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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Shooter HD-DVD

(Antoine Fuqua, 2007)

 

Paramount (USA)

2.35:1 1080p

125 minutes

Audio: DD Plus 5.1 English, DD Plus 5.1 French, DD Plus 5.1 Spanish

Subtitles: Optional English, English SDH, French, Spanish

Extras: audio commentary by director Antoine Fuqua; seven deleted scenes; “Survival of the Fittest: The Making of Shooter”; “Independence Hall” featurette; trailer

Released: 31 July 2007

HD-DVD case

19 chapters

The Film: Action movies will always appear in movie theatres as long as there are young boys and men who never quite grow up.  I’m not disparaging the action-movie demographic as I readily admit that I enjoy shoot-‘em-ups as much as anyone else.  However, lately, most action movies are crosses with other genres like science fiction (The Matrix), spy thrillers (the James Bond franchise), capers (The Italian Job), and even comedy (Mr. & Mrs. Smith).  Straight-up action has been largely relegated to the straight-to-video bin, where names like Steven Seagal, Tom Berenger (Oscar nominated!), and Wesley Snipes appear regularly.

2007’s Shooter is a return to respectable pure action--there’s no time-traveling, no espionage, no boosting, no joke-telling.  Everyone plays it for “real” without winking at the audience.  Mark Wahlberg has come a long way as an actor, and even though his role in this movie doesn’t challenge him much, he is a believable presence.

Wahlberg plays Bobby Lee Swagger, a retired Marine sniper who is framed by shadowy government figures for the assassination of an Ethiopian archbishop.  Swagger goes on the run in order to clear his name and to uncover the conspiracy.  Shooter avoids asking the audience to suspend too much disbelief by avoiding making Swagger a one-man army; Swagger is aided by a marginalized FBI agent and his best-friend’s widow.  The script efficiently reveals exposition in a handful of brief conversations.  Otherwise, you get a series of well-executed tense, adrenaline-pumping set pieces.

Unfortunately, the moviemakers took themselves a little too seriously and let a few scenes play beyond necessary marks.  At the end, you have to sit through a distended shoot-out even though you know exactly would happen when you get a righteous vigilante taking on immoral capitalists.  This is really the only weak point of an otherwise solid red-meat flick.

Video:

The 2.35:1 1080p  picture is rather drab and dark, though one can’t complain too much about an intentionally low-key style.  This is true even of scenes not set in wintry/snowy settings.  Whereas the SD-DVD’s video transfer is a tad soft and lacking in detail, the HD-DVD offers markedly improved picture image quality.  You can clearly see insects flying in the background during the first half of the movie when Mark Wahlberg is outside his mountain cabin, and faraway objects are no longer indistinguishable black dots.

 

Audio:

Shooter is about snipers, so the Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 English track is not a continuous cacophony of multi-directional booms.  There are plenty of sound effects whizzing across the room, but they are mostly of single bullets being fired with care and precision.  In fact, there are times when rear-channel activity is courtesy mainly of the music score.  However, there are impressive helicopter fly-bys, and when Swagger booby-traps a ranch with pipe bombs and napalm, you will be immersed in pure devastation and immolation.  The HD-DVD’s audio sounds a bit fuller and richer than the SD-DVD’s, but this is simply an enhanced experience rather than a completely new one.

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

Extras:

Director Antoine Fuqua contributed an audio commentary; Fuqua hews mostly to the technical aspects of moviemaking, so the commentary will be of interest mostly to people who already have some knowledge of mounting a physically-complex production.

Next up are seven deleted scenes.  Some of these are fairly amusing, though they would’ve prolonged an already overly-long movie.

“Survival of the Fittest: The Making of Shooter” is a run-of-the-mill overview of the production.  Though less of a hard-sell than most featurettes, you still get talking-heads interviews with people who think that they’ve made a masterpiece.

 

 

The “Independence Hall” featurette teaches viewers about some aspects of American history.

 

Finally, you get the movie’s theatrical trailer.

 

(All of the video supplements were encoded in High Definition.)

 

--Miscellaneous--

An insert advertises other Paramount HD-DVDs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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