I'm a big fan of Spike Lee films. Since I watched 'Do The Right Thing' many years ago, I became obsessed with his work, and I'm always was first in line to see his new directorial efforts. Over the years he has covered a wide variety of subjects, including race, family, basketball, bank robbery, and documentaries about Hurricane Katrina and Michael Jackson. With his new film 'Red Hook Summer,' Lee focuses more on a younger generation, and centers his story on familiar characters in present day. The results are quite satisfying.
I was happy to see a couple of characters from some of Lee's previous films make appearances in this one. We get Mother Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns), who was in 'She's Gotta Have It,' previously known as Nola Darling when she played a beautiful woman seeing several suitors at the same time. She is now known as Mother Darling and has become a Jehovah's Witness, always approaching people with a smile and religious pamphlets.
The other appearance is one of the more notable ones: Mookie, the pizza deliveryman from 'Do The Right Thing' played by Spike Lee himself. Mookie seems to still be working at Sal's Pizza and has become an old man while still trying to make money. These are very small appearances, but none-the-less, it's very good to see these characters again, if only for a short time. It seemed as though Lee was trying to pass the torch to a younger generation here.
In a way, I kept thinking back to Woody Allen's film 'Manhattan,' as like Allen's film, this seems to be Lee's love letter to Red Hook. And like most of Lee's films on the 'Chronicles of Brooklyn' table, he captures the underbelly of the city itself where it becomes a character in the film.
'Red Hook Summer' begins with twelve-year old Curtis 'Flik' Royale (Jules Brown), who has arrived with his mother Colleen (De'Adre Aziza) from a long trip from Atlanta. Colleen is leaving her son with her father - a Baptist preacher - for the summer. Bishop Enoch (Clarke Peters from HBO's 'The Wire' and 'Treme') leads a church known as the Lil' Peace of Heaven. Flik has never met Enoch and is not too thrilled to be left in Red Hook, let alone dealing with any religious talk or events. Meanwhile, right off the bat we see that the relationship between Colleen and her father is strained to say the least as she is quick about dropping off her son and getting straight back to the airport for her flight back to Atlanta.
Flick immediately rebels and seems to put a wall up in front of himself in the form of a new iPad, so that he doesn't have to communicate or take part in anything relating to his grandfather or his church. However, it doesn't last to long as he sets out to explore the city and its citizens. It was great to not only get a glimpse of modern day Red Hook through the eyes of a child, but through the eyes of a stranger to the city. We come to see that the Lil' Peace of Heaven church is falling on hard times and is on the verge of shutting down. Enoch's right hand man, Deacon Zee (Thomas Jefferson Boyd) is trying to get the church back to where it should be. His sister Sharon Morningstar (Heather Simms) is one of the most devout church-goers of Enoch's church and has a crush on the Bishop as well, but puts her daughter Chazz (Toni Lysaith) first and foremost.
Chazz takes Flik under her wing and shows him the ins and outs of Red Hook by showing him the cool places and what to avoid, which we come to see is a posse of guys led by Box (Nate Parker). From here, we see Flik go through some important life lessons as we get more background from the Enoch and his daughters rough past. Over the course of the film, Bishop Enoch delivers three intense sermons that relate to the story and we even get a glimpse of what happened to Enoch in the past, which might be a bit difficult to watch without covering your eyes. We see all of these characters in search of their own personal happiness and redemption, just like the church, and Lee captures all of this flawlessly.
'Red Hook Summer' was shot on both a digital camera and Super 8 film, and comes with a glorious 1080p transfer presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The color and detail are gorgeous throughout, showing the bright colors of the buildings in Red Hook, but never being vague about the decaying conditions of some of the housing and land. The blacks are deep and inky and never crushes the shadows.
When the film switches to Super 8 film, things tend to get softer as expected, but the color never dilutes. The depth of the city is great showing just how amazing and beautiful this part of the biggest city in the U.S. is. The flesh tones are natural and smooth as well. I did not notice any aliasing or banding. This was a great video presentation.
This disc comes with a wonderful lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix and just sounds amazing. The ambient sound is full in this film with the very natural and realistic sounds coming from the city and the congregation members of the church. When Enoch delivers his sermons, the sound goes full force, even going through all of the surrounds, as if his powerful voice is all around us at once. The score and music sound great and never drown out the dialogue. I did not notice any hissing or cracks in the audio mix. Great job here too.
Spike Lee has made a great film and has successfully passed the torch to a new generation. There were great performances and that classic way of Spike Lee storytelling. The video and audio were top notch and the extras were fairlygood. I definitely recommend this film as it's sure is to make an impact on you.