The Feature: 4.5/5Everyone has a gift. For Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), it's in his pants. Porn director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) doesn't know the extent of the young man's endowment when he first meets him, but his instincts prove correct when he recruits him to join his family of pornographers, which includes the likes of Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), Rollergirl (Heather Graham), Buck Swope (Don Cheadle), and Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly). Though Eddie never had much to lose, working as a night club busboy and living with a verbally abusive mother, his ascent to porn film stardom proves downright meteoric. From 1977 to the early '80s Eddie, who renames himself Dirk Diggler, dominates the adult film industry and box office. But like a tale as old as time, Dirk's inability to control his sudden wealth, fame, and ego prove to be his undoing. Though Horner's adult film family plucked him from obscurity, made him a star, and gave him everything he ever wanted, the question is if they'll be there for him when everything has been taken away.
Stripped of its titillating qualities, the story of "Boogie Nights" is nothing new. It's a trajectory of rise and decline we see played out constantly in the real world sports and entertainment industries, and a subject of more than a few mainstream films. But by placing the oft-told tale within the framework of a still-taboo subject and industry struggling for respect, Director Paul Thomas Anderson not only freshens the story, but humanizes the players, making us relate to them in a way we never could with true icons and legends like Ray Charles or Judy Garland. It's the fact that Dirk and his comrades never reach such heights of stardom that we can see and fully comprehend that the lure of fame and wealth is seductive at any level, and that at any level there exists the very human need for love, acceptance and family. It's an unconventional way to express a familiar, but constantly relevant, theme, and a film that is undeniably remarkable if one doesn't get caught up in the graphically obvious.
Video Quality: 4.5/5The film is accurately framed at 2.40:1 and presented in 1080p with the VC-1 codec. Black levels are solid and deep, and contrast consistently displays the full range of values. Colors have excellent depth and fidelity, particularly in the exterior settings of sunny Los Angeles, and flesh tones appear accurate. Fine object detail, revealed in hair, skin and fabric textures, is generally very good, though overall sharpness could be better. The most extreme wide shots can look a touch indistinct and more so in the dimly lit environments of the night clubs; however, there appears to be no signs of artificial sharpening to compensate. Overall it's an excellent presentation with only one minor issue.
Audio Quality: 4/5The Dolby TrueHD audio track is front-stage dominant, the rear surrounds providing very light music support and environmental effects. Bass response follows a similar pattern, lending the pop music selections great depth and fullness, and digging a little deeper into the lower ranges with some shotgun fire in a later scene. Though often pretty functional in nature and noticeably concentrated around the front array, the soundstage is nevertheless quite expansive, particularly during the musical interludes. Some may find fault with their tendency to drown out lines of dialogue, but there should be no complaints about the consistently detailed and dynamic quality of the presentation.
Special Features: 4/5Though a bit spare in quantity, the special features package has great depth thanks to the pair of audio commentaries and optional commentaries on the deleted scenes and Michael Penn music video. The only down side is that none of the material is in high definition.
Commentary with Director Paul Thomas Anderson: Anderson proves to be an engaging presence, providing a history of how the Dirk Diggler story came to be, rationale for his casting decisions, and plentiful anecdotes about working with the rather sizable cast. I admit I expected him to be a little pretentious, but found his manner very down-to-earth and accessible.
Commentary with Paul Thomas Anderson, Mark Wahlberg, John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, Melora Walters, and Heather Graham: Assembled from separate, in-home recording sessions, Anderson interviews the cast members about their first impressions about the script and experiences working on the film. It's interesting to hear how many were reticent about working with Anderson, who was somewhat of an unknown at the time ("Boogie Nights" was only his second feature film) and how it took seeing dailies for them to finally feel at ease about some of Anderson's methods and choices.
Additional Footage (15:10, SD): Three extended scenes featuring John C. Reilly's tireless improv technique.
Deleted Scenes (29:28, SD): Though the scenes were pulled for good reasons, the final sequence does explain why Dirk's Corvette is in such bad shape towards the end of the film. The series of scenes includes an optional commentary by Anderson, who provides the rationale for their removal.
Michael Penn "Try" Music Video (3:11, SD): Includes an optional commentary by Anderson, who manages to throw in some interesting bits of trivia in its short run time.
Theatrical Trailer (2:24, SD)
RecapThe Feature: 4.5/5
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 4/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4/5
A remarkable film telling a familiar story in an unconventional setting gets a very good audio and video presentation and a solid, informative set of extras.