From writer/director P.T. Anderson comes the turbulent behind the scenes story of an extended family of filmmakers who set out to revolutionize the adult entertainment industry in the seventies.
Idealistic producer Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) has always dreamed of elevating his films into an art form. When he discovers young actor Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), Jack begins to turn his dreams into reality. Under the stage name of Dirk Diggler, Eddie soon gives the adult entertainment world a star the likes of which it has never seen. But the rise to fame has its costs, and soon Dirk finds himself sliding down the slippery slope of sex, drugs and violence. The only question: can he get himself back together before it's too late?
First, a confession: 'Boogie Nights' is the only movie I ever lied to my mother about. I told her I was going to see Clint Eastwood's overcooked Southern Gothic trifle 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil' but instead, I took a U-turn at the lobby and went into Paul Thomas Anderson's '70's porn epic.
Whew, now that that is out of the way, we can talk about the movie.
For those of you who have been living deep below ground (in a bunker), 'Boogie Nights' was the first indication that Paul Thomas Anderson (who was then in his mid-twenties) was a future filmmaking force to be reckoned with. A sprawling tale, both mythically epic and sometimes uncomfortably intimate, 'Boogie Nights' charts the rise and fall of Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg, pre-'Happening'), a well-endowed young busboy who is seduced by the porn industry, led by a charismatic director (Burt Reynolds) and his ragtag band of porn regulars (Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Heather Graham, Don Cheadle, William H. Macy). While the movie is a personal one, honing in on the singular experiences of the central characters, it also maps the changes in the industry (from real to fake breasts, from film to video etc.) over a nearly two-decade span.
Considering the great cinematic heights that P.T. Anderson would later climb (with films like 'Punch-Drunk Love,' 'There Will Be Blood' and 'Magnolia'), 'Boogie Nights' is an impressive work by a startling talent. It's not perfect (more on that in a minute), but in the areas where it falls short it more than makes up for in sheer exuberance. Anderson throws so many things at the screen - characters, sub-plots, big ideas - that the number of details that actually stick is impressive in and of itself.
The movie is way too long, much of it seems borrowed from other filmmakers Anderson was enamored with at the time (Scorcese, Altman, Tarantino), and a lot of the movie just seems like a collection of party scenes or montages, since it's the only way to wrangle the amount of characters/sub-plots together in a time efficient manner. But all of these problems aside, 'Boogie Nights' stands as an exciting, wholly engrossing character drama; the kind they make far too few of (probably because 'character dramas' aren't based on comic books).
There isn't a whole lot more to say about 'Boogie Nights' that hasn't already been said. It's not exactly a modern day classic, but it is a wonderful movie, artful and human and funny and warm. The period detail never overwhelms the story mechanics, and the uniformly strong cast, able to play tragedy and comedy with equal conviction, really bring the entire enterprise to life. If you haven't seen 'Boogie Nights,' you really should. If you have seen 'Boogie Nights,' then you're probably headed out the door to pick up the Blu-ray.
Oh, and one more thing: BEST SOUNDTRACK EVER.
The VC-1 1080p transfer on this disc (aspect ratio: 2.40:1) is a marked improvement from the previous home video iterations and an absolutely gorgeous transfer overall.
Everything looks better - colors are brighter (this being set in the '70's, there are a whole lot of colors), detail is sharper (particularly on the period textures and fabrics), skin tones look great, black levels are deep, dark and avoid crush, and the grain level, while sometimes inconsistent, adds a healthy movie feel to the transfer without ever overwhelming.
There are also no buggy technical issues to speak of, in terms of digital cleaning up, artifacts, or blots, dots, or scratches in the film. It's a pristine looking picture, through and through.
Quite frankly, it's probably the best the movie has ever looked, probably even eclipsing the original theatrical run. The transfer might not be as eye-popping as one would want for a reference quality disc, but this is easily one of the best transfers I have seen in a long time, especially for a twelve year old movie. It's good to see 'Boogie Nights' looking this lush and wonderful.
Just as impressive as this disc's transfer is its Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track.
As I said before, this film has one of the best soundtracks ever, and all of those disco and funk classics absolutely boom with this new transfer. (If you have a system that handles bass beautifully, then you're even better.) Each song is brought to life with full-bodied dimensionality, filling your sound system.
Additionally, dialogue is clean and crisp and well prioritized, even when characters overlap each other (remember when I said Anderson was riffing on Altman?) Additionally, sound effects are strong and dynamic, without ever overwhelming.
Between the dialogue and the music, there's always something going on, with the full breath of the sound system always being utilized. Even in the quieter scenes, there's a level of ambience and atmosphere and approaching dread (particularly in the film's second half) that add a whole lot to the experience.
There aren't any noticeable instances of popping, scratches or hiss either. Just like the video transfer, it's a totally admirable track that really lives up to the excellence of the film.
While the box says there are mixes in English, German, Latin Spanish, and Castillian Spanish, this English track is the only audio option. There are also subtitles in English SDH, German, and Spanish.
There aren't any new special features, which is kind of a bummer given the amount of time that has passed since the film's release and this Blu-ray release (I'm always hankering for retrospective content). While I don't have the DVD handy, I seem to remember that there were some excerpts from a documentary about the life of John Holmes, the real-life porn star that inspired the Dirk Diggler character. (I saw a documentary about Holmes called "Wadd" a few years ago at SXSW. The dude was a true character. And a total asshole.) Well, if those excerpts did exist in previous editions (and I didn't just make it up), then they aren't here.
Just about a contemporary classic, Paul Thomas Anderson's 'Boogie Nights' is a wildly ambitious, endlessly exuberant epic set in the California porn scene of the 1970s. The excellence of the movie is mirrored by the fine technical specifications of this Blu-ray disc, with the extra features (holdovers from previous versions) weathering the sands of time quite nicely. This is an essential purchase for any discerning movie lover. It's another must own, baby.