"Men in Black II" -- Agents Jay and Kay (Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones), still surrounded by the most outrageous aliens imaginable, are back to save the world again in this high-spirited, more-of-the-same comic sci-fi sequel. Kay, who retired, is hauled back into service with the super-secret government agency that keeps an eye on aliens on Earth and reunited with Jay to tackle a particularly mean blob from outer space who morphs into the beautiful Laura Flynn Boyle and threatens to annihilate the planet if she doesn't get what she wants. The largely computerized supporting cast includes a talking dog named Frank, a man with two heads, a huge subway worm named Jeff and other Rick Baker creations of all sizes, shapes and dispositions. The plot is somewhat muddled and the film lacks the spontaneity of the original when surprise was a key player, but it has its share of funny moments and cartoonish violence and the cool repartee between Smith and Jones is still intact. While some may be disappointed, fans of the first "MiB" should find this entertaining and the script leaves the door open for a third outing. 2002. 88 minutes. Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment. Rated PG-13 (sci-fi action violence, some provocative humor).
"Ice Age" -- In this dandy animated adventure, set 25,000 years ago, a rascally rodent called Scrat, a prehistoric squirrel-rat, sets the tone at the outset when his obsession for a big acorn triggers an avalanche of snow, ice and barreling good humor. It was a time when Earth was being overrun by glaciers and creatures everywhere were fleeing the onslaught of the new ice age. Scrat appears only periodically, his luck rating him about even with Wyle E. Coyote, but he's easily the movie's funniest inhabitant. The main characters are a moody wooly mammoth named Manfred (voiced by Ray Romano), a pesky sloth named Sid (voiced by John Leguizamo) and Diego, a devilish saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary), who form an unusual bond, or "herd" as they call it, for a perilous journey to return a human baby to his father. The plot may seem to be rather pedestrian at first but "Ice Age" is easy to warm up to. A delight for the kids, cute and compelling for their parents. (Extras on the twin-disc DVD include another Scrat misadventure and the Oscar-winning animated short "Bunny" plus two versions of the film, documentaries and behind-the-scenes footage.) 2002. 85 minutes. Animated. Fox Home Entertainment. Rated PG (mild peril).
"Undisputed" -- Walter Hill's lean, mean head-buster of a movie pits two boxing champions from different worlds in the battle of their lives. Ving Rhames is James "Iceman" Chambers, heavyweight champion of the world and one of the sport's great fighters but now brought low by a rape conviction that has landed him in prison. Arriving at a new maximum security facility in the Mohave Desert with his supreme arrogance intact, he not only scoffs at those who boast of their own champion, Monroe Hutchen (Wesley Snipes), who's 67-0 in inmate competition, but picks a fight with him when they meet and invites just about everyone else to take a swing at him. When the "Iceman" and Monroe finally meet in the ring, it's a bout with all the trappings, set up by an aging mobster (Peter Falk) whose considerable clout reaches far beyond the bars as he arranges Las Vegas odds, promises big payoffs for the combatants and hints of a fix. The climactic fight is a well-staged punchfest. 2002. 94 minutes. Miramax Home Entertainment. Rated R (strong language).
"Sunshine State" -- Master storyteller John Sayles sets his focus on a late spring weekend in the coastal Florida town of Plantation Island where eager developers preaching progress and profits are everywhere. Primarily, it's the story of two families, the Stokes clan, whose banished daughter Desiree (Angela Bassett) wants back in, and the Temples, who own the island's only motel, run by daughter Marly (Edie Falco), who wants out. As usual Sayles, even though not at his best, draws a clear picture of his characters as they face encroachment in different ways. The large ensemble cast also includes Mary Alice, Mary Steenburgen, Timothy Hutton and Alan King. Intriguing though a bit overlong. 2002. 141 minutes. Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment. Rated PG-13 (profanity, mature themes).
Coming up next: "Austin Powers in Goldmember" and "Lilo and Stitch"... "Spider-Man" continues to weave its web among the nation's video movie renters, ranking No. 1 again this week. "The Sum of All Fears" is runnerup...
The year's biggest sleeper hit will be an early 2003 video attraction. HBO has set a Feb. 11 date, the Tuesday before Valentine's Day, for "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," which at close to $200 million is one of the highest grossing independent films in history...
New on DVD: Two nifties from the fifties: "Sunset Boulevard," Billy Wilder's fascinating 1950 study of a faded silent screen star (a remarkable Gloria Swanson) and her slipping hold on reality, and "Roman Holiday" (1953), in which Audrey Hepburn played a princess and became a movie queen... MGM releases Mel Brooks' "The Producers Special Edition" on Dec. 3 with a new hour-long documentary on making of the 1968 comedy... For fans of The Osbournes, the show's first season will be released on DVD March 4...
Seventy-four years ago this week, Mickey Mouse made his movie debut. He also made history. Walt Disney's "Steamboat Willie," which opened at a New York City theater on Nov. 18, 1928, was the first cartoon with synchronized sound. Videoviewers will get a chance to see how it all began on Dec. 3 as part of "Walt Disney Treasures: Wave 2," a three-disc DVD collection of Disney short gems.