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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Notting Hill HD-DVD

(Roger Michell, 1999)

 

Universal (USA)

2.35:1 1080p

124 minutes

Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, DD Plus 5.1 English, DD Plus 2.0 French

Subtitles: Optional English SDH, French

Extras: audio commentary by director Roger Michell, producer Duncan Kenworthy, and writer Richard Curtis; deleted scenes; Spotlight on Location; Seasonal Walk on Portobello Road; Hugh Grant’s Movie Tips; Elvis Costello “She” music video; Shania Twain “You’ve Got a Way” music video; Travel Book; photo montage; US and international trailers; My Scenes

Released: 28 August 2007

HD-DVD case

18 chapters

 

The most romantic notion in Notting Hill is that a Hollywood star of Julia Roberts’s wattage would be out alone browsing for a book.  That’s what Ms. Roberts’s Anna Scott is doing when she notices that the store’s bashful proprietor is actually the most camera-ready sight on Portobello Road in London.  So Anna takes a shine to Hugh Grant’s William Thacker (a character perhaps named by a bookseller in a hurry), and Notting Hill throws together two beaming if oddly matched leads.  The movie has lots of glossy charm even if Ms. Roberts and Mr. Grant seem less like lovers than members of a support group for the desperately attractive.

 

The pedigree of Notting Hill promises intelligent panache.  Directed by Roger Michell, whose Persuasion was the best of the Jane Austen cycle, it reunites Mr. Grant with Richard Curtis, the writer whose smart, sidelong witticisms are so well suited to the actor's artful bumbling.  Mr. Curtis reworks his Four Weddings and a Funeral to create another hapless dreamboat for Mr. Grant to play, another band of eccentric friends and another impossible crush to keep him charmingly flummoxed.  To this, Notting Hill adds the been-there, done-that knowingness of two stars who can play a story about the outrages of celebrity without a stretch.

 

 

According to the screenplay, it is Anna who is extremely famous.  And it is William who has been in the bookstore long enough to think Leonardo DiCaprio might be the name of an Italian director. (As in You’ve Got Mail, the picturesque neighborhood bookstore is presented as that oasis of gentility, the pop-culture-free zone.)  But both Ms. Roberts and Mr. Grant rise to the chance to satirize the woes of international notoriety.  If these two can’t create an illusion of mad ardor, they do something almost sexier: confide in the audience about the burdens of answering interviewers’ idiotic questions, embarrassing tabloid headlines and other occupational hazards of being a great-looking star.

Excerpt from Janet Maslin's review at the The New York Times located HERE

 

 

Video:

The 2.35:1 1080p image is very sharp and clean, and the visual palette is subdued in the style that one associates with British movies.  However, some scenes are a tad dark.

 

Audio:

Universal saw fit to grant Notting Hill both Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (lossless) and DD Plus 5.1 English tracks, though to be honest, I couldn’t really tell the difference between the two.  As a typical romantic comedy, this movie simply does not present opportunities for creative audio mixing.  Most of the lifting is done by the front center channel, and the front mains have some music duties.  The rears and the subwoofer are basically benchwarmers.

 

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

 

Extras:

Director Roger Michell, producer Duncan Kenworthy, and writer Richard Curtis joined each other for an audio commentary.  These three had a good time collaborating with each other, though no one seems to take note that romantic comedies are about the only British movies that are seen widely any more.

 

Next up are some deleted scenes in rough workprint form.  These are mostly extended moments, though we also get to see the parents of Hugh Grant’s character.

 

“Spotlight on Location” is the expected promotional featurette that is filled with movie clips and talking-heads interviews.

 

“Seasonal Walk on Portobello Road” spotlights shooting in the real Notting Hill.

 

The “Travel Book” provides text information about visiting Notting Hill, though unless you have an HD DVD computer drive, you’ll have to write by hand the tips on a piece of paper.

 

You can watch Elvis Costello’s “She” and Shania Twain’s “You’ve Got a Way” music videos.  You also get a photo montage as well as US and international trailers.

 

 

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

--Miscellaneous--

An insert advertises other Universal HD-DVDs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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