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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Evan Almighty Combo HD-DVD + SD-DVD

(Tom Shadyac, 2007)

 

Universal (USA)

2.35:1 1080p/2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen

96 minutes/96 minutes

Audio:

        HD DVD--DD Plus 5.1 English, DD Plus 5.1 French, DD 2.0 surround English DVS

        SD DVD--DD 5.1 English, DD 2.0 surround French, DD 2.0 surround English DVS

Subtitles:

        HD DVD--Optional English SDH, French

        SD DVD--Optional English SDH, French, Spanish

Extras: PIP video commentary; Ark Building for Dummies; “Get on Board” trivia track; The Ark-itect of Noah’s Ark; Becoming Noah; Steve Carell Unscripted; Animals on Set Two by Two; Animal Roundup Game; The Almighty Green Set; It’s Easy Being Green; Acts of Random Kindness; A Flood of Visual Effects; The Almighty Forest; Animal Wrangler; web-enabled features; My Scenes

Released: October 9th, 2007

HD-DVD case

20 chapters

 

In Evan Almighty, God (Morgan Freeman) tells Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) to build an ark to save the animals of the Earth.  There is a flood this time, though it’s caused by people harming the environment.  This movie preaches a green message by wasting an astronomical budget (at least $170 million), much water, tons of trees, and other precious resources.  This waste is not funny, and this movie is a shameful rebuke of the very message that it wants viewers to learn.

 

 

 

Video:

Evan Almighty is not a visually-interesting movie.  While the colors are more natural and realistic than those found in, say, Bruce Almighty, shots with clearly CGI elements look indistinct and even muddy sometimes.  Also, the last third has a slightly hot, blown-out appearance.  As expected with a new release, the image is basically free of physical damage and debris, though again, the final product is only slightly above-average.

 

Audio:

The four Universal catalog titles released on 23 October 2007 all have Dolby TrueHD 5.1 tracks, but streeting two weeks earlier, Evan Almighty only has a DD Plus 5.1 English track even though it is a new release.  I suppose one doesn’t really have to be up in arms about the audio as the movie is mostly a dialogue-driven comedy.  The last quarter has some special effects sequences involving a flood and Evan’s ark floating around the Washington, D.C. area, but the audio effects mostly come from the front speakers anyway.  There is credible bass presence, but you’re not going to use this disc to wow friends and neighbors.

 

You can also watch the movie with a DD Plus 5.1 French dub.  A DD 2.0 surround English DVS (Descriptive Video Service) track can be used for people who don’t have good vision.  Optional English SDH and French subtitles support the audio.

 

Extras:

Evan Almighty is yet another new release to receive the “U Control” treatment.  There are several PIP extras, including a video commentary with members of the cast and crew that is interspersed with behind-the scenes footage and animatics.  “Ark Building for Dummies” is a joke guide to building a huge ship.  “Get on Board” is an eco-friendly trivia track.

 

Next up are some Deleted Scenes and Outtakes.  “Steve Carell Unscripted” is a collection of moments with the actor goofing off on the set.

 

“The Ark-itect of Noah’s Ark” looks at building the ark, and “Becoming Noah” shows how make-up made Steve Carell look like a Biblical man. 

 

“Animals on Set Two by Two” and “Animal Wrangler” detail the difficult task of working with a wide variety of animals.

 

 

 

“Animal Roundup Game” is a trivia game aimed at children.

 

“The Almighty Green Set” and “It’s Easy Being Green” praise the virtues of being environmentally-conscious (HA!). 

 

“Acts of Random Kindness” shows the cast and crew members talking about the nice things they did because they were inspired by the movie.

 

“A Flood of Visual Effects” examines the CGI work.

 

“The Almighty Forest” is a list of names of companies and people who donated money to plant a tree.

 

Several weeks ago, Universal revealed that you can shop online for Evan Almighty merchandise by using the HD DVD.  Presumably, there will be other online features, though details are slim at this time.

 

Finally, you can save your favorite moments with My Scenes.

 

Once again, Universal didn’t want you to get the movie’s trailer on its own HD DVD release.

 

*The SD DVD side basically has the same extras minus the advanced PIP and Internet functions.  It also has trailers for other movies.

 

 

--Miscellaneous--

An insert advertises other Paramount HD DVDs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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