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












A Mighty Heart HD-DVD

(Michael Winterbottom, 2007)


Paramount (USA)

2.35:1 1080p

108 minutes

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

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

Extras: “Journey of Passion: The Making of A Mighty Heart”; “Public Service Announcement”; “Committee to Protect Journalists”; theatrical trailer

Released: 16 October 2007

HD-DVD case

13 chapters


In this day and age of Hollywood freelancing, I find it touching that some performers routinely appear in movies funded by specific studios.  Angelina Jolie is one such actor.  Despite her wild-child/independent-streak image, she has regularly made movies with Paramount: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider--The Cradle of Life, Beyond Borders, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, A Mighty Heart, Beowulf.  The Paramount-Angelina Jolie connection is rather odd because despite her celebrity, Jolie isn’t capable of opening movies the way that Julia Roberts and Jodie Foster can.  Beyond Borders (a movie about landmines) probably was greenlighted to keep Jolie interested in additional Tomb Raider installments, but that series is dead at the moment.



A Mighty Heart is yet another message movie from a clearly socially-conscious activist.  (Paramount’s box-office experience with Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center should’ve warned studio execs away from another post-9/11 on financial grounds, but with Jolie’s boyfriend Brad Pitt producing, I guess studio head Brad Grey just wanted to make his former production-company partner happy.)  Unfortunately, Jolie doesn’t seem to understand that her approach to social activism is too in-your-face to be effective.  It’s not that she’s confrontational...it’s just that her efforts impart a “holier-than-thou” attitude.  The same problem plagues A Mighty Heart.  When Jolie (as Marianne Pearl, the wife of beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl) and others grandstand about journalists’ rights and duties to the world, the movie stops dead in its tracks.




Nevertheless, you should give A Mighty Heart a try.  Despite the heavy news coverage of Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and murder, most people don’t know much about the Pearls’ background.  Plus, these events take place in the few months right after 9/11 in Pakistan, so viewers can get a sense of how chaotic and important Pakistan is in strategic terms.  At its best, the movie exhibits skillful moments that recall United 93’s docudrama examination of today’s unsettled world.



The 2.35:1 1080p image is the usual clean, progressive image from a major studio.  However, the picture quality varies wildly due to the use of mixed media (including 35mm film, hd video cameras, and analog NTSC video cameras) and jittery camerawork.  Undoubtedly, there is a British tradition of documentary immediacy (director Michael Winterbottom has the same career roots as Paul Greengrass), but this movie’s jittery camerawork isn’t systematized as with, say, The Bourne Supremacy.  The HD DVD video is much sharper and detailed than the standard DVD’s, though due to the use of mixed media, some shots appear practically identical to what you get with the SD DVD (reviewed HERE).




Although the high-profile Transformers HD DVD set does not have a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English track, this disc does.  The TrueHD and the DD Plus 5.1 English tracks are dialogue-heavy given the subject matter, though the movie features the expected generically “tense” music (a lot of thumping beats to accompany the jittery camerawork).  The rear surrounds show some activity when police and soldiers raid terrorists’ hideouts, but mostly, what you get are clear, well-reproduced voices from the front of the room.


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



The HD DVD is a bit light on extras, though the bonus materials keep the movie’s focus on journalists’ rights.  Unlike most of Paramount’s HD DVD releases, the extras are presented in standard definition.




“Journey of Passion: The Making of A Mighty Heart” is a standard-issue promotional featurette with talking-heads interviews and film clips.


“Public Service Announcement” is a commercial for the Daniel Pearl Foundation, a charity that contributes to journalists and musicians’ development.


“Committee to Protect Journalists” is a featurette about an organization’s goal of providing aid to journalists who are threatened or imprisoned.


You get the movie’s theatrical trailer.


Finally, you can bookmark your favorite moments.




An insert advertises other Paramount HD DVDs.








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