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10 Best Software 2010

January 4, 2010 By Dennis Burger

The 10 Best Movies and Games of the Year

Up (Blu-ray)
UpPop this one in to show off your system and your guests might just accuse you of cheating. After all, when hasn’t a Pixar film looked absolutely flawless? In all of the oohing and ahhing over the visual perfection, though, don’t overlook the magnificent audio mix. The film’s audio artistry matches its graphical splendor handily, not just in the big, obvious sequences—the storms, the dog fights, the other kind of dog fights—but in the less bombastic scenes, as well. Close your eyes as Carl unleashes the balloons that lift his old house (blasphemy, I know, but bear with me), and you’ll still feel the scene unfold in three full dimensions all around you.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Blu-ray)
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Blu-ray)If you’re looking for subtle nuances, you can go ahead and skip Michael Bay’s latest rock ’em sock ’em blockbuster, but you already knew that, didn’t you?

Just like its predecessor, Revenge of the Fallen is a big, loud explosion of gleaming edges and blistering hues and more subwoofer-stressing, wall-shaking mechano-a-mechano action than you can shake an Allspark at.

If the now-legendary forest battle scene and the climactic sequences at the Pyramids of Giza don’t rock your foundation to the core and knock a picture or two off of your neighbors’ walls, you either need to crank the volume a little louder or shop for a new subwoofer or four.

The Beatles: Rock Band (PlayStation 3/360/Wii)
The Beatles: Rock Band (PlayStation 3/360/Wii)You’ve no doubt heard the newly remastered Beatles catalog already—now it’s time to immerse yourself in it completely. Grab a plastic instrument and three friends and get ready to dig into the greatest pop songs of all time (now including three complete albums: Abbey Road, Sgt. Pepper’s and Rubber Soul) while your home theater is bathed in a super psychedelic barrage of trippy visuals and the most iconic music of the 20th century gloriously remixed in surround sound.

Heck, even if you can’t carry a tune, this one is worth the price of purchase just for the fab opening and closing animated sequences alone. Review here.

The Wizard of Oz: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray)
The Wizard of Oz: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray)If the 2005 DVD restoration of Wizard of Oz was a revelation (and it was), the work done for the film’s Blu-ray debut is liable to start a new religion.

Instead of glossing over the image to cater to the whims of audiences spoiled by modern digital cinema, Warner Bros. thankfully left the film’s grain gloriously intact.

The result is an image with downright startling details, sumptuous shading and nearly tangible textures to go along with its breathtaking Technicolor palette. Seriously, if you want the film to look any better than this, you’re going to have to scrounge up a time machine and visit the set yourself.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Diamond Edition (Blu-ray)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Diamond Edition (Blu-ray)Dorothy isn’t the only septuagenarian girl in town with a whole new reason to brag, thanks to Blu-ray. Disney’s original animated film has been so beautifully restored you’d swear it was re-animated from scratch this year and filmed before the paint finished drying.

Check out the dwarfs’ “Heigh-Ho” march home against the salmon-colored sunset to see what I mean: Pause at any point and you’ve got a work of art worthy of framing.

But only in motion can you truly appreciate the depth and dimensionality of animation—the way the cels gorgeously intertwine with layers of watercolor background elements to concoct a witch’s brew of stunning classic animation.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PlayStation 3)
 Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PlayStation 3)Remember the last Indiana Jones sequel—the one whose only redeeming feature was the introduction of the phrase “nuked the fridge” into the popular culture lexicon? Yeah, I’m trying to forget it, too. If you want to see what that movie should have been, though, you’ll need to grab a game controller and direct it yourself. This brilliant treasure-hunting follow up to 2007’s award-winning Drake’s Fortune not only boasts a great story, ingenious puzzles and plenty of nail-biting action, but it’s also packed with gorgeous photorealistic environments—from lush wetlands to white Himalayan mountaintops—and an uncompressed 7.1-channel surround soundtrack that positively drips with ambiance.

Let the Right One In (Blu-ray)
Let the Right One In (Blu-ray)Bundle up before you press play on this chilling little Swedish vampire flick—its delicious 1080p transfer so beautifully captures the bleak and bitter winter of its Scandinavian setting, you’ll as much feel the transfer in your bones as soak it in with your eyes. The film’s visuals are an unabashed celebration of the value scale—a million and one shades of grey, framed by pristine highlights and shadows so deep and dark they’ll suck the light out of the next movie you pop in your player. And the film’s Swedish DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is an absolute work of aural artwork in and of itself.

Bolt (Blu-ray)
BoltThis girl-and-her-superdog action flick may have played second fiddle to Up in Disney’s recent slate of computer animated films, but that certainly doesn’t mean that it’s second rate in terms of audiovisual bliss. The film sports an aesthetic unlike any other—a sort of Edward Hopper painting crossed with a next-generation video game by way of classic Hollywood cinema. Cue up the last leg of the titular character’s coast-to-coast trek back home for the perfect taste: The lavish, painterly landscapes create the perfect (though not the most predictable) backdrop for the beautifully rendered vehicles and wonderful character animations.

Watchmen (Blu-ray)
 Watchmen (Blu-ray)I stand by every discouraging word I’ve said and written about this film in the past year. It’s not so much an adaptation of one of the greatest comic books of all time as it is a heartless, soulless recitation of it.

But what a gorgeous heartless, soulless recitation it is.

The film’s audiovisual excellence manages to outshine all of its numerous narrative shortcomings—especially the scene late in the film in which Dr. Manhattan’s Martian house of glass comes crashing down in a raucous, room-filling shower of surround sound that’s almost spectacular enough to make you forget the wooden performances that preceded it.

Flower (PlayStation 3)
Flower (PlayStation 3)I hesitate to call this astonishing little downloadable title for the PS3 a game; it’s more an interactive work of multimedia Zen art. It lacks the complicated control schemes of so many games. It lacks time limits, points to score and tangible enemies to defeat. So what’s the point? Complete and utter relaxation, combined with an audiovisual experience like nothing you’ve ever seen. Grab a controller (gently!), let yourself be lifted up by the breeze and before long you’ll swear you can feel the uncountable blades of beautifully rendered grass slip-sliding past you and the pitter-pat of gentle raindrops kissing your cheeks.


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