MEN IN BLACK II
Okay, I got to admit it- MEN IN BLACK II ($29) lacks the originality of the first film and immediately gives the viewer a sense Déjà vu all over again. However, I should also point out that this is a Hollywood movie sequel, and Hollywood movie sequels usually are little more than retreads of the original films that spawned them. Now despite being a bit too familiar for its own good, I actually liked MEN IN BLACK II and had a lot of fun watching it. The chemistry that existed between Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith is still there, plus the movie’s special effects are even bigger and even better. On top of all that, Lara Flynn Boyle makes a great alien villain and her "underwear model" scene is more than worth the price of admission.
As with the original film, the plot of MEN IN BLACK II revolves around an ultra-secret agency that protects the Earth from the scum of the universe. MEN IN BLACK II takes place several years after the events depicted in the first film, which ended with the unexpected retirement of Agent K (Jones). The departure of the legendary Agent K created a void in the agency and left Agent J (Smith) unable to find a worthy partner. In fact, all of Agent J’s rejected partners have found themselves tossed out of the agency and their memories wiped clean. However, when a rather nasty alien named Serleena (Boyle) makes an unexpected return to planet Earth, it is necessary to call Agent K out of retirement to deal with her. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done, since all of Agent K’s vital memories were erased the day he left the agency. The cast of MEN IN BLACK II also features Rosario Dawson, Johnny Knoxville, Rip Torn, Tony Shalhoub and Patrick Warburton.
Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made MEN IN BLACK II available on DVD in a 1.85:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays (a separate full screen version is also available for those with a picture tube to fill). Not surprisingly, the wizards at Columbia TriStar have conjured up another superb looking DVD with the wide screen release of MEN IN BLACK II. The image is wonderfully crisp and very finely detailed. Colors appear very vibrant and are rendered without noise or smearing. Flesh tones are fairly natural, but always appealing. Blacks are velvety, while the whites appear clean and crisp. Contrast is uniformly excellent and the picture produces impressive shadow detail. The smoothly authored dual layer DVD doesn’t betray any noticeable signs of digital compression artifacts.
In addition to the terrific picture, MEN IN BLACK II features an excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. The mix is pretty darn aggressive, with the sound designers creating a cohesive, but decidedly fun, sonic experience. There is plenty of activity in all of the channels- including highly effective use of the split surrounds. Sounds pan around in the entire soundstage in an effortless, but completely convincing manner. Dialogue is cleanly rendered, with excellent intelligibility and nice natural timbre. The bass channel is very deep and certain to give one’s subwoofer an effective workout. Additionally, Danny Elfman’s engaging musical score is rendered with excellent fidelity. A French 5.1 channel soundtrack has also been encoded onto the DVD, as have English and French subtitles.
Animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a nice array of supplements, which have been spread across both DVDs of this two-disc set. Disc one includes a running audio commentary with director Barry Sonnenfeld, which is both amusing and informative. The commentary works very well on its own, but has also been enhanced with a telestrator option, in which the director illustrates his own comments with on screen drawings. The Alien Broadcast feature provides an interactive mode for watching the movie, in which viewers can access supplemental footage with their remote controls whenever an icon appears on the screen. Frank's Favorites offers a selection of Columbia TriStar theatrical trailers, including MEN IN BLACK II, as well as an animated short entitled The Chubb Chubbs.
On disc two, one will first find the MIIB Orb, which offers access to nine featurettes that can either be watched all together or one at a time. The featurette section include the following programs MIB ADR, Design in Motion - The look of MIB II, Rick Baker - Alien Maker, Serleena, Jeff, Frank the Pug, Squish, Splat, Sploosh - The Stellar Sounds of MIB II, Cosmic Symphonies - Elfman in Space, and Alien Esoterica. Disc two also include a number of other interesting features. Scene Deconstructions utilizes the multiple angle feature to show five special effects sequences in various production stages. The Serleena Animatic offers an early design phase look at a sequence from the film. The Blooper Reel offers a few truly funny moments, but the five minutes presented here are mostly slightly amusing bits with the actors flubbing their lines. Creature Featurettes offers another section of short programs, including some alien creature designs and the amusing Barry Sonnenfeld's Intergalactic Guide To Comedy. Theatrical One Sheets is a gallery of poster art. The Will Smith music video for Black Suits Comin' (Nod Your Head), plus cast & crew filmographies close out the video section supplements. On the DVD-ROM section, one will find various web links and the film's screenplay.
MEN IN BLACK II may not be the most inspired sequel ever produced, but it is an amusing ride for ninety minutes. As for the DVD, it looks and sounds terrific, plus Columbia TriStar has put together a rather impressive collection of supplemental materials. If you are a fan of the first movie, then MEN IN BLACK II is a DVD worth picking up.
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