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

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Nov 27, 2001.

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  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    XenForo Template  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, 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.
     
  2. Dave H

    Dave H Producer

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    Ron,

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

    MichaelG Second Unit

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    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.
     
  4. Matt Butler

    Matt Butler Screenwriter

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    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!!
     
  5. Matt Birchall

    Matt Birchall Supporting Actor

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    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. . . [​IMG]
    -mwb-
     
  6. Joseph Young

    Joseph Young Screenwriter

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    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. JasonKZ

    JasonKZ Stunt Coordinator

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

    Richard Kim Producer

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  9. Marc Colella

    Marc Colella Cinematographer

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  10. Chuck Mayer

    Chuck Mayer Lead Actor

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    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
     
  11. Jodee

    Jodee Screenwriter

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    She was more of an intellectual hippie.
    Remember the tofu cutlets? [​IMG]
     
  12. wally

    wally Second Unit

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    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. Jeff_A

    Jeff_A Screenwriter

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  14. wally

    wally Second Unit

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    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. Gavin_L

    Gavin_L Second Unit

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    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. Ken Stuart

    Ken Stuart Second Unit

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    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. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    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?
     
  18. Dharmesh C

    Dharmesh C Supporting Actor

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    Please use the spoiler options, guys. I haven't seen the film yet [​IMG]
     
  19. Christian Preischl

    Christian Preischl Screenwriter

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    Hi,
     
  20. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    Thanks Christian, that makes sense, it being only on the extended cut.
     

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