'Men in Black 3' is too somber for its own good


Tuesday's new DVD and Blu-ray releases included a number of recent efforts, such as the crime film Lawless, the animated ParaNorman, dance-laden Step Up: Revolution, post-apocalyptic thriller The Day, and the star-laden but sadly brief HBO series Luck.

But the big release of the week arrives Friday, when the third Men in Black movie (also known by various graphic combinations of MiB and the number 3) is available in a Blu-ray/DVD combo (Sony, $40.99), a single DVD ($30.99); a three-disc set with the DVD, Blu-ray, and a 3-D Blu-ray ($55.99), and a box set with all three Men in Black movies on Blu-ray and worm figurine ($95.99).

All of this is in service of a movie that offered a tantalizing gimmick -- Josh Brolin playing a young Tommy Lee Jones -- but proved more somber than funny as it probed why the alien-chasing Man in Black K (played by Jones and Brolin) was so emotionally closed off.

That issue arose when an alien villain went back to 1969 to kill K and succeeded, forcing agent J (Smith) to head back in time as well to save his partner -- and who, in the process, came across the decades-old source of K's sorrow.

As I said when the movie was in theaters (and taking in large amounts of cash), the movie takes some advantage of its trip back to the '60s, including in its showing of earlier versions of the agents' gear. But there are even more moments when the movie is uninspired or too long, particularly in a visit to Andy Warhol's studio. And while Brolin -- who has worked with Jones -- knows how to hit the older star's notes, that means Brolin and Smith fall into rhythms we have already seen often enough via Jones and Smith.

The movie is worth seeing for Griffin, an alien who can not only see the future but multiple futures, depending on which course people take. Griffin is played by Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man, Boardwalk Empire) as a sweet presence who rejoices in the good paths the future follows -- but who is tinged with sadness at seeing the tragic turns life may take. The same could be said of the movie as a whole -- joyful, but more than a little sad -- and not really up to the ambition of that conceit. Nor does the 3-D justify the additional price for that version.

Extras include a making-of piece, a look at the Men in Black of 1969 and today, a Pitbull music video, and more.

Down video road

The third season of Downton Abbey will be on DVD and Blu-ray on Jan. 29, weeks ahead of the telecast of the season finale; PBS begins airings of the third season on Jan. 6. The video versions will have the original British cuts of episodes, as well as extras.

The well-reviewed police thriller End of Watch, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena, comes to DVD and Blu-ray on Jan. 22. Pitch Perfect, the charming and raunchy comedy about a college a cappella group, will be on DVD and Blu-ray on Dec. 18.