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Outrageously missing out on a place at this year’s Oscars, Almost Famous has engraved its way into many hearts with its truth and feeling. This tremendously poetic movie is Director Cameron Crowe’s offering to the music of 70’s. But it becomes so much more than that because of the engulfing truth in the story that makes you addicted from the beginning. I particularly love movies that have that free “anything-goes” atmosphere which has only properly been re-captured in 70’s movies, such as “54” and  “Boogie Nights”.

Almost Famous
Movie
William Miller(Patrick Fugit) is a misfit, he doesn’t belong at school and he seems too young for his age group. His Mother (Frances McDormand) a feminist University lecturer is against the youth of the 70’s, with their drugs and rock and roll. His sister is into what ever his Mother isn’t, resulting in her leaving home to be a airplane stewardess and leaving her secret rock records to William when he is 11. William, 15,  becomes a reporter for Creem magazine by submitting his pieces to Reporter Lester Bangs (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and meets touring Stillwater on his first assignment. He also meets the enigmatic Band-Aid, Penny Lane (Kate Hudson), who he immediately becomes infatuated with and the befriending Lead Guitarist of Still water, Russell (Billy Crudup). And because of his article William lands an assignment with Rolling Stones to go on-road with Stillwater and their entourage, including Penny Lane. This is where William feels he finally belongs and it becomes alot more than just an assignment.

The amazing part about the movie is that it is based on a true story. Director Cameron
Crowe as a teenager actually experienced alot of situations that happened in the film. He also wrote the songs for the “fake” Stillwater - and interestingly enough by what I can work out in the featurette, the actors were the actual band who recorded the songs. Just an AWESOME film with a great soundtrack, watch out for the Elton John’s “Hold me closer tiny dancer” scene on the bus. It’ll bring tears to your eyes, because it’s so real!

Almost Famous
Video
This is seems to be a flawless NTSC anamorphic transfer and it is quite expected from the high quality put out by Dreamworks. There is some filters put onto the film for effect but it is in perfect conditioning with the director’s visioning. To me it has a grainy golden feel to it, which I think would be entirely intentional, representing the era perfectly, it gives it a natural look. At times the film has purpose grain and non-true blacks for scenes such as Stillwater’s Concerts and soft focus’ for the rather true scenes such as Penny Lane’s realisations, but these are for artistic direction not transfer problems. What is remarkable about this transfer is the stunning detail it picks up, making it far more three-dimensional than alot of NTSC discs. It isn’t exactly reference quality because it isn’t the glossy look DVD-lovers have come to expect, but for the source material and the intentional effects, it is stunning. Colours are vibrant at times and dull at others, but once again this would be for artistic effect. It must be noted though that the opening sequence is in a different frame being 1.77:1 and is filmed on a digital camera creating some artifacts, scan lines and analiasing that isn’t present in the 1.85:1 frame. The only inherent problem with the transfer for me is the 4:3 pulldown which is on all NTSC discs. The Layer Change isn’t noticeable. Other than that a perfect edition by DreamWorks and I loved it.

Almost Famous
Sound
The Disc comes with 3 different audio’s, but few will actually use the flat “not-as-exciting” DD 2.0. The main difference between the DTS and the DD 5.1 is that the DTS is louder and reveals quite alot more detail than the 5.1, mainly with the surrounds, which become really aggressive. The DTS is more spacious and directional with is separation creating the front speakers to be more open and creates that 360 ambiance that is needed for some of the concert scenes. The audience at the concerts come alive with both and you begin to think you are actually there, which blew me away. I know I started to do a little dance on my couch while watching these scenes...it’s directional use is reference quality. The only tiny problem I had with the DTS is that LFE increase results in some of the music becoming a smidge out of time and then sounding a little funny. But this happens rarely and is just more forceful than the 5.1 (which is also GREAT) and is shown quite brilliantly in the airplane scene where a bolt of thunder frightened the CRAP out of me! It was AWESOME. And a word of advice for this movie...turn it up really loud, Elton & StillWater deserve it...it IS rock and roll after all!!

Extras
Not packed with as many special features as one might of hoped, but the word on the DVD street is that Crowe is working on a Director’s Cut and the new DVD will be released with loads of extras...hopefully an audio commentary too! Out of the random extra’s here: The Stillwater music video combining scenes from the movie with the band playing, the comprehensive Bios of the Cast and Crew and the pages and pages of Rolling Stone articles and production notes. I found the HBO behind-the-scenes featurette “The Making of Almost Famous” to be the best and quite different from the normal doco added onto DVD’s to fill the space. It was very informative and intriguing to find out about Crowe’s past and how he came up with the idea. Sure it has the Cast/Crew praises, but it has an edge because there is SO much information to be collected about this movie, that they had no choice other than to do it. There is also the Theatrical trailer added on...which made me not go to the cinema’s to see this movie...which sucks, cause I missed out!


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