H D - S E L E C T

A view on HD DVDs by Yunda Eddie Feng

 

Introduction: Hello, Beaver readers! I became a serious cineophile in 1994 when I saw Schindler's List on my birthday. I realized that movies weren't just for fun--they could be serious art, too (even mainstream popcorn flicks if they're made with skill). Although I have a BA in English, I went to grad school for an MA in Film Studies. There, I met my mentor Dr. Warren Buckland, who shares my interest in Steven Spielberg's artistry (Spielberg and art aren't mutually exclusive). I helped edit Dr. Buckland's book Directed by Steven Spielberg: Poetics of the Contemporary Hollywood Blockbuster. I also contributed a chapter to Dr. Buckland's forthcoming anthology of essays about "complex storytelling" movies--movies that avoid classical linear storylines in favor of temporal disruptions, unreliable narrators, metatheatrical/"self-aware" references, etc.

Eddie's Home Theatre:
Sharp 30-inch LCD TV (1280x768 resolution)
Toshiba HD-A2 HD-DVD player
Oppo OPDV971H SD-DVD player
Pioneer 7.1 DD/DTS receiver
Harmon Kardon speakers (5.1)

(I'm using the HD-A2's optical audio connection to obtain DTS 5.1 downmixes.)

Yunda Eddie Feng

 

HD-DVD STORE         HIGH DEFINITION DVD STORE

 

ALL OUR NEW FORMAT DVD REVIEWS

 

 

 

American Me

(Edward James Olmos, 1992)

 

Universal (USA)
Review by Yunda Eddie Feng

Universal (USA)
1.85:1 1080p
126 minutes
Audio: DD Plus 5.1 English, DUB: French DD Plus 2.0
Subtitles: Optional English SDH, French
Extras: Lives in Hazard documentary, Theatrical Trailer
Released: June 26th 2007
HD-DVD case
20 chapters

The Film

Gut-wrenching, brutal, and powerful, American Me is not enjoyable in the conventional sense, but nevertheless stands out as one of the year's most impressive purely dramatic offerings. It's a story of violence and its dehumanizing consequences that, in some ways, is reminiscent of The Godfather, with characters that echo those from the Puzo/Ford-Coppola epic. Director Edward James Olmos fearlessly takes aim at the culture of machismo which has enveloped so many inner city youths. This is an unrelenting, unalloyed condemnation of that lifestyle, a portrait of the sort of brutality that violence begets.

The story centers around Santana (Olmos), a small time hood on the outside who becomes a big time prison gang leader on the inside. Santana supposedly organizes his fellow prisoners in an attempt to improve their conditions, but what he's really after is power. Once he has tasted it, he can't get enough, and those who stand against him are ruthlessly trodden underfoot, often ending up in the morgue.

Excerpt from James Berardinelli's at reelviews.net reviews located HERE

Video:
While one should commend Universal for releasing a wide range of catalog titles so early in HD-DVD’s life cycle, it needs to be stated that un-restored film prints will look agonizingly bad in high-definition. In fact, without the softness of standard definition, problems with a source print are so noticeable as to be distracting. Unfortunately, American Me (1.85:1 1080p) looks like a neglected carcass on display. The level of detail is much higher than what you get with any SD-DVD, but there is a smoky haze that covers the image like a fog settling over San Francisco. This haze highlights the dancing grain in the film structure, and there are several small nicks and scratches. This may be the worst HD-DVD video presentation that I’ve seen. (Ed. I noted many instances of digital artefacts - more prominent than on the standard DVD release.)

Audio:
The Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 English track is front heavy and heavily dominated by the center channel. Gunshots sound flat and muffled, as do the actors’ voices. Even the music sounds rather thin.

You can also watch the movie with a DD Plus 2.0 stereo French dub. Optional English SDH and French subtitles support the audio.

Extras:
There aren’t a lot of extras on this disc, but the Lives in Hazard one-hour documentary is an excellent companion piece to the movie. The doc examines gang life and gang members who participated in the making of the movie. One actor was shot a few days after he finished his scenes; since he was blinded, he could not even see his own performance. A youth counselor who negotiated a truce between several gangs in order to make the movie was also killed, possibly by her former gang. This is a very hard-hitting extra that helps de-romanticize feature films’ general portrayal of criminal life.


The disc also has a theatrical trailer.

Finally, the “My Scenes” feature allows you to bookmark your favorite scenes.

--Miscellaneous--
An insert advertises other Universal HD-DVDs.

 

Hit Counter