The Screening Room
THE STUDIO GATE
Seems like Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman have been around forever and a day.
Their shining star power seems to have never faded. Except it did in 1990
with what was called "Top Gun on Wheels," "Days of Thunder."
"Days of Thunder" is now available on Blu-ray disc.
Tom Cruise was at the height of his '80s star power when he teamed back up
with director Tony Scott, producers Jerry Bruckheimer & Don Simpson, and
Nicole Kidman. Cruise could do no wrong as far as the public was concerned.
"Top Gun" firmly placed the actor at the top of the Hollywood acting food
chain. Even 1988's "Cocktail" couldn't keep the Cruise down.
Bruckheimer & Simpson were two of Hollywood's hottest producers. The media
was lavish with spreads on how the duo was changing the movie making
machine. Kidman was relatively unknown except as Tom Cruise's future wife.
Director Tony Scott had recently directed "Top Gun," so this dynamo
combination of cast and crew was sure to be a hit with audiences. Combine
the world's biggest movie star with a movie about NASCAR, boy, you got
yourself a hit!
Cruise plays a character against his type, a cocky young racecar driver with
the unforgivable name of Cole Trickle. He also goes against most of his
previous roles by playing not only a cocky kid, but a kid who realizes what
a fool he is. He redeems himself at the end of the movie by not only winning
races, but winning the heart of his true love. Of course I'm being a bit
sarcastic. Cruise almost always played the young cocky guy who needed to be
taught a lesson.
"Days of Thunder" rolled into theaters in the summer of 1990 with high
expectations. Audiences expected lots of thrilling car races, hot PG-13
romance, a killer soundtrack, and mindless entertainment. Theater owners
were expecting their coffers to be filled, as did Paramount. What everyone
got was indeed a mindless piece of entertainment.
The general feeling about "DOT" is that it's "Top Gun" redone, and that's a
pretty good assessment. The entire look and feel of the racecar movie takes
most of its cues from the 1986 film. The flimsy plot, the "I never met a
zoom lens I didn't like" cinematography favored by Tony Scott, the blaring
but forgettable (in this case) soundtrack, and the overacting by Cruise
crashes this movie into the wall.
Had "DOT" been made in 1987, while Cruise was sailing on the success of "Top
Gun," I believe the movie would've done better no matter how poorly it was
made. By 1990, there was change in the air as far as style was concerned.
And I don't mean clothes. American society was ditching the '80s excess for
more downbeat and street oriented entertainment. Rap/hip-hop was coming into
the mainstream, and guys with perfectly styled hair and movie soundtracks
that sounded anything remotely close to "Top Gun" were laughable at that
point. "DOT" was dated before it got to theaters. Once it unspooled from the
projector to the screen, audiences were indifferent.
The movie arrives on Blu-ray with okay quality. I tend to remember the 70mm
print of the film being grainy, so this transfer reflects that. Despite
being shot with anamorphic lenses, which can yield sharp results on-screen,
the film has always looked a bit soft to my eyes. Tony Scott also tends to
employ smoke in his scenes which diffuses a lot of the sharpness. Don't go
into this Blu-ray expecting ultra sharp imagery.
The sound quality is also okay, but nothing spectacular. Compared to two
other recent Paramount Blu-ray titles, "Ghost" and "The Truman Show," "DOT"
is actually subdued and a bit murky. The volume is low (I play the Blu-ray
discs reviewed here at the same volume). It sounds as though the Blu-ray was
mixed at a lower volume than the soundtrack master. I recall that the
original 70mm Six Track Dolby Stereo mix was pretty loud. I can imagine that
the Cinema Digital Sound (CDS) and Dolby SR 70mm versions of this film
sounded very good. This Blu-ray, despite having a movie that was made after
"Top Gun," does not sound anywhere close in quality to that 1986 film. This
is a shame because even though the movie is mediocre, at least it could've
been a great Blu-ray demo disc.
The film isn't all that bad, really. It's passable entertainment if you just
go want to go numb. Some people like watching Cruise take on actor Michael
Rooker in 1990s rental cars. Some people even dig the dark, shadowy mood
lighting so present in this movie. I even think that Robert Duvall and Randy
Quaid lend the most credibility to the movie. Yet, the movie is still a
piece of flaming metal wreckage.
Special thanks to Click Communications
Photos: © Paramount Pictures. All
Blu-ray Quick Glimpse
"Top Gun" on four wheels
Director: Tony Scott
Cast: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Robert Duvall,
Check out the '90s styles
Aspect Ratio (2.39:1)
BLU-RAY RELEASE DATE
December 30, 2008