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Men In Black
Deluxe Edition

review by Zach B. and Anthony D.

 

 

 

Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 98 Minutes

Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Rip Torn, Linda Fiorentino, Vincent D'Onofrio

Screen Story and Screenplay by: Ed Solomon
Based On The Comic by: Lowell Cunningham

Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld

 

Studio: Columbia/Tri-Star

Retail Price: $24.95

Features: Video Commentary with Barry Sonnenfeld and Tommy Lee Jones, Deleted and Extended Scenes, "Metamorphosis Of Men In Black" Featurette, Promotional 1997 Making-Of Featurette, Multi-Angle Visual Effects Demonstration of the "Tunnel Scene", Storyboard-to-Screen Comparisons, Storyboard Gallery, Conceptual Art Gallery, Interactive Character Animation Studies, Will Smith and Mikey "Men In Black" Music Video, Talent Files, Theatrical Trailers, Commentary with Barry Sonnenfeld and Special Effects Team, Interactive Scene Editing Workshop, "Creatures: Concept To Completion" Featurette, Additional Conceptial Art Gallery, Additional Production Photos, Multi-Angle Effects Comparison, 12 Page Booklet, Reproduction Concept Drawing, DVD-ROM: Weapons of MIB, Devices of MIB, 3-D Exploration of MIB Headquartes, Resident Alien Tracking, MIB Game, "Men In Black II" Trailer, "Men In Black II" Featurette, "Stuart Little 2" Trailer, Weblinks

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.33:1 Pan and Scan, 5.1 Dolby Digital English, English Dolby Surround, Fench Dolby Surround, English Captions, French Cpations, Spanish Captions, Mandarin Captions, Cantonese Captions, Chapter Search, Two Disc Set

Released: May 21st, 2002

 

 

Based on the cult comic book, "Men In Black" was the top movie of the summer of 1997, raking in a good, cool 250 million. It was also the most successful Columbia Pictures movie of all time. It also gave Will Smith the nickname "King of Summer" or whatnot due to the previous success of 1996's Independence Day (but he later bombed with "Wild Wild West").

The whole idea and plot of "Men In Black" is quite simple, really. A cop named Jay becomes a member of a top secret government agency which investigates alien and phenomena on Earth. He is teamed with Kay, and it's up to them to stop a raging evil.

Barry Sonnenfeld, a former cinematographer and successful director ("The Adams Family", "Adams Family Values) directed "Men In Black", and I think it is because of him the movie works so well. His direction and vision is superb, and really makes the film feel like something special. The cast is very good, Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith have great chemistry. The sets and design aspect of the film is really nice, and the special effects are really good. They make the film pretty fun, and it's all coursety of Industrial Light and Magic.

There are now FOUR versions of "Men In Black" on the market. One a Dolby Digital release, one a DTS release, one a Limited Edition release with a few more fantastic bells and whistles and now the "Deluxe Edition" which is a simple repackaging of the Limited Edition, all served to tie-in the release of the film's sequel and loaded with some extra goodies to hype it. Nonetheless, if you never picked up the Limited Edition originally and like the film, certainly now is a good time.

 

"Men In Black" has two formats of viewing (the only release of the movie to feature two). An anamorphic widescreen display of 1.85:1, and pan and scan of 1.33:1. The transfer is breathtaking, at best. The image is a little soft, but the transfer I expected is the usual excellent Columbia standard. Colors pop right out at you, fleshtones are remarkable and detail is vivid as well as clear. The picture is really crisp too. The only complaint I have is the grain which came up now and then, but other than that, this transfer will please everyone who views it. The pan and scan transfer however loses some parts of key shots.

 

A movie like this was simply MADE for 5.1 audio. This is an action movie. Yes, there is dialogue, but there are many cool effects and sounds. The music makes good use of the channels, as well as crashes, blasts, flying sounds... you name it. This will rock your speakers, you can feel the sound bouncing all over the place. Bass is very good here, as well as fidelity. This mix is really creative, and fits the movie perfectly. No one will be disappointed here either. There is also English and French Dolby Surround tracks.

 

For those who just can't enough of the "Men in Black," this newest set, released to coincide with the theatrical release of the sequel, offers up a few savory bites of new supplementat material. In addition to the cool star and director commentary; this editions features a high tech commentary from Barry Sonnenfeld, Rick (creature creator) Baker as well as comments from the film's second unit director, animator, visual effects and computer generator superivisors. Taking a cue from Criterion, Columbia has chapter encoded this track with ten accessable chapters, always a nifty way to cruise through a commentary. A couple of the commentators were recorded together, but for the most part, these are individual recording sessions. Sonnenfeld's comments are definitely of the latter brand. I thought that this would be a very geeky track, but, the nuts and bolts come across with humor and eductaional value, not to mention quite interesting. For those not into the "how did they do that?" school of commentaries, this one's not for you. If you've already watched the "making of" documentary, there are still some new tidbits of information dropped here, a fact which only adds to its value.

I might add a small quibble here: the menu screen on Disc One may lead you to believe that there are additional features, but selecting the menu's option of "Creating MiB," only informs you that the features can be found on Disc Two.

Five camera angles and an option for commentary encompass an additional Scene Deconstruction. This time it's the Edgar Bug Fight featuring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones reacting to invisible presences, except for Angle 2's surprising substitute figure. Running just about four minutes this one is as good as the Tunnel Scene's deconstruction, if not more entertaining.

Conceptually clever and creative, the Creatures: Concept to Completion just misses the mark. Morphing is used to develop drawings of five of the film's fantastic creations from drawings to final photograph states. It's cute, and if you're into animation, it'll be worth checking out.

With the Galleries, we're really cooking! There are probably 600 or more shots in the Conceptual Art Gallery alone. These shots are divided up into nine sections: Jeebs, Farmer Edgar, Bug Edgar, Baby Alien, Mr. Gentile, Mikey, Miscellaneous Aliens, Gadgets and Weapons and Production Design. The emphasis on creatures is hardly surprising, but the stages of Vincent D'Onofrio's make-up alone, for the transformation from Farmer to Bug Edgar, is worth checking out the Conceptual Art Gallery alone. (Also, the double-disc set provides MORE photos in this section than the single disc edition).

You may explore even more uncharted territory in the trio of menu options for the Production Photo Gallery: Visual Effects Team: ILM, On the Set with Talent and Make-up & Puppet Team: Cinovation. There are some clever captions, but for the most part, the photos aren't always labelled. These galleries really brought out the geek in me with their highly detailed, intricate peeks behind the scenes. Here the photographic content adds up to about 225 still frames.

Ever since the Criterion Edition of "Bram Stoker's Dracula" on laserdisc, I've been a sucker for a Scene Editing Workshop. (But you know, no matter how hard I tried with that one, I STILL couldn't get a decent performance out of Keanu Reeves!) Barry Sonnenfeld provides an elucite (and tongue-firmly-implanted-in-cheek) introduction to the workshop, which allows remote happy fingers to rearrange three of "Men In Black's" scenes directly form raw takes. I find these little workshops to be a lot of fun, but, for fifteen seconds of re-edited film, you learn that editing is a time-consuming process. The represented scenes are Jay's MiB Tryout, The Morgue and, my personal favorite because of the delicious, deadpan performance of Siobhan Fallon - The Farmhouse. If you're looking to break into filmmaking, be sure to tackle this trio of editing assignments.

Under Disc Two's MIIB Secret Files, there's a fluffy, four to five minute promotional glance at "Men in Black II." The highlight of this short piece is Lara Flynn Boyle's assessment of "bad girl" characters.

While promotional, it's might fine of the MiB to recommend the teasers for "Men in Black II" and "Stuart Little 2." The former's 5.1 Dolby Digital Encoding packs a whallop of sound, and Tommy Lee Jones' K loks properly official in his Post Office shorts. The latter is a Crayola-crayon colored confection with plenty of eye-candy in a short, short time span. ....and then there's the Original Theatrical Trailer for Sam Raimi's exciting, enticing "Spiderman."

Add it all up, put in the box, and you'll find a deluxe 12-paged booklet, that reads like a special feature all its own. Accompanined by notes from the director on both the film and the dvd, the booklet also has some fun features of its own. Also, the single disc edition must've been done by the fine folks at Reader's Digest, for its booklet has been condensed down to only eight pages.

 

It is certainly a cheap tie-in, but if you never picked up "Men In Black" on DVD before and want all the extras that are offered, this edition is certainly for you. If you already own the Limited Edition, then do pass since this is basically rehash.