Director Paul Thomas Anderson opened things up with his little seen, but widely appreciated "Hard Eight". What really gained him notice though, was this 1997 feature about the adult film industry that stunned many with its mix of humor, sadness, violence, drama and almost a "family" at the center of it all.
The film stars Mark Whalberg as Eddie Adams, a kid who has a poor relationship with his parents that eventually sends him into the streets and into the world of the adult film industry, where he becomes Dirk Diggler, adult film star. Lead by director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), Dirk becomes one of the stars of the porn business. Horner is almost a father figure to an entire family of stars, including Amber Waves(Julianne Moore), Rollergirl(Heather Graham), Buck(Don Cheadle), Reed(John C. Reilly) and others.
Anderson does a wonderful job capturing the tone of the 70's and 80's, taking great songs and placing them perfectly in the midst of scenes throughout the film. Working with cinematographer Robert Elswit, the camera spins through the many of the busy scenes wonderfully, capturing the action very well and giving dialogue-driven scenes motion and action. Things take a turn for the worse as the movie goes into its second half, but the transition between the lighter first half and the more dramatic part of the film is not awkward, and the dramatic half contains some of the best moments of acting in the picture.
Performances are excellent; Mark Whalberg as the lead character doesn't quite carry the picture, but does very well, and he's gotten a little better in more recent efforts like "The Perfect Storm". Also excellent are Julianne Moore, Heather Graham, John C. Reilly and Don Cheadle. Reilly has worked with Anderson on all 3 of his films and Moore also starred in "Magnolia".
It may not be for everybody, but I think many can appreciate how well the film is written and how solid the performances are.
VIDEO: This is a new transfer of the film that was supervised by director Paul Thomas Anderson, who also supervised the transfer for the recent "Magnolia". It's been a while since I've seen the original edition, but this edition is noticably better than I remember the older edition being. One thing I have to say before I go on is that I absolutely love the cinematography of Robert Elswit, who has filmed Anderson's other movies as well.
This transfer has wonderful sharpness; the entire movie looks impressively smooth and natural, with a "film-like" quality. Detail is excellent and clarity is never lacking. Black level is strong, as well. I really didn't notice any problems with the presentation. The print used is in crystal clear condition with no marks or scratches, and there were only a couple of instances where I noticed the slightest trace of pixelation, but again, I found none of these problems to be distracting.
Colors are well-saturated, bold and vibrant throughout, looking fantastic. Flesh tones are generally accurate, as well. This is a great looking new transfer that fans of the film will definitely enjoy. The around 2 1/2 hour presentation is very consistent and definitely up to New Line's usual great efforts, if not even better.
SOUND: "Boogie Nights" isn't a very agressive "sound" movie, but it's certainly got one thing when it comes to audio and that's the music. The disco and pop tunes sound remarkably warm and full, with great clarity. Surround use isn't really that agressive, but in a movie like this that's mainly dialogue, there really aren't any missed opportunities - they mainly are used throughout for the score. Dialogue is clear and never problematic in any way.
MENUS:: Menus start with a slight animated clip, and have the music playing in the background. Some of the sub-menus have subtle animation, as well.
EXTRAS: The documentary that was originally announced as being included with this set, "Exhausted", unfortunately was not able to be included with the final product. A bummer, but here are the extras that are found on this new set. The first commentary with Anderson and some of the deleted scenes are new, but the second commentary and other features are new to DVD.
Commentary: This is the famous (infamous?) commentary from director Paul Thomas Anderson. It's extremely informative, but many have noted how Anderson's use of the "F" word is, often, to say the least. But, aside from that little comment, Anderson really does provide an impressive commentary track that is almost bursting with intensity. He goes over almost all aspects of the production, talking quite a lot about what has inspired his works and his views on storytelling and filmmaking in general as well as some technical comments about the look and feel of the movie. Last but not least, the characters and story are chatted about.
Anderson is certainly a fan of commentaries (even though he chose not to do one for "Magnolia") and like the commentary for "Sydney"(aka "Hard Eight") his first film, he really keeps the discussion going for the whole film, with only a few small pauses of silence to let a scene play. There are even times when he engages himself in a debate about how the film works or even the state of films today.
Commentary Two: This is similar to some of the second commentary on Anderson's "Hard Eight" DVD; a screen-specific commentary, this is a series of interviews with different stars of the film with Anderson taking on the role of the interviewer. He goes to stars like Julianne Moore, Mark Whalberg, Heather Graham, John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle and others, and they talk about their roles in the film, as well as discussing what they did in certain scenes.
The Anderson-only commentary is good and all, but this is just more of a relaxed, fun commentary that's both informative extremely entertaining. Reilly and Cheadle are especially funny, and Graham and Moore provide good insight into their roles. Anderson keeps it all together very well and all in all this is a great track to listen to.
The John C. Reilly Files: 3 Additional scenes with Reilly, which are interesting to watch but in pretty rough/early shape.
Deleted Scenes: 10 deleted scenes, with optional commentary by Anderson.
Also: Music video for Michael Penn's "Try" as well as cast/crew bios and "jump to a song" index.
Final Thoughts: The recommendation is two parts; if you don't already have the film, definitely get this new edition of the movie. If you already have the film and are a big fan of the movie, you might want to check out the disc for the new commentary. Still, a documentary about the making of the movie or at least some additional cast/crew interviews would have rounded out the set nicely.