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HTF REVIEW: "Vanilla Sky" (with screenshots) (1 Viewer)

Ronald Epstein

Senior HTF Member
Jul 3, 1997
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

Rob Gillespie

Senior HTF Member
Aug 17, 1998
Nice review Ron, however my appreciation of the film is slightly more certain than yours - I loved it. :)

Michael Dueppen

Stunt Coordinator
Sep 19, 2000
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.


Nov 27, 2000
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. :) I'll give it a rental and see what the heck this movie is all about.
Thanks for the review.


Second Unit
Apr 14, 2002
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.


Senior HTF Member
Apr 15, 2002

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

Pierre Gagne

Nov 12, 1998
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.


Matt Pelham

Mar 13, 2002
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.

Mark Bendiksen

Mar 16, 1999
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.

Richard Kim

Senior HTF Member
Jan 29, 2001
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.


Supporting Actor
May 1, 2000
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.


May 10, 2002
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.

Eric T

Second Unit
Apr 1, 2001
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.


Senior HTF Member
Mar 4, 2001
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.


Senior HTF Member
Dec 11, 2000
Real Name
Steve Gonzales
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? :D
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!

Craig S

Senior HTF Member
Mar 4, 2000
League City, Texas
Real Name
Craig Seanor
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.

Elbert Lee

Supporting Actor
May 24, 2000
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.


Peter D

Stunt Coordinator
Aug 16, 2000
I think Vanilla Sky is definitely one of those movies that elicits a strong reaction in either direction - you love it or you hate it. It worked for me, but I'd probably recommend renting it first to most folks.

I also have to say that I really liked Kurt Russell in this flick. He didn't seem to get a lot of notice, but it was nice to see him in a supporting role that he was very well-suited for.

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