Hollywoodland (HD DVD)
Ben Affleck drunk, and wearing tights- threat or menace? Actually Hollywoodland reminded me that we once knew Ben Affleck's name because of his acting talent and not the sheer tonnage of projects he was involved with or who he was engaged to. This well crafted movie tells the story of the death and then life of George Reeves, the Superman of 1950s camp TV. Coming in I knew nothing of Reeves' mysterious death let alone his life beyond the tights. Hollywoodland weaves through Reeves' life by way of a private investigator's look into his death, a character the film's creators acknowledge is an amalgam of several people and not a real person. The other chracters names have apparently not been changed to protect the innocent (or guilty).
Adrien Brody plays the PI looking into Reeves' suspicious death, and while he's fine it's Affleck's wounded portrayal of the perpetually typecast Reeves (in show business and personal life) and Diane Lane as his married love interest who steal the scenery. Although this movie is somewhat brave for not tying everything up neatly at the end, it's also a little dissatisfying as a result. It's also a bit distant and loose in the way it attempts to tie life lessons learned from Reeves' pained life to Brody's Louis Simo. Still, the movie works as both a mystery and an E True Hollywood Story biopic that never quite pays off but that you can't turn away from either.
As usual, this disc is 1080p and Universal has encoded with VC-1 as usual. The results are just superb. The photography is stylized in warm tones, and the production is slick and polished,m and looks excellent on this disc. The textures and small details aren't quite as finely resolved as the very best transfers, but it's not far off either. This is a borderline refernce quality disc, which is actually almost commonplace on HD DVD.
The Dolby Digital Plus Audio is more subdued and far less polished than the video. This isn't surround sound demo material, but it does its job with the music and the dialog is always intellgiible. This isn't the kind of movie that's made to thrill.
One other note, laoding this disc into the Toshiba HD-XA2 produced an error message that read: "The Disc is not DVD Format. Cannot play the disc." Universal sent over a second copy that palyed back without error, but it's also been rumored that the firmware updated this past week included a fix for some disc playback issues.
There's a nice set of extras here, including deleted scenes and a director's commentary. There are three nicely prooduced featurettes, the star of which for me was the "Behind the Headlinesm," which revealed a lot about Reeves and the making of the movie.
Hollywoodland works as a movie on a couple of diferent levels, and tells a fascinating story that I didn't know anything about. If I came across Reeves' story while channel surfing on E! True Hollywood I'd be riveted. While this movie doesn't quiote cash in, it's a compelling watch from beginning to end and worth at least a rental.
Picture: 9 out of 10
Sound: 5 out of 10
Video reviewed on Marantz VP-11S1 1080p DLP projector, 80" wide Stewart Filmscreen Studiotek 130 screen. Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD player via HDMI to Anthem AVM 50. Audio sent as PCM over HDMI to Anthem AVM 50. Ayre MX-R monoblocks and Theta Dreadnaught power amps, and Vandersteen loudspeakers. All video cables by Bettercables, all audio cables by AudioQuest