Blue Like Jazz, Titanic: 100 Years in 3D, Stallone 3-Film Collection
Low-budget, quasi-religious films and made-for-TV 3D documentaries tend to fly under the mainstream radar, but this time I'm also giving a shout-out to three works by the talented, much-maligned Sylvester Stallone, with the release of a simply nifty, high-value, three-disc reissue set.
Blue Like Jazz (Lionsgate)
"Christian" movies are a twitchy topic in Hollywood, their tone and subject matter often precluding a lot of Christians from watching, and so they tend to be smaller films with an eventually enthusiastic fan following. The good-natured Blue Like Jazz is such a little-seen independent, made outside the big studio system but director/co-writer Steve Taylor has done an admirable job of keeping it interesting and funny for the casual viewer.
Young Marshall Allman (Prison Break) stars as Donald Miller, named for the author of the semi-autobiographical bestseller upon which Jazz is based. Disillusioned, he breaks away from the only religion he has ever known, embarking upon a journey of self-discovery that takes him from Texas to the Pacific Northwest, meeting a host of eccentrics along the way. The movie casts a bigger net, less about God and more about concepts like truth and faith and spirituality. The surprising edginess of the PG-13 result is a deliberate shift away from the book, but the creators do indeed wind up with an engaging film, and one that is no doubt more accessible than a stricter adaptation would have been.
Lionsgate is generous with the extras, including an audio commentary with Taylor, Miller and screenwriter/cinematographer Ben Pearson, five featurettes, a "making of," deleted scenes and more.
Titanic: 100 Years in 3D (A&E)
When James Cameron converted his monumental disaster movie for 3D re-release earlier this year, he apparently sparked a new demand for Titanic programming with the illusion of depth, and the art/entertainment mavens at A&E seemed only too happy to oblige. Begun two years ago with a well-funded expedition by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and RMS Titanic, Inc., this History Channel special combines real on-site footage from the ocean depths with sophisticated three-dimensional digital imaging to bring us a science- and fact-based look at the sinking of the great ship as never before.
While the show itself has a been-there feelthere have been many such documentaries over the yearsthe excellent use of available technology undeniably gives the proceedings and entirely new, well, dimension. Impressive use of HD 3D imparts a stirring immediacy, taking us one step closer to one of the saddest and most enduring historical events of the 20th Century.
Stallone 3-Film Collector's Set (Lionsgate)
I'm not always sure what to make of the star-themed collections that the studios release, since most thespians seem to enjoy tackling a variety of roles, which might or might not fit together well. But headliners like Sylvester Stallone do bring a certain je ne sais quoi to all of their films, and this slim three-disc menagerietimed around the theatrical release of his Expendables 2 is a pretty solid value for $25, or less if we shop around.
The set repackages the solid, previously-issued Blu-rays of First Blood, which is arguably his best non-boxing movie as well as the best installment of the blockbuster Rambo franchise, plus Cop Land, James Mangold's weighty drama for which his star shed glamour, gained pounds, and surprised many critics. Oh, and Lock Up is here too, because who would buy it otherwise? Perhaps the best news about the repackaging? As before, all three look and sound pretty darned good, and the previous extras have been included.