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HTF REVIEW: "Vanilla Sky" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, May 10, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    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.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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)
    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
    Famous, as it looks more like something that
    would come from Stanley Kubrick.
    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.
    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
  2. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

    Aug 17, 1998
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    Nice review Ron, however my appreciation of the film is slightly more certain than yours - I loved it. [​IMG]
  3. Michael Dueppen

    Michael Dueppen Stunt Coordinator

    Sep 19, 2000
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    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.
  4. Jon_B

    Jon_B Screenwriter

    Nov 27, 2000
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    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. [​IMG] I'll give it a rental and see what the heck this movie is all about.
    Thanks for the review.
  5. MichaelAW

    MichaelAW Second Unit

    Apr 14, 2002
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    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.
  6. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

    Apr 15, 2002
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    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
  7. Pierre Gagne

    Pierre Gagne Agent

    Nov 12, 1998
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    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.

  8. Matt Pelham

    Matt Pelham Screenwriter

    Mar 13, 2002
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    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. Mark Bendiksen

    Mark Bendiksen Screenwriter

    Mar 16, 1999
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    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. Richard Kim

    Richard Kim Producer

    Jan 29, 2001
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    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. Matthew_Millheiser

    Matthew_Millheiser Supporting Actor

    May 1, 2000
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    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.
  12. JonZ

    JonZ Lead Actor

    Dec 28, 1998
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    I liked Vanilla Sky and will be buying the DVD.
  13. ThomasWall

    ThomasWall Auditioning

    May 10, 2002
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    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. Eric T

    Eric T Second Unit

    Apr 1, 2001
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    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. Joseph J.D

    Joseph J.D Cinematographer

    Dec 4, 2001
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    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.[​IMG]
  16. Justin_S

    Justin_S Producer

    Mar 4, 2001
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    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. Robin Warren

    Robin Warren Second Unit

    Jan 24, 2002
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    This is one terrific movie. Will be picking it up asap.
  18. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

    Dec 11, 2000
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    Real Name:
    Steve Gonzales
  19. Craig S

    Craig S Producer

    Mar 4, 2000
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    League City, Texas
    Real Name:
    Craig Seanor
  20. Elbert Lee

    Elbert Lee Supporting Actor

    May 24, 2000
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    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.


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