Dennis Burger’s Best of ’17
Best Home-Video Release: Baby Driver (UHD Blu-ray)
A controversial pick, I know, given that it stars one of the many Hollywood legends to fall from grace this year. But don’t let the fact that Kevin Spacey is a scumbag who couldn’t apologize his way out of a slightly overdone bagel without burning his entire neighborhood to the ground keep you from enjoying one of director Edgar Wright’s most perfect films to date. Baby Driver is a pure expression of cinematic art, the likes of which we rarely see these days. It’s the perfect synchronization of imagery and sound—a beautiful ballet of music and audio mayhem and visuals that you might be inclined to write off as style over substance. Don’t. The film’s style is its substance, and it has the courage to tell a very simple, straightforward story in a sensational yet sincere way.
And the UHD Blu-ray is every ounce the home-video release the film deserves. Its HDR imagery is stunning, and the Atmos audio track is a huge step up from the standard Blu-ray’s weak-sauce 5.1 audio mix. As with all Edgar Wright films, the bonus features are simply a treasure, including not one but two amazing audio commentaries you should definitely check out even if commentary tracks normally aren’t your bag.
Best Video Games: Horizon Zero Dawn and Divinity: Original Sin 2
Ugh, I hate ties in Year-end Best-of lists, but the simple fact is that either of these gems would easily be Game of the Year had they been released in a year without the other. And what makes choosing between them so difficult is that they’re so radically different.
Horizon Zero Dawn, a PlayStation 4 exclusive, goes toe-to-toe with the best Hollywood has to offer and comes out ahead in terms of character development, environments, and meaningful storytelling. It’s an open world that begs to be explored. Imagine watching Avatar and being able to step outside the frame to travel into the untamed wilderness however you want, without the limitations imposed by the script or cinematographer or director. That’s HZD to a T. It’s an interactive cinematic experience that simply couldn’t have been accomplished on older technology.
Divinity: Original Sin 2, on the other hand? It’s about as old-school a gaming experience as you’re likely to find these days outside of classic console simulators. This top-down, ¾-view roleplaying game hearkens back to an age when computer RPGs like Buldur’s Gate and Ultima ruled the gaming world. It’s gaming in its purest form—not cinematic in the slightest. Not even attempting to be cinematic. Its combat is a brilliant turn-based system whereby the action pauses every time you make a move (the digital equivalent of rolling the dice). There are modern flourishes, of course. The graphics are pretty stunning, and the special effects are brilliant. But at its heart, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a game that could have just as easily been made twenty years ago, just with fewer pixels and a lot less color. It’s nostalgia incarnate, polished to perfection.
Dennis Burger is an avid Star Wars scholar, Tolkien fanatic, and Corvette enthusiast
who somehow also manages to find time for technological passions including
high-end audio, home automation, and video gaming. He lives in the armpit of
Alabama with his wife Bethany and their four-legged child Bruno, a 75-pound
American Staffordshire Terrier who thinks he’s a Pomeranian.