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












What Dreams May Come HD-DVD

(Vincent Ward, 1998)


Universal (USA)

2.35:1 1080p

114 minutes

Audio: DD Plus 5.1 English, DD Plus 5.1 French

Subtitles: Optional English SDH and French

Extras: audio commentary by director Vincent Ward; The Making of What Dreams May Come; About the Visual Effects; Alternate Ending; Photo Gallery; trailers; My Scenes

Released: 14 August 2007

HD-DVD case

19 chapters

The Film: Mr. Ward has created a film that at its most visually evocative portrays its characters’ lives and afterlives as a kind of hall of mirrors, in which the lines between dream and reality, memory and eternity are continually blurring as one gives way to another.  At its most seductive, the film portrays heaven as a magical, hallucinatory extension of the physical world that has been left behind.  It is a place flooded with dim golden light and thick with flowers, of misty peaks and crags, where people and objects float through the sky and great distances can be breached with a single leap (of faith, of course).

When Chris first arrives in heaven, he finds himself inside one of Annie’s Gothic romantic paintings.  After crunching down in a flower bed, he gets up to find himself covered with paint, as though he had landed on a just-completed three-dimensional Renoir canvas that was still wet.

The underworld he visits with the help of a grim-faced guide played by (who else?) Max von Sydow is a grim but PG-13-looking place (when it comes to punishment and suffering) surrounded by burning shipwrecks.  In the most powerful image of hell, one that is intensely claustrophobic, Chris is forced to run across a sea of muttering heads all craning up through an endless expanse of mud.

Excerpt from Stephen Holden, The New York Times located HERE


Because the main characters are deeply involved in painting, the 2.35:1 1080p video transfer is often a visual marvel.  (The movie won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects.)  There are some minor specks here and there, and some of the early scenes are a bit soft.  However, on the whole, this is a very impressive transfer for a catalog title from pre-2001.



The primary DD Plus 5.1 English track is clean and efficient without making much of an impression.  There are some strong moments (such as during traffic accidents and when the music score crescendos), but this is a light mix as far as recent movies go.  I was rather surprised because I expected strong sonics to match the strong visuals.


You can also watch the movie with a DD Plus 5.1 French dub.  Optional English SDH and French subtitles support the audio.





Director Vincent Ward recorded a sparse, technical audio commentary for an SD-DVD release, and the same yak track appears on this HD-DVD.  “The Making of What Dreams May Come” and “About the Visual Effects” are brief overviews of the production.  You also get an alternate ending, a photo gallery, and two trailers.


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


An insert advertises other Universal HD-DVDs.








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