Men in Black
I love "buddy films," and Men in Black is one of my favorites. Pairing the funny street-smart Will Smith with the straight man Tommy Lee Jones was a brilliant casting move by director Barry Sonnenfeld. Mix in a fun script, excellent CGI work, and the beautiful Linda Fiorentino (as coroner Dr. Laurel Weaver), and it's easy to see how this was the second-highest grossing domestic film behind Titanic in 1997.
Sony has been very consistent with its Blu-ray releases, and the AVC encode presented here continues this stellar tradition. Given the age of the movie, I didn't expect the print to be in pristine shape, but it looks as clean and clear as most day-and-date releases. Black levels are above average, with some slight elevation at times, but the shadow delineation is phenomenal. Another big upgrade over the Superbit DVD is the color saturation, specifically in the CGI aliens, which come alive in 1080p with brilliant color reproduction.
Forgoing PCM, Sony decided to use a Dolby TrueHD 5.1-channel soundtrack. Danny Elfman's musical score is one of the movie's many highlights, with its dynamic presence throughout. Dialog is firmly rooted in the center speaker and is always intelligible, even in the high-octane action sequences when the bass shakes the foundation and discrete effects are flying around the room.
Men in Black features a BD-Live game called "Intergalactic Pursuit: The MIB Multi-Player Trivia Game," in which up to eight players can connect to the Internet and test their MIB knowledge. Those without an Internet connection can also play by themselves, and you are awarded more points based on how quickly you answer the questions.
The other bonus features include an "Ask Frank the Pug!" game (think Magic 8-Ball), a BonusView telestrator commentary by Barry Sonnenfeld, some behind-the-scenes featurettes, a Will Smith music video, deleted/extended scenes, and some trailers. The quality and quantity of bonus material befits the blockbuster roots of MIB, but loading the disc and selecting different bonus features on my Panasonic DMP-BD30 were excruciatingly slow. After 15 minutes of frustration, I gave up and moved the disc to my PS3, which was quick as lightning. Hopefully, as Blu-ray matures, the speed of standalone players will approach the user experience that the PS3 affords.
Men in Black is a fun film, and the treatment on Blu-ray is first-class. I watched it with my two kids, and they really enjoyed it (although the foul language didn't impress my wife). I was a bit dismayed by the slow loading time of the BD-Live disc on the BD30, but as an early adopter, bumps in the road are to be expected.
Release Date: June 17, 2008
Film: 8 out of 10
Picture: 9 out of 10
Sound: 9 out of 10
Panasonic DMP-BD30 Sony PS3
JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)
Belkin PF60 power conditioner
M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer
Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector