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

 

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Standard Operating Procedure [Blu-ray]

 

(Errol Morris, 2008)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Studio: Sony Pictures Classics

Video: Sony

 

Discs:

Region: FREE

Feature Runtime: 1:55:51

Chapters: 34

Feature film disc size: 31.8 Gig

One dual-layered Blu-ray

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: October 14th, 2008

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC

 

Audio:
English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1, DUBs: French: Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles:
Feature: English SDH, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese Traditional, Korean, Thai, German, Turkish, and none
 

Supplements:

Commentary by director Errol Morris
9 additional scenes (all in SD)
theatrical trailer
NOTE: The above are on the SD-DVD release, but unique to the
Blu-ray are also:
Approximately 2 further hours of interviews; Jeremy Sivits (25:51), Tim Dugan (23:41), Steven Jordan (27:25), Hydrue Joyner (17:51), and Samuel Provance (17:44) in SD only

Diplomacy in the Age of Terror: The Impact of Diminished Rule of Law on International Relations (45:14 in SD)
Q&A with Errol Morris - at the L.A. premiere (10:52 in SD)
Berlin Film Festival Press Conference (31:36 in SD)
4 Sony Pictures Classics trailers (in HD!)

BD-Live features
 

 

Product Description: Roger Ebert has said, "After twenty years of reviewing films, I haven't found another filmmaker who intrigues me more…Errol Morris is like a magician, and as great a filmmaker as Hitchcock or Fellini." Recently, the Guardian listed him as one of the ten most important film directors in the world.

Standard Operating Procedure is Morris’s eighth feature-length documentary film and it examines the incidents of abuse and torture of suspected terrorists at the hands of U.S. forces at the Abu Ghraib prison...

 

 

 

The Film:

Errol Morris' "Standard Operating Procedure," based on the infamous prison torture photographs from Abu Ghraib, is completely unlike anything I was expecting from such a film -- more disturbing, analytical and morose. This is not a "political" film nor yet another screed about the Bush administration or the war in Iraq. It is driven simply, powerfully, by the desire to understand those photographs.

 

 


There are thousands of them, mostly taken not from the point of view of photojournalism, but in the spirit of home snapshots. They show young Americans, notably Lynndie England, posing with prisoners of war who are handcuffed in grotesque positions, usually naked, heads often covered with their underpants, sometimes in sexual positions. Miss England, who was about 20 at the time and weighed scarcely 100 pounds, often has a cigarette hanging from her mouth in a show of tough-guy bravado. But the effect is not to draw attention to her as the person who ordered these tableaux, but as a part of them. Some other force, not seen, is sensed as shaping them...

Excerpt from Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun Times located HERE

 

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

The Blu-ray transfer probably looks a lot like the original source. It is not especially sharp, defined or colorful. But this is akin to the theatrical presentation - this is the way it was shot. If not for the valuable extra features (only exclusively as part of the Blu-ray) I'd quickly advise picking up the SD-DVD release. The Blu-ray does impart a superior image - more depth, better contrast, tighter overall, better skin-tones - but the intent of the documentary would seem to be equally as impacting even in the lower resolution of SD-DVD. Aside from quibbling over the minutia of the high-definition visual improvement - I think it's much more important just to see the film. Technically it is dual-layered with the feature size being a healthy 30.9 Gig. I don't see evidence of DNR or edge enhancements. In fact I'd have to say the MPEG-4 AVC encoded image does a great job of representing the HDCAM 'look'. I have no strong complaints. I'll wager this is as good as Standard Operating Procedure will look for your home theater. Hopefully, the screen captures below will give you an idea of what it will look like on your system.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music:  
The TrueHD is, as always, competent. Obviously the documentary is heavily dialogue driven and the surround capabilities are expectantly quite passive
. Danny Elfman's score can grip you at times and seems a perfect adjunct to the flowing interviews and images. I'm sure few would expect a ton of kick in the track but regardless it handily does the job called upon. There are two 5.1 DUBs and optional subtitles offered in
English, and multiple foreign languages (see full list above).

 

Extras:
I really enjoyed the commentary by director Errol Morris. He is both enthusiastic and maintains an air of professionalism - pointing out details and production intent. Excellent - and strongly recommended. There are also 9 additional scenes (all in SD) cut from the final version and a theatrical trailer. These are also on the SD-DVD release, but unique to the Blu-ray are also: a further 2 hours of interviews with Jeremy Sivits (25:51), Tim Dugan (23:41), Steven Jordan (27:25), Hydrue Joyner (17:51), and Samuel Provance (17:44). The more you watch of the feature the more the dialogue of the participants emphasizes the humanity involved. The further interviews continue to out a human face on the events. I found the information totally addictive. It's comes across as a personified puzzle that encourages you to seek a solution... of which none id really forthcoming. The 'Hows' and 'Whys' in life transpire can be initially baffling and even explanations - albeit reasonably viable ones - don't always answer the questions asked to satisfy our soul. Diplomacy in the Age of Terror: The Impact of Diminished Rule of Law on International Relations is a 45 minute Berlin Film Festival panel discussion and it may not be worth indulging depending on your attraction to round-table information platforms. I did, however, enjoy the Q&A with Errol Morris - from the L.A. premiere. It was only 10 minutes and my biggest complaint was that it was not much longer. We are also given a half-hour of the Berlin Film Festival Press Conference and finally 4 Sony Pictures Classics trailers (in HD!).

 

 

Bottom line:
As I stated earlier - the biggest attraction to this
Blu-ray
is not that it offers the film in superior audio and video (although for some that is paramount) but rather the additional supplemental interviews, Q&A etc. I don't want the accurate, but less-than-stellar, image quality to deter ANYONE from seeing this monumentally impacting film experience. Whether you indulge in this Blu-ray or the SD-DVD release - we encourage you see Errol Morris' film - preferably as soon as possible.

Gary Tooze

October 21st, 2008

 

 

 





 

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