I haven't seen any of the previous movies in the Men in Black franchise - the ones with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. So I was a little concerned that a lot of Men In Black: International might go over my head, even with an internet swot-up.
It turned out not to be a problem. This isn't like watching Return of the Jedi without having seen its predecessors. The new movie is more of a reboot or spin-off than a continuation and feels self-contained. It has new writers and a new director as well as a (mostly) new cast. This is a smart move in theory, revitalising the franchise and welcoming new viewers (if you know the MIB are an agency monitoring the alien presence on Earth and dealing with any dangers, you'll be fine).
What does matter is that the movie seems tired, uninventive and almost as smug as Chris Hemsworth's character, Agent H. It feels way too confident it will be a success (so far, the critics have been unimpressed and the box-office take has been disappointing).
In a set-up familiar from many a cop movie, a veteran is partnered with a newbie. Hemsworth, dressed more nattily than Thor, plays the old hand assigned to probationary agent M (Tessa Thompson) - and in London instead of the US.
Some of the alien encounters necessitate the use of increasingly bigger and more powerful weapons in various parts of the MIB car. I'll leave the discussion about what these might symbolise to some enterprising university pop culture thesis writer. And there's a mole in the MIB, but given how few characters there are, it's not all that hard to guess who it is.
Recommended only to MIB unconditionals and those who want to drool over a shirtless Chris Hemsworth (you know who you are).
How Tolkien became hobbit-forming
I enjoyed the book of The Hobbit but gave up on The Lord of the Rings somewhere duringtheseemingly interminable talkfest that was the Council of Elrond. I have seen all the movies, though (note to Peter Jackson: sometimes less really is more).
All that is prelude to Tolkien, a biopic of the early years of the Middle-Earth creator. It comes off a bit like Dead Poets Society Goes to War.
After both their parents die, the young John Ronald Reuel Tolkien and his younger brother (someone-or-other: who cares? the movie doesn't, particularly) are placed in the care of a kindly priest (Colm Meaney). He arranges for them to go to A Good School where Tolkien falls in with an arty crowd - would-be poets, composers, that sort of thing - who proclaim themselves a "fellowship" (subtle foreshadowing, that) and meanwhile becomes infatuated with Edith (Lily Collins). He gets an Oxford scholarship and while he's there he and his friends sign up for service in World War I, a life-changing, and in some cases life-ending, experience.
The Tolkien estate huffed about the movie and there are factual errors (he finished his degree before enlisting, for example) but while there are affecting moments, the film seems both cursory and over-detailed, emphasising some aspects of Tolkien's life while glossing over others. Some CGI fantasy creatures don't really help matters.
But it's hard to hate a movie that has a sympathetic character called Ronald (aka John Ronald, John, and Tolkien).