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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Ocean's Thirteen - HD DVD and Combo SD (flip side)

(Steven Soderbergh, 2007)

Studio: Warner Pictures (USA) / Warner Home Entertainment (USA)

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

Feature film: 1080p

122 minutes

Supplements: HD (1080i or 1080p) and SD (480i or 480p)

 

Audio:

English DD 5.1

French: DD 5.1 (dubbed in Quebec)

Spanish: DD 5.1

 

Subtitles:

English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Portuguese, none

 

Extras

• Commentary by Director Soderbergh and Writers Brian Koppelman &David Levien

• Featurette: Producer Jerry Weintraub takes us on a casino tour

• Featurette: Vegas: An Opulent Illusion

• Featurette: Masters of the Heist: Recalling Real-Life Sophisticated Heists

• Additional Scenes in HD

 

34 chapters

Standard HD-DVD case: 1 disc

Release Date: November 13th, 2007

 

The Film:

Although Steven Soderbergh started out as American indie cinema’s poster boy, he became friends with movie stars who used their association with a critics’ darling to enhance their own reputations.  Soderbergh remained serious for a while, directing social-issues movies like Erin Brockovich and Traffic.  However, he’s clearly bought his own hype, as can be seen with mis-fires like Full Frontal, Solaris, The Good German, and the odd-numbered Ocean’s flicks.

 

Yes, I know that many people enjoyed Ocean’s Eleven, but it was merely about a bunch of actors wearing nice clothes.  Most people thought of Ocean’s Twelve as trash, but I liked it precisely because everyone associated with it just goofed off instead of trying to look cool or making an effort.  Ocean’s Thirteen is really the pits, though.  The plot is ridiculous, the situations are ludicrous, and the characters behave idiotically.  What’s more, there’s a nasty streak of sexism, and I’m not referring to the absence of Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones.  It may’ve been fun for Soderbergh and his friends to spend Warner’s money, but it wasn’t fun for me watching them spend Warner’s money.

 

 

 

Video:

This is a brand new movie that is still in first-run theatres throughout the world, but the video will astonish you in a very bad way.  The 2.40:1 1080p transfer is so grainy that the picture basically registers as noise.  Sometimes, reds and oranges are over-saturated to the point of bleeding, which I had previously thought was something that happened only with SD DVDs.  It’s obvious that Soderbergh wanted to jog our collective memories of 1960s movies and the gaudiness of Las Vegas, but aside from acknowledging the director’s “on purpose” modus operandi, I have to warn you that some upconverted SD DVDs look better than this HD-DVD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio:

The primary DD Plus 5.1 English track exhibits the expected jittery music and special effects cues that jump from speaker to speaker to try to make the movie feel light and breezy.  Otherwise, expect much of the action to take place near the front center channel as the characters talk and talk and talk...and talk nonsense.  The music score tends to be front-loaded, though a couple of low-frequency moments during the movie’s climax generate decent bass response.

 

 

 

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

 

Extras:

First up are two high-definition exclusives available only on HD DVD and Blu-ray.  Steven Soderbergh and the screenwriters contributed an audio commentary.  They discuss the usual topics (how they got together, what inspired them, everyone had a great time, etc.), but it’s too bad that Soderbergh actually thinks that he made an okay movie.

 

“Masters of the Heist” is a featurette about daring real-life robberies.

 

The remaining extras can also be found on the three SD DVD editions (widescreen, Pan&Scan, trilogy box set).  There are a couple of throwaway deleted scenes.  “Vegas: An Opulent Illusion” gives viewers a glimpse of the city’s sense of architectural style.  “Jerry Weintraub Walk and Talk” features the movie’s producer giving a tour of the casino set.

 

(For the movie’s trailers, you’re going to have to look elsewhere.)

 

--SD DVD side--

In addition to reduced technical specs, the SD DVD side does not have either the audio commentary or “Masters of the Heist”, though it does have previews for other movies.

--Miscellaneous--

An insert advertises other Warner HD DVDs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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