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 chilling sci-fi/horror classic, a blood-soaked prom date, and a rivetting murder mystery. 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, June 2016, July 2016, August 2016, September 2016, and October 2016.
For November, we're covering a stop-motion fairy tale, a slippery lawyer, and the approaching winds of winter. 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 November, here's what we suggest you pick up, starting with the most essential...
'Kubo and the Two Strings' - Strictly speaking, all movies are shot one frame at a time, but stop-motion animation takes this reality to another level. Marked by a painstaking attention to detail and a staggering dedication to craft, when done right, the art form is capable of breathing life into some truly beautiful films. And 'Kubo and the Two Strings' just might be one of the genre's most beautiful creations yet. An emotional, stirring, entertaining, and absolutely gorgeous celebration of storytelling, love, and human connection, the movie weaves a unique fairy tale adventure filled with talking monkeys, warrior beetles, skeleton monsters, and magical instruments.
Using a classic fantasy adventure structure as its backbone, the film takes audiences of all ages on a mesmerizing journey as young Kubo (Art Parkinson) sets out to find magical armor in order to protect himself from his evil grandfather and aunts. Along the way we meet a couple of fun characters who aid our hero on his quest, encounter several obstacles, learn a few lessons, and eventually face the enemy in a harrowing battle. But while these simple beats are all pretty standard, the execution is nearly flawless and absolutely brimming with personality. Rooted in its own unique folklore, the movie easily establishes its magical world, and the mixture of stop-motion and CG animation creates a breathtakingly singular style with striking character designs, affecting expressions, and exciting action. And beneath all these sumptuous visuals are several powerful themes about family, memories, and love, adding depth and surprisingly complex emotion to the narrative.
Of course, like all stories, 'Kubo' does ultimately come to an end, but as the film so sweetly reveals, ends don't have to be tragic, as all tales live on through those left to tell them. And I have a feeling this one will continue to be told for many years to come -- especially since this Blu-ray makes sharing it a breeze. A must own family film and a great disc through and through, this title belongs on every family's shelf. But as Kubo says throughout the film, "If you must blink, do it now," because you won't want to miss a single frame.
'Better Call Saul: The Complete Second Season' - With its first season, 'Better Call Saul' had a lot to accomplish. As a spinoff of the late, great 'Breaking Bad,' the show had to not only demonstrate that it could turn an amusing in small-bursts supporting player like Saul Goodman into a full fledged protagonist, but it also had to somehow pull its way out of the giant shadow cast by its critically acclaimed predecessor (and his hat). But even with the odds stacked against them, good old "Slipping Jimmy" and company pulled it off without a hitch, offering a compelling tragicomic crime tale marked by an increasingly gripping character study. And with the series' second season, the show continues to expand upon its own unique style and voice through a truly masterful display of small-screen storytelling, proving that the first season's success was far more than just some simple con.
As Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) is thrust into a legitimate (and handsomely paid) position with a prestigious firm, we finally get to see what it's like when he plays by the rules... at least, for a little while. Adhering to that age old adage about a tiger and its stripes, it's not long before our lovable hero is back to his old tricks, practicing a decidedly more "colorful" brand of law. But despite his occasional transgressions, it's impossible not to root for the guy. He knows who he is and acts accordingly and, more importantly, almost always for the right reasons -- even if his methods are a bit unconventional. We cringe as we inevitably watch him make the same mistakes, but still can't help but be impressed by how he almost pulls it all off. Ironically, his heaviest character flaws end up being fueled by many of the same attributes that define his greatest strengths -- creativity, compassion, and a surprisingly steadfast work ethic. And just as season two helps to flesh out Jimmy, these episodes also do a great job of further developing the supporting cast, adding new tantalizing shades of depth to Chuck and Mike. But as impressive as the entire cast is, it's really Rhea Seehorn who steals the show. As Jimmy's potential business partner and love interest, Kim, the actress crafts a strikingly nuanced, delicately complex, and effortlessly believable performance that slowly reveals more layers throughout the season.
Cementing itself as one of best written shows on TV, 'Better Call Saul' has fully carved an identity of its own, using elements of its parent series to establish its world while still expanding upon specific connections in order to fill in some intriguing gaps left from 'Breaking Bad.' And more than just expertly plotted, the season is also full of meaningful style, including a fantastic extended shot sequence and two masterful, character illuminating montages. Jimmy still might not be "Saul Goodman" just yet, but the path that leads him there is only growing increasingly absorbing (and slippery) with every episode.
'Game of Thrones: The Complete Sixth Season' - Throughout the years, 'Game of Thrones' has made quite a habit of killing off numerous important characters -- and usually in rather shocking, gruesome, and sudden ways, often leaving audiences wondering how the show will continue. But with its sixth season, the series introduces one of its riskiest plot developments yet. And ironically, it doesn't come in the form of another untimely death. It actually comes from a resurrection. In a notable break from Westerosi convention, the writers actually bring a recently axed character back to life, and though certain elements of his return are anticlimactic, it turns out that rebirth can be just as compelling as dismemberment.
While the details behind Jon's return prove to be predictable, and it remains to be seen whether he suffers from any lasting consequences as a result of his demise, his resulting arc leads to one of the series' most epic and absolutely breathtaking showdowns while also paving the way for even more exciting developments in the future. Thanks to Bran's new penchant for time travel, one of the show's (and books') longest running theories is finally confirmed: L + R does indeed appear to equal J, as we bear witness to the birth of Jon Snow from his mother, Lyanna Stark. The ramifications of this reveal will likely go on to fuel much of the show's endgame, as Jon's true heritage could prove both useful and troublesome for a certain Mother of Dragons. And speaking of Dany, the season's closing moments present fans with an image many were starting to think they may never see, offering an appropriately grandiose tease of Daenerys' army finally crossing the Narrow Sea. There are some lulls along the way, but as we watch King's Landing burst into flame, Cercei take the Iron Throne, and three dragons soaring over the ocean, any occasional hiccups become easily forgivable. And at the very least, we get to spend mercifully little time in Dorne.
With just two shortened seasons and a total of about thirteen episodes left, 'Game of Thrones' really has reached the beginning of the end -- and as the first chapter in the series' third act, season six offers another stellar batch of episodes. Likewise, this Blu-ray collections continues to maintain the high standards set by previous releases, providing a fantastic video transfer, an amazing Dolby Atmos soundtrack, and lots of great supplements. Though really, "Battle of the Bastards" almost makes this set a must buy on its own -- even if I do still wish Rickon would have just zigzagged!
So, there you have it. While there were many titles worth picking up this November, 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 November's must own titles?