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HD Talk
Unbiased Coverage Of All Things HD: HD-DVD, Blu-Ray and Beyond

TV on HD

For the first few years of its life, the DVD format practically shunned television shows. Of course, at the time, the studios weren't sure DVD was actually going to succeed. Releasing multi-disc sets of shows that had been off the air potentially for years probably didn't seem like the most profitable venture. However, Artisan's release of the first season of Twin Peaks changed things when it became the fastest selling DVD set of the time. Suddenly the studios discovered just how much money they could make from TV on DVD, and the floodgates opened. Luckily, the idea that TV can make money on home video has seeped into the HD world, as there have been several shows already released and more announced on top of that. And here at DVD Talk, where we are committed to a goal of 100% HD DVD and Blu-ray coverage, we've already got several reviewed.

Weeds Season 2
(Lions Gate Entertainment // $39.99 // Reviewed by Daniel Hirshleifer)

Weeds season two is just something wonderful. Take everything great from last season, and then add even more on top. Finish it up with a little cherry I like to call Zooey Deschanel, and you've got a winning dish. The picture and sound here are as good as they're ever gonna get, and there are a ton of extras too.

Audio Features: Dolby Digital 5.1; PCM 7.1

Available on Blu-ray

Freedom: Volume 1
(Bandai Visual USA // $39.99 // Reviewed by Adam Tyner)

This initial volume of Freedom is intriguing enough for me to be interested in taking a look at future installments of the series, and I was certainly impressed by its presentation on HD DVD. Its approach to picture-in-picture video and storyboard comparisons in particular outclass what I've seen from every other studio to date. Still, no matter how eye-catching its bells and whistles are and regardless how wonderful the animation may look in high definition, it's hard to ignore that this is an episode of a series that barely breaks the twenty minute mark minus credits yet boasts a hefty sticker price of $39.99.

Audio Features: Dolby Digital Plus 5.1; PCM 2.0

Available on HD DVD

Planet Earth - The Complete BBC Series
(BBC Worldwide // $99.98 // Reviewed by John Sinnott)

This is one amazing series. I've seen my share of wilderness shows in my time and I can safely say that this is the most impressive one, hands down. With jaw-dropping scenes, remarkable (while not being dreary) information and compelling narration, Planet Earth is a show that is a joy to watch. This Blu-ray set is reference quality, with a picture that is so brilliant and detailed that it is going to be hard to beat.

Audio Features: Dolby Digital 5.1

Available on HD DVD and Blu-ray

South Park: Good Times With Weapons
(Comedy Central // Best Buy Exclusive Promo // Reviewed by Joshua Zyber)

Good Times With Weapons is classic South Park, morally offensive on the one hand, while also delivering a justified political message about society's hypocritical attitudes towards sex (bad) and violence (not so bad) on the other. South Park is not usually produced or aired in High Definition or a widescreen aspect ratio. This particular episode was actually re-animated in HD just for this promotion. The show has very simple animation, and the resulting picture is very bright, sharp, and vibrantly colorful. It looks vastly better than the cruddy broadcast quality usually seen on Comedy Central.

Audio Features: Dolby Digital Plus 2.0

Available on HD DVD

Rescue Me - The Complete Third Season
(Sony Pictures // $79.95 // Reviewed by Daniel Hirshleifer)

While it took a bit of a turn towards the dour last season, this third season of Rescue Me puts things back on track. Denis Leary's biting sarcasm is back at the forefront, and things are even crazier than before. While the image on these Blu-ray discs isn't perfect, it's a massive improvement over the broadcast versions. Also, a fun set of hilarious extras round out the excellent package.

Audio Features: Dolby Digital 5.1; PCM 5.1

Available on Blu-ray

Smallville: Season 5
(Warner Bros. // $79.98 // Reviewed by Adam Tyner)

Well, there's "good", and then there's that qualified flavor of "Smallville-good". Season five of Smallville is a drastic improvement over many of the episodes I've seen from earlier in the show's run, but it's still too deeply flawed to amount to much more than a guilty pleasure. If you've stuck with the show this long, you might as well keep going, but gearheads who are intrigued just because this is the first season set on HD DVD would be better off getting a taste of earlier episodes from HDNet before diving in.

Audio Features: Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

Available on HD DVD

The Sopranos - Season 6, Part 1
(HBO // $129.95 // Reviewed by John Sinnott)

Though some fans proclaimed that nothing happens in this first half of the season, that is not true. People get whacked, there are pressures on Tony from all sides, and all of the character development that drives the series is still present. This Blu-ray set looks and sounds superb. Here's hoping that the first five seasons make their way to BR soon.

Audio Features: PCM 5.1

Available on HD DVD and Blu-ray

Discovery Atlas: Australia Revealed
(Image // $24.99 // Reviewed by Daniel Hirshleifer)

Australia is a land full of wonders, and Discovery Atlas: Australia Revealed catalogues many of them in an engrossing and enjoyable documentary. Despite a few small image issues, the disc as a whole looks fantastic, with some truly breathtaking sequences. Between the quality of the show and the image, this HD DVD comes highly recommended.

Audio Features: Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

Available on HD DVD

There's been some exciting news for TV on HD as well. Paramount has announced that Star Trek The Original Series will be released on HD DVD in a combo format (DVD on one side, HD DVD on the other) by the end of the year. This is of course very big news, as Star Trek is one of those major franchises that will sell players and get people invested in HD disc formats. The fourth season of Nip/Tuck is scheduled for release September 4th. There have also been talks of Battlestar Galactica and Heroes being released on HD DVD, while Starz announced it would release the Showtime Masters of Horror series on Blu-ray. Keep your eyes open for more TV on HD. It's not always cheap, but the majority of releases thus far have been of very high quality.

-Daniel Hirshleifer

High Definition News

Sony has lately been making it very difficult to resist buying into the Blu-ray format lately. Right on the heels of E3, the Los Angeles video gaming conference, Sony announced a $100 price drop on its Playstation 3 console, which as we all know is the best Blu-ray player currently on the market. That brings its price down to $499,. To make the deal even sweeter, there's an offer currently ongoing where you can get five free Blu-ray movies with the purchase of any player, including the PS3. Several retailers are taking advantage of the price drop to offer other incentives, such as extra accessories or games at a discount or even free with the system. This is a really great way to get into Blu-ray and start your collection. If I didn't already own a PS3, I'd jump on this myself.

High Definition Upcoming Releases

July 17th:
Premonition (Blu-ray)
Waiting (Blu-ray)
Wild Things (Blu-ray)

July 24th:
The Bourne Identity (HD DVD)
The Contract (HD DVD)
Ghost (Blu-ray, HD DVD)
The Host (Blu-ray, HD DVD)
In Good Company (HD DVD)
Nutty Professor II (HD DVD)
Officer And A Gentleman (Blu-ray, HD DVD)
Scent of a Woman (HD DVD)
Streets of Fire (HD DVD)
Weeds Season Two (Blu-ray)
Zodiac (Blu-ray, HD DVD)

HD DVD and Blu-ray Reviews

  • Blood Diamond (HD DVD) by Adam Tyner. Recommended. - "Despite its best intentions in exposing the horrors of Sierra Leone's bloody rebellion and the havoc wreaked by the purchase of conflict diamonds, Blood Diamond's attempt at incorporating this sort of political and social statement in the context of a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster isn't entirely successful. I appreciate Blood Diamond on several levels -- it's a spectacularly well produced film with a strong cast and some outstanding action sequences -- but without those to prop up the meandering, unfocused screenplay, the movie would've been borderline-unwatchable. Blood Diamond is ultimately unable to live up to its lofty ambitions. Flawed though it may be, Blood Diamond succeeds on enough counts for me to recommend this HD DVD, if somewhat hesitantly."

  • The Patriot (Blu-ray) by Matthew Hinkley. Recommended. - "The Patriot is a fantastic film and I love everything about this movie. I love that I can fall for a character and believe that this actually happened in real life. The video quality is top notch with only a few things that make it not quite perfect. On the other hand, the audio sets this disc apart from others. Unfortunately the extras are extremely limited. If there would have been another disc of extras, I could have given this new release a higher rating...but I will go ahead and easily recommend this one."

  • Hustle & Flow (HD DVD) by Joshua Zyber. Highly Recommended. - "Despite my initial reservations, Hustle & Flow is a movie that really lives up to the hype around it. The HD DVD has a video transfer that faithfully reproduces the look of the film, whether everyone will appreciate that or not. The disc also has excellent sound and some pretty good bonus features."

  • Wild Things (Blu-ray) by Daniel Hirshleifer. Rent It. - "Wild Things is a fun, sexy ride. Matt Dillon, Neve Campbell, Denise Richards, and Bill Murray make the film memorable (some more memorable than others), and even now it's a good watch. Sadly, this Blu-ray disc offers virtually no improvement over the DVD, including no extras of any kind."

  • The Architect (HD DVD) by Don Houston. Skip It. - "The Architect had the kind of dynamic you expect from an arthouse film made for a limited group of elitists that adore seeing the dysfunctional rich families compared to the poor whose lives they have indirectly impacted. If you want to wallow in misery at a tear jerker, you could do worse but you could also do far better than The Architect too. Aside from a few decent actors making due with what they had to work with, there was precious little to appreciate for me. I've lived in public housing in my sorted past and I'm no stranger to melodramas but this ill conceived outing might best be an example of how not to translate a play to a film and I certainly expect better of director Matt Tauber when he tries a sophomore project, given his credentials."

  • Premonition (Blu-ray) by John Sinnott. Rent It. - "This is a film that nearly works, but ultimately doesn't quite fit together the way it should. It does have a great premise, and though it evolves a little slowly in parts there are some good moments. The inconsistencies with the plot and the heavy handed direction and music are hard to take at times though. The ending isn't nearly as satisfying as it should be, and when all was said and done a large part of me thought that the trailer made a better film. Worth checking out if you're interested in this type of film, but make it a rental."

  • Breach (HD DVD) by Adam Tyner. Highly Recommended. - "Breach is the remarkably well-crafted telling of the greatest act of treason ever committed against the United States. Boasting an exceptional lead performance by Chris Cooper and confident in its ability to shape tension and suspense without leaning on most of the usual genre cliches, Breach is understated but incredibly engaging, and it's a rewarding discovery for those who missed the film during its brief theatrical run. Breach's subdued visual style doesn't make for the most dazzling high definition experience, but the movie looks reasonably nice on HD DVD, and the disc is bolstered by a strong soundtrack and an extensive selection of extras."

  • Bridge to Terabithia (Blu-ray) by Matthew Hinkley. Highly Recommended. - "Bridge to Terabithia is a fantastic film. I absolutely fell in love with our two characters as they created a world together, a place where they can get away and become whatever they can imagine. I was absolutely drawn into the story in everyway. The video quality is fantastic with only a couple spotty moments, but the audio track definitely pulls us into the film even more. I highly recommend Terabithia to anyone looking for a great glimpse into a child's imagination."

Index of All HD DVD Reviews
Index of All Blu-ray Reviews

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