Black Friday is almost here, and like most people who love a good deal, you’ve mapped out your plan of attack (make sure this attack doesn’t involve trampling). You know what you want, where to get it, and Thanksgiving dinner be damned, you’re going to camp out in front of a store or in front of your computer. While we admire your enthusiasm, we have some suggestions for items you might want to add to your wish list. And they don’t necessarily have to be for you; they could also be for someone you know.
Adam, Dave, and I have nine items we’d like to recommend: three small items (“Stocking Stuffers”), three moderately priced items (“Under the Tree”), and three expensive items (“Extra Nice”). More importantly, we each have a charity to recommend since we truly believe it’s better to give than to receive (unless you’re receiving a trip to outer space; nothing beats a trip to outer space). Hit the jump to check out our 2013 Gift Guide.
This is one of the best Christmas movies you probably haven’t seen. You should certainly spend time watching other Christmas classics like A Christmas Story and Die Hard, but The Ref needs to be in your collection. Denis Leary plays a thief who kidnaps a husband (Kevin Spacey) and wife (Judy Davis) and ends up getting drawn into their marital strife. It’s a damn funny film, but it also has surprising moments of powerful drama. Watch the movie once, and you’ll probably make it part of your annual holiday viewing.
I’m a huge Scott Pilgrim fan, and I have a couple t-shirts featuring the comic characters. Usually when I’m out wearing one of the shirts, someone will tell me how much they liked the movie. While that’s music to my ears, I always mention they should also check out the source material. The black-and-white original paperbacks are certainly worth your time, but Oni Press has been re-releasing them in hardcover cover color versions. They’re sturdy, Nathan Fairbairn‘s coloring is superb, and they contain a look at Bryan Lee O’Malley‘s development of the book.
The Ref and Scott Pilgrim are a little tough to fit into a stocking, but these little packets should find their way in with no problem (unless your stocking is an actual stocking, in which case that’s somewhat odd). They’re inexpensive, they’re creative, they’ve got grab-bag appeal (the figures are random), and one from Series 11 contains a LEGO yeti. If I was lucky enough to get a LEGO yeti, my holiday season would be truly magical.
Under the Tree:
Halloween has come and gone but Universal Classic Monsters are good all year round. The Blu-ray transfers on these movies are astounding. They’ve been cleaned up but not to the point where they lose their atmosphere, and if you want to get a comparison on how much better they look, the special features contain untouched footage. Speaking of the special features, they’re insightful, funny, and most importantly, can lead you to movies that aren’t in this box set like The Black Cat, The Old Dark House, and Son of Frankenstein.
Habibi isn’t just one of the best graphic novels I’ve ever read. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read, period. In some respects it’s controversial, but I was swept away by the gorgeous visuals, the breadth of the storytelling, the blending of darkest realities with flights of fantasy, and the unusual, crucial love story in between. It’s an easy read of difficult material, and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. This is a prime example of a comic that wants to be a comic rather than something that could easily be turned into an adaptation. (Also, if you like Habibi, I highly recommend Thopmson’s 2003 graphic novel, Blankets)
Portal 2 Miniature Portal Gun Replica with Fully Functional LED Lights and Sounds – Officially Licensed
Portal 2 is one of my favorite video games. The puzzles are challenging but never unfair, the co-op is a blast, the world is atmospheric, and the dialogue and characters are painfully hilarious. It also has a unique and iconic weapon in the portal gun. Aside from Gears of War‘s “Lancer”, the “Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device” is probably the most memorable video game weapon of the past decade. The full-scale version is expensive and difficult to track down, but you can have a perfectly good miniature version for your desk. It lights up, makes the memorable firing noises, and comes with a nice stand. You should get it. For science.
In a recent video, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan broke down what comes in The Complete Series box set, and even the disc cases are amazing (they overlap to form an image, and can be used as coasters). The set also contains all of the special features from the other releases plus another disc of exclusive material. Also, Gilligan didn’t mention the set comes with UltraViolet digital copies (if you want to make UltraViolet useful, download Vudu to your Xbox, PlayStation 3, mobile devices, etc.), which is nice if you don’t have Netflix. Yes, all of the episodes are available on the popular streaming service, but Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has made a compelling case for why you should pick up this hard copy.
Calvin and Hobbes is arguably the best newspaper comic strip ever made. That’s not to diminish the importance of newspaper comics like The Spirit and Peanuts, but in the modern era, Bill Watterson broke the boundaries of panels on his Sunday strips while making brilliant, eye-popping use of color. More importantly, his stories were remarkably insightful considering the simple premise of a young boy and his imaginary tiger playing around. It’s at turns wry, cute, cutting, and always charming. The book is available both in paperback and hardcover, but if you’re going to get the full collection, I’d recommend the longer-lasting hardcover.
This was just a good mash-up for me since I like LEGO and movies, but damn wasn’t this fun to build. There are some folks who like building models, and somehow they don’t break from the frustration of painting tiny pieces and gluing them together. I prefer my toy models to easily snap together, and I got between nine to ten hours out of putting this LEGO together. The interior is detailed with concessions, a movie screen, a projector room and more. All that’s really missing is a mini-figure on a cell phone, which wouldn’t be too bad because you could decapitate him.
If you’re wondering what the model looks like in real life, here’s a photo of mine:
Better to Give
I’m recommending Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, specifically the Family Library. Giving anything to CHOA is wonderful and I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from doing so, but speaking from personal experience, the Family Library is unique because it keeps movies and books in circulation. It’s a way to give hospitalized kids and their families a more than welcome to distraction, and donating is a direct way to help them.
The Family Library accepts used DVDs and books, and you can send them to
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
c/o Egleston Family Library
1405 Clifton Rd., N.E.
Atlanta, GA 30322
You can also donate through CHOA’s Amazon Wish List, and if you’re donating a book or movie, you can put “To the Family Library”.
Click over to Page 2 for Adam’s picks, and read along to Page 3 for Dave’s picks.