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DVD Reviews

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



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#1 of 71 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted November 27 2001 - 09:18 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 OFFLINE   Dave H

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Posted November 27 2001 - 09:21 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 OFFLINE   MichaelG

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Posted November 27 2001 - 09:49 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 OFFLINE   Matt Butler

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Posted November 27 2001 - 09:55 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 OFFLINE   Matt Birchall

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Posted November 27 2001 - 10:00 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 OFFLINE   Joseph Young

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Posted November 27 2001 - 10:11 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 OFFLINE   JasonKZ

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Posted November 27 2001 - 10:27 AM

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

#8 of 71 OFFLINE   Richard Kim

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Posted November 27 2001 - 10:38 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)

[quote]


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 OFFLINE   Marc Colella

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Posted November 27 2001 - 11:27 AM

[quote]

Unfortunately, in an effort to save bandwidth,

THE BOOTLEG CUT does not contain a DTS track (the

included theatrical cut does).

[quote]


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

#10 of 71 OFFLINE   Chuck Mayer

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Posted November 27 2001 - 11:54 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
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#11 of 71 OFFLINE   Jodee

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Posted November 27 2001 - 12:57 PM

She was more of an intellectual hippie.



Remember the tofu cutlets? Posted Image

#12 of 71 OFFLINE   wally

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Posted November 27 2001 - 01:07 PM

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 OFFLINE   Jeff_A

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Posted November 27 2001 - 03:28 PM

[quote]

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

[quote]


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 OFFLINE   wally

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Posted November 27 2001 - 05:21 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 OFFLINE   Gavin_L

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Posted November 27 2001 - 09:42 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 OFFLINE   Ken Stuart

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Posted November 28 2001 - 12:24 AM

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 OFFLINE   Inspector Hammer!

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Posted November 28 2001 - 03:59 AM

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?
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#18 of 71 OFFLINE   Dharmesh C

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Posted November 28 2001 - 05:16 AM

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

#19 of 71 OFFLINE   Christian Preischl

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Posted November 28 2001 - 06:32 AM

Hi,



[quote]

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

[quote]


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 OFFLINE   Inspector Hammer!

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Posted November 28 2001 - 07:07 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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