Still saving the world – “Men in Black: International”

Updated: Sep 19, 2019


4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS

(1) Chris Hemsworth (Agent H) and Tessa Thompson (Agent M) are the latest MiB team within the franchise that launched in 1997, with Will Smith (Agent J) and Tommy Lee Jones (Agent K). (2) The alien twins played by Laurent Bourgeois and Larry Bourgeois are able to shift from a solid to liquid to gas seemingly at will. Their species was exterminated by The Hive.





4K frame shots courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment


“MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL”


4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2019; PG-13 for sci-fi action, some profanity and suggestive material; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), Apple (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)


Best extra: Good, but no standouts










CHRIS HEMSWORTH and Tessa Thompson, what a natural team-up for the fourth sequel in “The Men in Black” franchise. Nice to see we’ve still got men and women saving Earth from the scum of the universe.


The Hemsworth-Thompson team first scored in “Thor: Ragnarok,” one of the best action/comedy films of 2017. With a cast that included Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo and Cate Blanchett, that film rocked. Viewers were hoping for the same fun in “Men in Black: International.” 


The fourth "MiB's" outstanding cast includes Emma Thompson, who returns as O, head of NYC MiB operations, and Liam Neeson as London Operative, Hight T. Kumail Nanjiani provides the voice and live-performance capture for Pawny (good alien), while Rebecca Ferguson plays Riza (bad alien). Other villains arrive as a pair of twins, Laurent Bourgeois and Larry Bourgeois, who toured with Beyonce for six years and seem to be made of rubber.



(1) Agent H (Hemsworh) and Agent High T (Liam Neeson) arrive at the Eiffel Tower to stop the invasion of the Hive. (2 & 3) A young couple is neuralyzed, while Agent H and Agent High T use their carbonizer guns.





The good news is the Hemsworth-Thompson chemistry still lives. The script by writing team Matt Holloway and Art Marcum of “Iron Man” has good bones, but they’re also responsible for the fragmented “Transformers: The Last Knight” and “Punisher: War Zone.” It’s an issue again. Despite the best intentions, Director F. Gary Gray of “The Fate of the Furious” and other sequels seems out of his element. Without a flair for comedy, he’s not a good fit. So again we learn even the best actors need something to work with.


“MiB No.4” starts in Paris at the Eiffel Tower, where Agent High T (Neeson) and trainee Agent H (Hemsworth) are assigned to stop the invasion of the Hive, a parasitic race of nasties that conquer planets by combining their DNA with the resident species. Then comes a flashback to 1996 New York showing how young Molly Wright (Mandeiya Flory) saw her parents being nueralyzed (memories wiped) by MiB agents. She also meets a young alien and helps him escape. This begins her lifelong odyssey to find out about, and then become a member of MiB.


An older Molly (Thompson) breaks into the MiB headquarters, and is brought before O (Emma Thompson), who hires her on temporary status, with an assignment in England. O suspects there might be an alien mole in the London branch. As Agent M, Molly is paired up with the charismatic Agent H (Hemsworth), who's very popular with humans and aliens alike. A meeting with Vungus the Ugly (Kayvan Novak voicing one of three parts) ends in disaster. He is killed by a pair of electrified alien twins, but manages to slip a crystal to Agent M before he dies. 


Cutting past the post-death confusion, we learn the crystal is yet another ultimate weapon, a compressed planet set to explode. So there’s a time-table. It all mirrors the 1997 “Men in Black” plot that starred Will Smith (Agent J) and Tommy Lee Jones (Agent K) and a brilliant Vincent D'Onofrio as a giant alien cockroach. Incomprehensible turns from Holloway and Marcum attempt to pull off a similar feat, but the story skids out of control. Hemsworth, Thompson and Neeson give it their best shot. In fact, they try almost too hard. There are great moments, but they seem like skits. 



(1) Young Molly Wright (Mandeiya Flory) watches her parents being neuralyzed by MiB agents from her bedroom window. (2) Molly's encounter with a baby alien. (3 & 4) 23 years later, Molly discovers an alien landing in Brooklyn after she penetrates a MiB holographic force field to conceal the agents rounding up aliens.






VIDEO

Needless to say, running at nearly two hours, “MiB 4” could have used some edits. Digitally shot with Arri Alexa cameras in 6.5k and 3.4k resolutions, the Sony Pictures presentation is available in 1080p and 2160p formats (2.00:1 aspect ratio). It was mastered in 2K, due to heavy CGI, and upscaled to 4K.

The difference between the 4K UltraHD and 1080p is closer than usual. Color is slightly more nuanced and detail sharper, but the standard Blu-ray holds its own in comparison. It was filmed on location in New York, London, Morocco and Italy, which somehow look more like sets. Perhaps it’s the CGI?



“Within a lot of the scenery we’ve been building, some of it’s practical, some of [it’s] fragment sets, where we would build the necessary part. The VFX takes them over, and the art department allows you to do a huge range of different looks.”Charles Wood, production designer



AUDIO

So the eight-channel Doby Atmos is the win-win soundtrack, an exclusive on the 4K UltraHD. Sound is all over the room, delivering crystal clear dialogue, and a variety of effects from subtle to boom! There are storms, lightning, night club and party sequences, chase scenes and fights throughout. Bass is excellent, giving subwoofers a nice workout. Still, it’s all nicely balanced and excess thunder doesn’t distract.


The Blu-ray provides a good DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 channel soundtrack, but lacks the stellar punch of the Atmos’ 8 channel track.


Composer Chris Bacon (“Bates Motel,” “When We Rise”) riffs on Danny Elfman’s original score. Additional music has its roots in ‘80s pop, with Missy Elliot and Pharrell's “WTF (Where They From),” Fergie’s “London Bridge,” “Sex Shooter” from Apollonia 6; Anderson Paak’s “Bubblin,’” and Sean “Diddy” Combs’ “Diddy Rock.” Rachmaninoff’s “Élégie in E Flat Major, Op. 3, No. 1” adds serious class.



(1) Molly follows the MiB agents back to their New York headquarters and gains access to the base, which triggers a Code Black. (2 & 3) She's questioned by Agent O (Emma Thompson), head of the NYC detachment of MiB. (4) Agent H spends the night with an alien, since she had the serum for an alien snake bite.






EXTRAS

Eleven bonus features are found on the Blu-ray disc, including 10 deleted scenes, a gag reel, an “Alien Shopping Network” offering “Alien-cestry.com,” and “The Neuralyzer: Like it Never Happened.” “In Case You’ve Been Neutralized: MiB Recap” brings us up to date by revisiting the three previous films.


“New Recruits, Classic Suits” covers the cast and their characters; “Let’s Do This! Inside the Action & Stunts”; “Look Right Here: Gadgets, Weapons & Rides”; “Expanding the Universe of MiB” on location shooting; “Frank & Pawny’s Peanut Gallery” highlights the cuter creatures; and “The MiB Meet the NBA,” has players revealing their alien identities to agents H and M.


Will there be a fifth MiB? Not soon since “MiB: International” lost money, even with its worldwide box office. Promotion put it over budget. It’s too bad since there’s so much possibility. Would I watch it again? For Hemsworth and Thompson, yes.


Kay Reynolds


(1) Pawny, a pocket-sized alien wiseacre (Kumail Nanjiani) (2 & 3) Agent High T and two alien MiB agents welcome new recruit Agent M to the London base. (3 & 4) Agent H and Agent M meet Vungus the Ugly (Kayvan Novak), a member of an alien royal family at an alien nightclub.





(1) Agent H and Agent M escape from the streets of Marrakesh, Morocco with a rocket-powered bike. (2) Novak also plays a man with an alien creature beard called Bassam. (3) The rocket-powered bike crashes in the Merzuga Desert in eastern Morocco. (4) Alien arms dealer Riza Stavros (Rebecca Ferguson). (5) The diabolical three-armed Riza fights Agent M.







(1 & 2) Riza's bodyguard Stravos catches Agent H, but the alien recognizes Agent M as the child that saved him two decades earlier. (3 & 4) The Hive-controlled High T has Agent H in his grip and activates a wormhole that could draw all of the Hive to Earth.







TRAILER


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