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Vanilla Sky – Paramount Presents (Blu-ray Review)

Cameron Crowe’s American adaptation of Abre Los Ojos, Vanilla Sky, took a while to finally debut on the Blu-ray format. Now, six years later for its 20th anniversary, it’s returning again. The Paramount Presents line is one I’ve continually sung praises of, and its releasing better versions of films that have been out before is one of the many reasons why. While there’s not too much in the way of new bonus material (There was already a lot), they’ve improved in the most important area. It features a brand new 4K transfer that was supervised by Cameron Crowe, himself. This also being the 3rd film of Cameron Crowe introduced into the “Presents” line, following Almost Famous and Elizabethtown before it. Vanilla Sky arrives on November 16th. You can order a copy for yourself using the paid Amazon Associates link following the review.

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Film

A mind-bending roller coaster ride of romance, suspicion, sex and dreams, VANILLA SKY was produced by Crowe, Cruise and Paula Wagner and features visually stunning cinematography by Academy Award winner* John Toll (Braveheart, Legends of the Fall), including an unforgettable sequence in New York City’s Times Square. The film was originally released on December 14, 2001 and follows a self-indulgent and vain publishing magnate (Cruise) who finds his privileged life upended after a vehicular accident.

Cameron Crowe’s “fever dream” of Vanilla Sky is a film that slips into your brain and never leaves it. No matter your feelings upon the first viewing, it leaves a curiosity to return again. To seek more answers, more clarity or even to venture into deeper territory and come out with even more questions. Despite being a remake of the film Abre Los Ojos, Crowe’s film has its own identity and voice, able to both compliment and stand on its own from its counterpart.

While the film definitely proved divisive upon release, its certainly understandable. However, with the passage of time, things have obviously become more favorable or at least found detractors enjoying a discourse on it. Its a film that is left intentionally flimsy, loose and a bit rough around the edges. While a certain kind of viewer may find it to be sloppy or incoherent, it actually is purposefully ambiguous. With the revelation at the end of the film and turning back around, things no long play by mankind’s rules of the physical world. Your outlook on the film changes fundamentally, and you’ll see those things are either clues, tells or just places meant for your mind to wander and maybe piece together on your own.

Tom Cruise takes on a pretty challenging role and one that finds him in and out of his comfort zone, truly challenging himself. He’s surrounded by a pretty stellar cast who all knock it out of the park. One of Cameron Diaz career best performances comes in this film as she truly finds a devil in herself that is a thing of magic. Penelope Cruz works quite well as the warm center. Kurt Russell has quite an endearing role as the psychiatrist to play off Cruise in a different way than Jason Lee as his best friend. This mixture really works and showcases Cruise’s character and changes in pretty terrific ways as the film plays through.

If you’d have told me 20 years ago, leaving the theater on opening night, that I’d be here writing a review for Vanilla Sky and giving it 4 stars, I’d probably wonder what the f*** was wrong with myself.  I wasn’t the biggest fan of the 3rd act reveal of the film, feeling that the 3rd act science fiction turn felt like some sort of cop out and should have been more present before. But, it honestly is and I was just a dumb college kid studying film trying to be astute about every damn new movie. But, luckily, I do always tend to revisit films I was iffy on or not keen with upon first viewing. And Vanilla Sky has continue to open doors and impress me more and more over the years to where its become one of my favorite Cameron Crowe films. And every time I finish it, I can’t wait for the next time to return.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: This second time around for Vanilla Sky on Blu-ray touts a brand new 4K restoration of the film supervised by director Cameron Crowe. The previous release had come from an old master and featured some artificial enhancements to it. This new scan looks much more filmic with a solid layer of grain and has a lot of natural texture and details to go along with some rich depth.

Depth:  There’s a really nice depth of field on display here with nice examples coming in the apartment sequences showing a lot of pushback and spacing between objects and environment. Movements are filmic and smooth with no issues coming with rapid motions and blurring or jittering occurring.

Black Levels: Blacks are really rich, well saturation and pretty close to natural levels. Details, patterns and texture shine through in darker areas be it a nighttime scene or the fabric of a dark jacket. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are rosy, nice and rustic with a good, bold fullness to them. Things are quite natural, with wonderful saturation and feel almost fall-like.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial details and textures come through quite clear in any given framing distance. Tom Cruise’s prosthetics and make-up holds up very well and looks quite genuine.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, German 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, German

Dynamics: Vanilla Sky comes with the same nuanced and rather bumping at times 5.1 mix. The score has some great layering and depth with nice lifelike sound effects and some rather terrific environment building. The music in the film feels rather full and can thump and really play with good atmospheric engagement.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer rumbles well when it comes to engines, crashing, natural sound effects and can really bump with some big music.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Rear channels present some really terrific ambiance and in the right spaces, unique sounds to build an environment. They can really help liven up some of the musical parts as well. Sound travel is accurate and feels pretty impactful in some of the more sweeping or bigger moments like cars swinging around or characters whipping by.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp with good natural audibility in any environment.

Extras

Vanilla Sky in first pressing, comes with a slip cover that folds open to reveal the original poster art for the film. It also comes with a redeemable digital copy.

Audio Commentary

  • By Cameron Crowe and Nancy Wilson

Fiilmmaker Focus: Cameron Crowe on Vanilla Sky (HD, 8:54) – Cameron Crowe talks the genesis of the film and goes through his cast, shooting in the empty times square and how the movie got into the heads of even its greatest detractors.

Alternate Ending with Optional Commentary By Cameron Crowe (HD, 29:45)

Prelude To A Dream (SD, 6:13)

An Interview With Paul McCartney (SD, 1:34)

Gag Reel (SD, 5:27)

Music Video “Afrika Shox” By Leftfield/Afrika Bambaataa (SD, 3:57)

Photo Gallery With Audio Introduction By Photographer Neal Preston (HD, 2:43-intro, 18:15-gallery)

Mask Test With Optional Commentary By Cameron Crowe (HD, 3:23)

Kurt Russell Single Take With Optional Commentary By Cameron Crowe (HD, 6:08)

Trailers

  • Unreleased Teaser Trailer (SD, 1:41)
  • International Trailer (SD, 2:49)

Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary By Cameron Crowe (HD, 34:16)

Credits (HD, :26)

Summary

Vanilla Sky is a film that continues to grow and continues to give every time you return to it. It celebrates its 20th anniversary with an improved Blu-ray release, being added to the Paramount Presents line. The new Cameron Crowe interview is nice and its nice they carried over all the previous bonus materials. The real star is the new transfer which really improves upon what the previous Blu-ray had offered by doing a full on new scan. Fans of the film should easily just bump up and upgrade to this decision quite easily.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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