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 War HD-DVD

(Jon Avnet, 1994)

 

Universal (USA)

1.85:1 1080p

127 minutes

Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, DD Plus 5.1 English

Subtitles: Optional English SDH, French

Extras: My Scenes

Released: 10 July 2007

HD-DVD case

18 chapters

The Film: I remember The War’s theatrical release very well.  Late in 1994, a friend of mine had a birthday party.  Plans included going to the movie theatre.  Since middle-aged parents and young children were in the group, we had two choices--The War or Star Trek: Generations.  We ended watching Star Trek: Generations.  Since that fateful day, every time I see The War in a store or in a TV listing, I think of it as “The Movie We Didn’t See”.

I’m glad that I saw Star Trek: Generations on the big screen, of course, but now that I’ve finally seen The War for the first time, I kind of wish that I had seen it, too, on the big screen.  Luckily, my first exposure to this fine coming-of-age drama was on HD-DVD.  While watching a movie at home can’t approximate the majesty of watching a movie in a theatre, I was able to enjoy The War with pristine video and audio.

The movie is narrated by a young girl, though her story mostly revolves around the relationship between her brother (Elijah Wood) and her father (Kevin Costner).  The father is a broken man following his return from the Vietnam War, though he tries his best to earn a living to support his family.  The son is frequently a target of the bullying Lipnicki siblings, but he receives sound advice from his father on why it’s so important to prevent violent conflict.

The movie is about a myriad of struggles--civil rights/race issues, friendship, confronting death--and it deals with each of them earnestly.  Although not as graphic, intense, or direct as Platoon or Born on the Fourth of July, The War is very effective at confronting some of the demons that plagued America during the 1960s and 1970s.  Some readers know that I like maybe one out of 30 or 40 movies that I see, so even I was surprised when a few tears filled my eyes at the end of this flick.

Over the years, naysayers have generated bad blood against Kevin Costner because he won Best Picture and Best Director Oscars for Dances With Wolves over Goodfellas and Martin Scorsese, but Costner is very effective as a supporting actor in movies like this one and the recent The Upside of Anger.  Without the pressure of having to carry a movie as a leading man, Costner often has a quiet, dignified charm that can easily generate honest laughs or tears.  Unfortunately, people will never cease to deride him for Waterworld or The Postman, so he’ll never get a real chance to compete for an acting Oscar.  (By the way, Dances With Wolves is a better movie than Goodfellas.)

 

Video:

After suffering through a couple of sub-par Universal video transfers for HD-DVD, I was happy to see that this catalog title looks like a recent theatrical release.  The 1.85:1 1080p image has vibrant colors and is very clean and sharp.  The flashbacks to Vietnam are set at night, so some objects are lost in the murkiness.  Still, what you remember after the movie ends is how detailed the picture is.

 

Audio:

You get a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English mix in addition to the expected Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 English track.  At first glance, The War isn’t an obvious candidate for top-tier audio presentation.  For the most part, it’s a low-key drama about children learning the ups-and-downs of small-town life.  However, the Vietnam flashbacks are sonically dynamic and suitably terrifying.  An accident in a mining shaft and a turbulent water tower also provide intense low-frequency responses.  (In fact, my windows rattled a couple of times when I watched this movie.)  Dialogue is always also bright and clear.  This movie earns the privilege of Dolby TrueHD encoding.

Optional English SDH and French subtitles support the audio.

 

Extras:

Disappointingly, this HD-DVD does not have any movie-related extras--not even a trailer.

 

 

The disc has “My Scenes” for bookmarking favorite moments, but this feature is found on most HD-DVDs from Universal, Warner, Paramount, and other media companies.

--Miscellaneous--

An insert advertises other Universal HD-DVDs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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