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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth HD-DVD

(Shekhar Kapur, 1998)

 

Universal (USA)

1.85:1 1080p

124 minutes

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

Subtitles: Optional English SDH, French

Extras: audio commentary by Shekhar Kapur; Sneak Peek of Elizabeth: The Golden Age; The Making of Elizabeth; Elizabeth Featurette; trailer; My Scenes

Released: September 18th, 2007

HD-DVD case

12 chapters

 

The Film:

The acclaim surrounding Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth is something that I don’t get at all.  The movie is very disjointed, with scenes and subplots that seem to have nothing to do with each other at all.  Typecasting always-frowning actors as Elizabeth’s nemeses is laughably obvious, thereby robbing the movie of any sense of intrigue since we know who the “baddies” are just by looking at them.  When the characters eavesdrop on one another, they make their actions so noticeable to the ones being observed that I was surprised that people aren’t rushing at each other with swords every five minutes.  The most-interesting character/performer is Walsingham/Geoffrey Rush, though he doesn’t have as much screen time as the one-note Elizabeth/Cate Blanchett (who does little more than laugh awkwardly or tremble) and Joseph Fiennes, who has yet to master the art of smoldering.  Here’s a case where a rich visual style managed to fool a lot of viewers into thinking that they saw a good movie.

 

 

 

Video:

The 1.85:1 1080p picture image is a stunner.  The filmmakers used a lot of lush reds that are re-produced here to excellent results.  The video is very sharp and highly detailed, and I didn’t notice any problems with regards to physical damage to the source print.  My sole complaint is that the transfer is a tad hot when the movie fades to bright white and when Elizabeth appears with her all-white make-up.  Otherwise, I hope that Universal continues to present catalog titles in such manner.

 

 

Audio:

Elizabeth, For Love of the Game, and The Last Starfighter are the latest Universal catalog titles to carry lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 tracks.  Unfortunately, the results vary wildly, with The Last Starfighter sounding no better than most DD 2.0 mono on SD-DVDs.  On the other hand, the sound mixes for Elizabeth and For Love of the Game justify the use of Dolby TrueHD.

 

Elizabeth features quite a bit of shouting, screaming, and general vocal fuss, and the center channel delivers the actors voices cleanly and vibrantly.  The overwrought music score is a powerful presence.  For a drama without any sustained action sequences, this movie has a lot of low-frequency presence.

 

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

 

Extras:

Elizabeth was Shekhar Kapur’s break into the big leagues of English-language cinemas, so it makes sense that he contributed an audio commentary to his coming-out party.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t provide genuine insight into his methodology.  Aside from discussing the use of vivid colors (common in Indian cinema), Kapur seems muddled about his motivations.  I found this to be the same with his audio commentary for The Four Feathers, in which he admitted that he didn’t know why Djimon Hounsou’s character helps Heath Ledger’s character.  In fact, Kapur even stated that he DIDN’T want to think about Hounsou’s character’s background, which is astonishingly defeatist for someone whose ancestors also suffered at the hands of British imperialists.

 

Elizabeth has been re-released on SD-DVD at the same time that this HD DVD made its bow.  The new SD-DVD and the HD DVD are being used to promote Elizabeth: The Golden Age, a sequel with the same director and many of the same actors.  As such, there’s a five-and-a-half-minute preview of the new movie.

 

“The Making of Elizabeth” is a standard-issue promo with a mix of movie clips and talking-heads interviews.  The “Elizabeth Featurette” is basically an extended trailer with a breathless narrator trying to make the movie sound like a potboiler.  The theatrical trailer has also been included.

  

 

 

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

 

--Miscellaneous--

An insert advertises other Universal HD DVDs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hit Counter