Days of Thunder

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Paramount;
Drama;
$29.99 Blu-ray, $29.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13.’
Stars Tom Cruise, Robert Duvall, Randy Quaid, Nicole Kidman, Michael Rooker, Cary Elwes, John C. Reilly, Fred Dalton Thompson.

Almost immediately upon its release in 1990, Days of Thunder was labeled by critics as a car racing version of Top Gun, a reputation that isn’t exactly unearned.

Days of Thunder shares the same production team of Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson, the same director in Tony Scott, and also stars Tom Cruise, who plays another hotshot looking to fulfill his need for speed with reckless abandon.

In this case, Cruise’s character is named Cole Trickle, an Indy circuit washout looking to make a name for himself in NASCAR. He takes on the mentorship of a master pit crew chief played by Robert Duvall, but a devastating crash shakes his confidence.

Robert Towne’s screenplay (with Cruise sharing a story credit) throws not one but two rivals at Trickle. First is Michael Rooker’s Rowdy Burns, the top dog of the circuit whose career is cut short in the same wreck that impairs Cole. When they become fast friends due to shared misfortune, Rowdy asks Cole to take over his racing team, setting up the showdown with rival No. 2, another rookie driver named Russ Wheeler, played by Cary Elwes, whose blink-and-you’ll-miss-it introduction obscures a rise through the ranks so unexpectedly rapid that one wonders why the movie isn’t about him.

The requisite love interest, which like with Top Gun comes with professional complications, is Cole’s and Rowdy’s neurologist, played by Nicole Kidman, who was 22 at the time of filming lest anyone wish to question the likelihood of her character’s medical credentials. The swirling rumors of the day suggested Cruise became enamored with Kidman after seeing her in 1989’s Dead Calm and arranged for her to be in Days of Thunder so they could meet. When 1990 began he had been married to Mimi Rogers, but divorced her in February. Cruise and Kidman were married from December 1990, six months after Days of Thunder hit theaters, to 2001.

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For the most part, Days of Thunder comes across as a series of exciting racing scenes and establishing shots of NASCAR speedways strung together with a by-the-numbers plot and some perfunctory dialogue. Duvall is as good as he usually is, while Cole Trickle is such a stock character in the Tom Cruise mold that naming him is more a screenwriting formality than a necessity of the story.

This new edition of Days of Thunder is presented as both a standalone Blu-ray under the “Paramount Presents” label, as well as a 4K Ultra HD disc with digital copy. The 4K version doesn’t come with a separate Blu-ray Disc, which is something of a break from the industry norm of 4K/Blu-ray combo packs, so consumers will have to pick whether they want the higher-definition resolution of the 4K version or the fancy Paramount Presents slipcover with fold-out movie poster. The film looks great either way, particularly because the racing footage is so good.

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The new Days of Thunder Blu-ray seems to have avoided the fate of most of the other titles in the Paramount Presents line, which to this point has offered Blu-ray re-releases with most of the bonus materials from previous editions left out this go-around (it seems anything previously available only in SD got the axe, with maybe a new short retrospective featurette to replace it).  That’s because the previous Days of Thunder Blu-ray from 2008 had zero extras on it aside from the film’s trailer, so anything offered here is a step up. The extras, sparse as they may be, are the same on both the Blu-ray and 4K discs.

The new discs don’t include the trailer, but they do have a seven-minute “Filmmaker Focus” featurette which is essentially a retrospective interview with Bruckheimer interspersed with clips from the movie.

There’s also an isolated audio track containing just Hans Zimmer’s musical score, his first of many collaborations with the Bruckheimer/Simpson team. Zimmer’s music is a highlight of the movie, but compared with the rest of Zimmer’s works it comes across as one of the more generic efforts in a career built on establishing a baseline sound for reliable action cues.

Hans Zimmer: Live in Prague

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Eagle Vision;
Music;
$19.99 DVD, $24.99 Blu-ray;
Not rated.

Concerts of film music conjure visions of orchestras performing a variety of pieces not unlike classical music. Indeed, the maestro John Williams often fills the Hollywood Bowl with performances of his classic movie themes.

A Hans Zimmer concert, on the other hand, is an entirely different experience. Zimmer’s touring show offers an eclectic blend of symphony and rock concert, befitting a composer whose sensibilities often eschew the traditional in favor of experimental sounds that often define his scores.

The concert featured on this Blu-ray, recorded May 7, 2016 in Prague during Zimmer’s European tour last year, offers a set list that is pretty typical for his live shows the past few years.

Zimmer offers a fair mix of his greatest hits, from a medley from his Oscar-winning The Lion King score, to selections from his collaborations with Christopher Nolan, including The Dark Knight, Interstellar and Inception.

He also offers his Superman theme from Man of Steel, though this performance predates when he started including his Wonder Woman theme alongside it, as he did during his 2017 American performances.

Many of his pieces are designed to showcase the talents of particular vocalists or musicians, with pieces such as a Gladiator medley providing an emotional respite in the build-up to a rocking the stage with an all-out performance of upbeat music from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films.

Of course, just as he is often criticized for in his film scores, Zimmer wouldn’t be Zimmer without taking his personal indulgences a bit too far in some cases. Here, it’s the bizarre decision to present his atonal Electro theme from The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which was designed to emulate a cacophony of madness in the film, and certainly plays like it on stage. While Zimmer has earned his fair share of fans who admire his willingness to push the boundaries of his art, and a number of whom no doubt enjoy this track for its eccentricities, this is a piece that simply doesn’t hold its own against the majesty of his “Da Vinci Code” music or the whimsy of a Driving Miss Daisy.

Still, this is a concert that provides a great showcase for Zimmer’s talents as a musician and is highly recommended to anyone who appreciates the modern age of film scoring.