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HD DVD Reviews

HTF HD DVD REVIEW: A Scanner Darkly



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#1 of 3 Cameron Yee

Cameron Yee

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Posted April 10 2007 - 02:52 PM

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A Scanner Darkly
Release Date: April 10, 2007
Studio: Warner Home Video
Packaging/Materials: Standard single-disc HD DVD case
Year: 2006
Rating: R
Running Time: 1h40m
Video (Feature): 1080p HD 16x9 1.85:1
Audio (Feature): Dolby Digital Plus: English 5.1
Video (Special Features): 480i or 480p SD
Audio (Special Features): Stereo
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish (Feature only)
MSRP: $28.99

The Feature: 3/5
Like its animation, the story of "A Scanner Darkly
What is less concrete and will either bore you or make you think harder (there's a fine line there), is the significance of the characters' hang out sessions. Is it for character development? Dialogue for its own sake? For me, it's hard to say as there's not much more to get about Freck, Luckman and Barris after the initial introductions. What I ultimately found more interesting were the pieces involving Arctor and Donna, pieces that advanced the concrete plot rather than lingered with the supporting characters riffs. For in those more concrete, accessible moments we get a sense of the poignancy, fear, despair and paranoia that compelled author Philip K. Dick to write the novel on which the film is based, a work many consider to be his most personal.

Some viewers may wonder why Director Richard Linklater used animation to tell the tale - a common question in the West, where animation still tends to be kiddie fare. If we were in Japan there wouldn't be a second thought about it. And no doubt there are some parts of the film - the Scramble Suit identity obfuscation tool in particular - that could not have been done without some form of animation. But ultimately the animation - or more accurately, the rotoscoping, where artists draw over frames of live action footage - is neither a gimmick nor the only way the story could have been told. Regardless, Linklater's stylistic choice is beautifully executed, filled with deep, painterly colors and the bold outlines of the finest comic book art. But despite the film's beauty, it may ultimately prove too enigmatic for viewers and too slow in getting to its most compelling pieces. Given the existence of such pieces, however, and the popularity and reputation of the original story's author, it's probably wise to look to the novel for the best "Scanner" experience.


Video Quality: 4.5/5
With shadows, highlights and midtones rendered as swatches of color, the picture quality of "A Scanner Darkly" is bit difficult to evaluate using conventional criteria, specifically the areas of shadow detail and falloff. Certainly colors are rich and bold and blacks deep and inky, with no signs of edge halos despite the plethora of high contrast edges. The increased resolution of the high definition format also gives an impressive and sometimes jaw-dropping sharpness and clarity to the illustrations. I did spot a couple instances of concentric color banding. With this effect absent from the rest of the film, I'm assuming it was not intentional.


Audio Quality: 4/5
"A Scanner Darkly" is a dialogue heavy film, with only a few scenes where the Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mix uses all channels. The most notable is the opening scene of Freck's aphid swarm hallucination, where the 360 degree panning and percussive score provide an enveloping and entertaining experience. Dialogue is consistently clear and intelligible and the score and atmospheric sound effects - when used - are reproduced with clarity and fidelity.


Special Features: 3/5

Commentary by Keanu Reeves, Writer/Director Richard Linklater, Producer Tommy Pallota, Author Jonathan Lethem and Philip K. Dick's Daughter Isa Dick-Hackett: The quintet provide some appreciated insights and explanations into the story as well as helpful background information about Dick's life and work. Not surprisingly, the "hang out" scenes are revealed to be ones Linklater had to fight to keep.

One Summer in Austin: The Story of Filming A Scanner Darkly (26m23s): Documentary of the film includes interviews with cast and crew and Dick's daughter Isa, speaking on their understanding of the story and its characters. I didn't feel so bad after learning the actors found the story challenging and confusing.

The Weight of the Line: Animation Tales (20m45s): Documentary presents the process by which the film was converted from live action video to animation. Highlights include segments on the Scramble Suit and the final shot of the film. An interesting piece for fans of illustration and animation.

Theatrical Trailer (1m59s): 16x9 1.85:1


Recap and Final Thoughts

The Feature: 3/5
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 3/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5

Enigmatic Philip K. Dick tale gets beautifully animated and an awe-inducing high definition transfer. A modest set of special features help shed some light on the story's meaning.




Equipment: Toshiba 42" CRT RPTV fed a 1080i signal over component from a Toshiba HD-A1 HD DVD player. Audio evaluation is based on an Onkyo TX-SR575x 5.1 AVR running JBL S26 mains and surrounds, JBL S-Center, and BFD-equalized SVS 20-39 PCi subwoofer. Audio connection from the HD-A1 is via the multichannel analog outputs.

One thing leads to another at cameronyee.com

#2 of 3 g-man

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Posted April 15 2007 - 10:17 AM

watched the dvd hd of course thought video quality was very good.Wonder why you have not received more replies,unless I missed them. Have a nice day.

#3 of 3 Cees Alons

Cees Alons

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Posted April 15 2007 - 06:52 PM

Nice review. Thanks, Cameron.
Originally, I wasn't immediately interested in this movie, but this excellent HD DVD version may win me over, especially because the HDs on Amazon are less expensive than the SDVD (much more so if taking advantage of the 10% discount)!


Cees