Updated: Jul 29, 2022
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
(1) Will Smith as Agent J, formerly NYPD cop James Darrel Edwards III, and Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K, originally Kevin Brown. Both work for the MIB Special Services. (2) Vincent D’Onofrio plays Edgar, a hillbilly farmer, whose body is now inhabited by a nasty alien “bug.”
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“MEN IN BLACK: 25th ANNIVERSARY EDITION”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy; 1997; PG-13 for profanity and sci-fi violence; streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: The new “Director’s Chair” featurette with director Barry Sonnenfeld
FOR THE 25th anniversary 4K Ultra HD steelbook edition of “Men in Black,” Sony Pictures decided to record new interviews with director Barry Sonnenfeld and four-time Oscar-nominated production designer Bo Welch (“Edward Scissorhands,” “A Little Princess”).
First up, Sonnenfeld, who says it’s really been 30 years since he became involved with the production – originally, with the development and the script. He left the project for a period of time to direct the adaption of Elmore Leonard’s dark comedy “Get Shorty” (1995) starring Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, Danny DeVito, and John Travolta. When the cameras finally began rolling in March 1996, he never felt he was making what would become the No. 1 domestic grossing film of 1997. “Men in Black” premiered July 2 and topped Spielberg’s second installment of “Jurassic Park: The Lost World” and, for a brief moment, it out-grossed James Cameron’s “Titanic,” which didn’t hit theaters until a week before Christmas.
The director considers its success to the on-screen chemistry between co-stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. “It’s a little buddy movie and if you don’t have Will and Tommy Lee, it wouldn’t have done nearly as well,” he says. “You needed a straight man and a funny man.” Smith’s ad-libbing, which runs throughout is hilarious, especially when he jumps off an flyover-bridge onto a bus filled with tourists. “It just be raining black people in New York,” Smith quips off-the-cuff.
(1) A van loaded with illegal immigrants is stopped at a INS checkpoint. (2) The composite subtitles from the 35mm film source are used, which causes the image to be softer. Agent K speaks Spanish, and Mikey, an alien just released from jail doesn’t understand. (3) Border Patrol officer Janus (Fredic Lehne) and his men don’t believe Agent K, that he and Agent D are from INS - Division Six. (4) Agent K removes Mikey’s disguise. (5) Officer Janus finds Mikey being interrogated by Agent K and Agent D. (6&7) Mikey races toward Janus and Agent K shoots. Janus and the other agents see a bright flash from the Neuralyzer, and they lose total memory of the event.
Once Sonnenfeld read Ed Soloman’s (“Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”) snappy script based on the Malibu comic-book series (a subsidiary of Marvel), written by Lowell Cunningham and illustrated by Sandy Carruthers, he wanted Will Smith to play Agent J, the hot-shot, streetwise NYPD cop James Darrel Edwards III. His wife first recommended Smith since she was a huge fan of NBC’s sitcom “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” starring Smith, who had yet to star in the sci-fi blockbuster “Independence Day” (1996).
Sonnenfeld’s contribution was selecting Tommy Lee as the gruff MiB veteran, Agent K of the off-the-books government agency keeping tabs on the sizable alien population of 1,500, mostly in New York City. All the agents are dressed in classic black suits and black ties, a pickup from the comic, but first reported in the 1950s of ‘men in black’ interrogating witnesses to UFO sightings.
The “Men in Black” tale reveals Earth is under attack by a nasty alien “bug” that inhabits the body of a hillbilly farmer (Vincent D’Onofrio), who craves sugar and leads to a showdown at the 1964 World’s Fair site in Queens. Delightful co-stars include Tony Shalhoub as Jeebs, an alien pawnshop owner; Siobhan Fallon as the farmer’s wife, and Linda Fiorentino as medical examiner Dr. Laurel Weaver.
During the second interview with Sonnenfeld and Welch, they recall driving around Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs to scout locations when they spotted the simple art-deco concrete cube with a door in the middle of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel Ventilator Shaft. They knew right then it would make an outstanding exterior for the MiB headquarters.
(1) A spaceship crashes into farmer Edgar’s prized pickup. (2&3) Edgar’s body now inhabited by the alien bug, asks his wife Beatrice (Siobhan Fallon) for sugar water. She says, “Edgar, your skin is hanging off your bones.” So, Edgar stretches his facial skin. (4) NYPD cop James Darrel Edwards III (Will Smith) catches an alien Cephalapoid (Keith Campbell). (5) Edwards is questioned by his superior officer and NYPD Sergeant (Michael Goldfinger) who couldn’t keep up with Edwards during the chase. (6&7) Tony Shalhoub as Jeebs, an alien pawnshop owner is questioned by Agent K and Edwards.
Welch’s mid-century monochromatic design of the alien terminal would be a marriage between Frank Lloyd Wright’s Johnson Wax building and Finnish Eero Saarinen’s TWA terminal at New York’s JFK airport that opened in 1962. Today, it’s been repurposed into a first-class 512-room hotel, with a rooftop infinity pool overlooking the JFK runways.
On the enclosed 16-year-old Blu-ray, you can listen to or watch the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” style visual commentary with Sonnenfeld and Tommy Lee. The guys are funny and sarcastic. Watch out for Sonnenfeld using an electronic pointer like NFL analyst Tony Romo. The original script had Agent K and Agent J monitoring and policing aliens in Kansas, Nevada, Los Angeles, and New York City. But the director demanded that the tale be moved to his hometown, The Big Apple, where he felt aliens would feel more at home.
The 1080p disc and digital include three featurettes, extended and deleted scenes, storyboards, visual effects highlights, art and photo gallery, music video, technical commentary with the FX team, deconstruction of the final bug battle, and a three-scene editing workshop.
(1) Agent K gives Edwards an invite card to come to MiB HQ - 504 Battery Drive. (2) Edwards drags a table across the floor during the MiB exam, showing his ability to adapt. (3) Next is the target range for the MiB training. (4) Agent K introduces Edwards to the Worms in the coffee room. (5) “All right kid, here’s the deal. At any given time, there are around 1,500 aliens on the planet,” says Agent K. “Most of them, right here in Manhattan.”
The 4K master has been recycled, sourced from Sony’s scan of the 35mm camera negative and composite shots (1.85:1 aspect ratio) for its 20th-anniversary edition in 2017. Film grain and clarity vary from top-notch to a slightly softer image during the composite subtitles and visual effects. That can be seen when Agent K speaks Spanish, questioning a van loaded with illegal immigrants, and Mikey, an alien just released from jail. The original theatrical subtitles with a heavier typeface have resurfaced, while the previous 4K disc used a lighter subtitle typeface found on most discs.
The old Blu-ray is not worth watching, except to sample the extras. The imagery is soft from start to finish sourced from an ancient 2K home video master. The colors are oversaturated and the nighttime scenes are way too bright – all adjusted for old SD and HDTVs.
This new 4K edition has been upgraded with the more advanced Dolby Vision along with the standard HDR10. Plus, the overall light level has increased from an average level of 584 nits to 701 nits. Both 4K editions have the same video bitrate output, mostly in the 50-megabit range per second, which is solid, but limited by using the smaller 66-gigabit disc. A 100-gigabit disc would’ve given each frame more room to breathe, but overall it’s a very good 4K presentation and well worth an upgrade.
The eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack is ported over from the previous 4K disc, with plenty of height speaker action with effects, and Danny Elfman’s knockout Oscar-nominated score for a first-rate enveloping environment. The only negative, we wish the bass response would've been more aggressive.
So what are you waiting for? The 4K steelbook is a nice touch.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
(1) Edwards gets his official MiB uniform, “The last suit he’ll ever wear.” (2&3) Alien Gentle Rosenburg (Nike Nussbaum) a member of the royal family, and fellow Arquillian (Carel Struycken) have lunch, but they are hunted down by Edgar to get the Arguillian Galaxy. (4-6) Agent K and Agent J on their first assignment together find alien Reggie Redgick (Patrick Breen) and his wife in New Jersey. Agent J helps with the delivery of their newborn.
(1&2) Agent K & J visit Beatrice at the family farmhouse. (3&4) Linda Fiorentino as pathologist Laurel Weaver, discovers the Arguillian Gentle Rosenburg inside the human-robotic exosuit. (5) Edgar grabs Weaver inside the NYC morgue. (6) “You don’t like it, you can kiss my furry little butt,” says Frank the Pug. (7) The composite visual effects shot of Agent K & J racing through the Queens-Midtown tunnel. (8) K&J shoots down Edgar’s flying saucer. (9&10) The final showdown.