Scanning High-Def Page 2

Superman Returns comes with the same extras that are on the DVD. These include a 3-hour documentary hosted by director Bryan Singer that covers every aspect of the production in brief but highly detailed segments, such as the search for the new Superman, teaching Brandon Routh how to fly, and on-set shooting in several locations. Rapid pace and tight editing allow a lot to be crammed in, and the 3 hours never drag, especially since Singer is such a colorful character. I only wish the bit with director of photography Newton Thomas talking about his high-def camera (with terms like CCD explained onscreen for non-S&V types) could have gone on longer, as the subject is rarely raised in such pieces. There's also a cool 5-minute featurette demonstrating how they animated Brando's face to have him say new lines and 15 minutes of deleted scenes, which don't add an awful lot.

King Kong is initially just as restrained with its audio, but the visuals on this HD DVD transfer come roaring out of the jungle right from the get-go. Initially, it's a concrete jungle - New York City of the 1930s - so the colors are vivid and artificial. There are bright yellow taxis, rich, theatrically lit stage costumes, and black, black suits. Subtler tones are also well-represented in gentle gradations that reveal plenty of textures. Focus is spread over the depth of Peter Jackson's crowd-filled compositions, rather than just on foreground faces, but there's loads of detail to add clarity.

Once Skull Island comes into view, all the channels kick into high gear, immersing you in a magnificently atmospheric storm in Chapter 22, a thrilling Kong vs. the T. rexes battle in Chaper 35, and the famous finale fight between the mighty beast and a squadron of biplanes swooping around blasting the hell out of him. All are accompanied by James Howard's dramatic score, which adds to the floor-rattling rumbles.

The King Kong HD DVD has ditched all the extras from both the two-disc theatrical-cut DVD and three-disc extended edition in favor of a "U-Control" interactive item. In this setting, an icon occasionally appears at the bottom left of the screen indicating that either a storyboard or behind-the-scenes footage is available; if selected, it plays out in a PIP. It's interesting stuff, especially concerning the motion-capture of Andy Serkis's Kong movements, and relates closely to whatever scene is playing, but the clips and artwork are too briefly on screen, with long dormant periods in between. Strange, given the wealth of documentary material from the DVD editions, but perhaps the film's 3 hours and 7 minutes of high-def content takes up too much of the disc.

Both: [PG-13] 2.35:1. Superman Returns HD DVD: English, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Digital 5.1; French and Spanish, Dolby Digital 5.1; Superman Returns Blu-ray Disc: English, French, and Spanish, Dolby Digital 5.1; dual layer. King Kong HD DVD: English, French, and Spanish, Dolby Digital Plus 5.1; single layer.

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