‘Vanilla Sky’ Due on Blu-ray Nov. 16 in ‘Paramount Presents’ Line for 20th Anniversary

Director Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky will arrive on Blu-ray as part of the “Paramount Presents” line on Nov. 16 from Paramount Home Entertainment.

Starring Tom Cruise, Penélope Cruz and Cameron Diaz and written for the screen and directed by Crowe, the film was newly remastered from a new 4K film transfer under his Crowe’s supervision.

Originally released on Dec. 14, 2001, Vanilla Sky follows a self-indulgent and vain publishing magnate (Cruise) who finds his privileged life upended after a vehicular accident.

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The Blu-ray includes a new “Filmmaker Focus” with Crowe, access to a digital copy of the film, and extensive legacy bonus content.

The release features collectible packaging with a foldout image of the film’s theatrical poster and an interior spread with key movie moments.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Criterion;
Comedy;
$29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R.’
Stars Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Robert Romanus, Brian Backer, Phoebe Cates, Ray Walston, Forest Whitaker, Vincent Schiavelli.

The Criterion Collection’s new edition of the 1982 comedy classic Fast Times at Ridgemont high includes a sparkling new transfer of the film that goes a bit beyond the typical restoration.

The new 4K digital transfer, supervised by director Amy Heckerling, goes so far as to restore a scene of full-frontal male nudity of Robert Romanus during his sex scene with Jennifer Jason Leigh that was trimmed from the original version in order to avoid an ‘X’ rating. It’s not a new scene added back into the film — the theatrical version simply zoomed in to avoid showing off too much of Romanus. The Criterion cut simply restores the original framing.

In addition to a printed essay booklet by film critic Dana Stevens with an introduction by screenwriter Cameron Crowe, the primary new extra on Criterion’s Blu-ray is a 35-minute interview about the film with Heckerling and Crowe moderated by actress and filmmaker Olivia Wilde, who discuesses how much Fast Times influenced her in making Booksmart.

The Blu-ray also includes the television edit of the film, which adds in a few deleted and alternate scenes to run about five minutes longer than the theatrical cut.

Legacy extras carried over from Universal’s earlier home video releases include a 1999 commentary from Heckerling and Crowe; the 40-minute “Reliving Our Fast Times at Ridgemont High” retrospective from 1999, featuring interviews with cast and crew; and a 47-minute audio discussion with Heckerling conducted at the American Film Institute in 1982.

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The Wild Life

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 4/13/21;
Kino Lorber;
Comedy;
$24.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R.’
Stars Chris Penn, Lea Thompson, Ilan Mitchell-Smith, Jenny Wright, Eric Stoltz, Rick Moranis, Hart Bochner, Randy Quaid.

While 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High has gone on to become an iconic representation of 1980s teen cinema, screenwriter Cameron Crowe’s 1984 follow-up, The Wild Life, would find itself relegated to something of a footnote.

Though marketed as if it were another Fast Times (“… from the creators of Fast Times at Ridgemont High comes something even Faster …”), The Wild Life is more of a spiritual successor, continuing the search for zany laughs through the hijinks of driftless teenagers looking for a good time in Los Angeles. However, The Wild Life did not go on to achieve the breakout success that Fast Times did, though it has its fans.

Interestingly enough, according to the commentary track included with the Blu-ray, the genesis of Wild Life may have had less to do that re-capturing the magic of Fast Times and more with Crowe’s efforts to make a movie about The Doors frontman Jim Morrison. As the story goes, when those plans didn’t pan out, the intended script was re-tooled into The Wild Life — the most visible remnant of its former life being the Jim character played by Ilan Mitchell-Smith, a teenager with an obsession about the 1960s and the Vietnam War. A Jim Morrison poster even makes its way into the set dressings.

As for why it has toiled in relative obscurity despite the notable talent involved, well, there are a number of reasons for this. Its close association with Fast Times couldn’t have helped, but the primary culprit might have to do with an ambitious soundtrack that originally included the likes of Prince and Madonna, and a score by Eddie Van Halen. Licensing the music for home video proved too expensive given the film’s relatively light box office haul ($11 million against a $6 million budget, compared with Fast Times‘ $27 million against a $5 million budget), so Universal Studios took the unusual step of preparing an alternate soundtrack for VHS, Laserdisc and television airings — replacing most of the pop songs with Van Halen guitar riffs.

Lack of access to the original theatrical cut outside of bootleg circles certainly couldn’t have helped when it came to the ubiquity of television airings and home video releases needed to keep a film in the public consciousness (both of which helped Fast Times grow its popularity, to the point it got a spinoff TV series in 1986). Universal didn’t even release The Wild Life on DVD until 2014, and that was through its manufactured-on-demand DVD-R “Vault Series.”

Now, The Wild Life isn’t the kind of cult hit that’s going to inspire the kind of spending needed to clear up the rights issues for a new disc release in 2021; nor is Kino the kind of distributor so flush with cash that it could be expected to take up such an endeavor. Thus, Kino’s new Blu-ray Disc release of The Wild Life, to the disappointment of many of the film’s fans, contains the alternate soundtrack. Aside from this, Kino has done right by the film in finally delivering it to HD.

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The picture quality looks good for a film that probably hasn’t gotten much love in the 37 years since it was made. The visual style has a certain mid-’80s sweaty quality to it that echoes the lustful cravings of its protagonists.

Like Fast Times, The Wild Life casts a Penn in the role of a party-loving stoner with a penchant for bringing trouble to those around him. No, it’s not Sean Penn as Spicoli, but his younger brother, Chris, who is saddled with the oft-repeated catch-phrase, “It’s casual.”

Eric Stoltz plays Bill, Jim’s older brother and a recent high school graduate who has just moved into his first apartment and finds himself short on cash after the manager upsells him to a more-expensive unit. He also broke up with his still-in-high-school girlfriend, Anita (Lea Thompson), who has moved on to a fling with a neighborhood cop (Hart Bochner) who doesn’t know she’s underage, which is just as well since she doesn’t know he’s married.

The presence of Stoltz and Thompson actually make The Wild Life more significant to cinematic history that it otherwise would have been. Not long after making The Wild Life, Stoltz was cast to play Marty McFly in Back to the Future. In scouting Stoltz, the BTTF producers viewed The Wild Life and were impressed enough by Thompson’s performance that they cast her to play Marty’s mother. Ultimately, Stoltz’s interpretation of Marty didn’t match the comedic tone producers wanted, and he was famously replaced by Michael J. Fox, while Thompson remained.

As for The Wild Life, it’s a fun lark that makes for a nice companion piece to Fast Times while still highly rewatchable on its own. The film also features notable appearances by Rick Moranis just a few months after his breakout role in Ghostbusters; Ben Stein in an early role as an Army surplus clerk before his iconic appearance in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; Robert Ridgely, who is best known as the executioner in Blazing Saddles and a porn financier in Boogie Nights; Dean Devlin, later a big-time Hollywood producer of films such as Independence Day, as a liquor store clerk; Randy Quaid as a drug-adled Vietnam vet who befriends Jim; and a slew of punk rock icons, such as Lee Ving, better known acting-wise as the main dead guy in Clue.

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Kino’s Wild Life Blu-ray includes a 15-minute retrospective interview with Mitchell-Smith, who would go on to a bigger role the next year in Weird Science before dropping out of acting, but here he shares a lot of fond memories about making The Wild Life.

The aforementioned audio commentary comes courtesy of Mike McBeardo McPadden, a podcaster and author of Teen Movie Hell, joined by author and disc jockey Ian Christe. Their entertaining discussion is expectedly more focused on the historical impact of the film, some of the behind-the-scenes details, and how it compares to Fast Times. But they also recommend The Wild Life as essential viewing in any 1980s teen comedy marathon simply for how it delves into darker aspects of the lives of movie teens that don’t often get seen in other more popular movies from the time.

Rounding out the bonus materials are the film’s theatrical trailer and some radio spots.

All in all, “it’s casual.”

Romance ‘Elizabethtown’ Debuting on Blu-ray Feb. 9 in ‘Paramount Presents’ Line

Director Cameron Crowe’s romantic comedy Elizabethtown debuts on Blu-ray Feb. 9 in time for Valentine’s Day as part of the “Paramount Presents” line from Paramount Home Entertainment.

The limited-edition Blu-ray Disc includes the film newly remastered from a 4K transfer supervised by Crowe.

Orlando Bloom (“Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise) and Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man) star in the 2005 romance set against a rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack. Hot-shot designer Drew Baylor’s (Bloom) life becomes completely unraveled when he loses his father and his job on one fateful day. En route to Elizabethtown to visit his family, Drew meets Claire (Dunst). She’s beautiful, unstoppably positive, and just the gal to guide Drew on his journey back home and to teach him what it means to live and love along the way. The film also stars Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin, Judy Greer and Jessica Biel.

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The disc is presented in collectible packaging that includes a foldout image of the film’s theatrical poster, and an interior spread with key movie moments. It also includes a new “Filmmaker Focus” with Crowe, never-before-seen deleted scenes, and an alternate ending with an introduction by Crowe. Along with access to a digital copy of the film, the Blu-ray also includes previously released special features, including deleted and extended scenes with an introduction by Crowe, the “On the Road to Elizabethtown” “The Music of Elizabethtown,” “Meet the Crew,” and “Training Wheels” featurettes, and a photo gallery.

David Crosby: Remember My Name

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Sony Pictures;
Documentary;
$25.99 DVD, $24.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for language, drug material and brief nudity.
Featuring David Crosby, Cameron Crowe, Roger McGuinn, Jackson Browne.

I’ve never heard how Keith Richards responds to all the “How can you still be alive?” jokes but also related legitimate questions that have followed him around for years. But fellow rocker David Crosby is used to it (probably never more so than when he was promoting the self-lacerating portrait, Remember My Name) and is always up front about it, in that he’s as amazed as anyone else.

Let’s put it this way: If Crosby’s body contained the submarine pathway in a remake of Fantastic Voyage, you’d want to make sure the craft had the best navigation system in the business because the dead ends, detours and checkpoints would be voluminous enough to make you think you were in a Jeep touring 1948 West Berlin. He’s survived addictions (and at the same time) to cocaine and heroin, has eight stents in his heart (the maximum, he says), has had hepatitis-C, also a liver transplant and sports unusually expansive purple-ish splotches under his skin, the kind one identifies with blood disorders. Crosby says sometime in the next two years, a heart attack is going to get him and that medical science won’t be able to do much about it.

So he’s trying to make amends for a lifetime of rotten behavior, a prodigious task in his case, for which there’s not a whole lot of time. This is a guy, to name one mammoth infraction, whose temper-fueled difficult personality managed to sink two rock supergroups: Crosby, Stills & Nash and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (which were, notably, different artistic entities). Now just think a moment. Given their own egos and short fuses, it isn’t all that tough to imagine hacking off Stephen Stills and Neil Young. But at least going by public personas here … Graham Nash? And all three? Late in the picture, we see Nash being radio-interviewed well after the final split, and he’s obviously still pained (what’s more, he and Crosby had teamed just by themselves in the ’70s to become an appealing touring/recording team). And in terms of women companions, it wasn’t enough for Crosby to become an addict; he had to take multiple partners down with him. Fortunately, eventual wife Jan went into successful rehab at the same time he did himself (post-imprisonment) and remains a steadying influence. Or at least she is in the footage we see.

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New-to-me filmmaker A.J. Eaton had apparently been working with Crosby for awhile, fashioning what came to be a combo confessional, irresistible rock-memories clip show and something of an L.A. tourist road movie (obviously pre-fires) that veers off into footage of its subject on the road trying to survive the grind of touring to small venues while in his late 70s (not too well). Then rock-journalist-turned-auteur filmmaker Cameron Crowe, perhaps smarting from the reception of his last few films (though I’m in the tiny minority who had a really good time with the much lambasted Aloha), entered the picture to sign on as one of the producers and also as off-camera interviewer. The result displays the savviness toward its subject and milieu that we’d naturally expect from someone of Crowe’s origins, but virtually every movie he’s written and directed suggests that he’ll be compassionate enough to get away with asking a penetrating question and getting a straight answer. Of course, it helps that Crosby is at the point of his life where all he wants to do is give straight answers while gazing at you with eyes that somehow manage to seem both world-weary/tired and penetratingly alert.

The result is something of an anomaly for the genre, in that on the one hand, it has gaps that even a mediocre alternative might cover; unless I was dozing, for instance, I do not recall the words “Buffalo Springfield” crossing anyone’s lips here, even though two members of the group later contributed as many letters for CSN&Y — not even to mention Crosby’s own brief Buffalo fill-in on occasion. On the other hand — and, ultimately, this is what really matters — I’m not sure I’ve ever quite seen a soul-bearer like this, with Crosby offering un-procrastinated direct opinions on a variety of subjects. He’s the foremost of these, for sure. But on at least two occasions, he almost revels in how little use he had for the Doors’ Jim Morrison.

If you want seductive side issues, there are a few here. One truly wonderful passage has Crosby’s driver taking him and Crowe to the literal source of Nash’s pro-domestication “Our House,” a tune that celebrated the domicile he and Joni Mitchell shared in what the recording, at least, indicated was harmony. Crosby, by the way, is boundless in his praise for Mitchell, calling her the most talented of them all (which he should since it’s only her due). There’s also at least some discussion of what a cold cookie David’s father Floyd was, in contrast to a mother who exuded warmth. The senior Crosby had a spotty career (not in terms of personal craftsmanship but in projects he served,) but he did win an early Oscar for shooting Tabu (one of my favorite films of all time) and later High Noon. Later, he became part of the Roger Corman stable and then wrapped it up at Warner when David’s Byrds were riding high with The Cool Ones — which, as far as I know, is the only movie to feature both Phil Harris and Mrs. Miller. You have to wonder if Mrs. Miller ever came over to jam with the Byrds, though her back pages were a heavy lift.

In addition to deleted and expanded scenes, there’s a half-hour Q&A with Crowe joining Crosby on stage for questions after a pre-release showing of the film. Unlike most back-and-forths of this length (I did many with film folk back in the day), the two are standard. It must have been, and indications are, that it was an exuberant moment with a receptive audience, because otherwise, this is a performer who’s earned the right to sit down, no matter how forgiving or not you are of his offstage past.

Mike’s Picks: ‘David Crosby: Remember My Name’ and ‘My Favorite Year’