Monday, October 20, 2008

The 1080 Times, vol. 4

While we're in the midst of a sell-off on Wall Street, HD-DVD enthusiasts are definitely in a buy buy buy market. You need to buy now because prices on new HD-DVDs keep falling, along with inventory. After listing The Adventures of Robin Hood at a record low price of $9.99, Amazon then described it as "discontinued by the manufacturer" and is now simply "unavailable." At DVD Panache favorite Deep Discount, their best stock of HD-DVD (including The Warriors, Apollo 13 and Hot Fuzz) is listed as "discontinued." Amazon's stock is still strong, and most of their titles have been reduced to $9.99. There's clearly a day on the horizon when retail HD-DVDs are non-existant online and eBay and other used outlets will be the only way to go. The bright side of this is that prices everywhere are extremely appealing, and if you've created a wish list for HD-DVDs, you should be able to cross many of them off these days (I know I have). On to this issue's scores:

Forbidden Planet: I was really looking forward to this one, as it has some of my favorite visuals of any movie. From the striking opening credits to the Id Monster's assault on the Krell lab, it's all among the best sci-fi imagery ever put on film. With that said, the transition to HD isn't all that groundbreaking, and the differences may only be noticed by those who have seen the movie multiple times. If you are one of those people, prepare to be delighted by how the Altair landscapes now look more realistic and certain scenes (like Altaira's walks in the jungle) have a 3-D quality to them due to the contrast created with the lush artificial backgrounds. Everything looks fantastic, but because it was filmed on a stage and not with natural light, Forbidden Planet's visuals don't "pop" like other HD-DVDs. Score: 6

Dune: This was a great surprise. Some HD-DVDs really give you the whoa factor, and this is one of them, where you find yourself wondering how it could ever look any better. Credit some of this to David Lynch's fantastic production design -- every scene in the Emperor's chambers looks amazing, with the gold costumes and objects naturally shimmering. It honestly looks like it was filmed a couple of years ago, not in 1984. Unfortunately, some of the special effects don't hold up under the increased visual scrutiny, but it's a minor quibble. Score: 9

Grand Prix: I'm really glad I picked this up for $9.99 when I did, it's now listed as "unavailable" on Amazon, with used copies starting at $30.35. Since it was filmed in the Cinerama format, I had high hopes for Grand Prix, and was not disappointed. In particular, the opening scenes at the Monaco Grand Prix are a true wonder. Helicopter shots of the Monte Carlo crowd leave your eyes darting back and forth at all the perfect detail on display, and director John Frankenheimer's famous bumper-cam shots during the race are everything you would hope for. Along with The Searchers and The Adventures of Robin Hood, this disc can truly show off the format. Score: 10

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: Didn't know what to expect with this one, but was excited to see how it would translate. The result is good, but certainly not great. The movie is obviously filled with color, but it's also shot with a mostly soft lens that keeps it from making a big leap with HD. Certain shots really pop, like the early candy shop scene, but once we get inside the factory, it starts looking ordinary. The "Pure Imagination" scene is an all-time favorite of mine and never fails to impress, but beyond presenting perfectly-defined colors, the scene in HD never really leaps off the screen the way you would want it to. Score: 6


elgringo said...

I've never heard of Grand Prix before...
I feel like a failure now.
On the other hand, now you can congratulate yourself on being the guy who recommended an awesome movie to a fellow blogger.

Adam Ross said...

I hope you enjoy "Grand Prix," but make sure you reserve an entire night for it -- it's a loooooong one! Lots of great racing action, but it's also pretty chubby around the edges.