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Working for a highly-funded but low-profile government agency, K (Tommy Lee Jones) and J (Will Smith) are two of the Men in Black, who work amongst the many secret aliens in Earth, mostly in Manhattan, protecting us from the scum of the universe. They work in secret and they dress in black. When K’s older partner retires, K must find a new partner. The most likely candidate is NYPD cop James Edwards (Will Smith) who recently had a close encounter with an alien with some valuable information. After K and the head of the "Men in Black" operation, Zed (Rip Torn), recruit James, his identity is erased. The MiB operation soon becomes concerned when the city's resident aliens begin to flee - triggered by the presence of a "bug," or alien assassin. This alien terrorist takes over the body of Edgar (Vincent D'Onofrio), a gruff country bumpkin, and sets out on a mission that might cause an intergalactic war. Dr. Laurel Weaver (Linda Fiorentino) gets involved after an unusual autopsy and more or less assists K and J to find the bug and prevent the Earth from being destroyed.

The word ‘cool’ will be liberally used around this DVD by the target market of 18 – 35 year old (mainly) males. But this DVD is much more than a cool piece of entertainment around a fun movie – a movie that sprang from a comic, one of the great (and often underrated) repositories of writing invention. The ultimate DVD on its release, Men In Black provides its worldwide audience an entirely new experience of its own ‘culture’ as well as a lesson in filmmaking that stretches from the simple to the extraordinarily complex.

As the list of features at left signals, either version of the DVD is worth owning. Of course, the film itself, whether in full screen (pan and scan) or widescreen, is a joy to see and hear. It’s funny and dynamic, and sitting so close to it, there is a new verve in many of the scenes. It certainly stands repeated vieweing – even by those like me who are a little outside its prime target demographics (by a generation or so).

Some of the features are for the seriously obsessed: like the scene deconstruction in Creating MIB, which devotes 10 – 15 minutes to each scene, allowing you to go from one layer (like storyboard) to the next, all the way up (to final cut). This is as good as film school at home gets. Oh, no, actually the scene editing workshop is even better: there are three scenes to play with (yes, I know, you could handle a dozen…) and it redefines ‘interactive’ as a description for DVD features.

In fact, we get the feeling that there are even more ideas being thrown around here than could be contained within the movie. We see the extent of creativity beyond the frame; we see just how much invention and energy went into this film. For example, discussion raged for eight months on just how should the Edgar bug punch Will Smith during their fight scene (bug fight deconstruction with angle options). Director Barry Sonnenfeld (pic) finally won his case against the FX guys: he wanted it jokey, a human-like ‘roundhouse’ punch. It may seem a trifle excessive, but it’s symbolic.

Even the photo gallery, a standard enough DVD feature, excels by its sheer variety and volume.

The menus – which alone cost an extra US$250,000 – are superbly stylised; they are imaginative and in keeping with the film’s design themes. The oh-so-cool music video is … well, oh-so-cool, and the creature feature (concept to completion) is a wonderful insight into the alien world conjured up by the film.

Then there are the two commentary versions; in the first, director Sonnenfeld and Tommy Lee Jones are silhouetted (small) against the screen, their body language adding an extra element to their comments. It’s all very ad-lib, almost like a double act, and sometimes funny.

The technical commentary has Sonnenfeld again with a team of four, including Rick Baker (make up effects artist), who is responsible for the aliens. This is all detailed material that will appeal to the ardent fans – and movie buffs.

Baker explains, for example, how Mikey, the first alien we see in the movie, is made – and why. And there is a brilliant explanation of how that marvellous ‘best of the best of the best’ aptitude test scene was developed, in which Will Smith is the only guy – out of all the trained military boys, etc – to think outside the square.

Like his character, the makers of the film and this DVD deserve a ‘best of the best of the best’ medal.

There is enough information on this DVD to spawn an entire trivial quiz game of its own. Perhaps two.
Andrew L. Urban

A movie on DVD is not just another form of video: it offers the filmmakers unprecedented opportunities to use everything they shot and more - and talk directly to their audience. Men in Black - released worldwide on September 5, 2000 - comes in two versions, including a Limited Edition with 13 hours of entertainment on the DVD and will impact on filmmaking and alter our consumption of movies, says Andrew L. Urban.

Our Cover Story: August 31, 2000




We gratefully acknowledge the complimentary use of a DVD player from Philips.


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HEAR Andrew L. Urban & Louise Keller talk about the DVD in Real Audio.



CAST: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino, Vincent D’Onofrio, Rip Torn

DIRECTOR:Barry Sonnenfeld

RUNNING TIME: 81 minutes

DVD RELEASE: Sept 5, 2000


AVAILABLE: Oct 5, 2000

(retail approx $37 – $39)
Special Features:
Animated menus

Audio & 'live' video commentary by director Barry Sonnenfeld & Tommy Lee Jones

Behind the scenes documentary 'Metamorphosis of MIB'

Original behind the scenes featurette


Extended & alternate scenes

Music Video

Character animation studios (uses Angles)

Original movie trailers

Bonus trailers for Stuart Little & MIB II

Tunnel Scene deconstruction (angles & optional commentary by ILM creative team); Talent profiles

LIMITED EDITION (2 disc set: 13+ hours)
(retail approx $55 - $60)
Exclusive Features
Dual ratio – original widescreen & full screen versions

Audio commentary by director, make-up effects artist Rick Baker & ILM creative team

Interactive 'Scene editing workshops' with director introduction

‘Edgar bug fight’ deconstruction with optional commentary (angles)

Creatures: Concept to completion animated art gallery

Expanded storyboard gallery

Expanded conceptual art gallery

Expanded production photo gallery

12 page collector's booklet

DVD ROM features & weblinks

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