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Number 145 - April, 2007

Part III

Staff

 


Now Playing
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Night At The Museum (Blu-ray) The World's Fastest Indian (Blu-ray/HD DVD)
Closer (Blu-ray) DEJA VU (Blu-ray)
School For Scoundrels (HD DVD) Smokin' Aces (HD DVD)
Secret Window (Blu-ray) Failure To Launch (Blu-ray/HD DVD)
The Game (HD DVD) Digital Video Essentials (HD DVD)

Number 145 - April, 2007 - Part I

Number 145 - April, 2007 - Part II

Number 145 - April, 2007 - Part III

Movie Reviews Index

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20th Century Fox

2006, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 40 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English DTS-HD MA 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Shawn Levy


Starring: Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Carla Gugino, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Bill Cobbs

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Comedic

Sex

No

Language

Mild

"Night At The Museum" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

When good-hearted dreamer Larry Daley is hired as night watchman at the Museum of Natural History, he soon discovers that an ancient curse brings all the exhibits to life after the sun sets. Suddenly, Larry finds himself face-to-face with a frisky T. rex skeleton, tiny armies of Romans and cowboys, and a mischievous monkey who taunts him to the breaking point. But with the help of President Teddy Roosevelt, Larry may just figure out a way to control the chaos and become a hero in his son's eyes.

Commentary

I didn't have high hopes going into this one. The theatrical trailers didn't do much for me, and it just looked like another take on the Jumanji theme. Thankfully, it wasn't as bad as the trailers led me to believe, and some of the humor was actually quite good.

The effects in the film are good but have some trouble blending at times. This is really a family movie and it succeeds on that level with a nice father/son thing going on.

Technical

Fox is starting to look like the only studio that isn't using one of the newer video encoders regularly with only a handful of their titles taking advantage of the new codecs. While MPEG-2 still looks quite good, I start to notice some issues when it is packed into a BD-25 with a lossless soundtrack. Blacks have a bit of noise in them from time to time and it seems like a lot of the CG work is softened up. Colors in this film are very natural and overall I was satisfied with the level of depth and detail, but it doesn't have quite the polish of a lot of the newer releases we've been seeing on Blu-ray. 

Fox continues to favor the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, despite the fact that there isn't a single player out there to take advantage of it (one hasn't even been announced yet!). Regardless, it mixes down to 1.5 Mbps quite well and has a nice bottom end and good dynamics. Since this is an effects driven film, the sound design does a good job of helping with the realism, and that is conveyed nicely with the open mix. Surrounds are used a lot to help with the action onscreen, and the bass response of this mix is quite good.

Extras

Extras include two feature commentaries, a trivia track, and the trailer in HD.

- Kris Deering -

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Columbia Pictures

2004, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 44 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

Italian Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

Italian Dolby Digital 5.1

Russian Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Mike Nichols


Starring Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Clive Owen

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

Yes

Language

Strong

"Closer" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

The relationships of two couples become complicated and deceitful when the man from one couple meets the woman of the other.

Commentary

I've always been highly impressed with this film. It is in no way a romance film, and it's anything but a comedy. This shows the grittier side of love and the stupid decisions we make while we're in it. The film centers on four distinct characters and their interaction with each other. It reflects how we throw away the good things in life only to regret it later, and how we can't let go of the mistakes we make. A powerful drama with superb performances by all. A must see in my opinion.

Technical

This was released on DVD as part of Columbia's "Superbit" line of DVDs and had a pretty good video transfer. This definitely improves on it by eliminating the ringing and small amounts of compression seen around fine objects. Interior shots come off as slightly soft, probably due to lighting, but exterior shots shine with excellent depth and dimension. Detail is good throughout, and contrast levels are impressive overall. The film has a very natural look to it with no artificial tweaking of color or stylization, so it boasts a very window-like quality on the screen.

Seems that Columbia has picked up a fetish for including more than one lossless audio track lately. While this looks good on the back of the package, I would rather see them dump the extra lossless track and start including a full resolution PCM soundtrack for the main track at 48/24 like Buena Vista. I imagine they do this to allow the release to fit multiple markets but it compromises this one.

Outside of my rant, this is still an effective presentation. It introduced me to Damien Rice's music, which I've become a big fan of, and the score and soundtrack fit the mood of the film perfectly. This is mainly a dialogue-driven film, and in that, it succeeds with nice timbre balance and imaging across the screen. Surrounds pick up the atmosphere nicely and help fill the room.

Extras

Like the Superbit release, the only extra is the music video for Damien Rice's opening song.

- Kris Deering -

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Dimension Films

2007, Color, Unrated, 1 hour 47 minutes

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

 

Directed by Todd Phillips

 

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Jon Heder, Jacinda Barrett, Luis Guzman, Sarah Silverman, Michael Clarke Duncan

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Strong

Sex

Mild

Language

Strong

"School For Scoundrels" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

Unlucky loser Roger enrolls in a confidence-building class and ends up in a prank-filled competition with his professor.

Commentary

This film is almost a return to the 80's style of comedy when you have your typical geek type lead who somehow finds his inner "cool" self. This time the character learns it from watching the supposed cool guy and deciding that isn't who he wants to be - the cool guy being the teacher of a small class that supposedly helps the hopeless gain confidence and authority in their lives. This movie definitely has its funny parts, but it never steers away from most of the formula we see all the time for films like this. Worth a rental at best.

Technical

Presented in 1080p and encoded in AVC, this transfer is for the most part quite good, but has its bad moments. There are a couple of spots throughout the film where it almost looks like they edited in footage from the SD version. Early on in the film, there is a part near the elevator in the apartment building that is lacking in detail completely, and it doesn't fit at all with the video quality before or after it. I saw this a couple of times. Outside of that, detail and depth are solid, and noise is never an issue. This is not a stylized film at all, so colors always look natural, and the image has a sharp quality that at times may actually hurt the video. I say that because Billy Bob's makeup looks pretty bad!

Two soundtracks are included: a Dolby TrueHD and DD+ 5.1 mix. This may be one of the first films I've watched where I wasn't really that impressed with the TrueHD mix. It isn't bad, but the subject matter never lends itself to an impressive sound mix. Atmosphere is very front heavy, and dynamics only pop in on occasion. The surrounds are a bit anemic, even for a comedy. Some of the musical selections liven things up, but not by much.

Extras

Extras include an alternate ending, gag reel, making of feature, trailer, and feature commentary.

- Kris Deering -

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Columbia Pictures

2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 36 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

German Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

German Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

French (Canadian) Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by David Koepp


Starring: Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Maria Bello, Timothy Hutton, Charles S. Dutton

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

Yes

"Secret Window" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Mort Rainey, a writer just coming off of a troublesome divorce with his ex-wife Amy, finds himself stalked at his remote lake house by a psychotic stranger who claims Mort stole his best story idea.

Commentary

This is the second film from David Koepp that I've reviewed recently. I just watched Stir of Echoes about a week ago. Both are decent thrillers, but I think I would give a slight edge to Stir of Echoes in terms of entertainment. Depp does a great job in this role, but the film moves at a sluggish pace that detracts a bit from the tension. The ending comes a bit out of nowhere too, with little to no signs of what might be on the way. While not a bad film by any stretch, not one of the best thrillers I've seen recently.

Technical

This is a great looking transfer from Sony and is just shy of getting a 5 for video. Fine detail and depth of image are outstanding through the majority of the film, with some of the outdoor scenes looking like they were actually shot with HD cameras. Colors are always natural and lend to the "window" like image. The only downfall is the CG work that is blended into the image at times. It crushes the detail a bit, and the color balance suffers as well. This only happens a handful of times, but it is obvious. Otherwise, this is an outstanding job by Sony.

The trend of including multiple uncompressed soundtracks continues with this one. I still would prefer a single full resolution PCM track, as I am sure most of the North American audience would. Atmosphere is rich, and like most of the PCM tracks I've heard so far, this is extremely enveloping. The sense of space is almost eerie it is so good, and there are some really impressive panning effects in this film that use not only the front soundstage, but also create a sense of height as they travel across the ceiling into the back of the room. The bottom end has plenty of the authority and is used on occasion to add to the suspense and action of the film.

Extras

Extras include some deleted scenes, some production features, a feature commentary, storyboards, and trailers.

- Kris Deering -

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Polygram Pictures

1997, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 9 mins.

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

 

Directed by David Fincher


Starring Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, James Rebhorn, Deborah Kara Unger

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"The Game" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

Nicholas Van Orton is a very wealthy San Francisco banker, but he is an absolute loner, even spending his birthday alone. In the year of his 48th birthday (the age his father committed suicide) his brother Conrad, who has gone long ago and surrendered to addictions of all kinds, suddenly returns and gives Nicholas a card giving him entry to unusual entertainment provided by something called Consumer Recreation Services (CRS). Giving up to curiosity, Nicholas visits CRS, and all kinds of weird and bad things start to happen to him.

Commentary

Never in a million years would I have guessed that this would be the first David Fincher movie to be released on a new HD format. This was one of the very early DVD releases, and it never received a re-release despite rumors of Criterion visiting it.

Fincher's masterpiece of twisted suspense is often overshadowed by his bigger blockbusters like Se7en and Fight Club, but is one of my favorite thrillers of the last decade and rich in surprises and twists. I won't give away anything here as this is a movie best seen with no knowledge about it, so if you haven't seen it, go get it now.

Technical

There is no doubt that Fincher likes to have a look to his movies. Dark, dreary, moody, call it what you like, but it is always there. This is no exception - it is a dark film. Normally that wouldn't be a big deal, but it seems like blacks are elevated, which kills contrast and depth. The image has a softer look than I remember it having any other time I've seen it, and with the raised blacks, it lacks the dimensionality it should have. Colors are muted intentionally, and adding this all together makes for a rather ho-hum visual experience. Too bad, I remember even the non-anamorphic DVD looking quite good.

The 5.1 DD+ soundtrack does do the film justice, but falls short of some of Fincher's other movies in range. This is a soundtrack that breathes atmosphere, and for the most part, this track delivers it. Dynamics are decent but never really that impressive. Dialogue always sounds natural, and the balance of atmosphere, action, and voices is quite good throughout.

Extras

Extras are severely lacking here. I hope that Universal revisits this one at a later point with a new transfer and some solid supplements. It is a film that deserves it.

- Kris Deering -

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Magnolia

2005, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hours 7 Minutes

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

1080p

 

English Dolby Digital 5.1

English DTS-HD 5.1

 

Directed by Roger Donaldson

 

Starring Anthony Hopkins, Diane Ladd, Paul Rodriguez, Aaron Murphy

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

Suggested

Language

Mild

"The World's Fastest Indian" (Blu-ray/HD DVD)

Synopsis

After a lifetime of perfecting his classic Indian motorcycle, Burt sets off from the bottom of the world to test his bike at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. With all odds against him, he sets a new speed record and captures the spirit of his times. Burt Munro’s legend lives on today.

Commentary

This is a truly outstanding and heart warming film. Hopkins turns in a superb role as Burt Munro, a speed demon from down under who defies all the odds on his way to breaking the land speed record for a streamline motorcycle under 1000cc's. This film captures the journey that Munro takes from his small town in New Zealand all the way to the salt flats of Utah. Along the way he meets lots of characters and shares his plans and love of speed. It's truly uplifting and a must see in my opinion.

Technical

This is a very good looking video presentation from Magnolia Pictures. Detail is exquisite at times, especially in close-ups. I don't think this was shot digitally since there is plenty of film grain in darker scenes, but there are times when you could swear you could reach into the image and touch something. Colors look wonderful throughout and the level of depth is breathtaking - an excellent presentation.

The soundtrack is offered in both Dolby Digital and DTS-HD. I watched using the DTS soundtrack. Dynamics are quite impressive during the race sequences near the end of the film, with a low end that packs a punch. Most of the movie has a spirited score that livens up the room, and overall atmosphere is quite pleasing. Dialogue sounds very good throughout, having nice timbre and balance with the rest of the soundtrack.

Extras

Magnolia has included a great extra, the original documentary Offerings to the God of Speed, filmed in the early 70's. This is a great historic look at Munro and actually has footage of the man on his bike. A real treat for fans of this film. There is also a feature on his hometown, a feature commentary, deleted scenes, and a making of feature.

- Kris Deering -

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Touchstone Pictures

2006, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 06 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0

 

Directed by Tony Scott


Starring 
Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer, Paula Patton, Bruce Greenwood, Adam Goldberg, Jim Caviezel

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Brief Nudity

Language

Mild

"DEJA VU" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

A ferry filled with crewmen from the USS Nimitz and their families blows up in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. ATF Doug Carlin is brought in to assist in the massive investigation, and gets attached to an experimental FBI surveillance unit, one that uses space folding technology to directly look back a little over four days into the past. While tracking down the bomber, Carlin gets an idea in his head: could they use the device to actually travel back in time and not only prevent the bombing but also the murder of a local woman whose truck was used in the bombing?

Commentary

I wanted to see this pretty bad in theaters, but my travel schedule didn't allow for it. Last time Washington and Scott teamed up for Man on Fire, I loved it. This looked like it would be good too, and it was. Time travel films are always a bit hit or miss with me, but Scott does a good job of just making it believable enough to get the story across, and doesn't dwell on the intricacies. Like most of Scott's films, this one has plenty of action and lots of style, and is a great showcase for the Blu-ray format with its presentation and features. Highly recommended.

Technical

This is a superb transfer from Touchstone. Scott's films are always very stylized, with lots of attention given to the contrast side of things. Blacks are deep, with lots of detail, and whites waver on that edge of clipping. This gives the image an incredible amount of depth and dimension. Fine detail is so good, it is almost unnerving. Anyone who thinks that a video sourced from film can't have the detail of one that is sourced from an HD camera doesn't need to look much farther than this movie to find that isn't true. It has an exceptionally clean print, which is almost an oddity for a Scott film, but it just adds to the showoff quality you get here. Reference all the way.

The audio presentation is outstanding as well with only one small gripe that some may find amusing. Bass. GI Jane was very similar to this in that it had almost too much bass. It almost makes me think that Buena Vista is amping up the subwoofer channel because it doesn't blend into the other channels realistically and calls almost too much attention to itself. I am all about having an impressive low end, but I also know when a soundtrack is on the hot side, and this one is. Outside of that, this is a superb uncompressed PCM soundtrack. The entire soundstage is engaged through most of the film, and the design really draws you in to the action onscreen. Explosions will knock your socks off (and anything you may have on the walls). Dialogue is always balanced well into the action, and the surrounds lend a lot to the overall experience.

Extras

Like The Guardian, Buena Vista has included an interactive window experience that allows you to see different parts of the production and interviews while the movie is playing. This is all done in a way that lends to the theme of the film and is pretty good for a supplement. You also get some deleted scenes and extended scenes, as well as some shortcuts to scenes for demos.

- Kris Deering -

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Universal

2007, Color, Rated R, 1 hr 49 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

 

Starring: Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia, Alicia Keys, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Ryan Reynolds

 

Directed by Joe Carnahan

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Strong

Sex

Nudity

Language

Strong

"Smokin' Aces" (HD DVD Hybrid)

Synopsis

When a Las Vegas performer-turned-snitch named Buddy Israel decides to turn state's evidence and testify against the mob, it seems that a whole lot of people would like to make sure he's no longer breathing.

Commentary

What a film. This is one of those buckle up and hang on types with build up and action to spare. Big cast, big guns, big action sums up about everything you can say here. This is a stylized shootout that seems to borrow some styles of lots of recent directors, including Guy Ritchie, Tarantino, and Soderbergh.

Some of the franticness of this film can get hard to take, and some of the cast members are so over the top that it can lose some of its intended feel and dabble into corny, but overall this is a really fun, but violent popcorn flick.

Technical

Wow would be one word to describe it. Outstanding would be another. Universal definitely hit a home run here. This is one of the best I've seen yet on HD DVD, with detail, depth, color, and contrast all being impeccable. I saw this in theaters and thought it would look pretty good in HD, but I didn't think it would look this good. At times I felt that they might have actually cleaned it up a bit, as I remember it being a bit grainier in theaters. Film grain is still evident, but the movie doesn't have that stylized noise that you see so much in films like this nowadays, and I thought it did in theaters. Who really cares though, this is one of those visual presentations that will have your jaw on the floor.

The treat doesn't end with the video. The audio presentation here is one of the most dynamic I've heard on the format yet. Bass is a big player, and it's tight and effective. Nothing in this soundstage is weak, and there is presence to go around. Like the film itself, the sound design and soundtrack choices are on the frantic side, and there are more than a few times that you will probably jump from the dynamics. Smokin is right!

Extras

Universal has been going all out on these bigger day and date releases, and this is no exception. "U-Control" is included and features a rather cool Google Map feature that lets you track the assassins in the film while you're watching. Gimmicky, but neat nonetheless. You also get some behind the scenes footage and interviews with the picture-in-picture feature. Also included are deleted scenes, an alternate ending, some production features, and the trailer.

- Kris Deering -

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Paramount Pictures

2006, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 hour 36 Minutes

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

HD DVD:

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

 

Blu-ray:

English Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Sarah Jessica Parker, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Bartha, Bradley Cooper, Terry Bradshaw, Kathy Bates

 

Directed by Tom Dey

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

Themes

Language

Mild

"Failure to Launch" (Blu-ray/HD DVD)

Synopsis

At 35, Tripp has an interesting job, a hip car, a passion for sailing, and a great house - trouble is, he lives with his parents. They want him out, so they hire Paula, an "interventionist," who has a formula in these cases: chance encounter, get him to ask her out, involve him in a trauma, meet his friends and get their nod, delay sex, have him teach her something, then launch him. It's worked up to now, but this gets complicated when Tripp thinks she's getting too serious and one of his pals is attracted to Paula's deadpan, semi-alcoholic roommate, who's plagued by a mockingbird. Too many secrets may scrub the launch, and what if Paula really likes him? Who can intervene then?

Commentary

I won't lie, I am a big fan of romantic comedies. But this one didn't, well launch. Parker plays a for hire date that is brought in to get a 35 year old out of his parents' house with a series of dates that motivate him. Of course like every other movie that uses a formula close to this, they start to fall for each other. Then they are surprised when the other one finds out that they met under false pretenses, that they are mad with each other. How can that happen?!? There is enough charm in this movie to make it work, but it does dwell a lot on rather bad humor, and some of it is downright horrible (sorry, the idea of even thinking about giving a bird mouth to mouth should have never even entered the minds of the filmmakers). There are too many really good romantic comedies out there to really need to see this one, but I have seen worse.

Technical

Paramount continues its mutual support for both formats and delivers this in VC-1 on HD DVD and MPEG-2 on Blu-ray. Despite the use of different video codecs, I saw little if no difference. It would have been interesting to see the differences in bitrate between the two but I don't have the capability to do that.

The image is fine overall. Detail is good, and the colors are nice, but they border on oversaturation. The film print used is in good shape, but there were a couple of times in the film that I saw noticeable streaks, and occasionally the image quality shifts considerably from scene to scene. Not enough to distract completely from the film, but enough to notice. I would say this is just a bit above average for an HD presentation, but short of top shelf.

Paramount continues to favor HD DVD on the audio side, sporting a 1.5 Mbps DD+ mix, while the Blu-ray version is relocated to 640 kbps DD. Not that it really matters here, because it's anything but an aggressive mix. Most of the time you barely notice it. Atmosphere is decent, but the sound is very front heavy. It is also very dialogue heavy, which is to be expected, but it lacks the typical Hollywood romantic comedy soundtrack to pick things up here and there.

Extras

Extras are the same as the DVD release with the exception of the trailer in HD. There are some production featurettes and dating features, interviews and a contest.

- Kris Deering -

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Joe Kane Productions

2007, Color

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

1080p

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 6.1

English Dolby TrueHD 6.1

 

Directed by Joe Kane

$34.95 On-Line

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

No

Language

No

"Digital Video Essentials" (HD DVD Hybrid)

Synopsis

Released originally in SD, Digital Video Essentials is now coming to you on HD DVD in both 1080p and 720p. As audiences turn to High Definition home theaters, it becomes increasingly important to have the tools and the demonstration materials needed to optimize the quality and capability of the display.

Developed by A/V legend Joe Kane, Digital Video Essentials offers an entire range of audio and video test signals for the all-important home system tune-up. These test tracks can make the difference between an artificial-looking picture and poor sound, and the amazing presentation quality and realism you can only get from an HD DVD.

Commentary

This has been in delay for quite awhile, but it looks like it was definitely worth the wait. It's the first test disc for either HD format, and it is a very complete one. Joe Kane did a masterful job with DVE on DVD, and it is a disc that I still use to this day for calibration and testing. This disc is nearly the same, but now we get to see the footage in the high definition glory it was intended for. All of the test patterns from the original disc are included, but some have been tweaked to offer even more benefit. They've also used the HDi function of HD DVD to help explain each test pattern and offer insight on why and how it may be used.

The disc offers a wide range of test patterns in both 720p and 1080p. These can be used to test the capabilities of a display, as well as the source device. You can be sure we will be implementing a lot of the tests from this disc into our HD Benchmark that we are formulating.

On top of the excellent test patterns, all of the demonstration footage is included. These montages are excellent for showing of your display, but also looking at the limitations of it. The mixed content does a wonderful job of presenting things like fine detail, depth, contrast, video levels, and compression.

The audio side has all of the familiar tests from the DVE DVD, but now they are offered in Dolby TrueHD, making this the first disc with test tones for the new audio formats. You'll find tests for channel levels, rattles, phase, placement, and more.

DVE HD is an easy recommendation. The disc is easy to navigate and also includes the standard definition version on the DVD side of the disc. Make sure your player has the most recent firmware though, as there are already reports of issues with playback, and my Toshiba HD-XA2 required the 1.3 firmware before I could get proper playback.

Technical

Do you really think that Joe Kane would put his name to a disc that had bad video? The original Digital Video Essentials for DVD did have some ringing in the image. I imagine that had a lot to do with scaling down and limitations of MPEG-2. The D-Theater versions were an improvement, but not perfect. This new edition doesn't seem to have any problems at all. The montages are gorgeous and some of the best demo material I've seen yet. Some of the footage is native 1080p, while some of it is scaled from a 720p24 source.

During the montages, the audio is presented in DD+ while the audio tests are in Dolby TrueHD. I did not see any way to switch the audio during the disc, and it defaults to these codecs. The montages sound excellent, with nice spatial cues and good ambience. The score is pleasing without being distracting or cheesy. The audio test tones are very complete and match most of the levels given off by my test generator.

Extras

Extras include the color filter provided with the disc for checking color decoder accuracy and color levels for your display. The SD version is also included on the flipside of the disc. Remember that this disc is authored for both 1080p and 720p display, so make sure you use the appropriate one based on your needs. You can set it up in the main menu.

- Kris Deering -

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