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

 

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School For Scoundrels HD-DVD

(Todd Phillips, 2006)

Genius Products (USA)
Review by Yunda Eddie Feng

Genius Products (USA)
2.35:1 1080p
107 minutes
Audio: DD Plus 5.1 English
Subtitles: Optional English, Spanish
Extras: audio commentary by Todd Phillips and writer Scot
Armstrong, alternate ending, gag reel, The Making of
You Didn’t See on TV, trailer
Released: 17 April 2007
HD-DVD case
16 chapters

There is an audience out there for movies about primitive idiots, as Adam Sandler proves year after year after year. Yet, for every Adam-Sandler blockbuster, there are at least twenty duds that don’t quite capture the Sandman’s box-office magic. Personally, I’ve never liked any movie starring Adam Sandler, so I don’t know why his movies make more money than other similar movies (Sandler’s efforts are as bad as all the other primitive-idiots movies).

School for Scoundrels is yet another primitive-idiots movie from Todd Phillips, the man responsible for Old School. (I guess Mr. Phillips likes educational settings.) In School for Scoundrels, Jon Heder plays a loser who takes secret classes from a con artist played by Billy Bob Thornton. In the classes, Thornton instructs his pupils on how to “act like men” and “take what they want”. This ultimately involves--what else?--getting a woman into bed. School for Scoundrels draws inspiration from Fight Club, Tom Cruise in Magnolia, and a bunch of other sources, but the movie never amounts to much. While Billy Bob Thornton is always fun to watch, Jon Heder is so much of a zero that we don’t root for him, even in that routine identify-with-the-protagonist sort of way. The rest of the cast is similarly bland, though Ben Stiller contributes a few chuckles in a cameo. The funniest bits in the movie involve paintball and tennis-ball shots to crotches, though mercifully, the movie doesn’t overuse them. Leaving viewers wanting more is a smart thing to do.

The Unrated Ballbuster Edition seems tame enough to get an R rating from the MPAA, so it’s probably not very different from the theatrical version.

Video:
The SD-DVD’s 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen progressive video transfer is of solid quality, though School for Scoundrels has an undistinguished visual style. As such, this movie won’t be used as demo material, though no one expected it as such anyway. The same goes for the HD-DVD; the video is very good and very detailed without making a lasting impression on the viewer.

SD DVD

HD DVD

 

Audio:
The Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 English track is mostly front-heavy with a few surround and low-frequency effects devoted to music reproduction. This disc also has a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English lossless track, though it probably isn’t much of an improvement over the DD Plus track given the movie’s bland audio mix.

Optional English and Spanish subtitles support the audio.

Extras:
The HD-DVD has a Top Menu as well as a “soft menu” that can be accessed while the movie is playing.

The audio commentary by Todd Phillips and writer Scot Armstrong provides the two with a chance to laugh at their own jokes (from the movie). Unfortunately, they enjoy the material much more than the viewer will.

The Alternate Ending provides a speedier resolution to the movie than the one used in this edition, though a reunion between two lovers is so rushed that the story loses all credibility. “The Making Of You Didn’t See on TV” has some behind-the-scenes footage that isn’t terribly interesting, and the Gag Reel doesn’t generate any laughs. Finally, you get the Theatrical Trailer.
 

 

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