Monday, August 20, 2007

HD DVD review: The 40 Year Old Virgin

This is probably an underrated choice to test my new-found limits of HD DVD, but what better way to determine the parameters of new technology than with a film that shouldn't pop on screen. Well, even in HD, "The 40 Year Old Virgin" is a complete visual surprise. I'm learning that HD creates stunning clarity in the background of films. Judd Apatow's comic masterpiece only benefits from the crisp colors of HD, drawing out the cluttered sets of action figures and busy backdrops of the electronics store or speed dating locale. Two of the most impressive scenes in this film (due not only to the sharp writing, of course) include the following: 1) the scene when Paul Rudd and his buddies take Andy (Steve Carell) to a night club towards the beginning of the film. I'm not sure if I just never looked for the blend of colors before or if Hi Def 'heightens' my sense of picture quality, but the way the neon lights illuminates the screen feels intoxicating, like we're watching a Shaw Brothers picture. It was probably meant to be campy, but in HD, it becomes something altogether different, adding to the giddiness of the scene. 2) the Elizabeth Banks seduction scene. I mean, really, we don't need much more than Elizabeth Banks tearing up the scenery in this succession of images to create a memorable moment, but in HD, the campy backdrop of her apartment come bustling towards you. There's the fluorescent fish tank, the multi-colored pillows on her bed, the green light emanating from her bathroom- it all feels as carefully constructed and as painstakingly lit as a Stanley Kubrick film. Okay, maybe I'm waaay off base here, using first the Shaw Brothers and now Kubrick in my description for a Judd Apatow comedy, but the bottom line is that colors of movies have never felt so vivid. Hi Def leaves nothing non-descript in the background, opening us up to 3-D worlds on screen. That, so far, is the biggest win of this technology.

Enough gushing about that. The disc itself is loaded, but nothing different from the standard disc. The one advantage to HD-DVD is it's easy pop up menu function. Unlike standard DVD's, you don't have to exit out of the film to access the menu. It also features a great round table commentary track with the film's stars, and if you expect the "in this scene I used an anamorphic lens to frame everything...", think again. It's commentary just as loose, nasty, and anecdotal as the film.

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