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Almost Famous (SE)
BLU-RAY disk
02.22.2011 By: Jason Adams
Almost Famous (SE) order download
Director:
Cameron Crowe

Actors:
Patrick Fugit
Billy Crudup
Kate Hudson

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
In 1973, a sheltered 16 year old journalist gets a quick lesson about rock and roll, life and the world around him when he’s hired by Rolling Stone to go on tour with the band Stillwater.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
As a lover of music, especially classic rock, ALMOST FAMOUS is one of my favorite movies dealing with the subject. Cleary made by someone with firsthand experience, knowledge and appreciation for rock and roll, this film has an exuberance and passion that's infectious for fans, not to mention it presents a great story chock full of humor, drama and emotion all its own.

That "someone" would be none other than Cameron Crowe, director of JERRY MAGUIRE and SAY ANYTHING. Based on his personal experiences as a young music journalist, Crowe's story covering bands like Led Zeppelin and The Who is amazing in itself, but compiled together in to William Miller's single narrative offers us the stuff of legend. ALMOST FAMOUS is an entire movie of memorable (not to mention potentially real) moments, like the Golden God party, the "Tiny Dancer" sequence, the deflowering scene, the near plane crash and anything with Frances McDormand. Even small unintentional things, like when William trips excitedly running down the hallway, stick with you. The story does touch on the cliché sex and drugs aspect of rock and roll, but also delves deeper in to the characters, looking at the dynamic of the band, the relationship with fans and the concept of "cool" within an engaging coming-of-age story. We experience everything from William's perspective with a sense of doe-eyed wonder, but even as someone torn between the rock lifestyle, his personal freedom and an overbearing yet understandable mother, the character is likable and grounded enough to provide just the right amount of perspective for the audience.

Patrick Fugit is perfect as William, a nice mix of innocence, giddy excitement and ever-growing confidence that makes him a great find for the role. Just watch his performance backstage at the first Stillwater show if you don't believe me. Billy Crudup is truly a golden god as Russell Hamond, the epitome of what's so cool yet often uncool about rock stars, while Jason Lee balances things out as the more traditional diva musician. Kate Hudson showed a lot of promise in her award winning role as the emotionally nuanced Penny Lane, promise which she's unfortunately squandered with romantic comedies and Matthew McConaughey. Dependable actors like Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Frances McDormand are also great in their few key scenes, and the film rounds out its supporting cast with everyone from Zooey Deschanel to Noah Taylor to Anna Paquin, just to name a few.

And once again, if you love music, you will love ALMOST FAMOUS, from Lester Bangs thoughts on the direction of the scene to all the mentions, references and brief cameos from legends of 70's-era rock and roll. And that doesn't include the film's incredible soundtrack, which features stalwarts like Zeppelin, Sabbath, Deep Purple, Neil Young, Allman Brothers, Bowie, Simon and Garfunkel and about 20-30 more. Even the fake band Stillwater's tunes are pretty decent, which is to be expected when you have none other than Peter Frampton aboard as the film's technical adviser.

Some might say that things are wrapped up a little too nicely and happily, but the ending is earned by the characters and doesn’t feel false to the story. Plus, it's a Cameron Crowe movie—if you're not feeling emotional and life-affirmed by the end credits, you probably weren't paying attention.
THE EXTRAS
NOTE: This Blu-Ray is currently only available as a Best Buy exclusive release.

This Blu-Ray release features the director's cut of ALMOST FAMOUS, aka UNTITLED, which adds in an extra 40 minutes of material that helps pad out the characters and the story (and the runtime—2 hours and 42 minutes). All the special features from the previous Special Edition DVD are carried over here, but unlike that release, the theatrical cut of the film is NOT included.

Commentary by Cameron Crowe: Well, this is a first! Crowe brings along his mother for the commentary track, along with assorted other friends and colleagues from the music and film industry. It's definitely a very personal track, as much as the film is, with the mother-son duo reminiscing on the events portrayed on the screen with many neat stories, recollections and comparisons shared. The rest of the folks contribute within their roles, but this is totally a Crowe (and family) commentary all the way, which is what makes it so special.

The Making of ALMOST FAMOUS (24:50): Better than your average BTS feature, this half-hour doc does cover the usual ground, but it mostly centers on the comparisons between Crowe's real life and his cinematic one. So when the interviewed cast and crew speak highly about their experience on the film, it actually comes across as genuine.

B-Sides (5:21): A little making of short shot by Crowe himself during shooting.

Interview with Lester Bangs (1:55): A quick and fun chat from the 70s with Phillip Seymour Hoffman's real life counterpart.

Stairway (12:13): A lengthy deleted scene that features William playing "Stairway to Heaven" and was cut out when the rights to the famous song could not be acquired. They still haven't purchased them for this segment, so there are clear signals as to where you can play the song for yourself at home

Cleveland Concert (15:45) and Small Time Blues (2:55): Full, extended and uncut musical performances from Stillwater.

Cameron Crowe's Top Albums of 1973 (3:52): This audio-only feature lets the director speak about his favorite albums whenever you click on them. The man's got impeccable taste.

Rolling Stone Articles: Flip through digital versions of some of Crowe's early pieces, written during his tenure as a journalist chronicled in the film, featuring The Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young and many more.

A digital version of the Script, two Music Videos and a Theatrical Trailer are also included, as are some Easter Eggs (look for the hidden microphone icons).
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
ALMOST FAMOUS is a revelation for film and music fans, a passionate love letter to the era of classic rock packaged in a funny and heartwarming story based on writer/director's amazing personal experiences. This new Blu-Ray features noticeably upgraded video and audio presentations, but the same special features from previous DVD releases.

Extra Tidbit: Look for small roles/cameos by Rainn Wilson, Kyle Gass, Nick Swardson, Jimmy Fallon, comedian Mitch Hedburg, a very young Jay Baruchel, and Cameron from “Modern Family.”
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9:20PM on 02/22/2011

Bought.

Damn fine flick, and the soundtrack ... oh my God, the soundtrack! Picked it up last time I went to a Best Buy, totally worth it. Great review dude!
Damn fine flick, and the soundtrack ... oh my God, the soundtrack! Picked it up last time I went to a Best Buy, totally worth it. Great review dude!
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