Posted Mon Aug 1, 2016 at 08:30 AM PDT by Steven Cohen
Every month, dozens of Blu-rays hit shelves, littering stores with High-Def temptation. New releases, catalog titles, complete TV seasons, and elaborate box-sets all vie for attention, and with so many worthy releases targeting our wallets, choosing which discs to spend our hard earned cash on can be rather tricky. To make things a little easier, we here at High-Def Digest thought it might be helpful to bring you our top three must own recommendations for the month.
From important classics to contemporary blockbusters, these are the discs that we consider to be the absolute cream of the crop. High quality releases with great video, audio, and supplements, these are the Blu-rays that are truly worth every penny.
Last month we spotlighted a classic political satire, a genre-bending suspense film, and a stop-motion anomaly. Be sure to check out the Essential Picks for November 2012, December 2012, January 2013,February 2013, March 2013, April 2013, May 2013, June 2013, July 2013, August 2013, September 2013, October 2013, November 2013, December 2013, January 2014, February 2014, March 2014, April 2014, May 2014, June 2014, July 2014, August 2014, September 2014, October 2014, November 2014,December 2014, January 2015, February 2015, March 2015, April 2015, May 2015, June 2015, July 2015, August 2015, September 2015, October 2015, November 2015, December 2015, January 2016, February 2016, March 2016, April 2016, May 2016, and June 2016.
For July, we're covering a cinematic love letter to carefree youth, a beautiful animated adventure, and a punk-rock horror thriller. Please be aware, that if you haven't already seen them, there are some SPOILERS for the discs listed.
If you only buy three titles that hit Blu-ray in July, here's what we suggest you pick up, starting with the most essential...
'Everybody Wants Some!!' - Bros, babes, beer, and baseball. Those are the core ingredients that make up Richard Linklater's latest exercise in loosely plotted slice-of-life cinema. A nostalgic ode to wayward youth, unruly hormones, and endless partying, the movie mostly plays out through a series of late night ragers, drunken conversations, and sexual escapades -- but the resulting film is much more than just unfiltered testosterone on screen. Instead of a mere retread of 80s frat flick clichés, Linklater taps into the heart behind the tropes, examining the carefree joys of the college experience -- one six pack at a time.
Serving as a spiritual companion piece to 'Dazed and Confused,' the movie follows a college baseball team in the early 80s as they let off steam during the last weekend of the summer. With no real traditional plot to follow, the runtime simply moves from day to day and party to party as the freshmen players get to know their new teammates… and their new female coeds. And really, that's about it. Seriously. There are no major narrative beats or twists -- and, outside of one romantic subplot, there really aren't even any conventional character arcs to speak of. In fact, Linklater often seems to go out of his way to avoid typical dramatic payoffs. For instance, one early scene features clear tension between a character and his roommate. In any other college flick, one might think that such a sequence would be setting up a movie-long rivalry that would force the two characters to overcome their differences. But here, the roommate simply goes out of town the next day and disappears for the majority of the story. And when he does return, things are mostly cool between the pair. In essence, Linklater forgoes forced dramatic formula in favor of naturalistic interactions, resulting in an uncommon sense of laid back realism.
To this end, the director creates an unassuming level of intimacy between the protagonists and the audience, almost making it feel as if we are right there with the characters, hanging out and goofing around like we're all just another member of the team. And this familiarity ties us to the gang, connecting us to their experiences as Linklater gradually fleshes them out beyond the limitations of their early jock archetypes. And while the story might be exceedingly simple on the surface, the film ultimately paints a rather affecting love letter to capricious youth, leading to one of the most purely enjoyable viewing experiences I've had in a very long time. Sure, the characters might not really change much by the time the credits roll, but this isn't supposed to be a film about who they become. This is a peek into who they were during one particular moment -- drunk and horny and hopeful for what the next party may bring, or where the next game may lead, or when the next smile may catch their eye.
'Boy & the World' - Live action films have inherent limitations. After all, even with special effects and computer wizardry, there are still certain things that simply can't be captured in the real world. But animated movies don't have this problem. Though budgets might ultimately impose certain restrictions, in the world of animation, a director has complete control over their canvas, presenting a boundless tapestry limited only by the imagination of its artist. And thankfully, the imagination on display in 'Boy & the World' is nothing short of extraordinary. A timely parable about family, nature, class, and human bonds, the film becomes an abstract allegory bursting with pure creativity.
Drawing a stick figure is one of the first forms of artistic expression that we learn as children, and the filmmakers behind 'Boy & the World' use this fact to great effect, expanding upon that childlike style to mirror the innocent perspective of the movie's young protagonist. And through the boy's eyes we bear witness to a wondrous and harrowing journey that takes the brave child from his small village to the big city. Along the way, the director constructs an evolving world full of surreal imagery, revealing hidden beauties and mounting dangers while examining thoughtful themes tied to dehumanization, industry, and the environment -- all culminating in a rather powerful wall-breaking moment where the animated canvas on screen literally burns up to reveal a live action world of destruction layered beneath the colorful drawings.
But even with its larger social and environmental messages clearly on display, 'Boy & the World' never loses sight of the universal truths that rest at its heart. Taking the story full circle in its closing moments, the filmmakers weave a bittersweet tale about family, lost youth, human connection, and rekindled innocence, resulting in a masterful cinematic doodle that deserves to be hung prominently on every film fan's fridge.
'Green Room' - Slasher films often relish in gratuitous and sensationalized violence, dispatching characters left and right through increasingly elaborate kills meant to shock at the expense of any real emotional investment with the victims on screen. In the genre's lesser efforts, the characters really don't matter. They're just a means to another increasingly bloody end. But in Jeremy Saulnier's 'Green Room,' death is not spectacle. It's grisly, and gruesome, and painfully ugly. Gory kills fill the runtime with gut-wrenching tension and pulse-pounding thrills, but the director never loses sight of the inherent brutality tied to each life taken -- revealing powerful horror within each act of violence.
Focused on a tense standoff between a young punk rock band and a group of white supremacists, the film takes its time building suspense and subtle character dynamics before unleashing an unrelentingly graphic assault of mayhem. Forced into survival mode, these otherwise innocent youths must defend themselves at all costs or accept certain death at the hands of their assailants. Various reversals keep us on our toes as the situation gradually grows out of hand -- and then, when all hell eventually does break loose, the director starts piling up the body count. But while the kills are among the goriest I've seen in quite some time, the deaths aren't played for exploitative thrills alone. Instead, these potent bursts of violence are all appropriately unsettling and disturbingly human. An undercurrent of pitch black humor also permeates the runtime, finding subtle comedy within the surviving protagonists' faintly offbeat, traumatized banter. But even with this subtle hint of levity, this remains an irrevocably bleak film.
To be honest, I'm not usually a fan of gory horror thrillers like this, but 'Green Room' features a rare level of artistry behind its craft and depth behind its themes of survival and violence. This isn't a title for the squeamish, but for viewers who can handle gore, this will likely remain one of the most intense movies of the year. Jeremy Saulnier manages to elevate the slasher genre without sacrificing the bloody thrills fans have come to expect. Instead, he's just added some thought behind them.
So, there you have it. While there were many titles worth picking up this July, those are our top three must own recommendations. We'll be back next month with three more essential picks, but for now, what do you think of our selection? What are your choices for July's must own titles?
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