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HTF HD-DVD Review: World Trade Center


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#1 of 19 PatWahlquist

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Posted December 15 2006 - 07:43 AM


World Trade Center (HD-DVD)

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Rated: PG-13
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: VC-1
Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus, French and Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Subtitles: English; Spanish; French; English SDH
Time: 128 minutes
Disc Format: 2 SS/DL HD-DVD
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date:2006
HD-DVD Release Date: December 12, 2006


World Trade Center is the true story of two New York City Port Authority policemen, Sgt. John McLoughlin (Nicholas Cage) and Officer Will Jimeno (Michael Pena), who, along with others from their squad, are dispatched to assist in evacuation efforts at the WTC on September 11, 2001. As the squad goes in, they are quickly caught in the collapse of the first tower, leaving McLoughlin and Jimeno trapped in the rubble as the rest of their squad is killed. Over the next twenty plus hours, the men endure fires, thirst, and more collapses that nearly kills them with each event. Their families are left to wonder if they are alive or dead, and the news and the Port Authority is no help. With the help of a divinely inspired Marine, Dave Karnes (Michael Shannon), McLoughlin and Jimeno are rescued and begin the long healing process, physically, emotionally and mentally.

Stone seems to be headed into more emotional works, deviating from the slew of political films that dominate his career. While World Trade Center could have become a political soapbox for him in about a second, he stays very far away from it to rightfully devote the movie to the two men and their families experiences. This picture hopefully signals the beginning of the next phase in Stone’s career as he gets into smaller, more personal pictures detailing the human element while staying away from the global conspiracies. He seems to have the tools to do more emotion based pictures, and in looking back at his work, it almost seems to be a missing component in them, at least to this extent. This movie makes up for it by having almost every scene laden with deep emotional weight and high tension. The real life participants experienced it, and it is easily convey to us.

World Trade Center is a beautifully produced picture filled with fine performances by everyone involved: I even found myself enjoying Cage for the first time in several years. When the actual event took place, I, like I’m sure most of America, became news junkies for the days following the attacks. I couldn’t turn off the news in the house, car, work, wherever; I was drawn to it to try to make some sense of what had happened. In the months and years that have now passed, I watched numerous documentaries about the incident as well as interviews with the survivors, so what I saw in World Trade Center came as anti climatic. I want to quickly follow up this statement by saying I am not discounting what McLoughlin, Jimeno or their families went through, but the movie does not give us anything new that we haven’t seen in one of the numerous interviews with the real life survivors. In fact, I was more interested in the hour long interviews with the real life participants on disc two than I was with the fictionalized account. Imagination can be a blessing or a curse, and what I had imagined listening to first person accounts of the attacks far outweighed what Stone delivered to me. For me, what it boils right down to is this: did we really need World Trade Center?

Video:
Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 12-S4 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 720p. I am using a Toshiba HD-A1 for a player and utilizing the HDMI capabilities of both units.

The VC-1 video is encoded at 1080p and it is correctly framed at 1.85:1. Paramount does the presentation a favor and dedicates the entire movie and a few small extras to disc one, allowing the movie space to truly shine. The HD-DVD exhibits a very natural color palate with warm hues in all of the scenes outside of Ground Zero, and cool, dark colors in the wreckage. Since a good part of the picture is spent with the officers trapped in the rubble, the disc will show off how good your display does shadow detail. Shadow detail was excellent on my projector and black levels were suitably deep and free of noise. There were numerous shots of the officers looking up to the light coming through the wreckage, and the picture maintained good delineation between the light and darkness, not allowing any video blooming or fringing. Edge enhancement was minimal. Detail was excellent throughout the picture, especially in the close-ups of Cage and Pena.


Audio:
The Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack is attained by a 5.1 analog connection

I watched the feature with Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 track engaged. It provided a very subdued soundtrack with an excellent surround field. You clearly felt like you were entombed in the wreckage with McLoughlin and Jimeno as the surrounds add creaks and falling debris all around. When the initial collapse and several other debris shifts occurs, the bass kicks up to rumble the room making you duck for cover with the characters. Voices maintained a clear, natural sound and they were not susceptible to any echoes which may have taken us out of their plight. Since this is not a “disaster picture” in the 70’s sense of the phrase, this soundtrack adheres to that ideal by maintaining its restraint and allowing us to focus on the actors and their performances.


Bonus Material:
With the advent of HD-DVD, we are faced with several different audio and video codecs being used on each disc. Due to this, I have begun adding the encoding details as part of the explanation of bonus features when applicable and relevant. For this release, the extras are in VC-1 HD encoding unless otherwise noted.

2 commentaries, one by Oliver Stone and the other with real life survivors Will Jimeno, Scott Strauss, John Busching and Paddy McGee: After watching the documentaries featuring the actual participants, I wasn’t quite prepared to sit through two hours of even more analysis of the event. I plan on going back to this commentary in the future, but it was just a bit overwhelming at this point. I spot listened to parts of Stone’s commentary, and he expands on the difficulties in filming in NYC and other items he touches on in the other documentaries.

Deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary by Stone (MPEG-2) (17:45): a total of nine scenes: extended locker room, extended roll call, concerned business woman, fireman Johnny, original hole two through Allison making lunch, Judy gets word Jay is OK, John’s ghost, barbeque flashback, paramedic tends to John. The scenes tend to add little more to what’s already in the picture.

The Making of World Trade Center (53:30): a three part documentary that has extensive interviews with Stone, the actors, and their real life counterparts. You can feel the love and respect between these participants who tried very hard to honor the story and the event. The doc also details the difficulties in filming in New York City, and in the sets around L.A. Sound design, music, sets and effects are also mentioned.

Common Sacrifices (54:30): a two part documentary that covers rescue and recovery. This is the more personal story of McLoughlin, Jimeno, Strauss, their families and others as they detail the actual incident and the recovery. There are interviews with the doctors who worked on both men, including some very graphic photos of their wounds.

Building Ground Zero (25:00): Interviews with Jan Roelfs (production designer), Richard L. Johnson (art director) and others about how the sets were designed and built. There is some amazing information regarding some laser scans that was done at Ground Zero after the collapse that they incorporated into the film.

Visual and special effects (12:00): Interviews with the VFX team and how they used the laser imaging to build the digital sets.

Oliver Stone’s New York (24:30): Stone walks and talks about New York and what his childhood there was like, his war and college years, and how 9/11 affected him. This is not a bad intro to Stone overall.

Q & A with Oliver Stone (MPEG-2) (13:06): This segment is a excerpt from David Bafta’s David Lean Lecture Series featuring Stone. It took place on 9/6/06 in London and it was hosted by Mark Kermode. Similar to Inside the Actor’s Studio, Kermode and the audience quizzes Stone about the movie and Stone’s reasons for making it.

Theatrical Trailer

Five TV spots

Photo Gallery


Conclusions:
While I question the necessity of this movie, World Trade Center delivers the stories of two participants respectfully and emotionally. You will be hard pressed to not get drawn into the story and experience some of the tension Sgt. McLoughlin and Officer Jimeno and their families went through. Paramount provides us with a great looking transfer that takes advantage of the disc space to truly come alive. They also give us an excellent set of extras that have more impact than the feature itself.
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All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.

#2 of 19 Mark Zimmer

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Posted December 15 2006 - 07:51 AM

Maybe it's just my disc, but trying to access the gallery just results in an error code for me.

#3 of 19 Neil Joseph

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Posted December 15 2006 - 09:06 AM

Thanks for the review. I have this title on blu-ray and much prefer it to United 93 which are like night and day in their approaches. I found the image quality to be immaculate but I had to listen at very subdues levels at night so could not appreciate the audio quality. I will try again in the next few days.
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#4 of 19 TonyD

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Posted December 15 2006 - 01:18 PM

anyone know if all the features of the 2 dvd sd dvd are included.
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#5 of 19 Sam Davatchi

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Posted December 16 2006 - 11:55 AM

I just got and saw this on BD. I was surprised, excellent picture quality and from MPEG-2! I’m starting to believe that MPEG-2 could look as good as modern codecs!

As for the movie itself, I kind of liked it and it was better than what I was expecting. But in no way it’s near United 93. That film is an absolute classic and a monumental achievement

#6 of 19 Tino

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Posted December 16 2006 - 04:45 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Davatchi
I just got and saw this on BD. I was surprised, excellent picture quality and from MPEG-2! I’m starting to believe that MPEG-2 could look as good as modern codecs!

As for the movie itself, I kind of liked it and it was better than what I was expecting. But in no way it’s near United 93. That film is an absolute classic and a monumental achievement

Agreed!
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#7 of 19 Mark Zimmer

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Posted December 18 2006 - 02:25 AM

A followup to my earlier post: the gallery is accessible on the HD DVD only if you have updated to firmware 2.0. Works fine now.

#8 of 19 ppltd

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Posted December 18 2006 - 03:53 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Neil Joseph
Thanks for the review. I have this title on blu-ray and much prefer it to United 93 which are like night and day in their approaches. I found the image quality to be immaculate but I had to listen at very subdues levels at night so could not appreciate the audio quality. I will try again in the next few days.

I also have the movie, but have not had an opportunity to view it as of yet. I am of a differing opinion on the film, though. Having seen it theatrically, I did not much care for the way the story was presented. I went into this film with very mixed feelings, as it is an Oliver Stone film, conveniently not advertised during this films release, and as a rule of thumb, dislike most of his works, partly on Political beliefs, partly because of his propensity to add (or bend) true stories to meet his conspiracy theories.

On the other hand, I found United 93 to be a completly riveting story, albeit difficult to watch.
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#9 of 19 TravisR

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Posted December 18 2006 - 03:54 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by ppltd
as it is an Oliver Stone film, conveniently not advertised during this films release
Not in the ads that I saw.

#10 of 19 ppltd

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Posted December 18 2006 - 04:01 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by TravisR
Not in the ads that I saw.

Most (TV) ads are normally labled a "Fill in the director" film. Not in this case, though.
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#11 of 19 Mark Zimmer

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Posted December 18 2006 - 04:18 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by ppltd
I also have the movie, but have not had an opportunity to view it as of yet. I am of a differing opinion on the film, though. Having seen it theatrically, I did not much care for the way the story was presented. I went into this film with very mixed feelings, as it is an Oliver Stone film, conveniently not advertised during this films release, and as a rule of thumb, dislike most of his works, partly on Political beliefs, partly because of his propensity to add (or bend) true stories to meet his conspiracy theories.



I would take issue with the implications here. Stone stays far away from any conspiracy theories of any kind in World Trade Center; his emphasis is entirely on the human reaction to the events and is utterly unconcerned with the attack itself and its motivations. The commentary from the real-life participants emphasizes over and over that Stone got virtually everything right and true to the actual events. It's Stone as a completely pure filmmaker, going right for the raw emotion and striking the nerve as hard as he can. And does he ever succeed.

#12 of 19 Tino

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Posted December 18 2006 - 07:01 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Zimmer
I would take issue with the implications here. Stone stays far away from any conspiracy theories of any kind in World Trade Center; his emphasis is entirely on the human reaction to the events and is utterly unconcerned with the attack itself and its motivations. The commentary from the real-life participants emphasizes over and over that Stone got virtually everything right and true to the actual events. It's Stone as a completely pure filmmaker, going right for the raw emotion and striking the nerve as hard as he can. And does he ever succeed.

Absolutely Mark. This is NOT your "typical" Oliver Stone film. And btw, every ad I saw for the film advertised it as an Oliver Stone film. He was everywhere promoting it too.
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#13 of 19 Yumbo

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Posted December 18 2006 - 07:10 AM

Am I the only person who didn't care for United 93? I saw Flight 93 first, and liked it (much better).

#14 of 19 ppltd

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Posted December 18 2006 - 08:08 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Zimmer
I would take issue with the implications here. Stone stays far away from any conspiracy theories of any kind in World Trade Center; his emphasis is entirely on the human reaction to the events and is utterly unconcerned with the attack itself and its motivations. The commentary from the real-life participants emphasizes over and over that Stone got virtually everything right and true to the actual events. It's Stone as a completely pure filmmaker, going right for the raw emotion and striking the nerve as hard as he can. And does he ever succeed.

Mark, my comments were made as a general feeling for Stone films, not specifically this one. As I stated in the post, I have purchased it, but still like United 93 much better.
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#15 of 19 Tino

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Posted December 18 2006 - 01:24 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yumbo
Am I the only person who didn't care for United 93? I saw Flight 93 first, and liked it (much better).

Yes. You are the only person.Posted Image
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#16 of 19 DarthBeavis

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Posted December 19 2006 - 03:23 PM

Is United 93 on HD DVD?

#17 of 19 dkny75

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Posted December 20 2006 - 08:07 AM

It's Universal so it would be HD DVD exclusive as of now.

#18 of 19 Tino

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Posted December 20 2006 - 08:41 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by DarthBeavis
Is United 93 on HD DVD?

Not yet.
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#19 of 19 Yumbo

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Posted December 21 2006 - 05:34 PM

The colours and focus on this were great! Movie was ok. HD very film-like.


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