Scanning High-Def: Sahara HD DVD

Movie •••½ HD DVD Picture/Sound ••• Original Extras •••½ New Extras ••½
The 2.35:1 images on this HD DVD are filled with locals wearing richly colored African headdresses or sitting on dazzling carpets. The bright picture has good contrast: Penélope Cruz's locks and looks are dark and inviting, and her dress is a deep shade of black. There's a fair amount of detail and depth, with a solidity to people and objects. In the Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack, the surround channels kick into high gear for action sequences, and the rock-music score is very clear and well-placed in the front channels. There are two commentaries carried over from the standard-def DVD. One is by director Breck Eisner, who dwells on the story and the characters. In the other, he's joined by Matthew McConaughey, who (as the star) helps brings the talk around more to acting and (as executive producer) gets serious about location-hunting. New extras include a 5-minute featurette on the camel-chase scene, animatics with music and effects, and three storyboard-to-screen comparisons. None is in high-def, but they're informative.

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