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











Dante's Peak HD-DVD

(Roger Donaldson, 1997)


Universal (USA)

2.35:1 1080p

109 minutes

Audio: DD Plus 5.1 English, DD Plus 2.0 stereo French

Subtitles: Optional English SDH, French

Extras: audio commentary by director Roger Donaldson and production designer Dennis Washington; Getting Close to the Show: The Making of Dante’s Peak; theatrical trailer; My   Scenes

Released: 10 July 2007

HD-DVD case

38 chapters

The Film:

The first of 1997's two volcano movies acquits itself well in the spectacle department, but its colourless characters, dwarfed from the outset by a computer-generated peak, finally get lost among the deadly emissions. There's a familiar feel to the film's Jaws-like set-up, with Brosnan's intuitive volcanologist predicting imminent catastrophe while local councillors insist there's no need for panic. As an exercise in disaster-movie logistics, this is on a par with Twister, although the jaw-dropping SFX are far more varied and genuinely terrifying.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE


On HD-DVD, Dante’s Peak has its ups and downs. The 2.35:1 1080p video transfer is generally sharp and clear, but night-time scenes can be murky and dirty.  The special-effects work has held up well, but the picture has a kind of “flatness” that keeps you from you sitting up and thinking how amazing high definition is.  I suppose this can be attributed to the predominance of greys due to volcanic activity.



The DD Plus 5.1 English track has several powerful moments.  The low ends are very impressive, though there aren’t a lot of discrete sound effects that were localized to the rear speakers.  For the most part, the rear speakers jump into the pool along with the front speakers and rarely by themselves.  Dialogue is sometimes buried by the tumult, though when you can hear the actors’ voices, they’re reproduced quite nicely.

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


As with Daylight HD-DVD (another disaster flick from Universal), the Dante’s Peak HD-DVD drops some text-based and time-lapse/gallery-style extras.  However, the substantive bonuses have been retained.



Director Roger Donaldson and production designer Dennis Washington contributed an informative, though dry, audio commentary.  They provide a lot of details about how certain effects were achieved, though as with most technical yak tracks, this one can test your patience at the quarter-hour mark.

“Getting Close to the Show: The Making of Dante’s Peak” is a lengthy promotional featurette with talking-heads interviews and some behind-the-scenes vignettes.

You also get the theatrical trailer.

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


An insert advertises other Universal HD-DVDs.







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