Men in Black [Blu-Ray] Barry Sonnenfeld

Men in Black [Blu-Ray] Barry Sonnenfeld
Arriving in advance of this summer's Men in Black III are rereleases of the first two films. Men in Black, released once before on Blu-Ray, comes this time in a slipcase with the roman numeral "I" boldly Photoshopped behind stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. The suggestion is that we remember the film as just the first of many instalments, the lessened solo emphasis hopefully giving extra foundation to the shaky franchise that's been built over the last 15 years. When Men in Black arrived in theatres in 1997, however, it wasn't planned as the first in a series, being based on an obscure comic book property. If anything, it carried the weight of a sequel, burdened with repeating the success that Smith's Independence Day had when it opened on the same weekend the previous summer. Back before the differentiation between "TV stars" and "film stars" became obsolete, there was no guarantee that the Fresh Prince would provide a big enough draw for audiences. Watching Men in Black now on Blu-Ray, "fresh" is a word that captures what works about the movie. Smith's screen persona as a chafed-but-charming loudmouth is already well defined and the actor complements the rest of the film in a way he would eventually abandon for more dominating roles. The Blu-Ray highlights the great attention to detail of director Barry Sonnenfeld, best known at the time for his two Adams Family films. The special effects more than hold up now and make every frame worth paying attention to. Combined with the comedic timing of its actors and composer Danny Elfman's jaunty score, the film feels more substantial than its brisk, 90-ish minutes. The Blu-Ray has many special features, including a number from previous releases, forming a sort of retrospective of past DVD offerings. The staple commentaries are here, including a "Telestrator Commentary," a visual feature that allows Sonnenfeld and Jones to point and draw on the screen, in case they need to for some reason. The deleted and extended scenes are just a handful of connecting story fragments though. Also included are a tedious trivia game and a feature called "Ask Frank the Pug," which operates like a Magic 8 Ball. Given how much creativity was densely packed into just an hour-and-a-half film, it's surprising that the approach to rest of the franchise ― sequels, spin-offs and homevideo releases alike ― has been so uninspired. (Sony)