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Magnolia, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, is one of those films that pushes the boundaries and is destined either to be loved or hated by is audience. While there are voices heard for both sides, I reckon this movie, and it's subsequent DVD, is a corker.

The film tells the story of a group of around nine or so characters each looking for their own salvation, which becomes apparent as we delve into the lives of a range of personalities. In the San Fernando Valley, each person delves into their emotions and seeks forgiveness, closure and love. In a truly original scripting triumph, each story is as interesting as the next, with Anderson perfecting the art of crossing between multiple situations. Tom Cruise deserved his Oscar nomination as Frank T.J Mackey, an instructor conducting seminars for males who want to get some female action. He is ably supported by Julianne Moore as an estranged wife finally falling in love with her husband, played by Jason Robards. Other members of the stellar ensemble cast include the brilliant Phillip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Melora Walters and John C Reilly, who seems to be a favourite of Director Anderson. He touches on some extremely deep human issues, with all the characters tied together by their longing to be rescued. The final scene has to been seen to be believed and is a successfully daring finale to what had been a particularly heavy (and long) movie.  

The disc is presented in glorious 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. Even in the deepest of scenes the transfer stands tall, the lighter moments being handled just as admirably. For a movie this long it is a credit to the compression that there are no artefacts or aliasing to be seen, at least to the average viewer.

This disc comes with a 5.1 soundtrack which is used to full effect. Marketed brilliantly from the outset, Magnolia's soundtrack ably supports the action on screen, with the title track by Aimee Mann adding enormous weight to the remarkable climax. While repeated listening of this track will probably send you round the twist (hence, I don't recommend using the music video as background music…ever), it is nonetheless the perfect choice for a film of this emotional depth.

Being a 2-disc set, this is where the DVD really comes into it's own. Village have ensured the disc is jam-packed with useful material, a refreshing change from the promotional fluff that gets touted as a "special feature" nowadays. Included is the full version of the T.J. Mackey seminar (prepare to be SHOCKED), several TV spots, theatrical trailer and the Aimee Mann film clip. Where this DVD really leaps in front of most is the 70 minute "Magnolia diary", a video log that gives an insight into what really happened throughout the gruelling shoot. This is where we get to see Anderson in all his exhausted glory, knowing full well he probably can't stand the sight of this movie any more but realises he has a work of brilliance on his hands. Hopefully we'll get to see more of these quality packages in the future. The behind the scenes stuff is second to none and makes a mockery of the five minute featurettes that are touted as "special features". Want to see something actually special? Look at this disc. Also thrown in is an "easter egg" of various out-takes from the movie, including a particularly humorous exchange between Reilly and Macy. Sadly, there's no  commentary, cause Anderson is one really interesting person.

This movie pushes the boundaries of film-making and proves that ambition can really produce some outstanding work. Magnolia is no exception. Fans of this movie will want to go to bed with this DVD ensemble, while others will merely marvel at the brilliant acting, direction and effort that went into one of the best movies of 1999. Definitely a keeper.