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Almost Famous (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Paramount’s 4K Ultra-HD debut of Cameron Crowe’s masterpiece Almost Famous is one of my most anticipated releases of the year. In a year where 4K Ultra-HD is have a banner year for great titles, nonetheless. This beloved film has a brand new restoration and will have brand new bonus materials to boot. Quite possibly one of the best features of it will be that it includes both the theatrical and director’s cuts of the film (On their own discs, too). Prior to this release, the theatrical version of the film never made the jump from DVD to Blu-ray. It feels like Paramount has gone all out to craft an all encompassing and most definitive version of the film on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray right from the start. Almost Famous even comes packaged in a steelbook in the first wave. You’ll be able to have it to own on July 13th, and you can pre-order a copy now using the paid Amazon Associates link following the review.

Film

Set in 1973, it chronicles the funny and often poignant coming of age of 15-year-old William, an unabashed music fan who is inspired by the seminal bands of the time. When his love of music lands him an assignment from Rolling Stone magazine to interview the up-and-coming band Stillwater — fronted by lead guitar Russell Hammond and lead singer Jeff Bebe William embarks on an eye-opening journey with the band’s tour, despite the objections of his protective mother.

Perfection. Its the one word that sums up Cameron Crowe’s follow up to Jerry Maguire better than any other. While winning a “Best Original Screenplay” Oscar, its still quite stunning the film did land itself a Best Picture nomination. But while the hardware and accolades are welcome, the legacy and endearment of a film goes long beyond that and time is what truly can test it. Twenty one years later, the film only remains as strong, if not even better, than it did upon first setting eyes upon it back in 2000. Almost Famous is special piece of cinema and one that truly is magical in ways that rarely come often.

When the word “perfection” is used to the describe the film, its not fluff and its not something to be taken lightly. That word only comes around when every little bit of the film has been dissected. Almost Famous hits every mark at the highest level. This is one of the best cast and performed films ever to hit screens. From Kate Hudson’s iconic turn as Penny Lane to smaller parts of unexpected goods like Jimmy Fallon, everyone delivers in memorable fashion. Philip Seymour Hoffman has become a completely well rounded human, as great as Billy Crudup is, don’t sleep on how tremendous Jason Lee is. France McDormand never disappoints, but also look how fully formed Zooey Deschanel is. Every person that enters the frame in the film is special and memorable and not in any sort of distracting fashion. Every performer is generous to one another and know what part to play to get the best out of any given scene.

Beyond the obvious scripting, casting and music in the film being great, the other aspects are also phenomenal. The costuming, sets and props all excel beyond boundaries. John Toll’s cinematography captures it all in very genuine fashion, too. These elements blend into a unique flavor that actually looks, feels, smells like the early 1970s. They’ve captured something that really looks like life or maybe just a film from that era. Combining these factors along with the honest direction and performances, you get a whimsical sense of authenticity rarely captured in a period film.

And this praise goes for both cuts of the film. Its incredible how fortunate it is that there is the ability to just spend about 42 extra minutes playing in this Cameron Crowe odyssey of rock and roll in the 1970s. Both tell one of the greatest coming of age stories ever penned. Both feel like only 40 minutes have gone by as the end credits begin to scroll. Almost Famous literally flies by so quickly, yet feeling so full, so meaty and so fleshed out with such well rounded characters, arcs and moments. Sure, people like to throw the term masterpiece around quite often in today’s film discussion world. But, Almost Famous is the rare case where you won’t see much argument to that crowning. Why? Because the film is absolutely perfect.

Video

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Almost Famous on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray features a brand new 4K restoration of the film supervised by writer/director Cameron Crowe.  And no, it does not disappoint in the slightest. More than ever before the film looks and feels of its era taking place within the story. Its got a really nice quality film print touch to it, with good clarity, crispness and amazing detail and texture on display. From very defined hair and facial hair to the almost to the touch look of the clothing in the film, its a looker. While I imagine its just my eyes being silly, I did feel like the Untitled cut of the film had a bit more pop and color to radiate by a slim margin.

Depth:  The film really opens itself up in this image with some great depth of field. You really get a sense with the hotel and backstage scenes where characters and objects are spread around as the camera swings around. Scale looks terrific with the concert scenes and bus traveling moments coming off quite big. Movement is cinematic and smooth with no issues regarding any sort of motion jitter or blur distortions.

Black Levels:  Blacks really benefit from 4K by getting to shine in their natural look. They return a new feel to the film and handle a lot of the night and darker backstage material with grace. There are nice shades that never mask the textures, patterns and such in the image. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  There’s a beautiful color palette on display here contrast to a sort of normal browns, whites, grays. Reds, purples, blues, greens and such pop really wonderfully on clothing fabrics, guitars and the like. From Penny Lane’s attire to William’s sister’s stewardess uniform, you can really soak in the gorgeous era-specific costuming the film has to offer.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are a natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures like freckles, stubble, wrinkles, make-up, moles, sweat, dirt and more come through clear as day in this image.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

Dynamics: Almost Famous carries over its 5.1 track seen on the previous Blu-ray release. This track doesn’t have quite the kick or pop you sorta wish it would have in the back of your head while watching, but it does strike very well in moments that count. The instrumental dynamics of the live performances are on point and scenes like the almost plane crash hit really hard to startle you out of your seat. Being a dialogue heavy and needle drop friendly film, it isn’t playing out as loud an rambunctious most of the time but delivers quality vocals and a good, balanced mix with solid layering and depth.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer could use a little more thunder, but it does well enough, mainly giving a boost to the drums and bass in the music. Sounds like…well…thunder, splashes, doors shutting and such have a nice punch to them.

Surround Sound Presentation:  The mix features great sound travel that floats back and forth around the room. The rear channels really punch up with entering performances in arenas or adding more life to the crazy hotel parties. They can also add character to some of the more quiet spaces in the film as well.

Dialogue Reproduction:  As mentioned above, the vocals are capture very well and are the driving force of this movie. They are clear and crisp with good details on diction, mouth sounds and such.

Extras

Almost Famous, in this first 4K UHD release, comes as a 2-disc set with collectible steelbook packaging and a redeemable digital code. Each disc contains a different cut of the movie.

Disc 1 – Theatrical Cut

New Releases

  • Filmmaker Focus: Cameron Crowe On Almost Famous (HD, 8:06) – From his backyard “deep in quarantine”, Cameron Crowe looks back at his film. He talks about wondering if it was too personal at the start, the out of body experience watching Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs, working with Peter Frampton, shooting the movie in chronological order to properly display the exhaustion and what Penny Lane represents and a general thought about who the women were that inspired her.
  • Casting & Costumes (HD, 12:52) – A montage of costume tests and audition tapes with video of Cameron Crowe introducing and talking about it all as well as audio from cast and crew about the whole process.
  • Rock School (HD, 10:48) – Cameron Crowe introduces and discusses the footage of the cast rehearsing all the live rock stuff for the film with Nancy Wilson and Peter Frampton. Includes audio from cast members and some photos, too.
  • Extended Scenes (HD, 9:00)  
  • Odds & Sods (HD, 8:53) – More scenes and alternate takes.

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

Disc 2 – Untitled: The Bootleg Cut

Audio Commentary

  • With Cameron Crowe and Friends

Summary

It’s all happening here on the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray debut of Cameron Crowe’s finest hour, Almost Famous. Put together like a true collector’s item for home video, this release sees cool steelbook packaging and very quality new extras with Cameron Crowe in tow as well as both cuts of the film. The film looks incredible in its beautiful new transfer. Almost Famous is a no-brainer in terms of upgrading or ownership. Its a day 1 pick up without question.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “Almost Famous (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Its Outlet

    While winning a “Best Original Screenplay” Oscar, its still quite stunning the film did land itself a Best Picture nomination.