Men in Black Trilogy - 4K Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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Men in Black Trilogy



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Movie: :3.5stars:
Video: :5stars:
Audio: :5stars:
Extras: :4stars:
Final Score: :4.5stars:


WARNING: THE SCORES ABOVE ARE A COMBINED SCORE FROM ALL THREE FILMS, THE INDIVIDUAL SCORES ARE CONTAINED BELOW IN THE INDIVIDUAL SECTIONS OF THE REVIEW

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Movie

Wow, has it been 20 years since the original Men in Black came out? I was a senior in high school back then and remember going to the theaters after school to catch a 4:00 pm matinee showing with my best friends at the time. Now I’m sitting here going “wait? No! I couldn’t have been that young!”. I caught each and every sequel in the theaters over the years, and have all my Blu-rays proudly displayed on my shelf as eye candy thanks to Sony’s commitment to high quality releases over the year. So you can expect I was naturally a bit excited when I saw that the entire trilogy was being released in 4K this month. Especially with how well their catalog titles have turned out for us on 4K the last few releases. Well, just like I expected, the Men in Black Trilogy looks and sounds absolutely stunning on 4K UHD, and housed in a classy chipboard slip box to boot.


Men in Black :4stars:
There are few sci-fi monster movies as popular in the last 20 years as Men in Black. It starred a young Will Smith (who was just coming into his own after making it big with films like Independence Day and Bad Boys), and was filled with all of the special effects and explosions that modern cinema goers was craving. Tommy Lee Jones was also the veteran actor who was just coming off of a legendary career, and he acted as the perfect straight laced foil to Will Smith’s famous improvisational work, as well as Sonnenfeld’s explosive script. What went in was a decent idea with some great actors, but what came out was a franchise that has actually grown and become one of the most well known action/sci-fi trilogies of the last 20 years.

James Edwards (Will Smith) is a fleet footed, and smart mouthed, detective who has just gotten an eye opener. After chasing down a perp in New York City, he finds out that the world is filled with creatures a little bit different than just the standard humans. Most people would just shrug off his experience as seeing things, James gets a chance to peel back the curtain when a member of a super secret organization (so super secret that entire governments have no idea of its existence) named Agent Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) decides to recruit young James into their own. It seems that Aliens HAVE been on Earth for decades, and they have been living among us in secret while policed by the men in black (said super secret organization). Dying at a piece of the action, James (now dubbed agent Jay) is given a chance to become a part of something bigger than he thought.

They say that the first few weeks on a new job are the roughest, but this takes it to a whole new level. Right after Jay is given his new suit and partner (Agent Kay of course), he finds out that not all aliens are easily manageable. A bug from the out limits of the galaxy has come to look for a powerful artifact here on Earth that could be used as a power source for his people. Something that NO ONE wants to have happen, as the bugs are a vicious warlike race of creatures and giving them a power source like that would give them enough power to wipe out whole solar systems. Thus, it’s time for the Men in Black to rack em, stack em, and kick some alien butt.

Men in Black is a fairly simple movie at heart. We’ve seen it all before. The old wizened mentor is looking to create a replacement for the job he does, and in the process they form a fantastic friendship while saving the world. Rinse and repeat with a new shiny veneer on top. What makes the movie special is that its basically a live action cartoon (something which seems to be intentional) with two actors that really give it their all (three if you count a nearly unrecognizable Vincent D’Onofrio as the bug’s “skin”) creating the legendary film. Will Smith is young and brash, using the charm and charisma that made him so popular in Independence Day and Bad Boys to his advantage. Tommy Lee Jones is fantastic as the straight man in his films, and he gives a rock solid performance as the stoic, but soft in the middle agent who’s more than a bit battle weary after giving his life for this agency. With Smith’s young hotness (yes, I brazenly stole that parallel), and Tommy Lee Jones obviously superior acting ability, the duo just WORKS in ways that most people didn’t expect to. I have to give a nod to Vincent D’Onofrio as “the bug”. His off the wall portrayal and visceral body movements made it so that you almost couldn’t recognize the veteran actor, allowing him to goof off and create a hulking persona (or more hulking for the already tall man) that just is spot on perfect.

Men in Black II :2.5stars:
There’s an unspoken rule among the Hollywood brass that if a movie makes enough money (like 1997’s Men in Black did) then it’s almost certain to get a sequel. Even if no one really wanted or needed a sequel. Well, that’s exactly what happened here, as 5 years pass and Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones come back for another go at making the magic happen again. After Men in Black wrapped up so nicely with Agent Kay passing the torch to Jay and wiping his own memory, you would think that there would be no way to do t his right (unless they make a prequel of course). However, this is Hollywood, so the laziest of techniques and most obvious of plot twists are used to bring back the dynamic due to kicking alien butt and taking names again. Just with a let less entertaining results.

Last time we left the Men in Black, Agent Jay (Will Smith) had taken over Kay’s (Tommy Lee Jones) job as senior agent, and he’s now the king of the roost (so to speak). Unfortunately he’s not having much luck with partners either. His latest failure (played by Patrick Warburton) is sobbing into his pie after failing miserably, and Jay is about to pull his hair our (what little he actually has). Unfortunately it’s not his day yet, as Jay is about to face off against his most powerful foe yet, a shape shifting alien named Serleena who’s now masquerading on earth as a Lingerie model (I can think of worse forms to take). Serleena has taken over MIB headquarters looking for “the light of Zartha”, an alien device hidden on Earth (and then supposedly kicked off) decades ago by the agency’s best man. ANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNND you guessed it. That #1 agent happens to be the now memory wiped Agent Kay.

Now Jay has to go grab Kay (who’s now a post master named Kevin out in the sticks) and deneuralize him in order to try and find out WHERE the light of Zartha might be hiding on Earth (since it obviously wasn’t kicked off like initial reports said). Serleena gets a lead on the light (it’s hiding in a pizza joint in Queens) and barges in guns blazing and slaughters the owner right in front of his terrified employee Laura (Rosario Dawson). Unfortunately for her, Serleena can’t find the light and vanishes, leaving Agent Jay to mop up the pieces. For some unknown reason, Jay can’t find the heart to wipe Laura’s memory, so he decides to keep her viable as a witness to the scene (against Kay’s better judgement) and the trio are now on a hunt and dodge case to find the light, AND get Serleena off Earth before the world is doomed yet again.

Yup, this is basically a rehash of the first movie but kind of reversing Jay and Kay’s initial meetings. Jay is now the senior agent, and Kay has to be “taught” how to do things again. Kay still has his tough “go get em” personality underneath, which means that two alpha dogs are going to clash once again. If you thought that Men in Black was a live action cartoon, Men in Black II cranks it up a notch or two and makes it into a slapstick comedy with even more goofiness (you know stupidity is about to reign when Johnny Knoxsville is included as a character) to go around. Not much of it for the better either. Men in Black II isn’t really an awful movie, but it is certainly a forgettable one. The film rehashes most of the first film’s successes and just doesn’t happen to be as fresh or charming as its predecessor. To make it worse, the film feels “smaller” and more constrained than the previous fan favorite. The budget may have been higher, but it feels like there’s much less bang for your buck in the special effects, and the dynamics between Kay and Jay don’t work as well. Will Smith does his trademark improvisation for many of his lines, but too many of them feel forced and poorly edited. As if Sonnenfeld just gave up and let Will just mouth off the entire movie and didn’t even try to choose the best combo of lines.

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Men in Black 3 : :4stars:
Usually when a film as good as Men in Black rides onto the scene, and then follows it up with a film as inconsequential as Men in Black II, you don’t expect much from a third entry. ESPECIALLY after 9 years. Men in Black was a solid hit for Sony, and while Men in Black II was nothing spectacular, it was what it was. After a few years no one ever expected for the original cast to come back for a third entry, but Sony shocked EVERYONE When they announced 14 years after the original (and 9 after the sequel) that they were going to go around for one more ride on the merry go round. Even though we though “it can’t be any WORSE than Men in Black II” nobody every really thought it would as GOOD as the original. Something that Sonnenfeld and crew somehow magically did.

I know a lot of people thought that Men in Black 3 was ALMOST as good as the first, I’m one of the people who think that it is every bit as good as the first, and in some ways superior. Men in Black was a fantastic piece of sci-fi/action/comedy that worked with a brash Will Smith, but Sonnenfeld uses the third as a way to bring the series back around full circle. Employing a more mature and wise Will Smight (as well as Agent Jay) and manages to pull off a third act twist that is beautifully touching and makes for the perfect completion to the trilogy.

It’s 14 years in the future compared to when Agent Jay and Kay met, and things are settling down. The two men are still partners, and they’re still cleaning up the mess from aliens visiting Earth. However, a boglodite assassin named Boris the Animal (Jermaine Clement) has escape from a secret prison on the moon and is back to kill the person who shot off his arm 40 years ago. Yup, that’s once again the fault of a young Agent Kay, and now the chickens have come home to roost. This time it’s not an all out assault on MIB headquarters like Serleena. Boris is a much craftier villain and he’s decided to do this the easy way. Go back in time using illegal time travel tech and kill Agent Kay before he has a chance to take Boris’s arm. A little thing that just so happens to undo Kay’s work at saving the Earth from a boglodite invasion in the future. Sooooooooooooo, that leaves only one option. Jay has to time travel back in the past to stop Boris the animal, from stopping his own imprisonment and saving the world in the process.

Jumping back to a day BEFORE Boris arrives, Jay tries to stop the event that shapes the future, but fails when a young Agent Kay (Josh Brolin) captures him and brings him back to MIB headquarters. With the future in risk, Jay has to figure out a way to convince Kay of his intentions, AND save his partners life (and humanity) in the process. A feat that requires the two to track down a 5th dimension alien who happens to have an alien shield that can be used to protect the earth from attack in the future. Easy as pie, right?

Men in Black III is just more of the same on the surface. We’ve got aliens coming to take over Earth, a device that can save all of human kind to look for, and lots of bug zapping. What makes this sequel so worth it is HOW the movie plays out, and how the characters interact. Tommy Lee Jones is getting rather old at this point, and you can see it in his face during some of the dialog, but he’s luckily shifted to the side for a majority of the film as Josh Brolin takes on the role (a nice touch instead of using a CGI overlay for Jones). A role that he does MASTERFULLY. Brolin was easily the best part of the movie, playing a young Tommy Lee Jones down to the T, with mannerisms, facial ticks and all. However, he only JUST edges out Jermaine Clements, who is incredible as Boris the animal. The series has not had a villain this complex and this well played to date. Vincent D’Onofrio was great as the bug, but he still can’t hold a candle to the physical presence and vocal power that Clements brings to his roles.

Action is bigger and more expansive than ever, making the already constrained Men in Black II look even dinkier when compared to this one. As big as the characters are, and as fantastic as the Brolin and Clement are, Will Smith once again proves that his and Tommy Lee Jones interactions are the best. Smith has become an older and wiser agent Jay, but he also matured a lot as an actor as well, which fits in perfectly with the persona in film that he’s playing as well. There’s a sort of ease and comfort in the way that he and Tommy Lee Jones interact with each other, as if the partnership and friendship is real on this side, as much as it is in the film. Something that makes the powerful third act even better.

Which brings me to my last point. The third act. I’ve always loved the series, and it seems that director Barry Sonnenfeld does too, as he put a LOT of effort into making the sure this film came full circle and complete the relationship between Jay and Kay. I would have a hard time saying there’s anything really deep and strong enough in the first two films to elicit snuffles and a few tears, but the third entry weaves in a sub plot that makes the viewer’s jaw drop and make you realize that everything we’ve seen before was connected for a purpose, and does so in a way that actually makes for an emotionally uplifting and powerful ending. A move that actually raises the movie up to being on par with the 1997 film. A feat I didn’t think was possibly after the 2002 sequel.




Rated PG-13 for language and sci-fi violence / Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and some provocative humor / Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, and brief suggestive content




Video: :5stars:
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Men in Black :4.5stars:
Lets get to the goodies. The 2008 Blu-ray for Men in Black was considered a fantastic looking Blu-ray for the time, and it holds up quite well today. The only problems seem to be some washed out black levels and a little bit of crush. HOWEVER, when compared to the 4K UHD there’s absolutely no comparison. The 4K disc is leaps and bounds better than the old Blu-ray which shows improvements in just about every way. The standard 4K resolution jump with detail is there in spades (mostly small textural details as well as a cleaner facial mapping). The big thing comes with the use of HDR (duh) and the details in the black levels. Comparing the silky blacks of the 4K disc to the Blu-ray yields a shocking comparison. The Blu-ray seems almost green tinged at times, with washing out in the night sky (look at when the bug ship crashes into the truck at the beginning) and a mush feel. The 4K disc is deep and black, with picture perfect detail in the night sky. The colors are also the biggest leap, with the dull oranges of Smith’s pants looking solid enough, but the 4K makes them vibrant and punchy, with a saturation level that really shines in 4K. Out of the three films Men in Black shows the most improvement over the old disc thanks to it being the oldest, and makes you appreciate the upgrade all the more.

Men in Black II :5stars:
Much like its predecessor, Men in Black II sports a very healthy upgrade over its Blu-ray counterpart. Shot entirely on film and processed in 2K (at least from what I have been able to find out, I can’t see any information on 4K remaster being done) for the final work. The film has a uniform grain texture to it, maintaining that filmic look while showing off incredible detail with the upgrade. Once again, the blacks and colors show the most detail, as the dark exterior shots show off silky blacks and big improvement in shadow detail all around. The glossy interior of the MIB headquarters is sharp and precise, with the sheen of metal railings and “Ipod white” walls popping with color. Clothing details show off detailing that I never noticed before on the Blu-ray and the colors themselves are just GORGEOUS too look at. The overly abundant noise that was present on the Blu-ray is gone and in its place is a 5 star UHD film that is WELL worth the cost to get in.

Men in Black 3 :5stars:
Men in Black 3 shows the least IMPROVEMENT of the trilogy (mainly because it was a later film with an already stunning Blu-ray presentation), but that doesn’t mean it looks any less of a 5 star image than the rest. The movie was a rarity at the time, being filmed with a combination of 35mm film stock like the other two, as well as digital cameras to create a shiny and glossy looking MIB film that looks amazing on whatever medium you have it on. The film’s tone and feel is very similar to the rest, with brightly lit daylight sequences, overshadowed by lots and lots of night time encounters that really stress the black level capabilities of the disc. Blacks are silky deep and inky black as usual, and the use of HDR makes the neon tones of energy blasts and unicycle bikes all the more potent. The CGI is a step up from the weakness that was in Men in Black II and those little shiny bits show up magnificently. Basically, another fantastic encode from Sony in this trilogy.



Audio: :5stars:
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I debated over separating each of the three films out into individual scores for this review, but then I realized I’d be doing nothing but a copy/paste for most of it as the three films share a VERY similar sound design and are all 5/5 star stunners on the new UHD discs. As such, they are all pretty much identical in all major ways. The Blu-rays had some very VERY nice 5.1 DTS-HD MA track back in the day, but these upgrades to Atmos are once again, well worth the price of admission. The tracks are wide and spacious, with all sorts of encompassing moments like Serleena trying to get he light at the end, or the roar of the bug trying to blast off from earth while under fire from Kay and Jay. Action scenes are incredibly intense and powerful, with deep waves of bass reverberating through the sound stage and the overheads actually get some hefty workouts from the new mix. Listen to the bug ship trying to achieve liftoff and hear it blast on overhead as it goes by the baseball game. These Atmos mixes took already incredible sounding mixes from the Blu-rays and just gave them the boost needed to be fantastic.







Extras: :4stars:
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Men in Black 4K

• Moments
- Agent Jay
- Agent Kay
- Edgar
-The Aliens

Men In Black Blu-ray

• Audio Commentaries
- Telestrator Commentary with Director Barry Sonnenfeld and Tommy Lee Jones
- Audio Commentary with Director Barry Sonnenfeld and Tommy Lee Jones
- Technical Commentary with Barry Sonnenfeld, Rick Baker and Industrial Light & Magic Team
• Intergalactic Pursuit: The MIB Multi-Player Trivia Game
• Ask Frank The Pug!
• Extended and Alternate Scenes
• Metamorphosis of Men In Black
• Original Featurette
• Visual Effects Scene Deconstruction
• Character Animation Studies
• Creatures: Concept To Completion
• Galleries
• Storyboard Comparisons
• Scene Editing Workshop
• Music Video: “Men In Black”
• Men In Black Trailers

Men In Black II 4K

Moments
- Agent Jay
- Agent Kay
- Laura
- Serleena

Men In Black II Blu-ray

• Audio Commentary with Director Barry Sonnenfeld
• Alternate Ending
• Blooper Reel
• MIIB: ADR
• Design In Motion: The Look of MIB II
• Rick Baker: Alien Maker
• Squish, Splat, Sploosh: The Stellar Sounds of MIB II
• Cosmic Symphonies: Elfman In Space
• Barry Sonnenfeld’s Intergalactic Guide To Comedy
• Creature Featurettes
• Serleena Animatic Sequence
• Multi-Angle Scene Deconstructions
• “Black Suits Comin’ (Nod Ya Head)” By Will Smith

Men in Black 3 4K

• Moments
- Agent Jay
- Agent Kay
- Young Agent Kay
- Aliens

Men In Black 3 Blu-ray


• Spot The Alien Game
• Partners In Time: The Making Of MIB 3
• The Evolution Of Cool: MIB 1960’s Vs. Today
• Keeping It Surreal: The Visual FX Of MIB 3
• Scene Investigations
• Progression Reels
• Gag Reel
• “Back In Time” Music Video By Pitbull





Final Score: :4.5stars:


Sony did a fantastic job with this trilogy for the upgrade to 4K UHD. The technical specs are absolutely flawless (or close enough to not quibble or half a star) and the packaging is top notch. The discs come housed in card board fold over trays (individual ones for each film) and those three cases are then housed in a sturdy chipboard case that just wreaks of quality. My ONLY “complaint” or negative feeling about the package stems from the fact that just about all the extras are just the included Blu-rays, and the few new ones (dubbed “moments” on the 4K UHD discs ) are fairly innocuous and forgettable. However, the films are just as fun as they have always been, and the bang up job on the technical specs makes this set from Sony a must buy for those who love the movies.



Technical Specifications:

Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Johnny Knoxsville, Rip Torn, Rosario Dawson, Vincent D'Onofrio
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (all three)
Written by: Lowell Cunningham, Ed Solomon / Lowell Cunningham, Robert Gordon / Lowell Cunningham, Etan Cohen
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 HEVC / 1.85:1 HEVC / 1.85:1 HEVC
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Core) (all three films), French, Hungarian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Thai DD 5.1, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: Sony
Rated: PG-13 / PG-13 / PG-13
Runtime: 98 Minutes / 88 Minutes / 106 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: December 5th, 2017







Recommendation: Highly Recommended
 
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thrillcat

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I even liked MIB 2, so this is a must-have.
 

Michael Scott

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then you will be pleased. I can't iterate enough how great they look and sound in 4K and Atmos.... the first movie is especially shocking in the differences
 

tripplej

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Thanks for the review. The series is great. :)
 

Jon Liu

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Yeah, put me in the category of liking #2 as well. I ended up buying this one even before I heard all the reviews. I watched part of the first one and was really excited to see the rest of the movie and the sequels. Looks like I am in for a treat for part 2 and 3 visually!
 

Todd Anderson

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Very cool... I'm hitting BUY! Great reviews Mike!
 

Todd Anderson

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Watched MIB 1 today... movie holds up well and improvements to audio and video are totally deserving of the praise Mike dished out. Certainly didn't sound like a 20 year old movie. Massively robust and warm on the audio front! Great Atmosphere encode, too!!
 

Michael Scott

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I was shocked by the run of catalog 4K titles that Sony and a few others put out. I was getting 5 star reviews for specs and I almost felt bad for giving so many of them out lol.

we got a couple more in the wings coming out this week too :greengrin:
 

Todd Anderson

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Sweet!

You need to hit pause for a few days, Mike!
 
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