High-Def Digest has gone through the archives and selected the top ten Blu-ray releases from the Brothers Scott.
by Michael S. Palmer
As a classic exercise in suspense, 'Unstoppable' gleefully taps into every man's Inner-Little-Boy. You know, the one who used to take his Matchbox cars and train sets and smash them together while shouting, "BOOM!" Even if you weren't like me -- and hopefully for your parents' sake you weren't -- 'Unstoppable' is also one of the best directed actioners in the last few years. Tony Scott's visual flair from films like 'Domino' is kept to a minimum, and his geographical orchestration of set pieces is much clearer, and therefore much more effective than the work of other top action directors like Christopher Nolan or Michael Bay. And despite the overtly masculine concept, 'Unstoppable' plays really well (at least it did in my screening) to people of all ages and sexes. In fact, I've never seen so many senior citizens actually clap when a film finished.
With 'Unstoppable' rolling onto Blu-ray this week, and in anticipation of adding another Tony Scott film to my Blu-ray collection, I thought it would be fitting to take a quick look back at the careers of cinema's most successful director siblings, Tony and Ridley Scott. The Brothers Scott have 34 directorial efforts under their belts, have amassed over $2 Billion Dollars in domestic box office alone (does not include international box office and/or home entertainment), and generally direct big-budgeted studio pictures in genres -- action, thriller, science fiction, and horror -- that naturally lend themselves to fantastic home entertainment presentations. Here are five titles from each, which make up the best of their collective catalogs.
AN HONORABLE MENTION / UNOFFICIAL WINNER
Okay, let's get one quick thing out of the way. I'm sure someone will have a hissy fit because, despite its 5-Star HDD rating, 'Blade Runner' is not on this list. I certainly respect it as a ground breaking, science fiction masterpiece. And, in either of its two versions, a top-tier Blu-ray release. To some, 'Blade Runner' is arguably better than anything else we'll see on this list. Yet, for whatever reasons, I've never connected with the film. It is, however, our Unofficial Winner on the basis of pure respect. If you can ever forgive me, let's move on to the other Top Ten Unstoppable Scott Brothers Blu-rays:
"Why'd you blow up that building?"
"Because you made a phone call!"
Tony Scott's Hitchcockian wrong-man thriller stars Will Smith and Gene Hackman as two men up against a corrupt NSA agent (John Voight) with limitless access to the country's modern surveillance technology. While the film's 1998 phones and computers are a little out-of-date today, the theme of a digital society under twenty-four hour surveillance remains shockingly accurate. 'Enemy of the State' is an adrenaline rush that doesn't let you go until the thrilling climax. Man I wish Bruckheimer still made 'em like this.
Ridley Scott's 'Kingdom of Heaven' is a film that, upon its initial release, was ruined by the studio. The powers-that-be chopped 'Kingdom' from three-plus hours down to two-plus hours, leaving all the blood and gore and clashing swords, but none of the story. In fact, it made no sense at all. I personally walked out of the theatre disgusted and confused. A year or so later, Ridley restored his vision of the film, returning over forty minutes of character arcs and stories (did any of you know Eva Green's character had a son???). And, Dear Readers, the results are impressive. 'Kingdom of Heaven' isn't perfect, but in the Director's Cut it's romantic and thrilling and beautiful. The Blu-ray looks and sounds great, but I must warn you, it shamefully doesn't contain any of the bonus material from the 4-Disc Director's Cut DVD release.
8) 'Top Gun'
'Top Gun' is Tony Scott's most successful film to date, and for some bizarre reason, it always makes me want to oil up and get out my jean shorts to play a round of men's-only beach volley ball. For the five people who may not have seen it, 'Top Gun' stars Tom Cruise as a hot shot Navy pilot who gets a chance to attend an elite fighter pilot school where he faces off against tough instructors, cocky pilots, and his own rebel instincts. 'Top Gun' is pure unabashed 1980s pro-Americana by way of the MTV generation. The highlight of the Blu-ray is the ripping 6.1 DTS-HD MA surround sound track. But the visuals are a win too, featuring actual footage of Navy planes in action, and some stunning model work (For some reason, the Navy hates it when Hollywood blows up actual multi-million dollar aircraft.). In fact, the aerial combat footage in 'Top Gun' is so realistic (at times), that a Chinese news outlet recently used some of it to display the power and might of the Chinese Air Force:
This classic tale of women who won't take your crap anymore, Darryl, features an Academy Award winning screenplay by Callie Khouri and career-defining performances from Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon. 'Thelma & Louise' is also a fantastic example of Ridley's ability to jump in and out of every possible genre. Here, the masculine road picture gets a new feminine twist, by way of Bonnie & Clyde, and manages to speak thematically about societal double standards all while being a wildly entertaining, and oh so tragic, film.
Based on Quentin Tarantino's first produced screenplay, Tony Scott's 'True Romance' is a film geek's dream. It stars Christian Slater as Clarence, a movie buff who falls in love with a prostitute name Alabama (Patricia Arquette). When Clarence tries to get Alabama free of her "obligations," he ends up slaying the Pimp (an AMAZING Gary Oldman) and making off with the Pimp's cocaine. Clarence and Alabama are going to try to sell the cocaine in Hollywood, but that's only if they can escape the wrath of Christopher Walken. 'True Romance' is a very violent film, one that loves to poke fun at all things Hollywood, and thus isn't for everyone. That being said, for you, Dear Readers, the character of Clarence is probably a very recognizable personality (who here doesn't love to talk for hours about actors, directors, and genres?), which is why we love him. 'True Romance' might not be the best Blu-ray, in terms of quality, on this list, but it's such a fun, bizarre movie, imperfection can be forgiven.
Fun fact: the Vietnam footage being screened in the producer's hotel room is actually B-roll from 'Platoon', which won producer Arnold Kopelson his Oscar in 1987.
As Ridley Scott's most successful film, 'Gladiator' is one that divides audiences because it took home the Best Picture Oscar in 2001 over 'Chocolat', 'Crouching Tiger', 'Erin Brockovich', and 'Traffic.' For my hard-earned coin, though, 'Gladiator' the only film on that list I care to watch over and over again. I suppose the other bone to pick with this particular flick is that it was so successful, it ushered in the re-immergence of the Hollywood historical epic, all of which are lesser films than this one. Russell Crowe stars, in his best performance, as a disgraced Roman General who vows to win his freedom and take revenge on the Emperor for killing his wife and son. The tale may be simple, but the canvas is huge, featuring some of cinema's best battle sequences and realistic CGI recreations of Rome. This is how Hollywood used to make 'em.
'Gladiator' debuted as a part of Paramount's now-infamous Sapphire Series (nearly every title has mild-to-huge transfer flaws), but after the initial reviews were negative, the studio re-released a re-mastered version with less digital enhancements. If you aren't sure which version you own, the re-release features a yellow barcode on the BD's back cover.
'Man on Fire' is a poetic, visual blitzkrieg of a revenge story. But what makes this Denzel Washington / Tony Scott collaboration so riveting and a cut above, as they say, is the fact the film takes its time. No revenge movie can work unless the audience is as sad as the hero about losing the wife / child / loved one. In 'Man on Fire', Denzel plays John Creasy, a man damaged by the darkness of his past, until he gets a job protecting a young girl (Dakota Fanning) in Mexico from the threat of violent kidnappers. It is this relationship -- his first chance to be a father and do something positive in the world rather than destructive -- that saves John Creasy's life. It gives him goals, aspirations, and above all, a newfound sense of happiness. When the young girl falls prey the kidnappers, John Creasy becomes a one-man killing machine willing to destroy anyone in his path. He'd burn down the whole world if he could, because someone just took the only thing in his entire life that had ever truly mattered. This is another Blu-ray with virtually no special features, but the visuals and the sound design elements are the stuff demos are made of.
'Black Hawk Down' is one of my wife's two favorite movies (the other is 'Apocalypse Now', and yes, I know she's the greatest woman ever), and I've owned every release of the film on DVD and Blu-ray. Much like Ridley's other early Blu-rays, this Sony release sadly forgoes the special features found on the 3-Disc DVD, but makes up for it with a jaw dropping fully uncompressed 5.1 PCM soundtrack. Seriously, this modern war epic about rescuing the crews of two downed black hawk helicopters in Somalia, sounds so good -- from the blowing sand in the opening moments to the maelstrom of bullets and bombs -- I sometimes listen to it with my eyes closed. This is one of the early releases that sold me on the format, and it's still a winner today, standing boldly next to more modern pictures.
One of my all-time favorites, 'Crimson Tide' is arguably Tony Scott's best picture. Though not supported by the Navy, it's the story of the potential consequences of one man -- the Captain of a submarine armed with Nuclear warheads -- being able to jumpstart Armageddon. In addition to Denzel Washington, 'Crimson Tide' features Gene Hackman, Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini, and a host of amazing actors in this riveting tale of honor, codes, and consequences. As a Blu-ray, Disney's encode is very strong, and the audio portion will make your living room sound like it's inside a submarine for two hours. The film also has an unforgettable score by Hans Zimmer.
And now, the number one Unstoppable Scott Brothers Blu-ray of all time:
With 'Blade Runner' out of the running for personal reasons, thank goodness Ridley Scott just so happened to direct another genre masterpiece. With its original and brilliant marketing campaign, "In Space No One Can Hear You Scream", 'Alien' thrilled audiences and booted up a six film franchise (with at least another one or two on the way). As a part of the 'Alien Anthology' last Christmas, Fox really outdid themselves bringing 'Alien' to Blu-ray to scare the crap out of anyone bold enough to watch it alone in the dark. The futuristic computers may be a little dated, but the terror here is timeless. Because really, what's scarier than being billions of miles away from rescue, and trapped with something that is always evolving, bleeds acid, and could be hiding anywhere (even inside you)? Oh, and it's only Ridley Scott's second feature film ever. We can only hope the prequel (currently titled 'Prometheus') will hold even half a candle to what was started here in the original.
Well, there we have it, Dear Readers, another fun list. As always, there are certainly more films to mention than what's considered on this list of favorites -- yet remember, we're only considering currently available Blu-ray Discs -- so I encourage readers to hit up the forums to add titles and/or arrange your own list. What are your favorite Scott Brothers Blu-rays?
Also, which of the brothers do you like more, and why?
Or, what Scott Brothers films do you want to see released on Blu-ray? My first vote is for 'Legend'.