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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: "Almost Famous - Untitled - The Bootleg Cut"



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#1 of 71 Ronald Epstein

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Posted November 27 2001 - 04:18 AM


Posted Image
Almost Famous UNTITLED: The Bootleg Cut

In February of this past year, many of you
may remember my rave review of Dreamwork's
DVD release, Almost Famous.

Watching that film for the first time was
nothing short of a revelation. I proclaimed
the DVD the best release of the year, even
though the year had just nearly started.

Almost Famous is one of those films
that comes around only a few times every decade --
a sort of film that catches one by surprise and
leaves a lasting impression. I was convinced that
nothing would released the rest of the year that
would be as important to watch as Almost Famous.
Now that the year is almost over, I find myself
gravely mistaken in my original judgement. The
most important film released to DVD this year is
actually Almost Famous - Untitled - The
Bootleg Cut
.

Almost Famous is for anyone that is cool,
or has always wanted to be. The story is of an
awakening for a high school boy named William
(Patrick Fugit) who loves to write but whose
freedom is stifled by his overbearing religious
Mother (brilliantly played by Frances McDormand),
who does not allow commercialism, freedom of
expression or rock music in her home. When
William's sister is driven out of the house
at the age of 18, she leaves something very special
for her brother under the bed -- something that will
free him. What she leaves him is a stack of rock
and roll records from THE WHO, CROSBY, STILLS & NASH,
ROD STEWART and other rock legends. William puts
the piece of vinyl on the record player and as the
first few notes of THE WHO belt out, his destiny
plays before him.

William decides to become a rock journalist.
With objections from his Mother, he joins up with
a struggling band called STILLWATER. The band
members become family for him, and we find this
naive and innocent boy awakening to all the sins
that Rock & Roll offers.

If anything warrants the viewing of this film, it
is the incredible performance by Kate Hudson,
who plays Penny Lane, a groupie who joins the band
and becomes the focal point of this film with her
sexy screen presence that dominates every scene.

Dreamworks and Director Cameron Crowe have fulfilled
their promise in delivering the ultimate release
to DVD. Arriving in a very handsome 3-way gatefold
jacket, this 2-disc set brings us the original DTS
theatrical release and a new version put together by
Crowe, that is an entirely new edit of the original
release that brings us 35 minutes of never-before-seen
footage.

Though adding deleted material to a film is not
always beneficial to the film's pacing, the newly
added footage actually makes this film better. Watching
this new edit is much like revisiting old friends
and finding many exciting new things happening in
their lives. This new edit adds some remarkable new
details that were left out of the original cut.

Most of the added footage simply fleshes out a
few of the already existing scenes without slowing
the overall pace of the film. For instance, the
new cut begins with an immediate extended sequence
that features young William and his Mother walking
through town discussing a movie they had just seen.
By adding this scene, we are given more insight
into young William's appreciation of what he sees,
and his ability to express his views.

Inside the DVD packaging is a chapter list that
compares the chapter sequences of both the ORIGINAL
and the BOOTLEG cut. You can pretty much see where
the extra scenes have been added. Other additions
are not so obvious as they are quick cuts added to
an existing scene. Although you may periodically
see a slight color correction, the added scenes
almost are undetectable as far as quality of the
presentation.

In the most hilarious of the added segments, the
band is invited to a radio station talk show. They
are greeted by a DJ who behind the mike, has smoked
so much pot that he is stoned beyond belief. The
band takes this opportunity to have a little fun
with censorship.

Another added segment is a real bonus. It happens
just after Penny Lane has her stomach pumped in a
hotel room. She and William walk in Central Park,
and it is there that her REAL NAME is finally revealed.

The transfer of the DVD looks quite good, though
it has a purposeful look and feel of something shot
in the 70's. For that reason, colors are not overly
vibrant, but picture remains clear and detailed.

Unfortunately, in an effort to save bandwidth,
THE BOOTLEG CUT does not contain a DTS track (the
included theatrical cut does). The 5.1 Dolby Digital
track sounds very full. Since this film relies on
a soundtrack filled well-known classic 70's music,
the sound is often full of foot-stompin' bass that
sounds as good as you playing a CD on your stereo.
The surrounds are limited mostly to ambiant effects
such as a roaring crowd during the concert scenes.
Though I am always in favor of DTS over Dolby Digital,
this mix sounded quite good.

Let me talk to you about the extras you get with
this collection....

To start with, this set has been put together to
resemble a bootleg box. Popping the disc in, you
are greeted with a collage of polaroid photographs
that fly across your screen. With the added elements
of dirt and scratches, the Main Menu takes on a look
of something unfinished and not authorized.

The film itself has running commentary by Director
Cameron Crowe.

Click on the disc one Special Features menu
and you'll find a few extra segments all introduced
in audio by Director Cameron Crow.

Love Comes and Goes is an extended look at
the Stillwater stage performance that many fans had
indicated was cut too short. What is interesting
about this particular performance, is that it is
performed to the original demo by Nancy Wilson, who
sings in her most manly voice. Those words are
lip-synched by Jason Lee (Jeff Bebe).

Talk about my ignorance of Rock and Roll -- I never
knew that the "Creem Magazine" editor Lester Bangs
(as portrayed in the film by Philip Seymour Hoffman),
was based on an actual person. On this DVD, there
is an included [B}Interview with Lester Bangs[/b],
from the original 70's era. It's a very rare few
minutes of interview footage that made me laugh,
as I realized how dead-on Philip played that
character in the film.

Rolling Stone Articles is an interesting
collection of original articles published from
1973-79 that inspired the writing of Almost
Famous
. Included here are stories on: The
Allman Brothers, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison,
Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young and Led Zeppelin. It
was interesting to read what was written about
these great rock and roll bands while at the
height of their careers.

I was somewhat disappointed by B-SIDES,
which was supposed to be a collection of raw
footage taken on the sidelines during filming.
In the audio introduction, Cameron Crowe talks
about how so much footage was filmed from the
sidelines to chronicle the making of the movie.
What we see, instead, is a lengthy audition from
the excised scene of the stoned DJ, followed by
short footage of the rest of the principal actors
kind of hanging out, fooling around and auditioning.
The entire segment is under 15 minutes and it
makes you wish that there was more included.

Finally, Cameron Crowe's Top 10 Albums of 1973
consists of personal picks. Showing album covers,
Cameron talks about why these albums made his top
ten list and why the artists were so inspirational
to him.

Pop in Disc 2 and go straight to the
Special Features Menu. There you will find
more bonus materials included for this set.

First up are two scenes that were cut from the
film. "Small Time Blues" was confusing to
watch. It's a small scene from what seems to be
a hotel room where a man and woman are singing to
guitar. The scene is not well defined. We don't
know at what point in the film this scene was
supposed to appear, or what its purpose is.

More worthwhile, "Stairway" clearly is
the most innovative use of extra material when you
don't quite have the rights to show it. Though
Cameron Crowe desperately wanted to include a
sequence where Frances McDormand (William's Mom)
is seduced into letting William leave home to become
a journalist by having Led Zeppelin's "Stairway
to Heaven" played to her -- the scene could not be
included simply because Led Zeppelin would not
allow the film rights. When you watch this scene
now presented in its entirety, you'll be bowled
over by the innovative way that this material was
allowed to be shown without violating copyrights.
We will leave the ultimate surprise up to your
viewing.

Finally, Crowe included the entire Cleveland
Concert
sequence of Stillwater which you can
enjoy complete and uncut.

Rounding out the extras included on this disc
is the original theatrical trailer, DVD liner
production notes, cast and filmmaker bios, and
the complete script that you will certainly spend
much of your time thumbing through using your remote.

If all that isn't enough, you'll find a STILLWATER
music CD tucked inside the jacket sleeve. The CD
contains 5 tracks of songs by the group including
their most memorable, "Fever Dog".

In closing....

There have been many great DVD titles released
this year. If I could pick just one title that I
enjoyed more than any other, it would certainly
without doubt be Almost Famous. For those
of us that grew up during the 70's, this movie
will take you back to that time where you'll find
yourself helplessly singing to Elton John's Tiny
Dancer.

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#2 of 71 Dave H

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Posted November 27 2001 - 04:21 AM

Ron,

Does the theatrical version of this appear to be the same transfer used on the first release earlier this year?

#3 of 71 MichaelG

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Posted November 27 2001 - 04:49 AM

I really liked the movie and had to watch it on VHS the first time I saw it (Yuck!). I will definately be getting this one.
Signed,

Epstein's mother's Doctor!

#4 of 71 Matt Butler

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Posted November 27 2001 - 04:55 AM

Ron,
Great review but I wanted to tell you that the Central Park scene when Penny Lane tells him her real name is in the theatrical release as well. Its not a new addition.

I want this disc so bad!!
My Blu Rays
http://www.blu-ray.c...ol...=Dj Matt B

Favorite films of all time in no order
1. Zodiac 2. Dawn of the Dead (1978) 3. The Good The Bad and The Ugly 4. Blade Runner 5. The Warriors 6. Dark Knight 7. The Godfather  8. Bullitt 9. Experiment in Terror 10. Raiders of the Lost...

#5 of 71 Matt Birchall

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Posted November 27 2001 - 05:00 AM

Nice review, Ron. Thanks.

This is pretty much the only December title that I'm excited about in the least. I'll pick up Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, but only for nostalgia's sake, and am waffling on Moulin Rouge. But this sounds like an excellent disc of an even-more excellent film.

Now then, who wants to buy my old Almost Famous disc? It's got a Stillwater music video that's not on the new release; that's reason enough alone. . . Posted Image

-mwb-

#6 of 71 Joseph Young

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Posted November 27 2001 - 05:11 AM

Thanks for the review, Ron.

This is one disc I have been waiting for. Interestingly enough, what drew me to this film initially was that fact that Mark Kozelek of the Red House Painters (one of my favorite bands) plays Larry Fellows, Stillwater's bass player. To say that none of the actors here were trained musicians is just false. Kozelek is a gifted guitarist/songwriter and I look forward to more footage of him in the deleted/extended scenes.

Joseph

#7 of 71 JasonKZ

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Posted November 27 2001 - 05:27 AM

Unfortunately, the HBO behind the scenes special on the original DVD is no longer on this "Special Edition" version.

#8 of 71 Richard Kim

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Posted November 27 2001 - 05:38 AM

Quote:
The story is of an awakening for a high school boy named William (Patrick Fugit) who loves to write but whose
freedom is stifled by his overbearing religious
zealot of a Mother (brilliantly played by Frances
McDormand)

Posted Image

There was never any indication in the film that William's mother was a religous zealot. Unless, this is from the director's cut.



#9 of 71 Marc Colella

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Posted November 27 2001 - 06:27 AM

Quote:
Unfortunately, in an effort to save bandwidth,
THE BOOTLEG CUT does not contain a DTS track (the
included theatrical cut does).

This is fine by me. I'd rather have better picture quality than a minor improvement in sound quality.

#10 of 71 Chuck Mayer

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Posted November 27 2001 - 06:54 AM

I also did not see Frances McD's character as a religious zealot...she just seems too smart to be a zealot. I would imagine she's more inteliigentsia and disciplined. And yes, she is incredible. Wonderful movie...I cannot wait to see this cut!

Take care,
Chuck
Hey buddy...did you just see a real bright light?

#11 of 71 Jodee

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Posted November 27 2001 - 07:57 AM

She was more of an intellectual hippie.

Remember the tofu cutlets? Posted Image

#12 of 71 wally

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Posted November 27 2001 - 08:07 AM

Calling Kate Hudson's performance "sexy" is selling it way short. She glows in this film.

I had not seen her before and remember sitting in the theater when she first appears on screen thinking, "Wow, she's a star!" Hearing those first few bars of "Tommy" as William first listens to his sister’s stash brings chills.

Now if we can just get some of Kate's fathers stuff on DVD. Love the Hudson Brothers!

#13 of 71 Jeff_A

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Posted November 27 2001 - 10:28 AM

Quote:
Now if we can just get some of Kate's fathers stuff on DVD. Love the Hudson Brothers!

Is this for real, Wally? I had no idea! Posted Image

I am with Ron on this one BTW. One of the year's VERY BEST. Posted Image

#14 of 71 wally

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Posted November 27 2001 - 12:21 PM

Is it for real that Kate's dad is a Hudson brother?

I believe so. I think he is Bill Hudson. Goldie's dude prior to Kurt.

I agree with Ron too, one of the years best. I may even keep my copy of the present release to keep the HBO feature.

#15 of 71 Gavin_L

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Posted November 27 2001 - 04:42 PM

ron, you were right on saying this is one of the best movies of 2001, by far one of my favorites. wonderful review as always ron, thanks for posting it. I'm really excited for this dvd release, seeing what cameron crowe had originally tended to lets us see. Dec 4th, will not come soon enough.

#16 of 71 Ken Stuart

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Posted November 27 2001 - 07:24 PM

Thanks for the review Ron - I'm eagerly awaiting this one, as the film is amazingly autobiographical for me as well - for example, I can vouch that all the details of the San Diego Sports Arena - from the backstage scene to the loading ramp and parking lot - are perfectly recreated (in fact, it was a little spooky for me that he chose that venue).

When I saw the original version, it seemed cut to me even before I heard about the Director's Cut, so I'm looking forward to seeing it as it should be seen...

#17 of 71 Inspector Hammer!

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Posted November 27 2001 - 10:59 PM

Thanks for the review Ron, this is one terrific film! My dvd supplier usually gets everything that comes out on Tuesdays on Saturday, so with any luck, i'll be picking this one up this Saturday!

Man I can't wait!

One question though Ron, is the Cameron Crowe commentary only on the theatrical cut or the extended cut, or both?
"That's Jack Bauer!!!!!! He's coming for me!!!!!" - Charles Logan

#18 of 71 Dharmesh C

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Posted November 28 2001 - 12:16 AM

Please use the spoiler options, guys. I haven't seen the film yet Posted Image

#19 of 71 Christian Preischl

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Posted November 28 2001 - 01:32 AM

Hi,

Quote:
is the Cameron Crowe commentary only on the theatrical cut or the extended cut, or both?

John, I can answer that.

The commentary will only be on the Director's Cut.

I haven't seen the film at the cinema since I live in Germany and I don't watch dubbed movies, so I can't wait to finally watch it. And since the bootleg version was already announced when the theatrical version was released I decided to wait. The film was #1 on Roger "Movie Guru" Ebert's Best Films of the Year 2000 list, which pretty much means "must have" to me. Posted Image

Chris

#20 of 71 Inspector Hammer!

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Posted November 28 2001 - 02:07 AM

Thanks Christian, that makes sense, it being only on the extended cut.
"That's Jack Bauer!!!!!! He's coming for me!!!!!" - Charles Logan


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