"Bernie" (Millennium): Jack Black gives a career-defining performance as the titular gay funeral director-turned-murderer in Richard Linklater's low-key new flick "Bernie." Shirley MacLaine, on the other hand, gobbles enough scenery for the both of them, as the object of Bernie's infliction, the wealthy widow Marjorie.
Based on a true story, "Bernie" alternates between interviews with the Carthage, Texas "townsfolk," most of whom have words of praise for Bernie, and the dramatization of the tale. Bernie is described as a consummate funeral director, a showman, someone with the ability to make the world seem kind, a heaven-bound soul and the most popular man in Carthage. His habit of looking after the elderly widows of the East Texas town gains Bernie access to the home, life, favors and ultimately bank account of his polar opposite, the universally despised Marjorie. As unlikely a pair as there ever was, Bernie and Marjorie become close friends, as well as dining and travelling companions.
But the relationship has its dark side, with the demanding, condescending and socially awkward Marjorie practically making the too accommodating Bernie her servant, as well as her business manager. He sorts her pills, folds her laundry, giver her pedicures, plucks her chin hairs and so on. Naturally, tensions arise in the relationship. Town gossip only adds fuel to fire.
Finally, the docile Bernie reaches his breaking point and shoots and kills Marjorie, hiding her body in her freezer. From there the movie shifts gears in the murder investigation/courtroom trial direction. Homophobic District Attorney Danny Buck (Matthew McConaughey) sharpens his focus on Bernie and promises to bring him to justice. Don't go to see "Bernie" expecting the usual kind of Linklater fare. See it for Black's restrained performance.
"Men in Black 3" (Columbia): "Men in Black 3" is precisely what a summer blockbuster should be. First and foremost, it's entertaining with equal doses of comedic and touching moments. It's got enough special effects to keep the audience engaged without going overboard (although the 3D is completely unnecessary). In terms of being the third installment of a series, "Men in Black 3" not only stands up to its predecessors, but it improves on them by answering previously unanswered questions in ways that are both satisfying and sensible.
Director Barry Sonnenfeld returns to direct Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) for the third "Men In Black." This time out, Boris (Jemaine Clement), a vicious Boglodite space thug locked up in a maximum security lunar prison, escapes to enact revenge on K and enslave and slaughter the inhabitants of earth. In order to prevent such events from happening, J must travel back in time to Cape Canaveral in 1969 on the day of the Apollo 11 launch to ensure that the younger K (Josh Brolin doing a bang-up job of channeling Jones) kills Boris once and for all.
In addition to marvelous and mind-blowing special effects, "MIB3" features terrific supporting performances by Michael Stuhlbarg (as gentle alien Griffin) and Emma Thompson (as Agent O), among others. "MIB3" also admirably ties up some loose ends, including explaining what happened to J's absentee dad. Make sure to make "Men In Black 3" number one on your summer movie list.