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HTF REVIEW: "Vanilla Sky" (with screenshots)

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#1 of 75 ONLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted May 10 2002 - 12:57 AM

Posted Image

Vanilla Sky

Studio: Paramount

Year: 2001

Rated: R

Film Length: 135 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)

Every passing moment is another chance

to turn it all around

I hate to start a review off this way, but I

sit here asking myself, "What the hell did I

just watch?" I feel like my mind has been

seriously f--ked with for the last 2 hours, and

I still am dizzy from it all.

Posted Image

Vanilla Sky has got to be one of the most

bizarre films I have watched in recent memory. I

had heard some disappointing grumblings from

friends that had seen it theatrically, but nothing

could prepare me for what I had just viewed.

Vanilla Sky is a spiritless journey through the

world of dreams and reality, which, while beautiful

to look at, and well made, is sluggish and boring

in it’s setup, and silly in its resolution.

Posted Image

David Aames (Tom Cruise) is a handsome and

successfully wealthy publishing tycoon. He has

a no strings relationship with a beautiful model,

Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz). He has the world at

his fingertips, not to mention his celebrity friends

like Steven Spielberg who readily shows up at his

birthday party. But its the entrance of Sofia

Serrano (Penelope Cruz) that hits David like a

thunderbolt. She's absolutely beautiful, and David

is instantly mesmerized by her.

Posted Image

The blossoming romance between David and Sofia is

not making Julie very happy. She starts stalking

David until he agrees to go for a car ride with her.

Julie gets more and more wound up and eventually

drives her car off a bridge. The result is an

accident David survives, but leaves his face

totally disfigured.

If you think I have given away too much, don't

worry, I haven't. The film jumps from future to

past, from dream to reality, and through it all

the audience suffers by not knowing what is real

and what is not.

Posted Image

Fortunately this film barely manages to stay on

two legs thanks to the efforts of its stars.

Cruise's performance here is pretty amazing --

having a Phantom of the Opera style mask on his

face for lengths of the film, yet manages to

convey many things without a lot of physical

gestures. As for Penelope Cruz, well all I can

say is that her beauty is a gift from God. There

is a nighclub scene where Cruz shows so many

mixed emotions without uttering a word. Her facial

expressions are a marvel to look at. Cruz and

Cruise manage to emit powerful on-screen romantic

energy. I melt everytime I see her bite her

lower lip.

How is the transfer?

This could perhaps be one of the best DVD

transfers that Paramount has put out to date.

While I could sit here and nitpick about some

of the slight video noise that shows up at the

very beginning of the film and within some of

the film's darker scenes, it is the day lit

scenes of New York that will make your jaw drop.

Picture looks gorgeously stunning. As a matter

of fact, I have never seen Times Square look more

beautiful, and I am in Times Square at least once a

month. This transfer captures colors of the city

I never knew existed, standing out so vividly like

a can of fresh paint.

Posted Image

The 5.1 Dolby Surround is equally impressive.

Right before the opening credits even roll on

the screen, you can hear the faintest sounds of

wind rising up in the rear channels. The rears

play a very important role in this alternative

piece of film where creepish dialogue is placed

in the rear channels to in order to build suspense.

One of the best sounding scenes in the film takes

place in a nightclub where random sounds eminate

from different channels as my subwoofer pounded

out powerfull bass thanks to the rather active

LFE mix. The Dolby Digital mix is as impressive

as some of the best DTS mixes I have heard.

Special Features

Paramount has included a few really cool extra

nuggets on this DVD including a commentary by

Director Cameron Crowe and Composer Nancy Wilson

which also features a conversation with Tom Cruise.

Pop in the disc and you are greeted with a new

beautiful 90th Anniversary Paramount logo. The

Main Menu appears in brilliant white as a picture

is etched in the upper corner. The menu structure

is pretty inventive. As you go from area to area,

techno music plays as the corner picture takes

on a new form.

Posted ImagePosted Image

It's interesting to see that Paramount has placed

two of the DVDs featurettes off of the Main Menu

rather than placing it in the Special Features menu.

I don't understand the reason for this, as it can

easily distract viewers from making the correct

initial choice when wanting to play the movie.

Posted Image

Prelude to a Dream is a really fun, but

brief featurette. It's Cameron Crowe's narrative

journey of creating this film. Haunted by the

1997 Spanish Film `Abre Los Ojos', Crowe set out

to make a psychedledic pop song remake. We get

some great glimpses of the cast rehearsing in

back offices of the Paramount lot. As the streets

of Times Square were cleared one early November

morning, we see the cinematographer planning the

shoot where Cruise runs amidst the empty streets.

Most of all, we see the cast having a great time

with each other, as much as I think you'll have

a great time watching this featurette.

(length: Approx. 6 minutes)

Posted Image

Hitting it Hard puts us on the red carpet

of a film premiere and takes us along on the

2001-2002 Press Tour of Vanilla Sky. Shown

mostly in Black & White, we get to see the cast

attending interviews and photo shoots. From

crowd entrenched premiers to some very private

moments, this is a very personal look at what

it takes to promote a film. This is such an

incredibly produced piece -- the kind of rare

stuff that doesn't usually get included on DVDs.

(length: approx. 10 minutes)

Taken from an Entertainment Tonight piece, An

Interview with Paul McCartney
comes on the

heels of Paul's Golden Globe nomination for the

film's title song. Paul talks about how while

he was working on his newest album, Driving Rain,

Cameron Crowe approached him about writing a song

for his film. A Waiter from a french restaurant

actually gave Paul inspiratrion for the first

line of the song, and within a week, the song

was complete. (length: approx. 1.5 minutes)

The Music Video, "afrika shox" by

Letfield/Afrika Bambaataa is interesting,

pulsating techno-rap music played against

clips from the film.

Still Photographer Neal Preston gives an audio

introduction to the Photo Gallery included

on this DVD. Neal's job is to sneak around and

capture very special candid moments of the stars

on film. Divided into eight sections, there are

literally hundreds of interesting stills to look

through. Many are personal shots of the actors

on the set, including many of them walking in the

total emptiness of Times Square.

There are two trailers included on this

DVD. The first, an unreleased teaser trailer

is less dialogue-filled, backed with a techno

soundtrack. The International trailer gives

us more dialogue and insight into the story. Both

are fun to watch!

Final Thoughts

This film is not going to be widely liked by

members of this forum. I was surprised that

this film came from the Director of Almost

, as it looks more like something that

would come from Stanley Kubrick.

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This is another one of those rare titles where

watching the added Supplemental content is more

fun than watching the film itself. Paramount has

gone to great lengths to add unique animated

menus and really fun supplements.

Posted Image

This DVD will work far better as a rental than

a purchase. Rent it for the extra content alone

if you must. Nobody should blindly purchase this

title. See it with an open mind, and as much as

the film urges you to ‘Open Your Eyes', many of

you will, but won't exactly know what the hell


Release Date: May 21, 2002


Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner


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#2 of 75 OFFLINE   Rob Gillespie

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Posted May 10 2002 - 01:18 AM

Nice review Ron, however my appreciation of the film is slightly more certain than yours - I loved it. Posted Image
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#3 of 75 OFFLINE   Michael Dueppen

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Posted May 10 2002 - 02:03 AM

Thanks for the review, Ron. I also did not especially like this movie (I did like abre los ojos, though). But since the DVD is so spectecular, I will give it another chance with a rental.
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#4 of 75 OFFLINE   Jon_B



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Posted May 10 2002 - 02:33 AM

I've been looking forward to the release of this movie for quite some time now. From your review it sounds like I will not like it. If anything I'll give it a whirl to see the lovely Penelope Cruz. Posted Image I'll give it a rental and see what the heck this movie is all about.

Thanks for the review.

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#5 of 75 OFFLINE   MichaelAW


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Posted May 10 2002 - 02:55 AM

By some stroke of luck, I was able to find this DVD (of one of my top 5 films of 2001) earlier this week here in Sweden. I haven't had a chance to watch it yet, but I'll do so tonight. Glad to hear how great the disc is, Ron.
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#6 of 75 OFFLINE   oscar_merkx


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Posted May 10 2002 - 04:08 AM

Ron You simply must see the orginal as it is compelling to watch and Penelope Cruz is a treat to watch. For me It was the performance of Cameron Diaz as the Stalker that won it for me, there were not enough scenes of Cruise & Cruz together yet there were was a breathtaking on screen chemistry. Looks like I will pick up both DVDs Oscar Merkx
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#7 of 75 OFFLINE   Pierre Gagne

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Posted May 10 2002 - 04:47 AM

Ron, I'm suprised you consider this film bizarre. David Lynch's Mulholland Drive is bizarre but I would not classify Vanilla Sky as such. This is more of a film where you feel you need to watch it a second time after you see the end. I agree, though, that it is more in a Kubrick style type of film. And, like you said, it won't be everyone's cup of tea. But for those who like thoughtful, meaningful, even provoking movies with strong performances (Cruise gives, IMO, one of his best) this is yours. Recommended. Pierre

#8 of 75 OFFLINE   Matt Pelham

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Posted May 10 2002 - 04:55 AM

I agree with you Pierre 100%. I still don't know how people find this film too confusing. I mean, it does have a rather unconventional plot and at times you're not sure what is really happenning, but everything is explained in full at the end with all questions answered. Donnie Darko, Mullholland Drive, even Memento I can see as confusing movies, but Vanilla Sky I just don't see it. I loved this movie (already own Open Your Eyes, great flick) and will definitely be picking this one up.

#9 of 75 OFFLINE   Mark Bendiksen

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Posted May 10 2002 - 05:13 AM

Thanks for the review, Ron. I held off seeing this one during its theatrical run, but since I'm a Cameron Crowe fan I can't pass up the opportunity to at least rent this intriguing movie.

#10 of 75 OFFLINE   Richard Kim

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Posted May 10 2002 - 07:36 AM

Ron, if you haven't seen the original Spanish film "Open Your Eyes" (Abre Los Ojos), definitely pick up the DVD from Artisan, IMHO a better film than Vanilla Sky. I appreciate that Crowe tried to put his personal touches in VC (choice of music, etc), but I don't think the subject material fits Crowe's style very well.

#11 of 75 OFFLINE   Matthew_Millheiser


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Posted May 10 2002 - 08:14 AM

I live for Abre Los Ojos, a film I caught on cable one night only because Penelope Cruz was in it. I came to watch Penelope. I stayed because the film was so goddammned amazing. I haven't seen Vanilla Sky -- for no other reason that I just never got around to it. I will be buying the DVD based on my love of the original film and the strength of Cameron Crowe's skill as a writer/director. Plus the extras sound pretty nice, which is more than I can say about Artisan's DVD release of Abre Los Ojos.
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#12 of 75 OFFLINE   JonZ


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Posted May 10 2002 - 10:48 AM

I liked Vanilla Sky and will be buying the DVD.

#13 of 75 OFFLINE   ThomasWall



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Posted May 10 2002 - 01:44 PM

I am a new member but a long time reader. As my first post I thought it would be fitting that I thank Mr Epstein for another great review because I've read them for a while.

#14 of 75 OFFLINE   Eric T

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Posted May 10 2002 - 05:15 PM

I saw Vanilla Sky in the theater, and then saw Abre Los Ojos at a coffe shop / art theater here in town. I found that it was pretty much the same film in both cases with (mostly) different actors. I did enjoy looking for differences in Penelope Cruz's performances between the two films. Overall I think the story is quite good, it's a little different from the average movie fare. And I think Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz were terrific in it. I'm a big fan of some of Cruise's latest work, I liked him a lot in Eyes Wide Shut and Magnolia too.

#15 of 75 OFFLINE   Joseph J.D

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Posted May 10 2002 - 05:59 PM

I think that I will give this one a rental first....I've heard bad word of mouth for this film when it was first run, so I think that I will go the safe route to see if it is worth buying. Ron, as always- thanks for the review.Posted Image
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#16 of 75 OFFLINE   Justin_S



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Posted May 10 2002 - 06:09 PM

This film is excellent by all means, and I'll definitely be getting the DVD! I've been eagerly awaiting it. I also have the DVD of ABRE LOS OJOS from Artisan, and I must say that I pretty much love both films equally. I was expecting VANILLA SKY to be just another shitty remake, but it turned out superb.

#17 of 75 OFFLINE   Robin Warren

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Posted May 10 2002 - 06:34 PM

This is one terrific movie. Will be picking it up asap.

#18 of 75 OFFLINE   SteveGon


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Posted May 10 2002 - 09:56 PM


Vanilla Sky has got to be one of the most

bizarre films I have watched in recent memory.


Ron, are you going to be reviewing Eraserhead when it comes out? Posted Image

Anyway, I found Vanilla Sky to be a decent remake though I took exception to the soundtrack - it seemed shoehorned into the movie and became distracting. I don't think I'll buy VS, but I'll definitely rent it for the extras.

Thanks for the review!

#19 of 75 ONLINE   Craig S

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Posted May 10 2002 - 10:42 PM


I feel like my mind has been seriously f--ked with for the last 2 hours, and I still am dizzy from it all.

Wow... that's the same way I felt after seeing VS last December. Funny thing is, that's why I loved the film!!

Sounds like a great disc, and it's a must-buy for me. Also, for fans of the film who haven't seen the original (like me), I pikced up the Artisan DVD of Abre Los Ojos at Target a few weeks ago for under $10. It's bare-bones but the transfer looks good.
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#20 of 75 OFFLINE   Elbert Lee

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Posted May 10 2002 - 10:47 PM

I can't help but disagree with Ron's opinion that most on the HTF will dislike this film. There's already a strong Cameron Crowe following, although Vanilla Sky is most definitely a stretch in terms of subject matter and style for him. After watching this movie for the first time in the theaters, I couldn't help but think that David Fincher would have have been the better choice to direct this movie. Although Crowe is probably better at creating those "2 strangers connecttion" between the principals (cruise and cruz), Fincher's experience in blending reality, virtuality, and visual perspective would have served this plot well.. However, I can certainly understand why he would not have wanted to take on remake and tackle another "plot twist" ending-type film like Vanilla Sky. I found that I was rather annoyed with Crowe's use of the same guitar-based music for many of his transitional scenes. What worked well with his previous two films, "Jerry Maguire" and "Almost Famous", was almost distracting for me as it really made me consciencious that that this was a film made by Cameron Crowe! I was pretty much fully immersed into the film, but the music has got to change. (The Beach Boys song near the finale was ingenious, though) I enjoyed the DVD - the video quality was VERY GOOD, and almost perfect except for some softness here and there. Audio was limited mainly to the fronts, with the occasional use of the rears and SBs for the more musically climactic moments. I would have preferred the sound engineers to enhance the "atmospheric" subtle sound affects especially during the more "surreal" moments. All-in-all, this was more than an effective sound mix. Also have to admit that I enjoyed this movie more the first time. I noticed more nuanced performanced the second time around in my HT. For those on the fence, rent this dvd first. For Cruise and Crowe fans, don't pass this one up. Elbert

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