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St. Elmo’s Fire (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 28, 2009 by  



“The film that started the ‘Brat Pack’ gets its High Definition treatment nearly 25-years later.  With new Blu-ray exclusives and watching it now, compared to back then, I found myself enjoying this film even more.  For fans of 80’s films or ‘Brat Pack’ films, definitely a film on Blu-ray worth having in your collection!”

Images courtesy of © 1985 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: St. Elmo’s Fire

DURATION: 108 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English/French/Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese

COMPANY:  Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R

Release Date: August 11, 2009

Directed by Joel Schumacher

Written by Joel Schumacher and Carl Kurlander

Executive Produced by Bernard Schwartz and Ned Tanen

Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner

Music by David Foster

Director of Photography: Stephen H. Burm

Edited by Richard Marks

Casting by Marci Liroff, Jennifer Shull

Art Direction by William Sandell

Set Decoration by Robert Gould and Charles Graffeo

Costume Design by Susan Becker

Starring:

Emilio Estevez as Kirby Keger

Rob Lowe as Billy Hicks

Andrew McCarthy as Kevin Dolenz

Demi Moore as Jules

Judd Nelson as Alec Newbary

Mare Winningham as Wendy Beamish

Martin Balsam as Mr. Beamish

Andie MacDowell as Dale Biberman

Jenny Wright as Felicia

Jon Cutler as Howie Krantz

Seven friends, recent college graduates, are searching for a place in the real world, as they face issues of career and commitment. Leslie and Alec (Ally Sheedy and Judd Nelson) try to save a crumbling romance. Wendy (Mare Winningham), a shy virgin, hides a love for Billy (Rob Lowe), a reluctant father/husband still searching for goals. Kevin (Andrew McCarthy) is a cynical writer who scorns love until he realizes he’s in love with his best friend’s girl. Kirbo (Emilio Estevez), a law student, obsessively pursues an older woman. The beautiful, neurotic Jules (Demi Moore) paints a poignant picture of life in the fast lane. Against the backdrop of St. Elmo’s, their local hang-out, they save, betray and love one another as only the closest of friends can.

The mid-80’s was about conservatism, Reaganomics, Miami Vice and a time where people were not fully aware about AIDS and were thinking more about working together to bring food to Africa.  This was the sign of the times and for director Joel Schumacher (“The Lost Boys”, “Flatliners”, “Batman Forever”, “8MM”, etc.), while he was working on his second film “D.C. Cab”, during a short stay at Georgetown, he observed graduating college students at Georgetown University and wondered how miserable some of them maybe, of having to graduate but now become adults.

It was right there and then that Schumacher wanted to make a film based on these type of college graduates who face problems of transitioning to adulthood.  In order to capture the life of a young adults graduating college, Schumacher tapped into recent college graduate, Karl Kurlander (“Saved by the Bell: The New Class” and “Malibu, CA”) and together they began working on “St. Elmo’s Fire”.  Schumacher had renowned musician and producer David Foster (who wrote major hit songs for “Karate Kid, Part II”, “Sleepless in Seattle”, “The Bodyguard”, etc.) working on his first film as a composer and cinematographer Stephn H. Burm (“The Untouchables”, “Snake Eyes”, “Mystery Men”, etc.).

But what the film would be known for is the cast in which David Blum of New Yorker Magazine would dub as “The Brat Pack”, a title that would be synonymous with Hollywood’s popular young talents: Emilio Estevez (“Breakfast Club”, “The Mighty Ducks” films and “Young Guns” films), Rob Lowe (“The West Wing”, “Brothers & Sisters”, “About Last Night…”, etc.), Andrew McCarthy (“Lipstick Jungle”, “Weekend at Bernies” and “The Joy Luck Club”), Demi Moore (“Indecent Proposal”, “G.I. Jane”, “Ghost”, etc.), Judd Nelson (“Breakfast Club”, “Airheads”, “Suddenly Susan”, etc.), Ally Sheedy (“Kyle XY”, “The Breakfast Club”, “Oxford Blues”, “WarGames”, etc.) and Mare Winningham (“Clubhouse”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Wyatt Earp”, etc.).

The film revolves around seven college graduates of Georgetown University who are starting off on their own careers or trying to find a job.

Kirby Keger (Emilio Estevez) – Studying to become a lawyer and works as a waiter at St. Elmo’s Bar.  He is obsessed with Dale Biberman (Andie McDowell) and will do what it takes to go out on a date with her or to at least be acknowledged by her.

Billy Hicks (Rob Lowe) – A father who is trying to find ways to support his girlfriend and child.  But at the same time, he’s a playboy that likes to have fun, likes to drink and be with many women.  He tries to have a fling with the group’s virgin Wendy Beamish (Mare Winningham).  A musician who plays the saxophone, he is unable to hold onto a job and is looked as a hero at his college (because of his ability to find drugs and sell them to the students).  Tends to think with his penis than his head most of the time.

Kevin Dolenz (Andrew McCarthy) – Lives with Kirby, a writer, always smoking and the quiet one of the group.  Tend to be seen as a homosexual because he doesn’t go after women publicly and even looked by his own friends as possibly a gay man who hasn’t come out of the closet.  Kevin is in love with someone but isn’t telling.  His friend Jules thinks Kevin is in love with Alec.

Jules (Demi Moore) – The socialite sporting the latest fashions and always partying.  The carefree friend but behind-the-scenes, things are not as rosy with her life as it would it seem.

Alec Newbary (Judd Nelson) – The future politician who ran the Young Democrats in college and now works for a Republican.  Dates Leslie and wants her to marry him in order for him to end his desires of sleeping with other women.  The friend that others looked up to for leadership.

Leslie Hunter (Ally Sheedy) – The architect who is dating Alec.  The friend that is level headed but is not sure she wants to get married just yet and wants to establish her own career.

Wendy Beamish (Mare Winningham) – The wealthy daughter and the virgin.  She is attracted to Billy but gets upset when he keeps asking her if she’s still a virgin. Her father pressures her on how to live her life and that she should marry a guy from a wealthy family for the purpose of a family/business transaction.

The film focuses on these seven friends and how they thought that after graduating college, their friendship would continue to be strong and they would be together.  But all learn that as they grow older and focus on their careers, their life as a group and as friends will start to change.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“St. Elmo’s Fire” gets its HD treatment via 1080p High Definition.  For the most part, the positive is that the film looks much better than many 80’s films that tend to receive a lot of DNR and overall look too soft and are devoid of colors.  With “St. Elmo’s Fire”, there are lot of colors and scenes such as Jules pink and red apartment that look vibrant but at the same time, there was noticeable banding that can be seen prominently in Jules apartment (towards the end of the film when Billy is talking to her) and some darker scenes with light emitting.  Granted, if you are sitting far from your television, this won’t be as noticeable.  In fact, I didn’t catch these until I rewatched certain scenes during my testing and saw the artifacts when I was  3-4 ft. away.   But for the most part, the picture quality was satisfactory, considering this film didn’t have much of a budget.

As for audio, the film is featured in English, French and Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital) and the film is primarily a dialogue driven film.  Dialogue is understandable and clear.  And of course, David Foster’s “Love Theme from St. Elmo’s Fire” and the other 80’s music featured on the soundtrack comes alive during the film.  There are some scenes especially at the bar that utilize the ambiance of a crowded room and is heard through the surrounds but for the most part, this film is driven by its characters and its soundtrack.

As for subtitles, English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese are included.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

St. Elmo’s Fire comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary with Director Joel Schumacher – The commentary by Joel Schumacher at the most part is quite informative and sets up the scenes, working with talent and for the most part, Schumacher really goes in depth about the film and the people he worked with on the making of the film.   A lot of the commentary is similar to what he discusses in the “Joel Schumacher Remembers St. Elmo’s Fire” featurette.
  • Joel Schumacher Remembers St. Elmo’s Fire – (14:21) The following is a Blu-ray exclusive and director Joel Schumacher talks about how the talents were cast for their roles, how the term “brat pack” started, how no studios wanted to do the film and despite the negative critic reviews, the audiences were very supportive of the film.  Overall, a wonderful retrospective by Joel Schumacher.  If anything, the discussion of how the talents were cast for the film, especially Demi Moore was quite interesting.  Also, his disdain towards the term “brat pack”.
  • Original Making of Featurette – (8:43) A featurette from 1985 featuring interviews with the talents and how Rob Lowe had to learn how to play the saxophone in a short amount of time for this film and interview with director Joel Schumacher.
  • Music Video: John Parr – “Man in Motion” – (4:21) The original music video in standard definition of “Man in Motion” featuring John Parr (and the talent from “St. Elmo’s Fire”).
  • Deleted Scenes – (15:41) An exclusive for the Blu-ray release (and in standard definition with scratches and dust galore), this section features 12 deleted scenes which include:  Too Young, a New Car, How About Lunch, There is No Billy the Kid, The Woman in the Fur Coat, Someone Tell Me What Happened, I’m a Loser, Secret Obsession, Just Pick a Date, A Very Well Dressed Fool, Where is the Defroster and That’s My Dad.  Although some deleted scenes are quite short, there are a few scenes that get into the relationship of Wendy and her father who is trying to dictate of how she should live her life.
  • BD-Live – This blu-ray is BD-Live enabled.

“St. Elmo’s Fire” was a film not exactly well respected by critics when it first came out.  But the film was part of a string of “Brat Pack” related films that would star these talents along with Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall and would define high school and young adult films in the 1980’s.

The film was not well-respected because of the times.  These were young adults that were quite liberal during a conservative era and most of them were not being shown in the positive light.  These young adults were not perfect and they had their own personal flaws that critics saw as vane and shallow but for audiences, they saw something quite different.

For me, to have all these talents together in one film was just awesome.  Ally Sheedy and Judd Nelson were just awesome in “Breakfast Club”, Rob Lowe in “Oxford Blues”, Emilio Estevez in “Repo Man” and “The Outsiders”, Mare Winningham appeared on many shows including afterschool specials and Demi Moore was a popular soap star on “General Hospital” years earlier.  And of course, for Andrew McCarthy and Andie McDowell, this film would also help put ignite their careers.

And in the 80’s, who could not love David Foster’s “Love Theme from St. Elmo’s Fire” or John Parr’s “Man in Motion”.  These were overplayed on the radio and MTV that “St. Elmo’s Fire” was literally ingrained into pop culture.  And of course, the term “Brat Pack” (as many of them despised the name), for audiences… being part of that group was just the epitome of “cool”.

Watching this film nearly 25 years later, it’s hard to believe that so much time has passed and how different high school and young adult films are today.  Director Joel Schumacher said that he wanted to create a film with young talent but make it an “A film”.  These issues that the seven go through, this stress and anguish of starting a career and also suffering setbacks after graduation is real.  Not everyone who graduates college, is able to have a successful life, and this even rings true so much now especially during our poor economy.

For the Blu-ray release, it’s great to watch this film on High Definition but it’s also great to have the Blu-ray exclusive features with Joel Schumacher remembering St. Elmo’s Fire and seeing the deleted scenes for the first time.  Although this film is not called a “25th Anniversary” edition of the film, it’s pretty close.  The only thing one could hope for is a reunion of these talents to discuss the film or even if it was a few of them, to interview them today about “St. Elmo’s Fire” (note: For the Blu-ray release of the 1986 film “About Last Night…”, the director and Rob Lowe are brought back 23 years later to discuss their experiences on the film).

Nevertheless, I have more appreciation of “St. Elmo’s Fire” as an adult compared to when I was a teenager in high school and catching the film on HBO.  I can now understand the wide range of emotions that these characters are going through after graduating from college.  Granted, some situations are a bit extreme but the feelings of friendship drifting part are so real.

I also realized of how well this group of talent worked together and found the group to be well-cast.  This “Brat Pack” or individual talents went on to become big stars on their own but even back in 1985, it was still a remarkable feat. to have each of these seven individuals together in one film.  It’s not something that can be easily duplicated today, especially knowing that this film was created on a tight budget and short schedule.

I would imagine that “St. Elmo’s Fire” is one of those films that people who grew up during that time will gravitate to, partly for nostalgia reasons.  But watching it nearly 25-years-later, outside of nostalgia, I found that watching this film much more enjoyable now and quite entertaining!  For 80’s film fans or “Brat Pack” film fans, “St. Elmo’s Fire” is definitely worth picking up on Blu-ray!

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