DVD Tuesday: ‘Top Gun’ and ‘The Borgias’

by W. Andrew Powell
Tom Cruise in Top Gun

Tom Cruise in Top Gun

Tom Cruise in Top Gun

New this week on DVD and Blu-ray: Tom Cruise soars in the 80s classic, Top Gun, which arrives on Blu-ray to celebrate the film’s 25th anniversary; and Jeremy Irons stars in the first season of the period television drama, The Borgias.

Top Gun [Blu-ray]
Starring: Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt
Director: Tony Scott

Rated: 7.5/10

Growing up in the 80s, I came to love a lot of movies from that era, and some of them have left a lasting impression that plays out every time I watch them. Among those 80s classics, there are a few that give me goose bumps within seconds of the opening music starting to play. Some of those films include Superman, Ghostbusters, and maybe a dozen others, and of course, there is Tony Scott’s very memorable Top Gun.

From the moment that slow beat starts playing, and the planes are taking off in the dark, misty morning on the airplane carrier, I remember being a kid, and later a teenager, wishing I could be as cool as Tom Cruise was in that movie. Pretty much every kid I knew growing up at that point gave up on dreams of being a Ghostbuster and promptly dreamed of being a fighter pilot.

And who can blame them? Watching the movie again now on Blu-ray, I want to be a pilot. Tony Scott may stand in his brother’s shadow frequently, but Top Gun is a classic action movie, and while no one will mistake it for one of Shakespeare classics, it is fun, charming, and a fairly action-packed adventure in the skies.

Cruise stars as Lt. Pete Mitchell, better known as Maverick, a pilot who thinks a lot of himself–a character type Cruise has played a lot over the years–who takes the leap into the greatest flight school in the world, better known as “Top Gun.” Trying to win the heart of one of the instructors, civilian Charlotte Blackwood, played by Kelly McGillis, Maverick and his co-pilot Lt. Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, played by Anthony Edwards, have to prove themselves against some of the best pilots out of sheer personal pride. In that fight for “Top Gun” Maverick will also take on one low-down competitor who hates his guts, the killer-cool Ice Man, played by Val Kilmer.

Although the script has some rough patches, and the film does falter at times, Top Gun is a totally rewatchable escape movie with some of the best aerial cinematography of any film from the 80s. The dog-fight sequences are not always entirely convincing, but they are big, intense, and well staged all the same, and they look great on Blu-ray.

Overall the entire film looks pretty fantastic on Blu-ray, actually, to the point where you can see every bead of sweat, every line on the planes, and you can bask in the glory of a young Cruise in one of his more memorable, cocky roles. It’s not a perfect transfer, and there are lots of other films from the 80s that look better on Blu-ray, but it’s a vast improvement over anything we’ve seen on home video before.

Extras packed onto the Blu-ray include a fantastic commentary track with producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Scott, the screenwriter, and some of the military advisors, which gives some really unique perspectives on how the film was made and brought to life, if you haven’t seen these features before on some of the other packages. There are also multiple standard definition featurettes on the making of the film, and storyboards, to name a few of the main extras.

This is really a great package that celebrates this film that left such a big mark on audiences, and for those who haven’t seen the film in a while, the Blu-ray will surprise you, and show you the film in a whole new light.

The Borgias – The Complete First Season [Blu-ray]
Starring: Jeremy Irons, François Arnaud, Holliday Grainger, Joanne Whalley

Director Neil Jordan created a series that the studio likes to refer to as “the first crime family,” following the lives of the powerful Borgia family in Italy back in the year 1492.

Jeremy Irons stars as Rodrigo Borgia, otherwise known as Pope Alexander VI, who rose to power through corruption, and eventually had to fight to keep his ill-earned seat as the College of Cardinals started to plot to take him down.

François Arnaud co-stars as Cesare Borgia, Rodrigo’s son and co-conspirator, with Holliday Grainger playing Lucrezia Borgia, and Joanne Whalley as Vannozza dei Cattanei.

The popular series has set itself up as the replacement for the Tudors, and promises viewers all the tension of age-old politics that show themselves as all too relevant to our modern political stage.

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