"Men in Blackí is sure to have its cult audience, but itís just not as amusing or clever as it once was, if it was ever very clever.
Men in Black (1997, Blu-ray)
Directors: Barry Sonnenfeld
Producers: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Ed Solomon
Features: * Commentaries * Deleted Material * Games * Film Editing Workshop * Interviews * EPK * Featurettes * Visual Effects Spots * Trailers * Stills * Music Video * Alien Subtitles * BD-Live
Tommy Lee Jones ... Agent K (Kay)
Will Smith ... James Edwards / Agent J (Jay) / "Slick"
Linda Fiorentino ... Dr. Laurel Weaver / Agent L (Elle)
Vincent D'Onofrio ... Edgar
Rip Torn ... Chief Zed
Tony Shalhoub ... Jack Jeebs
Men in Black Blu-ray Review
Barry Sonnenfeld has always been a frustrating filmmaker. Heís spent a large portion of his career lightly imitating Tim Burtonís colorfully dark tones and style with films like "The Addams Family," "Wild Wild West" and even, to some extent, his hit sitcom, "Pushing Daisies." Heís really only good when heís doing a straight-shot madcap comedy like "Get Shorty" or the adaptation of the cult Dave Barry novel "Big Trouble," which is still one of my all time favorite quickie comedies.
When Sonnenfeld is riffing Burton, his work is uneven, poorly paced and uncomfortably weird. Such is the case with "Men in Black." Itís not a bad film per se, itís just misshapen and misguided. The film plays like a TV pilot with very little conflict and resolution. The characters are given nothing really interesting to do and the filmís primary villain isnít particularly very engaging.
In the film, Tommy Lee Jones plays Agent K, a member of a top secret investigation team--a sort of FBI for aliens. He recruits Will Smith, who plays Agent J, into the organization and before you know it, the two are facing off against a major alien baddie hell bent on Earthís destruction. All of this is basically seen through the eyes of Smith, who very quickly discovers that thereís far more than meets the eye with the world he inhabits.
The premise is there and the actors are in place, but something just doesnít gel. Thatís partly due to the filmís wobbly pace, which is occasionally fast and action packed, but equally slow in spots--even lazily episodic. Making matters worse is the tired, bored performance of Linda Fiorentino who canít seem to elevate her performance above her flat tone of voice. She drags the picture down in every scene she appears.
The only real element that gels is the performance of Vincent DíOnofrio, who plays the primary baddie. DíOnofrioís Edgar is so disgustingly gross here that he manages to provide most of the filmís best comedic moments. Smith isnít bad either as Agent J; even though heís not given a whole lot to do other than react to the crazy alien world thatís unfolding around him. Jones plays the role straight, but heís given a bit too much depth and sadness for his square jawed performance to fully work.
The rest of the film is culled together with pop culture references, lame, old jokes and weak gimmicks (oh, cute a talking dog--never seen that before). They barely worked ten years ago and certainly donít work today. Marring the film even further is the fact that the second entry of the "Men in Black" series is so painfully drab and stupid. It actually manages to make this one even worse in retrospect as it brought to surface, all of this filmís problems.
"Men in Blackí is sure to have its cult audience, but itís just not as amusing or clever as it once was, if it was ever very clever. Sonnenfeld crafts an odd, weird uncomfortable little comedy that barely holds together. Go out and rent "Big Trouble" instead. Itís funnier and shorter than this tired sci-fi comedy.
Film Report Card:
Entertainment Value: B
Film Value: C
Sony presents this highly anticipated title in 1.85:1 widescreen at 1080p/AVC video stretched across a BD50 disc. The previous DVD edition was a near perfect reference title on the format and this presentation is only slightly better. Colors are incredibly sharp. Black levels are solid and inky. Dust and grain are present, but not very intrusive and depth is well detailed giving the film a very well replicated three-dimensional look and feel. That said, the film does sport a little edge enhancement during some scenes. Colors are also occasionally a tad inconsistent, washed out and faded which made some scenes, particularly daylight scenes look a bit flat. This is easily the best this film has ever looked, but I wanted more out of one of Sonyís premiere catalog titles.
Sony delivers a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track for fans to enjoy. Again, this is an absolutely fine mix presenting a solid presentation of a film thatís now over ten years old. Still, it just isnít a particularly organic mix, presenting surround effects that feel a bit awkward and out of place. Dialogue is crystal clear though, this just isnít the finest catalog release. Also, wasnít this title designed for DTS? Why is there not DTS Master track? Something tells me that track would have been better.
This was such a cutting edge DVD release a few years back, but today itís just not very cool. Sony has ported over all of the previous material for this release, but sadly everythingís in 480p.
ē Commentaries -- The first track is the infamous "Telestrater Commentary" featuring director Barry Sonnenfeld and star Tommy Lee Jones. Sonnenfeld draws on the screen during several scenes like a clichťd film professor. Itís a cheap gimmick that adds nothing to the light, informative commentary. The second track is a bit more technical and dry, which is sure to appeal to visual effects fans. It features Sonnenfeld again, this time with effects master Rick Baker, and ILM visual effects masters Eric Brevig, John Andrew Berton and Rob Coleman.
ē Original EPK -- A fluffy extended commercial that should be skipped. It runs a scant six minutes.
ē Featurette: ĎMetamorphosis of MIBí -- Basically a twenty minute documentary about the making of the film, shot for the DVD, featuring behind the scenes footage paired with interviews from cast and crew. If you love the film, youíll find this interesting. If not, well, skip it.
ē Deleted Material -- Five scenes, mostly fluffy gags and extended scenes are fun to watch but donít add anything to the film. Most the visuals are incomplete.
ē Effects Deconstructions -- Three scenes broken down so that you can see the process of blue screen work to final product. Interesting stuff. Incorporating this into a PiP track for this Blu-ray release would have been cool.
ē Scene Editing Workshop -- This workshop is the same one found on the DVD. It wasnít reworked for Blu-ray at all which is sort of sad. The presentation is fine, but itís all a bit archaic.
ē Stills, Trailers and Music Video -- An extensive stills gallery is included as well as a few trailers and the original "Men in Black" music video.
Thereís not a whole lot new here, but Sony does offer up a few added goodies.
ē Interactive Game -- Basically this is a profile 2.0 enabled multiplayer interactive trivia game that tests your film knowledge. Fun? Sure. Necessary? No.
ē Alien Subtitle Track -- This is a throwaway gag. Itís exactly as it sounds, a subtitle track in an alien language, and itís amusing for about 30 seconds. Why even put in the time for something like this. Who does this appeal to?
ē BD-Live -- Basically this links you a Sony homepage where downloadable content is available.
The case comes in a shiny cool sleeve. The disc comes in an "Elite" blue case. Design is simple and in fitting with most Sonyís newer titles.
While "Men in Black" was once considered a groundbreaking DVD, itís hardly a groundbreaking Blu-ray disc. The material presented is fun and informative and the A/V presentation is pretty solid, but thereís little new to this set and the film just doesnít hold up anymore.
Blu-ray Report Card:
HD Content: C-
Recommendation: Worth a rental.
On Blu-ray disc: June 17, 2008.
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----R. L. Shaffer