Men In Black Blu-ray Review
PictureMiB is a ten year old flick but the print is in excellent shape. It's been transferred onto disc at 1080p using the MPEG-4/AVC codec and framed at a theatrically correct 1.85:1. As mentioned the print is quality, there's no sign of grain and no noise has been introduced in the transfer process. That being said though there are a couple of scenes, specifically over looking Manhattan where there's an excessive amount of grain and noise on show. It's almost as though stock footage of this scene has been used. Light couldn't have been an issue for one of these scenes if shot during the day in glorious sunshine. The night time shot of a similar angle again shows these defects and that to a degree could be understood.
Apart from that minor quibble MiB has never looked so beautiful. The frame has incredible depth, look for instance at the scene where Smith and other Captain Americas are on the shooting range; as Z comes in to say they only have the eye test left there is a shot of all of the 'combatants' looking backwards - all are at different depths from the camera and all stand out on screen as though you could meander through them all. Depth again is apparent in MiB's headquarters with enough pristine in focus detailed action dragging you back into the frame. Parts of the movie like these demand repeated viewings to get the best from them.
Because of the fine transfer, detail is excellent with a myriad of information for you to feast your eyes on and enjoy. You could pause any scene in The Universal Pawn shop and wonder at the number and range of items Jeebs has on display. All of these items are presented in all of their glory for you to see; you could almost pluck the strings on some of the guitars hanging on display.
Colours are vibrant and contained with only the MiB headquarters perhaps being muted somewhat. Obviously an artistic decision though and not something caused by a poor transfer. Blacks are deep and velvety which is apt for a title of this name. The dark skies and the Agent's suits almost sucking the viewer in. Shadow delineation is excellent and brighter sunbathed scenes never bloom. This BluRay edition of MiB is an excellent transfer overall, only let down by a few brief scenes which really stop it from hitting that top spot.
SoundThe English track supplied on this disc is a very worthwhile Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and like the video before it, MiB has never before sounded better. During the opening scenes you realise you're in for an upgrade treat here as the slight flutter of the dragonfly's wings can easily be identified over Danny Elfman's excellent score. The tonal range is exquisite with nothing lost in the mix, discrete sounds like the wings mentioned above not being lost in the overall sound stage.
Directionality is again on display during these scenes and this continues throughout the film with the surrounds in use as and when they need to be; in play when they're needed rested when they are not. Directionality from the dragonfly, from cars in the New York Streets, in the atomic ball which J unwittingly lets loose through the MiB headquarters. Further ambiance is created by the surrounds with some chatter and background noises apparent in the headquarters and of course street sounds from the bustling metropolis of New York.
Low frequencies have a discernible chest punch to them with predominantly the weaponry on use throughout the film providing the effects. Also the initial craft crashing on Edgar's farm will make your teeth rattle a little. Like other discrete effects the dialogue is not lost in this melee with the centre channel coming through loud and clear and like many high resolution audio tracks always on the button. But it is the constant progression of Elfman's score that really adds vitality to the mix, with a wide open front stage driving the movie forward; as I say it's never before sounded better. Yes I've heard some better tracks out there with perhaps more pin sharp use of directionality or just slightly more depth, but I was thrilled with this new track.
ExtrasThe double disc special edition which was released had a wealth of extras and although I never double dipped for that one (you have to draw the line somewhere) I'm relaibly informed it made excellent use of the DVD format and specifically the multi angle feature. It seems then that Sony have taken that concept and moved it to the next level as here they are using Java to it's fullest to upgrade their version content.
- Commentary with Barry Soddenfeld and Tommy Lee Jones.
This commentary comes in two versions, a Telestrator version and the normal voice over. I preferred the Telestrator not because there's any additional information because there isn't; it just that with this version the silhouettes of Sonnenfeld and Jones can be seen at the lower part of the film; in a similar vain to Mystery Science Theatre presentations. It's a good jovial track with Jones again coming across as laconically funny. Other that that it's what you would expect from a commentary with the usual pieces of information regarding locations, creature effects, writing and the like.
- Technical commentary Barry Sonnenfeld, Rick Baker and The ILM Team.
Lovers of the technical stuff will have a field day here, both creature / make-up God Baker and some members of the ILM team give up their time to tell us how certain scenes were constructed. Sonnenfeld's in there as well but it's not really his affair and there is some repetition from his earlier commentary. Baker himself seems to have been beamed in via some electronic connection and at times his voice is a little weak and has a definite echo to it which at times makes some of what he is saying difficult to make out. Apart from that another enjoyable affair and one not to be missed.
- Intergalactic Pursuit - Multi Player Trivia Java Game.
Another attempt at inserting a Java based game onto disc. This one allows a number of players (or me in this case) to participate in a multiple choice question and answer session against the clock. The quicker you answer the more points you get. I scored 35 which is enough to make me a MiB agent apparently. I tried this for a second time to see if the questions were random and unique and they seem to be but a second attempt hung my software player. Something I'll come onto in my summation.
- Ask Frank the Pug !
A throw away piece where you're supposed to 'think' of a question then Frank, the pug dog from the film, answers your question by 'reading your mind. Try it once then give it a miss.
- Extended and Alternate Scenes. - 0:04:21
A collection of additional scenes, Edgar Bug leaving the restaurant, an extended shooting range scene, a further examination of J's alien teacher, K & J in the restaurant after J's initial memory zapping and the atomic ball scene without the ball. Most of these are not really worth the watch apart from the ball scene to see how the scene itself was constructed before they inserted the special effects.
- Metamorphosis of Men In Black. - 0:23:12
A good featurette where a number of cast and crew are allowed time on screen to discuss the part they had to play in bringing MiB to our screens. Jones indicates he was a fan of the original sort lived comic franchise, Baker has some excellent input and it's more than apparent that if he wasn't on board then it wouldn't be the film that it was, at times he certainly took a steering role. There's a good discussion on the CGI shots near the end of the film and the cost adding an addition $4.5million to the final budget.
- Original Featurette. - 0:06:38
An standard EPK and more or less a shorter version of the one mentioned above. As these things are this is really nothing more than an extended trailer really. It does have some very brief interviews but nothing major as you would expect.
- Visual Effects Scene Deconstruction.
This is the start of a number of additional extras which on the DVD used the multi angle feature and now with the wonders of modern technology use Java to achieve the same effect. 2 scenes are chosen, the car in the tunnel and the Edgar bug fight and the menu below allows you to view either the storyboard, bluesceen, bluescreen composite, lighting and animation or the final cut. As you select each menu option the actual footage appears in a small window over on the right hand side of your display. This is an excellent use of the technology to quickly and seamlessly flow through a scene's production, seeing what was done at separate times.
- Character Animation Studies.
Similar to the above and again Java controlled with the same interface this allows you to examine Mikey, Jeebs and the Worm Guys as they progressed from their preliminary wire frame models through the texture added the lighting and animation and again how it all finally looked on screen.
- Creatures: Concept to Completion.
Examination of 5 creatures from the film. This again is Java controlled and presents a gallery of sorts where the intial drawings for the characters are presented. On pressing your enter key you see the next drawing and the picture actually morphs from one stage to another so you can see the development of the creatures on show.
Storyboards, conceptual art and production photos are available in these three galleries, again Java controlled. There's a mass of photos to wade through here and something for everyone from make-up to cast and crew on set photos.
- Storyboard Comparisons.
3 scenes where the storyboards and live action from the film on on screen at the same time. The majority of the screen though is made up of backgrounds and the actual storyboards and video appear in small windows. A good excuse to move up to a good, large projection system.
- Scene Editing Workshop.
An unusual one this and something that once you've looked at it once you'll quickly disregard it as you know the odds are staked against you ever achieving something which is remotely interesting. It allows you to chop and change a number of scenes together given the basic building blocks. It's not that great actually and rather frustrating.
- Music Video: Men in Black. - 0:04:19
Will Smith and crew doing their 'thang' with this hit single.
- Men In Black Trailers.
The original and teaser trailer for Men In Black. There are also 4 other trailers on the disc for recent releases.
There's a mass on this disc to get through, the two commentaries are well worth a listen and the extended featurette is worth a good look as well. Where this disc really scores though is in its valiant attempt at extensive Java usage. Now I say valiant because in all honesty although the content they have placed in these code snippets are well worth a watch the actual implementation is a little flaky and I'm not quite sure if this is due to disc authoring or the software player I'm using. Certainly Cyberlink's PowerDVD Version 8 didn't want to know anything about them, not displaying the Java snippets at all well. However Arcsoft's Total Media Theatre did a sterling job and came to the rescue. However when you're finished with the Java snippet and move back to the main menu the whole disc reboots itself and you have yet again to go through the initial loading process and this really does become grating. If this happens with stand alone machines or not I cannot say so if someone could enlighten me I would appreciate it. Also on this disc is a BD-Live extra and although I tried it, every time it came up failed download. I don't know again if this is because officially the disc has not been released yet and the extra content it not yet available or if it's just plain broke. I'll try on the 17th and get back to you.
Apart from the technological issues I loved the extras, it's a worthwhile set which deserves some attention.
VerdictYes I enjoy Men In Black, In 1997 I loved that time warp feeling as I thought I was being transported back to an age when fun movies had pride of place. I love the writing, the score and the acting by both Smith and Jones but particularly by Tommy Lee Jones who really takes this film to his heart and storms away with it.
The effects are second to none and a worthy feather in Bakers cap, he just seems to go from strength to strength and even to this day it's hardly been bettered, the creatures fit in so well to this feature it's a joy to behold. The video and audio are more than worthy upgrades and from this point of view this is a no brainer for those people who like the movie, it's definite upgrade potential. For those of you who have yet to sample its delights then please do so as I feel most will enjoy it.
It has it's weaknesses but those are really of a technological nature introduced because the whole BluRay specification is an evolving, moving target. However that aside, MiB is a storming summer movie, it's now summer so don those glasses and go kick some alien butt.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.95
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- Commentary with Barry Soddenfeld and Tommy Lee Jones.