Sony // 1997 // 98 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Jim Thomas // May 5th, 2012
Protecting the earth from the scum of the universe.
The plot of Men in Black is fairly slight, but the movie hums along, the paper-thin plot carried in style by razor sharp writing, a truly whack-job performance from Vincent D'Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket), great chemistry between the leads, and Tommy Lee Jones. No offense, Will Smith; you did a solid job, but you got upstaged big time. Jones' deadpan delivery OWNS this movie. As the film begins, Jay (Mr. Smith) has the cocky attitude of a guy who thinks he's seen it all; Kay (Mr. Jones), on the other hand, has the slightly weary attitude of a guy who has seen it all and is starting to wish he hadn't. We occasionally see beneath the exterior -- when he gets exasperated at J's carelessness, when he uses a satellite to check in on his childhood sweetheart, and, in perhaps the most sublime sequence of the entire film, when he sings along with Elvis while speeding upside down through the Holland Tunnel as Jay gets tossed around like a superball in a dryer. He's the anchor of the film, the main reason it works. And if you don't believe me, consider how Men in Black II limps along until Jones turns up.
Sharp-eyed readers will notice that Men in Black (Blu-ray) bears the same name as its 2008 predecessor. There's good reason for that. With the exception of new cover/disc art and an ultraviolet digital copy, this disc is identical to the previous release. Right down to the menus. In a stunning display of truth in labeling, Sony didn't bother with the traditional DELUXE EDITION label, letting the original title stand. So you could just go read Judge Franck Tambouring's review of that disc and be done with it. But please don't; my ego needs all the reinforcement it can get.
Men in Black remains a pretty solid disc, particularly for a fifteen year old film. While the 1.85:1/1080p MPEG-4 AVC transfer is good, it's beginning to show its age; the colors remain crisp and vibrant, but there are noticeable matte lines, excessive graininess, and the visual effects aren't quite seamless. However, the opening sequence is rock solid; when Kay shoots Mikey the alien and he explodes towards the screen, for a split second I thought I was watching a 3D movie. The CGI of Will Smith taking a beating from an alien in labor, on the other hand, not so much. The TrueHD 5.1 Surround mix is far better off. From the opening notes of Danny Elfman's score, the raspy thrum of the cellos lets us know we're in for a treat. Whether it's high octane explosions or the barely controlled chaos of MiB HQ, this track is a low-end feast that's felt as much as it's heard. Not quite reference quality -- the rear channels are a bit weak and the dialogue doesn't always quite blend -- but still pretty damned good. And there's a multitude of alternate language tracks (including and alien language) and subtitles for those who prefer 'em.
The bonus features are fairly solid, though old. The highlight, a commentary track with director Barry Sonnenfeld and Tommy Lee Jones, is great fun. We also have the option to play it with an MST3K-esque silhouette of the two watching the movie. It's a little thing, but a nice touch. The second commentary is tech focused from Sonnenfeld, makeup wizard Rick Baker, and the ILM effects team. We also get a making-of documentary, five minutes of extended and alternate scenes, a handful of featurettes, a look at character animation development, storyboard to film comparisons, a scene editing workshop, Will Smith's music video, image galleries, two interactive games, a couple trailers, and a digital copy.
"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?"
Yeah. Tommy Lee Jones is the MAN.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (French)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Thai)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Alien Language Track
* Extended/Alternate Scenes
* Interactive Games
* Animation Studies
* Storyboard Comparisons
* Image Galleries
* Music Video
* Digital Copy