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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Shrek the Third HD-DVD

(Chris Miller, 2007)

 

DreamWorks Animation (USA)

1.78:1 1080p

92 minutes

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

Subtitles: Optional English, English SDH, French, Spanish

Extras: different menus; The Animators Corner; downloadable content; Worcestershire Academy Yearbook; Big Green Goofs; Lost Scenes; Donkey Dance; Meet the Cast; Shrek’s Guide to Parenthood; Tech of Shrek; DreamWorks Animation Video Jukebox; Merlin’s Magic Crystal Ball; How to Be Green; trailers for other movies

 

Released: November 13th, 2007

HD DVD case

18 chapters

 

For all I know, there may be an endless supply of Shrek sequels in the pipeline.  That DreamWorks ogre’s skin is the color of money after all.  But there is nonetheless a feeling of finality about Shrek the Third, a sense that the tale has at last reached a state of completion.  In the first movie, Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) met and wooed his lady love, Fiona (Cameron Diaz); in the second, he got to know the in-laws.  The current installment finds him faced with impending fatherhood and something of a career crisis.  Will he take over his father-in-law’s business or remain true to his vocation of bellowing and smashing things?

 

 

 

Unless the Shrek team wants to follow its hero into the dangerous swamps of mid-life, thus shifting his literary pedigree away from William Steig and in the direction of John Updike or Philip Roth, it may want to leave him in a condition of more-or-less happily ever after.  Which is only to say that Shrek the Third, directed by Chris Miller and Raman Hui from a script with a half-dozen credited begetters, already feels less like a children’s movie than either of its predecessors.  (This may be why I liked it better than the others.  But then again, so did my kids.)

 

It isn’t that there’s anything inappropriate--no smoking or swearing and only the sex implied by Fiona’s pregnancy and the brood of Donkey-Dragon offspring--but rather that the movie’s liveliest humor and sharpest drama take root in decidedly grown-up situations.  Shrek’s anxious, less-than-overjoyed reaction to the prospect of becoming a parent is not something most youngsters will relate to.  (In one brilliantly executed sequence he has a nightmare of being besieged by hundreds of gurgling, saucer-eyed ogre babies.)  And the depiction of Cinderella (Amy Sedaris), Rapunzel (Maya Rudolph), and Snow White (Amy Poehler) as bored, catty moms is likely to tickle fans of Little Children, a group that I hope doesn’t include any actual little children.

 

 

 

Whether these bits would seem as fresh or incisive if they were not embedded in a noisy cartoon remotely based on a beloved picture book is an open question.  The strategy of the Shrek movies has always been to appeal to the easy, smirky cynicism of the parents while whetting their children’s appetite for crude humor and plush merchandise.  Shrek 2 pulled off the trick in a way that struck me as coarse and overdone, turning travestied fairy tales into the stuff of hackneyed Hollywood satire.  But Shrek the Third seems at once more energetic and more relaxed, less desperate to prove its cleverness and therefore to some extent smarter.

Excerpt from A.O. Scott's review at The New York Times HERE

 

 

Video:

This HD DVD release does a great job of exhibiting the movie’s cartoony atmosphere.  The 1.85:1 1080p image is bright and vivid (as far as standard definition goes), but surprisingly, as with the SD DVD, many shots are rather soft.  Also, Shrek the Third was rendered in a flat style that is not as breathtaking as what you get with Ratatouille or The Incredibles.  Then again, this movie is a cartoon with no ambitions about being appreciated as Art. 

 

Audio:

The movie is filled with loud, boisterous, shrill, loony characters, and the same adjectives can be used to describe the wildly active sound mix.  The DD Plus 5.1 English track is a riot of audio gags that race around the room.  DreamWorks must’ve paid top dollar for the list of big-name voices, so the center channel is always the boss--the better to let viewers hear the expensive talent.

 

 

 

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

 

Extras:

The HD DVD features a couple of exclusive extras.  First up are a couple of selectable menus so that you don’t have to look at the same basic set-up every time you watch the disc.  You can download some content (the most noteworthy being a subtitle trivia track, though this should’ve been simply coded onto the disc itself) if your HD DVD player is connected to the Internet.  The major exclusive is “The Animators Corner”, which is a picture-in-picture video stream of the movie in storyboard form.

 

The “Worcestershire Academy Yearbook” offers an interactive guide to Prince Arthur’s buddies.

 

“Big Green Goofs” are intentional animation flubs.

 

In “Lost Scenes”, you can see video footage of pitches and sketches for discarded sequences.

 

“Donkey Dance” is basically a music video featuring Donkey.

 

“Meet the Cast” parades the voice actors.

 

“Shrek’s Guide to Parenthood” is a collection of parenting tips from some of the movie’s characters.

 

“Tech of Shrek” showcases the computer-animation technology and functions as a commercial for Hewlett-Packard and AMD (the microchip company).

 

“DreamWorks Animation Video Jukebox” presents song-and-dance clips from other DreamWorks Animation movies.

 

“Merlin’s Magic Crystal Ball” is a video version of the Magic 8 Ball.

 

“How to Be Green” teaches viewers how to be environmentally-conscious.

 

Finally, there are trailers for other movies.

 

 

--Miscellaneous--

An insert booklet teaches viewers about how to use the disc’s online interactive features.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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