Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical film Almost Famous arrives on 4K UHD Blu-ray in a beautiful transfer supervised by the director, plus some newly created special features.
The Production: 4.5/5
Fifteen year old prodigy William Miller (Patrick Fugit) has been inspired by his older sister Anita’s (Zooey Deschanel) collection of rock albums that she has hidden from her over-protective mother (Frances McDormand). So much so, that William begins writing articles on music for local newspapers, sending copies of those articles along with correspondence to rock journalist Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Bangs takes a liking to William, hiring him to write a review of Black Sabbath’s concert in San Diego. Failing to get past security, the members of the opening act band, Stillwater, manage to sneak him inside the arena backstage. This begins a friendship of sorts with members of the band, particularly main writer and lead guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) and to some extent lead singer Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee),who nicknames William “The Enemy.” William also befriends a group of young women known as Band Aids, led by Penny Lane (Kate Hudson), with whom William quickly develops a crush on. This all eventually leads to a freelance job at Rolling Stone to write a feature piece on Stillwater while travelling with them on tour. At first, William’s mother is dead set against it, but eventually allows him to take the journey as long as he calls home everyday and does not “do drugs.” As the tour progresses, William begins to see the seams that are barely holding this band together as their album continues to move up the charts and their fanbase grows, but also how the band easily uses people on their way to the top.
Almost Famous is writer-director Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical film, based on his real life experiences as a teenage writer for Rolling Stone magazine in the early 1970s, covering bands such as The Alman Brothers, The Who, and The Eagles. It is a fascinating look behind the scenes of a 1970s rising rock band on tour, but also the personal journey and coming of age for William. There isn’t a bad performance in the film – not even Jimmy Fallon, nearly unrecognizable as manager Dennis Hope. Be on the lookout for a very young Jay Baruchel who makes a few appearances as young groupie Vic.
Paramount has included both cuts of the film, the Theatrical and Untitled Bootleg, each version getting its own 4K disc. The Bootleg cut has 38 minutes of additional character moments that are most definitely worth your time.
3D Rating: NA
Per Paramount’s press release, the studio scanned the original 35mm camera negative to create this new 4K transfer, and it definitely shows. Detail is phenomenal, from the most minute facial features to fabric textures. The use of both Dolby Vision and HDR10 help bring out additional highlights in the image and deep blacks with excellent shadow detail. Film grain is natural and organic, never distracting. Colors are vibrant and natural without appearing over saturated. Everything stated above applies to both cuts of the film, although one or two shots in the Bootleg Cut (the extended Central Park scene in particular) appear to have possibly been sourced from something several generations away from the camera negative.
Both cuts of Almost Famous contain the same DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix found on the previous Director’s Edition Blu-ray release from 2011. For what is essentially a 21-year old 5.1 mix, it holds up fairly well. Dialogue is clear and understandable throughout. Its use of recognizable early 1970s classic rock songs gives the track an energy throughout, giving them clear fidelity and depth across all channels. The concert sequences benefit the most from the use of surrounds and LFE, immersing the viewer as if they were in the arena or venue themselves.
Special Features: 4.5/5
Almost Famous includes both cuts of the film, each on its own 4K UHD Blu-ray disc (no Blu-ray discs are included), housed in an attractive steelbook case.
Special features on this disc consist of new material created for this release that can be found under the heading of New Releases while legacy materials are listed under Greatest Hits.
Filmmaker Focus: Cameron Crowe on “Almost Famous” (1080p; 8:06): Crowe discusses the origins of the film, its reflection on his early life, and making the film itself, all from a bench in his backyard.
Casting & Costumes (1080p; 12:52): The title says it all, using cast and crew voiceovers with behind the scenes footage.
Rock School (1080p; 10:48): A look at the cast rehearsing as the band Stillwater and creating the original songs for the film.
Extended Scenes (upscaled 1080p; 9:00)
Odds & Sods (upscaled 1080p; 8:53): Alternate takes and additional deleted scenes.
Intro by Cameron Crowe: An audio only introduction by the writer-director that plays under the menu.
The Making of “Almost Famous” (upscaled 1080p; 24:50): From the 2000 DVD release.
Interview with Lester Bangs (upscaled 1080p; 1:55): A vintage interview clip of the rock journalist. Clicking on the microphone icon plays an audio introduction of the piece by Crowe.
Cameron Crowe’s Top Albums of 1973 (1080p; 3:52): Click on any album cover and hear
Cameron Crowe explain why it is on his list.
Love Comes and Goes (upscaled 1080p; 3:51): Song demo by Nancy Wilson, with behind the scenes footage. Clicking on the microphone icon plays an audio introduction of the piece by Crowe.
Fever Dog Music Video (upscaled 1080p; 4:41)
Rolling Stones Articles (1080p): Read seven of Cameron Crowe’s articles he wrote for Rolling Stone magazine – The Allman Brothers (December 6, 1973), Led Zeppelin (March 13, 1975), Neil Young (August 14, 1975), Peter Frampton (February 10, 1977), Fleetwood Mac (March 24, 1977), Van Morrison (May 19, 1977), Joni Mitchell (July 26, 1979). Clicking on the microphone icon plays an audio introduction by Crowe.
B-Sides (upscaled 1080p; 5:21): Behind the scenes short feature by Cameron Crowe and Scott Martin. Clicking on the microphone icon plays an audio introduction of the piece by Crowe.
Cleveland Concert (upscaled 1080p; 15:46): The “complete” concert footage from Cleveland. Clicking on the microphone icon plays an audio introduction of the piece by Crowe.
Small Time Blues (upscaled 1080p; 3:02): The full performance of the song from the film.
Stairway (upscaled 1080p; 12:13): The infamous Stairway to Heaven sequence cut from the film due to rights issues. Clicking on the microphone icon plays an audio introduction of the piece by Crowe.
Script (1080p): Read the complete screenplay from the comfort of your easy chair.
Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 2:33)
Hidden Talent (upscaled 1080p): The original Easter Eggs from the DVD release. Eerie Outtake (0:45), Stolen Kisses (4:59), and Cameron Crowe’s Perfectionism (9:03). Clicking on the microphone icon plays an audio introduction of each piece by Crowe.
Audio Commentary with Cameron Crowe and Friends: Writer-Director Crowe discusses the film along with Scott Martin and Andy Fisher from Vinyl Films, Mark Atkinson of Dreamworks, his mother Alice and friend Ivan Carona.
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy of the Theatrical Cut on either Apple TV or Vudu.
Almost Famous has never looked better than it does in this new 4K UHD Blu-ray set from Paramount.
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