[DVD REVIEW]Far-fetched rock tale, but totally true to life

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[DVD REVIEW]Far-fetched rock tale, but totally true to life

From his first film, "Say Anything," to his megahits "Jerry Maguire" and "Vanilla Sky," Cameron Crowe makes uplifting, sweet films that seem driven more by the sound track than by plot. But with "Almost Famous," Crowe found the perfect subject for his particular style -- the story of a 15-year-old boy in the early 1970s who somehow is assigned by Rolling Stone magazine to follow a rock band on tour. The endless parade of songs is actually essential to this film, and Crowe's sweetness is balanced by some cynicism. Best of all, the far-fetched storyline is true to life. Or at least Crowe's life, because it really happened to him.

"Almost Famous" (2000)

Directed by Cameron Crowe. Starring Patrick Fuqit, Frances McDormand, Billy Crudup, Jason Lee and Kate Hudson.

This is an example of all that can go right with DVDs -- a two-disk set that expands on a solid film and makes the entire viewing experience richer, more informative and more fun.

Disk one is the theatrical release of the movie. Disk two presents Crowe's original edit. Don't call it a "director's cut." Crowe stands behind the theatrical version. But disk two, running about 40 minutes longer, has more details, layering and nuances -- things that slow the the story, but also add to it.

The longer version is also the one for which Crowe provides a commentary track. Crowe, along with several members of the film crew and his mom, quickly show just how autobiographical this film is. The opening credits, which feature a background of concert ticket stubs and press passes, are all from Crowe's closet. This behind-the-scenes look at rock music in the 1970s is intriguing, and Crowe brings insights that few others have ever been in a position to see.

The other extras on the DVD are also fun, particularly the Rolling Stone articles that Crowe wrote in the 1970s about such great musicians as Neil Young, Led Zeppelin and Joni Mitchell.

by Mark Russell

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