Welcome to this column dedicated to my appreciation of physical media supplements called Feature Presentations. The goal of this column is not to say whether a film is good or bad and worth picking up or not—I would like to highlight the discs that go the extra mile and provide film fans with enough tasty tidbits to satisfy even the hungriest of cinephiles. Today’s article will focus on Cool as Ice from Turbine Media.
I never have been or will claim to be an expert in reviewing the technical specs of a physical media release. There are plenty of knowledgeable people in this realm of commenting on the audio and video aspects of a disc with better setups than I’ll ever own. This column, Feature Presentations, is a way of highlighting the supplemental material within a given disc. With all that out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff and dive into my review of this box set.
As a disclaimer of transparency for this episode of Feature Presentations, my review of Cool as Ice comes from a review copy that Turbine Media provided for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I’ll tell you, the 1990s were a weird time, the early ’90s in particular. Whether it was the rockin’ the stylistic choice of parachute pants, guzzling Crystal Pepsi, or strutting down the streets in your Reebok Pumps, it was a time like no other.
I lived through that time, but I wasn’t old enough to completely grasp the insanity of the first few years of the last decade of the 20th century. One memory I recall is a choice presented to me for a birthday present: a Magna Doodle drawing board or Robert Van Winkle, aka Vanilla Ice’s debut album, “To the Extreme,” on cassette. I selected the indisputable choice and spent many years enjoying my Magna Doodle. Which leads me to today’s article, focusing on the only mainstream starring vehicle of the man, the myth, the Ice: Cool as Ice.
As you can tell from my birthday selection, Vanilla Ice never meant much to me. I recall seeing the music video for “Ice, Ice Baby.” How could you not? For a brief time, the Iceman dominated pop culture from TV to radio stations, complete with showing off his sweet dance and lyrical skills in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. It was only a matter of time before Hollywood producers came knocking, looking to strike while the iron was hot, only to find his popularity was as frigid as his stage name.
As with the cassette tape I passed over, for me, Cool as Ice was a faint memory; even reaching back into my subconscious, I only seem to recall the occasional TV spot when the film hit theaters. I barely gave it a second thought, never having desired to seek out this particular slice of 1991 cinema. It came. It went. It sums up the career of Vanilla Ice.
Then, a funny thing happened. What’s old is new again, and Cool as Ice started to gain popularity as a cult film: not as a misunderstood classic or anything silly like that, but a time capsule into the culture of the early ’90s and something to enjoy with a group of friends.
When Turbine Media announced a 32nd Anniversary Edition (you read that right), I figured now was as good a time to take the polar plunge and see what I’ve been missing.
I’ve covered Turbine Media previously when I looked at their 4K/Blu-ray edition of The Frighteners. They are a German distribution company, and I understand some might not be region-free and a bit apprehensive about picking up an international release. What’s great about this Cool as Ice Blu-ray is that it’s open to all regions. So, there’s no need to worry if you’re on the fence!
I’m not going to sit and claim Cool as Ice is must-see entertainment, far from it, but there is a bit of early-90s charm that you don’t see in movies anymore. It’s a silly slice of entertainment fluff designed to catapult Van Winkle to the A-list. Unfortunately, his lack of acting talent pulsates through every frame of Cool as Ice. Ice’s struggle on the screen is the film’s most glaring detriment, but also why it’s become a staple of “bad movie” enthusiasts.
And that conglomerate of fandom that has grown with Cool as Ice probably explains why such a rubbish film is getting such lavish treatment. Not content with one spiffy edition, Turbine Media crafted four different editions of 500 units apiece: a two-disc digibook with the original poster design, a two-disc mediabook featuring the theatrical artwork, a two-disc mediabook with a leather jacket design and a four-disc 12-inch ultimate collector’s edition. The version for this review will be the two-disc mediabook with the original poster art.
As the release is a media book, the two-disc Blu-ray affair comes packaged with a small booklet built into the Blu-ray case. Bjarni Gautur pens a short but sweet synopsis chronicling Vanilla Ice’s upbringing, rise to fame, and the culmination of his superstardom with Cool as Ice. Gautur goes more in-depth with Vanilla Ice during his audio commentary, but the read was quick and a welcome addition to the package.
The first feature on the disc is an interview with actress Kristin Minter, “The Girl that Drives the Horse.” Minter reflects on her time filming Cool as Ice with warmth and a loving tone. Her effervescent personality is infectious as she discusses working with Vanilla Ice at the peak of his stardom, efficiency at horse riding, and her favorite day of filming. Minter has nothing but kind words about the production and those who helped get it to the big screen.
“The Dad” is an interview with actor Michael Gross. Unlike the bubbly persona of Kristin Minter, Gross discusses his work on the film through the eyes of a veteran actor. And this isn’t a knock on either Gross or Minter’s discussions; it’s a fascinating dichotomy. Gross speaks about Cool as Ice professionally, with a hint of sarcasm frothing under the surface. He discusses his apprehension of playing another fatherly figure so soon after Family Ties, minor clashes with the film’s director at the beginning of the shoot, and how he approaches acting roles. I enjoyed listening to Gross and Minter’s interviews back-to-back as they give an overall, multi-sided view of the production. Even though Michael Gross understands the punching bag Cool as Ice became for critics and audiences, there are plenty of high points he touches on, never regretting taking on the role.
The last interview on disc one, “The Kid,” is a chat with actor Victor DiMattia. DiMattia projects a chilled, laid-back vibe as he dishes his experiences with the 1991 flick. He mentions how Vanilla Ice had the world in his palm and the excitement at meeting an icon of the times. DiMattia then remarks on Ice’s initial standoffish nature at sharing scenes with a child and how one line delivery by the child actor changed everything between the two. As with the other interviews, DiMattia has mostly pleasant remembrances about the Cool as Ice production, even if he didn’t bond with Vanilla Ice as much as he wanted.
Turbine Media includes a feature-length audio commentary with Vanilla Ice expert Bjarni Gautur. I didn’t think there was such a thing, but I am glad to be proven wrong! While some audio commentaries take a more scholarly approach, Gautur’s comments play more down-to-earth as a knowledgeable fan of the film and Vanilla Ice. As someone classified as a Vanilla Ice expert, this track obviously leans heavily into the film’s star. Gautur does provide some behind-the-scenes information but plays closer to a fanboy spending 90 minutes waxing poetically about their favorite music artist. Gautur may rely too much on describing the action on the screen or heaping praise on the Iceman, but for a film tailored for one man, it’s only fitting to have a commentary follow in the movie’s footsteps.
As an added bonus, the original RiffTrax featuring Bill Corbett, Kevin Murphy, and Mike Nelson comes with the release as an additional perk! If you’re familiar with RiffTrax or Mystery Science Theater 3000, this is a must-listen, and if you’ve never given either property a spin, this is still a must-listen! I love the RiffTrax/MST3K crew, and having this audio as part of the supplemental material put as big a smile on my face as listening to the RiffTrax comments.
As another example of going above and beyond, Turbine Media provides a feature called “Jump 2 A Song,” allowing the user to select from a list of songs and jump to that point in the film. It’s not an essential feature, but it shows the care put into this package.
The first disc closes with the United States and German theatrical trailers.
I know what you must be asking yourself: “Will Vanilla Ice make an appearance?” Let me answer that with an emphatic “Yes” as we head over to the second disc of this package. Ice sits down, answering questions about the film, his fame, and his work in the music and film industries. Throughout the lengthy discussion, Vanilla Ice presents a positive attitude and has nothing but terrific feelings about Cool as Ice. He touches upon his many ad-libs that made it into the final cut, his affinity for motorcycles, and how he holds the film as his number two favorite film with his involvement. What’s number one? We all know that answer (Go, ninja, go, ninja, go). And if you think Vanilla Ice’s fashion sense has mellowed since Cool as Ice, you’d be dead wrong.
One final treat from Turbine; on the second disc is a “retro” version of Cool as Ice. You get the feature film presented in a 4:3 ratio, as one might watch the movie on television in the early 90s.
And there you have it! Cool as Ice isn’t that good of a film: it’s by the numbers, and Vanilla Ice’s lack of acting chops glaringly shows throughout the 91-minute run time. What it does is serve as a capsule for the early ’90s, and anyone yearning for a cinematic nostalgia trip will have quite the ride. Turbine Media has done more than anybody could have envisioned for such a notorious slice of early ’90s cinema. If you need to venture back to such a time and get such a nostalgia fix, drop that zero and get with this Blu-ray from Turbine Media.