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“Almost Famous (UK Import)”- {Blu-ray}
Reviewer:
Taylor Carlson
Studio: Sony
Genre:
Drama
Release Date:
11/4/08
Special Features:

Love Comes and Goes Featurette, Lester Bangs Interview

Review:

Almost Famous is directed by Cameron Crowe, and stars Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, Patrick Fugit, Jason Lee, Fairuza Balk, Anna Paquin, Zooey Deschanel, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. The score is by Nancy Wilson and the soundtrack features a wide variety of classic rock tunes of the period. The film is based on Cameron Crowe's life experiences. ***

Almost Famous is the story of William Miller, a 15-year-old who aspires to be a rock music journalist in 1973. He sets out to interview Stillwater, one of the biggest rock bands in the world at the time. Before long, he finds himself on the road with the group, the interview he is supposed to do being constantly put off due to the ongoing experiences amongst the band members and himself. As he travels he grows closer to the musicians, as well as to Penny Lane, the leader of the Band-Aids, a group of groupie types who are die-hard fans of the bands of the day. ***

Almost Famous is, more or less, a fictionalized retelling of Cameron Crowe's experiences as a youth, trying to reach the career we all now know and love him for. And the film is an epic journey filled with excitement, romance, heartbreak, betrayal, and damn good music. ***

Billy Crudup is superb as William Miller, who is the “stand-in” for Crowe. He plays this role honestly - and from start to finish you'll truly believe this is a boy that has never been away from home - or from his overprotective mother. Crudup plays this role straight, and it makes him all the more sympathetic and interesting throughout. ***

But it is the SUPPORTING cast that absolutely makes the movie. Amongst its members are Frances McDormand (probably best known for her many roles in Coen Brothers films) as the overprotective mother, Kate Hudson as William's love interest, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the legendary Lester Bangs. ***

It is very rare that a film hits the high notes (no pun intended) on every level, but Almost Famous is one of those films. It walks a fine line between drama and comedy, and never feels forced or contrived. It also scores points for making no attempt to glamorize the world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and when it's all said and done, you'll be saying “Damn, that was a good movie.” ***

The film was originally released theatrically in 2000, in a 122-minute version. Crowe eventually released a 162-mintue extended version called “Untitled”, adding in a good deal more material that was cut from the theatrical version. The Blu-Ray release only contains the extended version, which is disappointing, as I both prefer the shorter, theatrical version (though I am likely in the minority there) and they could easily have included both cuts via seamless branching. ---

Image And Sound:

This is one movie I was really looking forward to owning on Blu-Ray. And after having imported this disc, I am pleased to report that the product does not disappoint. Detail is drastically improved over the SD discs, and colors are more vibrant. Film grain is noticeable throughout, revealing no annoying enhancements were used. The image tends to be a bit soft throughout, though this is likely due to the film crew trying to recapture the look and feel of the era depicted in the movie. No big complaints, the movie looks great. ***

Audio gets a much-needed upgrade to lossless. The music used in the film comes to life like never before, though disappointingly the music does tend to be higher in the mix than the dialogue (though I have this same complaint about MANY Blu-Ray discs' lossless tracks, so I can't really hold this film alone responsible.) Still, it's a good upgrade in all ways!

Special Features:

Disappointingly, very few features appear on the disc - just a featurette and a Lester Bangs interview. After the wonderful DVD package, which included both cuts of the film, more featurettes, and a Stillwater music CD, the lack of supplements here is a letdown.

Final Words:

Almost Famous rocks, in every sense of the words. This is one of the finest films I have ever seen, and I have no doubt it will remain one of my favorites. This Blu-Ray Disc features excellent audio and video, and despite a lack of supplements, I strongly recommend importing it.

 

 
 
 
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