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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, Dutch, English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Additional footage - MIB training video
  • Deleted scenes - alternate ending
  • Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary - by director barry sonnenfeld
  • Photo gallery
  • Animated menus
  • Music video
  • DVD-ROM features
  • Documentaries
  • Multiple angle
  • Filmographies
  • Dolby Digital trailer
  • Gag reel

Men in Black II

Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 84 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Full of colour, sound and action, but totally bereft of dramatic weight and narrative flair, Men In Black II is the quintessential Hollywood sequel. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing.

The original film, released in 1997, was a surprise smash. Obviously a big budget sci-fi action/comedy produced by Steven Spielberg and starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones was expected to perform well, but the extent of its success - box office receipts of almost $600 million, thus becoming the fifteenth biggest film of all time - was staggering to all concerned.

Funnily enough, it was this windfall that seemed destined to prevent the production of a sequel. The huge salaries and box office percentages that the stars, director and producer were demanding on the back of MIB's success seemed prohibitive to the studio. But five years and many negotiations later, we have a sequel that is essentially a rehash of its predecessor's winning formula.

Yup, the film's tagline - "same planet... new scum" - may as well read: "same plot, characters, gags, sets and music... a few new cast members."

One of these new additions is Serleena, an evil Kylothian monster disguised as a sexy(-ish) lingerie model who looks a lot like Lara Flynn Boyle. She's hunting around New York City for a precious alien artifact that could spell doom for the good people of Earth.

Agent Jay (Will Smith) is now a seasoned pro, a veteran of many skirmishes with hostile aliens and a master of battling said villains whilst leaving the general populace none the wiser. This is achieved by a mixture of stealth, subtlety and his trusty neuraliser, a device that wipes the recent memories of any witnesses to the Men In Black's extraterrestrial activities.

Unfortunately, the only man who can beat Serleena to her goal is Jay's former mentor Kay (Tommy Lee Jones), who at the close of the last film was neuralised (at his own request) and returned to his life as a postal clerk, free from the responsibility of protecting the planet from vicious monsters whilst having to live a lonely life in the shadows of society. When Jay brings Kay back into the fold and reinitiates him in the ways of all things MIB, it's time for our heroic duo to begin bickering, bonding, shooting and wisecracking their way to victory against Serleena and her hideous cohorts.

After it's over, you may feel like you've been neuralised yourself; the film is so lightweight that it's all but forgotten by the next day. But if you don't mind trading originality and depth for a handful of nice gags, two great leading performances (Smith and Jones still do a great wisecracking smartass/deadpan stick-in-the-mud routine), imaginative alien designs and a quick (eighty-four minutes!) bout of competent sci-fi fun, then Men In Black II is for you.

  Video
Contract

We're supplied with the expected 1.85:1 16x9 enhanced presentation. The image quality is perfect... perhaps a little too perfect. Like the first Harry Potter film and The Mummy Returns, a sharp and detailed small screen image brings some surprisingly dodgy special effects to the fore, without the expanse of the big screen or the distraction of video noise to disguise them.

Not that I'm complaining about the flawless nature of the transfer; I'm just puzzled by the amateurish nature of some of the effects, like the horribly fake second head on Johnny Knoxville's character and the poorly composited scene in which Will Smith rides atop a giant worm speeding through the subway.

But in all fairness, perhaps it's all part of the joke; Sonnenfeld intended to make a big and ballsy surrealist live action cartoon, not a serious sci-fi epic.

  Audio
Contract

MIB II... sorry, MIIB boasts a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix that really can't be faulted. The surround speakers and subwoofer get an exhausting workout as spaceships zoom, lasers pulse, music blares, and bizarre alien thingamies make bizarre alien noises. The ever-dependable Danny Elfman reprises his score from the original - indeed, it often sounds note-for-note identical - and even Will Smith's end credits rap number is embarrassingly enjoyable.

  Extras
Contract

So many extras...

Firstly, the animated menus deserve special mention. The sheer volume of and detail in these screens is laudable, and a cavalcade of cute humorous touches put the unimaginative interfaces of many other recent releases to shame.

Director Barry Sonnenfeld supplies an audio commentary with optional telestrator diagrams - that is, as Sonnenfeld talks he can highlight areas on the screen to reinforce his points. It's a nifty feature (I believe it was used on the original DVD as well). Sonnenfeld is an amiable speaker with plenty of interesting technical points to make but, due to the exhaustive nature of MIIB's extras package, most of what he discusses here is repeated in other featurettes and interviews.

The MIB Training Video, wherein Patrick Warburton (still best known as Elaine's deadpan boyfriend in Seinfeld) uses interviews with Australian celebrities to illustrate the art of detecting disguised aliens, is a good idea executed horribly. The script is shockingly flat and the segments with Eddie McGuire, Sarah O'Hare and poor Kieren Perkins are simply embarrassing. We appreciate the effort though...

Alien Broadcast lets you click on icons as the film plays to see even more behind-the-scenes secrets revealed, much like the 'Follow-the-White-Rabbit' option on The Matrix. A nice idea, but the short docos destroy the flow of the film and are clumsier to access than straight menu-driven extras.

There's a bunch of MIIB movie trailers (not too exciting), other film trailers (including Ghostbusters, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Stuart Little 2) and video game promos. Yawn.

The alternate ending is an amusing two-minute affair. The special effects are unpolished and the video quality is imperfect, but it's a nice bonus nonetheless.

The biggest and best extra is The Orb, which gives you access to a nine-part behind-the-scenes featurette that can be accessed one part at a time, played from chapter 1 through to 15, or even programmed to appear in the order of your choice (not that you'd ever need to do so...). Topics covered include Rick Baker's superb creature designs, the hilarious canine MIB Frank the Pug, Lara Flynn Boyle's vampy performance, Jones and Smith's feelings about returning to the world of MIB, director Sonnenfeld's work ethic, Danny Elfman on creating the music for the film, the art of sound effects and dialogue looping, and production designer Bo Welch's amazing sets and props.

The short docos are informative and often amusing, but perhaps a little too glossy. Where's a discourse about the commerce-driven nature of the sequel? The financial and legal minefield that made the sequel look like an impossibility for so long? A look at (or even oblique mention of) the comic book upon which the series is based?

There's no gutbustingly hilarious outtakes to be found in the blooper reel, but it's cute enough to be worth your time.

I'm horrified to say that I quite enjoyed the SFX-heavy music clip for Smith's rap track Black Suits Coming (Nod Ya Head). My conversion to the Dark Side is nearly complete...

Seven creature featurettes focus on the creation of individual aliens. Much of this info is present in the other extras - indeed, the Serleena and Alien Esoterica shorts are identical to the those in the aforemetioned Orb.

Five multi-angle scene deconstructions give us an interactive look at the creation of some of the more effects-intensive scenes: the Opening Sequence, Jay & Jeff, Car Chase, Jarra Fight Scene Part 1, and Jarra Fight Scene Part 2. Interesting to the layman, rivetting for the aspiring filmmaker.

A photo gallery of poster artwork and selected filmographies of key cast and crew are included for the sake of comprehensiveness.

Barry Sonnenfeld's Intergalactic Guide to Comedy is a short and sweet insight into the director's understated approach to humour, also evidenced in films like the Addams Family series and Get Shorty.

A short animatic depicting Serleena's arrival on Earth is included too.

The Chubb Chubbs is an original five minute 3D computer-generated animation from Sony ImageWorks. It's a nice sci-fi gag film (not MIB related), with cameo appearances by Darth Vader, Yoda, Giger's Alien, and ET. The graphics are fantastic and there's a great punchline at the end.

Apparently there are DVD-ROM extras including a game demo, movie script and web links, but this DVD-ROMless reviewer will just have to trust Sony on that.

  Overall  
Contract

MIIB is a glitzy but insubstantial sci-fi action/comedy that's hard to dislike but harder still to love. It's a note-perfect reprise of the first film, which means that MIB fans eager for more of the same - exactly the same - will be more than satisfied. Top-notch video and audio, combined with a comprehensive extras package, make this a good value-for-money purchase.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=2165
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      And I quote...
    "MIIB is hard to dislike, but harder still to love. It's a note-perfect reprise of the first film, which means that MIB fans eager for more of the same - exactly the same - will be more than satisfied. Top-notch video and audio, combined with a comprehensive extras package..."
    - Terry Oberg
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Palsonic DVD3000
    • Receiver:
          Diamond
    • Speakers:
          Diamond
    • Centre Speaker:
          Diamond
    • Surrounds:
          Diamond
    • Subwoofer:
          Diamond
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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