on March 4, 2004
Cameron Crowe's "Almost Famous" is a love letter to rock music. You can feel his affection for the music and the culture that it spawned coursing through every scene of this film. When creators talk of projects that are deeply personal to them, this is the type of project they are talking about.
A teenager named William Miller (Patrick Fugit) is chosen by Rolling Stone magazine to write an article on an up-and-coming rock band called Stillwater. The band finds it difficult to take the young writer seriously but eventually guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) starts to warm up to him. However, a groupie named Penny Lane (Kate Hudson) makes life difficult for the two men as her energetic spirit captures both of their hearts. As William's journey with the band becomes more prolonged, he discovers more and more with each passing day that his romanticized perception of rock stars was a product of his youthful idealism.
"Almost Famous" is an enchanting work that is blessed with memorable performances. Fugit, Crudup, and Hudson are great and the supporting work turned in by Frances McDormand, Jason Lee, and Philip Seymour Hoffman is equally solid. Hudson in particular sparkles in her role and proves that she possesses that rare ability to light up the screen every time she appears in a scene. Her work in this film is like an announcement to the Hollywood community that a new star has arrived. Crowe must also be singled out for his good work. It is oftentimes difficult for filmmakers to capture the essence of their subject matter, but Crowe admirably pulls it off with "Almost Famous."
on January 25, 2002
The movies themselves, "Almost Famous" and the Director's Cut, "Untitled" are both 5-star films. If you haven't seen them, then you need to. It's as simple as that. But this review centers on the DVD collection, and the three discs in the Bootleg "Box" set.
The first disc is "Untitled," and Cameron Crowe's Director's Cut of the "Almost Famous" film. "Untitled" it's self, as a movie, is excellent, and one of those rare instances where the director knew better than the editors. The extended 30+ minutes makes this a whole new movie. Unfortunately, the rest of the disc is boring and dry, with very few worth while extras. The behind the scenes "B-side" is a five minute joke, the Rolling Stone articles are difficult and painful to read on a TV screen (note to DVD authors: stop putting long pages of text on your DVD's: no one can read them!), Crowe's 1973 album picks are lame and the Lester Bangs interview isn't much more than interesting. The only truly entertaining extra is the "Love Comes and Goes" demo music video, with a great bit of random behind the scenes footage and sung by Nancy Wilson.
The second DVD is the original theatrical release of Almost Famous. It's nice to have the original version on DVD as well as the Director's Cut, but once again, the extras on this disc aren't any better. You get the standard cast bios, trailers, ect. You also get one edited screenplay (to go along with the edited film), and "deleted scenes," which I assume is the "Stairway to Heaven" scene (they were unable to get the rights to use the song, so you're supposed to play your own copy of the song while that scene plays. While an interesting concept, it's not really worth the time or energy to cue up the song to the movie). The highlight of this disc (and the only highlight), is the full Cleveland, Ohio performance (which you may remember was hacked to death in the final cut).
The third disc is an audio CD of the six Stillwater songs from the movie. The songs are good, but nothing special. Had Stillwater been a real band in 1973, I would HATE to hear their first two albums.
I have not had a chance to listen to the audio commentary, but I hear it's good. Crowe's voice is a little annoying to me, and I don't fancy two hours of listening to him talk over what is otherwise a great film.
If you're looking for a full featured DVD of extras and goodies, you might consider waiting for the 20th anniversary edition. But if you're looking to add a great movie to your video collection, then "Almost Famous" is an excellent choice.
on January 1, 2002
...but I still expected a little more from Cameron Crowe.
As an avid fan of Crowe's work and any music addict's connection to the concept of this plot, I had to check it out. So if you are a music junky and want to watch an amusing flick, this is the one for you. It stands out amongst recent blockbusters -- but that isn't really saying much..
I would like to point out a couple really good points:
1. Commendable research. Check the credits. Peter Frampton and Kelly Curtis (who was at the time bus driver to Heart, and currently is a hot shot band manager) were listed as 'technical consultants,' plus Cameron, himself, was active in the rock scene at the time and has been since. He knows his stuff.
2. The faux band that the film is centered upon was actually composed (musically) of none other than my favorite guitarist, Mike McCready (lead guitarist in Pearl Jam) -- and all other parts were played by talented musicians who actually took the time to put together original songs to suit the movie and its characters (and the songs were pretty good).
In regards to the script, I have to say that the entire thing was a little too *cute* to be taken seriously.... who wouldn't love to be that kid? It's charming and fun and all that... the outcast smartypants sends his school articles to a major magazine and then of course the editor befriends and hires him -- and to top it all off, the 15 year old music geek somehow manages to get hired by Rolling Stone to follow one of his favorite bands around and write a cover story with no experience (or even having to meet any RS staff) and becomes buddies with the lead guitarist, to boot. I'm sorry but the entire premise was a bit hard to believe and cookie-cutter perfect (even for 1973)...
..but it's still better than wasting your money on one of the shamelessly BAD movies that are commanding the theaters these days.
on June 18, 2001
Quasi-autobiographical nostalgia trip courtesy of Cameron Crowe, the setting being the rock world of the early '70's. As the poster for the movie indicates, rose-colored glasses are firmly glued in front of the eyes -- this is a love-letter to rock music, not an expose -- and the expected creative license is fully used. Substituting for Crowe, who was indeed a 15-year-old journalist who covered Led Zeppelin, the Allman Brothers, etc., is "William Miller", who, as played by newcomer Patrick Fugit, seems much too innocent to be entirely believable. Substituting for Led Zeppelin is a fictitious band called "Stillwater", complete with cardboard cutouts representing Robert Plant and Jimmy Page (Jason Lee, Billy Crudup). This is a design guaranteed to frustrate truth-seekers and nit-pickers, and is probably a smart move by Crowe, given the circumstances. Also smart is the selection of music -- blessedly, we're not exposed to a great deal of "Stillwater"'s "music". Crowe instead opts for some groovy "singer-songwriter" selections of the period that are easy on the ears. Perhaps Frances McDormand is the true triumph of the film as the rock journalist's mother. On the one hand, she's overprotective enough to disparage Simon & Garfunkel as being "on pot"; on the other hand, she's permissive enough to allow her son to briefly tour with a hard rock group. This character has the least amount of Hack Writer's varnish, and I suspect is the most autobiographical aspect of the movie. And Ms. McDormand fits the bill exceedingly well. Philip Seymour Hoffman is also excellent in the part of Miller's mentor, Lester Bangs, a real-life rock journalist for Creem Magazine who has retained his real name in the movie (probably because he's safely dead). Bangs constantly warns young Miller about the inadvisability of becoming too friendly with rock musicians. *Almost Famous* is most engaging when exploring the ethical behavior of both journalist and subject. Unfortunately, Crowe makes this worthy theme take a back seat to the main "interest": a love-triangle between the pubescent journalist, the rock band's guitar player, and a groupie who calls herself a "Band-Aid". (Howlingly unrealistic, this. The groupies in the movie are treated as "muses" instead of the Good Times Had By All. The rose-colored glasses are a dark, dark magenta, here.) But the movie is so good-hearted, and has enough going for it, that it's pretty hard to dislike.
on May 25, 2001
I am a realist, I'm not going to sit here and bash "Almost Famous", but I watched it, and saw it even twice, and it's really nothing great. Almost Famous combines all the sitcom cliches in the book, with an 'all-too-perfect' cocky main character (Patrick Figut, his name is?). He falls in love with a girl named Penny Lane, played perfectly by Kate Hudson, but you never really see the love, you just see two-dimensional characters interacting. In fact, the only time Crowe puts character development is on the buses when they are all together. The movie blindly puts in humor which for the most part isn't funny. I didn't like the overall aura of this film, and the only believable part was the mother, and the party where Billy Crudup screams "I am a golden god." The movie goes no where for two and a half hours, and then ends with one feeling empty inside. Let's face it, we all tell stories of our past experiences, and we often exagerate them. This movie is of Cameron Crowe's past experiences, and if this is an exageration, then Crowe must have had a pretty boring childhood. The whole film is an endless ego trip basically. Crowe's talents mainly lie in his screenplay, not directing.
Enough about the bad parts of this movie. I found the general theme to be the 70's, rock, and family. The group and their friends are like a big happy family. The soundtrack throughout the film was both nastolgic and superb, and I really enjoyed the beginning up to the first party Kate Hudson takes Fugit to, then it all goes down.
This is by no means bashing the film. It's probably one of the top ten best of 2000, which is really not saying much. It's a pretty original film, but really goes no where. Take out the couple F words and sexual references and it's a "The Wonderyears" meets rock music, disney style.
The Almost Famous DVD is great, here is a warning though. I turned on the menus, and for about 45 seconds I waited for the intro to go through, before you can do anything, you have to sit through about 10 seconds of dialogue of a couple characters. Imagine waiting a minute to do what you want while the menu's are doing their introduction. The Cameron Crowe articles are pretty interesting, and the HBO making of is alright. Bottom line is, if you like the movie, get this DVD. If you have any doubt about getting it, then I urge you NOT to get it because there is another directors cut coming out in 7 months. This will have a commentary and additional footage built in. Buy this one if you can't wait, if you can wait for the new one (or are willing to buy it again), then you will be a happy camper!
on May 15, 2001
I have to agree with the other below average reviews after having just seen this, and the lauded performance of Goldie Hawn's daughter pretty much sums up my opinion of the movie: a LOT of hype for very little substance. There is an occasional laugh and reasonably good acting especially by the lead singer, the mentor writer from Creem and the kid weren't too bad. It seems as if based on many of the reviews, the soundtrack is the real star of this movie which brings up another point. This assertion that Rock Music was poisoned and a betrayal to its sincere, humble beginnings after 1973 is laughable. Check your CD collection, I bet you've got some music that was made after that that sounds pretty good right? Feel betrayed or that you're being hustled by big bad corporate types when you listen to it? The only bad thing that happened to Rock at about that time was it was then that the kind of snobbery that still pervades in terms of judging another based on what Rock they listen to began. It's all just subjective rubbish and "Rock" is still just Rock -- not Beethoven or Haydn.
on April 27, 2001
"If you light a candle and listen to Tommy, you'll see your future". We hear this line repeated over a breathtaking early scene, closing in on the turntable, panning over writing, pete townshend strumming in the background . . .
But then the rest of the movie, instead of being his "future", turns out to be a boring film diary of goofball antics on the road-- sort of a "Summer School" type movie with much more pretention. Of course there are a few funny moments-- Billy Crudup on the roof shouting "I am a golden god!"; the deflowering scene is amazing. Phillip Seymour Hoffman's performance also lends the film a lot of quality and cred (I think he should ask for it back). But ultimately, we've got this doe-eyed kid who never says a sentence more than three words long, and we're expected to believe he's a wunderkind music journalist. Furthermore, this movie has all the emotional content of the song "Do you believe in magic?" Sitting through it was like chewing gum for way, way too long.
Don't tell me I'm taking the movie too seriously. It took itself seriously, and then couldn't deliver.
on March 14, 2001
I didn't get a chance to see Almost Famous in the theaters, so when it came out on DVD, I immediately rented it. The story is fun and there are some fine performances by Patrick Fugit, Billy Crudup, Jason Lee and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. However, I thought the characters played by Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand were extremely annoying and definitely not worthy of the Oscar nominations they have received for their performances. I think Cameron Crowe must be friends with Goldie Hawn and agreed to get closeup after closeup of her little girl Kate so that she can become a star based on her beauty. But she doesn't do much for the film in my opinion (the same goes for former Oscar winner Anna Paquin, who plays one of Kate's fellow "band-aids").
I also thought that since the character played by Fugit (Billy Miller) is essentially Cameron Crowe himself, he pretty much has portrayed himself as a perfect child with few faults. I find it a little hard to believe.
Overall, it was a good movie, especially if you enjoy the great music that is part of the soundtrack. But, it isn't "classic" material.
on March 13, 2001
First off, Almost Famous looks and sounds just as good it as it does in my memory of seeing it way back in August. It still holds up really well and stands out as being one of the best films to be released this unsteady year. Also, the inclusion of several Rolling Stones articles written by Cameron Crowe are available for reading or browsing in full, which provides some nice background and kinda lets you piece together what bands are being cobbled together in the story of the fictional "Stillwater."
The problem is, the DVD is advertised to have 30 minutes of deleted scenes, while the DVD itself doesn't mention the 30 minutes and doesn't have any additional footage, unless behind the scenes footage and clips from the trailer count.
Crowe has been interviewed about the disc and says that he will be putting together the original 4 hour cut of the film, entitled "Untitled." So, if you're getting the disc for the deleted scenes, which is my main motivation, hold on, because there will be a monster definitive cut that will far exceed anyone's expectations.
but, if you can't wait, there's enough greatness in the film to merit buying it and enough interesting tidbits in the supplemental stuff to warrant it. But if you're a completist and have to have the Criterionesque bells and whistles version, this will only let you down.
on November 13, 2003
I picked this up to find out why Dave Grohl was parodying the bus scene, where the cast sang Elton John's "Tiny Dancer," on late night comedy. Either he's fed up with British bands being touted as the heart of American rock, or (inadvertently?) contributed to the film himself. I tend to agree that the sixties and seventies nostalgia (er, materialism) invading ads and films for the past ten years or so gets rather trite; too bad this came along late in the game. While "Almost Famous" has a refreshing story line, the action dragged at times, especially when the band hit the road. It rates more as a Saturday morning teen comedy, even with its sexual nuances. The best parts in my opinion were the scenes with the young rock critic's mother, an aging Alanis Morrisette lookalike who really knows how to give a kid self-esteem.