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Blue Like Jazz (Blu-ray Review)

Blue-Like-JazzChristian movies are usually some of the lowest quality, bottom of the barrel entertainment you can find.  Not because of the subject matter.  No, I’m not trashing people’s beliefs here.  The films usually sport some of the most pedestrian and amateur production values, atrocious dialogue and small-town community theater acting prowess.  Oh and their big star is usually Kirk Cameron, in films like the (try your best to hold a straight face and not laugh while watching it) marriage drama Fireproof.  The indie film Blue Like Jazz trashes those preconceived notions and delivers a surprisingly normal, hip coming of age story that really can hold its own in the genre with which is mixes its Christian story.  As a film amongst others before it, it’s ok.  But as an entry into the sea of Christian faith based films, this is a massive triumph.

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Film

 Blue Like Jazz follows the freshman year of one Don Miller (Marshall Allman), a once devout Texas Baptist running away with his education to a college in Portland after his mother reveals she is adulterously pregnant with his youth pastor’s child.  In his first year, Don quickly finds friendship in Lauryn (Tania Raymonde), learning that he needs to drop his tidy faith heavy ways and see the world in a new light.  With the occurrence that he left in Texas, Don chooses to put his past in the closet and pose like he never was, living his life to a highest possible college experience.  Along the way he meets an interesting cast of characters including a girl who catches his eye (Claire Holt) and has a secret of her that may bring Don’s faith strong past back to the forefront of his life.

 This is a film with a Christian message, but it’s told as any other college comedy/coming of age tale.  There is a bunch or swearing, honesty, drinking, drug use, you name it.  It doesn’t hold back.  Those worried about it being too preachy need not worry.  It doesn’t really get that way until the end.  And it’s the perfect arc for the character himself and really doesn’t “change” others, but there’s a great deal of respect.  For the rest of it, there are silly antics, relationship drama and friendship and family issues.  It also deals with who you are and what you’ve become.  It’s about embracing your past and not being entirely embarrassed about where you’ve come from.  There’s a real passion and embrace in this film and it’s primarily due to this being the almost a true story of the writer’s life experiences.

The cast is filled with some recognizable faces and some fresh ones who I’d like to see more of in the future.  It’s a film with regular actors making a film.  Not devout Christians pushing a message across.  The performances are very bankable and there’s some really good character actor work throughout.  The leads are solid, but I was more impressed with a supporting character, The Pope (Justin Welborn).  The character is a mockery of the title and Welborn plays it as that outrageous raunchy comedy character, but is able to swing emotion and ground his character becoming more than just the scene stealing role and giving the best performance of the film.

Will this film convert you or restore your faith?  I don’t think that’s what it truly is setting out to do.  I think its actually moreso about finding yourself, being yourself and not being afraid to open one’s self to the world at hand.  It’s about accepting that no one is exactly like you, respecting others beliefs and finding who exactly you are as a person.  Maybe some people will find this film to be quite powerful.  But, whether you do or not, it’s a rather solid coming of age story for being a Christian film.

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Video

Lionsgate delivers a rather perfect 1:78:1 picture in a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encode.  The film is nice and sharp and full of detail.  Every image is crystal clear, whether it’s night or a rainy day.  The colors are very bold and vividly shine throughout the runtime.  Detail is very strong, showing every detail of fabric texture, facial blemishes or structural surfaces.  It’s a very strong image to look at.  Lionsgate has brought a top notch presentation to this little indie film.

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Audio

The film’s score is nice and clean.  Delivering what it needs to.  Pumped through its DTS-HDMA 5.1 track, it gets the job done where it needs to be.  The film doesn’t demand much from its surround audio and as a resolve, the 5.1 is never very complicated and does its magic where need be.  It’s suiting of the film and is a nice compliment to the video presentation.

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Extras

There are plenty of extras abound on the Lionsgate release for Blue Like Jazz.  However, most of them are very short and prove to be about the least bit informative.  When combined, you probably get as much information as you would from one solid, structured ten minute “Making Of” featurette.

  • Audio Commentary with Author Donald Miller, Cinematographer Ben Pearson and Director Steve Taylor
  • Making Blue Like Jazz (11:40) – A candid series of on set videos featuring the writer  telling us how its not a Christian film while preaching about how to be a better Christian.
  • The Music (6:24) – The composer sits around his home, with his cat, playing around with ProTools
  • Save Blue Like Jazz (2:48) – A segment on how Kickstarter saved this movie.
  • The Cast (4:18) – On set videos of the cast briefly brushing over their characters.
  • The Animator (1:19) – A child in face paint talks about the film’s animator while he works on a computer in the background.
  • This Is My Story (3:15) – People who have read the book the film was based on discuss how it has affected their lives
  • Deleted Shots (1:56) – A spoof of deleted scenes reels normally included as supplemental features on a films DVD/Blu-ray release.
  • Master Class: Directing Actors On Set (3:46) – Raw footage of the director working with the actors on set.
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:33)
  • Photo Gallery
  • Also From Lionsgate – Trailers for Girl In Progress, The Music Never Stopped, No Greater Love

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Summary

Blue Like Jazz is above and beyond pretty much every film with a Christian foundation you’ve seen.  I feel like I shouldn’t even be referring to it as that.  It almost feels like a knock or disclaimer against it.  What it is, is a pleasant coming of age film that delivers in all the necessary checklist of categories.  I thought it was all right, some may have even more fun with it.  Lionsgate presents it in the best possible for and gives you plenty of extras that don’t provide a whole lot of depth, but nonetheless fill the disc with some extra fun for those who want more from this movie.  It’s worth a look if you’re curious.


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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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