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 visually stunning Disney adventure, a thrilling noir comedy, and a classic buddy flick. . 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, and August 2016.
For September, we're covering a boy and his giant best friend, a clash of superheroes, and a creepy horror sequel.
If you only buy three titles that hit Blu-ray in September, here's what we suggest you pick up, starting with the most essential...
'The Iron Giant: Signature Edition' - All nine-year-old Hogarth Hughes really wants is a pet. But while a dog or even a squirrel would probably have been sufficient, he ends up with… a giant robot. An emotional, exciting, and effortlessly entertaining animated flick for all ages, 'The Iron Giant' tells a deceptively simple tale of friendship and free will, fueling its nuts and bolts with ample heart and soul.
The central relationship between boy and gigantic metal robot sparks most of the film's central themes, tackling some decidedly weighty issues for a family film. Though ostensibly designed to be a weapon, the title character is really more of a gentle giant at heart, and through Hogarth's innocent guidance he learns that he has a choice between his programming and his own will -- a choice to be a hero or a villain. Under director Brad Bird's guidance, this leads to a rather powerful yet understated parable about the pitfalls of violence and aggression. These concepts are heightened to great effect by the film's Cold War era setting, playing up nuclear paranoia while complementing the movie's 50s sci-fi influences. Likewise, the animation has an appropriately retro feel, mixing hand-drawn visuals with computer generated flourishes all bursting with personality. Funny, heartfelt, and marked by a subtle edge, the film runs the full gamut of emotions, weaving a memorable fable about a robot with a soul.
This Signature Edition Blu-ray finally gives the movie the HD treatment it deserves with a great technical presentation, plentiful supplements, and even a slightly longer runtime with two new scenes. And for big fans, there's even an Ultimate Collector's Edition with a bunch of fun extra goodies. I somehow missed this flick as a kid, but even as an adult watching it for the first time, the story manages to carry an effortless sense of wonder, charm, and heart. An animated treat for all ages, the film easily earns a giant spot on this month's list.
'Captain America: Civil War' - Heated arguments between good friends are rarely easy to resolve under any circumstances. But when those good friends happen to be a star-spangled super soldier and a walking armored arsenal… well, things can get messy. Very messy. A big-screen clash of comic book titans done right, 'Captain America: Civil War' is a Marvel fanboy dream come true, bringing classic splash page thrills to the big screen with explosive action, thoughtful themes, and the crowd-pleasing re-introduction of a certain famous webslinger.
Sure, 'Civil War' is not without its faults. Steve Rogers often feels like a supporting player in his own flick, the central antagonist is forgettable, said villain's ultimate plan relies on some pretty big assumptions, and Marvel's tried-and-true formula really is starting to wear thin. But, despite any minor qualms, this just might be the studio's most fully realized effort yet, paying off on years of developing storylines and evolving relationships while shaking up the status quo nicely as Phase Three begins. Using thoughtful concepts tied to responsibility, accountability, political discord, and freedom as their thematic fuel, the directors reveal the potential consequences that arise when superheroes decide to use entire cities as their boxing rings. Of course, that doesn't mean that the Russo Brothers are forced to skimp out on the action here. Instead, we are treated to one of the most memorable and unabashedly fun comic book skirmishes to ever grace the silver screen, pitting hero against hero in an airport battle that is sure to bring a smile to every viewer's inner eight-year-old.
Add in the best on-screen version of Spider-Man so far and a surprisingly fleshed out introduction to the instantly badass Black Panther, and you've got yourself one of the summer's most enjoyable efforts. While the audio track on this Blu-ray lacks some of the kick that viewers might be expecting, the video transfer and supplements are strong, helping it to swing into September's list.
'The Conjuring 2' - With October lurking just around the corner, I'd be remiss if I didn't include a solid horror title here to help get viewers in the mood for Halloween. And few things are as classically spooky as good-old-fashioned demonic possession. Tackling another documented case of ghostly visitation, 'The Conjuring 2' serves as a worthy sequel to its creepy predecessor, offering another effective blend of family drama, supernatural scares, and 70s hairstyles.
Once again following paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, the flick leaves Rhode Island behind, traveling across the pond to London to investigate another family being tormented by a wayward ghost… but this time one with a British accent! What follows is a gradually escalating tale of moving furniture, floating children, creepy recordings, upside-down crosses, ominous visions, and appropriately loud music cues, offering a generous helping of effective scares -- including one spine-tingling moment that actually caused my date to scream louder than the characters on screen. And isn't that the real sign of a truly effective horror flick? Though not quite as fresh or cinematically potent as the original, this follow-up continues to develop the Warrens nicely, and the central villain, a nightmare-inducing demonic nun, features a palpably unsettling and horrifically memorable design.
With 'The Conjuring 2,' director James Wan returns to deliver another gripping and frightening entry in the horror franchise he kicked off. The scares might be a little familiar, but this is thankfully more than just a simple retread of what's come before. And with a demo-worhty Dolby Atmos soundtrack that will have you and your friends up all night listening for ghosts in your ceiling, this disc is perfect for upcoming Halloween movie marathons.
So, there you have it. While there were many titles worth picking up this September, 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 September's must own titles?