H D - S E N S E I

A view on Hi-def DVDs by Gary W. Tooze


Introduction: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 7500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

Samsung HPR4272 42" Plasma HDTV
Toshiba HD-A2 HD-DVD player (firmware upgraded)

Sony BDP-S300 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player (firmware upgraded)
Sony DVP NS5ODH SD-DVD player (region-free and HDMI)

Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

Gary W. Tooze







Into the Wild [Blu-ray]

(Sean Penn, 2007)



Coming to North America in December 2008:


Review by Gary Tooze


Studio: Paramount

Video: Fox Pathe Europa



Region FREE

Feature Runtime: 2:28:07

Chapters: 34

Feature film disc size: 24.2 Gig

One dual-layered Blu-ray

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: July 16th, 2008



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: VC-1


English: DTS-HD Master 5.1, TrueHD 5.1, DUBs: French DTS-HD Master 5.1, TrueHD 5.1

Feature: French (mandatory for English language selected dialogue)


Braving Alaska - National Geographic Special (Narrated in English by Martin Sheen) 51:55

Press Conference with Penn, Hirsch 37:52 (questions in French translated to English - so he could answer)

Featurette: Into the Wild: The Story, The Characters (4:3 letterboxed - interlaced - mandatory French subtitles) - 21:53
• Featurette: Into the Wild: The Experience - 17:19
• Theatrical trailer (2:32)
Sean Penn Into the Wild 20:08 (mandatory French subtitles)

Product Description: This is the true story of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch). Freshly graduated from college with a promising future ahead, McCandless instead walked out of his privileged life and into the wild in search of adventure. What happened to him on the way transformed this young wanderer into an enduring symbol for countless people -- a fearless risk-taker who wrestled with the precarious balance between man and nature...




The Film: In Sean Penn's first three helmed efforts - The Indian Runner (1991), The Crossing Guard (1995), and The Pledge (2001) - each project seemed to advance upon each other - improving in the areas of pace, visual treatment and encapsulation and expression of subtext. My anticipation to view Into the Wild was skyrocketing upon first hearing of the production. This was especially true as, later, a good friend, (who sees over 150 films a year in theatres), stated that it was the best he had seen in 2007. Now that I have had the opportunity to view it (three times!) I enthusiastically agree (and yes, I have seen There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men). Into the Wild is up for Academy Award accolades in Best Achievement in Editing and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Hal Holbrook). The fact that it was not nominated for Best Picture or Penn for Best Director is only further proof at how ridiculously unremarkable achieving that statuette has become. It has evolved itself to be as worthless and meaningless as a Grammy. Just another 'celebrity' glad-handing ceremony of pomposity and flashy hollowness. Anyway...


Into the Wild is based on the best-selling, true story, book by Jon Krakauer. Its highest achieving ideal in the film is how faithfully it expresses the meaning of the protagonist's adventure - reaffirming a spirit of dropping out, lack of caution, and escaping from the dissatisfaction of society's goals and selfish aims. Hippie-esq indeed. Christopher McCandless (aka Alexander Supertramp) is played with quiet zeal by Emile Hirsch - who was recently touted as being 'one of the futures of American acting'. This is a visually appealing road-picture with frequent flashbacks and unique montages explaining McCandless' motivations. It is delivered on screen with detailed precision by Penn.



McCandless' Thoreau-inducing optimism will grate on some - too bad. Critics who see his 'distancing' as unprepared and foolish don't seem to realize that his trek, ending at an abandoned bus outside Alaska’s Denali National Park, was not as much escapism to a 'self-imposed' exile, but as a rebirth... which could only be fully achieved by death. I see his whole dice-rolling adventure as a full-circle  suicide attempt that should have been obvious from episodes like kayaking down the rapids and giving all his money to charity. This is regardless of his diary indicating desperate, although feudal, attempts to survive in the end.  As an highly intelligent product of society and the US College education system (McCandless achieved the grades for Harvard Law), stemming from a wealthy - albeit deeply troubled family existence - McCandless should be as big a warning sign as the latest school shooting massacre. Perhaps a precursor to the mindless instilling of surface values - that we, as a societal whole, just can't seem to take ANYMORE.



Penn's defining vision through all this is a most profound statement on modernity, lack of communication and our inability to express honest love. His manner in showcasing the underlying themes of Into the Wild  truly evokes another masterful filmmaker and his similar dissertations on alienation in the modern world - the recently deceased Michelangelo Antonioni. This film is that good folks... and I give it my highest recommendation. out of


Gary Tooze


Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

This Blu-ray looks vastly more film-like than its SD-DVD counterpart. We have reviewed the reasonably strong 2-disc SCE and I have compared a number of captures below. There is improvement in all areas - detail, which we expect to be superior due to the higher resolution, colors are more vibrant (skin tones especially more true - less motley orange/yellow), contrast and black levels are dynamite and there appears to be very slightly more information in the frame. On my system, the Alaskan, and other, landscapes can be quite stunning - breathtaking at times. The film is darker than most and perhaps this influences my strong feelings about crisp Blu-ray image. Technically it is dual-layered using the VC1 encode with the feature size being a healthy 24.2 Gig. I see NO evidence of any digital manipulations like DNR or edge enhancements. This 1080P transfer is rock solid. Hopefully, the expandable screen captures below will give you an idea of what it will look like on your system. As with the HD edition I own (possibly the same encode) I was blown away at the quality on my plamsa - glorious indeed.


NOTE: This is a French disc and is not yet available in North America but despite this Blu-ray being region free (capable of being played on Blu-ray players worldwide) it has mandatory French subtitles when the original English language options are chosen. This, however, is not true through HTPC viewing. So why review? As well as being my favorite film of 2007, I strongly suspect that the hi-def encode will be exactly the same for the upcoming North American release. If we find it is different we will compare. Stay tuned.    





Paramount (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1, 4 - NTSC TOP vs. Fox Pathe Europa - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM



Paramount (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1, 4 - NTSC TOP vs. Fox Pathe Europa - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM



Paramount (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1, 4 - NTSC TOP vs. Fox Pathe Europa - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM



Paramount (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1, 4 - NTSC TOP vs. Fox Pathe Europa - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM



Paramount (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1, 4 - NTSC TOP vs. Fox Pathe Europa - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM



Paramount (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1, 4 - NTSC TOP vs. Fox Pathe Europa - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM



Paramount (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1, 4 - NTSC TOP vs. Fox Pathe Europa - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM



More Blu-ray









Audio & Music:  
We get a fantastic
DTS-HD Master 5.1 and TrueHD 5.1 option for both original English and French language DUBs. It is extremely impressive as is the music from Eddie Vedder, Michael Brook and John Fogerty (to name a few) which floats out of the front speakers as crisp and clean as I've ever heard from those performers. I sampled both English options and the marriage of images and audio is truly brilliant on this Blu-ray
for both tracks. Let's hope the North American release duplicates this facet of the disc as well. As mentioned above there are French subtitles that are mandatory when either of the English audio options are chosen.


A few more supplements than the SD starting with a kind of filler 51 minute National Geographic documentary entitled Braving Alaska - narrated (in English) by Martin Sheen. I enjoyed the Press Conference with a tired looking Penn and Hirsch for 35+ minutes. They wait as there are some questions in French - then translated to English for their responses. We get the same decent, 1.33:1, featurette: Into the Wild: The Story, The Characters running 20 odd minutes but this one has burned-in French subtitles as does the 20 minute Sean Penn Into the Wild piece. Free of the forced subs though is the featurette: Into the Wild: The Experience - also founds on the SCE DVD and a Theatrical trailer. Dialogue on all is in English.



Bottom line:
Well, our caveat about this
Blu-rays mandatory subtitles
should dismiss it from consideration for most readers but it rises my own anticipation to have it available over here. It should be accessible in a little over a month. I do strongly suspect that this transfer (audio/video) will be the exact same - but stranger things have happened. DVDBeaver will keep you informed. Sit tight - things are looking very good. 

Gary Tooze

November 6th, 2008




Coming to North America in December 2008:



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