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Cameron Crowe
Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz
Cameron Crowe Synopsis:
A self-indulgent and vain publishing magnate finds his privileged life upended after a vehicular accident with a resentful lover.
Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (Theatrical Only)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (Theatrical Only)
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 136 min. (Theatrical Version)
141 min. (Alternate Ending Version)
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 6/30/2015

• Both Theatrical and Alternate Ending Versions of the Film
• Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Cameron Crowe and Composer Nancy Wilson
• “Prelude to a Dream” Featurette
• “Hitting It Hard” Featurette
• “An Interview with Paul McCartney”
• Gag Reel
• Music Video
• Photo Gallery
• Mask Test
• “Kurt Russell Single Take”
• 13 Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Trailers


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Vanilla Sky [Blu-Ray] (2001)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 14, 2015):

Back in 1996, writer/director Cameron Crowe and actor Tom Cruise paired for a big hit in Jerry Maguire. The pair reunited for the less successful – and much odder - Vanilla Sky in 2001.

Wealthy, narcissistic publisher David Aames (Cruise) enjoys a pretty privileged but shallow life, one that includes a sexual relationship with Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz). At a birthday party, David meets Sofia Serrano (Penelope Cruz) and quickly falls for her.

Despite their supposed “friends with benefits” situation, this upsets Julie and turns her into the vengeful spurned lover. During a drive together, Julie goes into freak-out mode and causes the car to launch off a bridge. This leaves Julie dead and David severely injured/disfigured. The story follows his path after this event.

Or does it? Sky plays fast and loose with reality in a manner that seems destined to keep the viewer off-guard from start to finish.

This style can work for some directors but it seems like an odd choice for Crowe. He first gained success as a journalist, and he made a name as the writer of Fast Times at Ridgemont High before he started to direct his own films. If you look at his body of work prior to 2001, it offers primarily romantic comedies and lighter fare, so Sky represents a substantial departure for Crowe.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t become a successful change of pace, as the move toward a trippy thriller fails to suit Crowe. It needs someone who can indulge in darkness, and that doesn’t feel like Crowe to me. In his realm, he makes charming, effortless comedy-dramas, but when he stretches, he flops.

Maybe someone like David Fincher could’ve pulled off Sky’s ambitious storyline, but Crowe doesn’t create anything especially interesting here. The movie leaves reality in question so much of the time that eventually we don’t really care what’s true and what’s fantasy.

That’s largely because Sky lacks much obvious purpose or personality. The film throws on layers of subtext but fails to present characters or a narrative that attract our attention. The movie rambles on without a clear point and likely loses the viewer along the way.

Crowe simply doesn’t do non-literal well. With Sky, he attempts to be ambitious and daring but the result seems forced and messy. Another director might have been able to connect to the material in the appropriate manner, but Crowe simply seems lost.

Perhaps Vanilla Sky works better than I think and it might reveal its nuances and charms with a second screening. Perhaps Crowe pulled off the material better than I think after only one viewing.

Perhaps, but the problem is that Sky leaves me so cold that I feel no desire to give it another chance. It’s not just a misfire – it’s a dull misfire that leaves me disinterested in its universe. Sometimes I may not like a movie but it sticks with me - Sky isn’t that movie. I greeted its conclusion with relief.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Vanilla Sky appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This wasn’t a poor presentation, but it had some problems.

Most of the issues related to sharpness, as the movie tended to be somewhat on the soft side. Perhaps this was intentional to reflect the film’s dreamy nature, but it didn’t come across that way. Instead, the flick just looked tentative and undefined too much of the time. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and the film lacked print flaws. Edge haloes also failed to materialize.

Colors looked generally natural. The tones could seem a bit heavy at times, but they were usually pretty decent. Black levels also seemed deep and dense, while shadow detail mostly looked clear and appropriately opaque. A few interiors appeared slightly thick, but I didn’t mind for the most part. All in all, the image had good elements but the problems made it a “C+”.

While the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Sky showed a lack of sonic ambition, it still worked well for the material. The soundfield featured a definite emphasis on the forward channels. Music displayed good stereo imaging, while effects showed positive movement and integration.

Mostly those elements stuck with general ambience, though some sequences added greater involvement. For instance, party/club scenes used the various channels well, and a few action beats also contributed a bit of pizzazz.

Audio quality seemed fine. Dialogue was distinct and natural, with no edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects remained a minor element of the mix, but they always came across as clean and accurate, without distortion or other concerns. Those elements sounded crisp and clear.

Music presented the strongest aspects of the track. The score and songs always were nicely bright and vivid, and they displayed good low-end response as well. Bass seemed reasonably deep and tight. Overall, the track’s lack of sonic ambition kept it in “B” territory, but it complemented the film well.

The Blu-ray provides a bunch of extras, and we get two cuts of the film. The disc features both the Theatrical Version (2:16:01) as well as an Alternate Ending Version (2:21:33). Both versions are identical until 1:51:46, and that’s where the Alternate Ending takes effect.

Picture quality degrades quite a lot when this shift occurs; the Alternate Ending scenes aren’t unwatchable, but they’re a noticeable drop in visuals. Don’t expect the Alternate Ending Version’s final half hour or so to offer a total departure from the theatrical cut, but much of the time it differs.

To avoid spoilers, I won’t discuss specifics about the content in either cut, but I will say that I think neither one works better than the other. Whatever differences the two cuts present don’t add up to a substantial impact, in my opinion. They’re just slightly varying paths to the same destination.

We also find an audio commentary with writer/director Cameron Crowe and composer Nancy Wilson. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at ‘the source film and its adaptation, story/character areas, cast and performances, music, themes and “clues”, sets and locations, and related topics.

Though Crowe and Wilson receive co-billing, she does little more than play guitar in the background. They also briefly speak to actor Tom Cruise on the phone; this occurs during the club scene about 100 minutes into the movie. Cruise adds nothing to the experience.

So this track lives and dies with Crowe, and it does… okay. Crowe mostly discusses themes and story elements, so we don’t get a ton of movie-making nuts and bolts. He fleshes out our understanding of the movie to a decent degree.

Crowe also devotes a lot of the film’s running time to praise and general happy talk. These tendencies make the commentary less than enthralling. Crowe offers enough substance to make the track worth a listen, but like the movie itself, it disappoints.

Note that if you watch the “Alternate Ending Version”, the commentary shifts around 1:51:45. At that point, we leave behind the original DVD commentary and hear info Crowe recorded explicitly for the Blu-ray/alternate ending. This cut offers info solely from Crowe without Wilson, which doesn’t come as a surprise since they divorced in 2010.

The discussion of the alternate ending may be new, but it follows the same path as the comments Crowe recorded back in 2001. This means we mainly hear story notes and not a lot about the shoot itself.

We do get general thoughts about why Crowe didn’t use this version of the ending, though. The “Alternate” was actually the movie’s original finale, but apparently test audiences found it to be too confusing, so Crowe chose a more straightforward finale. Other than that nugget, the “alternate commentary” doesn’t give us a ton of info. I’m glad Crowe went back to add new notes about the variation, though.

A few featurettes follow. Prelude to a Dream goes for six minutes, 15 seconds and mixes production photos/footage with commentary from Crowe. He gives us notes about the project’s origins, casting, and other aspects of the production. Since we already heard so much from Crowe in the commentary, the visuals become the most interesting part of “Prelude”.

During the 10-minute, six-second Hitting It Hard, we go along for the movie’s 2001-02 press tour. This means we mostly see Crowe and actors Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz as they work the publicity circuit. It lacks much coherence and never becomes especially interesting.

An Interview with Paul McCartney goes for one minute, 36 seconds. In this clip from Entertainment Tonight, the musician discusses the composition of the film’s title song. It’s awfully brief but it gives us some useful basics.

Next comes a Gag Reel. It lasts five minutes, 30 seconds and presents the standard mix of mistakes and laughs. It’s kind of an odd match for a movie like Sky, and that makes it a little more intriguing than most of its genre.

We find a Music Video for Leftfield/Afrika Bambaataa’s “Afrika Shox”. It mixes movie clips with lip-synch performance footage. Neither the song nor the video seem especially good.

After this we discover a Photo Gallery. After a two-minute, 51-second introduction from photographer Neal Preston, we see 156 of his images. It’s a high-quality collection, though it’s too bad we can’t check it out via a thumbnail option to make navigation easier.

A Mask Test fills three minutes, 24 seconds. It lets us see test footage of Cruise in the mask he wears for much of the movie. It’s mildly interesting on its own, though it works better if you watch it with the optional commentary from Crowe, as he brings us some useful thoughts.

With Kurt Russell Single Take, we find a six-minute, 10-second reel. This provides a long take of Russell for a sequence that appears toward the end of the movie. I enjoy material like this, and Crowe’s optional commentary makes it even better.

In addition to two trailers, we get 13 Deleted Scenes. These run a total of 34 minutes, 52 seconds, and they tend to offer longer or alternate versions of existing sequences. They seem moderately interesting at best.

We can view the deleted scenes with or without commentary from Crowe. He tells us a little about the sequences’ creation and how they would have fit into the film. Unfortunately, he doesn’t reveal a lot about why the scenes failed to make the final movie, though. Crowe’s thoughts flesh out matters to a moderate degree but could’ve been more revealing.

With 2001’s Vanilla Sky, Cameron Crowe branched out – and flopped. The movie comes with intriguing elements but it collapses into such a mish-mash of themes and plot devices that it becomes a mushy mess. The Blu-ray provides average visuals with mostly good picture and sound. I’ve enjoyed most of Crowe’s movies but Sky goes nowhere,

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 5
0 3:
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