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Men in Black(1997)
The adventures of J and K, two federal agents aka, The Men in Black, who are assigned to investigate all alien related phenomena. The agents uncover an intergalactic plot to assasinate two ambassadors from opposing galaxies who happen to reside in New York City. Jay and Kay's mission is to foil the plot by tracking down the terrorist, thereby preventing the earth from being destroyed.
For more about Men in Black and the Men in Black Blu-ray release, see Men in Black Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on June 25, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino, Vincent D'Onofrio, Rip Torn, Tony Shalhoub
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
» See full cast & crew
Men in Black Blu-ray Review
You won't want your memory wiped after watching this Blu-ray disc.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, June 25, 2008
1500 years ago, everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. 500 years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and 15 minutes ago you knew we were alone on this planet. Can you imagine what you'll know tomorrow?
In the great tradition of the alien/monster/comedy sub-genre that features such films as Mars Attacks! and Eight Legged Freaks, Men in Black is likely the most popular offering the genre has ever seen due to its exciting visuals, over-the-top characters, and the dynamic duo that is Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. Released in 1997, the film features a young Will Smith who, at the time, was just finding his cinematic stride with the hits Independence Day and Bad Boys under his belt. In contrast, Tommy Lee Jones brings a commanding, veteran screen presence to his role with an Oscar nomination (Best Actor in a Supporting Role, JFK) and an Oscar win (Best Actor in a Supporting Role, The Fugitive) as well as a plethora of standout performances, including his roles in Under Siege, Natural Born Killers, and Cobb on his resumé. Before you begin to think this information is worthless filler, there is a point to it: both actor's careers, at the time Sony released Men in Black, seem to parallel their on-screen characters almost precisely. Smith, with a short but impressive resumé, plays the brash, up-and-coming, still wet-behind-the-ears, energetic, new kid on the block; Jones portrays the grizzled veteran who's been in the trenches, knows the business (both acting in his "real life" job as well as the MiB in the movie) inside and out. As such, Jones commands a great deal of attention and respect the moment he steps on-set or dons the black MiB suit when director Barry Sonnenfeld (RV) yells "action". The film is expertly casted; both Jones and Smith are the perfect choices for their respective roles, and that, above all else, is the primary reason why Men in Black works as well as it does.
Agent K (Jones) is a member of an organization that deals with extraterrestrial activities on Earth, an organization so secretive that even the U.S. Government doesn't know of its existence. It's funded through the holding of patents on several inventions provided to us by aliens, such as velcro (although I could have sworn that Vulcans introduced that technology to us). When his partner retires after his last bust of an "illegal alien," K quickly discovers a suitable replacement in the form of NYPD officer James Edwards (Smith), a fast-talking, quick-witted, physically gifted individual whose recent run-in with an alien leads K to believe that he'd make an excellent addition to the MiB team. Almost immediately, Edwards, now code-named agent "J", receives his first assignment alongside agent K. They find themselves quickly thrown into the fire when they are called upon to save the planet from imminent destruction by a group of aliens who want their "galaxy" back. Up against a tough opponent in the form of a former farmer named Edgar (Vincent D'Onofrio, Full Metal Jacket) whose skin is turned into a disguise for an alien who seeks possession of the the same galaxy, J and K find themselves in a deadly (and slimy!) race against time to save the world, involving along the way humanoids controlled remotely by tiny aliens, a talking dog named Frank, and a coroner named Laurel Weaver (Linda Fiorentino, Dogma).
Men in Black feels like a live-action cartoon, which I think is the intent. In that regard, the movie is a complete success. Like the best of cartoons, it's over-the-top in nearly every scene where something always looks, sounds, or feels slightly off-kilter. Perhaps the best example is Edgar's wife, Beatrice (Siobhan Fallon, Forrest Gump). Although a seemingly "normal" individual, her fast-talking, slightly slurred speech places her squarely in the realm of "weird," although being married to Edgar, that's understandable. Nary a scene goes by where the abnormal to you and I is not presented as the norm in the world of Men in Black, be it the awkward seating arrangement where the newest MiB recruits take their written exam, the nonchalance of the humans in the command center to an out-of-control super bouncy ball and to the presence of aliens in the break room serving coffee, illegal aliens who really are aliens, or a man meandering around town with his skin hanging off the bone. Men in Black does a fantastic job of creating a world all its own, a world we recognize as being our own, but almost always with an oddity or out-of-place person, place, or thing.
Will Smith has clearly matured as an actor. The brash, young, "hip" character he portrays here plays in stark contrast to some of his more recent roles as seen in I Am Legend and The Pursuit of Happyness. Different style movies these are, yes, but his range as an actor has come quite a long way since the days of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-air" and Independence Day where Smith's shtick seemed to rely completely on one-liners, a hip attitude, and good looks over a dramatic acting ability. That's not to belittle his his early work; his portrayal of the characters he played in his younger years are spot-on perfect for the attitude and feel of those films, as is his more developed dramatic flair better suited to his recent roles. His comedic touch here is solid gold, much like his more serious and dramatic acting is Oscar-worthy in those more recent Smith projects (a fact recognized by the Academy as well; Smith was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Chris Gardner in the aforementioned The Pursuit of Happyness). Tommy Lee Jones and Vincent D'Onforio are great as well in Men in Black. D'Onforio's uniquely odd character is portrayed on-screen well, aided as much by the mannerisms he emotes as the makeup he wears. As I noted above, Men in Black is one of the finest examples of a film aided by its excellent casting, perhaps even more so than its story line, direction, or special effects.
Men in Black Blu-ray, Video Quality
Men in Black looks as sharp on Blu-ray as its characters do in their trademark black suits. This 1.85:1, 1080p high definition transfer is a very good one; this film clearly benefits from the high definition treatment, but it's not quite up to par with the absolute best transfers, though there are times it comes remarkably close considering the film itself is over 10 years old. Every single aspect of the transfer is best described as remarkably "solid." Colors, definition, detail, sharpness, clarity, blacks, and flesh tones are all very good to excellent but not top-tier great. Will Smith's various brightly-colored clothing stands out as vibrant and rich, arguably the best-looking objects seen in the movie. The red jacket that he wears in the training facility has a wonderful presence insofar as standing out from the dull, gray locale he is in. His flamboyant wardrobe speaks of his personality, and the new blood he injects into the MiB is reflected in his attire worn early in the film. The film's outdoor scenes hold up the best. During the scene following Agents K and J's questioning Edgar's wife, they are seen taking soil samples outside, and the image has a bright, vivid, lifelike appearance that is easily one of the sharpest, best-looking scenes in the film. Another fine looking scene is found in chapter 12 when Agent K interrogates Frank the Pug. The visible detail of the storefront and the street in general is breathtaking in its clarity and definition. Men in Black on Blu-ray also offers a solid theatrical feel to the picture. This is a wonderful, pleasing transfer, one that is markedly superior to any previous home video edition, and Blu-ray enthusiasts, as well as fans of the film, should find the upgrade in video quality worth Sony's reasonable asking price for the disc.
Men in Black Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Men in Black crashes down on Blu-ray with a high-octane, sci-fi extravaganza Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. This soundtrack offers a wide array of sound to bombard your senses and utilizes every millimeter of every speaker in your home theater. When Mikey is killed at the beginning, the sound crescendos to a nearly impossibly loud ensemble of sound, involving highs, lows, and everything in between. Another fascinating sonic sequence comes when Edwards arrives at MiB training grounds and listeners are treated to a wide array of interesting sounds, including the fans blowing as he enters the facility, the screech of the table he drags, and the ringing of the gunshots during a "trial by fire." There is generally a surround presence heard throughout the movie, be it the film's score, the bustle of the MiB command center (including the chaos that is the ball that caused the 1977 New York blackout), or ambient city noise. Dialogue is precise and clean, always played at a perfect volume in relation to the film and its soundtrack. The film's action scenes are sure to give the best home theater systems a harsh workout. The first time Agent J fires the "Noisy Cricket" outside of the jewelry store and the action scene that follows is a brief exercise in action done right, sonically. Pushing the "little red button" results in the second-finest example of chest-rattling bass in the movie (keep watching for the best), not to mention some fantastic directionality as a "car" speeds through a tunnel from the back of our screening room to the front. Like its video quality, Men in Black's audio track isn't the best, but you'll be hard-pressed to find ten+ year-old catalogue titles that sound much better, and this is easily the best this film has sounded on home video.
Men in Black Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Men in Black invades Blu-ray as a fully-featured special edition. Two 1/2 commentary tracks being the festivities. The first is a "telestrator commentary" with director Barry Sonnenfeld and actor Tommy Lee Jones. This track is straight out of Mystery Science Theater 3000. We see a silhouette of the two participants sitting at the bottom of the screen and on occasion they will circle something they are discussing on-screen á la John Madden during a football game. As for the commentary itself, it's a good one. Both Sonnenfeld and Jones are engaging with Jones oftentimes playing the role of "us" as he casually discusses how the film was made with the director, asking simple, straightforward questions as well as offering basic yet interesting and pertinent information pertaining to the rigors of shooting and the magic of special effects. The approach these participants take, mixing a lighthearted feel with fascinating information works fantastically, and the end result is an A+ commentary track that may very well be one of the top few I've heard yet. The "1/2" commentary track follows the telestrator track. It is simply the same one as heard and described above, but without the telestrator and Sonnenfeld and Jones silhouettes.
The other commentary is billed as a "technical" commentary. Once again , director Barry Sonnenfeld leads the charge, this time accompanied by alien makeup effects artist Rick Baker and the Industrial Light and Magic team, including second unit director and visual effects supervisor Eric Brevig, Rob Coleman, the animation effects supervisor, and John Burton, the computer graphics supervisor. This hodgepodge of participants are not all together (Baker sounds like he's in a closet) and the track doesn't have a flow to it. There is still some fantastic information here, but it is not a very engaging listen, especially compared to the first track with Sonnenfeld and Jones. This one is still worth a listen for budding effects artists and hardcore fans of the film.
Intergalactic Pursuit: The MIB Multi-Player Trivia Game allows players to answer questions pertaining to the movie and its stars. Questions are timed, and respondents earn more points the faster they answer the questions. Players can play in a single-player mode or online against other players. There are some video clip-based questions thrown in as well, making this game feel vaguely similar to Scene it?. As an oddity, Sony misspelled the title of one of their own films, The Pursuit of Happyness, in one of their questions, replacing the "y" in "Happyness" with an "i." Ask Frank the Pug! is next. The feature feels like a souped-up version of those magic 8-ball toys. You choose a question to ask, and select from one of five categories (career, health, money, romance, and everything else) that best fits the question you had in mind. Frank then provides a completely random response.
Five extended and alternate scenes (480p, 4:21) are available next. Metamorphosis of 'Men in Black' (480p, 23:12) features a solid overview of the origins of the idea and some behind-the-scenes looks at the making of the film, with an emphasis on some of the special effects. Yet again, we are beat over the head with more "Mikey" information, 95% of which we learned in the commentary tracks. There is other repetitive material here, but some new takes on ideas presented before as well, so it's worth watching for fans. Original Featurette (480p, 6:38) is a most basic overview of the film that provides no information we cannot find elsewhere in the movie or the other supplements. Visual Effects Scene Deconstruction begins with a director's introduction and offers two scenes: "Tunnel Scene" and "Edgar Bug Fight Scene." With optional technical commentary, viewers can see these two scenes evolve through various stages, including storyboards, blue screen shot, blue screen composite, lighting and animation, and the final cut of the scene as seen in the film.
Character Animation Studies is similar to the previous feature. Viewers can select a character (Mikey, Jeebs, or Worm Guys) and see them in various stages of development, including preliminary, adding skin & texture, animation with lighting, and the final character composite into scene. Once again, a brief introduction with director Barry Sonnenfeld is available. Creatures: Concept to Completion allows viewers to select one of five creatures: Edgar Bug, Jeebs, Mikey, Mr. Gentle, and Farmer Edgar, and witness the metamorphosis of each one in differing stages of concept and completion. A series of still galleries is next, broken into three categories: "Storyboard Gallery," "Conceptual Art," and "Production Photos." Storyboard Comparisons showcases the storyboards played next to the final cut from the film for three scenes: "Edgar Becomes a Bug," "Saucer Crashes in Queens," and "Birthing the Baby Alien." Unfortunately, both the scene and the storyboards appear in a very tiny box which lessens the visual impact of the comparison.
Next up is a Scene Editing Workshop. I've always enjoyed features of this nature since discovering the first one on my Criterion Collection LaserDisc version of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Viewers can cut their own scene for the movie by viewing various takes and editing them together as they see fit. Your end product can then be compared to the director's final vision of the scene. Viewers have the option of editing together scenes entitled "The Farmhouse," "Jay's Tryout for the MIB," and "The Morgue." Music Video: 'Men in Black' (480p, 4:19) is next. The film's original teaser (1080p, 1:43) and theatrical trailer (1080p, 2:30) are available. 1080p trailers for other Sony titles, including 21, The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep, Vantage Point, First Sunday and Sony's Blu-ray promotional montage are available for your viewing pleasure. Finally, this disc is BD Live (Blu-ray profile 2.0) enabled. Once loaded, viewers can watch previews for various Sony titles, view a FAQ, and see the latest Blu-ray information from Sony, including a list of new releases.
Men in Black Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Men in Black is a film that works well thanks in large part to its ensemble cast. Along with a fantastic concept, an interesting cast of alien characters, and plenty of humor, Men in Black's popularity as a sci-fi/comedy favorite is easily justifiable. Equally so is the place this Blu-ray disc deserves in your budding collection. It offers a wonderful video transfer, an equally wonderful lossless soundtrack, and enough supplements to keep the most ardent Men in Black fans busy for the better part of a day. Men in Black on Blu-ray comes highly recommended!
Men in Black: Other Editions
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Men in Black Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Another Men in Black Film Coming Up - May 3, 2013
Sony will produce another Men in Black film, though it is unknown at the moment whether Will Smith will be back as Agent J. Early reports indicate that writer Oren Uziel will pen the script for the upcoming film. Uziel will also be working on a script for a sequel ...
• Men in Black 3 Blu-ray - September 17, 2012
In the fall, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will bring Men in Black III to Blu-ray. This installment in the successful science-fiction-comedy franchise finds MIB Agents J (Will Smith, Independence Day) and K (Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive) investigating a series ...
• Men in Black II Blu-ray - March 12, 2012
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will bring Men in Black II to Blu-ray in May. The first sequel to the 1997 blockbuster sci-fi-comedy, the film follows MiB agents K (Tommy Lee Jones, No Country for Old Men) and J (Will Smith, Bad Boys) as they fight a renegade ...
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