DID YOU READ

Tim Grierson on Will Smith, the Last Movie Star

Will Smith in Men in Black 3

Posted by on

In film, there are very few sure things. But for a good long time, Will Smith was one of them. Over the span of 12 years, Smith had 12 movies that made over $100 million, and several of them — “Independence Day,” “Men in Black,” “I Am Legend,” and “Hancock” — grossed more than $200 million. In fact, other than 1999’s “Wild Wild West,” it would be hard to say that any of his hits were commercial underperformers. His home runs didn’t barely clearly the fence; when he set his mind to it, his shots would leave the stadium, landing somewhere in the parking lot.

He wasn’t just a consistent box office success, though. I’d argue that from 1996 to 2008, no star of his magnitude was as dependably exciting an onscreen presence. It’s not that he never made a bad film — “Hitch” and the “Bad Boy” movies aren’t exactly world-class cinema — but even his weakest offerings were boosted by his endless charisma and unflagging belief that being a movie star is both a genuine thrill and a responsibility worth taking seriously. Whether it was his cocksure strut in “Independence Day,” his effortless comic riffing in “Men in Black,” or his focused intensity in “I Am Legend,” Smith never seemed to be phoning it in. Quite the contrary, he was alive and energized by the challenge of each new project. And let’s not ignore his more serious roles, in films like “Ali” and “The Pursuit of Happyness,” where he proved up to the task of delivering layered, full-bodied performances without much difficulty. (As opposed to his pal Tom Cruise, Smith could go from blockbuster to artful drama without making too much of how strenuous it was for him. Where Cruise wants to be sure you see every ounce of his exertion, Smith simply glides.)

Smith’s run was remarkable, not unlike watching Michael Jordan in his prime winning championship after championship. And like with Jordan, I would try to savor it as much as I could, knowing that, someday, it had to end.

Amazingly, that run has been over for four years now. If 2008 contained one of his great commercial triumphs, “Hancock,” it also concluded with one of his rare box office misfires, the drama “Seven Pounds.” In retrospect, the film’s $70 million gross was hardly disastrous — it’s not like they were making “I, Robot 2” — but its self-serious tone and what’s-the-big-twist-going-to-be? storyline inspired a deadly backlash from critics who found “Seven Pounds” unforgivably manipulative and phony.

That was the last time we’ve seen Smith on screen, and I have to say we’ve all been poorer for his absence. It’s not that movie stars have disappeared — Robert Downey Jr. is a fine Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes — but none of his peers have that particular sparkle that Smith brought to his roles. Watching one of his movies, you enjoyed seeing him, and there was an almost visceral electricity that came off him. Even back when he was part of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince in the late 1980s, he was something of a charm machine. His songs were hokey, but you couldn’t help it: You just liked the guy. Same with his TV show. Though clearly ambitious, Smith never seemed like just an opportunistic hustler; there was this casual I’m-your-buddy air about him that made you root for Will Smith. And from his likable, underrated performance in 1993’s “Six Degrees of Separation” onward, I’ve been rooting for the guy.

After years away promoting his kids Jaden and Willow like they were human spin-off series, Smith returns this weekend with “Men in Black 3.” The decision to do a sequel for a franchise that hasn’t produced a film in 10 years might seem like a safe choice, but in some ways it also reflects a reality: We’ve entered an era in which stars (though still important) aren’t nearly as crucial as the brand name. At least for now, gone are the days when just about any movie Tom Cruise or Tom Hanks starred in would be a huge hit. As big a name as Johnny Depp is, he won’t guarantee you millions of dollars unless he’s doing a “Pirates of the Caribbean.” (I’d even argue that, while Depp was certainly a factor in its success, “Alice in Wonderland” got a bigger boost from people’s familiarity with the story.) More often than not, it seems these days that we go to movies because it’s a sequel or prequel to something we know, not because it stars so-and-so.

That was never the case with a Will Smith film. Although he made films based on existing properties — “I, Robot,” “I Am Legend,” “Men in Black” — he was their selling point and their stamp of approval. In a way, it’s almost like he transcended the films he was in; he himself was the franchise. Starring in “Men in Black 3” signals that perhaps he realizes that he’s like so many of his fellow A-listers who need to make sure they align with a property people know. For folks like me who were drawn to movies because of the characters and the stars who played them, this is a depressing, dehumanizing turn of events.

Smith will be 44 in the fall, and he’s no longer the young buck anymore. If his 12-year run was Jordanesque, then my fear is that his return will be akin to Jordan’s after he canceled his retirement and took another stab at basketball. It’ll still be good to have him around, but that ineffable magic will be gone. I hope I’m wrong. I’m sure Smith does, too.

Watch More
Bad Moms

Mother Muckers

Watch Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn Slam Motherhood in the Bad Moms Trailer

Catch Mila Kunis on That '70s Show Mondays and Tuesdays starting at 6P on IFC.

Posted by on
STX Entertiainment

They say that bringing a child into this world is the most treasured and life-fulfilling thing you can do. But once sacrificing all your time, energy, and money into a marginally grateful person wears thin, there’s not much left for fulfillment. And as three moms contending with carpools and PTA meetings, Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn reject the entire notion of modern motherhood and vow to become Bad Moms, a new film by The Hangover writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore.

Watch Mila Kunis and her pals join forces against motherhood and uptight school administrator Christina Applegate in the NSFW trailer below. And be sure to catch Mila in her younger days on That ’70s Show every Monday and Tuesday starting at 6P.

Watch More
Sally Kellerman- Maron – Season 4, Episode 5

Cheers to Mom

Send Mom Some Love With an IFC Mother’s Day Card

Give mom the gift of IFC this Mother's Day.

Posted by on

Ah, May. A month of blooming flowers, fluttering butterflies, and a shrieking barrage of guilt come Mother’s Day. But rather than bearing the brunt of shame and misery when you can’t see Mom this year, smooth things over with an official IFC Mother’s Day card. They say everything you’re too busy to say over the phone, like would it kill you to ever dial a number and talk to the woman who gave you life? And would it be the end of the world if you found a better job and settled down with someone nice? But no, it’s fine. She’ll make do with one of these cards, featuring characters from Portlandia, Maron and Comedy Bang! Bang!. Check them out below, and be good to mom this year.

Mother's Day Portlandia

Mother's Day Portlandia

Mother's Day Maron

Mother's Day CBB

Watch More
Marc Maron – Dave Anthony – Maron – Season 4, Episode 2

Snark Attack

5 Times Maron’s Dave Anthony Had the Perfect Response

Maron returns May 4th at 9P on IFC.

Posted by on

Dave Anthony, standup and podcaster extraordinaire, has stealthily become a one-liner machine on Maron, playing Marc’s deadpan “frenemy.” While Dave may often say the wrong thing, we always seem to relate to him in some secret, shameful way. Before you catch Dave on the season premiere of Maron this Wednesday, May 4th at 9P, check out a few times it felt like he was living our life — and messing it up just as much as we are.

1. That moment when we realize no one is listening to our podcast.

Maron Dave Anthony


2. Or when we remember that feelings are just nature’s way of saying it’s time to eat more ice cream.

Maron Dave Anthony


3. That feeling you get when you realize you’ll do anything if someone else is paying.

Maron Dave Anthony


4. For those times when we want to fight the power.

Maron Dave Anthony

Maron Dave Anthony

Maron Dave Anthony


5. And of course, for those times when we realize that life is about accomplishing the little things.

Maron Dave Anthony

Watch More
Powered by ZergNet