H D - S u p e r E

A view on HD DVDs by Matthew Eizenga



Where do I start?  From the time I was a child watching films on BetaMax and VHS in the very early 80’s I was hooked on film.  From Star Wars to Pee Wee Herman and back again I was grabbed line and sinker.  The first time I realized the effect film had on me (that I can remember) was watching the Martin Scorsese film Casino in 1998.  The whole movie blew me away, but it was the scene with De Niro waiting in the desert for what he assumed was his fate, that I was swept away and had to know more about the craft.  The moment where the car drives across in the reflection of Deniro’s glasses to me was the ultimate “WOW” moment and set in motion my love affair with film.  I hope to translate some of that love that I have for films into my reviews so that you too can share in my passion.

Matthews Home Theatre:
Sharp 37-inch LG37GP1U LCD TV (1920x1080 Progressive Resolution)
Toshiba HD-XA1 HD-DVD player
Yamaha RX Series Receiver

Athena 7.1 Audio Set up

I'm using the HD-XA1's analog audio connection to obtain Dolby TrueHD audio, when available.







Children of Men - HD / DVD Combo

(Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)



Review by Matthew Eizenga


Universal (USA)

1.85:1 1080p

110 minutes

Audio: DD Plus 5.1 English, French DD Plus 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH and French

HD-30 Disc

Released: 27 March 2007

HD-DVD/DVD Combo case



I love science fiction; from the space opera to the near future world that we all live in.  Films from our world seem to tell stores of want and will or death and doom, of which all make for great storytelling.  Films like Clockwork Orange, Blade Runner, Escape From New York, When Worlds Collide, Planet of the Apes and on and on all give the future a new twist.  In Children of Men we are told a story of where our world will be in 2027 with a twist of apocalyptic speculation.  Children of Men for me is one of those rare films that doesn’t wear sci-fi on its sleeve but tells a beautiful tale that even the non-science fiction fan can enjoy.  This film starts in a not so distant future where the last child born on earth (born in 2009) has just been murdered at age 18.  In the film human infertility has left humanity with no chance for continued existence and with it, no hope for any kind of future.  People have accepted this and go about their days working and carrying out what is left of their lives.   The audience is lead to believe that Britain has the last surviving government and there are hundred upon thousands of illegal immigrants that want to seek refuge there.  Stuck in the middle of all of this chaos is our hero Theo (Clive Owen) has been chosen to guide our heroine, Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey), a pregnant African refugee, out of the city and into safety.





The film is presented in 1080p, 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  The director’s choice to make the film gritty (ala Blade Runner) and real leaves the viewer with the often used steady cam operation that in this case gives the film that lived in feel.  Many shots give you so much to look at regardless of the framing.  Cuarón has proven that he is quite the master behind the camera.  He has given us great films like Y tu mamá también and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, both films have great stylization and in the case of Harry Potter gave the series a much needed change of pace.  Both films also use the single-shot sequence to great effect, which is an uncut length of film that has been used by filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock (Rope), Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey), PT Anderson (Boogie Nights) and Kevin Smith (Clerks) just to name a few.


One cannot talk about Children of Men without mentioning the long single-shot sequences.  There are two instances of the single-shot sequence in this film.  Both are extremely well crafted and used to great effect.  Alfonso Cuarón, the director, aided by a few CGI tricks made the two scenes remarkable as well as ground-breaking in their use of the camera.  The film was recognized by the not only the Academy but also BAFTA and other awards for its outstanding filmmaking. 


The creation of the single-shot sequences was a difficult, lengthy process that caused apprehension within the studio. It took fourteen days to prepare for the single take in which Theo (Clive Owen's character) searches for a safe building under attack from all sides.  When the actor or director needed to reshoot this scene it took nearly five hours for the crew to reset for the shot. 


The other single-shot sequence is a getaway where the camera is station outside of the car then placed inside with the actors and put on a 360-degree automated tripod that swiveled around the action to great effect.  As the action stops the camera exits the car with the cast and creates such an astonishing sequence it will have the viewer hitting the last scene button to watch it again and again.


Every aspect of the film is amazing.  When Theo first visits Jaspers (Michael Caine) house be sure to take note of the flora surrounding his home, to witness just how amazing the HD DVD’s 1080p presentation can aid a films look and feel. 


The age of High Definition is here and it is something to behold.  During scenes of explosions the flames carry a three dimensional feel to them that give the film a real world feel as well.  This film may not be demo material due to its grainy, drab feel, but for those trying to woo their friends to HD DVD Children of Men will certainly be a presentation for what a down and dirty film can look like in 1080p glory.


The transfer is speckled from time to time with white noise (particularly the opening sequence) as well as color banding here and there but I don’t feel it takes away from the presentation as a whole.  I have seen many instances of color banding in 1080p material and my guess is to fault our current technology for it.  We still have to deal with the digital age and how new all of it is, however with that, color banding is not (in this reviewers mind) something that takes away from the film.  To use the parlance of our times, ‘it is what it is.”






Fun Fact (IMDb):

-   One scene contains a car driving past a heavily guarded gate and over a bridge towards what is in fact Battersea Power Station. Between the four smoke stacks of the power station can be seen a floating pig, a recreation of the cover image of the Pink Floyd album "Animals".

-    In the car chase scene, just before the car is attacked, Miriam can be seen peeling an orange in the back seat and again just before the refugee camp falls into chaos, Kee and Marichka share orange slices. In films oranges often represent impending danger or tragedy. This motif is also prominently featured in The Godfather.



The audio is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus and makes good use of the whole soundstage.  The film has one hell of a mix to it as well.  The sound designers did a top notch job of giving an over the shoulder style to the film as a whole, making you feel like you are there and coordinating with the visuals on the screen.  Be sure to turn your speakers up and enjoy the third act where explosions are placed all around you and really give you that trapped inside a war zone feel.





The U-Control feature is present.  U-Control is Universals in movie feature that allows you to select Picture in Picture interviews with the director, the cast and the crew.


There are many ads in the movie that give it that ‘our world’ feel and this HD DVD gives you a chance to check out those ads in another of its special features.



“The Possibility of Hope” is a 25 minute documentary where the director talks to philosophers about the humanity, reality and sadness of the world that surrounds the film.  Some are very wrapped up in theory but overall it is worth at least one viewing.

“Under Attack” while promotional in its approach does tackle some of the single-shot sequences.  While I would have liked to see more of the “how to’s” of these sequences it was a nice extra and also worth a single viewing.


“Futuristic Design” was actually a nice accompany piece for this film.  It goes into how they did some of the set designs and some of the thought behind them.  This was a short and sweet segment that gives a lot of quick details on the set pieces used in the film.


“Comments by Slovoj Zizek” should have been added into the ‘Possibility of Hope’ segment and to this review I cannot understand why it was given its own segment as the material presented within were vastly similar to previously tread water.


Deleted Scenes are present but really didn’t add to the story and upon viewing them one can see why they were seen as supplement material.


"Visual Effects - Creating the Baby" is an amazing featurette that covers the creation of a CG child. The process of creating the child in the film goes from shot to shot and gives the viewer an opportunity to witness how amazing this scene was. On-screen titles give the viewer the insight into what is happening at every stage and gives one the explanation of how complex this process is.  Clocking in around three minutes this was one of the best supplements on the disk.  In all this featurette was really worth watching and a strong recommendation to anyone wanting great extras after the film.


In all this is one of those films that can be watched time and time again and will hold up.  Every aspect of the film was special from the visual style used to the single-shot sequences within.  The extras were a tad light but for the few that are worth watching they are great in spades.  I can easily recommend a purchase on this film for any fan of the science fiction genre as well as those that love a good drama.  Sit back and enjoy, I did.



Hit Counter