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After leaving the Army, Brian Flanagan gets a part-time job as a bartender. When his new boss, Douglas Coughlin, teaches him the secrets of the bar trade, they become the most famous bartenders in town. Both Brian and Doug want their own top class cocktail bar some day, but rivalries derail their partnership.
For more about Cocktail and the Cocktail Blu-ray release, see Cocktail Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on June 8, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Tom Cruise, Bryan Brown, Elisabeth Shue, Gina Gershon, Kelly Lynch, Chris Owens
Director: Roger Donaldson
» See full cast & crew
Cocktail Blu-ray Review
I'll Tumbler for Ya
Reviewed by Michael Reuben, June 8, 2012
It was Doug Pratt of The DVD-Laserdisc Newsletter who proposed the theory that Cocktail is a musical in disguise, and it makes a lot of sense. The film has a score composed of reliably catchy tunes, many of them Eighties classics that instantly evoke a specific time and mood. The two male leads, Flanagan and Coughlin, engage in elaborately choreographed dance routines disguised as bartending. The characters and their motivations are drawn in the kind of bold, broad strokes favored by a musical "book" (that's the narrative between the songs), and there are plenty of lyrics, which happen to be spoken instead of sung. Throw in one of those whirlwind romances between star-crossed lovers on which musicals seem to thrive (with the requisite obstacles that have to be surmounted before the curtain falls), and you're good to go. Cocktail was a commercial success for star Tom Cruise and director Roger Donaldson, and it remains a guilty pleasure for many despite a critical drubbing and the distinction of winning the 1988 Razzie Award for Worst Picture. Cruise was nominated for Worst Actor (losing to Sylvester Stallone in Rambo III). Ironically, that same year Cruise drew critical plaudits for his performance opposite Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, proving once again that acceptance by the motion picture establishment depends as much upon the vehicle as the quality of the work. How would Cocktail be received if it were made today? Much better, I suspect, for several reasons. For one thing, this type of film now has a name, and critics are always more comfortable when they can pigeonhole a work. The complex relationship between Flanagan and Coughlin makes Cocktail an early form of "bromance", albeit one with a darkly twisted underside—which is the second reason why the film would be better received if it were made today. Studio executives and marketing departments would be so concerned about audience response to the dark center of this apparently light-hearted material that they'd push (and push hard) to tone down its meaner elements. They'd certainly want an ending in which the two buddies are once again behind the bar, best friends forever, bantering and tossing bottles before an adoring crowd, just like the old days. Filmmakers who resisted such pressure and emerged with a film like the one we actually have (I really don't think I'm giving anything away here) would look like men of integrity stubbornly clinging to their artistic vision, and the crowd would adore them for it. The Eighties are generally regarded as the era when corporate overlords reasserted control over the runaway auteurs of the previous decade, and creativity was squelched in favor of mass appeal. Then again, maybe some of the rebellious Seventies spirit managed to hang on longer than anyone realized at the time, like a cinematic counterinsurgency. An age supposedly devoted to self-indulgence and the single-minded pursuit of wealth spawned a film where the most obnoxious and contemptible characters are those who do just that. The character in Cocktail with the most bitter downward trajectory is the one who spent a lifetime chasing after the idle rich and discovers at the end that the pursuit leaves you with nothing.
Brian Flanagan (Cruise), a blue-collar kid from Queens (and now an orphan), returns home from army service with dreams of making it big in Manhattan. Declining his Uncle Pat's (Ron Dean) offer of manual labor in the old neighborhood, Brian proceeds to get turned down for every office job in the city, because he doesn't have a college degree. He ends up tending bar for Doug Coughlin (Bryan Brown) in a night spot on the tony Upper East Side, which, though just a few miles from his uncle's place, might as well be another world. (Trivia note: The general location on First Avenue is historically accurate, because in the Eighties the region was littered with one fabulous night spot after another. The T.G.I. Friday's used for the exterior of Coughin's bar wasn't one of them.) Coughlin is a charmingly dissipated rogue, who's just clever enough to pass off cynicism as wisdom. He takes a shine to Brian, in whom he obviously sees a version of his younger self, and having never amounted to much in life, he drills it into Brian that he won't either. Many of the plot turns in Cocktail are driven by Coughlin's reaction whenever he sees Brian on the verge of achieving something that Coughlin no longer can (or never could). For a time, though, the pair operate in sync, developing a kind of bartender duet that keeps customers lined up three and four deep to watch them juggle bottles, glasses, straws and other paraphernalia, while they wink, grin and banter with each other and the crowd. Before long, they've been snapped up by the owner of the latest hot club, where Brian jumps on the bar and spouts poetry to adoring patrons (alternating with the world's first "yuppie" poet—a dated reference if ever there was one). When the partnership busts up—nominally over Brian's photographer girlfriend, Coral (Gina Gershon), but really over Coughlin's jealousy—Brian decamps to Jamaica, where he can live cheaply and save money toward opening his own bar. After three years he meets The Right Girl, whose name is Jordan (Elisabeth Shue, at her most gloriously golden) and falls madly in love. With the precision of a music cue, Coughlin appears, having struck it rich by marrying money. Her name is Kerry, and she's played by Kelly Lynch with such a pitch-perfect sense of the emotional dissociation of the idle rich that it's easy to overlook the quality of the performance (it takes skill to play both present and detached at the same time). Once again, Coughlin gets jealous and manages to insert himself between Brian and Jordan by flinging another woman (Lisa Banes) at his old partner. Jordan flees home to New York broken-hearted. Brian follows, but as the kept man of his new acquaintance, who owns her own business. It's his last attempt at emulating Coughlin, and it becomes the alcoholic's equivalent of hitting bottom. There's never any doubt that Brian will win back Jordan, but that road involves several turns that I'll leave unspoiled for the first-time viewer (though they're not hard to see rounding the corner). Jordan's father (Laurence Luckinbill) is the closest thing to a traditional villain the film has to offer, and he's made entirely of cardboard. Brian Flanagan is both a successor to Top Gun's Maverick and a precursor to Jerry Maguire's eponymous hero. All three characters have to get knocked off their perches, learn humility, and gain an appreciation for sincerity over hustle and substance over flash. One can debate Tom Cruise's acting ability ad infinitum (I happen to think he's proven his talent repeatedly), but his star power when playing these kinds of roles is beyond question. They always work for him, and Cocktail is no exception. Razzies be damned.
Cocktail Blu-ray, Video Quality
After the disappointment of The Color of Money , I was relieved to find that Disney's 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray of Cocktail provides a decent representation of Dean Semler's colorful cinematography. The opening sequence, which depicts Brian Flanagan's trip by bus and subway into Manhattan and Queens, reflects the added graininess associated with optically superimposed titles, but as soon as director Donaldson's credit passes (when Brian emerges from the subway), the frame clears into a nicely detailed, if soft and not eye-popping, image with fine, natural grain, acceptable blacks with minimal crushing and acceptable shadow detail. Colors are varied and often vivid, although the palette in New York tends run toward dark tones accented by pastels; it isn't until the film reaches Jamaica that brighter, saturated hues become more frequent. Considering the lack of features, it's interesting that Disney put this 104-minute film on a BD-50, but the result is a complete lack of compression artifacts. Despite the softness of the image, there's certainly no indication of high frequency filtering or artificial sharpening.
Cocktail Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The 2004 DVD release of Cocktail contained a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix from the film's original stereo surround, and the Blu-ray's DTS-HD MA 5.1 track appears to be based on the same source. It's a conservative remix that remains largely front-centered, using the discrete format to maintain the clarity of the dialogue and strengthen the impact and presence of the all-important soundtrack. The latter includes such classics as Little Richard's "Tutti-Frutti", Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love", The Beach Boys' "Kokomo" and Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy". The period-appropriate underscoring was supplied by J. Peter Robinson, who a few years later would score Wayne's World.
Cocktail Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Like the 2004 DVD, the Blu-ray includes no extras, unless you count Disney's usual "sneak peeks" (which I don't). These include: The Odd Life of Timothy Green and John Carter.
Cocktail Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Is Cocktail a masterwork of cinema? No. Is it true to life? Hardly. Is it fun to watch? Absolutely. Among other things, it's a time capsule of Eighties styles and fashion that won't set your teeth on edge, and it's a morality tale where the nice guy does finish first (or at least he ends up with the right girl). The Blu-ray won't be anyone's idea of demo material, but it's an apt representation of the film. Recommended.
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Cocktail Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Upcoming Disney Catalog Releases for 2012 (Updated) - June 26, 2012
This year, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment will bring over thirty catalog entries to Blu-ray. The scheduled films span across Disney's different distribution branches, and while the studio has previously hinted at certain titles - such as The Color of Money, ...
• Three Disney Catalog Titles Scheduled for Blu-ray - March 7, 2012
With three early retail announcements, Walt Disney Studios has revealed plans to release Blu-rays of the following titles from their Touchstone catalog - The Color of Money, Cocktail, and Ransom. The films are expected to street on June 5th.
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