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












Erin Brockovich HD-DVD

(Steven Soderbergh, 2000


Universal (USA)

1.85:1 1080p

132 minutes

Audio: DD Plus 5.1 English, DD Plus 5.1 French

Subtitles: Optional English SDH and French

Extras: The Making of Erin Brockovich; Erin Brockovich: A Look at the Real-life Experience; deleted scenes; trailer; My Scenes

Released: 14 August 2007

HD-DVD case

44 chapters

Like my boss Gary, I’m not a fan of Steven Soderbergh, and I’m not a fan of Julia Roberts, either.  However, I find them tolerable with Ocean’s 12 and Erin Brockovich.  A lot of people hated Ocean’s 12, but I liked it precisely because it was ridiculous.  For once, Soderbergh wasn’t trying to show off, show how serious he can be, or show how cool he and his buddies are.  Ocean’s 12 is fun because the director treated his movie like disposable trash.

Erin Brockovich is one of Soderbergh’s social-message efforts, but it’s better than the others because the material has a definite answer--that is, industrial companies that pollute and harm people should pay for their crimes.  This stands in sharp contrast to Traffic, which is a sprawling mess about how nobody has any answers, so we should empathize with people with drug addictions.  In addition to actually saying something, Soderbergh resisted the temptation to act like a cinema-geek, so there aren’t any annoying camera or editing tics.  He let the material speak for itself, and the movie condemns industrialists without haranguing the audience into submission.

As for Julia Roberts...I’ve been leery of the diva-vibe that she’s exuded for years, but with Ocean’s 12 and Erin Brockovich, she embraced the inner-demon rather than trying to hide it.  (See My Best Friend’s Wedding for an example; we’re supposed to root for a conniving schemer?  I think not.)  Roberts plays shrill, un-likable characters in Ocean’s 12 and Erin Brockovich, and because there’s no false solicitation of our sympathies, we can honestly laugh at (Ocean’s 12) or respect (Erin Brockovich) her characters.


Generally sharp and highly-detailed, the 1.85:1 1080p video transfer suffers from occasional print damage and dirt.  Colors are natural and strong without seeming over-saturated.




This is a low-key drama, so even with a DD Plus 5.1 English mix, most of the audio is located in the front center channel.  There are several panning effects and music cues across the front soundstage, though about the loudest things that you’ll hear are Julia Roberts and Albert Finney shouting at each other.


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



There are a couple of deleted scenes with optional audio commentary by director Steven Soderbergh.  The movie’s already a tad long, so none of this material would’ve added anything to the movie.



“The Making of Erin Brockovich” is a run-of-the-mill summary of the plot with some talking-heads interviews (including the real-life protagonists of the story).  “Erin Brockovich: A Look at a Real-life Experience” is an additional interview with the crusader.  You also get a theatrical trailer.


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



An insert advertises other Universal HD-DVDs.








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