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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Inside Man HD-DVD

(Spike Lee, 2006)

 

Universal (USA)

2.35:1 1080p

129 minutes

Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, DD Plus 5.1 English, DD Plus 5.1 French, DD 2.0 English DVS

Subtitles: Optional English SDH, French

Extras: audio commentary by director Spike Lee; deleted scenes; The Making of Inside Man; Number 4; My Scenes

Released: October 23rd, 2007

HD-DVD case

20 chapters

 

The Film:

For most of his career, the great and maddeningly unreliable Spike Lee has been anything but -- to borrow the title of his diverting new film -- an inside man.  Mr. Lee, who hit the scene in the mid-1980s with She’s Gotta Have It, a barbed independent comedy that jump-started the black film movement and made him a national brand, has preferred to be seen as an outside man, a rebel who said what he wanted, when he wanted, far from the industry establishment.  To judge from this precision-tooled amusement, Mr. Lee may have missed his calling (one of them, anyway) as a studio hire.

 

 

Inside Man is a jolt, partly because it comes equipped rather incongruously with the name of Mr. Lee’s company, 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, but mostly because this is the kind of seamless diversion that should be a stock item in Hollywood but isn’t.  Much like Richard Donner’s recent actioner 16 Blocks, another effective piece of genre showmanship, Inside Man works because it takes a familiar setup -- in this case, a Wall Street bank heist that mutates into a hostage crisis -- and twists it ever so slightly.  A particularly solid screenplay helps here, as do stars who can actually act -- this film’s holy trinity being Denzel Washington, Clive Owen and Jodie Foster -- along with an excellent supporting cast and the best lineup of pusses and mugs outside The Sopranos.

 

Here’s how it goes down: Mr. Owen stares into the camera and announces that he is about to commit “the perfect bank robbery”.  Whether his character, Dalton Russell, succeeds is immaterial to how he gets from the first act to the third, which is where Mr. Lee’s movie love comes in.  This is the least overtly personal of Mr. Lee’s films, but it’s also his most polished and satisfying work in years, with none of the raggedness that sometimes mars even his best intentions.  Taking his cue from the surprising, witty screenplay by the newcomer Russell Gewirtz, the filmmaker frames the heist and subsequent standoff as a really big show -- namedropping Dog Day Afternoon along the way -- then cuts his actors loose and lets them play.

Excerpt from Manohla Dargis, The New York Times located HERE

 

Video:

Although it’s a catalog release, Inside Man was released in theatres no more than a year and a half ago.  Therefore, on HD DVD, it looks about as strong as any new release.  Although the filmmakers favored a high-contrast style with some noticeable grain, this is an excellent 2.35:1 1080p transfer.  The sharpness is exceptional, and the strong, dark hues are wonderful eye candy.

 

NOTE: Captures are taken from the BLU-RAY version reviewed HERE

CLICK EACH CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio:

Inside Man is more of a thriller than an out-and-out action movie, but there are still plenty of moments that push the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English and DD Plus 5.1 English tracks to shine.  Bass extensions are very deep, and the pulsating sound design dances circles around your head.  Voices are clear and charged, and the lively score is well-integrated into the mix.

 

 

 

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

 

Extras:

I remember first seeing the Inside Man trailer in a movie theater.  Towards the end of the trailer, I was not the only viewer to be surprised that Spike Lee had directed a genre piece.  In his informative audio commentary, Lee talks about how he became involved with a project outside his usual social-drama/documentary venues.  The director clearly enjoyed the time that he spent on this movie.

 

Next up are about 20 minutes of deleted scenes. 

 

“The Making of Inside Man” and “Number 4” are making-of featurettes, with the former taking a promotional overview of the entire production and with the latter focusing on Spike Lee and Denzel Washington’s frequent collaborations.

 

Finally, you can bookmark your favorite clips with My Scenes

 

 

 

 

 

--Miscellaneous--

An insert advertises other Universal HD DVDs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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