Men in Black (Blu-ray) (1997)
Audio-Visual Commentary-Barry Sonnenfeld-Director & Tommy Lee Jones-Actor
Audio Commentary-Barry Sonnenfeld-Director & Tommy Lee Jones-Actor
Game-Intergalactic Pursuit: The MIB Multi-Player Trivia Game
|Year Of Production||1997|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Barry Sonnenfeld|
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Tommy Lee Jones
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
German Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Czech Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Polish Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Recently Sony Pictures Home Entertainment announced that it had chosen Men In Black (MIB) to be its first BD-Live enabled Blu-ray title outside the US market. MIB is a great choice, as Director Barry Sonnenfeld's 1997 sci-fi action-comedy, is a fun buddy-cop movie that encourages repeated viewing. One of the wittiest and most imaginative sci-fi comedies of all-time, MIB is a close encounter between Ghostbusters and the X-Files. Just over ten years after its initial cinema release, MIB is still as much fun as ever, and now it’s available in high definition.
To better understand and appreciate MIB, one has to first look back to an event which was to become perhaps the best-known of all of the Alien urban legends: The Roswell UFO Incident has well and truly entered popular culture, having been referenced in countless songs, films, books, and television series. This phenomenon began in July 1947, when the Roswell Army Air Field issued a press release claiming that their military personnel had recovered a crashed "flying disc". As one can imagine, this would have made front page news worldwide. But later that same day, senior military officers denied this was true, and counter-claimed that what had been recovered was the remains of a crashed weather balloon. A number of books on the incident where published in the following years, especially in the late 1970s, when UFO interest again peaked following the release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). Many of these books, and later documentaries, included claims that Alien bodies were recovered from the “UFO crash site”, and secret autopsies were carried out by the US military. In 1995 a hoax film purportedly to be a US military film record of the 1947 autopsies appeared, and again pushed the incident back into public consciousness.
It is therefore no coincidence that the film MIB was released in the cinemas in 1997. Not only did this film successfully ride the wave of UFO interest sparked by the hoax film, but that year also marked the 50th anniversary of the Roswell UFO Incident. Furthermore, following the renewed interest in Roswell and a spotlight on the US Government’s fabled “UFO cover-up”, also in 1997, the US Department of Defence released the results of its second internal investigation, to sternly refute the claims that they had discovered alien bodies at a “UFO crash site” and hushed it up. Again this pushed aliens, UFOs, and UFOlogy back into the media and the mainstream.
Although the Men In Black comic appeared in 1990, the concept of "Men in Black" is much older than the 1990s. Indeed, the idea of Men In Black first became popular in the late 1950s America, when at the height of the cold war and McCarthyism, it was easy to believe in US secret agents harassing, and if necessary, killing to preserve government secrets. According to urban myth, military-looking men, wearing black suits and dark glasses, secretly act on behalf of the US Government, and keep certain US citizens under surveillance, and if required, intervene in their daily lives to maintain the security and secrecy of certain government agencies and their activities. In 1990, this idea of Men in Black led to the publication of an obscure and short-lived comic book series, born from urban legends and conspiracy theories. Written by Lowell Cunningham and illustrated by Sandy Curruthers, The Men in Black comic books were to inspire the film of the same name, which was to become one of the great critical and commercial hit films of the late 1990s.
"When close encounters get ugly, they are our first, last and only line of defence. They are the Men In Black."
The film’s plot is based on the premise that aliens exist and that they are regularly visiting, and even living on, Earth. It’s a bit like “Casablanca”, as MIB Agent K puts it, “except without the Nazis.” Indeed, according to Agent K there are about 1,500 resident aliens on Earth (mostly in New York City), and “most of them decent enough”. But when the “scum of the universe” are invading Earth, “who are you gonna call?” The Men in Black of course! Similar to the Ghostbusters, who also got heavily slimed while defending us from another form of invasion in Manhattan, the MIB are a select few secret government agents who put their lives on the line to protect us from a threat that we are all largely completely unaware of. But instead of intimidating or killing witnesses (as is usually the case in the conspiracy theories), these MIB are much nicer people, and use a flashing pen-like device called a Neuralyzer, that immediately erases the short-term memory of anyone who happens to witness any alien activity. Why? As Agent K explains, “there’s always an alien battle cruiser, or a Korlian death ray, or an intergalactic plague about to wipe out life on this planet; and the only thing that lets people get on with their hopeful little lives is that they don’t know about it.”
Therefore, all the knowledge of Earth as an alien hub is suppressed by this very mysterious government agency known as NIS Division 6, which is populated by the Men in Black. This agency not only suppresses common knowledge of aliens, but as Earth has been declared a neutral, apolitical zone, the MIB also have the responsibility to police those aliens who choose to abuse our planet’s hospitality. Of course this means their work is highly secret and almost completely thankless. The MIB are presented to us as unsung heroes, who have sacrificed a normal life to keep us safe, and ignorant. The MIB comprise men who have severed all contact with their friends and family, and now lead lonely lives of unappreciated dedication, on behalf of an unknowing and unappreciative populace.
In the film’s opening scene, Sonnenfeld nods to America’s increasing xenophobia, but after that, MIB forgets politics, and solely concentrates on entertaining us. MIB’s screenwriter, Ed Solomon (of the Bill & Ted movies), provides many genuinely funny and fresh ideas, such as the absurd US supermarket tabloids, whose outrageous headlines provide the MIB with some of their hottest tips on extraterrestrial activity. According to Agent K, these gossip rags are “the hot sheets” that provide some of the “best investigative reporting on the planet”. Also, the MIB are funded by the patents they take out on confiscated alien technology, such as Velcro, microwave ovens, and liposuction. Meanwhile, in the MIB’s headquarters, they keep watch over resident aliens including Sylvester Stallone, Danny DeVito, Dennis Rodman, Newt Gingrich, and Al Roker. Indeed, the MIB headquarters resembles a cross between Bangkok’s new international airport and the bar scene in Star Wars.
Hardened by many years of isolation and front-line alien experience, the grizzled and poker-faced Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) recruits a new partner, a young and highly sceptical NYPD detective, James Edwards (Will Smith) into the MIB, to become Agent J. Despite the reservations of K’s gruff boss, Agent Z (Rip Torn), K needs a new partner to assist him with his urgent investigation of a particularly nasty alien, known to the MIB as a “Bug” due to his resemblance of a giant cockroach. The Bug (Vincent d'Onofrio) has illegally landed on Earth and is now wearing a disguise (the skin) of a farmer, while he searches in New York City for a prize known as “The Galaxy”. Agent K and J must also find this "Galaxy", to prevent it falling into the wrong hands. To make matters worse, the Bug is also causing mayhem in New York City while carrying out his evil plans, and has even caused a few deaths, which lead the MIB to begrudgingly enlist the help of NY coroner, Dr. Laurel Weaver (Linda Fiorentino). Time is quickly running out, as some Alien Nations would rather see the Earth destroyed, than let the Bug escape with the prize.
The cast of MIB are all excellent, and their one-dimensional characters and deadpan delivery of often completely ridiculous dialogue enhance the script's humour, and the film. Such as Agent K’s: “OK, Mikey put up your arms . . . and all your flippers”. The three leads, Jones, Smith and Fiorentino all play their roles straight, as comic absurdity and plenty of ‘boys-with-toys’ tomfoolery surrounds them. This is particularly true of Tommy Lee Jones, who portrays his secret agent with a dead-pan face and a manner that's completely wearily matter-of-fact. As with the earlier, Independence Day, Will Smith enjoys the biggest laughs in the movie, with his sassy Fresh Prince turned NYPD Blue attitude. But it is Vincent d'Onofrio (later better known for Law & Order: Criminal Intent) who is a comic revelation in his physical transformation - bringing a Bug trapped in a very uncomfortable human shape to life on screen. The Bug's spastic staggering and jerky movements will be remembered long after the film, while his dialogue might all be forgotten.
Okay, so the characters are pretty one-dimensional, and the film might be more about style than substance, and yes, the plot is paper-thin, but Executive Producer, Steven Spielberg, and Director, Barry Sonnenfeld (Addams Family and Get Shorty) have filled the movie with many great comic moments, some excellent visual gags, plenty of cool special effects (thanks largely to Rick Baker and Industrial Light & Magic), some eye-catching action sequences, and a magnificent sense of fun, all of which continue to make MIB a winner.
The High Definition transfer is excellent, and has been mastered in 1920 x 1080p, using AVC MPEG-4 compression.
The transfer is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1, in a native 16x9 frame. This is the film's original theatrical ratio.
The sharpness of the DVD's picture was excellent, but the high definition BD again raises the bar to a whole new level. For example, consider the depth and detail now visible in the exterior night street shot outside Universal Pawnbrokers at 18:39. The black level is also much improved, with true deep blacks. A lot of the story takes place in darker settings and fortunately the shadow detail is also excellent. For example, consider the scene in the dimly lit shooting range with strobe lights at 27:14.
The colour is magnificent, with a rich palette of perfectly-saturated colours to suit the film's varying moods. The flesh tones are accurate.
While some film grain and slight edge enhancement is noticeable at times, there are no problems with MPEG artefacts, film artefacts, or film-to-video artefacts, such as aliasing.
29 subtitle streams are present (including one set of Alien subtitles). The English ones are accurate.
This is a BD-50 disc (dual layered 50 GB disc), with the feature is divided into 16 chapters.
As one might expect with a big-budget, sci-fi action comedy, the movie boasts a wonderful sound design, and as with the DVD, the BD's audio is excellent.
Originally released theatrically in Dolby Digital, dts, and SDDS surround audio, the DVD offered English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, with the option of French or German dubs. Now on Blu-ray, the feature is presented with a new English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround (48kHz/16-bit) remaster, with the option of German, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, and Russian 5.1 surround dubs.
Dolby TrueHD is a lossless multi-channel audio codec that can encode up to eight discrete channels, with sample-depths up to 24 bps and audio sample-rates up to 192 kHz. Dolby TrueHD was a mandatory codec for the now defunct HD-DVD format, but was always optional for Blu-ray. Dolby TrueHD first appeared in 2006 on the HD-DVD version of Phantom of the Opera and has since appeared as an audio option on countless HD-DVD and Blu-ray titles, competing with both dts Master Audio and Linear Pulse Code Modulation (Linear PCM).
Despite the very extensive use of ADR, the dialogue quality and audio sync are great throughout.
The musical score is credited to Danny Elfman (Batman, The Simpsons, Desperate Housewives, and the Spider-man films), and MIB features a traditional orchestral music score which underpins the comedy and action very well.
The movie boasts a wonderful sound design, and although at times the mix sounds a little dated, the surround presence and activity is still excellent overall. The rear speakers are used effectively to help carry the score and provide some ambience. There are a number of rear directional effects, and also some nice touches of more subtle ambience in the quieter moments. The subwoofer is also utilised very effectively throughout.
|Surround Channel Use|
There are a number of genuine extras included on this BD disc, but the one that has grabbed media and industry attention, is the inclusion of BD-Live. BD-Live promises to include advanced web-based features in a Blu-ray title, that might include downloadable video content, 'wallpaper', mobile phone ring-tones, interactive movie-based games, or even web-based shopping for product-placed items in the film. Furthermore, with BD-Live, some movie distributors will attempt to create online movie fan-based communities, such as those currently found on Facebook, MySpace or YouTube. BD-Live will create a far more interactive home theatre experience, and perhaps more importantly, the distributors are no longer limited by the finite capacity on the Blu-ray disc in providing extras.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) recently announced that it would launch its first BD-Live enabled Blu-ray title outside the US market, with the release of Men In Black in Australia in June 2008. This local release follows the recent Blu-ray Disc Profile 2.0 software update for Sony Playstation 3 (Version 2.20), which made the PS3 the first Profile 2.0 Blu-ray player available on the market. SPHE promised that Men In Black will bring network connected features to Australia for the first time, including a "BD-Live multi-player Interactive Trivia Game, as well as exclusive downloadable theatrical and home entertainment previews".
Note: Many of the other extras are lifted from previous DVD releases, and are still presented in standard definition:
Audio Visual Commentary (Barry Sonnenfeld-Director & Tommy Lee Jones-Actor)
Director Barry Sonnenfeld and Actor Tommy Lee Jones provide a joint screen-specific "Telestrater Commentary" in which they discuss the plot and the many changes in post-production. They also discuss many of the SFX shots and identify a lot of the film's actors and locations, and provide a number of anecdotes along the way. Sonnenfeld uses a 'light pen' onscreen to help identify what he's speaking about.
Audio Commentary 1 (Barry Sonnenfeld-Director & Tommy Lee Jones-Actor)
This is the same commentary but without the visual 'light pen' aspect.
Audio Commentary 2 (Technical)
A "Technical Commentary" is also included, with Director Sonnenfeld, SFX legend Rick Baker, and ILM team members Eric Brevig, John Andrew Berton and Rob Coleman. This is obviously an effects heavy film and there is plenty to discuss along the way in the screen-specific joint-commentary.
Intergalactic Pursuit: The MIB Multi-Player Trivia Game
Text-based trivia questions appear onscreen, and there are some clips from the film used as well. The game uses the remote to answer and is single or multi-player. This game requires a Profile 2.0 Blu-ray player.
Ask Frank the Pug!
One can select categories such as Career or Romance, and Frank will provide simple 'advice'.
Extended and Alternate Scenes (4:21)
These are mostly extended scenes, and provide a few extra moments trimmed from the film.
Metamorphosis Of MIB (23:12)
Also ported from the original DVD, this making-of featurette is comprised of behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with cast and crew, and some clips taken from the film.
Original Featurette (6:38)
An extended movie trailer that includes some behind-the-scenes footage.
Visual Effects Scene DeconstructionsAn excellent extra, both The Tunnel Scene and The Edgar Bug Fight Scene are presented in progressive stages of completion, including storyboards the blue-screen principal photography, the composited blue screen footage, the composite with lighting and animation, and finally, the final theatrical film result. There is also an option of a Director's Introduction, and listening to either the feature audio or to a technical commentary with the scenes.
Character Animation Studies
Similar to the VFX Scene Deconstructions, this extra allows us to compare the stages of visually creating the characters of Mikey, Jeebs, and the Worm Guys, starting with basic design, and then adding skin and texture, animation and lighting, and then the final composite of adding the character into the scene in the film.
Creatures: Concept to Completion
A look at how the conceptual design of the characters evolved from the initial sketches. The characters include: Edgar Bug, Jeebs, Mikey, Mr Gentle, and Farmer Edgar
There are a collection of still images included, divided into the following three sections:
The storyboard and final film are both presented in a split screen for the following three scenes:
Scene Editing Workshop
With a Director's Introduction included, this extra allows viewers to rearrange footage from the film to 're-edit' three scenes.
Music Video: Men In Black (4:19)
Featuring footage, characters, and costumes from the film, this hit song performed by Will Smith helped market MIB to a young audience in the late 1990s.
Once connected to the Internet via my Playstation 3's Ethernet port, these extras were divided into a number of sections:
There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.
MIB was released on Blu-ray in Region A (North America). In terms of content, our disc's are identical, except the Region A has some different language dubs.
Men in Black is one of the cleverest, wittiest, funniest, enjoyable, and imaginative sci-fi comedies of all-time. In 1997 the Pentagon’s report on the Roswell UFO Incident informed us that there were no aliens, meanwhile MIB informed us that the Earth was teaming with them. Which is funnier? Whatever you choose to believe, you can be assured that MIB allows us all to have a good laugh at the idea that we are not alone in the universe.
While due to its age, MIB's transfer lacks some of the sparkle of more recent films released in High Definition, it still stands up very well!
The video quality is great.
The audio quality is also great.
I was expecting more content from BD-Live, but the extras included on the disc are genuine and plentiful.
|DVD||Sony Playstation 3 (HDMI 1.3) with Upscaling, using HDMI output|
|Display||Panasonic High Definition 50' Plasma (127 cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Samsung Pure Digital 6.1 AV Receiver (HDMI 1.3)|