Boxed sets can be a tricky thing. Most people don't know (or don't care) that different movies are owned by different studios, which is why we'll never see a definitive Best of That One Guy or all four Terminator movies in one handy keepcase. I'm not up on what studios own each and every Tom Cruise movie, but Paramount's new Tom Cruise Collection covers the basics pretty well. Long story short: we get action, action and more action in this five-movie collection, all of which are available separately on Blu-Ray. So this isn't a typical cheap cash grab, but it may be frustrating to those who own two or three of these movies already. With one notable exception (see "Bonus Features" below), everything from all five separate releases is included in this streamlined career retrospective. Here's our starting lineup:
Top Gun (1986) stands as Tom Cruise's highest-grossing film thus far; it's more than a little dated, but still offers a fun ride. This high-flying adventure wasn't the first time Cruise was cast as a "cocky, up-and-coming _______" and it wouldn't be the last. He stars as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, a talented aviator considered to be in the Navy's top 1%...and along with his partner, Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards), is hand-picked to attend an elite Navy school nicknamed "Top Gun". Of course, Maverick's reckless behavior in and out of school turns a few heads, not the least of which is lovely Charlotte Blackwood (Kelly McGillis). Our hero attempts to balance violent mood swings with flight school and his budding romance; for the most part, the paint-by number approach works just fine. Top Gun has certainly aged in many respects, but the film's thrilling flight sequences, synth-heavy soundtrack and likable performances make this one an enduring crowd-pleaser. Film rating: 4/5.
Days of Thunder (1990) arrived the wake of Top Gun and several other cut-and-paste Cruise movies, and that's why it's the least essential of the bunch. Our hero stars as Cole Trickle, a cocky, up-and-coming driver chosen to compete in NASCAR's Winston Cup Series. Just like Top Gun and its ilk, Trickle has at least once fierce competitor to eventually befriend, a reckless attitude on and off the racetrack, and a series of personal obstacles to overcome in time for The Big Event. Of course, it wouldn't be complete without a romantic interest; in this case, it's Dr. Claire Lewicky (Nicole Kidman, who married Cruise that same year), Trickle's nerosurgeon. Between the movie's familiar plot, the dull backdrop of auto racing and an assortment of terrible character names (Cole Trickle, Rowdy Burns, Harry Hogge, Buck Bretherton, Harlem Hoogerhyde!), Days of Thunder is definitely the weak link in this chain. It's watchable on a basic level, but there's very little replay value here. Film rating: 2.5/5.
Minority Report (2002) doesn't just skip 12 years, it takes us all the way to 2054 for a decidedly different Cruise adventure. Sure, he still plays a talented professional (in this case, it's John Anderton, the head of a controversial law enforcement experiment called "PreCrime") but this sci-fi blockbuster is easily the best of the bunch here. Anderton is the spokesman for PreCrime's successful trial run in the Washington, D.C. area...and soon enough, the possibility of a nationwide rollout draws near. Meanwhile, Anderton---whose personal life is in ruins after the loss of a son---begins to develop doubts about the program's effectiveness, but a series of events turn his work against him. Exploring the gray areas of justice, personal freedom and a chilling portrait of a perfectly possible future, Minority Report earns high marks for a strong story, layered characters and a tightly-wound plot. Film rating: 4.75/5.
Collateral (2004) feels like the smallest film here, but in a good way: it's essentially a cat-and-mouse chase that takes place in less than 24 hours. Michael Mann directs Cruise in the role of "Vincent", a cold and calculating hitman who's in Los Angeles to take care of some...business. Yeah, that's it. His path intersects with Max Durocher (Jamie Foxx), a likable cab driver who reluctantly ends up as Vincent's chauffeur for the evening. L.A.'s night life is captured in vivid detail during this underrated thriller---and, like Mann's own Manhunter, Heat and Public Enemies (to name a few), it often keeps our guards down between heavy punches. This highly entertaining film goes a little overboard in the home stretch, but Collateral is still a personal favorite and holds up to multiple viewings. Film rating: 4.25/5.
War of the Worlds (2005) polarized viewers upon its release, but nowhere near the levels of Magnolia and Eyes Wide Shut. Like Minority Report, this Spielberg-helmed blockbuster probably goes on a little longer than it should...and there are lots of folks who absolutely hated this film's ending, but I'm not one of them. What's more is that War of the Worlds has a fantastic first and second act: characters are introduced with ease, the special effects are often jaw-dropping and a tremendous sense of dread is maintained. Cruise's performance as Ray Ferrier is solid and doesn't command too much attention, while the film's stunning set-pieces steal much of the show. Things turn a little sour after the Ferrier clan shacks up with the disturbing Harlan Ogilvy (Tim Robbins), but the film recovers nicely and its vaguely uplifting "family conclusion" feels like a good move. Call it what you want, but this "Anti-CE3K" is a fine choice if you don't mind a little Friday night chaos and destruction. Film rating: 4.25/5.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Top Gun: 2.39:1 / Dolby TrueHD 5.1 or DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1
Days of Thunder: 2.39:1 / Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Minority Report: 2.39:1 / DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
War of the Worlds: 1.85:1 / DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Collateral: 2.40:1 / DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Presented in their original aspect ratios, these 1080p transfers look universally excellent. Top Gun is definitely a standout here...but that's no surprise, given the film's slick appearance and big budget. Days of Thunder is perhaps the least impressive, but not by much: it's simply a good-looking film standing next to four great-looking films. Collateral employs Michael Mann's now-regular use of high-definition digital video (see also: Public Enemies) for a decidedly different look, but the film's appearance is captured nicely. Minority Report and War of the Worlds are also visually impressive, but for different reasons. Heavy with film grain and deeply saturated in silvery blue tones, they're probably the best example of "typical" Blu-Ray demo discs. Overall, it's pretty tough to complain here: there isn't a bad-looking disc in the bunch, and that's usually not the case with career-spanning boxed sets.
Make no mistake about it: all five films in The Tom Cruise Collection sound like a million bucks. Channel separation is fantastic, dialogue is incredibly crisp, music roars to life and bass response is uniformly excellent. From the roar of engines in Days of Thunder and Top Gun to the menacing Tripods in War of the Worlds, your neighbors will probably hate you for purchasing this. Optional French, Spanish and Portuguese dubs and subtitles are provided for each film, as well as English subtitles and captions.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen below, this five-disc set is housed in an incredibly practical multi-hinged keepcase, which is even slimmer than the one used for Blade Runner
's Ultimate Collector's Edition. The trade-off, of course, is that there's no room for an insert, so the plain gray discs and interior of the packaging look substantially less awesome than the outside. Silvery-blue artwork and a metallic slipcover highlight the exterior and basic movie descriptions are printed on the back. The menus are nicely designed and easy to navigate, loading time is relatively fast and these discs appear to be locked for Region "A" players only.
The same as all five individual Blu-Ray releases, with one unfortunate ommission: Minority Report
arrives without the second disc of extras, making the movie-only experience a bit disappointing. I'd have traded it for Days of Thunder
in a heartbeat...so if that's a big reason you're thinking about this collection, you might want to go à la carte
. In any case, the returning bonus features are summarized as follows:
Top Gun crams a ton of stuff on one 50GB disc. Extras include an Audio Commentary with producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Tony Scott, co-writer Jack Epps, technical advisor Pete Pettigrew, Captain Mike Galpin and Vice Admiral Michael McCabe; the exhaustive six-part "Danger Zone: The Making of Top Gun" (480p, 148 minutes!); a pair of Multi-Angle Storyboards (480p, 7 minutes); a real-life look at "Best of the Best: Inside the Real Top Gun" (480p, 29 minutes); a quartet of Music Videos (480p, 17 minutes); a handful of Vintage Featurettes and Interviews (480p, 20 minutes) and seven original TV Spots (480p, 4 minutes). These extras previously appeared on the Collector's Edition DVD and HD-DVD releases.
Days of Thunder dials it back quite a few notches; in fact, we only get the Theatrical Trailer
(1080i, 2 minutes). Just one more reason why Minority Report's bonus disc should be here instead.
Collateral serves up an Audio Commentary by the reliable Michael Mann; "City of Night: The Making of Collateral" (480p, 41 minutes); four brief Production Featurettes (480p, 10 minutes); one Deleted Scene with optional director commentary (480p, 2 minutes) and an assortment of Trailers & TV Spots (1080p, 4 minutes). These extras previously appeared on Collateral's standard 2-disc DVD release.
War of the Worlds leads off with three Featurettes concerning the film's relationship with earlier adaptations of Wells' story (480p, 23 minutes); "Characters: The Family Unit", which looks at the Ferrier clan (480p, 13 minutes); three Production and Scoring Featurettes (480p, 34 minutes); a series of four interesting Production Diaries (480p, 92 minutes!); the forgettable "We Are Not Alone" clip-fest (480p, 3 minutes), an exhaustive set of Production Notes and a nice collection of Production Stills & Sketches (480p). These extras previously appeared on the initially hard-to-find Limited Edition DVD release.
Love him or hate him, Tom Cruise has been in plenty of great movies...and this eponymous Blu-Ray collection includes a handful of entertaining highlights (and Days of Thunder). From the wide open sky of Top Gun to the claustrophobic streets of Collateral, we get plenty of action, excitement and a little comedy for good measure. Although the missing bonus disc from Minority Report takes my overall recommendation down slightly, a stellar A/V presentation and no-nonsense packaging make The Tom Cruise Collection an easy choice for those looking to fill out their shelves. Highly Recommended.
NOTE: The above images were obtained from promotional outlets and do not represent this release's native resolution.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects, teaches art classes at a local gallery and runs a website or two. He also enjoys slacking off, telling lame jokes and writing stuff in third person.