2017 has been an incredible year for those of us with an eye on the screen, both big and small. With incredible spectacles on the big screen, television reaching new heights and the constant progress of game developers to get more from our machines, there is much to love. As the year draws to a close, it’s time for me to take a look back and choose my top three for 2017.
As the owner of all three consoles, I knew this choice would be difficult. With a plethora of AAA titles and a cornucopia of Indie releases, my game of 2017 decision was difficult. It would be easy to opt for none, the choice is so great. Instead, to shine a light on the new and exciting ways that developers are finding to bring their lives (and their passion) to our homes. Ranging from the spectacular Legend of Zelda through the beautiful Cuphead to the quirky Fractured But Whole, developers across the world are delivering some amazing content to us. Like I said, it would be easy to do that. It would be easy to look at the mistakes of the year too. The never-ending debacle surrounding loot crates and pay-to-win, the anxiety around difficulty settings and the scaling of progression have all given gamers plenty to talk about (and talk, and talk, and talk). It would be easy to compare this year to 2016, looking at the quality of many of our releases over the year.
So that’s what I’m going to do, my decision for gaming is the whole of 2017! In a year where Horizon Zero Dawn can’t win Game Of The Year, a year which sees Nintendo return to the fore on a grand scale, and a year which sees the release of a game-changing console, 2018 has a lot to live up to.
The same very much applies to movies. I have seen (at the time of writing) 33 films at the cinema this year, and a greater number in the home. I have seen comedies, drama, musicals, Sci-fi and horror. I have seen some examples of spectacular writing, amazing direction and astounding effects. I have seen a Michael Rooker shouting that he is Mary Poppins and have seen Gal Gadot deflect a barrage of bullets in no man’s land. I have been amazed by Tom Hardy coasting an engine-out spitfire onto a beach and I have seen Hugh Jackman skewer a man with his claws. I have laughed while Will Ferrell chopped off another man’s finger and cringed watching Amy Schumer giving herself an ‘intimate wash’ in a public bathroom.
However, one film really does stand out above all others for me, and that is the dark thriller that is “Get Out”. I am not normally a fan of these sorts of films, and even now I struggle to put my finger on ‘what’ makes it so special. Is it the writing? Is it the direction? Or is it the irreverent juxtaposition of this genre of film and the comedic history of the writer/director Jordan Peele? Created on a shoestring budget, Get Out truly draws you in. Best viewed without any other distractions, this seemingly innocent family trip traverses through awkward, creepy and what can only be described as sci-fi at a breakneck speed. You are kept on the edge of your seat as your mind is taken on a roller-coaster, asking questions which are never answered. Then you watch it again and see even more.
The small touches are like a vision in the corner of your eye. You know they are there but as soon as you turn to observe them, they disappear, replaced with another, keeping the level of unease at its peak. The low budget ($4.5M) is never evident, the quality of the film is that good. The cast delivers an engaging performance, drawing you in and pushing you away in equal measure. The use of light and dark with some phenomenal camera work really work to enhance the mood of the film. I fully recommend Get Out to any movie fan, there truly is something for everyone.
Thinking about the television of 2017 spins my mind. Shows like Game of Thrones have really demonstrated that television is no longer the home of ‘not-good-enough-for-movies’ cast and crew. Money is spent and it really shows. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some mistakes, but these are becoming fewer. Unfortunately, as the quality of most shows grows, it only serves to demonstrate the weakness of those that don’t make the grade. Take Marvel’s Inhumans. Moved from the movies plans to the small screen, it truly failed to hit the mark that others before from the same studios could. Weak effects, contrived storylines and poor production really left Inhumans out in the cold. Conversely, take FX’s Legion. Using the source material well, the team truly captured the chaos and mental state needed for this show and had the vision to move it from concept to screen.
Now, I will level with you, I watch a lot of television. Because of this, choosing a single show is impossible. Not difficult, impossible. So I have three. One dramedy, one fantasy and one documentary. To start, the documentary. Blue Planet II is easily the most perfectly produced nature series that I have ever seen. It is difficult to put into words exactly how this show makes me feel. With a continuing ‘story’ across the episodes, the team have used their years of work to show some of the most spectacular visions available to us using modern technology (a lot of which was invented only for the series). The phenomenal work which has gone into this show is ever present, and it is sometimes difficult to get feel emotional about what you are being allowed to see. I use that terminology purposefully. You are made to feel like part of the environment, you see through the eyes of the animals. However, you know that you shouldn’t. You are exposed to the effects of your daily life, you see the fate of these creatures, and I challenge anyone not to have a serious thought about their impact on the environment.
Next up is fantasy. The Gifted on Fox is an X-Men based fantasy centred around the Mutant Underground, in particular the Strucker siblings. Set in the modern day, where mutants are struggling, the show is gripping in a way which I really didn’t expect. Drawing you in, you genuinely feel for the cast, who all act to a very high standard. On the whole a young cast, you never believe that is the case as their performances show the struggle and difficulty of a life as a mutant. The effects betray a modest budget, but you never really feel that, as the money is used to its best potential, never leaving you feeling shortchanged. Plots are complex without being confusing, and as with any good comic book property, you feel empathy for the ‘bad guys’… Shades of grey are very much apparent. A real shot across the bows to Marvel proper, particularly as it commenced around the same time as Inhumans.
Finally, an old favourite in the dramedy category. Detectorists is in its final season (again) and continues the tribulations of Andy and Lance, two gentle Detectorists, simply doing what they love. Season three picks up some time after the end of the last season, and the pair are back at it, trawling the same fields, in search of their elusive haul. Life continues on, and family and work issues keep getting in the way. Not for the weak hearted, Detectorists takes you on a positive teacup ride of emotions, making you laugh and relax as it undulates gently through the story. There are occasional moments of high drama, such as a hedgehog crossing the road or a garden without a shed. One does not watch Detectorists for the excitement, it is more an experience, a look inside another life, one where rusty tools and solar panels are truly horrific. Call it escapism if you will, but I know that if you watch it you will want to get out in those fields and see if you can find your own ring pull, Pepsi, 2002.