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St. Elmo's Fire(1985)
Seven friends, fresh out of Georgetown University, cope with the fears and realities of adulthood while drinking at their favourite hangout, St. Elmo's. Alex (Judd Nelson) and Leslie (Ally Sheedy) are career-minded and heading towards marriage. Virginal Wendy (Mare Winningham) only has eyes for wild, would-be rocker Billy (Rob Lowe)--whose wife and child don't prevent him from trying to relive his college days. Kevin (Andrew McCarthy) ponders the meaning of life and secretly desires Leslie, while his roommate Kirbo (Estevez) pursues an elusive older woman (Andie MacDowell). Jules (Demi Moore) rounds out the group with her massive debts and cocaine problem. Joel Schumacher's twentysomething ensemble piece stands, for better or worse, as a revealing peek into the popular cinema-- and values--of the 1980s. The film also represented a graduation of sorts, as Estevez, Sheedy, and Nelson portrayed high school students in John Hughes's THE BREAKFAST CLUB earlier in 1985.
For more about St. Elmo's Fire and the St. Elmo's Fire Blu-ray release, see St. Elmo's Fire Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on August 2, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Andrew McCarthy, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy
Director: Joel Schumacher
» See full cast & crew
St. Elmo's Fire Blu-ray Review
Does 'St. Elmo's Fire' burn up Blu-ray?
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, August 2, 2009
When is a "classic" not particularly "classic?" When it's only a classic of its own sub-genre, a picture that's wholly representative of a class of films that defined an era but is otherwise of little aesthetic, thematic, or emotional value. St. Elmo's Fire is one such member of a rather small and select grouping of motion pictures, director Joel Schumacher's (Flatliners) 1985 effort a prime example of the 1980s "Brat Pack" collection that, along with The Breakfast Club and a few select others, strove to capture the all-too-familiar "coming of age" refrain but with a then-edgier 1980s flair that dealt with the nitty-gritty of interpersonal relationships and the challenges of love, lust, separation, aspiration, greed, frustration, confusion, self-worth, and any number of distinct physical and emotional challenges that defined every character, each of whom struggled with a singularly unique-to-the-picture issue. A fine concept but not nearly as well-executed here as in The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo's Fire's true value indeed lies in its status as a picture-perfect snapshot of a bygone cinematic era that's nowadays best enjoyed as but a curiosity rather than as a film that offers anything but the most shallow of views on the challenges of life in the real world.
A core group of friends, recently graduated from college, find themselves in a world that's suddenly more complex and challenging than they could have possibly expected. Alec (Judd Nelson, Relentless), a budding politician who changes party affiliation in pursuit of a higher salary, cannot help but cheat on his live-in girlfriend Leslie (Ally Sheedy, Short Circuit), though he's convinced he'll be able to stop his infidelities cold turkey should the two tie the knot. Meanwhile, Leslie, unsure about her feelings toward Alec, finds herself the object of affection of another man, the lonely wannabe journalist Kevin (Andrew McCarthy, Pretty in Pink). Billy (Rob Lowe, About Last Night...), a talented saxophonist, is seen as a failure of a husband and dreams of the good old days in college before he was tied down with a wife and baby. The soft-spoken and romantically inexperienced Wendy (Mare Winningham, Turner & Hooch) lives under her father's thumb and struggles with the divide between what he wants for her and her own secret desires. Jules (Demi Moore, A Few Good Men) lives a carefree and uninhibited lifestyle that has her in debt and in the arms of multiple men. Finally, Kirby (Emilio Estevez, Young Guns) is a waiter at the gang's favorite hang-out spot, St. Elmo's Bar, and finds himself obsessed with the hard-to-get Dale Biberman (Andie MacDowell, Groundhog Day).
The challenge facing St. Elmo's Fire, particularly for viewers with little-to-no connection to the post-teenage world of the 1980s that the film's characters inhabit, lies first in accepting them for who they are, what they want, what they say, and what they do (the latter two often at odds with one another). Much like the way the film is best viewed in retrospect as a snapshot of its era and of its genre, St. Elmo's Fire offers but a momentary glimpse into the characters that inhabit its world. They're not superheroes, they're not celebrities, they're not rich, they're not even all that special outside (and sometimes inside) their own little group. It captures a core group of friends struggling to make it in the world, painting them as best it can as everyday people yet each burdened with unique problems that promise to either draw them closer together or tear them apart. The film's strongest asset stems from its ability to showcase its characters as, perhaps in some way or another, just like anyone in the audience where each day is marked by an ebb and flow of ups and downs that eventually seem to crescendo into a tidal wave of emotion, be it joy or despair, that will forever come to define at least a slice of their existences.
St. Elmo's Fire, then, is only as good as the cast that portrays its assembled group of distinct and somewhat interesting characters, and its core Brat Packers do what they do best: gel. The friendships as depicted in the film -- and the resultant twists and turns that will see friendships endure or fade as fate would have it -- play as consistently genuine and deeply rooted in longstanding traditions and understandings that provide to the audience the sense of real, honest relationships. The dialogue flows naturally, the care and concern shown one to the other never comes across as forced or otherwise fake, and the general camaraderie that remains no matter the setting or the circumstance cannot help but impress viewers. Though every cast member in their own way offers a distinct and noteworthy effort, it's the usual suspects -- Estevez, Nelson, and Sheedy -- that more often than not excel past their peers. Though none offer up performances that, individually, are worthy of great recognition past the point of a pat on the back and a "job well done," as a whole, they've got something special and rather unique that sets the film apart -- at least in one important regard -- from so many others out there, 80s Brat Pack movie or otherwise.
St. Elmo's Fire Blu-ray, Video Quality
St. Elmo's Fire arrives on Blu-ray with a rather handsome 1080p, 2.40:1-framed transfer. The image holds up remarkably well, generally free of print damage and delivering a strong color palette despite the film's occasional and very mild faded appearance. Though colors are bright yet naturally rendered throughout, several do tend to stand out above the rest -- particularly those that tend to dominate the frame -- for instance the flamboyant Jules' red top or her apartment's pink wall. The film comes alive and offers its clearest and most finely-tuned images during daylight exterior shots. Fall leaves sparkle as they dot the screen; brick façades look marvelous, and streets and sidewalks offer strongly-defined lines and textures. The transfer remains generally sharp with only a hint of softness every now and again. Close-ups of faces don't reveal much lifelike texture and detail, but the transfer retains a consistently moderate layer of grain throughout. Blacks and flesh tones hold up well. St. Elmo's Fire makes for a pleasantly strong visual Blu-ray catalogue release from Sony.
St. Elmo's Fire Blu-ray, Audio Quality
St. Elmo's Fire bursts onto Blu-ray with a robust Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. In the film's opening minutes, dialogue tends to become lost under a deluge of music and sound effects. For instance, the playing of a saxophone competes heavily with the spoken word for the track's most audible source of sound, resulting in a garbled mess of a moment. Fortunately, however, this isn't always the case. Most of the dialogue may be heard clearly and distinctly throughout, but there is no denying the soundtrack's power and eagerness to allow each sound to dominate the soundstage. The 80s music heard throughout positively blares at reference levels, so much so that it'll likely have listeners scrambling for the remote on more than one occasion. Some of the track's more bass-heavy moments, particularly in its music, also pack a solid wallop that penetrates nicely into the listening area. Ambience is a mixed bag; the recreation of the sounds that are scattered about the bar sometimes sound canned and unnatural, while at other times listeners will feel immersed in a rich, lifelike experience. St. Elmo's Fire is loud to a fault and sometimes can't keep its priorities straight, but generally speaking, this is a better-than-adequate track that should satisfy fans.
St. Elmo's Fire Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
St. Elmo's Fire serves up several bonus features. First among them is a commentary track with Director Joel Schumacher. The director, with a monotone voice and even-keeled presentation, recalls the era that inspired the film, the assemblage of the cast and the actors that became known as the "Brat Pack," the film's sets and cinematography, the characters' negative traits, and plenty of other interesting tidbits. Joel Schumacher Remembers 'St. Elmo's Fire' (1080p, 14:21) features the director recalling many of the same facts as discussed in the commentary, speaking briefly on a wide range of subjects, including the origins of the project, shooting in scope, the wardrobe, the score, the assemblage of the cast and his disdain for the term "Brat Pack," and more. Original Making-of Featurette (480p, 8:03) is a vintage piece that features cast and crew sharing their thoughts on the story's themes, intercut with footage from the film. Also included is the music video "Man in Motion" by John Parr (480p, 4:21) and a collection of 12 deleted scenes (480p, 15:41). This disc is also BD-Live (Blu-ray profile 2.0) enabled and features 1080p trailers for A River Runs Through It, Ghostbusters, The Da Vinci Code, Assassination of a High School President, Adoration, and Easy Virtue
St. Elmo's Fire Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
St. Elmo's Fire remains a classic as a snapshot of a particular time and place, the film perhaps second only to The Breakfast Club as the ultimate 1980s coming-of-age motion picture. Though not particularly all that deep, memorable, or even merely noteworthy for its themes and address of the issues of its day, St. Elmo's Fire is nevertheless worth checking out for historical purposes and for the collection of actors that, together, makes for one of the finer and most natural ensemble casts of the decade. Sony's Blu-ray release generally impresses. Boasting a strong 1080p transfer, a hit-or-miss but more often than not suitable lossless soundtrack, and a short but as-expected collection of extras, St. Elmo's Fire comes recommended for movie collectors looking to fill in the holes that call for historically important films in their burgeoning libraries.
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