The 8 Ball 11.27.12: The Top 8 Holiday Movie Gift Ideas
Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Movie Zone! I’m your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, we will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You’re free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is “wrong” is just silly. With that in mind, let’s get right in to it!
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Thanksgiving is over and Black Friday has turned into Cyber Monday, which can only mean one thing: it’s time for the holiday shopping season to get into full swing. Over the next twenty-eight days (twenty-nine for you super-last minute shoppers), it will be time to go hunting for that perfect gift for your mother, father, brother, sister, best friend, lover, Secret Santa recipient, family member you only see during the holidays, co-worker you’ve had an unrequited crush on for years or whatnot. We here at 8 Ball Headquarters are no different in that respect, and I know that holiday shopping to find interesting and exciting gifts can be a pain. The good news is that for those of us who are of the geeky persuasion, the kinds of gifts we’ve been wanting to give have become cool to give over the last few years. What was once cheesy and dorky is now perfectly acceptable and even desired in order to wrap up and stick a bow on to hand off for the holidays. With that in mind, I thought that this week we would look at some great gift ideas for the movie lovers in your social circle.
Caveat: No real caveats this week, except to say this: I tried to make sure there are a variety of potential gift ideas at different price levels. I could have done a list of all DVD sets or all novelty items or whatnot, but that wouldn’t have been nearly as inclusive and the all DVD sets in particular could have been fairly bank-breaking. My hope is that you should be able to find something on this list that can appeal to the movie/TV geek in most people, and at a price range that works. I have also included links to where you can buy the items if you’d like; as a disclaimer, I am not partnered or affiliated with any of these sites or products, just in case partiality is a concern. It’s all just stuff I really think your favorite cinephiles should enjoy.
Titan Books is one of my favorite places when I’m looking for a good pop culture-related read. From reads like Tales From Development Hell and the Dark Knight Rises novelization (one of the rare movie novelizations I’ve really enjoyed) to the stunning Art of Prometheus, the intriguing Hammer Vault and interminably cool Crazy 4 Cult coffee table books, the publisher is full of amazing books that cover a wide scope of fandoms and cool pieces about movie history. Of all of them, what may be my absolute favorite is this little gem. Olly Moss is a name that people may not know off the top of their heads, but you’ve almost surely seen his work. The acclaimed graphic designer has done awesome work reimagining movie posters for quite some time, with Empire magazine regularly featuring his work. For his first book, Moss came up with a fairly brilliant concept: interpreting some of the most well-known pop culture icons within the Victorian art of silhouette portraits. The 144-page book includes silhouettes of everyone from the Terminator and Conan the Barbarian to Jack Sparrow, all six James Bonds, the Xenomorph and Ripley from Aliens and so on. This is one of my favorite conversation pieces I have in terms of coffee table books; even non-hardcore movie and TV buffs can be found flipping through and trying to figure out who each silhouette represents. And unlike many coffee table books, it isn’t hideously expensive. I am still working my way through figuring out who all of the people are, a month after its release.
One of the few parts of geek culture that really hasn’t become particularly mainstream yet is that of non-video gaming. Tabletop gaming is still largely the purview of the hardcore geeks and hobbyists, though even that is changing a bit thanks to the amazing people at the Geek and Sundry YouTube Channel. Between Wil Wheaton’s amazing web series TableTop and the brand-new series On the Table hosted by Warren Johnston, tabletop games are starting to seep their way to a wider audience. I have a variety of tabletop games I love (Zombie Tile games and Cards Against Humanity for the win!), but this is one of my favorite tabletop games I have discovered thanks to TableTop. Basically, this is a single-session roleplaying game where you and a group of your friends make your own Coen Brothers movie by a simple and straightforward yet incredibly well-designed set of rules. There are a variety of playsets, all free, that allow you a variety of tweaks for settings ranging anywhere from the mean streets of a gangster-infested Snatch-esque London or the 1867 post-Civil War reconstruction era to Dallas in 1963 or even 1593 London. Even people who turn up their noses at roleplaying games for whatever reason are bound of have a blast with this game.
This is pure geek joy as far as I’m concerned. As readers to my column likely know, I am a huge Doctor Who fan and have literally seen just about every available episode of the fifty year-old series. One of the main staples of the Doctor’s repertoire of resources is his Sonic Screwdriver, an all-purpose device that has become almost as iconic a part of the franchise as the TARDIS itself. If you show me a Doctor Who fan, I will show you someone who has, at one point in time, very truly and sincerely wished that they had a Sonic Screwdriver all their own with which to solve the problems of the world (or at least their lives). This won’t solve the life problems of your resident Doctor Who geek, but it will answer that nasty question of “Why do we have so many remotes?” The TV Remote, shaped like the screwdriver of the Eleventh Doctor, is infrared and leanrs the codes from just about any standard remote control and can story up to thirty-nine codes, making it a true single remote for all your devices. It includes all the classic sound effects and the tip illuminates just like it should (if you don’t like the sounds, it has a silent mode). But the coolest part is that it is actually gesture-based and rather intuitively so, responding to simple twists and turns in order to change your channel or turn up the volume. There’s nothing quite as awesome as watching your Doctor Who DVDs by virtue of a perfect replica Sonic Screwdriver.
I was going to include an Amazon Prime gift subscription too, but apparently Amazon doesn’t want money and thus has no way to give Amazon Prime Gift Subscriptions so screw them. Netflix and Hulu are hardly secrets at this point, but there are people who still don’t know that the two services allow you to buy gift subscriptions for other people. This is a great gift for people in that it just gives them the freedom to watch whatever they want. Netflix has taken its hits over the past couple of years due to the Flixter fiasco, the much-hated price increase and competition from Amazon, but for the money they still serve as one of the best values for entertainment. A purely-streaming subscription service is just $7.99 and works on a variety of devices (if your giftee doesn’t have such a device, just look further down this list). And if they don’t stream, there are still physical DVD plans available. Meanwhile, Hulu Plus is known largely for its television selection which is admittedly great; that being said, they have no shortage of movies. Included in that category is (more or less) the entirety of the Criterion Collection of films, which comprise some of the all-time great movies from the likes of Akira Kurosawa, David Lynch, Charlie Chaplin, Roman Polanski, Guillermo Del Toro, Ingmar Bergman…the list goes on. Either or both of these make great gifts for those discerning movie watchers who are very picky about what they watch; they can find just about anything to fit their tastes.
So come on, movie geeks…level with me. You still have posters on your walls, don’t you? It’s okay, so do I. People may frame them to make it look more like “proper art,” but whether they do or not movie and TV-related posters are a regular part of many people’s decor. Similarly, Game of Thrones is a regular part of many people’s TV viewing; it has helped build upon the Lord of the Rings films in making fantasy entertainment acceptable to mainstream audiences. So what to get the Game of Thrones fan? HBO has a variety of items on their website, many of which are hideously expensive. I was going to include the “Vote Tyron 2012: A Lannister always pays his national debts” T-Shirt but the election is over so as funny as that is, it’s kind of dated at this point. This poster, on the other hand, is eternally cool. You have your choice of standard power for a reasonable cost or a super-high quality print in a frame for a much higher price, but either of them are the kind of decoration that would look amazing on anyone’s wall. The map is expansive and covers the area from the Ice Wall to the Highgarden in Westeros, and east to cover Pentos to Qarth in Essos. It’s a must-have for anyone who’s ever wanted to imagine ruling on the Iron Throne.
There are a ton of streaming devices out there, and many households already have the capability thanks to their Blu-Ray players, Xbox, PS3, Wii, internet-connected televisions or whatnot. For those who aren’t adopters of streaming entertainment devices however, there is still the Roku. The Roku is the most reasonably-priced streaming device on the market. The Roku is a small box that sits comfortably alongside your other TV-connected devices and can stream from a variety of services including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, HBO Go, EPIX, Crackle, Vimeo, UFC and a ton of others (for subscription prices, of course). TNA has an App on the service and you can watch some iPPV for the wrestling fans here; there are music apps as well. It is incredibly simple to set up and use over a wireless network, making it the kind of device that technophobic types will be able to use without fear of having to deal with anything too complicated. It is even useful for people who have a console or other streaming device in the home, as it can be put in the bedroom or another room to expand streaming capability in the house.
Now we get to the DVD sets worthy of your gift-buying consideration this holidsay season. The first of these is one that a lot of cinephiles have to have been hoping would happen for a long time, and it became a reality this year. Quinton Tarantino’s films are beloved by movie fans high and low and the DVDs are always huge sellers, though they have taken a little while to trickle their way onto Blu-Ray because of various reasons. Now that they have all made it, the inevitable Blu-Ray collector’s set has been released. This Blu-Ray set includes all seven of Tarantino’s directorial efforts films–that’s Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, both Kill Bills, Death Proof and Inglorious Basterds, for those keeping track–as well as True Romance, which Tarantino wrote and the late Tony Scott directed. Getting all of these films and their various bonus features in one attractive boxed set would be enough to make any Tarantino fanboy happy as it is, but the fact that it also includes a five hour (you heard me right; five hour) set of discussions from various film experts about Tarantino’s films as well as a two-hour career retrospective of the man himself makes this a must-have, especially for the fairly low price of $90 (as of this writing).
There were two potential definitive, incredibly lengthy sets that I considered for this list. The first, a Criterion set that includes twenty-five of Akira Kurosawa’s most essential films, is an unbelievable set and worthy of any collection. However, with Hulu having most of those films available, its impact was diminished somewhat. There is no other place where you can get all twenty-two James Bond films (minus Skyfall) in one place on Blu-Ray, so this one didn’t just make the list; it topped it. And for those who might want to complain that the set isn’t complete because it lacks the just-released-in-theaters Skyfall, there is a place within the boxing for the film when it does eventually come out on home video. How forward-thinking is that? But let’s get to the important part; this set has every film from Dr. No to Quantum of Solace on Blu-Ray with all the bonus features that the individual Blu-Ray sets contain (a full 130 hours of features, for those keeping track) as well as a disc containing an hour’s worth of new extra content. This is actually the first time that Goldeneye, Octopussy, The Spy Who Loved Me, You Only Live Twice, The Living Daylights, Tomorrow Never Dies, Diamonds are Forever, A View to a Kill and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service have ever been available on Blu-Ray. Unfortunately the brief Black Friday window of the set being available for just $99 has passed, but for someone who has enough money to spend, this is the kind of thing you just can’t really pass up if you have a film-lover on your buying list…at least, one that you don’t mind dropping a fair amount of money on.
Note: Now that I am caught up to current, I have gone back to watch the episodes that have become available in the US since I started watching and thus were previously unavailable to me (thus why I have episodes remaining despite being caught up).
Current Series/Season: Season Eight (1971)
Episodes Watched: 587
Last Serial Completed: Colony in Space – When the Time Lords discover that the Master has stolen their secret file on the Doomsday Weapon, they realize that they have only one recourse and send the Doctor and Jo–without their knowledge or consent–to the planet Uxarieus. There, they become enmeshed in a struggle between an agrarian colony and a powerful mining corporation, with the Master himself pulling strings from the shadows.
Surviving Episodes Remaining: 42
And that will do it for us this week! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Until then, have a good week and don’t forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! JT out.