Title: Vanilla Sky (2001)
Format: Blu-ray (Paramount Presents)
Release Date: Nov. 16, 2021
Price: $22.99 (List: $24.99) Buy on Amazon
Format: 4k Blu-ray/Blu-ray/Digital
Release Date: June 20, 2023
Price: $21.95 (List: $24.99) Buy on Amazon
Vanilla Sky (2001) was remastered from a new 4k transfer for release on 2k Blu-ray on November 16, 2021. The limited edition is No. 27 in the Paramount Presents series and along with the 1080p Blu-ray includes a code to redeem a Digital Copy through either Apple iTunes or Vudu via ParamountMovies.com. Note: Scroll down for the review of the 4k Blu-ray upgrade released on June 20, 2023.
I have to admit it was kind of exciting reviewing just a plain-ol’ Blu-ray after focusing mainly on 4K BDs and HDR so much. It’s also exciting when you come across a Blu-ray that holds up pretty darn well against 4k in terms of image quality, something we’ve found in 1080p-only releases such as Netflix’s The Crown and Paramount’s Star Trek: Discovery series.
The Paramount Presents line of limited edition packaged media typically restores older films with new 4k transfers that are presented on Blu-ray with improvements and sometimes new bonus material. The packaging usually provides imagery on the inside of the plastic Blu-ray case and a mini-foldout poster from the slipcover. The series started with a bang with the release of Fatal Attraction (1987) and is now up to almost 30 titles.
Vanilla Sky is a Cameron Crowe/Tom Cruise production that can be labeled as a psychological drama with a bit of sci-fi interwoven. Cruise plays the role of David Aames, a young and wealthy media icon who has the misfortune of being disfigured after a car crash.
The film is a remake of Alejandro Amenábar’s Abre Los Ojos “Open Your Eyes” released in 1997 and even stars Penélope Cruz in both films as Aames’ love interest Sophie. In fact, the opening and ending scenes to each movie are almost exact bookends, as well as much of the middle comment. Even some of the color palettes are the same.
Besides Cruz though the cast members are different. In Vanilla Sky Cameron Diaz plays Julie Gianni, the woman who stalks and tries to kill David Aames. And, Kurt Russell stars as Dr. Curtis McCabe, the doctor in Aames’ lucid dreams.
Vanilla Sky is a little bit Fatal Attraction (given Diaz’s character Julie), a little bit Phantom of the Opera (well, it’s the mask), and some Eyes Wide Shut (referencing the obvious Tom Cruise connection but also in the exploration of dream states that turn nightmares into reality). After 20 years, it’s definitely revisiting this film in its restored state.
Video (HD 1080p)
The 1080p AVC video presentation of Vanilla Sky streamed mainly in the low-to-upper mid-30s at 24 frames per second using the BT. 709 color standard.
This is a good-looking film that you can tell has good source material. The close-up shots of Penélope Cruz and Tom Cruise were beautifully done. There are some wide shots (both inside and outside environments) that push the contrast ratio. And, the color renders fairly well on BD. The movie was viewed on a 75″ Sony LED in “Film” mode without any artificial color boost.
Still though, this movie begs for a 4K release. The close-ups would look really impressive in 2160p resolution. And, an HDR layer could improve some of the shots that are somewhat flat in 1080p. The video would likely look so much better with an HDR-expanded bit range that could deliver more details in the shadows, more contrast, and even more bright vibrant colors found in New York City.
And although the sharpness did break apart a little bit on a 75″ TV, we imagine the smaller the screen the more the 1080p video will hold together. A 55″ screen might be the optimum size to appreciate the sharpness of the new transfer without wondering why it won’t scale up.
Video (4k 2160p)
Paramount released a 4k Blu-ray edition of Vanilla Sky about a year-and-a-half after the remastered 2k Blu-ray release on June 20, 2023. The new edition is not a “Paramount Presents” title but does include a Blu-ray copy (the same as the 1080p presentation reviewed here) and a code to redeem a digital copy.
The 4k disc provides an excellent upgrade to the sharpness levels compared to the 2k disc. The High Dynamic Range delivered via Dolby Vision or HDR10 adds a greater range of color depth so skies are not as blown out and more detail is revealed in shadow areas. Where the contrast lacked in the 2k disc, the 4k disc added more range. Colors are a bit more saturated (we’re always reviewing in Cinematic or Film modes on TVs and projectors) and realistic. This should have been a 4k release in the first place, so it’s great to see that a 4k presentation (with the remastered Blu-ray) is now available (and for the same price!).
The Blu-ray disc offers audio in English DTS-HD 5.1 (48kHz) — not an upgrade from the last Blu-ray released in 2017 but nevertheless a crisp-sounding mix with some surround action. Deutsch audio is also provided but in Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles are provided in English, English SDH, and Deutsch.
The song lineup in Vanilla Sky creates one of those movie soundtracks you can listen to over and over. There are songs by R.E.M., Radiohead, Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan, and Jeff Buckley to name just several of the well-known musicians who appear in the credits.
The movie has some sound design, but much of the audio behind the dialogue and action comes from the music composition by Nancy Wilson or singles by the artists mentioned above.
There are a few low-frequency moments. Aames’ Ferrari in the opening scene has a nice tone to it that is paired with Middle-East-influenced percussion. The car crash at 43:00 is one moment that might bump you off your sofa, and the following percussion in the scene with David and Sophie in the park creates a hypnotic underscore contrasting the violence that preceded.
Bonus features on this new Blu-ray edition from Paramount include a new filmmaker focus with Cameron Crowe on Vanilla Sky. Previous extras include commentary from Cameron Crowe and Nancy Wilson, an alternate ending, deleted scenes, featurette Prelude to Her Dream, an interview with Paul McCartney, and more. The new Blu-ray edition also includes a digital copy that can be redeemed on paramountmovies.com
A good movie that’s obviously not an original, Vanilla Sky has some “watch again” moments such as the opening scene in Manhattan, the nightclub scene where David loses his s___, and the rooftop climax. And there is some really nice cinematography from 2x Oscar-winner John Toll (Legends of the Fall, Braveheart) that looks great on a widescreen TV. But this restored version of Vanilla Sky really should have been a 4k release, where scenes like the sunset walk and rooftop finale could benefit from expanded color range, wider contrast, and increased resolution overall. We should mention the Digital Copy of Vanilla Sky redeems in Digital 4k with HDR on Apple TV 4k. However, we saw no noticeable difference between the disc (2k) and digital (4k).