Almost Famous – 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Almost Famous

Although Almost Famous is known widely as a coming-of-age story,  Almost Famous works better as a film about family. At the core of Crowe’s story is William Miller. His friendship with Stillwater, the band-aids, and his family relationship are what ultimately drive the film. None of that is exhibited more than in the touching “Tiny Dancer” scene. As Penny tells William, “you’re home,” which is a not-so-subtle message that Stillwater and the band-aids are his extended family. So when things are at their most tense, it’s music that reminds them of their camaraderie. 

Cameron Crowe understands the spirit of rock & roll better than nearly any other filmmaker. After all, Almost Famous is a semi-autobiographical film about his time as a writer for Rolling Stone. As much as the film is about family, Almost Famous is a love letter to rock music. The soundtrack is as critical to the film as the characters and story itself — think Guardians of the Galaxy. While Almost Famous does sell nostalgia for an iconic era of music, it doesn’t glorify it entirely. Notably, the film showcases the hardships of working as a traveling band and the drama between bandmates.

Unfortunately, William Miller isn’t much of an engaging character. For a large part of the film, he’s just a passive observer of the chaotic rock & roll world. Since this is based on Cameron Crowe’s own life experiences, this could be his own way of observing his own experiences, just as William does in the film. Either way, William is not as captivating as the rest of the characters — especially when compared to the enigmatic Penny Lane. Kate Hudson lights up the screen as a free-spirited Penny Lane. Hudson, with her electric performance, perfectly captures the freedom of that rock & roll lifestyle.

Overall, Almost Famous is a nice love letter to rock & roll music. The film doesn’t exploit music as about sex, drugs, and rock & roll. Almost Famous shows that music is about feeling. However, this coming-of-age story is not for everyone. The film caters to a niche crowd, and also William’s story might not connect with everyone. Unfortunately, the film may not be as touching as it thinks it is.

Movie Rating: 3.5/5 atoms

Almost Famous - Jason Lee, John Fedevich, Noah Taylor, Billy Crudup, and Mark Kozelek

Video

Almost Famous hits Ultra HD Blu-ray with an HDR transfer and a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The picture is a vast upgrade over the decade-old Blu-ray disc. The whites and black levels are excellent. The black levels are deep and accurate, and the whites are vivid — especially during the San Diego scenes. The HDR and Dolby Vision adds so much to the colors of the film. The picture maintains its vintage amber tint while accentuating the bold and expressive colors of the era. Best of all, the picture looks pristine. The fabric of the period costumes, the hair, and the environmental textures are intricately defined on the screen. Overall, this is an exceptional video presentation from Paramount.

Video Rating: 5/5 atoms

Almost Famous - Patrick Fugit

Audio

Almost Famous hits Ultra HD Blu-ray with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. It’s not surprising that the audio mix is predominantly front-loaded. There are instances where the soundstage comes to life. Scenes such as Stillwater’s concerts fill up the soundstage. The crowd noise swells all over the listening area, and the energy of the mix goes up as an arena concert should. On the whole, the audio mix is mostly reserved. The mix only comes alive when it needs to be. The one consistent element is the dialogue, which comes out crisply from the center channel. 

Audio Rating: 4/5 atoms

Almost Famous - Frances McDormand, Zooey Deschanel, and Patrick Fugit

Special Features

Almost Famous‘s bootleg cut disc has an audio commentary track with Cameron Crowe and friends, while the theatrical cut disc has the following special features on it:

  • New Releases
    • Filmmaker Focus: Cameron Crowe on Almost Famous
    • Casting & Costumes
    • Rock School
    • Extended Scenes
    • Odds & Sods
  • Greatest Hits
    • Intro by Cameron Crowe
    • The Making of Almost Famous
    • Interview with Lester Bangs
    • Cameron Crowe’s Top Albums of 1973
    • “Fever Dog” Music Video
    • “Love Comes and Goes”
    • Rolling Stone Articles
    • B-Sides
    • Cleveland Concert
    • “Small Time Blues”
    • Stairway
    • Script
    • Theatrical Trailer
    • Hidden Talent
      • Eerie Outtake
      • Stolen Kisses
      • Cameron Crowe’s Perfectionism
New Releases

“Filmmaker Focus” is a retrospective where writer/director Cameron Crowe reflects on the film’s connection to the events of his real-life and production stories. Crowe also talks about other tidbits like shooting on the bus, his favorite scenes, and the film’s setting. With “Casting & Costumes,” Cameron Crowe takes a look back at the process of getting the right actors for his cast. Also, he looks back at the costumes that brought the characters to life. As you might expect, “Rock School” looks at Billy Crudup, Jason Lee, John Fedevich, and Mark Kozelek learning their instruments and looking like a legitimate band. “Extended Scenes” and “Odds & Sods” showcases the alternate takes and scenes cut from the film.

Greatest Hits

The Greatest Hits section of the menu is legacy bonus features from the 2011 Blu-ray release. “The Making of Almost Famous” is a solid featurette that looks at the film and the parallels between Crowe’s real-life experiences and the final product. There’s also a look at the casting and the importance of music in Almost Famous. “Interview with Lester Bangs” is a short vintage interview of the real-life person that Philip Seymour Hoffman plays.

“Top Albums of 1973” is an interactive feature that showcases Cameron Crowe’s ten favorite albums from 1973. As you click on each album cover, Crowe gives his reasoning why he loves the album. “Fever Dog,” “Small Time Blues,” and “Love Comes and Goes” are musical bonus features. While “Fever Dog” is self-explanatory, “Love Comes and Goes” contains a lot of behind-the-scenes and raw home footage of the film’s production.

“Rolling Stone Articles” is a feature that allows you to read all of the articles Cameron Crowe wrote for Rolling Stone. “B-Sides” is a short behind-the-scenes film shot by Cameron Crowe and Scott Martin during the filming of Almost Famous. As you found out in “Rock School,” Crowe shot a full Stillwater concert at the Palladium. “Cleveland Concert” is the entire concert. 

“Stairway” is a deleted scene where William Miller’s teachers try to convince his mom to let him go on tour with Stillwater. Here, William tries to convince his mom to go on tour by having her mom listen to Led Zeppelin’s legendary “Stairway to Heaven.” However, because they don’t own the rights to the song, you’re going to have to play it on your own. It’s a bit of an interactive deleted scene, and of course, any reason to play “Stairway to Heaven” is a plus.

“Script” is the full Almost Famous script that you can read at any time. “Hidden Talent” is several raw deleted scenes and outtakes from the film. The audio commentary in the bootleg cut has Cameron Crowe as the primary voice for the track. Hence, he discusses both the making of the film and the true stories behind it. During the commentary, he’s joined by Scott Martin and Andy Fisher from Vinyl Films, his family friend Ivan Carona, DreamWorks’ Mark Atkinson, and even his mother, Alice. The commentary track is honest and downright entertaining to listen to.

Special Features Rating: 4/5 atoms

Extras

Almost Famous (Steelbook)

The matte sepia-tinted steelbook has Kate Hudson’s Penny Lane on the front, with the film’s title in white placed at the bottom right. Also, the rear features an artistic photograph depicting Penny’s legs and boots. On the inside, you’ll find the promotional cast photo sprawled across the entirety of the steelbook case.

Almost Famous (Steelbook)

Overall, Almost Famous is one of the best love letters to rock & roll ever made. Then again, that might not be enough for everyone. The video presentation is a vast upgrade over the Blu-ray release from 2011. On the other hand, the audio has not been upgraded to a livelier mix. It’s basically the same mix from 2011. Unlike the audio, the bonus features have a brand new set of features for this release. It has even more unseen footage than what we’ve seen before, and as a result, this became such a well-rounded array of bonus features.

Overall Rating: 4/5 atoms

Almost Famous is now available in stores on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.

This Blu-ray was reviewed using a retail/advance copy/unit provided by Paramount Home Entertainment.

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Mark Pacis
Mark Pacis 1669 posts

Self-proclaimed "Human IMDb" and comic book geek. Biggest Iron Man fan you'll probably ever meet.

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