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HTF HD-DVD Review: Stardust

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#1 of 13 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist


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Posted December 23 2007 - 12:18 PM

Stardust (HD-DVD)

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Rated: PG-13 (for some fantasy violence and risque humor)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: MPEG4-AVC
Audio: Dolby Digital Plus English 5.1, French 5.1, Spanish 5.1
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; English SDH+
Time: 127 minutes
Disc Format: 1 SS/DL HD-DVD
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date: 2007
HD-DVD Release Date: December 21, 2007

I’ll tell you right up front, I’m not much of a fantasy fan, be it in books, movies, TV, comics or what have you. Maybe it’s just my natural pessimism and view of the world that makes me lean more towards a good hardboiled detective story than anything to do with fairies, unicorns or magic. Still, I’m a closet rom-com fan if it is done right (such as Before Sunrise and Before Sunset) and there is something fresh to lend to the genre. Stardust hit the comic racks a few years ago and I still considered myself a Neil Gaiman fan. I loved The Sandman comics, which had just finished and he was still putzing about in different comics and non-comics works. When the first issue of Stardust hit it immediately grabbed my eye thanks to Charles Vess’ lush artwork, but as I thumbed through it I figured out it was a faire book, so I put it down not to think of it again. As Gaiman has continued to write more and more fantasy themed books, I finally decided I’m more of a Sandman fan than I was a Gaiman fan.

That being said, I was a little biased when beginning to watch the movie adaptation of Stardust. The story begins in the small English town of Wall, so named for a lengthy wall that runs along its borders. Unbeknownst to apparently most everyone, the wall separates the human world from Faerie, and a guard stands by to ensure no one crosses over. Tristan Thorn’s (Charlie Cox) father made it across, met a cute, imprisoned witch and the boy was conceived in Faerie. Tristan was subsequently returned to dad in Wall. Now a young man, Tristan is trying to win the hand of Victoria (Sienna Miller) and when the couple sees a shooting star land, Tristan tells her he will get the star for her in exchange for her hand in marriage. He sets out, quickly making it through the wall, to find the star, which has fallen to earth in the form of Yvaine (Claire Daines). What Yvaine represents is also sought out by an evil witch, Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her sisters as they want to retain Yvaine’s heart. Add in a group of wanna-be kings and a cloud navigating pirate ship, and you have the makings of a yarn filled with magic, love and adventure.

The overall story itself really isn’t that bad, and I’m tempted to go back to the comic (or the novel if you fancy) and see what it was like. The movie, however, seems to get mired down in its effects at times and some plot holes (why doesn’t anyone just go over a different part of the wall?), but it still has some charm to it. This charm comes predominantly in the form of the actors, from Robert DeNiro’s closeted pirate captain to Ricky Gervais’ light hearted lightening dealer to Pfeiffer’s wicked witch. Each of them chews up the scenery wanting to do more with a script or role that really doesn’t deliver. The picture tries to hit the emotional and romantic notes of the far superior The Princess Bride but it never hits the mark. In watching the “making of “ featurette, director Matthew Vaughan even seems to be an odd man out in the production, and as much as he’s willing to spread his wings on new material, he may be better off in dealing with the crime riddled world’s of his previous work on the TV series of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and the movie Layer Cake.

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-XA2 HD-DVD player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment.

Stardust is encoded in the MPEG4-AVC codec at 1080p with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The colors in the picture are nicely rendered but occasionally come off a little hot and over-saturated. In certain scenes they are bolder than others depending on the details of the story at that time. For example, the colors in the bazaar scenes in the beginning are vibrant and rich, compared to the scenes back in “the real world”. Detail and sharpness are good. Black levels are fine showing some depth and detail and the stars in the night skies are sharp and distinct. I did not notice any edge enhancement or obtrusive grain or filtering.

The Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the Toshiba XA2 to the Denon 3808CI.

I watched the picture with the Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 track engaged. This is an extremely active soundtrack featuring a heavy use of the surrounds with almost every scene using some type of panning for great effect. Even in the quieter scenes I would notice birds in the trees or other interesting ambient noises. LFE’s engage regularly and shake the room while still maintaining cohesion with the other channels. Voices come off as natural sounding and robust.

Bonus Material:

Good Omens: The Making of Stardust (29:52) (HD): The title of this piece kind of annoys me since it is the name of Neil Gaiman’s first novel he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett. I was therefore expecting a Gaiman centered piece (or, hey, a Gaiman commentary), but instead it’s just the usual behind the scenes info (project genesis, the shoot, CGI, cast and crew interviews, etc.). Gaiman is featured and he tells a couple funny stories particularly about the building of the cloud ship.

Deleted, Alternate and Extended Scenes (5:31) (SD): there is an alternate ending here which was rightly cut. The few other scenes here really amount to little.

Blooper Reel (5:22) (SD): watch the cast make mistakes. I would have loved to have seen all the raw footage between Ricky Gervais and DeNiro…

Theatrical Trailer (2:25) (HD)

Unfortunately, the movie and the disc were not (to borrow a phrase) “as I wished”. Video presentation is average, and the extras are minimal, but we are given an exciting and active audio track.
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 13 OFFLINE   TonyD


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Posted December 23 2007 - 03:07 PM

i have this at the top of my "Q".

i have the comics, but never got around to reading them.

#3 of 13 OFFLINE   PerryD


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Posted December 26 2007 - 07:27 AM

I wasn't expecting too much from the movie, but I really loved it. It's a movie that feels good to watch, huge amounts of charm and wit throughout.

#4 of 13 OFFLINE   Paul Hillenbrand

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Posted December 27 2007 - 02:17 AM

My wife and I enjoyed the theatrical showing of "Stardust" immensely and went again with my second oldest daughter who also liked it.
It had a lot of refreshing twists and turns that kept our interest.

IMO, the HD DVD 1080P doesn't seem as sharp as it should be, but it could be the directors decision or just me seeing the limitations of the 1080P HD Media on my equipment. (HDMI connections - Sony 1080P Ruby - projecting on a 110" screen.) There are a lot of complex CGI scenes that would effect sharpness and visual film grain, but I thought the 5 HD Harry Potter films, also having a lot of CGI, seemed to be sharper overall.

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#5 of 13 OFFLINE   Dan Hitchman

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Posted December 27 2007 - 10:45 AM

Not that I'm an HD-DVD fan, but Paramount screws you guys with yet another lossy track on a brand new release.

Man, if only Paramount hadn't lied through their teeth and were going to stick with a lossless audio policy for dual Blu-ray and HD-DVD releases (PCM and TrueHD). That was supposedly the game plan until the "pay off" messed it all up.

#6 of 13 OFFLINE   Yumbo



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Posted December 27 2007 - 11:15 PM

Bloody fantastic movie.
Great cameo cast.
Great comedy.
Bloody good sound.


#7 of 13 OFFLINE   Jon Moss

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Posted December 28 2007 - 04:01 AM

I watched this on DVD the other night & thoroughly enjoyed it. I'd heard from naysayers who compared it to The Princess Bride, but I thought it was different & clever enough to stand on it's own.

A great sense of humour running throughout, particularly from Claire Danes who was utterly enchanting from start to finish. The only problem I had was with some of the CGI which looked slightly dodgy at times (the flying pirate ship), but probably the result of a smaller budget.

Will not hesitate to pick this up on HD-DVD in the New Year!

#8 of 13 OFFLINE   Robert George

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Posted December 28 2007 - 04:24 AM

Not that I'm an HD-DVD fan, but Paramount screws you guys with yet another lossy track on a brand new release.

Ya know, I've now watched this disc twice, and I just don't feel like I've been screwed.

But that's just me.

#9 of 13 OFFLINE   Jason_V



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Posted December 28 2007 - 04:24 AM

Originally Posted by Yumbo
Bloody fantastic movie.


Ditto. I loved it in the theater and grabbed it on Sunday. I think we're watching tonight. Posted Image

#10 of 13 OFFLINE   Todd smith

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Posted December 28 2007 - 03:32 PM

Now that is funny! I certainly do not feel screwed by my 2 favorite HD media soundtracks which happen to both be DD+. Out of all the Blu-ray and HD-DVD soundtracks I have heard, the DD+ tracks on Transformers and King Kong are my 2 favorite sound tracks overall. Infact, DD+ at 1.5 or higher for real world listening is equal to DTS-MA, TrueHD, and PCM from my listening.

Originally Posted by Dan Hitchman
Not that I'm an HD-DVD fan, but Paramount screws you guys with yet another lossy track on a brand new release.

Man, if only Paramount hadn't lied through their teeth and were going to stick with a lossless audio policy for dual Blu-ray and HD-DVD releases (PCM and TrueHD). That was supposedly the game plan until the "pay off" messed it all up.

#11 of 13 OFFLINE   Bill Crosthwait

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Posted December 29 2007 - 08:26 AM

I just watch this little gem last night. Great Movie and a outstanding HD DVD!

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#12 of 13 OFFLINE   Paul Arnette

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Posted December 30 2007 - 05:41 AM

I watched this movie on Friday night with my mother, and we both enjoyed it quite a bit. I think that they could've toned down the humor a bit, which would have helped the dramatic elements more. In particular, the ghost brothers got a bit tiresome as the film went on, but overall it was an excellent blind-buy.
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.

#13 of 13 OFFLINE   Ron-P



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Posted December 31 2007 - 04:25 PM

Originally Posted by Yumbo
Bloody fantastic movie.
Great cameo cast.
Great comedy.
Bloody good sound.

Agreed. I've watched it twice this last week, very enjoyable, fun, fantasy film. We need more like this.
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