Men In Black Blu-ray Review
The disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 1.85:1 1080p transfer that is encoded with the AVC MPEG-4 codec. I found this transfer rather frustrating to score. Let me explain; for the most part the transfer is good, very, very good in terms of detail and colouring and in others you are left thinking what's happened to that glorious picture? Take the scene when K and J investigate the Bug crash landing site; here the detail is superb, the blades of grass waving in the wind, individual soil grains when K tests it, even the pattern of the awful wall paper in the house are pin sharp perfect; yet immediately afterwards the image softens noticeably, not to SD levels but enough for me to comment on. This seems to crop up throughout the picture, Jones' craggy skin is shown up in all its pitted glory, yet Smith's is rather soft. Background detail can be exquisite, check out Frank the Pug's or Jeebs' respective stores, for example, and remains pretty consistent throughout, though I felt the final fight did slip a little.
Colours too are bewilderingly inconsistent; Smith's red jackets shines like a beacon in the MiB office, Mikey's blue blood also gleams, check out the bold striking colours of the flags as Edwards chases down the bug at the beginning of the film; sharp defined at absolutely clear; yet others scenes tend towards the drab, flesh tones too tend to wander a little thought there is no wash or bleed.
Brightness is set to give some good deep blacks still showing detail, the black suits have weave for example, the training shoot out exercise shows wonderful depth to frame, but the final fight did tend to shorten slightly, the blacks becoming slightly murky. Contrast is set to show of some good whites, no boosting means no difficulties and there is no detail lost.
The original print is pretty much free from damage though there were some annoying instances of grain, particularly in some skylines, which positively crawl, other less obvious examples are seen when Edwards takes the written test in the MiB headquarters. No problems with digital compression though but there was some ever so slight edge enhancement that, fair to say, most will probably miss.
So, why so frustrating? Well, for the most part I was extremely pleased with this picture, it is clean and bright, well detailed with bold colouring, not quite reference but very close. Then we have these few problems that creep in, the slight inconsistencies, that whilst I make a big thing are relatively minor but are nevertheless noticeable, at least to me. But I don't think they are bad enough to warrant a loss of mark, certainly the picture is worth an 8 on our scale, but a lower 8 than my last two reviews - if that makes sense.
The disc has no less than six sound tracks to choose from English and German Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround, Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, reviewed here is the English track. This is a pretty impressive surround mix with plenty going on to keep you and your speakers entertained. This sweeping sound and directionality starts right from the off with the dragon fly buzzing around the screen and the room, this is amplified by Elfman's typical score and the passing engine noise of the traffic. Move to the serene outback of Edgar's homestead as he berates his wife and the thundering crash landing of the bug or to the traffic filled streets of New York and the general ambiance thereof; all place you in the centre of the 'action'.
There is good bass with plenty of natural sounds including dialogue which is spot on, there is directionality when called for and plenty of surround effects when called on, take the ball that nearly destroys the MiB headquarters for example. LF effects were limited to various explosions and weapon shots, but it is satisfyingly deep, perhaps not as deep as it could have been but enough to 'feel' at the right volume, especially the crash landing of the Bug trying to escape.
Elfman's score is pumped through all the speakers is well separated, but does, at times, come through a little front heavy, tilting the stage in that direction a bit, but this is forgivable when the rest of the sound makes up for it. Doesn't quite hit the reference mark, the skewing towards the front and the real depth of bass pulling it back from there, but nevertheless a very good track indeed.
- Audio Commentary with Barry Soddenfeld and Tommy Lee Jones
Can also be played with telestrator which means there is a little silhouette of the pair in the bottom centre of the frame with the occasional line 'drawn' in to expand on their explanations. The pair make a pretty good team, plenty is discussed from casting, choices, design, locations shoots, effects etc. etc. with Soddenfeld coming across a knowledgeable and Jones with a sly wit that adds much to the listen.
- Technical commentary Barry Sonnenfeld, Rick Baker and The ILM Team
Rick heads up a very technical conversation about all the effects of the film, both practical and CGI with various members of ILM putting their considerable knowledge on the table, Sonnenfiled doesn't make much of an impact here and when he does talk he is a bit repetitive, the real meat comes with the deconstruction and development of the huge amount of effects shots needed to make the film work. A bit hard going at times, but worth the effort of listening too.
- Extended and Alternate Scenes - 0.04.21
Four scenes are included here that add little or nothing to the finished product, with the possible exception of the Ball scene which is good to look at from a 'before they added the effects' point of view. Probably removed due to timing but there is no explanation for their excise.
- Metamorphosis of Men In Black - 0.23.12
A short making of featurette that packs plenty of interviews with cast and crew discussing plenty of behind the scenes info into is run time. Not too polluted with film padding and comes across without too much back slapping.
- Original Featurette - 0.06.38
A, thankfully, very short 'entertainment channel' ad for the film masquerading as a behind the scene featurette.
- Visual Effects Scene Deconstruction
Utilising Java technology you can view two scenes (car in the tunnel and Edgar bug fight) in their various stages of development right up to the finished product by selecting from the list on the left of the page, options are: storyboard, blue-screen, blue-screen composite, lighting and animation and final cut; each option being viewable a few seconds after you click.
- Character Animation Studies
Uses the same technology and page design as the above feature; allows you to choose a character (from Mikey, Jeebs or the Worm Guys) and watch their development from wire frame, through to skin, lighting and eventual final screen finish.
- Creatures: Concept to Completion
Once again uses the same technology and page design as the above features; allows you to select a character and while pressing enter watch them morph through their various designs until you reach the finished design.
Contains three galleries; Storyboards, conceptual art and production photos, once again Java controlled, plenty to see from every aspect of the production.
- Storyboard Comparisons
View three scenes against their original story board pictures, I never liked these, but it's niftily done, uses same page design as the above features making everything a little small though.
- Scene Editing Workshop
Allows you to construct you 'own film' from three scenes and different camera angles, a clever idea but even without the introduction is still rather easy and predictable.
- Music Video: Men in Black. - 0.04.19
Smith's hit song from the film.
- Men In Black Trailers and trailers
As it says.
- Intergalactic Pursuit - Single or Multi Player Trivia Game
Once again Java controlled, pick either single or multiplayer and answer multiple choice questions that may or may not have any relevance to the film within a time limit; faster you answer the higher the score. Tried this several times and never once did the same question appear.
- Ask Frank the Pug
Awful; ask Frank the Pug a question, pick from five possible areas into which your question falls and Frank will give you a glib answer of sorts. Best ignored.
- Alien Subtitles
No matter what I tried I could not get these to appear.
- BD Live
The first official disc with BD Live capabilities; the server only went live on 15 June and there is precious little there as yet. Takes an interminable long time to log on and once in anything you do seems to take as long (long being 10 minutes or more - and I have a 20 Mbps connection). The page design is pretty good, and there is plenty of downloadable clips from available Blu-rays and the trailer for Hancock (Smith's latest superhero film) though this is also available in the disc as a trailer. You can also play the multiplayer version of the trivia game against other people. Apparently there are new things to come but as yet, there was nothing new specific to this film and it all came off as one big ad for other Sony products.
Men in Black is a terrific popcorn film, thoroughly entertaining and an enjoyable watch. Jones and Smith make a very likeable team with the whole concept coming off as a first rate story very well told. This was a huge hit upon its initial release and it has lost none of its lustre since then.
As a Blu-ray disc this package is pretty good; very nice picture and sound is backed up by a wealth of extras, perhaps not as in depth as some might like, but like the film are entertaining enough to keep you coming back. I never had any of the compatibility issues that Keith seemed to have with his US disc (and I spin mine in a US machine) with only the speed of BD Live becoming annoying. A recommended disc.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.99
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- Audio Commentary with Barry Soddenfeld and Tommy Lee Jones