Almost Famous [DVD] 
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Rolling Stone Magazine unwittingly hires a 15 year old aspiring journalist after reading an article he wrote for Cream Magazine. ALMOST FAMOUS is the hilarious and touching story of this intelligent young man's journey into the world of Rock-and-Roll as he tours with "Stillwater", an up-and-coming band struggling with their rise to fame.
A nostalgic, bittersweet ode to the hedonistic rock 'n' roll days of the early 1970s, Almost Famous is Cameron Crowe's most personal, deeply felt film (he even cowrote the original songs with wife Nancy Wilson). "Does anybody remember laughter?" asks one of the characters in a Led Zeppelin reference that typifies how the film works both for those who, like Crowe, remember and love the times and its music, and those who can only look back in wonder at an era when rock music was about something more than just marketing. Closely based on his own coming-of-age experiences as a teenage journalist for Rolling Stone magazine, the story follows the director's alter ego William Miller (sympathetic newcomer Patrick Fugit) on the journey of a lifetime touring with fictional rock band Stillwater, struggling to get the all-important interview, losing his virginity, falling in love, and trying to fend off his obsessively concerned mother (Frances McDormand). Kate Hudson as the "band-aid" (not groupie) Penny Lane is the film's magnetic centrepiece; Billy Crudup plays Stillwater's temperamental and egocentric lead guitarist perfectly; and Philip Seymour Hoffman steals the show as jaded rock journo Lester Bangs, the very personification of "uncool" whose ardent love for music--good, honest music--is at the very heart of this film. "I have to go home" says William on the Stillwater tour bus in one of the many emotionally truthful moments that permeate this wonderful film; "You are home", Penny Lane tells him.
On the DVD: This is an attractive anamorphic 1.85:1 picture, and the fantastic soundtrack gets the Dolby 5.1 treatment. The extra features include the complete performance of Stillwater's Zeppelin-esque "Fever Dog" and a good 25-minute HBO "making-of" featurette with contributions from all the principals ("I really liked hanging out with all the girls on the set", says Patrick Fugit with a straight face). Navigate the special features menus by following the red Stratocasters and find Cameron Crowe's six articles for Rolling Stone that reveal how closely the film is based on his experiences on the road with the Allman Brothers Band and Led Zeppelin. There are also four trailers (only one for this film, oddly), and text-based Filmographies and Production Notes. No commentary, though. --Mark Walker
DVD Special Features:
HBO Making of Featurette
Rolling Stone Article--Original Text be Cameron Crowe
Stillwater's "Fever Dog" Music Video
Animated & Interactive Menus
1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen (enhanced for 16:9 TVs)
Dolby 5.1 English, Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish, Portuguese
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Top customer reviews
The film has some strong characters that are all well acted but it’s the music that really pulls this together. It’s a coming of age ‘road trip’ just without all the sugar coated clichés, preferring to let the characters carry on in self delusion as they lurch from one situation to the next and compared to most other movies in the genre, this really doesn’t go anywhere or solve any problems.
The single disc offers scene selections, subtitles [English, Spanish, Portuguese, or off], audio set-up [English/Spanish], special features [music video, behind the scenes, theatrical trailers] and play. Rated 15 this uses the F word about a dozen times, but other than that there is little here to visually offend, although there are many adult references and discussions, especially related to drugs. This isn’t a belly laugh film, mainly humorous, but I felt let down at the end and wanted more –but not in a sequel kind of way.
"Almost Famous" is a truly great film about music by someone who was also a great rock journalist. If you missed it in cinemas, this is a great opportunity to pick it up for home viewing.
The three discs here are a short CD by "Stillwater" (the fictional band from the film), a DVD of the original theatrical release and the main event: a DVD of the Director's Cut with a commentary by Cameron Crowe and his mother.
The longer version, it should be noted, takes what was already a brilliant autobiographical film and adds some key scenes, most of which explore further the rock world of the early seventies. Crowe himself wanted to tell not merely a love story, but - more importantly - the love story between a band and its fans. The additional detail really "sells" this aspect of the film, most notably in an extraordinarily moving scene when Kate Hudson's character is thrown a birthday party by the band. If you haven't seen this version, you haven't really seen the film: it really does make that much difference.
Finally, the commentary, which is one of the most informative that I've encountered. Crowe's mom (played to great effect in the film by Frances McDormand) provides a wonderful foil to Crowe himself as they talk about how closely events in the film tracked the actual events of his life as a journalist with Rolling Stone. If you think that the movie is inauthentic before you hear the commentary, you will have changed your mind by the end of it. Both come across as really warm, funny people as well, which is more than can be said for most commentators on DVDs.
One niggle: there's an important scene that was deleted presumably because Crowe couldn't get permission to use "Stairway to Heaven". It's here as an extra on the disc (you have to play your own CD along with it) but isn't incorporated into the "Untitled" Director's Cut. It's a shame that in this area the copyright holder spoiled what was in every other respect a great DVD version of one of the better films of recent years.
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