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Men In Black II

Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Lara Flynn Boyle, Johnny Knoxville, Rosario Dawson, Tony Shaloub, Patrick Warburton, Jack Kehler, Rip Torn. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. Aspect ratio: 1.85:1. Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French). Two discs. 88 minutes. 2002. Columbia TriStar Home Video 39940. PG-13. $28.96.

Aliens are among us, in all shapes and sizes, masquerading as humans. A top-secret government agency is assigned to keep track of them. With the fate of the world at stake, agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) spring into action.

This time around, K has to be brought out of retirement and amnesia (he was "neuralized" in the first installment), and the villain, Serleena, takes the form of a gorgeous Victoria's Secret model instead of a zombie farmer. Once again, the bad guys are after an artifact that will give them untold powers, save/destroy the universe, is very small, and so on. Fill in the blanks.

But that's not to say that Men In Black II is redundant. Smith and Jones are still as funny as any top-billed Vegas standup duo, the special effects (animatronic and computer-generated) and makeup are, as ever, impressive (my favorite is Jeffrey—think Dune in the New York subway system), and MIIB, like MIB, is a lot of fun and doesn't last long enough to wear out its welcome.

The video transfer is good—something I could not say about MIB, which I thought was average-looking at best. Color and detail, including black-level detail, are first-rate, but a little edge enhancement here and there brings down the rating a bit. The film is also available in a pan&scan edition, so be sure to pick up the right version—widescreen, of course.

The sound is impressive, with a slightly laid-back perspective and often startling and aggressive use of the surround channels. The deepest bass, below perhaps 30Hz, is a little limited compared to the very best action tracks, but that's nit-picking.

It's getting rare to find a DVD of a major film that doesn't have extensive extras, and MIIB is no exception. Disc 1 includes a director's commentary plus something called an "Alien Broadcast." If you engage the latter, up pop informative bulletins—actually mini-documentaries—after which the film resumes. This is very similar to the Infinifilm feature used occasionally on New Line films. Disc 1 also includes teasers and trailers, both for the DVD special edition of MIB and for other Columbia TriStar films.

Disc 2 has extensive featurettes on all aspects of production, including several on the sound design, the music, Foley effects, and a rare entry on ADR, or looping. There's a short blooper reel that consists mostly of the actors trying to keep straight faces, animatics (rough computer animation) of the opening sequence, multi-angle scene deconstructions, an alternate ending, and DVD-ROM features.

If you liked MIB, you're sure to enjoy MIIB.—TJN

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