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DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Hidalgo

Discussion in 'DVD' started by DaViD Boulet, Jul 31, 2004.

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  1. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    [​IMG]


    HIDALGOStudio:TOUCHSTONE Year:2004 RunTime:136 minutesAspect Ratio:16x9 encoded 2.35:1 OAR Audio:DD 5.1 English, DTS 5.1 English, , 2.0 DD French, 2.0 DD Spanish Subtitles:English for the hearing impaired, Spanish, French SpecialFeatures:Sand and Celluloid” making-of featurette, DVD-ROM “America’s First Horse” featureReleaseDate:August 3, 2004





    The Feature...


    Did you ever notice how many trailers actually sell movies short and almost seem to discourage people from going to see the feature? Having been forced to watch the trailer for Hidalgo on all my recent Disney DVDs, I was dreading having to watch it for this review. It turns out that my apprehensions needed not be so severe. The film is watchable, very entertaining, and were it not for a few serious “groaners” that stuck out gratuitously and really (for me) became an obstacle to taking the movie seriously, I might have been tempted to call it “good”.

    Hidalgo is the name of a Mustang horse and the film is, in some fashion, based on a true account of a 19th century man, his horse, and a great race across 3,000 miles of Arabian Desert. Viggo Mortensen plays Hopkins, the rider, and while he does an acceptable job, after this film and the Lord of the Rings trilogy one starts to wonder if the man is capable of speaking in any manner other than a hushed whisper. Omar Sharif also makes a grand appearance and helps to add some stability and depth to the film (does this man ever age? He looks just as striking as ever).

    What’s good about this film: It has some really beautiful visuals. It expresses the tragedy of the plight of the Native American during the late 1800’s, it has some good action and in general the story is engaging and holds interest. What’s not so good: The film just feels too “Hollywood” and lacks soul and authenticity. I kept making (inequitable) comparisons to Ben-Hur in my mind (the scene where Judah Ben-Hur meets the Arab and becomes trainer of his fine horses) and kept being reminded how this film did not manage to achieve that kind of solidity or depth. I think the primary culprits are some hackneyed feminist themes (for just once can’t we watch a period film without these issues being artificially forced onto the table?), and a few groaner scenes like the (spoiler) castration debacle really had me struggling not to reach for the remote. And those are just about the fakiest-looking computer-generated leopards you will ever see. Why? [​IMG] With just a little more care this film could have been truly good, and perhaps that’s why I’m sounding so critical. I will, however, admit that the final scene between Hopkins and Hidalgo had me in a vertiable watershed of tears…so I suppose that indicates that despite its flaws, Hidalso does indeed entertain, and perhaps even moves one on an emotional level if you’re not guarded…



    Picture...



    Projected on my 100” screen and viewed from a 1.6 screen-width distance, the image appeared more detailed than the average Disney transfer, and seems to be affected by only very mild HF filtering. Black level, contrast, and color fidelity are all outstanding. This film is composed with very clear visual intentions, and color and contrast are used to very good effect and vary from scene to scene…and this DVD preserves the impact of those artistic expressions. Mild ringing can be seen on vertical lines in many scenes (like tent poles) and are visible from a 1.6 screen width distance, though viewers who watch from a relative greater ratio may not find the halos intrusive. My frustration is of course that not only are such artifacts entirely avoidable and unnecessary, but that aside from the “ringing” artifacts which may or may not intrude given the varying source material, such HF boosting removes the subtle grace and naturalness from the image on large-screen presentations and keeps it just inches away from a truly film-like presentation (I'm finding lately that it is this later artifact of "subtle digital harshness" that is the real offender from HF boosting...even when edge-halos are not plainly visible).

    While compression seems good overall, I did notice some occasional color-banding in some large-color-field areas like skies. One or two fade-outs also exhibited a “steppy” looking color-banding artifact (when Hopkins is silhouetted against the setting sun is one such scene). While I’m more accustomed to seeing such color banding in animation (Finding Nemo and Brother Bear), it’s less common to see it in live-action DVD transfers. Don’t get too worried about this…I only saw it a few times and most viewers will probably never notice it, but I did see it so I wanted to point it out.

    Ok, so put everything back in perspective, overall my impression of the image on this disc is very good. I’m almost resigned to seeing ringing from these Disney transfers these days (every now and then I have to throw in a good Warner or Fox transfer just to remind myself how a GOOD DVD really looks), detail is strong and color saturation and temperature are spot-on. And while I was cognizant of the image’s shortcomings, the presentation still managed to satisfy me, and I’m sure that most viewers with smaller screens or narrower viewing angles will find the image very good indeed.


    Picture: 4/ 5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]




    Sound...


    A great 5.1 mix, and one that is entirely what you’d expect given the nature of this film. Some scenes are atmospheric, and some action scenes really engulf you in a 360 degree sound field that places you in the midst of the commotion. Bass response is very deep and the general presentation is dynamic and bold. Dialog is always clear and natural sounding. The orchestral score spreads widely across the front soundstage and even into the rear channels at times. A very context-appropriate and enveloping mix.

    In case you ever wondered if this reviewer merely walked the DTS line from some loyalist agenda, you should definitely pay attention to my impressions here. For perhaps the first time in my DVD-watching history, I find myself preferring the Dolby Digital track. I’m a bit perplexed by the different character I hear between these two 5.1 soundtracks. On the one hand, the DTS track sounds more refined, with airier highs and more natural timbers in the orchestra and vocal tracks. However, in this case, the DTS track also sounds “thin” and more anemic, and the Dolby Digital sountrack delivers a fuller and more robust presentation…and ultimately in my system one that sounds more emotionally involving. In my experience, this is an unusual quandary of relative strengths and weaknesses, and I plan to do a bit of research into the technical history behind these two 5.1 mixes.


    Sound: 4.5/ 5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]




    Special Features...


    Two whole special features…

    [*]Sand & Celluloid: Approximately 10 minutes in length, this is a very nice if not too earth-shattering making-of documentary that is well worth watching. Lots of minor but interesting trivia like the candy-locusts and multiple “Hidalgo” horse doubles that were all makeup-treated to look alike in the making of this film. The only fault I’d give to this feature is its short run-time.
    [*]America’s First Horse: DVD-ROM only. Delves into the history of the Mustang breed. I’m not DVD-ROM enabled and personally I find it very frustrating not to be able to enjoy a feature such as this from the comfort of my sofa while the disc is already spinning and my projector all fired up. I can understand certain content being PC-specific due to its nature (like certain games or fine text) but a feature like this ought to be available to me and the many other consumers who would have enjoyed watching it in our HT systems.[/list]
    Ok, so that’s not much. But keep in mind that this is a relatively long film with a DTS track all on a single disc…not too much space left over for special feature content and I’d rather keep picture and sound quality high and minimize the bonus material (though in this particular case I’m not sure if the DTS option really provided an advantage).



    All Together...



    Definitely worth a rent, and possibly worth a buy, Hidalgo isn’t a masterpiece like The Black Stallion or Dances With Wolves but it does manage to charm and even illicit a tear or two despite a few unwelcome (and unnecessary) flaws. Action and entertainment value are high, and this DVD provides very good picture (excepting some minor EE and occasional color banding) and exemplary sound. If you loved this film or if you haven’t seen it but have been waiting for DVD to enjoy it on your HT system, you may procure this DVD without fear. Those of you uncertain of your expectations of this movie can easily rent it for a great night of entertainment that will take good advantage of your AV system. I’ve told you what I think…now lets hear your own comments…
     
  2. anthony_b

    anthony_b Screenwriter

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    Year: 1979 ?....[​IMG]
     
  3. Garrett Adams

    Garrett Adams Supporting Actor

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    I recall when the film came out reading that while the man is indeed real there was no available evidence that such a race ever happened in Arabia. Hopkins is said to have had a vivid imagination.
     
  4. David_Blackwell

    David_Blackwell Screenwriter

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    Well, there are disputes that the story in Hidalgo isn't based on a true story and that it was just a story told by Hopkins that he passed off as truth.

    But I want to see the movie and will rent it on DVD whether the story in the movie is true or not.
     
  5. Jeff Adams

    Jeff Adams Screenwriter

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    Well I just rented this last night and thought it was a great film. It is definitely on my purchase list. I wasn't expecting a lot out of this film, also due to the trailers but was very surprised on how much I enjoyed it. I would recommend this to anyone and especially if you have young children,it is a great family film. Not to sound corny but it is a very heart warming and touching film. I have to admit, it drew a few tears from me. [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] 1/2 out of [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    As far as the dvd itself. I was also very impressed. The picture quality was excellent and the DTS soundtrack was also very good. This dvd will be in my collection very soon.
     
  6. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    Man I really want to see this because I respect Viggo (and not just because of LoTR) as an actor. But the trailers really did get me down about the film...
     
  7. Jeff Adams

    Jeff Adams Screenwriter

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    Yeah, I like Viggo a lot too. He was very good in this movie.
    Remember Lalin from Carlitos Way. Although very small role I loved him in that movie.
     
  8. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    Viggo managed to make me forget all about Aragorn within half an hour, so I consider that a good piece of acting.

    My main complaint was feeling disoriented during the race; a graphic of a map showing his progress would have been useful. It wasn't really possible to guesstimate based on passage of time.
     
  9. Jim Barg

    Jim Barg Second Unit

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    It was a fun way to kill two hours in theatres. If there were more extras, I'd probably have more interest in buying it. That said, it's very much worth a rental for adventure fans, despite the trailer being... not-so-good.
     
  10. Don Solosan

    Don Solosan Supporting Actor

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    I believe that's a mistake with this movie. Lots of people got hung up on the idea of it being a "true" story. I think it's better to approach it as a tall tale. Then things that are exaggerated or don't work in the real world make sense. They're the distortions of a fanciful storyteller.

    Actually, this story is very similar to the one Red Pollard tells in "Seabiscuit" (and we know that one's a lie!).
     

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