The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: DreamWorks - 2000
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Feature running time: 162 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, French/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, English, French, Spanish
Starring: Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Jason Lee, Patrick Fugit, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Written & Directed by: Cameron Crowe
Music by: Nancy Wilson
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: January 30, 2011
"Experience it. Enjoy it. Just don't fall for it"
It's the opportunity of a lifetime when teenage reporter William Miller lands an assignment from Rolling Stone magazine. Despite the objections of his protective mother, William hits the road with an up-and-coming rock band and finds there's a lot more to write home about than the music.
Almost famous is based on Crowe's experiences touring with rock bands Poco, The Allman Brothers Band, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. In a Rolling Stone article, he talks about how he lost his virginity, fell in love, and met his heroes, experiences that are shared by William, the main character in the film. The script revolves around 15-year-old William Miller (Patrick Fugit) deemed uncool by his peers he is a sort of an outcast who stumbles upon the opportunity to live his personal dream. Purely by happenstance he is hired by Rolling Stone Magazine to write an article on a rock band. He hooks up with Stillwater, an up-and-coming rock band featuring lead singer Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee) and charismatic lead guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup). William takes advice from his mentor, legendary rock critic Lester Bangs, (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who cautions him not to become friends with the musicians but to strictly report what he sees/experiences. Young William finds that easier said than done as he finds himself drawn close to the band, their minions the Band-Aids (groupie like but not) and Penny Lane the mysterious girl who teaches him that perhaps there is meaning behind the music (and the musicians).
This film is clearly a labor of love for Cameron Crowe and it shows. It's a blend of fiction and actual events that are told from an insider's perspective that plays via a purposefully tangible ode to the period music and those who created it. It works on multiple levels with a coming of age narrative that resonates as it speaks of youthful discourse, loss of innocence, first love, and familial dysfunction. Many of its best moments occur as we witness the transcendent interpersonal complexities that can often occur within bands. I can't speak for everyone but as someone who grew up in that era I find Almost Famous to be a nostalgically affecting film filled with rewarding situations, superbly chosen music, and endearingly spun characters. The performance by the cast as an ensemble is spot on and charmingly genuine. I think that this film best represents writer/director Cameron Crowe's knack for indelibly conveying his vision to the audience. Although it has been a number of years since I have seen it Almost Famous never seems to lose its allure and makes for a perfect pick me up on a rainy day. This unrated extended Director's Edition Bootleg Cut (containing 30 minutes of additional footage) is a Best Buy Exclusive that marks the film's first U.S foray onto Blu-ray Disc.
This film is unrated and contains language, teenage drinking, sensuality, partial nudity and themes that would be inappropriate for young viewers.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Almost Famous comes to Blu-ray Disc from Paramount featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 25 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 4.1 Mbps.
This is a solid looking high definition Blu-ray catalog release from Paramount. It boasts clean, well depicted colors that offer a good mix of secondary hues that appear natural. The soft hues and sepia tones that represent the period specific colors have realistic texture and spot on tonal balance. Facial complexions and skin tones are warm, with pinkish highlights that rarely appear unnatural. The level of detail present noteworthy which especially enhanced dimension during bright wide angle camera shots. There are minor fluctuations in apparent resolution that are more than likely related to the original photography and don't infringe upon fidelity. In most cases I had no trouble making out the thread patterns in clothing/furniture or the texture on surfaces in the 1.85:1 framed image. There are instances where the video takes on an edgy quality but I don't feel it was excessive or distracting. Black and white levels are stable which gives a fair level of pop to colors and brighter exterior sequences while keeping darker or low lit segments looking noticeably punchy with crisp blacks and visibly gradational detail in shadowy backgrounds. Grain is well preserved, even layered and unobtrusive while providing a noticeable texture that is film like and ultimately rewarding. The print is in decent shape and artifacts are kept to a minimum. Having owned the original DVD release since day one I can state without equivocation that I have never seen this film look better on home video.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack renders clear, articulated dialogue that maintains a position of prominence across the front three channels. This is not a film that requires heavy use of surround sound to deliver its message but it does rely on the entire soundstage for proper atmosphere from time to time. The mix is well balanced and reproduces sounds at the right levels and places them appropriately in the sound field's acoustic environment. Detail is excellent which helped attenuate slight environmental cues and augment the subtle texture of voices and recorded sounds. There is no deep bass associated with this presentation but bass response is definable as it reinforces low level detail in support of the music.
- Audio commentary by writer/director Cameron Crowe
- Intro by Cameron Crowe
- The making of Almost Famous - 24 minute featurette
- Vintage interview with Lester Bangs (2 minutes) with introduction by Cameron Crowe
- (HD) Cameron Crowe's top albums of 1973 - Includes brief commentary on each by Cameron Crowe
- Fever dog music video
- Love comes and goes music video
- (HD) Rolling Stone articles - 7 text based articles on Led Zeppelin, The Allman Bros., Neil Young, Peter Frampton, Fleetwood Mac, Van Morrison, and Joni Mitchell
- B-Sides - 5 minute short
- Cleveland concert (w/intro by Cameron Crowe) - 15 minutes of Stillwater playing to a packed house
- Small time blues 3 minute jam
- Stairway - 12 minute segment that didn't make the final cut (be sure to have your copy of Stairway to heaven on hand!)
- (HD) Script - full script in text based form
- (HD) Theatrical trailer
I can't speak for everyone but as someone who grew up in the seventies I find Almost Famous to be a nostalgically affecting and entertaining film filled with rewarding situations, superbly chosen music, and endearingly spun characters. It has been a number of years since I have seen it but it never seems to lose its allure thanks to a wonderfully crafted script, apt direction and pitch perfect cast. This Best Buy exclusive Bootleg Cut, marks the first time Almost Famous has been available on Blu-ray in the U.S. and the results are quite good. I found the rewarding high definition audio/video quality to be better than expected and thoroughly enjoyed the well chosen compliment of bonus features. If you're a fan and don't already own Almost Famous in high definition this Blu-ray offering from Paramount/Best Buy comes highly recommended.
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