new villain in The Joker (Heath Ledger), who terrorizes Gotham City and forces Batman to make tough decisions to keep the peace.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


The Dark Knight Rises

Gotham City has enjoyed eight years of peace following the events of The Dark Knight, but a broken Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) must become the Batman once again when Bane (Tom Hardy) takes the entire city hostage.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


Iron Man
94%

When wealthy military industrialist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is taken hostage by terrorists and ordered to build a new weapon, he instead invents an armored suit and decides to dedicate his life to fighting evil.

Available now on: Amazon, iTunes, Vudu


Iron Man 2

Now known to the world as Iron Man, Tony Stark must deal with a rival arms manufacturer and becomes the target of a vengeful man with ties to his past.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


Thor
77%

In the distant realm of Asgard, a powerful warrior named Thor (Chris Hemsworth) breaks a centuries-old truce, earning him exile to Earth. Once among humans, Thor must protect his new friends from an evil adversary who has followed him from Asgard.

Available now on: Amazon, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Vudu


Captain America: The First Avenger

Scrawny Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) volunteers for a super-soldier program prior to WWII and leads American forces against Nazi collaborator Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) and his nefarious HYDRA army.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu, Netflix


The Incredible Hulk
67%

After a military experiment gone wrong leaves his biology drastically altered, scientist Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) flees the US to search for a cure and fights to keep his blood out of military hands.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


Marvel’s The Avengers
91%

When a mystical object is stolen from a remote research facility, the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. assemble Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the Hulk to retrieve it and prevent a large-scale alien invasion.

Available now on: Amazon, iTunes, Netflix, Vudu


Persepolis
96%

Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical tale recounts the childhood of an outspoken Iranian girl growing up during the Islamic revolution.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


American Splendor

A stylish indie biopic that blends live action and animated elements in an adaptation of underground comic writer Harvey Pekar’s autobiographical comics of the same name.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


A History of Violence

When small town man Tom Small (Viggo Mortensen) commits an act of heroism that gets him on the local news, a mysterious stranger (Ed Harris) recognizes him and shows up, daring to reveal secrets from a past Tom claims never existed.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


Road to Perdition
81%

Tom Hanks plays Depression-era hitman Michael Sullivan, whose son witnesses an execution at the hands of his father. When Connor (Daniel Craig), the son of his employer, kills his wife and younger son in an attempt to keep the family quiet, Sullivan sets out on a path of revenge.

Available now on: Amazon


Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
82%

Young slacker Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) falls for his dream girl, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), but if he wants to be with her, he’ll have to defeat her seven evil exes in battle first.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


Spider-Man
90%

In the first of Sam Raimi’s three Spider-Man films, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is bitten by a radioactive spider and inherits superhuman powers, which he uses to stop Norman Osborn, the megalomaniacal Green Goblin.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


Spider-Man 2
93%

Peter Parker is now a college student and dating Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), but he finds adversaries in the disturbed Dr. Octopus (Alfred Molina) and Harry Osborn (James Franco) — Peter’s best friend and the son of Green Goblin.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


Spider-Man 3
63%

This time out, Spider-Man squares off against Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and the alien symbiote Venom (Topher Grace), the latter of which presents a particularly personal struggle for Peter.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


The Amazing Spider-Man
72%

Marc Webb’s reboot of the franchise stars Andrew Garfield as a wisecracking Peter Parker, who is bitten by a radioactive spider and discovers secrets about his past that lead to the birth of his first adversary, the Lizard (Rhys Ifans).

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


Sin City

Based on Frank Miller’s comic series, Robert Rodriguez’s neo-noir is a stylish, violent crime thriller following multiple storylines of pulpy fiction.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


Hellboy
81%

Guillermo del Toro brings to life Mike Mignola’s antihero Hellboy (Ron Perlman), a demon-turned-good who teams with other paranormal heroes to defeat Rasputin, the Russian mystic who summoned Hellboy for the Nazis sixty years prior.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


Hellboy II: The Golden Army
86%

Ron Perlman reprises his title role in this sequel, which finds Hellboy fighting to keep an otherworldy tyrant from wiping out humanity.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


X-Men
82%

Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, and more provide the star power for this pioneering entry in the franchise about superpowered mutants with contradictory philosophies about achieving acceptance in the human world.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


X2: X-Men United
85%

As Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his X-Men continuing to fight for the mutant cause, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) sets out to uncover secrets about his dark past.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


X-Men: The Last Stand
57%

As Magneto (Ian McKellen) prepares for an all out assault on humankind, Professor X (Patrick Stewart) rallies his troops to meet their forces head-on in a massive mutant battle.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


X-Men: First Class

Director Matthew Vaughn takes us back to the 1960s, when a young Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) first meet, begin to gather mutants to their respective cause, and discover they hold very different ideas about the future.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


Click to Page 2 to see the availability of Kick-Ass, Dredd, 300, and the Superman, early Batman and Men in Black franchises, plus more!


Superman: The Movie
94%

As Planet Krypton verges on annihilation, a lone infant escapes into space, only to land on Earth and live out his dual life as both Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve) and the powerful Superman.

Available now on: Amazon


Superman II
85%

Superman saves Paris from a nuclear attack, but he simultaneously awakens a trio of powerful Kryptonian criminals in Earth’s orbit who then attempt to take over Earth.

Available now on: Amazon


Superman Returns
75%

This 2006 film picks up where Superman II left off, as Clark Kent/Superman (Brandon Routh) returns after years of absence only to find that the world is getting along fine without him… and his former enemy Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) is up to his old tricks.

Available now on: Amazon


Ghost World
93%

Based on the Daniel Clowes graphic novel, this coming-of-age comedy focuses on recent high school grads Enid and Rebeca (Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson), who spend their summer navigating relationships and trying to figure out what to do with their lives.

Available now on: Amazon


Oldboy
81%

In this South Korean thriller, a man (Choi Min-sik) is kidnapped and held captive for 15 years by an anonymous party for undisclosed reasons; when he is finally set free, he begins to unravel the dark mystery behind his imprisonment.

Available now on: Amazon, Netflix


Men in Black
92%

New York cop James Edwards (Will Smith) is recruited for a top secret government agency tasked with policing earth’s resident aliens; with his partner Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), the two help stop a “Bug” (Vincent D’Onofrio) bent on the destruction of a hidden universe.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


Men in Black II

Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) has retired and had his memory wiped, but when a shapeshifting villain (Lara Flynn Boyle) takes control of the MIB offices, Agent J (Will Smith) must team up with him again to bring her to justice.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


Men in Black 3

After an unexplained anomaly wipes all traces of Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) from the present, Agent J (Will Smith) travels back in time to partner up with a young K (Josh Brolin) and set things right.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


Kick-Ass
76%

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) wonders why there aren’t any real superheroes in the world, so he buys a goofy outfit and tries his hand at vigilante justice. When he inadvertently upsets a crime boss (Mark Strong), he teams up with a few fellow heroes to take him down.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


Dredd
79%

In a dystopic near future, “judges” dispense justice at their discretion. Dredd (Karl Urban) and a rookie partner (Olivia Thirlby) get their first assignment: take down a highrise populated by gangsters and ruled by a ruthless drug lord named Ma-Ma (Lena Headey).

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


V for Vendetta
73%

This adaptation of the Alan Moore graphic novel, set in an alternate England, stars Natalie Portman as a young woman who joins with a mysterious masked man, skilled in speech and combat, who seeks to overthrow the totalitarian government.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


Batman: The Movie (1966)
79%

Adam West and Burt Ward star in this campy classic, which finds the Caped Crusader (West) and Robin (Ward) chasing down a gang of their most famous adversaries after they’ve dehydrated the UN.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


Batman (1989)
71%

Tim Burton’s take on Batman stars Michael Keaton in the title role as he attempts to thwart the Joker’s (Jack Nicholson) plan to poison consumer products used by the citizens of Gotham City.

Available now on: Amazon


Batman Returns

Tim Burton follows up the 1989 hit with a much darker film, in which Batman (Michael Keaton) must deal with Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) and the Penguin (Danny DeVito).

Available now on: Amazon


Batman Forever
38%

Val Kilmer takes up the cape and cowl for Joel Schumacher’s decidedly campier sequel; Robin (Chris O’Donnell) enters the picture to lend Batman a hand against the Riddler (Jim Carrey) and Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones).

Available now on: Amazon


Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
84%

A companion to the 1990s animated series, Mask of the Phantasm pits Batman against the Phantom, who frames Batman for the murder of a crime lord and uncovers a dangerous link to someone from his past.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


300
61%

Zack Snyder directs a violent and stylish adaptation of Frank Miller’s fictionalized retelling of the legendary battle of Thermopylae, where, as legend has it, a small army of Spartans held off the entire Persian army.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


Red

In this action-comedy, Bruce Willis heads up a squad of retired CIA agents who fight back then they’re targeted by their former agency for their knowledge of clandestine operations.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


Barbarella
74%

Jane Fonda stars as the title heroine in this sci-fi cult favorite about a government rep from Earth who searches the galaxy for a missing scientist and explores her sexuality with a number of intergalactic suitors.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu, Netflix


Watchmen
65%

It’s the mid-1980s in an alternate universe US, where superheroes exist but are prevented from using their powers. When a new threat arises, former allies come together to ensure it fails.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


Blade

Wesley Snipes stars as the titular vampire hunter, who sets out to stop Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff), a vampire with ambitions of “turning” every human in the world.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


Blade II
57%

Guillermo del Toro helms this sequel, which finds Blade (Wesley Snipes) joining forces with his nemesis Damaskinos (Thomas Kretschmann) to fight a super-race of vampires.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


Heavy Metal
61%

Based on stories from the eponymous sci-fi comic magazine, Heavy Metal tells a handful of loosely connected stories through eye-popping animation.

Available now on: Amazon


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie

Four turtles exposed to radiation grow up learning martial arts from a mutated rat sensei and do battle with a ruthless crime lord known as Shredder.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze
35%

The Turtles are back to take down Shredder, who has obtained some of the same radioactive ooze that transformed the Turtles and uses it to create new warriors to do his bidding.

Available now on: Amazon, Vudu

Enter Marvel Movie Madness, wherein Rotten Tomatoes watches all of the significant Marvel movies ever made. Full Marvel Movie Madness list here. Tune in! We give you our thoughts, and you give us yours.



Part 38: Men in Black III (2012, 70% @ 226 reviews)

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement

Grae: It wouldn’t be too hard to top the disappointment that was Men In Black II (sorry, Lara Flynn Boyle, I know you tried). But even though my crushed spirits had finally rebounded, watching Pitbull sing the MIBIII theme didn’t make me dance as much as it made me consider Botox to iron out my furrowed, worried brow. But lo and behold, Barry Sonnenfeld apparently had spent the last ten years brewing up a new pot of awesome that was ready to be served to modern audiences.

This installment of MIB is a heckuva lot closer to the first one than the second, thanks in part to Josh Brolin as the young Agent K. His take on 60s-era Tommy Lee Jones was so dead-on, it’s like watching Eyes of Laura Mars with more aliens than just Faye Dunaway. It makes the series fun again. On top of more amazing makeup work from Rick Baker and much-improved effects, the time-travel tale made me completely forget its sophomore slump. In fact, I’m excited about the next one. Maybe we can fast-forward in time and get Morgan Freeman as an older Will Smith?



Ryan: Let me begin by saying I don’t have a very clear recollection of this movie. I remember Jemaine Clement being Jemaine Clement, but with scary teeth and a missing arm, and I remember Josh Brolin’s kind of beautiful Tommy Lee Jones impersonation, which is probably the first thing anyone mentions when talking about this movie. Wait, are there people out there who “talk about this movie?” Oh, and I remember Bill Hader as an exasperated, inspiration-starved undercover Andy Warhol, which is great in the way that Bill Hader randomly showing up in movies is usually great. And something about time travel, alternate realities, and an alien invasion. Does that about cover it?

Alright, I’ll admit, MIB 3 wasn’t a terrible way to return to the franchise. I don’t know if it was particularly memorable, but I can think of worse ways to spend a couple of hours. I mean, the anachronistic humor was kind of fun in spots, despite the fact I kept thinking to myself, “Would Agent J really feel so carefree roaming the streets of 1960s America?” Otherwise, this is all pretty familiar stuff, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I could have done without the somewhat groanworthy twist at the end, but all in all it was a sufficiently diverting, pleasantly surprising adventure. Ultimately forgettable, methinks, but an enjoyable popcorn rental.

Cat: I attempted to watch Men in Black III twice while on a plane. Both times I fell asleep after the first 5-10 minutes. All I remember is Pussycat Doll chick, Nicole Scherzinger, bringing an incarcerated alien a pink birthday cake. Another alien who was inside the cake jumped out and helped the super bad alien escape, and gone was Miss Pussycat Doll into outer space. Don’t cha wish this movie was less bor-ing?


More Marvel Movie Madness:

 

Sorry, folks: if you’re looking for new family fare in theaters this week, you’re out of luck, as the two wide releases — Killing Them Softly and The Collection — aren’t safe for kids. However, the good news is that we’ve got some interesting DVD choices, including the sci-fi comedy Men in Black III and the animated horror homage ParaNorman. Without further ado, check out the best bets for family viewing this week!

New On DVD:



Men in Black III

What’s it about? Agent J (Will Smith) learns that his old partner Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) is in grave danger. In order to rescue K — and save humanity — J must travel back in time and team up with K’s younger self (Josh Brolin).

Who’s it for? It’s rated PG-13 for “for sci-fi action/violence and brief suggestive content.” It’s safe for teens.

Is it any good? Even if nobody asked for a third installment, critics say MIB III is much better than it has a right to be — it’s charming, well acted, and features terrific special effects.



ParaNorman

89%

What’s it about? Norman is a young misfit with the ability to communicate with the spirits, which comes in handy when zombies and other assorted ghouls threaten his community.

Who’s it for? It’s rated PG for “scary action and images, thematic elements, some rude humor and language.” “Scary” is the operative word here; ParaNorman is pretty intense, so you probably shouldn’t screen it for any kids younger than eight or so.

Is it any good? Like Coraline, the previous film from the animation aces at Laika, ParaNorman is dark and wondrous, a macabre and imaginative fantasia that’s funny and spooky.



Step Up Revolution (AKA Miami Heat)

41%

What’s it about? Emily is a professional dancer who falls for the more streetwise Sean. Sean’s flash mob crew is threatened, however, when a businessman attempts to gentrify his dance turf.

Who’s it for? It’s rated PG-13 for “some suggestive dancing and language.” It’s mostly innocuous stuff, and nothing your tweens wouldn’t see on an episode of Dancing with the Stars.

Is it any good? It’s pretty much what you’d expect: critics say the dance sequences are terrific, but the acting is so-so and the story is as old as the hills.

Last week we suffered from a dearth of worthy titles on home video, so it’s nice that we have a wider variety to talk about this week. We start things off with a return visit with the Men in Black and another spooky stop-motion animation from the people who made Coraline. Then, we’ve got a couple of movies about siblings (some gangsters, and some motown singers), the latest in hippity-hoppitiest dance franchise, and another haunted house movie that bombed. See below for the full list!



Men in Black III

Most agreed that Men in Black II suffered from extreme sequelitis, which led many to wonder why (besides the obvious rea$on$) anyone would bother revisiting the franchise a decade later. As it turned out, MIB III demonstrated flashes of the original film’s freshness and benefited from charismatic performances. This time out, Agent J (Will Smith) travels back in time to team with a young Agent K (Josh Brolin) to save both K and the future of humankind. Though it perhaps didn’t signal the beginning of a new chapter for the Men in Black, MIB III nevertheless managed to entertain most critics, who acknowledged its superiority to the second installment and marveled at Brolin’s uncanny portrayal of a young Tommy Lee Jones. At 69%, it’s a fun little special effects-laden adventure, even if it doesn’t necessarily hold many surprises.



ParaNorman

89%

In its first outing, stop-motion animation studio Laika, Inc. produced a hit in 2009’s Coraline, so expectations were high for its 2012 follow-up, ParaNorman. Fortunately, critics say the latter largely lives up to those expectations, scoring a Certified Fresh 86% on the Tomatometer. Evoking the same dark yet charming tone found in Coraline, ParaNorman tells the story of an awkward boy named Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) who can communicate with the dead; when his town is overtaken by zombies, Norman must use his special gift to save everyone from an old curse. With top notch animation and a solid script, ParaNorman managed to woo critics, who were assured that Laika is no flash in the pan. The film might be a tad frightening for some very young viewers, but should otherwise satisfy audiences of all ages.



Step Up: Revolution

41%

The Step Up franchise has never impressed the critics much, but up until its third installment, it represented one of those rare series whose film’s Tomatometers rose with each sequel. The trend dipped a little from 2010’s Step Up 3D to this year’s Step Up: Revolution (aka Step Up 4: Miami Heat in some markets, as noted in the poster), but at 43%, Revolution still marks one of the relative high points of the franchise. This time, the setting is Miami, where an aspiring dancer (Kathryn McCormick) meets and falls in love with a street dancer (Ryan Guzman); together, they attempt to stop a greedy developer from tearing down a historic neighborhood. The story is all kinds of generic — familiar stuff we’ve seen even in previous Step Up films — but the dance sequences are as lively and kinetic as ever, so if this is your bag, have at it.



Lawless

Back in 2007, director John Hillcoat teamed with musician-turned-screenwriter Nick Cave for the Australian western The Proposition, which earned rave reviews. This year, they paired up again for a gritty true-life gangster tale about a Prohibition-era crime family, but the results weren’t quite as spectacular. In Lawless, Shia Labeouf, Tom Hardy, and Jason Clarke play the Bondurant brothers, a trio of siblings running moonshine out of Virginia during the 1930s. When a corrupt Deputy begins threatening the brothers and other bootleggers, a bloody cycle of death and revenge ensues. While critics mostly acknowledged that Lawless was beautifully shot, powerfully acted, and appropriately grim, some found little beneath the surface to latch onto, leading to a 67% Tomatometer. For what it’s worth, the talented supporting cast includes the likes of Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, and Mia Wasikowska.



Sparkle

56%

The original 1976 film Sparkle wasn’t a particularly good one, and if the 2012 update doesn’t quite escape the clichés of its predecessor, it at least executes them with more style and conviction. American Idol winner Jordin Sparks tackles her first major dramatic role as Sparkle, the youngest of a trio of musically gifted sisters during the Motown era. Pursued both professionally and romantically by record exec Stix (Derek Luke), Sparkle attempts to embark on a music career with her siblings (Tika Sumpter and Carmen Ejogo), much to the dismay of her mother Emma (Whitney Houston), a former aspiring songstress herself. As the girls’ talent catches the public eye, their growing fame simultaneously opens up new opportunities and leads them down dark paths. Critics found Sparkle sometimes overly melodramatic and a little old-fashioned, but thanks to Salim Akil’s direction and some strong, committed performances (including Whitney Houston’s final screen appearance), the film earned a 58% Tomatometer.



The Apparition

3%

Haunted house movies are a dime a dozen these days, and specifically because there are so many of them, it’s become increasingly difficult to put a fresh spin on the genre. Enter The Apparition, a supernatural thriller most notable for the fact that two members of its cast are alumni of recently completed YA adaptation franchises. Ashley Greene (of Twilight fame) plays Kelly, the unsuspecting girlfriend of Ben (Sebastian Stan), a budding parapsychologist who, along with pal Patrick (Tom Felton aka Draco Malfoy of the Harry Potter films) and a couple others, has inadvertently brought a malicious spirit into this world. Said spirit terrorizes Ben and Kelly while Patrick tries to warn them of the danger that threatens them, but will any of them survive? Well, critics apparently didn’t care much, awarding The Apparition with a dismal 4% Tomatometer and citing its lack of originality, dramatic momentum and scares as reasons why it’s more likely to put you asleep than anything else.

Will Smith made his long-awaited return to multiplexes and seized the number one spot at the North American box office with his new sci-fi sequel Men in Black 3 which booted The Avengers down to second place in its fourth weekend. But fewer people came out to greet the 3D alien comedy compared to the two previous installments prompting the top ten to fall by a troubling 31% from last year’s four-day Memorial Day holiday session.

Sony topped the box office with Men in Black 3 which opened to an estimated $70M over the long Friday-to-Monday weekend and an estimated $55M over the Friday-to-Sunday portion. Boosted by higher ticket prices for 3D and IMAX screens, the PG-13 film averaged $12,947 over three days and $16,478 over four days from an ultrawide 4,248 theaters. Comparisons to the first two Men in Black films are uneven since those both debuted mid-week ahead of the Fourth of July holiday frames. Plus they did not have 3D surcharges and ticket prices were significantly lower back in 1997 for the original film and 2002 for the first sequel. Still, those Friday-to-Sunday debuts were $51.1M and $52.1M respectively indicating a big drop in admissions this time around for the aging franchise.

Reviews were fairly good for MIB3 which reunited Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, and director Barry Sonnenfeld with Josh Brolin added to the cast of the new time-travel story. The production cost is estimated to be $230M which is to be expected for a star-driven threequel. Smith has not had a film since the flop Seven Pounds from December 2008 and has not had a number one hit, or any action movie, since Hancock from July 2008. The new alien pic earned a good B+ grade from CinemaScore.

Rejuvenating a franchise after a decade-long absence was a challenge as was attracting audiences when The Avengers is doing so well with action-hungry moviegoers. The four-day opening does not even rank among the top ten best Memorial Day weekend debuts despite the help from 3D prices. Historically, sequels debuting over this holiday are very front-loaded putting Agents J and K on course to finish their third domestic trip in the $150-175M range which would be the lowest tally of the trilogy.

Sony reported that Men in Black opened at number one in 104 international territories this weekend too with an overseas bow of $133.2M and global launch of $203.2M. A series of red carpet premieres in Asia and Europe helped to drive excitement with the leading markets being China ($19.5M), Russia ($18.9M), Korea ($8.5M), and Japan ($8M). Thanks to growth overseas since the last MIB, domestic shortfalls could be made up from strong international sales.

Dropping out of the number one spot didn’t stop The Avengers from racking up more impressive numbers and breaking additional records. The assembly of super heroes took in an estimated $46.9M in its fourth weekend with the three-day portion of $36.8M declining by only 34% making for a terrific hold as holiday moviegoers caught up on the most-talked-about movie of the year. With “see it again” ads hitting the marketplace for the long weekend, movie fans of all types are responding by seeing a blockbuster film that delivers the escapist entertainment people are looking for.

After 25 days, the amazing cume shot up to $523.6M and broke the half-billion domestic mark on Saturday in a record 23 days. Avatar previously held that record with 32 days so this was quite a fast achievement. Avengers is now on track to surpass The Dark Knight’s $533.3M by next weekend to take over the number three spot on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters trailing the James Cameron double feature.

International crowds are still coming out spending an estimated $28.1M this weekend in the fifth round boosting the overseas haul to $781.9M and the global gross to $1.305 billion. Currently the fourth biggest worldwide grosser, the Marvel gang will soon surpass Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 to take the number three spot on a global basis too. Avengers may just end its run with close to $1.5 billion. Pleasing movie fans everywhere, the Disney juggernaut has been sucking the life out of the worldwide box office for a month now.

Following its weak launch, the mega-priced action tentpole Battleship just could not stay relevant with moviegoers and plunged 57% over the Friday-to-Sunday period to an estimated $10.9M which was a sizable drop given that Sunday was stronger than usual with a holiday following it. The four-day weekend was $13.8M. After 11 days, the board game pic has grossed only $47.3M and is on course to end its domestic run with a very disappointing $70M or so. With a production cost of at least $209M, that just isn’t what the studio needed to turn it into a moneymaker, much less a franchise. Sandwiched in between Avengers and MIB3, Battleship did not become a must-see action pic for summer audiences this month. Overseas grosses rose slightly to $232.7M putting the worldwide total at $283M which is still lower than what a costly project like this needed. The final global tally won’t go too much higher than $300M.

The Dictator, another big May offering from Hollywood that isn’t exciting too many ticket buyers, fell in its second weekend to an estimated $11.8M over the long weekend putting the 13-day sum at $43.6M. Paramount will struggle to get its final domestic gross to match the $65M production cost. Overseas audiences also fled from the Sacha Baron Cohen political satire with an estimated $11.8M from 29 international markets, down 53%. With $50.3M from outside of North America, Dictator’s worldwide total rose to $94M. Johnny Depp’s vampire comedy Dark Shadows followed with an estimated $9.4M across four days for a total of only $64.9M for the expensive Warner Bros. release.

The new horror pic Chernobyl Diaries opened poorly with an estimated $9.3M over the long weekend from 2,433 theaters for a slow $3,822 average over four days. Audiences instantly disliked the Warner Bros. film as Saturday sales tumbled 33% from the opening day with the CinemaScore grade being a horrible D+. Fright films rarely succeed in the month of May when much bigger summer popcorn movies are rolling out for young adult audiences.

Lionsgate’s underperforming all-star comedy What to Expect When You’re Expecting dipped to an estimated $8.9M and has collected just $23.9M in 11 days. Expanding nationwide, Fox Searchlight’s indie hit The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel climbed up to an estimated $8.2M over four days doubling its weekend gross after widening to 1,233 locations. The British pic averaged $6,671 per location and has banked $18.4M so far.

The blockbuster The Hunger Games placed ninth with an estimated $2.9M remaining a popular choice for fans in its tenth weekend. With $395.9M to date, the Lionsgate smash looks set to break the $400M mark. Sony’s hit comedy Think Like a Man rounded out the top ten with an estimated $1.8M over four days for a $88.7M total.

Focus generated a spectacular platform debut for Wes Anderson’s latest film Moonrise Kingdom which opened in just four theaters with an estimated $669,000 over four days for a jaw-dropping average of $167,372. Generating buzz from its opening night slot at the Cannes Film Festival, the quirky dramedy was loved by critics and will expand in the weeks ahead becoming a major force on the indie scene. The filmmaker’s loyal fans in New York and Los Angeles routinely come out for his latest stories and soon it will test the waters in more parts of the country.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $182.9M over the Friday-to-Monday period which was down 31% from last year when The Hangover Part II opened at number one with $103.4M over the long weekend; but even with 2010 when Shrek Forever After stayed on top in its second frame with $57.1M.

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This week at the movies, we’ve got galaxy defenders (Men in Black III, starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones) and a haunted vacation (Chernobyl Diaries, starring Jesse McCartney and Jonathan Sadowski). What do the critics have to say?



Men in Black III

In the world of franchise moviemaking, the third time is rarely, if ever, the charm. So it’s something of a surprise to report that the critics say Men in Black III is unexpectedly solid, a fun popcorn flick with excellent special effects and enough laughs to overcome its sporadic moments of mediocrity. This time out, Agent J (Will Smith) learns that his old partner Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) is in grave danger. In order to rescue K — and save the future of humanity — J must travel back in time and team up with K’s younger self (Josh Brolin). The pundits say Men in Black III doesn’t approach the giddy heights of the first MIB, but it’s a generally agreeable piece of multiplex fare, and Smith is charismatic as always. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Smith’s best-reviewed movies.)



Chernobyl Diaries

19%

It’s never a good sign when a movie is released before being screened for critics, and unfortunately that’s the case with Chernobyl Diaries. Produced by Paranormal Activity director Oren Peli, it’s the story of a group of American tourists who decide to spice up their European vacation by heading to the site of history’s worst nuclear disaster. When they arrive, however, our heroes discover that they’re stranded — and they’re not alone. Guess the Tomatometer! (And don’t forget to check out Peli’s Five Favorite Films here.)

Also opening this week in limited release:

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