Posted Wed Jun 1, 2016 at 12:20 PM 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 galaxy far, far away, a very angry bear, and a daft old man who stole a magic box. 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, and April 2016.
For May, we're covering a "merc with a mouth," a classic film noir, and an explosive blockbuster. 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 May, here's what we suggest you pick up, starting with the most essential...
'Deadpool' - The first time Ryan Reynolds graced movie screens as Wade Wilson, he got his mouth sewn shut and his head chopped off. And I can't really say that I was all that heartbroken when he died. Barely recognizable as the infamous "Merc with a Mouth," this initial attempt at adding 'Deadpool' to the 'X-Men' cinematic universe was a complete and utter mess. But thankfully, Reynolds and Fox have decided to put their trusty healing factor to good use, giving the character a second chance. And this time, they wisely keep his mouth open.
Playfully self-aware, gleefully violent, and unashamedly juvenile, the movie makes the most of its R-rating offering a decidedly less family friendly alternative to Marvel's in-house titles. And while all the blood, sex, and profanity might teeter toward excess, it suits the source material and rebellious spirit of the character perfectly. Clever meta-jokes and constant quips join the barrage of bullets as well, layering the runtime with loving jabs at superhero conventions. With that said, despite it postmodern genre flourishes, this is still a relatively formulaic comic book tale at heart -- but thankfully, that heart actually ends up being surprisingly big. Turns out that beneath that mask and charred up skin, Wade Wilson is a big old romantic softie. You know, when he's not pumping bad guys full of lead.
On the technical front, this Blu-ray release is pure demo material, offering great video and audio, along with a strong assortment of entertaining supplements, easily earning the number one spot on May's list. Likewise, the Ultra HD Blu-ray is similarly stellar, adding 4K video with HDR and a Dolby Atmos soundtrack to the mix. Brimming with snarky personality and sarcastic wit, 'Deadpool' more than makes up for the character's original less than stellar appearance in 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' -- a movie so forgettable, that this flick literally forgets it ever existed.
'In a Lonely Place' - With his world-weary brow and brooding charm, Humphrey Boggart just might be the very essence of film noir on screen. And this shadowy penchant for prickly cynicism and weathered detachment is perhaps no better evident than in Nicholas Ray's 'In a Lonely Place.' Featuring one of the legendary star's best performances, the movie extends beyond mere murder mystery to become an increasingly complex examination of dwindling love and tragic self-destruction -- all cast under the sparkling facade of golden age Hollywood.
Playing with both the audience and characters' sense of doubt, for much of the runtime we are unsure whether Dixon Steele (Humphrey Boggart) is truly innocent of the crime he's under suspicion for. This level of ambiguity gradually thrusts a dark shadow over the film's central romance, turning an initially idyllic Hollywood coupling into something far more dangerous. Though cynical and ostensibly detached on the outside, Steele at first seems like an overall decent man, and we see nothing in his behavior that would suggest that he's capable of murder… until suddenly, we do. Boggart plays this slow burn reveal perfectly, steadily unveiling the unbridled rage that lurks just beneath his character's laid back exterior -- a rage that is ironically spurned on by the accusations of his guilt. Director Nicholas Ray further exemplifies this propensity toward violence through key visual choices, including one particularly noteworthy shot that lights up a sliver of Steele's almost manic face while he describes how the murder could have happened with disturbing intensity.
In the end, however, the distinction between Steele's actual guilt and innocence becomes irrelevant. Doubt, rage, and paranoia have already done their damage, creating a tragic portrait of doomed love. A striking examination of the unsavory choices we make to push others way, 'In a Lonely Place' becomes a film noir character study steeped in self-imposed alienation. With a top-notch presentation from Criterion, this marks one of the month's most essential classic releases. Unlike the true nature of the film's protagonist, there's little doubt about the quality of this disc -- it's a clear must own.
'Independence Day: 20th Anniversary Edition' - Blockbuster filmmaking has evolved a lot since 1996, but in many ways 'Independence Day' remains the pinnacle of the art form. Or at least, in all the ways that really matter. Forget narrative cohesion or character development or cinematic depth or even state-of-the-art effects -- this movie has explosions, aliens, laser blasts, one-liners, rousing speeches, bombastic music, and Jeff Goldblum! It might not be 'Citizen Kane,' but when it comes to blowing things up on a massive scale, the flick is a genuine milestone for mass market genre moviemaking.
When the world is under the threat of total annihilation from an alien invasion, who you gonna call? Judd Hirsch apparently. Well, Judd Hirsch and Will Smith. 'Bad Boys' may have been the Fresh Prince's first step toward big screen success, but 'ID4' truly cemented him as a genuine movie star. And as an added bonus we also get a generous helping of Randy Quaid, Bill Pullman, Mary McDonnell, Vivica A. Fox, Mae Whitman (her?), the aforementioned Goldblum, and even a bit of Harvey Firestein for good measure, rounding out one of the most seemingly random and eclectic blockbuster casts this side of the 'Transformers' franchise. While the writing might not be Oscar caliber, the characters are all likeable and the basic plot sets the groundwork for one hell of a ride. A ride that happens to include some killer set pieces (slightly dated effects notwithstanding) and some unashamedly crowd pleasing moments. Also, did I mention that Will Smith punches an alien? It's no wonder this thing sold so many tickets.
Sure, Spielberg and his dinosaurs might have the edge when it comes to blockbusters starring Jeff Goldblum, but 'Independence Day' still holds up surprisingly well -- as long as you're willing to embrace its sillier moments. This 20th Anniversary edition comes just in time for the upcoming sequel, and Fox has included a great new 4K transfer and fantastic DTS-HD MA mix. And if that's not enough, an Ultra HD Blu-ray edition is also available with a DTS:X soundtrack for even more spectacle. With grand action and even some genuine fireworks, this is the quintessential flick to kick off the summer movie watching season!
So, there you have it. While there were many titles worth picking up this May, 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 May's must own titles?
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