- Nov 15, 2001
- Real Name
- Neil Middlemiss
Tom Cruise has an extraordinary body of work – and a solid bulk of his greatest work have been released by Paramount Pictures. This collection of some of his very best and most successful films runs the gamut of his roles. From the cocky pilot and driver in director Tony Scott’s Top Gun and Days of Thunder, to two of the very best science-fiction films of the last 30 years delivered by director Steven Spielberg, Minority Report and War of the Worlds, to finally Cruise’s darkest role as the contract killer Vincent in director Michael Mann’s excellent Collateral, this collection is a superb sampling of the actor’s filmography. With a delightfully low price-point, this collection is highly recommended.
Tom Cruise Blu-Ray Collection
Top Gun/Collateral/Minority Report/War of the Worlds/Days of Thunder
Studio: Paramount Pictures / DreamWorks Studios
US Rating: Top Gun: PG, Collateral: Rated R for Violence and Language, Minority Report: PG-13 For Violence, Brief Language, Some Sexuality and Drug Content, War of the Worlds: PG-13 For Frightening Sequences of Sci-Fi Violence and Disturbing Images, Days of Thunder: PG-13
Film Length: Top Gun: 109 Mins, Collateral: 120 Mins, Minority Report: 146 Mins, War of the Worlds: 117 Mins, Days of Thunder: 107 Mins
Video: All Films AVC MPEG-4 1080P High Definition
Aspect Ratio: Top Gun: 2.20:1, Collateral: 2.35:1, Minority Report: 2.35:1, War of the Worlds: 1.85:1, Days of Thunder: 2.35:1
Audio: Top Gun: DTS-HD Master Audio English 6.1, English 5.1 Dolby Digital TrueHD, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Collateral: English 5.1 TDS-HD MA, French 5.1 Dolby Digital & Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Minority Report: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital, War of the Worlds: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French, Spanish and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Days of Thunder: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish and French 5.1 (Dolby Digital)
Subtitles: Top Gun: English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese, Collateral: English, English SDH, French, Spanish & Portuguese, Minority Report: English, English SDH, French, and Spanish, War of the Worlds: English, English SDH, French, and Spanish, Days of Thunder: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish
Release Date: November 15, 2011
Review Date: October 30, 2011
Top Gun - 3.5/ 5
Maverick (Tom Cruise) is the king of the skies. Confident, cocky, and at times careless, he might just be the best of the best. When Maverick and his co-pilot, Goose (Anthony Edwards) are selected to attend the elite flight school to compete for the coveted title of ‘Top Gun’, the competitive environment and high-octane action lead to trouble. Maverick falls for Charlie (Kelly McGillis) – the civilian instructor, engages in a taut rivalry with another fighter pilot, Iceman, and happily flaunts authority.
Top Gun helped launch Tom Cruise’s stellar career and with good reason. Cool headed, handsome, charming, and easily likeable, Cruise – despite being shorter than the traditional leading man – had everything that the big screen and alike audiences cheerfully absorb. And there’s a seriousness about Cruise’s performance – even amongst the predictable ‘rah-rah’ and teed up fist pumping – that serves as a presage for some of his finer performances in works like Magnolia and Minority Report.
Before his long days and nights as Dr. Mark Greene on NBC’s megahit ER, Anthony Edwards sported a porn moustache to play Goose. The role, an outgoing, easy to like, all-American farm boy type, suited Edwards nicely. In the film he’s married to a very young Meg Ryan whose role is a little larger than I remembered as a free-spirited southern lovely. As Maverick’s main antagonistic rival is Iceman, played by a reportedly reluctant Val Kilmer. Kilmer doesn’t really get to say or do very much beyond expressing annoyance and irritation at Maverick’s ways but he does just fine with what he’s given. Kilmer was reported as not wanting to be in the film but appeared due to contractual obligations. If true, one can’t see that in his performance.
Top Gun, beyond all the testosterone aggression and fighter pilot shenanigans, was a love story between Cruise’s Maverick and McGillis’ Charlie. There is chemistry between them but it is slight. The heavy use of the Berlin ballad “Take my Breath Away” hammered home the love element of the story just as Kenny Loggins’ “Highway to the Danger Zone” hammered home the jet action. It’s all a little clumsy but these two songs in particular helped define the Top Gun experience.
So does it hold up today? Well, yes and no. The plot is straightforward and uncomplicated, staged for the audience to root for the cocky protagonists and filled with the kind of Americana that action films of the 80’s were layered thick with. It’s an easy film to have fun with – fighter jets, motorcycles (a sweet looking Kawasaki Ninja 900 / GPz900R), good guys against bad guys, a dash of the underdog, and enough cheese to make the entire state of Wisconsin proud. But it’s a little too straightforward and the plotting is uneven. Surprisingly, the predictable hero ending doesn’t exactly come to pass as one might have expected, but there’s celebration to be had all the same.
Top Gun moves at a brisk pace – and the aerial photography is a chief character in the film – but beyond the simplicity of the outline and the peppering of new and familiar talents, like Val Kilmer and Tom Skerrit, there really isn’t much to it. Tony Scott – brother of Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner) – is the more commercially inclined director and has defined his films through mosaic cuts, orange sky filters, and A-B-C plotting (with the exception of Déjà vu). Top Gun represents the early stages of his style’s evolution, but this film is undoubtedly his.
Collateral - 4/ 5
Tom Cruise stars as Vincent, a cold contract killer in Los Angeles for one night. Chance or fate sets him in the taxi driven by Max (Jamie Foxx) where he coerces the kind cabbie to make 5 stops so that he can complete his ‘5 jobs’. Max tries several times to escape his dire situation but each failure reaps more bloodshed. Max must find a way to stop the killing and save himself before the night is over. Cruise is at his darkest and perhaps most surprising as the pepper-haired hit man. The construct of setting the events over the course of one night maintains a palpable tension and cohesiveness to the drama, rendering Collateral one of director Michael Mann’s most potent films.
Beyond the killer/cabbie partnership in which Jamie Foxx’s Max is the unwilling participant, Collateral is built around the verbal dynamic between the characters. Hit after hit, Max struggles with his fear of the out-of-control predicament in which he finds himself, and Cruise’s Vincent takes it all in stride. Additional strands of plot and story – such as the L.A. detectives (Mark Ruffelo, Peter Berg) playing catch up through the crime scenes left behind, and the honest and natural attraction and connection Max experienced with Annie (played by the criminally underrated Jada Pinkett Smith), a ride whom he had just dropped off when he picked up Vincent, flesh out the world of Mann’s L.A. and add dimension to an already compelling film.
Michael Mann’s filming technique and cameras used on Collateral were the direct result of his experience producing the quality but short-lived CBS show, Robbery Homicide Division – hand-held, natural/city lighting used as the primary or sole source; a very spur of the moment sense of filmmaking sufficiently apt for the scene and story. There is a distinct favoring of mosaic shots setting both a mood and tone to the picture. Snaps of city streets and street lights bleeding across the car windows, the unnaturally electric lights of Los Angeles establishing a cold, unknowing outside that Foxx’s character can only feel ignored by. It is a spectacular form for this thriller to have taken. Mann would seek to accomplish the same sense in 2006’s big screen adaptation of Miami Vice – but an excess of the style coupled with characters audiences could not recognize or connect to – doomed that venture. In Collateral – we so easily identify with Max and become invested in him surviving his unsettling circumstances that, despite finding some sense of awe of Cruise’s Vincent, root for the cabbie wholeheartedly.
Though Collateral is often cited as the rare occasion where Tom Cruise shed his likable good-guy image to play a terrifically cold killer, it is Jamie Foxx’s everyman performance that stands the furthest out. Foxx demonstrates great maturity and ability as the cabbie thrust into a grim nightmare chauffeuring a hit-man around Los Angeles and this role is a great foreshadowing of his Oscar winning turn as Ray Charles.
Collateral is a collision, a conflagration of the impenetrably stoic and sterile killer instincts of Vincent and the calm and open-hearted, likable Max. The dynamic that exists between them, as it ebbs and flows between tenuous connection and diametric opposites – is the engine that fuels this thrilling, superbly gripping film.
Minority Report- 4/ 5
The short stories of Phillip K. Dick have proven to be fertile ground for cinema. Both the successful (Blade Runner, Total Recall), and the underappreciated (Imposter, Screamers), have at the very least attempted to deliver contemplative concepts amidst futuristic settings, and often with explosive action. Minority Report, based on one of Dick’s short stories of the same name, provides both adaptation staples – the action and the philosophy - without missing a beat.
The film opens in the year 2054, and a program known as PreCrime has been in place for 6 years in the D.C metropolitan area, effectively wiping out murder. The success of the six-year pilot has led to the possibility of pre-crime going nationwide. The prevention of murder is possible because of the pre-cogs; three humans blessed (or rather cursed) with the ability to see the traumatic events of murder before it occurs. They simply exist; perpetually immersed in a trance like state, floating in a premonitory conducting substance, and only speaking to repeat the words of a villain, or victim to be, from the future echoes that they are receiving. Premeditated murder can be seen days in advance; however, unpremeditated murder, born of passion, is much harder to see, giving detectives less than an hour at times to prevent that crime from taking place.
The team of detectives tasked with administering the pre-crime justice is led by Chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise), under the mentoring eye of the program’s director, Lamar Burgess (Max Von Sydow). On the verge of becoming a national initiative, a cocky representative from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Danny Witwer, arrives to evaluate the system, and look for flaws. Shortly after Witwer’s arrival, Anderton is identified as the committer of a future murder and becomes a fugitive from his team, racing against the countdown to a murder he is seen to commit in the future in an effort to find out why, and, risking the fabric of the system he exalts, try to change that future.
Tom Cruise is an exceptional action star; unfairly maligned in tabloid nonsense, his propensity for choosing good projects and portraying characters with skill and intensity is almost uniquely his. Cruise has long had a willingness to portray characters with flaws, albeit more superficial flaws; but occasionally he leaps with faith in to characters that are almost unlikable, in films like Magnolia, and as an irrepressible sleaze in Vanilla Sky. I genuinely believe his performance as John Anderton is strikingly well played and of more depth than even, I think, the screenplay intended – with demons, full-fledged imperfections and weaknesses, and without a strong footing in his world now turned up-side-down. He is excellent in this role.
Comfortably playing his foil is Collin Ferrell, portraying a gum-chewing, smugly by-the-book type who fails to see beyond his mandate in prodding around the PreCrime facility. Farrell is confident here, straightforward, and straight-laced. As the steward of Pre-Crime, Max Von Sydow is unsurprisingly solid and well-cast. But the real standout in this film is Samantha Morton as Agatha. At once distant and integral to the story, her performance requires compassion, and she throws herself whole into the childlike panic and fear of her precognitive burden, with emotionally resonating results.
Spielberg treats the subject matter with staid intention, never conceding even during the more fantastical elements of the story. And this is where Minority Report triumphs the most. The even-handed, creative directing, and gritty, washed out feel of the celluloid add gravity to this daylight Blade Runner-esque adventure. Helping too is the exceptional production design. From the commercialism abound in public places to the hive of tagged and stored criminals in the ‘Hall of Containment’; there is fluidity to the spaces designed and built, and movement through and among them, that works very well. The room holding the precogs in particular is an interesting design. That room, referred to as a ‘temple’ (the three precogs are given reverence, as Anderton early in the film displays when, after the description of their sterile existence is explained, states “its better if you don’t think of them as human”), is simple, functional, and futuristic, and is just one example of a plethora of fine design work.
The film moves at an extremely brisk pace; the action sequences are as tense as they are thrilling, and you’ll find that you rarely, if ever, stop to question the plausibility of the events. In this superb creative ground, where the future is as misguided as it is advanced (much like the world of A.I.), Spielberg is happy to take risks, and explore ways to adapt his directorial sensibilities. The seedy underbelly of the city, the rat infested-run down apartment complexes, and the dire commercialism of the American shopping experience are all explored here; each with swift camera movements and moments of tongue in cheek humor, and each with the maturing stamp of the director’s hand.
Steven Spielberg changed somewhat after he directed the devastating and powerful Schindler’s list. It could have been the deeply personal material he was bringing to the screen, or it could simply have been the influence of his newfound Director of Photography, the keen and dark eye of Janusz Kaminski. Spielberg had rarely been so enamored with a DP until his experience on his Oscar winning film about the WWII holocaust of the Jews. He worked with a blend of greats on his pictures before then, including the great Dean Cundy (Jurassic Park, Hook), Allen Daviau (The Color Purple, Empire of the Sun, E.T.), Douglas Slocombe (Raiders of the Lost Ark,Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) and Mikael Solomon (Always). But the grittier, more light innovative qualities of Kaminski’s work proved an important influence; most notably in Spielberg’s return to blockbuster material directly following List, The Lost World, where bleeding white lights from off-frame, and in-frame sources, and a reliance on the gravity of shadows, provided a somber tone to certain scenes. That visual look and feel perfectly suits the material of Minority Report, and Spielberg handles the look, and the material, with his experienced hand very well.
Science Fiction is at its peak when complex moral or societal quandaries are explored via analogy or allegory with visions of possibility. The blazing visual and special effects that accompany the very best; those with concepts that tweak the resting state of general moral ambivalence, or force contemplation of social constructs and norms, or of deeper matters of beingness, sentience, and humanity, are just the cherry on top. Minority Report isn’t the quintessential concept sci-fi thriller (that, in my mind, is Blade Runner’s title to own), but it succeeds in faithfully delivering thrills, action spectacle, and ruminations of moral quandaries – and it’s just so darn good!
War of the Worlds - 4/5
Author H.G. Wells imagined an unprepared England in the closing years of the nineteenth century overwhelmed by malevolent Martian invaders laying waste to London, and surrounding areas, with enormous mechanized tripods. Wells’ War of the Worlds became an instant success, but gained a certain notoriety following the 1938 version adapted by the great Orson Welles, which transferred the events from England to the American state of New Jersey, and was presented with a fervor of realism. The radio play’s realism – born of a ‘breaking news’ format - led to millions of panicked listeners. Orson Welles soon apologized for stirring such panic with his production, which he produced and directed. He seemed contrite and perhaps a little surprised by the effects of his dramatic radio production, but War of the Worlds had found a new medium in which to startle and impress.
The first-person narrative of Author Wells’ tale – almost journalistic – was expertly expanded upon for the 1938 radio production (broadcast on the eve of Halloween). Then, in 1953, Paramount Pictures released the first cinematic adaptation, and the results were remarkable. Again, setting the events in America, and based on variations of the 1938 radio version, War of the Worlds was a marvel of superb production, superb special effects, and superb sound effects (which even today conjure notions of doom and destruction). Despite a short-lived television series, which served as a sequel more than a retelling, and two horrendous SyFy Channel television movies (and a 50th anniversary radio production), the only other notable adaptation prior to the Spielberg’s ambitious 2005 work is the 1978 musical by Jeff Wayne, which featured Richard Burton’s narration, and a pop-disco fueled soundtrack that is as fantastic a listen today as it has ever been. And so, the notion of Steven Spielberg tackling the seminal H.G. Wells story was riddled with both possibility and trepidation. However, despite some loose creative freedoms, the Tom Cruise-led remake is a distinct success.
In the industrial suburban section of New Jersey, divorced father of two, Ray Ferrier nonchalantly takes steward of his children from his ex-wife for the weekend. His teenage son clearly would rather be anywhere but there, and his precocious daughter, seemingly at ease with needing to self-parent given her father’s inescapable selfish immaturity, is entirely too grown up for her age. Ray lives a modest, somewhat unkempt life, and his visiting children seem more a nuisance than a welcome visit. When an afternoon storm rouses the neighborhood with its foreboding dark clouds, and fierce lightning concentrated in one spot, the dysfunctional familial life of the Ferrier’s is on the cusp of incredible upheaval.
Investigating the location where the lighting struck, an intersection several blocks from his house, Ray and the small working-class New Jersey neighborhood is soon witness to the cataclysmic unearthing of a mechanized craft; a tripod threat which begins spraying a death-ray – evaporating to ash and dust all who are caught in its path. And thus begins the carnage and devastation of an extra-terrestrial malicious force bent on the annihilation of humanity.
Ray takes his young daughter and estranged son, barely escaping the destruction of his entire neighborhood, on a journey to reunite them with their mother; a seemingly unselfish act, but in many ways, he doesn’t know what to do with his children when the world isn’t coming to an end, and the bizarre and terrible events have thrust him into a place where he can only think to turn to their mother. They will witness utter devastation from crashed planes, destroyed neighborhoods, rivers strewn with the dead, the ineffectiveness of the U.S. Militaries counter-offensive, and the panic, stupidity, and futility of human desperation.
War of the Worlds, aside from modernization and a migration from Victorian England, is quite faithful to the source novel. Adapting to a post 9/11 sensibility, the action is dark and serious, and a somber tone permeates even the more incredible sequences. For the source material, this is perfect. End of the world movies come in several flavors, and excluding those that concern themselves with the walking dead, they generally fall in to two categories; ‘blow ‘em up’ popcorn-fests and disquieting dramas (think Wind in the Willows). Spielberg, with his ever-deft directorial hand and innate sense of action splendor, has almost forged a third category; a serious toned, dark and gritty look at the emotional and human chaos of such terrible act, but with the pacing, production value, and unrelenting action set-pieces of more standard summer-fare. The result is a refreshingly somber take on an action spectacle, with the familial dynamic – which is in no way original – serving here as a wonderful companion.
The family dynamic succeeds in this tale in large part from the brisk script and the fine talent assembled to work it. Tom Cruise, who is sorely underrated as an actor (and unfairly ridiculed far too often), serves to elevate the role to something beyond the nature of the film he is in. His character’s selfish ways and flippant tendencies, which crash head-long into the necessities of survival and the inadequacies of his preparation, give Cruise a role of more dimension. Not unlike Spielberg and Cruises first collaboration in Minority Report, the result is a triumph for the actor. Dakota Fanning manages to turn a character which could have grated the nerves (she has several freak-out moments), into a genuinely likeably and empathy stirring little girl. As her brother, Robbie, is Justin Chatwin. The role is essentially written as a typical withdrawn teen, but Chatwin succeeds in having his character make sense, and, as with Fanning, manages to create a likeable, relatable young person.
Spielberg, directing from a screenplay by David Koepp (with Josh Friedman), keeps an energy and pace quite unlike his other works. While we are fortunate to be given genuine character time before the destruction begins, Spielberg retains the familial focus during every sequence, whether it is the extraordinary action set-pieces as the aliens rise from the earth, or as they attack the exodus of survivors crossing the Hudson River by ferry, or the intense cat-and-mouse sequence in the basement of the crazy Ogilvy character (portrayed by Tim Robbins), the core emotional resonance of the scene is the family.
In almost every way, War of the Worlds is great entertainment. The visual effects are nothing short of splendid, created and rendered by the experienced hands of Industrial Light & Magic, and John Williams score, a dissonant and sorrowful blend of strings, brass, electronics and human voice, is an audacious creation.
Days of Thunder - 3.5/5
1990 was the start of a new decade that would explode with computer generated imagery driven effects films and ever more summer event films that would grow bigger and bigger. Days of Thunder in many ways represents the beginning of the end of the pre-CGI era, where computer effects would become the staple of summer blockbusters. This film is a stock summer action film with a big name star in top billing and a tried and true plot line to hang its car racing world storyline on and populated with familiar character types doing exactly what they are intended to do, and nothing more.
Tom Cruise stars as Cole Trickle, a cocksure, premeditated winner with flaws of ego and persistence and a relatively steep learning curve to traverse in the world of stock car racing. He is hired by a businessman to help launch a start-up racing team along with a legendary crew chief. After an impressive initial test run for a doubting audience, Trickle quickly makes an impression following by a rocky round of initial races and a quickly established rivalry with the current top dog of NASCAR racing, Rowdy Burns. It isn’t long before Trickle’s talent burns through his initial inexperience and the work to win the Winston Cup at the Daytona 500 is on.
Days of Thunder is a silly film. It’s rounded into a pure cylinder of superfluous nonsense and for some reason beyond all understanding, it is a total blast. The film is designed entirely to be Top Gun on four wheels and a track, delving lightly into the surface world of NASCAR and existing there only to tell an all too familiar story about an outsider with talent who rises quickly, suffers emotional and professional setbacks before gunning to the close with a triumphant blaze of tire burning glory.
The plot trappings haven’t aged so well in the now nineteen years since this film roared into theaters. It was a common plotline even back then and in the intervening years, has been worn by even more films seeking to ride success by having the underdog triumph. Despite the less than engaging plot, Days of Thunder remains a well-made film, exciting and action packed. The racing sequences hold up extremely well, thanks in large part to the attention to detail and taut editing style of director Tony Scott.
And the director once again brings excitement to a slice of male dominated action with his unique eye. Scott does for race cars in Days of Thunder what he did for fighter jets in Top Gun, getting the action to scream across the screen while respecting the venue that he is telling his story. He respects NASCAR but, despite being set amongst that world, it doesn’t really feel like a NASCAR related movie. I am not sure if that is a good or bad thing. Oddly enough, Will Ferrell’s Talladega Nights produced a more authentic NASCAR feel, cleverly mocking and celebrating that world. All in all, Days of Thunder is a movie that just happens to be set in that racing environment, but exists to really just be about male egos and driving fast.
The cast does well enough for the material. Tom Cruise shows signs of some good decisions for his character that are early indications of what he has to offer as an actor of stronger caliber. He allows his character to be foolish as much as talented which helps take the edge off the ego needed to explain many of the actions Cole undertakes. His is not an obviously likeable character, but with the interactions he has with Robert Duvall’s Harry Hogge crew chief, and the bond they develop, he opens up and becomes more likable. Duvall as the experienced, fatherly Hogge wears the character well, playing the role with ease and what seems like and embedded familiarity – perhaps this role closely mirrors Duvall’s natural sense. Nicole Kidman as the love interest is even keeled but a tad dull. There is a little chemistry between her and Cruise’s Cole Trickle, and the romance is treated as a plot ingredient rather than a focus and feels exactly like that throughout. Michael Rooker plays Rowdy Burns with the right level of smugness and ego to bring the character 180 degrees by the end the time he must ask Cole to drive his car for him and Randy Quaid as the businessman owner of the race team plays the self-centered character straight. Finally, Cary Elwes as the late addition foe to Cole Trickle is a little too smarmy and unlikable to be taken seriously.
Days of Thunder is soft in places despite its earnest attempt (and Hans Zimmer’s overcooked guitar laden score) to rev up the machismo, but still manages to be entertaining after twenty years or so years.
Top Gun - 4/ 5
Struck a few years ago, Paramount’s HD 1080p HD transfer is generally strong but contains just a few areas of weakness. The level of fine detail, particularly in close-ups, is impressive, as are the detail revealed of the sets – such as the briefing room, karaoke bar, and in the cockpit. In fact, the cockpit shots are perhaps the finest example of this transfer. Paramount didn’t commission a new HD transfer for this release so this is the one used for the previous Blu-ray.
The opening shot is the most problematic – with noticeable distortion in the smoke on the Carrier deck as the crew prep the jet launches. The issue with this opening sequence shot has been around since Top Gun appeared on home media so one would have to assume at this point that the problems are with the source material and not the transfer. There are one or two moments throughout the film where some digital tinkering is noticeable – but so brief are these moments that it should not be a bother.
Top Gun was released on both 70MM and 35MM so determining if we are presented with the original aspect ratio isn’t possible, but the 2.20:1 framing is perfectly suitable for this release. I would have expected more grain than is seen here, but did not see this in the theater and, well, even if I had I don’t think me as an 11 year old would have taken much notice of the image quality! As it stands, this is a great looking disc.
Collateral - 4.5/ 5
Collateral, framed at 2.35:1, is a delight to witness in high definition. Shot almost entirely using high definition cameras – and almost entirely at night – the look of Collateral is distinct. Detail is surprisingly good given the reliance on street and other naturally occurring artificial light as the primary source, but the shooting technique genuinely added to the core of the film and this Blu-ray release is wonderfully representative of that. Colors are natural though do tend toward the colder end of the spectrum (by creative choice). Digital noise is noticeable but that is part of the canvass of this film and so its appearance should be welcomed.
Minority Report- 4/ 5
Presented in its original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 in 1080p High Definition (reportedly created by LaserPacific, who struck a new 4K master), Minority Report looks just as I recall it did when I saw it theatrically. Compared to the sDVD release, this edition is richer with the saturated colors, the few spots of brighter colors (reds, orange) that show up infrequently are not muted as before, and the depth of blacks is impressive. But the true triumph here is the retention of the film grain. It is present in all scenes and it is faithfully left alone. The saturation of colors brings out the grain inherent to the 35mm (Kodak Vision 500T, Vision 800T 5289, Eastman EXR 200T5293, Fuji Super F-500T 8572) film on which it was shot, and its presence is consistent with the gritty tone of the material. This won’t be the best material to showcase to the uneducated about film grain, just what HD can do, but the more discerning viewer will watch with pleasure an image loyal to its source.
The elements are all here; deep blacks, remarkably bright, clean, and issue free whites (no crush or blooming), and the presence of the use of digital noise reduction appropriate, and edge enhancement missing. This is exactly how this film should be seen.
War of the Worlds -4/5
Presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, War of the Worlds continues Paramount Pictures recent spate of fine transfers. Sporting no obvious evidence of DNR, the image is faithful to how I experienced the film theatrically, with film grain present, and Director of Photography Janusz Kaminski’s tendency to crash light and dark into scenes, with blooming bright spots, and a decidedly gritty sense to most scenes (which isn’t betrayed by the look of the visual effects) unhindered. I have commented on Kiminski’s influence on the look (and by extension, the tone) of Spielberg’s films for a while now, and with the exception of the last Indiana Jones entry, Kaminski’s footprint is clear; a dark, foreboding style which favors fierce, if singular, lighting sources to create a pronounced effect on the subjects within the scene. Consider the Ferry sequence, with prominent lighting sources in scene, and then from the attacking tripods as well, creates a wonderful mix of bright lights and under lighting which delivers a vivid look. Colors are mostly subdued; though the red fertilizer spread by the aliens (another faithful element to the book) is vibrant.
Days of Thunder - 3.5/ 5
As the movie begins, the signs are not promising. Dirt and flecks pop and speckle the image. The stock footage looks exactly like stock footage, with a lot of dirt. Things improve as the film progresses and the 2.35:1 widescreen image with an AVC MPEG-4 codec starts to better reflect its 1080p High Definition transfer, but weaknesses persist. Tony Scott’s signature style is on full display here, but the familiar extreme lights of dusk, dawn and early mornings and late afternoons show off issues with the transfer. Silhouettes and shadows aren’t as crisp as they could have been. Noise in the skies and a few other telltale signs of an unhealthy print don’t sink this Blu-ray but will no doubt not live up to your expectations of this next generation media format. This is a vast improvement over the non-anamorphic DVD version I had in my library, but I wasn’t blown away.
Top Gun - 4.5/ 5
The DTS-HD Master Audio English 6.1 is a beast. The rumble from the fighter jets will shake your foundations. The song-laden soundtrack – which helped propel the soundtrack sales – is terrific sounding throughout the speakers. Surround audio in particular is quite rambunctious and dialogue is issue free in the center channel. I was pleased with how the synth heavy (and not always fitting) score by Harold Faltymyer came across. I should also note that the cues as heard in the film are not well placed, with awkward transitions between scenes and between score and song. But is all sounds crisp and powerful on this Blu-ray.
Collateral - 4/ 5
Paramount delivers Collateral with a terrific DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio option. Precious little non-naturally occurring sound is to be heard during the film and so it is the ambient sounds that collectively provide the bulk of what we hear. Heavily focused on dialogue, the center channel provides the lion’s share of that. Bursts of sound – from falling victims onto cars or gun shots that echo loudly in suburban settings - ring around the speakers wonderfully. Club music prompt the subwoofer to kick in from time to time, but the real power of this audio is the aforementioned ambient sounds of city life at night. It is in the quiet moments where whispers of the world outside of Vincent and Max creep in that this audio shines – in its restraint.
Minority Report- 4/5
Paramount Pictures brings Minority Report to blu for the first time with an aggressive English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, and the results are terrific. While the sDVD version delivered healthy Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 audio tracks, the performance of the DTS-HD MA track is filled with greater clarity, heavy boom, more pervasive rumbling from the LFE, and is free of issues. The surround speakers deliver, especially in the entertaining action sequences (the Maglev escape, the car factory), where the hum and whiz of cars zip through the speakers, or the clang, cut, and crash of machinery assembling cars are pronounced in the front, and strong in the subwoofer. Clear and rumble heavy, this is a solid audio.
War of the Worlds - 4.5/ 5
With an excellent English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track (as well as French, Spanish and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital track options), War of the Worlds has never sounded better at home. Naturally, the action sequences are abounding with deep excursions in to the bass and LFE (which a good sub-woofer relishes). The cacophony of sound effects employed are produced with clarity throughout the speakers, with the alien sound effects (especially the ‘death ray’) punching in the front channels, and when the scene calls for it, delivering in the surrounds. Morgan Freeman’s fine narration is eerily lifelike in the center channel (bookending the film). As with the image, the audio is the finest this film has been presented with for your home theater.
Days of Thunder - 3.5/ 5
Paramount Pictures brings this Tom Cruise action vehicle (pun intended) to Blu-Ray for the first time with a slightly above average English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio track. The racing sequences are very strong in the front channels and sweep across the surrounds nicely. The bass is deep, but the subwoofer doesn’t rumble quite as rambunctiously as you might expect for the array of throaty engines, squealing tires and fender smashes that are offered up throughout. Dialogue in the center channels is clean but just very slightly soft. The audio track suits the film and despite missing an opportunity to thunder through the subwoofer and wrap around in the surrounds but it shouldn’t be too disappointing.
Top Gun - 3.5/ 5
The special features available on this disc – which were compiled for the 25th Anniversary release – are really quite good. The production and consultant commentary is a revealing listen though probably more for the unflappable fans than those of a more casual nature. The six part documentary covers quite a bit of ground and is worth the time to enjoy – as are the four key music videos which retain the 80s feel a heck of lot more than the film itself does. Overall, a pleasing set of extras.
Commentary by producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Tony Scott, co-screenwriter Jack Epps, Jr. and naval experts
Danger Zone: The Making of Top Gun (six-part documentary)
Multi-Angle Storyboards with optional commentary by Tony Scott
Best of the Best: Inside the Real Top Gun
Kenny Loggins—“Danger Zone”
Berlin—“Take My Breath Away”
Loverboy—“Heaven In Your Eyes”
Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens—“Top Gun Anthem”
Survival Training Featurette
Tom Cruise Interviews
Collateral - 4/5
Commentary by Director Michael Mann: Michael Mann is known for his perfectionism; his meticulous attention to detail and pursuit of very particular elements when shooting his pictures (even when such details don’t appear to be terribly meaningful to others) – and so this commentary is a wonderful opportunity to hear the director himself explain and express his perspective and reasoning for many things. This commentary represents a great dissection of the film and the type of film that Mann was making. Mann has made a number of great films – Heat, Manhunter among others, and hearing him talk about film, purpose and the meaning of his mise en scene is a genuine treat.
City of Night: The Making of Collateral (40:58): This surprisingly in-depth making of features interviews with Director Michael Mann and the principle stars discuss the film, the element of chance, the reasons of fate, and the intriguing story and skill of the director.
Shooting on Location: Annie’s Office (2:24): This special feature – as we listen to director Michael Mann – really pulls back to the bare essentials of the story Mann is telling, that of a hunter with extreme skill prowling the unsuspecting city of Los Angeles at night while the world goes on unaware.
Tom Cruise & Jamie Foxx Rehearse (4:13): Interesting footage of Cruise and Foxx rehearsing the key first hit scene.
Visual Effects: MTA Train (2:27): Mann’s attention to detail is on full display here as he discusses the customization of the background visual effects as the train travels through the city.
Special Delivery (1:09): Interesting (and extremely brief) special feature following Tom Cruise disguised as a Fed-Ex delivery guy in an experiment to have the hugely recognizable face of Cruise blend in to the crowd as his Vincent character is designed to do.
Deleted Scene with Commentary (1:58): Mann talks about a scene excised from the final cut and the decision to leave it out to maintain the momentum of the other story elements
Teaser and Theatrical Trailer
Minority Report- 0/5
No extras (all the extras were contained on the second disc of the original Blu-ray release.
War of the Worlds - 3.5/ 5
All special features are standard definition, 1.33:1 unless otherwise noted.
Revisting the Invasion (7:39):Director Steven Spielberg discusses the ideas of alien invasions, and the original War of the Worlds. He discusses influences such as This Island Earth and Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (and their metaphors for the Communist threat) and how the War of the Worlds tale now speaks allegorically of post 9/11 America. Tom Cruise shares how his second collaboration with this director came about, and how writer David Koepp’s talents influenced what should ‘not’ be in this ‘end of the world’ film.
The H.G. Wells Legacy (6:34):Family members of author Wells discuss their famous relative.
Steven Spielberg and the Original War of the Worlds (7:59): Spielberg discusses the original film and bringing Gene Berry and Ann Robinson from the 1953 film version for cameo’s, and we hear from Dennis Muren (a special and visual effects God) which is always a treat. There are some great discussions of the original 1953 film from the stars and behind the scenes shots from that film.
Characters: The Family Unit (13:21): A look at creating the family at the heart of the film, from their costumes to demeanors and to the casting.
Previsualizations (7:42): Previsualizing sequences helps directors, DoP’s, and visual effects crews plan sequences when the day of filming arrives, and Spielberg, a long-time a fan of creating on the day, relied upon pre-vis for the complex visual effects sequences, animating the storyboards to facilitate smoother day-of filming.
Production Diaries (1:32:00): Broken in to four chapters (East Cost: Beginning (22:30), East Coast: Exile (19:39), West Coast: Destruction (27:29), and West Coast: War (22:20), this extra feature follows the creation of the film, with interviews with principle production players (including Janusz Kiminski, Colin Wilson and Kathleen Kennedy (producers), Visual effects crew, and more). The look behind creating some of the impressive sets, such as the plane crash (which admittedly produces some of the bigger logic strains), is good to see.
Designing the Enemy: Tripods and Aliens (14:07): Creating the Tripods to be scary themselves (and not just vehicles carrying something that is scary), was a wise decision, and a look at some concept designs is welcome. The previsualizations and artist concepts of the Tripods and Aliens show the evolution of the design to its final point, which achieves its aims (to frighten and step just a little outside what we have long seen before).
Scoring War of the Worlds (11:56): Legendary composer John Williams discusses his scoring of War of the Worlds in intriguing detail. Score lovers will relish this brief 12 minutes.
We are Not Alone (3:14): An odd three minutes which in essence merely shares Spielberg’s father’s inspiration to conjure imagination when looking up at the stars.
Galleries: Images of Costume Designer Joanna Johnston, Production Stills, Behind the Scenes, and production sketches can be perused using your remote..
Theatrical Teaser Trailer (HD) (1:59)
Days of Thunder - 1/ 5
Theatrical Trailer - In HD
This collection contains some of Tom Cruises best and most popular films. Although not all of the special features that are available on the individual releases is included (only those special features that were contained on single-disc release or releases where the extras were on the same disc as the feature), the price-point – averaging approximately $7 a movie from Amazon.com as of this review – must make this exceptionally tempting for those who are just now getting into Bly-ray or those who have yet to pick up this collection of five highly entertaining and solid films.
Overall (Not an average)