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Will Smith burst onto the acting scene playing himself in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, a US TV sitcom about a black suburban family and their daily tribulations. With a background as a rapper, and a copious amount of energy and dedication to his new profession acting, Smith soon built up a good reputation in the industry, landing some smaller films before his big cheeses came in 1995 and 1996 with Bad Boys and Independence Day respectively. As well as making him a box office icon, the two films led to his casting in the 1997 sci-fi buddy flick, Men in Black

Men in Black: Superbit
The Film
They are the best kept secret in the Universe. Working for a highly-funded yet unofficial government agency, 'K' (Tommy Lee Jones) and 'J' (Will Smith) are the Men in Black, providers of immigration services and regulators of all things alien on earth. They are your best, last and only line of defence. And when an aggravated bug, the size of a skyscraper, decides to come to Earth to take what he believes is rightfully his, it causes pandemonium on such a scale that it threatens the future of Earth and all of its inhabitants…

Alongside Will Smith is distinguished actor Tommy Lee Jones, an Oscar-winner for his role in The Fugitive, and someone who carries a lot of screen charisma and energy with him, even though Old Father Time has started to catch up on Jones somewhat (for evidence of this, sees his appearance in OAP space drama Space Cowboys). Together they form a buddy-buddy relationship that rivals cinematic stalwarts such as Gibson and Glover in Lethal Weapon, and their banter, wit and antagonism is what drives the film.

The world that they inhabit; the New York of the ‘90s – where the film is set – is secretly host to a whole horde of extra terrestrials…or, as they are more commonly referred to, aliens. Issued with the order of making sure normal folk do not encounter said aliens, they have a gigantic problem when this gigantic bug arrives on Earth with evil intentions.

Men in Black: Superbit
Director Barry Sonnenfeld (who I remembered as the DoP from Misery) has turned New York into a cinematic world; a place that on the surface is the regular city of freedom and liberty, yet its seedy underbelly, instead of being a place of hookers and criminals, is instead a place where aliens try to live, albeit illegally. With a mixture of real action and SFX, this world comes to life with some revolutionary concepts which, back in 1997 made Men in Black a real effects-heavy blockbuster. Even today, the effects and techniques hold up well, but a film must have more than superficial aesthetics to succeed, right? Well fortunately it does. The humour and strength of the script is the real driving force, along with the main two leads, and the effects blends into the story seamlessly.

Men in Black has some very quotable and referential moments, such as the bit when Smith’s character becomes ‘J’ of the MiB, and also offers some good quality action set-pieces – involving large guns, big explosions, and a lot of mess.

Upon first seeing the film back on its cinematic release, I was impressed by its sheer charm and bravado, and the fact that it offered something slightly different with its sci-fi comedy/buddy roots. Today it still holds onto that charm even if it may have slipped a tiny bit, but that is probably because I have seen it too many times (cinema, video, 2-disc DVD, TV, now Superbit DVD!). Nevertheless, it is a solid hour and a half of entertainment, and comes recommended.

Video
Another Superbit title, another high quality 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen transfer. No artefacts are visible, and throughout the print appears to be crisp and clear with colours well defined. The video quality on the original release (both single-disc and two-disc) was very good, and that has been replicated with its Superbit incarnation. However, I cannot see any drastic improvement when comparing this to its original transfer, so my video score remains the same as I would give the original release.

Men in Black: Superbit
Audio
The Superbit trademark is to carry both Dolby Digital 5.1 (English) & DTS 5.1 (English), and judging on past experience, the DTS soundtrack is slightly superior. With Men in Black: Superbit, that rule is proven correct again – the latter has a superior and more ambient soundstage, with aggressive subwoofer action. The original release didn’t have a wonderful DD 5.1 sound, and it is more or less the same case here, although the inclusion of DTS has bumped up the score, but for it to be classed as reference quality, more channel definition is needed. As it stands; still very good, but not the best out there.

Extras
The Superbit titles utilize a special high bit rate digital transfer process, which optimizes video quality while offering a choice of both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. All Superbit DVDs start with high definition masters, meaning that the Superbit Collection will set a new benchmark in high resolution DVD image and sound, creating the ultimate in home entertainment. By reallocating data normally used for special features (extras), Superbit DVDs can be encoded at double their normal bit rate while maintaining full compatibility with the DVD-Video format.

The menus follow the usual Superbit format – with only the film’s logo to personalise them. They are static and very easy to navigate.

Men in Black: Superbit
Overall
Men in Black has aged well: the jokes are still fresh, the story is still fairly engaging (if forgettable), and the atmosphere and charisma of the film is unaffected. It is no classic by any means, however yet still manages to offer over 90 minutes of good quality entertainment, appealing to many genre aficionados as it cannot be merely pigeonholed as belonging to a single cinematic category. And yes, it is better than its sequel (aptly named Men in Black II), which followed 5 years later, in 2002.

The disc itself is good (both video and audio) and although the extras are nonexistent, it hasn’t affected the overall score as the Superbit range isn’t about extra material. Overall, if you already own either single-disc or two-disc editions, then don’t upgrade; but if you are a first-time purchaser then DTS soundtrack is a major plus point!


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