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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Top Gun HD-DVD

(Tony Scott, 1986)

 

Paramount (USA)

2.35:1 1080p

109 minutes

Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English; DTS-ES 6.1 English; DD Plus 5.1, EX English; DD Plus 5.1 EX French; DD Plus 5.1 EX Spanish

Subtitles: Optional English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

Extras: bookmark-able

Released: October 2nd, 2007

HD-DVD case

16 chapters

 

Top Gun won an Oscar for the song “Take My Breath Away”.  While the song is about falling in love, the title could just as well describe the movie’s sound design.  To me, Top Gun has always been a rather slight action movie as much of the “action” takes place during flight training sessions.  Having airplanes booming from one end of the room to another isn’t as impressive as what you get with on-the-ground battle sequences.  Yet, to be fair, most guys just love having low frequencies rattle their bones (either for real or by a subwoofer), so despite a history of shaky video presentations, Top Gun has remained demo material for many home-theatre enthusiasts (even if it has never been reference material).

 

 

By now, Top Gun is a take-it-or-leave-it deal.  The jingoism was so appalling to Paul Newman that he mentored Tom Cruise away from such scripts while they worked on The Color of Money, but most people who saw this in theatres before they turned eighteen just remember how cheesy, over-the-top, and campy the movie can be.  Top Gun may be one of cinema’s greatest ironies--the Navy used it as a recruiting film even though it is filled with (unintentional) homoeroticism.

 

Truth be told you, I don’t have a special place in my heart for Top Gun like many other red-blooded American guys of my generation, but I do like that Oscar-winning song.  “Take My Breath Away”, indeed.  Damn.

Yunda Eddie Feng

 

***

 

Just to chip in - Eddie only liked the song but I actually think this may be one the best 'surface' films ever made (throw Flashdance in that group as well). It certainly helped build Cruise up to mega-stardom. It is not excessively memorable but as I watched it again (and then yet again in the background when my wife came home) I did get some good 'vibes' - it's a feel good film about achieving, overcoming obstacles and finding love. And that's okay - many people just want that much out of a film and I think it still stands up well today in those regards. The marriage of music and action is a little MTV-ish, Cruise's smile is a shade like a used-car salesman - sure there are weaknesses. It's no Bicycle Thief. It wasn't trying to be. I know a few gals that claim this is their favorite film. Hmmmm... well, we'll work on that.

 

The HD-DVD has some digital noise in the sky scenes but detail is exceptionally stronger than I have ever seen in this film. I concur with Eddie's summation below.

Gary W. Tooze

Video:

It’s a bit difficult for me to accept that Top Gun is now more than twenty years old, in part because I strongly remember how much of an impression the movie made on seven-year-old boys like me.  Well, I’m not seven-years-old any more, and I have some wear-and-tear.  On HD DVD, Top Gun also exhibits some wear-and-tear.  Colors are not as strong as with recent movies, and several shots have light sprinklings of dust.  The stock footage and second-unit photography can be fairly grainy.  Nevertheless, the 2.35:1 1080p transfer reveals a remarkable level of detail that is frequently breathtaking, especially since this is the first time that I’ve seen the movie on a widescreen TV.

 

Audio:

Top Gun is yet another Paramount HD DVD with high-res audio.  In addition to the expected DD Plus 5.1 EX English track, you get a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English option.  You can also watch the movie with DTS-ES 6.1 English.

 

It is quite possible that this busy mix never rests.  Even the “quiet” moments are filled with songs.  The rears are very aggressive, though discrete directionality effects are limited to fly-bys across the front soundstage.  The pulsating synthesizer music score pings stereo pulses from left to right with such ferocity that your head starts bopping after a while to keep up with the separation.

 

 

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

 

Extras:

Surprisingly given its slate of two-disc HD DVD sets, Paramount opted to release a bare-bones version of Top Gun on HD DVD.  This disc is so basic that it simply begins playing the movie after the Paramount logo clip.  You can bookmark your favorite clips, but that’s it for extras.

  

   

 

--Miscellaneous--

An insert advertises other Paramount HD DVDs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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