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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Dawn of the Dead: Unrated Director’s Cut HD-DVD

(Zack Snyder, 2004)

 

Universal (USA)

2.35:1 1080p

110 minutes

Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, DD Plus 5.1 English, DD Plus 5.1 French

Subtitles: Optional English SDH, French

Extras: Introduction by director Zack Snyder; audio commentary by Zack Snyder and producer Eric Newman; Undead Scenes; The Lost Tape: Andy’s Terrifying Last Days Revealed; “Special Report”; Raising the Dead; Attack of the Living Dead; Splitting Headaches: Anatomy of Exploding Heads; My Scenes

Released: 28 August 2007

HD-DVD case

20 chapters

 

The Film: One of the things that annoyed me about the original Dawn of the Dead--and it’s a seeming requirement of horror films--is the flagrant stupidity exhibited by the characters.  Although the men and women of the new installment are not defined by their idiocy, there are times when they show a lack of common sense.  For example, if you recognized that the quickest way to a horrible death and an even more horrible re-birth is to be bitten by a zombie, would you (1) wear heavy clothing and/or some kind of body armor to protect your flesh, or (2) venture into the midst of a swarm of undead dressed in a flimsy, short-sleeve tee-shirt?  The people inhabiting Dawn of the Dead choose option (2), making us wonder whether they have all undergone frontal lobotomies.

 

With so many characters, it’s inevitable that most of them end up as one-dimensional throw-aways whose sole purpose is to increase the body count.  But there are exceptions.  Ana, Kenneth, Michael, and Andre are developed to a point where we care about them.  And several touching subplots are handled with a deft hand: Andre’s concern about his unborn fetus, Frank and Nicole’s sad farewell, Kenneth’s long-distance friendship with a man on the roof of a nearby gun shop, and Ana and Michael’s halting attempts at intimacy.  Of course, not many people go to a horror film looking for character development and drama, so there are plenty of good scares, and a moment or two of gut-wrenching terror.  The movie even crosses the PC line and allows children to do demonic things.

 

The creatures in this film move a lot more quickly than those in the original, whose slow, staggering gait was ripe for parody.  Here, their swiftness proves to be the undoing of more than one character.  As zombie films go, this one is a small step beneath Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, which was darker and creepier, but it’s still a respectable effort.  Adherents of the original may be annoyed by some of the changes, but cameos by Tom Savini, Scott Reiniger, and Ken Foree (who once again makes the dire pronouncement: “When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth”) should build some goodwill.  For those who enjoy tight, tense, graphic horror, this movie offers an ample helping.

Excerpt from James Berardinelli, Reel Views located HERE

 

 

Video:

This HD DVD boasts a very sharp 2.35:1 1080p transfer and excellent detail and deep blacks.  However, some scenes have some grain or noise that get out of control, and there is quite a bit of print damage in the form of small nicks.

 

Audio:

This HD DVD sports both Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (lossless) and a DD Plus 5.1 English tracks.  This is a very lively, aggressive mix with plenty of rear channel and subwoofer activity.  The center channel is balanced well, so there are only a few times when the dialogue is drowned out by the commotion.

 

You can also watch the movie with a DD Plus 5.1 French dub.  Optional English SDH and French subtitles support the audio.

 

 

Extras:

Director Zack Snyder provided an introduction to the Unrated Director’s Cut.  He and producer Eric Newman contributed a joke-y audio commentary.  “Undead Scenes” is a collection of deleted footage with optional audio commentary by director Zack Snyder.

 

“The Lost Tape” is a video diary that was “shot” by a character in the movie that lives by himself for about a week across the street from the mall inhabited by the other characters.  “Special Report” is a “news report” by a fictional TV station.

 

“Raising the Dead” highlights the extensive make-up work that was created for the movie.  “Attack of the Living Dead” looks at specific make-up that was created for key zombies.  “Splitting Headaches: Anatomy of Exploding Heads” shows you the many ways that zombies were killed for good in the movie.

  

 

Finally, you can bookmark your favorite moments with “My Scenes”.

 

--Miscellaneous--

An insert advertises other Universal HD DVDs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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