"Boogie Nights" was 1997’s sleeper hit, a movie that caught the industry by surprise and earned one of its stars, Burt Reynolds, an Academy Award nomination. It is director Paul Thomas Anderson’s second feature movie, and as such displays an impressive maturity. Anderson’s talent has since also produced "Magnolia," a very unique and highly extroverted epic that is also available on DVD through New Line Home Video. Both movie shows that Anderson is taking a very radical approach to filmmaking, offering fresh visuals and highly artistic devices to create his films. Highly touted by critics and audiences alike, "Boogie Nights" swept theaters and caused a buzz in throughout the film industry, making Anderson one of Hollywood’s hottest new directors.
"Boogie Nights" tells the story of seventeen-year-old Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg) whose dream it is to become a famous porn star. One night during his work shift as a dishwasher in a nightclub, he catches the eye of adult film director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds). Jack, an icon in the adult movie industry, is on the lookout for fresh blood and Eddie is just the stud he needs. He makes the lad an offer that Eddie happily agrees. A few short days later already, they shoot their first film together during which Eddie displays an impressive stamina and professionalism on the job and even manages to give Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), the queen of porn, carnal pleasures with his "gifted" body during the film’s shoot. Eddie changes his name to "Dirk Diggler," and becomes the industry’s shooting star, taking porn movies to new heights.
But where there is light, there is shadow, and as Dirk Diggler’s star rises in the adult film industry, Eddie, the human being sinks lower and lower. Introduced to other people’s vices like booze and cocaine, Dirk lives an excessive life and soon becomes completely addicted to drugs. He loses all self-control and eventually even has a fallout with his mentor Jack. They go their separate ways and Dirk’s decline into the gutters of prostitution and crime is imminent.
The acting in the movie is superb and to the point. Burt Reynold’s focused, yet laid-back portrayal of the "family father" Jack Horner is worth special mention, as it is one of the best performances of his career. The cast is shored up by many great actors, such as Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, and William H. Macy, who all throw in excellent and inspiringly refreshing performances. While it’s a great movie overall, "Boogie Nights" does have its flaws. The most obvious one is its considerable length of 155 minutes. While it starts at a good pace, the movie loses focus somewhere down the line, and begins to drag quite noticeably in its last third. From a tight and racy story the movie entirely changes pace and takes on a more visual and extroverted form towards the end. Better editing would probably have helped tightening the story there, keeping the audience’s attention all the way, creating a more cohesive film.
The second flaw for my taste - and I know many people will disagree with me on this - is Julianne Moore as porn queen Amber Waves. While there is nothing wrong with her acting, she simply does not have the physical attributes it takes to become the influential and adored porn actress she portrays in this film.
Apart from those weaknesses, however, "Boogie Nights" gives us an unabashed, rare glimpse into the world of the porn industry of the seventies. It perfectly displays the broken personalities of this industry, addicted to sex, drugs, and alcohol, completely meshed into their own world. Every attempt to escape this "family" eventually results in disappointment, embarrassment, and the person’s suicide or return to porn movies. A circle that doesn’t seem to have changed much even to this day.
"Boogie Nights" has been previously released as a Platinum Edition from New Line Home Video so I took a look at this 2-disc set also with a direct comparison in mind. And the differences are striking! The movie is presented in a 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio on this DVD in a new 16x9 enhanced transfer. The earlier DVD had a noticeable over saturation of red throughout, which is especially evident when comparing both presentations side by side. This new transfer has been entirely color corrected and looks significantly more neutral than the previous release and also gives the film a colder look. The old DVD had a good amount of noise reduction applied to the image to get rid of film grain and to create a stable image. As a result, the image was lacking detail and compression artifacts, such as banding and pixelation, were evident throughout. In the new transfer, none of that remains. The image presents itself with an immense amount of more detail, revealing fine textures on walls, all the way to visible skin imperfections of the cast. Where the old transfer washed over details, the new one stands out with staggering definition, that will make you believe you are watching a film reel rather than a digital presentation. Blacks are deep in the new transfer, creating solid shadows and with its good contrast, the image is absolutely fantastic and entirely devoid of any compression artifacts.
It appears, New Line has slightly re-mixed the audio track as well. Where the old track had an audible unbalance that drowned out dialogues at times, I found this presentation more balanced, giving the dialogues more room to breathe. The 5.1 mix that is highly dynamic and rich with pretty aggressive surround usage. A deep bass extension ensures that the audio sounds as funky as you want it to be.
Michael Penn’s contemporary music track conjures up the right seventies feel for the movie, partly consisting of original bits and pieces, as well as well-known disco, soul and funk tunes from the era to help stylize the images and settings.
The film’s presentation on this DVD features two separate commentary track. The first track is the audio commentary by director Paul Thomas Anderson that can also be found on the previous release. It is a very energetic commentary that is highly informative and involving, giving the viewer a good understanding about the production and where Anderson came from. The track seems to have been remixed and has a much more sonorous and natural quality than on the old disc.
The second commentary track features director Anderson together with many of his cast members, such as Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, Heather Graham, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly and Mark Wahlberg. Although edited together from different recording sessions, the track has a very dynamic and fluent feel. Anderson serves as the MC, so to say, tying everything together very nicely. As expected, the track is rowdy, raunchy and off the wall. The first comments set the tone for the entire commentary when Anderson asks Julianne Moore, "Do you think Luis Guzman was stoned while we did this shot?" With such an introduction, you just know what you’re getting for the next 150 minutes. A lot of laughs, a great number of potshots and people talking about all possible and impossible events they remember about making the film. Spiced up with some ambient recordings, about people talking in the kitchen while grabbing a beer, this commentary track feels as if you have a bunch of friends over at your place and they just keep talking about the film! Great stuff and a very cool addition to the disc that alone makes a repurchase of the DVD a must!
On the second disc of the 2-disc box set we find a number of familiar bonus materials form the film’s previous DVD, as well as some new stuff. First there is a selection of deleted scenes. All the 9 deleted scenes from the first release are included, as well as one additional one. This biggest surprise here was that these deleted scenes are actually presented in anamorphic widescreen as well! You can decide whether you want to watch the scenes with their original audio track or with an accompanying commentary by the director.
The music video "Try" is also included on the disc in pretty much the same form as it was on the previous one, as well as the extensive cats and crew biographies, that does include full biographies for the film’s fictional characters. Very funny stuff, so make sure to check it out.
You can also find "The John C. Reilly Files" on the disc, a series of footage from the movie that shows alternate takes and behind the scenes footage featuring actor John C. Reilly. Running about 15-minutes, this is an interesting little addition to the disc with a few great moments.
Porn actor John Holmes was the inspiration to the Dirk Diggler character in the movie and this DVD was originally planned to contain excerpts from the John Holmes documentary "Exhausted." Due to unexpected legal issues however, New Line had to pull this 30-minute documentary from the disc in the last minute.
"Boogie Nights" is a faithfully unfaithful look at the adult movie industry from two different viewpoints - one humorous and one pensive. It’s a sizzling exploration of the people involved in this business and the people who like to rub shoulders with those who are, in hope of some onscreen appearance. It is an entertaining movie that is highly recommended for everyone interested in the genre and a look behind the scenes, through the eyes of some fictional characters loosely based on real porn industry icons. With the John Holmes documentary gone, there doesn’t seem to be too much new material on this release of "Boogie Nights" but don’t be fooled. Fans of the film will still want to buy this 2-disc set, if only for the hot new transfer and the additional, riotous commentary track.