About one year, to the day, after Will Smith and company had taken care of business in “Independence Day”, he teamed up with Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black. Barry Sonnenfeld, the Director, has had some sort of a Tim Burton knack for producing and directing somewhat “from the hip” dark comedies. Men in Black is just that. Along the same lines as Beetlejuice and The Addams Family, Men in Black is just dark enough, yet very commercial in the same aspect. Sonnenfeld, more widely known (before this, of course) for his efforts of The Addams Family mainly replicates his work here…and it still works. The sly, impotent wit of Will Smith contrasts (in a good way) with the dry “by the book” demeanor of Tommy Lee Jones. You could plan for years and years and never put these two in a movie together, but this was sheer magic in the casting and it paid off…big time. Not known really to be an action movie, a science-fiction movie or a comedy, Men in Black fits any of these three categories very nicely. It’s not often that this is said anymore…but this movie has something for everyone; and if you’re a fan of any of the actors in the film or the Director…you’re in for a real treat as they all give top notch performances.
We first meet “K” (Tommy Lee Jones, oddly enough spelled “Kay” in the ending credits) and his old partner as they’re on a mission to find some illegal aliens. Now normally when we hear the phrase “illegal aliens” we think of Mexicans going across the border to the United States. That’s just what we see, but there’s a whole new meaning to the phrase after we see this scene. In what is meant to be an introduction to the Men in Black, we see them confront an alien (posing as an ‘alien’) and talk like they’re old friends. It’s Jones’ dry demeanor that I personally love and he can make the most boring scene, interesting in a minute. The movie then cuts to Will Smith’s character, James Edwards (later on known as “J” or “Jay” in the ending credits). Edwards is a good NYPD cop and has successfully run down a very hard to track alien, something which has impressed “K”. He is then confronted and screened at a group testing to see if he has the right stuff to become one of the elite…Men in Black.
Well, of course he does or else we wouldn’t have a movie…or at least a cool poster. It’s not long that Smith’s cocky attitude and clumsy way about him are addressed, but it’s called for in the character, that’s part of what makes it so fun to watch. While getting used to the atmosphere of this new life, he has to accept that he will not be remembered in his “human” life. He will only be viewed as a sort of “Deja Vu” and is forgotten only moments after he is seen. All traces of his former life are removed and it’s now that he’s off to kick some alien ass! Aside from the star power of Smith and Jones, the plot revolves around a giant “bug” that has taken the human form of Vincent D’Onofrio. D’Onofrio is one my favorite actors and is only really recognizable in his first scene, later on the makeup leaves him more concealed as the evil bug, but it’s still fun to see him have a good time in the role. The bug (D’Onofrio) is on the lookout for a galaxy that belonged to Gentle Rosenberg. Rosenberg is yet another alien who has settled down on Earth, with his favorite cat, and runs a modest jewelry store. We learn that there are some 1500 aliens at any given time on the Earth and that most are harmless, though some are not. The reason for the Men in Black is to keep surveillance over them and to basically keep things in check.
Probably what is most intriguing about Men in Black is the fact that the chemistry between Jones and Smith is about as interesting between Jones and Fiorentino. A little-known fact is that Fiorentino won her part in this movie over a poker game with the director, Barry Sonnenfeld…interesting. While the humor is very tongue and cheek, it seems to work with this cast and this type of movie. Like so many other movies that Stephen Spielberg has produced, it has his signature all over it. Men in Black is a very enjoyable comedy with some violence in places, but nothing that is totally “ultra-realistic”, unless you count blue blood spattered over cactuses, realistic. Men in Black, as mentioned above, is a very interesting film to watch if only for the great special effects. Give it a try, and with the treatment that Columbia/Tristar has given this film, it’s worth a purchase.
Video: How does it look?
“Men in Black” is presented on Blu-ray in a 1.85:1 AVC HD transfer that looks, for the most part good. Yes, not great but just “good”. The film is obviously a big budget movie that was thought to be one of the early releases on Blu-ray, though Sony opted for “Hitch” instead. Colors seem a bit saturated on occasion and with the wealth of comparative material out there, it’s a bit hard to tell why this doesn’t look as good as it should. There’s no real outstanding element that detracts from the film and to the casual viewer, the movie will look fantastic on a huge display. It just seemed that some of the scenes looked a bit burnt out and, correct me if I’m wrong, but the CGI effects don’t even seem to be that great. It’s not the fault of the transfer, certainly, or maybe we have come that far in ten years.
Audio: How does it sound?
Unlike the video, the audio has certainly benefited from a new Dolby TrueHD track that, quite simply rocks. Almost immediately I noticed a depth that wasn’t present, even on the older DTS version of the film. Dialogue is very rich and deep and the reference scene for surround sound has still got to be where Smith’s character drops a ball and it ricochets around the room. It gives every speaker a chance to be heard and with two more speakers this time around, it’s music to my ears. While the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack wasn’t bad in the least, this new uncompressed track is where it’s at. No complaints here.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Ok, let’s get to the point here. “Mr. July” (aka Will Smith) has a new movie coming out and it’s called “Hancock”, this is the motivation behind “Men in Black” coming out on Blu-ray. In terms of supplements, we get what the standard DVD’s had on them plus a few new features. We start off with a “telestrator commentary” and commentary itself is very interesting, and we learn all about the effects and how they really made the movie the hit it was. Featuring Tommy Lee Jones and Barry Sonnenfeld, the commentary would have been perfect with Will Smith, but we don’t always get what we want. Alongside that, there are also a few featues that use the multi-angle feature, those being the character animation and the famous tunnel scene. Also included are the storyboards, which I have never found too appealing, and the conceptual art for the movie. Of course, there are the talent files, production notes and trailers and a feature I liked…the music video for the hit song “Men in Black” performed by Will Smith and Mikey (an alien).
In terms of exclusive to Blu-ray extras, we get an interactive game entitled “Intergalactic Pursuit” which is a trivia game of sorts and is fairly entertaining for a few minutes. I don’t consider myself a true fan of “Men In Black” but I feel I could hold my own. Sony’s “BD Live” technology is present here and it’s an interesting concept, though only present on a few of their Blu-ray’s. I’d like to see more of it and at this time the extras are minimal at best. The most random feature is an alien commentary track. Yes, really. I don’t know if they actually sat down and tried to do something screen-specific, but it’s true it’s an “alien” commentary. Anyone out there fluent in alien? Didn’t think so…