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HTF HD-DVD Review: Trading Places

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#1 of 5 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist


    Supporting Actor

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Posted May 31 2007 - 03:32 PM

Trading Places (HD-DVD)

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Rated: R
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: VC-1
Audio: English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1; French, Spanish Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; English SDH+
Time: 116 minutes
Disc Format: 1 SS/DL HD-DVD
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date:1983
HD-DVD Release Date: June 5, 2007

Two old, wealthy, and quite bored businessmen brothers, Randolph and Mortimer Duke (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche) can’t settle the old nature versus nurture argument. They decide to do an experiment using the bright and successful Louis Winthrop (Dan Aykroyd) and stripping him of all of his money and prestige to see if he has the internal fortitude to succeed. Being the idle rich, they make a contest of it with “the usual” wager. Conversely, they find a fast talking bum, Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) and give him everything Louis just got taken away from him. As Louis turns to a hot hooker with a heart, Ophelia (the hot Jamie Lee Curtis) to make some sense of his plight, Billy Ray begins to enjoy the trappings of his new found status. The Dukes are looking at the crop reports for frozen orange juice to make their next market killing when Louis and Billy Ray begin to put the pieces together as to how they arrived in their new found lives. They, and Ophelia and Louis’s butler, Coleman (Denholm Elliott) set about on a plan to get back at the Dukes and regain what was lost.

Trading Places is one of those pictures that each time it comes on you are instantly stuck watching it to the end. It’s not a very complicated story, but it is one of the classic John Landis comedies. Landis, who also directed (like I really need to tell you) Animal House and The Blues Brothers and a slew of other greats, imparts the love of comedy into his pictures, referencing Laurel and Hardy and many other great comedic acts. It contains lines that have seeped into our consciousness (or at least mine) and we may find ourselves exclaiming “It’s beef jerky time!” at the most inopportune moments. But such is the mark of great pictures that leave us with something that makes us laugh as much as it made them laugh while making it.

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 picture is correctly framed at 1.85:1, and it is encoded in VC-1 at 1080p. Having only seen this movie on videotape or TV for the past twenty plus years, this new HD transfer is stunning. Detail is exceptional showing great delineation in the small background objects, especially in some of the fine wood grain. Contrast is great with deep blacks, but the shadows crush in on each other occasionally. Colors are vibrant, accurate and rich with excellent flesh tones. Edge enhancement is minimal. I did not notice any compression artifacts or video noise, and there were only a couple minor instances of film dirt. For a 24 year old picture, this new transfer will hold up with any films of recent vintage.

The Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack was attained by a 5.1 analog connection.

I watched the disc with the Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 track engaged. As was expected, there was not a lot of activity outside of the fronts and I barely noticed any surround activity. The soundtrack sounds dated and it doesn’t really show any improvement thanks to the DD+ encoding. What is there is clear and clean and free of any distortion. LFE’s were not noticed either.

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 MPEG-2 encoding unless otherwise noted.

The deleted scene with optional commentary by Executive Producer George Folsey, Jr. (1:46): Folsey does a commentary to the scene involving Beeks and how he got the crop report.

Insider Trading: The Making of Trading Places (18:26): cast and crew talk about making the picture and they swear like crazy. They’re a fun group and we can only imagine what a good time it must have been making the movie.

Trading Stories (7:58): these are 1983 interviews with Landis, Curtis, Murphy and Aykroyd conducted for publicity in Great Britain and they have not been seen in over twenty years. Murphy makes a funny comment about Prince and the others joke around as well. This is a very poor precursor to The Actor’s Studio, but fun nonetheless.

Dressing the Part (6:30): Costume designer Deborah Nadoolman and Landis talk about the subtleties of the wardrobes. Curtis contributes some ideas about her stunning costumes.

The Trade in Trading Places (5:24): this piece is about the New York Stock Exchange and how the process works, specifically the mystifying process that earns Winthrop and Valentine their fortune.

Trivia Pop-Ups: periodically throughout the picture a dollar bill pops up with trivia about the movie and the production. Most of the info here seems to be in some of the docs as well.

Industry promotional piece (4:17): Landis introduces a piece that was put together for ShoWest prior to the picture being released. Landis has had the piece in his garage for the past twenty years and its Aykroyd and Murphy doing some hilarious schtick to sell the movie to the theater owners.

Trading Places belongs in everyone’s movie library, and this new edition especially. Paramount gives us a stunning video presentation and some funny extras to make for a nice new release.
ISO "Lost" ARG prints from Kevin Tong, Olly Moss, Eric Tan and Methane Studios.  PM me if you want to sell!

All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.

#2 of 5 OFFLINE   Cees Alons

Cees Alons

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Posted May 31 2007 - 10:06 PM

Glad to read this, Pat. Ordered!
I like some of those extras you describe as well.


#3 of 5 OFFLINE   Jeff Whitford

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Posted June 01 2007 - 10:55 AM

Good review as usual but somebodys got to compare the current DVD to the HD DVD. Thanks
Jeff Whitford
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#4 of 5 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

Tim Glover

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Posted June 01 2007 - 07:31 PM

Good news. Can't wait for this to show up next week at my doorstep.

#5 of 5 OFFLINE   ppltd



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Posted June 02 2007 - 01:15 PM

Thanks again for the review, Pat. This, along with Coming to America, are for me much anticipated releases. I can not wait to get them this week.
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