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With its blend of comedy and coolness, MEN IN BLACK ($28) is the GHOSTBUSTERS of the 1990s. Hailing from the same movie studio as GHOSTBUSTERS, MEN IN BLACK features an offbeat story line, very cool high tech gadgets, plenty of comedy, not to mention being a tremendous box office success. Adapted from the comic book of the same name, MEN IN BLACK tells the story of a super secret agency known as Men In Black or MIB, which regulates and polices all extraterrestrial activity on Earth- a sort of INS for the intergalactic set. While, MIB keeps an eye on the respectable and cleverly disguised aliens living amongst humanity, their most difficult job is to deal with the dangerous "illegal aliens" who try to make the Earth their stomping grounds.

MEN IN BLACK stars Tommy Lee Jones as Agent Kay of MIB, who takes a new recruit under his wing, when his old partner is no longer able to do the job. Will Smith portrays the street savvy New York City police detective, who is recruited by Agent Kay after an encounter with an alien perpetrator. While his years on the mean streets of New York are helpful, the newly dubbed Agent Jay isn’t fully prepared for the arrival a nasty giant cockroach that stirs up an intergalactic incident, which could cause the destruction of Earth. Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith make a good team on the screen, although it is Jones’ deadpan delivery that seems to be getting the biggest laughs. Director Barry Sonnenfeld knows how to set up the film’s visual gags and he applies the same touch that worked so well in THE ADDAMS FAMILY movies. MEN IN BLACK also features a lot of impressive special effects that serve to push the film over the top and create a genuine crowd-pleasing winner. In addition to Jones and Smith, the delightful cast of MEN IN BLACK also features Linda Fiorentino, Vincent D'Onofrio, Rip Torn and Tony Shalhoub.

Columbia TriStar Home Video has done an amazing job with their DVD release of MEN IN BLACK, which makes up for the three-year wait that fans had to endure. MEN IN BLACK is presented in its proper 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio and the DVD has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. The transfer is pretty much flawless; delivering an image that is crisp, highly defined and free from any trace of film grain or blemishes. Colors are strongly rendered, while the flesh tones of the film’s human population appear healthy and natural. There are no traces of chromatic distortion in the image, nor do the film’s more intense hues show any signs of bleeding or smearing. Blacks are absolutely dead on- plus the picture displays a wonderful sense of depth and a very good level of shadow detail. Digital compression artifacts rarely make their presence know on this nicely authored dual layer DVD.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack is impressive enough to add to your list of demo discs to show off to your friends. There is plenty of activity in the mix, with sound effects rocketing in from everywhere. The forward soundstage has a very wide sense of presence that fully wraps around the viewer into the aggressively deployed split surround channels. Dialogue reproduction is very crisp and maintains full intelligibility despite a whirlwind of sounds that show up in the mix. Bass is strong and deep, which really enhances explosions, in addition to giving the track a full, rich sound. Danny Elfman’s super cool musical score is nicely integrated into the mix, taking full advantage of all five discrete channels, as well as the lower frequencies. English and French Dolby Surround soundtracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles. By the way, a separate DTS version of MEN IN BLACK is also available on DVD from Columbia TriStar Home Video.

MEN IN BLACK features some very stylish interactive menus that take advantage of full motion video, animation and sound. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a wealth of supplemental materials. MEN IN BLACK features a way cool running commentary with director Barry Sonnenfeld and star Tommy Lee Jones. The commentary has a video portion that places silhouettes of the two participants in front of the screen. Sonnenfeld and Jones also have the ability to draw on the screen and highlight the things they are talking about. My hat goes off to Columbia TriStar for pushing the envelope of DVD commentaries. In spite of the technical achievement, this is an amusing and highly informative commentary that fans are certain to enjoy.

The DVD also includes a six-minute featurette from 1997, as well as a new twenty-three minute documentary entitled Metamorphosis Of Men In Black. The documentary includes interviews with Sonnenfeld, Jones, Smith and special effects makeup genius Rick Baker. Character Animation Studies and Tunnel Scene Deconstruction are two of the features that take advantage of the multi-angle feature of the DVD format and both allow one to see the development process at work. Extended and Alternate Scenes offer a little extra footage that was probably better left on the cutting room floor, although the Bouncing Ball sequence minus the special effects shows how much work was done on that simple scene in postproduction. The storyboard comparisons effectively convey how close the finished film comes to the original drawings of several key scenes. Much of the film’s original conceptual artwork can be accessed on the DVD, as well as additional storyboards and photo galleries. Filling out the supplements are a teaser trailer, a full theatrical trailer, talent files and the Will Smith music video for the film’s title song. MEN IN BLACK is also DVD-ROM enabled for those with a properly equipped PC.

Columbia Tristar Home Video really delivers the goods with their DVD release of MEN IN BLACK. Not only does this DVD look and sound fantastic, the supplements are truly first rate. Fans of the movie shouldn’t hesitate to pick up MEN IN BLACK on DVD. Absolutely recommended.

Please note that the DTS version of MEN IN BLACK is identical to the Dolby Digital release. Additionally, Columbia TriStar has also prepared a Limited Edition two-disc release of MEN IN BLACK that includes even more features, although this disc is only available with Dolby Digital sound.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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