on 19 June 2016
Eureka Entertainment Special 30th Anniversary Blu-ray released: July 18th 2016
I’ve always viewed Cocoon as the type of film that Steven Spielberg would have been very happy to of made. It has all the hallmarks of a Spielberg movie, light hearted, warm, science fiction fantasy that is also extremely enjoyable and a perfect piece of innocent entertainment. It was of course Ron Howard who picked up the project, a relative newcomer in directorial terms and at the time had just scored hugely with the Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah romantic comedy fantasy Splash (1984). It was certainly enough to attract the attention of producers Zanuck and Brown at 20th Century Fox who were happy to take on the ambitious Howard and his vision for the film.
Given that the film was targeted at teenage audiences and the mid-eighties trend for special effects laden spectacles, Cocoon managed to capture the imagination of a much wider audience. At the centre of Cocoon was a senior cast, set in a retirement home - elements of which may not at first appear to be particularly appealing to teenage audiences. However, at its core there is a genuine heart, a story that raises questions about life, death, existence and destiny. It is a heart-warming tale that successfully blends a touching story of life with fantasy, and as a result managed to capture the hearts of audiences young and old.
Approximately 10,000 years ago, a peaceful alien species from the planet Antarea set up an outpost on Earth, an island later to be known as Atlantis. When Atlantis was submerged by the ocean, a number of aliens were left behind and kept in hibernation within cocoons at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. The story begins as a group of Antareans return to Earth to collect them. Disguising themselves as humans, their leader Walter (Brian Dennehy) rents a house with a swimming pool, and charges the water with a life force to give the cocooned Antareans enough energy to survive the trip home. They charter a boat from a local named Jack (Steve Guttenberg) who helps them retrieve the cocoons. After the aliens reveal themselves to him and explain what's going on, he decides to help them.
Next door to the house the Antareans are renting is Sunny Shores, a retirement home. Three of its residents, Ben (Wilford Brimley), Arthur (Don Ameche) and Joe (Hume Cronyn), often trespass to swim in the pool next door, thinking the house to be unoccupied. They absorb some of the life force, making them feel younger and stronger and with their youth seemingly revitalised.
Cocoon boasts a wonderful cast lead by the three senior citizens residing at the Sunny Shores retirement home, Ben (Wilford Brimley), Arthur (Don Ameche) and Joe (Hume Cronyn). Maureen Stapleton, Gwen Verdon and the beautiful Jessica Tandy are also wonderful as their wives and partners respectively, each of whom deliver measured and memorable performances. Brian Dennehy as Walter is a perfect piece of casting, a subtle and touching performance which proves that underplaying a role can also be very effective. Guttenberg also puts in a nice little turn as Jack, who again delivers a nicely balanced, humorous performance without ever allowing his delivery to run wild.
Eureka’s Special 30th Anniversary Blu-ray is presented in a new high definition transfer and looks very nice indeed. Framed in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the film has never looked better. Previous editions have often appeared a little soft and grainy, but Eureka’s presentation (whilst preserving a fine amount of natural grain) is smooth, clean and nicely detailed. Night scenes in particular, almost all of which were shot on location, are not drenched in deep blacks, but nevertheless look vastly better. The colour grading procedure has certainly enhanced its look and the film benefits hugely from the process and the time afforded it. The picture does (perhaps naturally) spring to life in far more vivid detail during the sunny Florida daylight scenes and the ocean bound journeys aboard Jack’s boat.
The Audio department provides the real rewards on this disc. Firstly the DTS-HD Master is a real joy, providing a lovely, all-encompassing clarity which particularly showcases James Horner’s beautiful and highly respected film score. Eureka also includes the uncompressed stereo mix. I found director Ron Howard’s commentary (which has been previously described as ‘uninformative’) to be well informed and very enjoyable. Howard’s commentaries (for me) always come across as interesting; he happily talks about the process, the work of the crew and varying aspects of production. Yes, he does hold certain ‘sentimentality’ in regards to family members that he uses a great deal in his movies, but why not? He talks ‘proudly’ but more importantly he talks as a genuine film fan, and a couple of hours spent in the company of a fellow film fan is, in my opinion, an enjoyable experience. The commentary (I believe) was recorded originally for the 2010 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment release which does render some of Howard’s comments as a little outdated, such as the tragic passing of composer James Horner who’s contribution to Cocoon simply can’t be overlooked. Talking of which, Eureka has also provided an isolated music and effects track, a very welcome bonus for fans of Horner and his delightful soundtrack.
The five featurettes that make up the majority of the bonus features are a little disappointing. The main behind the scenes featurette is sourced from that dreadful looking video format that was used so regularly throughout the eighties and nothing much can be done to improve its look today. It is basically an EPK which follows the routine format of interviews and clips. The four remaining featurettes, ‘Ron Howard profile’, ‘Underwater training’, ‘Actors’ and ‘Creating Antareans’ appear to be made up of extensions from the original ‘making of’, the same video source, interviews so expect some repeated footage throughout. All of this material was included on the 2010 US release, as is the remaining Three TV spots, the teaser and release trailer. The trailers are also uneasy on the eye, and if I didn’t know better, I’d say they also appear to be from a video source rather than film. There is also a Cocoon: The Return ‘theatrical’ trailer included, which is in fact just a teaser version.
Despite its shortcomings in regards to the bonus features, Cocoon is still a film worthy of consideration. The film does look (and sound) vastly better than any previous editions, and the Ron Howard commentary works sufficiently for me as the ‘stand out’ added attraction. James Horner’s Isolated Music (and effects) track simply adds additional weight and helps to tip the scales in its favour. Cocoon endures; the beautiful performances, some great work from ILM, a rousing score and a thought provoking story at its heart that will see the film live long in the memory. It’s a sweet pleasure, one that’s innocence and feel good factor is hard to ignore and can still be appreciated fully today.
Darren Allison – Cinema Retro Magazine
on 8 March 2014
COCOON  [Limited Edition SteelBook] [Blu-ray] A Celebration of the Human Spirit!
A group of shut-ins at a rest home get a new lease on life when they're offered the gift of eternal youth by visiting aliens led by Brian Dennehy, who are visitors from a distant galaxy. Steve Guttenberg plays a charter boat captain who helps Brian Dennehy and Don Ameche, marshal their fellow seniors Hume Cronyn, Wilford Brimley, Jack Gilford, Jessica Tandy and Maureen Stapleton into making the choice between perennial youth or old age. They have come to Earth on a rescue mission to retrieve a secret which has lain hidden on the ocean floor for thousands of years. They share a more wondrous adventure of love and friendship that they could ever have imagined.
FILM FACT: Academy Awards® 1985: Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Don Ameche. Best Visual Effects 1985: David Berry, Scott Farrar, Ralph McQuarrie and Ken Ralston. The film was shot in and around St. Petersburg, Florida: locations included the St Petersburg Shuffleboard Club, Sunny Shores Rest Home, The Coliseum, and Snell Arcade buildings.
Cast: Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley, Hume Cronyn, Brian Dennehy, Jack Gilford, Steve Guttenberg, Maureen Stapleton, Jessica Tandy, Gwen Verdon, Herta Ware, Tahnee Welch, Barret Oliver, Linda Harrison, Tyrone Power Jr., Clint Howard, Jim Fitzpatrick, Charles Lampkin, Mike Nomad, Jorge Gil, James Ritz, Charles Rainsbury, Wendy J. Cooke, Pamela Prescott, Dinah Sue Rowley, Gabriella Sinclair, Cyndi Vicino, Russ Wheeler, Harold Bergman, Mark Cheresnick, Mark Simpson, Robert Slacum Jr., Rance Howard, Jean Speegle Howard, Charles Voelker, Irving Krone, Clarence Thomas, Ted Science, Fred Astaire (archive footage uncredited), Reginald Gardiner (archive footage uncredited), Oliver Hardy (archive footage uncredited), Stan Laurel (archive footage uncredited), Carmen Miranda (archive footage uncredited), Jean Parker (archive footage uncredited) and Ginger Rogers (archive footage uncredited)
Director: Ron Howard
Producers: David Brown, Lili Fini Zanuck, Richard D. Zanuck and Robert Doudell
Screenplay: Tom Benedek
Cinematographer: Donald Peterman
Special FX: David Berry, Ken Ralston, Ralph McQuarrie and Scott Farrar
Composer: James Horner
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo and Spanish: 1.0 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English SDH and Spanish
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Running Time: 117 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: Takeaway the aliens from director Ron Howard's 1985 film ‘Cocoon' and you no longer have "science fiction," but a drama about the enduring human spirit. This oft-overlooked gem from the mid-1980's took a step back from the onslaught of hyperactive special effects and paranoia associated with the "me" generation and instead, like Steven Spielberg's E.T., inserted a breath of fresh air, relaxation, optimism that hearkened back to another Steven Spielberg sci-fi film, ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind.'
Unlike the latter that came along at a time when the country and the world were in an emotional and financial funk, with dismal spirits all around, `E.T.' and `Cocoon' came at a time during the 1980's when people were riding a seeming financial boom. It was the decade of skinny ties, the Hollywood blockbuster and yuppies. Science fiction was meant to be spectacle and it was ‘Dune,' ‘Blade Runner,' ‘Alien,' and ‘Terminator.' We were going to be destroyed by our technological success or by an unknown entity and that was that. But in `Cocoon' was a quiet story crafted around characters that offered an inward and almost naïve optimism that returned to the 1970s, or perhaps even the 1960s era of plain drama.
In ‘Cocoon' a group of elderly people in a nursing home accidentally discovers the fountain of youth in the swimming pool of a vacant home next to their residence. It turns out, however, that the "fountain" is really causing their reinvigoration due to alien cocoons that are resting there. After purchasing the house, a group of aliens has been scavenging their cocoons from the sea floor and resting them in the house's pool. They discover the elderly folks swimming, but agree to allow them to continue to swim there and benefit from the pool's energy. ‘Cocoon' has a cast is filled with veteran actors like Jessica Tandy, Don Ameche and Maureen Stapleton and also features Steve Guttenberg as the boat captain helping the aliens recover their cocoons.
The alterations to the old folk's lives begin to have repercussions beyond just their newfound youth. It forces them to re-examine what they want out of life and from their partners. Beyond being just a story of the elderly seeking to regain their youth, `Cocoon' is a film about the undying energy of the spirit within us all, regardless of our age. It's a feel good film for sure, and it may be unevenly charted between comedy, drama, and science fiction, but it is a wholesomely enjoyable gem nonetheless.
In closing, `Cocoon' was a bit of a stretch out into new storytelling territory at the time for director Ron Howard, as he himself even discusses briefly in the provided supplements. However, looking at it closely, going towards the sci-fi direction was not too much of a departure from a fantasy oriented film about a mermaid in `Splash.' Larger than the plotline of "Antareans" gathering extra-terrestrial cocoons from the ocean floor is the story within the elderly men who become involved with the life force charmed pool. This element of the story feels sincerely more like Ron Howard's touch, as the emotions and scenarios involved with the elderly regaining their youth and vitality brings about a fork in the road of whether reversing their decline of health is right or wrong. On the side regarding the film's sci-fi pieces, it doesn't go way over-the-top and become outrageous and silly, but rather leaves a lot to the viewer's imagination. This does help keep the story stable, as the film is strongly a bit of a pop-culture icon, with references to its unique story seen in many outlets of entertainment over the years, and with that in mind it is worthy of a solid endorsement.
Blu-ray Video Quality – ‘Cocoon' gets a wonderful 1080p encoded upgraded image with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. For a 1985 film, this is definitely an impressive transfer considering the film's 25 year-old age. For the most part, the picture looks very clean, rarely exhibiting the usual soft quality seen in films from the 1980's and even the 1990's and typically, the rare occasions that a softer video quality is present are usually in specific interior shots that are largely relying on natural lighting beaming in through windows. Otherwise, the Hi-Definition presentation of this film has a very clean look, with well-balanced saturation that in no way suggested the film's age, and a colour palette that is mostly neutral, exhibiting flesh tones with the most accuracy possible, and a black level that is nearly solid. Though the release is certainly not excessively soft in its presentation, definition of little details is not intense; however, it is still a definite improvement to any other releases of `Cocoon.' A few close-ups of actors and/or props render what detail has been uncovered with this High Definition transfer, and when looking at other Blu-ray releases of films from this era, `Cocoon' considerably outranks many others in the video quality department. There is an insignificant amount of small flaws that occur throughout the release's runtime, mostly being interfaced deformation, though other typical artefacts, such as hairs, dirt, and specs, are basically obsolete. Perhaps the original source for this transfer had simply not succumbed to many elements/conditions that would have deteriorated its quality, or may be the situation of this film's Hi-Definition transfer was simply more precise and thorough in cleaning up the flaws, but regardless, the Blu-ray release of ‘Cocoon' is an impressive example of how films two decades old can look.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The ‘Cocoon' soundtrack has been spruced up quite a bit for this Blu-ray release and given a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix. With the opening of the film's story, we see the "Antareans" beaming the light of their spaceship above the ocean where their remaining race lies underwater in cocoons. The presence of their spaceship, and the chirping of the dolphins surrounding the area all creates an interesting conveyance of sound from the 5.1 setup, having a nearly metaphysical quality as it pans about the rear and front channels, and also makes for usage of the subwoofer. As amazing as this first moment in the audio track is, following along with the rest of the film's content, the soundscape remains a bit more placid throughout the release's runtime, though still retains a great performance. Dialogue is delivered perfectly without any flaws, and several examples of sound effects translate without issues, whether they are from natural surroundings, or a computer generated synthetic sound to depict the “Antareans.” There are a few minutes' worth of intense audio content, aside from the described beginning, throughout the release's runtime that really show a kick-up in the audio track's performance, but otherwise the content relies on a more general well-balanced presentation, though is still worth a more than decent.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras: There's nothing new provided on this release of ‘Cocoon,' but viewers may still find the archival documentary that offers you the vintage interview segments of the cast, crew and filmmakers quite a treat.
Audio Commentary: Commentary by Director Ron Howard: One of the nicest guys in Hollywood gives a candid, friendly, and informative commentary track that spans the usual topics and technical details, on-set stories, and other pertinent reminiscences. Well worth your time if you enjoy the film.
Special Feature: Behind-the-Scenes Documentary  [480i] [6.56] Serves as the first of five brief documentaries for the film. Featuring interviews with the producers Lili Fini Zanuck and Richard D. Zanuck, several cast members, director Ron Howard, and special effects supervisor Ken Ralston, who went on to win an OSCAR® for his work on the film.
Special Feature: Ron Howard Profile  [480i] [2.34] He came to prominence playing Opie Taylor in the sitcom ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ for eight years, and later the teenaged Richie Cunningham in the sitcom ‘Happy Days’ for six years. He appeared in the musical film ‘The Music Man’ in 1962, the coming of age film ‘American Graffiti’ in 1973, and the western ‘The Shootist’ in 1976, the latter during his run on ‘Happy Days.’ This vintage profile gives an overview of the then 34 year old director's career. Ron Howard was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 2013.
Special Feature: Underwater Training  [480i] [3.35] Actor and diving instructor Mike Nomad who trained Ron Howard for the production of ‘Splash'  discusses the perils and challenges of shooting underwater.
Special Feature: Actors Interviews  [480i] [2.52] An overview of ‘Cocoon' and ensemble cast, concerning their characters in the film are offered by Steve Guttenberg, Jack Gilford, Brian Dennehy, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, and Maureen Stapleton.
Special Feature: Creating Antareans  [480i] [3.56] The actors who play the film's aliens talk about the process of creating their characters and concerning their role in the film and are offered by Steve Guttenberg, Jack Gilford, Brian Dennehy, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy and Maureen Stapleton.
1985 Trailers: Theatrical Teaser [480i] [0:55]; Theatrical Trailer [480i] [1:27]; TV Spot No.1 [480i] [0:31]; TV Spot No.2 [480i] [0:31] and TV Spot No.3 [480i] [0:31]
Theatrical Trailer: Cocoon: The Return Theatrical Teaser [480i] [1:20]
Finally, kick back and prepare for some warm light hearted sci-fi fun that forgoes the reliance on special effects and actually remembers there are people in the world. ‘Cocoon' image is rather stellar, rarely becoming genuinely exceptional but always getting the job done in a satisfactory transfer. The special effects sequence come close to providing some real pop, but otherwise the transfer just offers a natural, warm image with solid detail. Flesh tones are warm and accurate while darker scenes benefit from good depth. ‘Cocoon' itself on this Blu-ray disc has gotten some life-extending rejuvenation, thanks to a strong high definition transfer by 20th Century Fox and I am so pleased to have this unique Limited Edition SteelBook in my extensive Blu-ray Collection and especially a really great favourite film of mine, but now I wish they would release the follow up ‘Cocoon: The Return' as a Limited Edition SteelBook Blu-ray as well. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom