As summer’s hearing up, the kids will be playing outside. This could be the perfect quiet time to watch some grown up movies. Whether the acclaimed foreign films like The Red Turtle and The Salesman, or revisit old favorites like Serial Mom or Streets of Fire.
Serial Mom – Out May 9
What mother hasn’t dreamed of murdering the teachers or bullies who gave her kids a hard time? Kathleen Turner lived out our fantasies in John Waters’ 1994 film. Now on Blu-ray for the first time, the bright suburban colors create the perfect contrast with the bloody gore.
The new bonus feature is a 34 minute conversation with John Waters, Turner and Waters legend Mink Stole. It’s clear Turner still has passion for this film. She’s not just appearing out of obligation. All the DVD bonus features are still included too.
The Red Turtle – Out Today
The Red Turtle is a beautiful silent animated film. It’s a simple tale of a man surviving on a deserted island and making a family with a little magic. Kids may have to adjust if they’re used to busy Illumination or Dreamworks movies but hopefully it can make them appreciate the value of slowing down and being present in the scene.
2D animation is such a rarity these days. Studio Ghibli is basically the only ones still in the game. Boy, you see all the detail on the beach, clouds, rocks and ocean, down to individual dots. From black and white to bright sunny colors, The Red Turtle is a true work of art moving across your screen. The forest is at times green, gray or gold. The beach and water change too.
Bonus features with director Michael Dudok de Wit, including a full 56 minute behind the scenes, are really in depth. The concept art is as beautiful as the finished film and you’ll see some that didn’t make it into the finished film. “Secrets of The Red Turtle” shows how he draws the layers.
The AFI fest Q&A and commentary are the only times he speaks English. But he’s got three hours of things to discuss in either language. A beautiful film like this comes from a beautiful soul, which he proves as he talks. This Blu-ray is really a 2D animation primer which will hopefully keep the art alive.
Asghar Farhadi makes dramas about people dealing with difficult, but compelling situations. In this, a couple displaced by an earthquake runs into violence in their new home. They try to go on with their lives, which happens to be putting on a production of Death of a Salesman.
The bloody aftermath of the attack is stark. Other than that, it’s very real world drama, and in a region we don’t often see on screen, let alone in this Blu-ray level clarity. The stage production has some artistic lighting.
The bonus feature is only a 15 minute talk with Farhadi but it’s pared down to all his own words. He talks about rehearsing the Death of a Salesman scenes and classroom scenes, and many other themes he layered into the film.
Streets of Fire – out May 16
Streets of Fire sounds like it should be the most awesome movie ever made, but in reality it is more of a compelling mess. Drifter hero Tom Cody (Michael Pare) rescuing rock star Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) from kidnapper Raven Shaddock (Willem Dafoe) in a rock n’ roll world of ’50s fashion and ’80s music sounds better on paper.
My main obsession with it is the music written by Jim Steinman, composer of Meat Loaf’s Bat out of Hell albums. He wrote the two songs Aim sings. “Nowhere Fast” was rerecorded by Meat Loaf. “Tonight is What It Means to be Young” became the title track of Steinman’s Dance of the Vampires musical, but this version may be the best song he’s ever written.
The visual aesthetic is so distinct, it’s made for Blu-ray. Neon shines in puddles on the street. The backlot constructed gritty city can look a little hazy but it’s sharp. Cody’s red car is shiny in a world of grime.
The new documentary is 100 minutes. Walter Hill is leaning on a pool table for his interview. An older behind the scenes is still 82 minutes. I have to say they cover different things. Even when they overlap, like the story of making McCoy (Amy Madigan) a female character, one version has more depth like Edward James Olmos auditioned for the role when it was a male character.
Unfortunately for me Steinman isn’t in any of them, not even the vintage 1984 features. Closest I get is Jimmy Iovine taking about the music. Now I’ve gotta find that unauthorized Tom Cody sequel Michael Pare made a few years ago.