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HTF HD-DVD Review: Top Gun


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#1 of 14 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist

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Posted September 30 2007 - 12:50 PM

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Top Gun (HD-DVD)

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Rated: PG
Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD; English, Spanish, French 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus; English DTS-ES 6.1 Surround
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; English SDH+
Time: 109 minutes
Disc Format: 1 SS/DL HD-DVD
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date: 1986
HD-DVD Release Date: October 2, 2007


I hadn’t seen Tony Scott’s Top Gun in quite a few years, and as I watched it for this review, I was struck by some things I never noticed in it before:
1. There’s a lot of synthesizer.
2. There’s just the smallest hint of homoeroticism, especially between Iceman (Val Kilmer) and Slider (Rick Rossovich).
3. Take My Breath Away really isn’t that good a song.
4. Kelly McGillis is not as hot as I remember her.

I’m going to go with the notion that most of HTF’s readership has seen Top Gun at least once, and probably more than that, and we’re all quite familiar with the plot. For those who have not, it goes something like this: Tom Cruise plays Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, and he is known for his hot shot flying skills that often reflects poorly on him and his partner, Goose (Anthony Edwards). The boys are sent to Top Gun school near San Diego to get specialized training to become the best of the best. While there, they meet other hot shot pilots and the competition begins. To complicate matters, Maverick is chasing the skirt of Charlie (Kelly McGillis), who turns out to be one of his instructors. Much male bravado and testosterone flies right along with the fighter jets.

I still enjoyed this picture quite a bit for its sheer visceral pleasure of watching our 2-D hero try and emote and capture our imagination and sympathy. Cruise comes off as charming and still eager almost as if he knows this is the picture that will propel him to much greater heights. The picture now seems really dated due to the soundtrack by Harold Faltermeyer, where you are reminded this is the time for romance, this is the time for tension, etc. As I was watching and the synth’s popped up, I tried to re-imagine the picture with some other form of soundtrack, and it goes down much better. The relationships between the pilots also suggest the slightest bit of homoeroticism, especially with Val Kilmer’s Ice. There is a scene when we are first introduced to him and Slider that, due to the positioning of the actors, it seems like there was more to their story. In this semi-enlightened 21st century, relationships like this are quite common, but to nudge this topic in 1986 we may be reminded, not so subtly now, not to ask or tell.

Beyond those points, I still find Top Gun to be top notch entertainment in finest Bruckheimer/ Simpson fashion. The picture clips along from scene to scene with just the right amounts of angst, fun and love. Scott and his cinematographer, Jeffrey L. Kimball, shoot the best damn commercial for the Navy you’ll ever see, and I know at least one friend of mine joined up after high school because of the movie. I don’t think Top Gun was revolutionary to the genre, as TV’s Miami Vice had a head start on making a TV show into a music video at the same time, but it was a great way to copy that look for the big screen.


Video:
Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Toshiba HD-A1 for a player and utilizing the HDMI capabilities of both units. Since the Toshiba has a maximum resolution output of 1080i, the Marantz is responsible for the conversion to 1080p.

Top Gun is encoded in the MPEG-4 AVC codec at 1080p with a 2.20:1 aspect ratio. I had hoped to play this disc on my new Toshiba XA2, but lip sync issues with the new firmware did not permit that to happen. I was initially nervous about this transfer since in the opening scenes where there are shots of the jets being prepped on the carrier, there was a bad case of macro blocking and video noise in the smoke and steam. Although the Marantz projector is doing the scaling to 1080p, this should not have been and issue in this configuration. I switched over to the XA2 afterwards, allowing it to output 1080p/24, and the macro blocking persisted. Thus, I believe this is just an issue with this transfer itself and not a fault of the equipment. This macro blocking and noise was present in all of the scenes on the flight deck, specifically where there is a lot of smoke and steam. Once you get past that, this turns out to be a nice looking transfer, with crisp lines and good detail. The pilots sweat like crazy in this movie, and you can see each bead of sweat trickle down their faces. Fine background detail comes though quite well, and I found myself ignoring some of the foreground details to see what the set decorator had put on the set. Edge enhancement is noticed in some scenes. Flesh tones are accurate, and there is excellent separation of colors without any bleeding. This is especially evident in the close ups of McGillis and her very red lipstick. Black levels are good and deep overall, but I noticed crushing in some scenes where shadow detail became mushy. I was really hoping for a new HD transfer for this edition, but it appears to be an up-convert of the previous SD-DVD edition.


Audio:
The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was attained by a 5.1 analog connection.

The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is very well balanced between all the channels, encompassing the viewer in the soundstage. Fidelity is excellent producing a clean and clear presentation that is free from any distortion. Bass effects come alive in the action scenes, obviously, but they do not overshadow the rest of the soundtrack. I loved the rumble on the flight decks, which gave my room a slight shake. One famous scene in this movie is when Maverick does his fly-by’s of the towers. When he does this it sets off what sounds like a sonic boom that my subs had fun with, providing a good enough impact to make me spill my drink as well! Surrounds are very active when they pop up, again, during the actions scenes, but they are not too lively otherwise. The surrounds add a great sense of spaciousness to the soundstage, as jets roar from right to left and front to back. Voices are natural sounding but ADR is noticed in a couple scenes. In SD material, I tend to favor DTS soundtracks because they give more depth, richness and cohesiveness to a soundtrack. I am hearing the same type of things in these Dolby TrueHD tracks but with the enhancements a lossless codec provides.


Bonus Material:
Wow, there are NONE, not even a porting of the special edition material from the 2004 special edition.


Conclusions:
A somewhat dated romp through the male machismo of fighter pilots still entertains today, twenty one years later. Paramount seems to have rushed this title to market to get a foothold in HD-DVD-only-land where they now reside. Unfortunately, although the transfer is quite good, we don’t get a new HD transfer or any extras, leaving me feeling ripped off by the end of the day.
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 14 OFFLINE   Gary Murrell

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Posted September 30 2007 - 04:35 PM

macro-blocking? WTF?

what gives Paramount and HD-DVD? Posted Image

thanks for the review

-Gary

#3 of 14 OFFLINE   Cees Alons

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Posted September 30 2007 - 06:54 PM

That's no up-conversion. Both have 1080 horizontal lines per frame (I'm sure the HD-A1 outputs the whole frame - odd as well as even lines). It's a (minor) conversion.
(Couldn't resist. Posted Image )


Thanks for the review, Pat!
That's not looking too exciting, though.


Cees

#4 of 14 OFFLINE   Marko Berg

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Posted October 01 2007 - 02:50 AM

As far as I remember, the scenes on the flight deck during the opening credits have always looked bad on home video. Perhaps the source material is somewhat to blame here? The omission of special features is baffling. If the extras weren't originally shot in HD, I would have accepted a two-disc release with special features on a standard DVD - they could have just included Disc 2 of the Special Edition DVD in this release.

#5 of 14 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist

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Posted October 01 2007 - 03:03 AM

Cees, thanks, I have amended the review. Yeah, I was quite shocked to see the macroblocking in those scenes. I know that type of material is tough to translate from film to video, but I've not seen it so bad. Keep in mind, at a proper viewing distance it is not as noticeable. I agree that this is probably the old print. I don't understand why we didn't get those extras either. At least Warners ported over all the SD stuff to the Matrix HD set even though it was still in SD.
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.

#6 of 14 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted October 01 2007 - 03:12 AM

Call me paranoid but it would seem like the reason is so they can re-release it in a few years when the HD market is bigger. They'll give it a new transfer and put the already existing extras on the disc and call it a special edition (and they'll only have to spend money on the transfer and not the extras).

#7 of 14 OFFLINE   Mark Zimmer

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Posted October 01 2007 - 03:36 AM

There's a ton of unnecessary edge enhancement slapped onto this transfer as well. Check out Cruise's face at 39m:44s---there are big rings around his head and his nose.

#8 of 14 OFFLINE   Chris S

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Posted October 01 2007 - 05:28 AM

Thanks for the review! Given the comments so far I think I'll hold off on a purchase. I found it amusing that in your conclusion you referred to it as a "somewhat dated romp". I recently had a discussion with a group of friends that had similar feelings but I liked to think of it as nostalgia. Posted Image
DVD & Blu-ray - It's all about the movies!

#9 of 14 OFFLINE   Paul Arnette

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Posted October 01 2007 - 06:11 AM

I dropped this title off of my want list once my wife decided that she's "out-grown" this movie. For those that still wanted to purchase this movie, I'm unhappy to hear that there is macro blocking present preventing it from being as solid as it should be.
Universal Blu-ray Discs I will not be buying while they're offered only as Blu-ray + DVD 'flipper' discs:

The Jackal
, Out of Africa, and Traffic.

#10 of 14 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted October 01 2007 - 09:57 AM

I'm still purchasing it and will evaluate this release based on how it looks in my HT setup. Crawdaddy

#11 of 14 OFFLINE   DavidJ

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Posted October 01 2007 - 10:18 AM

Hmm...I am up in the air about this one. I may wait to see what other reviews role in before I decide or I may end up just renting it.

#12 of 14 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted October 01 2007 - 11:40 AM

RAH liked the disc.

http://www.hometheat....d.php?t=262386

#13 of 14 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted October 02 2007 - 12:34 AM


Ditto. I MUST have this one in my HT. Posted Image

#14 of 14 OFFLINE   patrickSo

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Posted October 02 2007 - 03:57 AM

Ha! Are you of two minds about The Man with Two Brains as well?




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