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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The Untouchables HD-DVD

(Brian De Palma, 1987)

 

Paramount (USA)
Review by Yunda Eddie Feng
 

Paramount (USA)

2.35:1 1080p

119 minutes

Audio: DD Plus 5.1 EX English, DTS 6.1 English, DD Plus 5.1 EX French, DD Plus 5.1 EX Spanish

Subtitles: Optional English, English SDH, French, Spanish

Extras: The Script, The Cast; Production Stories; Reinventing the Genre; The Classic; The Men; trailer; bookmarks

Released: 3 July 2007

HD-DVD case

24 chapters

 

Time-honoured mayhem in the Windy City, and if there are few set-ups you haven't seen in previous Prohibition movies, it's perhaps because De Palma and scriptwriter David Mamet have settled for the bankability of enduring myth. And boy, it works like the 12-bar blues. The director's pyrotechnical urge is held in check and trusts the tale; the script doesn't dally overmuch on deep psychology; the acting is a treat. Connery's world-weary and pragmatic cop, Malone, steals the show because he's the only point of human identification between the monstrously evil Al Capone (De Niro) and the unloveably upright Eliot Ness (Costner), and when he dies the film has a rocky time recovering. Costner looks like the kid who got a briefcase for Xmas and was pleased, but painfully learns under Malone's tutelage how to fight dirty. De Niro establishes his corner courtesy of a bloody finger in close-up, and unleashes uncontrollable rage to electrifying effect, most notably at the blood-boltered baseball-bat board meeting. The Odessa Steps set piece at the railway station could maybe do with one more angle to shuffle, and the battle at the border bridge diminishes the claustrophobic grip of the corrupt city, but the narrative thunders to its conclusion like a locomotive.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

 

Video:

This 2.35:1 1080p transfer is exactly how catalog titles should arrive on HD-DVD--crisp, sharp, and clean.  I didn’t see any film print damage, and the video does a great job of showcasing the handsome costumes and production designs.  De Palma didn’t use vivid or vibrant colors, but the rich browns and reds of clothes and lipstick comes off very well.

 

Audio:

When it comes to audio on HD-DVDs, media companies march to their own beats.  The Weinstein company has used Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and DD Plus 5.1 tracks for just about all of its titles.  Warner and Universal use Dolby TrueHD from time to time.

 

Paramount has not used Dolby TrueHD yet, but several of its HD-DVDs have DTS tracks in addition to the standard DD Plus codec.  The Untouchables HD-DVD has DD Plus 5.1 EX tracks in English, French, and Spanish flavors as well as a DTS 6.1 English track.  The movie was released before the widespread use of 5.1 sound mixing, so most of the audio activity is in the front.  The rears contribute some music cues, though most gunfire sounds flat and hollow.  Nevertheless, the audio carries Ennio Morricone’s jaunty music score quite well.

 

(To minimize audio processing, I suggest listening to the DTS 6.1 English track if you don’t have analog or HDMI audio connections.  Otherwise, you’ll end up with Dolby codecs re-processed as DTS signals via the optical audio connection, and something might get lost in translation.)

 

Optional English, English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles support the audio.

 

Extras:

“The Script, The Cast”, “Production Stories”, and “Reinventing the Genre” have self-explanatory titles and feature talking-heads interviews with some of the movie’s makers.  Unlike the SD-DVD/HD-DVD/Blu-Ray releases of Mission: Impossible, Brian De Palma is well-represented here.  “The Classic” celebrates Ennio Morricone’s music score.

 


 

The disc also includes “The Men”, a promo featurette created around the time of the movie’s theatrical release.

 

The movie’s original theatrical trailer is presented in high-definition, though the un-restored film copy that was used for this transfer looks rather worn and tired.

 

Finally, you can bookmark your favorite scenes.

 

--Miscellaneous--

An insert advertises other Paramount HD-DVDs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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