Sly x 3 = Winning, Yo! 'Stallone: 3-Film Collector's Set'

First Blood (1982)

Movie combo packs can be bottom barrel dreck on double-sided discs or, well, they could be something like this: First Blood, Cop Land, and Lock Up.

Lock Up

Director: Ted Kotcheff; James Mangold; John Flynn
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Brian Dennehy, Ray Liotta, Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, Donald Sutherland
Distributor: Lionsgate
Studio: StudioCanal
Release date: 2012-08-14

I’m not sure what it is about Sylvester Stallone and/or is fans that make distributors think we want to buy not only all his movies, but every one of them multiple times in the same format with new packaging. I mean, I’ve got at least four Sly-related items on display in my room and even I don’t need six copies of Rambo: First Blood Part II. I do need five, though.

A quick summary of what’s already available:

Sylvester Stallone: 4 Film Favorites - DVD – 2007

- includes Tango & Cash, Demolition Man, The Specialist, and Over the Top

Sylvester Stallone Triple Feature - DVD – 2009

- includes Avenging Angelo, Eye See You, Shade

Triple Feature - Blu-ray – 2012

- includes Assassins, Cobra, The Specialist

Sylvester Stallone Selection - DVD – 2001

- includes Driven, Demolition Man, and Cobra

Now, to add onto the heap, we have Stallone: 3-Film Collector’s Set, another collection of the man, the myth, the legend’s work thrown together in cheap packaging and released just in time for the theatrical debut of his latest film. This time it’s to help the box office of The Expendables 2 - or as it’s more commonly known, The Sequel to the Greatest Movie Ever Made.

Reader: What is?

Me: The Expendables 2.

R: You think The Expendables is the greatest movie ever made?

M: Uh…yes. Doy.

R: Did you just say “doy?”

M: Regrettable choice of words aside, is it really just myself and a few wise best buds who think Sylvester Stallone’s action-star-muscle-movie is the best piece of pop entertainment ever put to the silver screen?

R: Well, RottenTomatoes certainly isn’t backing you.

M: What is it? 95 percent? Thanks a lot Armond White. Why not just rate movies on a scale of “Hate” to “Only Kind of Hated”?

R: Uh….

M: Oh no. 90 percent? Did Owen Gleiberman review it? He probably couldn’t keep up.R: *stares blankly at me*

R: 89 percent?!?!

M: Try 40.

R: 40 PERCENT?!!? Whaaaaaaaaaat?! Well, you’re all just wrong. Simple as that. I’m right. You’re wrong.

M: OK, buddy. Whatever gets you to sleep at night.

R: Mickey Rourke did win Best Supporting Actor, though, right? I didn’t just dream that did I?

Cop Land (1997)

Anyway, this compilation of classics includes Sly’s second franchise-starter, First Blood (here listed by it’s more common, if incorrect, title -- Rambo: First Blood), his late-career Oscar-grab Cop Land, and one of his forgettable late '80s/early '90s – who can remember? -- action romps, Lock Up. Odds are if you’re at all interested in any of these films – and who isn’t? – you already own every one of these films in one format or another, so you can decide for yourself if you want backup copies. If not, go buy this right now!

You won’t be able to tell from the all-but-useless back cover of the Blu-ray, but each one of these discs is the very same one packaged separately and sold for a much higher price. The First Blood Blu-ray comes with deleted scenes, an advanced trivia track, a “Drawing First Blood” featurette, and two audio commentary tracks – one from Stallone and one from novelist David Morrell. This edition was released in early 2007, and hasn’t been altered since then.

The copy of Cop Land is at least a little more recent. Released last November (and reviewed on PopMatters at that time as well), the collector’s edition of the 1997 film is also the director’s cut. Totaling an extra 12 minutes, the extended edition of Cop Land isn’t egregiously lengthy, as many extended cuts are nowadays, but it should be noted somewhere on the package that you’re not getting the movie you saw in theaters. You’re not getting the movie you saw on DVD, either, even if you are getting the same bonus features.

Finally, there’s Lock Up, the least known of the group and the least great. It’s got Sly, so you know it’s at least “OK”. The epitome of manhood’s conflictions that is First Blood also mark it as a film that needs no more criticism. It is a standalone triumph that was, like the Rocky franchise, turned into a one-trick pony in its mantastic, blockbuster sequels. I’ve also said all that I need to already regarding Cop Land. It will never be seen or probably even remembered as one of Sly’s masterpieces, but I’ll keep its torch burning as long as possible – give it a chance. It won’t disappoint.

Lock Up (1989)

Thanks to a memorable football game in the mud and some hammy supporting performances from the evil Donald Sutherland and the goofy Tom Sizemore, Lock Up outdoes it’s equally dimwitted title-brother from 2012, Lockout. It’s not trying to win Oscars – a statement that cannot be said in all honesty regarding the other two films in this collection – and it revels in its macho late 80s roots.

The original Blu-ray edition of Lock Up was released in July 2010 and also hasn’t been doctored in the last two years. It comes with a making-of featurette, a profile on Sly, and behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast. All three films together form an impressive collection for any actor. Yet, we’ve seen these combo packs before and know you either really have to like all three movies, really have to love Sylvester Stallone, or really find a great deal to make the purchase of all three at once worthwhile.

Given that all of these discs are identical to previously released editions, you can look at Stallone: 3-Film Collector’s Set one of two ways:

A) It’s just a cheap marketing ploy to draw attention to The Greatest Sequel Ever Made and earn Lionsgate a few measly bucks from extra Blu-ray sales.

B) It’s kind of nice that they’re throwing all three of these movies together for the low, low MSRP of $24.99. That means you can probably buy it for less than $20! Three Stallone movies for under $20?! What a deal!

Choose your own ending. I got it for free.


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

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The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Nonetheless, there are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. There are singers tackling deep, universal matters of the heart and mind. Artists continuing to mess around with a genre that can sometimes seem fixed, but never really is. Musicians and singers have been experimenting within the genre forever, and continue to. As Charlie Worsham sings, "let's try something new / for old time's sake." - Dave Heaton

10. Lillie Mae – Forever and Then Some (Third Man)

The first two songs on Lillie Mae's debut album are titled "Over the Hill and Through the Woods" and "Honky Tonks and Taverns". The music splits the difference between those settings, or rather bears the marks of both. Growing up in a musical family, playing fiddle in a sibling bluegrass act that once had a country radio hit, Lillie Mae roots her songs in musical traditions without relying on them as a gimmick or costume. The music feels both in touch with the past and very current. Her voice and perspective shine, carrying a singular sort of deep melancholy. This is sad, beautiful music that captures the points of view of people carrying weighty burdens and trying to find home. - Dave Heaton

9. Sunny Sweeney – Trophy (Aunt Daddy)

Sunny Sweeney is on her fourth album; each one has felt like it didn't get the attention it deserved. She's a careful singer and has a capacity for combining humor and likability with old-fashioned portrayal of deep sadness. Beginning in a bar and ending at a cemetery, Trophy projects deep sorrow more thoroughly than her past releases, as good as they were. In between, there are pills, bad ideas, heartbreak, and a clever, true-tearjerker ballad voicing a woman's longing to have children. -- Dave Heaton

8. Kip Moore – Slowheart (MCA Nashville)

The bro-country label never sat easy with Kip Moore. The man who gave us "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck" has spent the last few years trying to distance himself from the beer and tailgate crowd. Mission accomplished on the outstanding Slowheart, an album stuffed with perfectly produced hooks packaged in smoldering, synthy Risky Business guitars and a rugged vocal rasp that sheds most of the drawl from his delivery. Moore sounds determined to help redefine contemporary country music with hard nods toward both classic rock history and contemporary pop flavors. With its swirling guitar textures, meticulously catchy songcraft, and Moore's career-best performances (see the spare album-closing "Guitar Man"), Slowheart raises the bar for every would-be bro out there. -- Steve Leftridge

7. Chris Stapleton – From a Room: Volume 1 (Mercury Nashville)

If Chris Stapleton didn't really exist, we would have to invent him—a burly country singer with hair down to his nipples and a chainsaw of a soul-slinging voice who writes terrific throwback outlaw-indebted country songs and who wholesale rejects modern country trends. Stapleton's recent rise to festival headliner status is one of the biggest country music surprises in recent years, but his fans were relieved this year that his success didn't find him straying from his traditional wheelhouse. The first installment of From a Room once again finds Stapleton singing the hell out of his sturdy original songs. A Willie Nelson cover is not unwelcome either, as he unearths a semi-obscure one. The rest is made up of first-rate tales of commonality: Whether he's singing about hard-hurtin' breakups or resorting to smoking them stems, we've all been there. -- Steve Leftridge

6. Carly Pearce – Every Little Thing (Big Machine)

Many of the exciting young emerging artists in country music these days are women, yet the industry on the whole is still unwelcoming and unforgiving towards them. Look at who's getting the most radio play, for one. Carly Pearce had a radio hit with "Every Little Thing", a heartbreaking ballad about moments in time that in its pace itself tries to stop time. Every Little Thing the album is the sort of debut that deserves full attention. From start to finish it's a thoroughly riveting, rewarding work by a singer with presence and personality. There's a lot of humor, lust, blues, betrayal, beauty and sentimentality, in proper proportions. One of the best songs is a call for a lover to make her "feel something", even if it's anger or hatred. Indeed, the album doesn't shy away from a variety of emotions. Even when she treads into common tropes of mainstream country love songs, there's room for revelations and surprises. – Dave Heaton

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

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