Men in Black: Limited Edition
With the arrival of Barry Sonnenfeld's inventive Men in Black on DVD in September of 2000, we can finally look back on the previous decade of high-season blockbusters and come to one conclusion unlike Godzilla or Independence Day or Deep Impact or the rest of the big-budget bunch those few summers ago, Men in Black manages to be effortlessly watchable, popcorn-munching entertainment without insulting anybody's intelligence. Being a comedy, the viewer isn't forced to labor over the numerous plot holes (nor should we) that made Godzilla such a head-slapping heap; like Armageddon, there is a race to save the planet from imminent destruction, but this part of the story is actually underplayed; and Men in Black wins on the charisma-count as well, with Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith's ceaseless verbal sparring. This sort of big-budget film doesn't come along often enough, and that's a shame. Jones stars in Men in Black as "K," a veteran agent of the clandestine "MiB" alien-monitoring agency, a group that has the dual purpose of controlling all alien residents on Earth (it's just like Casablanca, K notes, "but no Nazis") while ensuring that the Homo Sapien natives of our inconsequential planet have no inkling that extraterrestrials live in their midst. But, like any organization, people come and people go, so from time to time MiB must recruit "the best of the best of the best" in this case greenhorn agent "J" (Smith), an NYPD cop who joins the elite black-clad ranks based on the fact that he ran down a panicked Cephalopoid on foot (not an easy thing to do, we are assured). But just as soon as J is issued his Armani single-breasted suit, sunglasses, and funky wristwatch, a mass exodus of aliens from Earth indicate something is rotten in the state of New York a "bug" kills and inhabits the empty corpse of a farmer (Vincent D'Onofrio), using the rapidly decaying disguise to hunt down an extraterrestrial dignitary and capture a valuable artifact. Thus, stonefaced K and wiseass J undertake a manhunt (or bug-hunt), joined along the way by a coroner (Linda Fiorentino) who may know too much, as well as a mysterious cat who holds the keys to a universe. Men in Black: Limited Edition features an excellent anamorphic transfer from a flawless source print with audio in DD 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 Surround, and features on the two-disc Limited Edition set include a "visual commentary" with Sonnenfeld and Jones (in MST3K style with silhouettes), a "technical commentary" with Sonnenfeld, creature designer Rick Baker, and some folks from Industrial Light and Magic, a "visual effects scene deconstruction" demonstrating the tunnel sequence and the Edgar Bug final fight sequence from concept to completion with five angles (use your remote to shuffle through them or let them run sequentially), both with optional technical commentary, five alternate scenes, a 23-minute "behind-the-scenes" short, a six-minute featurette, "character animation studies," featuring storyboard materials and conceptual art, three photo galleries, theatrical trailers, the Will Smith "Men in Black" music video, cast and crew notes, and a "scene editing workshop," which allows the user to edit three brief moments in the film from various shot selections.
(Editor's Note: Men in Black is also available on DVD from Columbia TriStar in Dolby Digital or DTS Collector's Series editions, but without the technical commentary, the Edgar Bug scene deconstruction, the editing workshop, and some conceptual art features.)