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  • Million Dollar Baby (HD DVD)

    Posted in: Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on April 25th, 2006

    Overall
    Film
    Video
    Audio
    Extras
    (out of 5)

    Clint Eastwood’s film Million Dollar Baby tells the story of an aging fighter trainer named Frankie Dunn (Eastwood) who eventually decides to train a hillbilly girl (Swank) who thinks she can be a boxer. Dunn runs a gym in the Los Angeles area. One day a girl named Maggie Fitzgerald, from Missouri, approaches Dunn informing him that she has been working at a waitress job since the age of 13. She tells Dunn that boxing for her is the only way she can escape this type of job her life has thrown at her.

    < ...>Dunn, naturally, doesn’t want to give this girl a chance because there is no way he will train a girl. Dunn’s former boxer Scrap (Morgan Freeman) convinces Dunn to give this girl a chance because she knew growing up that she would be nothing but trash if not given any chances. Scrap serves as the film’s narrator, similar to his role in The Shawshank Redemption. His voice is very flat and subdued usually putting no effect on what he is ever saying. He talks about how the girl walked into the gym, how she refused to ever leave and how Frankie decided to finally train her. Scrap, to some, may just serve as a person who tells us what is going on, but he is more. Scrap serves as an individual breathing life into his own when he is not focusing on Maggie or Frankie.

    Take the one scene where Maggie and Frankie visit Maggie’s family. Maggie’s mother, played by Margo Martindale, is ignorant and very rude which causes the visit to go poorly. Maggie tells Frankie that she has no one else in the world besides him. She tells Frankie of a time when her father, whom she loved deeply, suddenly left her and her mother. Don’t mistake this scene as Maggie trying to get closer in a romantic way, but rather in a more personal way to showcase the type of hardships Maggie has had to go through. Speaking of Maggie, Swank was awarded the Best Actress Oscar for her role in this film, which was extremely deserved. Every word uttered by Maggie is delivered with simplicity and emotion that we can’t help but hope Frankie does eventually train Maggie to win that title Scrap never won.

    According to imdb, Million Dollar Baby was Clint Eastwood’s 25th film as a director in his illustrious career. All of his films are amazing and all contain stories that are more than simple stories that give us two hours of entertainment. The stories Eastwood presents are chock full of emotion and pure balance and Baby continues this trend for Eastwood. The film is the type of film that you just sit down to watch and let the credits roll. You go to get up and then realize what you have just seen as the film’s events and characters slowly crawl into you making you establish that connection a truly great film does. Having not seen all of his 25 films, I can say that Baby is one of his best that I’ve seen.

    Eastwood, as a director, is always attentive to his characters. Eastwood just doesn’t present characters that will have create a plot and fill a shoe, but rather he presents characters that help make the world the film takes place in just that much more realistic. In this film, the character of the Catholic Priest is presented in a role that makes this man a good person. Every film that has a clergyman in it, seems to introduce the man as a person who is negative. Frankie, we learn, goes to mass every morning and has for nearly 23 years. Father Horvak, Frankie’s minister, observes that Frankie has quite a lot of guilt inside of him. Frankie goes to see Father Horvak in one scene that occurs before one of the film’s best scenes. Horvak, as a good minister would, gives Frankie the advice; “If you do this thing, you’ll be lost inside of yourself, somewhere so deep that you will never find yourself.” Movies like Baby are made with big booming effects nowadays. For Eastwood, his Baby is made with three people who grow as people, not only growing as one would but growing off of what others have taught you.

    Video

    With all the talk of HD-DVD, people are truly wondering if HD-DVD is worth the upgrade. Is the picture THAT much better on an HD-DVD disc versus the picture on a DVD? If your HD-DVD player is properly hooked up to an HD source, the picture will usually look better. Such is the case with the HD-DVD transfer for Million Dollar Baby. The picture on the DVD release was rather dark and dirty mostly due how the picture was made. On the HD-DVD release, the colors are brighter, objects such as the box gloves on Maggie’s hands look sharper and more defining, and the overall clarity is noticeable better. Some scenes, particularly in Frankie’s gym, look dim and dank, while other scenes in the boxing ring, had a more realistic look to them. Take one scene where Maggie is speaking to Frankie in his office. On the DVD release, the picture was fine, but HD-DVD takes the clarity one step further. In this scene, if you look carefully, you can read the text on one of Frankie’s plaques/awards in near perfect precision. Talk about clear! Like I mentioned in my review for The Last Samurai, HD-DVD is off to a fine start.

    Audio

    We’re given a English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Audio Track for the HD-DVD release of this film. The audio sounds almost imaginary in some scenes; so imaginary that you can close your eyes and hear Maggie hitting someone in the ring thinking that there is a real live fight going on in your living room. Dialogue is ever so clear, while every little sound seems to circle the viewer’s head giving us many vivid audio samples. The film’s score is silent and subdued toward some of the closing moments while being upbeat and almost heroic when Maggie is winning fight after fight. For extreme pure audiophiles, the sound HD-DVD produces can’t be currently touched.

    Special Features

    A majority of the extra’s on the DVD edition appear on the HD-DVD edition.

    • Born to Fight: In this 18 minute feature, actor Hilary Swank, boxer Lucia Rijker, and a few other guests discuss the real-life boxing and their reactions to what appeared in the film. The comments made are interesting enough to warrant a watch one time through.
    • Producers Round: This 13 minute feature deals with co-producers Albert S. Ruddy, Paul Haggis, and Tom Rosenberg speaking on the origins of the film and what they did to get the film made.
    • James Lipton Takes on Three: In this feature, James Lipton sits down and speaks with Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman. If you’ve ever seen a discussion with this man, you will know that the guest speakers are very laid back and calm mostly because Lipton is not too demanding in his approach.

    Closing Thoughts

    Million Dollar Baby is Eastwood’s true masterpiece. The film has characters that learn and develop themselves further and further based on each other. The HD-DVD release boasts exemplary picture and near perfect audio, which is perfect for you audiophiles. Like the original release, the three extra’s presented are interesting enough, but a new commentary by Eastwood would have been nice. If you own an HD-DVD player, grab this film as Baby is much more than just a simple boxing film.

    Special Features List

    • Born To Fight
    • Producers Round
    • James Lipton Takes on Three
    Posted In: 2.35:1 Widescreen, Disc Reviews, Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 (French), Drama, HD-DVD, Warner Bros.

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