All I want for Christmas is you
Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but it will soon be Christmas - a mere eight days to go. While virtually everyone I know is running around in a flap, braving the cold winds of Glasgow in December, not to mention the bustling crowds of like-minded last minute shoppers, I find myself sitting back with a look of rather smug self-satisfaction on my face. I, you see, have discovered the wonders of Internet shopping, and the savings in time, money and worry that come with it. With more or less everyone else’s gifts accounted for, I decided it was time to give some thought to myself and what I would like to receive for Mithras’ birthday.
First up, a couple of games: the Collector’s Edition of Unreal Tournament III and The Witcher. Unreal Tournament III you already know about, from my previous complaint about the desaturated visuals in its pre-release demo. It’s undeniably a fun game, though, and the saturation control can, to some extent, be used to compensate for the predominance of grey and brown. The Collector’s Edition, in any event, looks somewhat interesting, given that it comes with an art book and a DVD exploring the history of the franchise and the making of this instalment, not to mention ten hours’ worth of tutorials for the Unreal Editor.
The Witcher, meanwhile, is not a game that I’ve had an opportunity to experience for myself, but it sounds like an interesting attempt to do a complex, non-linear single player RPG that eschews traditional notions of good vs. evil and allows the player’s choices to impact the story and world in a very noticeable sense. Ironically, the game’s qualities seem to have been overshadowed by the controversy surrounding the publisher’s decision to censor female nudity from its American release (the European versions are intact), calling into question all sorts of debates regarding the games industry’s bizarre relationship within the human body (you can dismember it as much as you like, but God help you if you happen to spot a nipple).
I also picked up a couple of German HD DVD releases from Amazon.de: Wayne Kramer’s Running Scared and Terry Gilliam’s Tideland. The former is a film I know next to nothing about, but the transfer appears to be extremely good, and I do like to take the odd risk now and then with my movie watching (Inside Man certainly paid dividends, and I liked Kramer’s previous film, The Cooler). Tideland, meanwhile, I’ve wanted to see for a while, even if the word of mouth has been largely negative so far. Interestingly, it is also, as far as I can tell, the only release of the film to present it in its original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1: most DVD releases are open matte at 1.78:1, while the UK release is in a ratio of 2.25:1, which is supposedly Gilliam’s preferred ratio. (It may turn out that the HD DVD is also 2.25:1, despite what the packaging claims, but I figure that either is preferable to having an open matte 1.78:1 presentation, so I won’t be too fussed either way.)
Oh, and, surprising as it might seem, I haven’t yet completely given up on the world of standard definition. I ordered the Region 1 US releases of Michael Moore’s Sicko and, carrying on a tradition that was started back at Christmas 2003, the latest release in the Looney Tunes Golden Collection series, Volume 5. I actually have no idea which cartoons are included in this line-up - I like to be pleasantly surprised, although I’m not holding out too much hope for Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs making an appearance any time soon.