HTF HD-DVD Review: Sleepy Hollow

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by PatWahlquist, Jul 26, 2006.

  1. PatWahlquist

    PatWahlquist Supporting Actor

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    [​IMG]
    Sleepy Hollow (HD-DVD)

    Studio: Paramount Home Video
    Rated: R (graphic horror, violence and gore, and for a scene of sexuality)
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
    HD Encoding: 1080p
    HD Video Codec: VC-1
    Audio: English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1; English DTS 5.1
    Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; English SDH
    Time: 105 minutes
    Disc Format: 1 SS/DL HD-DVD
    Case Style: Keep case
    Theatrical Release Date: 1999
    DVD Release Date: July 25, 2006

    Movie Review Note: As I move into more HD-DVD reviews, I am cutting back on the length of my comments on the movie itself to deal more with the technical aspects of this new format. This will be done specifically on the catalog titles provided by Paramount. When they begin releasing titles day and date, I will spend more of the review on the merits (or lack thereof) of the title.

    Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is a man of science dispatched by big city magistrates to investigate the beheadings of several villagers in the upstate village of Sleepy Hollow. At first, he is skeptical of actual beheadings, but once he hears from the locals and encounters the big, Headless Horseman himself, he’s a believer. However, he sticks to his scientific guns to utilize techniques that will give him clues on who the Horseman is, as well as his motive and means. This being the 1700’s, Crane’s practices of the use of “technology” and “science” to solve crimes is looked down on. As the heads continue to roll, Crane, assisted by rustic cutie-pie Katrina (Christina Ricci) and a sidekick, young Masbeth (Marc Pickering), determines the Horseman’s vengeance may have origins closer to them than anyone could imagine.

    Director Tim Burton has assembled an excellent production team on this picture to give the viewer a distinctive environment filled with mood, atmosphere and an impending sense of doom. The limited color schemes (I don’t know what Burton would do without black), the seemingly endless twilight and the ever-present fog enhance the desperation of the villagers. Depp’s Crane is played with a slight air of superiority over the locals and he uses bits of humor to make light of their lack of sophistication or the absurdness of their plight. He is not immune to being overwhelmed, as he has a penchant for fainting. I remember not being a big fan of this picture when it first came out, but during this viewing I really enjoyed it. I would have to say it is probably due to a combination of great costuming, art direction and the playfulness in the cast that contributes to this. While it is not the best Burton picture, it is still a fun and spooky (not really scary) romp through Colonial era madness.


    Video:
    Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 12-S4 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 720p. Thus, the HD-DVD discs are being displayed in 1080i for evaluation purposes. I am using a Toshiba HD-A1 for a player and utilizing the HDMI capabilities of both units.

    Sleepy Hollow is an exceptionally dark picture to begin with and that is only enhanced on this new release. Black levels are deep while still showing good detail in the surroundings. As the next step, the smoke and fog take on a life of their own but exhibit no blocking or aliasing as can be noted in SD releases when they are challenged with this material. Burton’s DP, Emmanuel Lubezki (who later went on to shoot Lemony Snicket) complements his director’s vision by using a pale and washed out color palette that shows flares of saturation. The actors maintain a pale complexion that suits their surroundings. This is not to say this lack of color takes away from the detail by any means: this is an exceptionally detailed picture that brings alive the backgrounds. All of the trees and leaves in the various wooded scenes are now distinct and clear.

    At first I was surprised to see so much grain in the picture, but it is clear this was the director’s intent. It can be a bit distracting at first, but it contributes to the film like appearance of the picture. The VC-1 encoded picture is correctly framed at 1.85:1. I did not notice any edge enhancement.


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

    I watched the movie with the Dolby Digital Plus (DD+) track engaged. It provides an excellent soundstage with numerous panning effects between the fronts. The surrounds come to life during the action sequences and for atmospheric effects, and the occasional “whoosh” as the headless horseman comes leaping in from off screen. Bass is very natural sounding so as not to blow the viewer out of the seat. In the era or “more is better”, I’m glad the sound designer was restrained on this title. As I said of my review of Sahara, the DD+ and DTS are similar, but I was more impressed with the DD+ track overall. This track seemed richer and more enveloping, whereas when I switched over to the DTS track on, the soundtrack became somewhat…empty. The DTS track is very similar in terms of bass response and clarity, but it is the lesser of the two tracks.


    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.

    Commentary by Director Tim Burton: Burton’s commentary is punctuated by him cracking himself up, which can get annoying. He does give some good insights into the motivations of his characters as they translated in this adaptation.

    Sleepy Hollow: Behind the Legend: (30:00)(MPEG2, 4x3, DD+): The cast and crew, ably assisted by a narrator with one of the best announcing voices, gives us all the usual EPK items (gushing about the actors and directors, stunts, effects, costumes, etc.). Still, a good enough spot for this release.

    Reflections on Sleepy Hollow (11:24) (MPEG2, 4x3, DD+): A more recent set of interviews with Burton and the cast as they look back at the movie. This piece is similar to the first one.

    Theatrical Trailer and Teaser Trailer (VC-1, 1.85:1, DD+): Both are presented in HD. Again, I complement Paramount on their choice to encode their trailers in HD. They look good except for the occasional bit of dirt on the prints. The saturation levels of the colors are also higher as compared to the feature.


    Other notes on this HD-DVD edition:
    - The A and B buttons that can be utilized on some HD-DVD titles do not appear to have any function on this title.
    - I use the on-screen display function extensively when doing reviews for time markers and audio and video formatting. This disc would disable several remote functions until I turned off the on-screen display. I have not noticed this issue on the HD discs from Warner’s or Universal.


    Conclusions:
    While I enjoyed Sleepy Hollow more during this repeated viewing, it is still hampered by a dense plot that would be served better by an additional ten minutes of picture instead of the narrative. Burton crafts a spooky world and his cast pleases the audience. The HD-DVD will tax the black levels of your displays, so keep the calibration discs handy. The extras are basic, but I was glad to see Burton, Depp, Ricci and some others return for the retrospective.
     
  2. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Just ordered this 5 minutes ago.

    Robert Harris also praised the transfer.

    Happy to see Paramount is doing a nice job with these DVDs.
     
  3. Paul Arnette

    Paul Arnette Cinematographer

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    Ron,

    I thought that there was nothing in Paramount's initial slate of HD DVDs that interested you? [​IMG]

    Just ribbin' ya. BTW, I'm a sucker for Tim Burton, so this will be mine.
     
  4. Roger Mathus

    Roger Mathus Supporting Actor

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    It appears that Amazon does not have stock of the Paramont titles yet???? Did anyone get a copy from Amazon?
     
  5. PatWahlquist

    PatWahlquist Supporting Actor

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    Don't know about Amazon, but they're probably getting nailed with the 10% off deal. I checked my local Best Buy today and they had 4 copies of each of the new Paramounts. Of course, they are squirrled away above the VCR's about 10 feet away from the HD-DVD end cap. You would also think they would put the new title with the end cap, but no, they have "Serenity" sitting with it. No players for sale either.
     
  6. Dan M

    Dan M Second Unit

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    are these the same extra's ported over from the original release?
     
  7. Roger Mathus

    Roger Mathus Supporting Actor

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    Pat, local Best Buy had 2 copies of each of the Paramont titles. They were still in the stock room as of this afternoon. The new Blu-ray titles also had not been put out but they seemed to have 4 to 6 each of them. (when they found them). Also there appeared to be no Toshiba or Samsung players in stock.

    Sleepy Hollow, upon first check view, looks fantastic.
     
  8. Ron-P

    Ron-P Producer

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    I'm sure the HD-DVD is noticeably better but I'm having a hard time going out and buying this one, no review has given it that WOW comment. That could be due to the dark, grainy and foggy look to the film but I'm not convinced yet that this is worth the double-dip considering the excellent upscaling of SD-DVDs.
     
  9. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    I have given up on Best Buy. The one close to work is clueless when it comes to new releases. They don't put them on the shelves, and they don't even know where those shelves would be, and they are not willing to go look. Oh, after some looking, I did see Benchwarmers on an end cap. The older HD DVD's were buried in the home theater section in a display box that is not big enough to hold all the titles.

    At this point, even though they don't always get the stock in a timely manner, I am sticking to Amazon. Even without the 10 percent promo discount, their prices are generally $5-$8 cheaper than Best Buy, and even more when that extra discount is added.

    Yep, Steve is giving up on Best Buy. Hell, I may start shopping at Circuit City!

    As for Sleepy Hollow, thanks for the review, Pat!

    - Steve
     
  10. Tim Glover

    Tim Glover Lead Actor

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    Good Luck Steve. The brand spanking new CC in Rockwall, TX doesn't even have a HD-DVD display. They do, however, sport a fancy new 56 in ch Samsung 1080p with a Blu-Ray player. The titles are next to it. I asked them about the HD-DVD setup. "um, we didn't get it"...They must have something special with Samsung? I told them most stores are supporting both [​IMG] He looked rather perplexed.

    Amazon prices are good for sure. [​IMG]
     
  11. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    Same with the CC at Firewheel in Garland, TX. They had a Samsung display just as you entered the store on the right. They disavowed all knowledge of HD DVD.

    But the CC in Plano had plenty of HD DVD discs on display. Overpriced, though.

    - Steve
     
  12. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    .
     
  13. Ron-P

    Ron-P Producer

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    My local BB has two entire bays on a front isle, one bay for HD-DVD titles and one for BD. They also have the new releases out when I walk in the door Tuesday mornings.
     
  14. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    I was just in a CC looking for Sky Captain.
    Someone commented that at their locations, they were mixing in the HD DVDS with the regular titles so I looked thru the regular racks- action, nope- sci-fi, nope.
    I had pretty much given up and decided to check out the Bd demo on my way out. I took a gander at their Bd standee near the demo, and to my surprise saw Sahara and Sleepy Hollow HD DVDs mixed in, with Sky Captain and Tomb Raider buried behind copies of 50 First Dates and Stealth.
     
  15. PatWahlquist

    PatWahlquist Supporting Actor

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    Yes, but the SD DVD had cast and crew bios as well.
     
  16. Scott Calvert

    Scott Calvert Supporting Actor

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    Watched Sleepy Hollow last night. I thought it looked fantastic, almost exactly like a very good film print. This is exactly what I want out of my HD-DVD's, to replicate the look of an excellent film element.
     
  17. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    I was rather bothered by the amount of intentional grain in this film.

    Overall, the picture is sharp with black levels that are through the
    roof. However, if I were going to show this format off to someone
    in hopes of converting them to HD-DVD, this would not be a title I
    would choose. There is far too much grain in the picture.

    On the audio front, I was quite pleased with fidelity and sound
    separation -- especially with the headless horseman galloping from
    rear channels to front.
     
  18. Ed St. Clair

    Ed St. Clair Producer

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    WoW
    Never thought I'd 'hear' that!

    How is the grain compared to the SD DVD?
    Thanks.
     
  19. Dan Hitchman

    Dan Hitchman Cinematographer

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    The film is supposed to emulate the old Hammer horror classics in visual style and seeing as how much de-saturation and simulation of natural light shooting they did the grain is going to be there.

    Dan
     

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