Holiday Gift Guide 2007: the movie edition

November 27, 2007

By now, you’ve probably seen at least several hundred of these (I could be exaggerating – but sadly, or disturbingly, I don’t think so). But hey, what’s one more to add to the pile?

See, I like to wait until the web is totally oversaturated with exactly the same content to publish my own contribution to the excess. Or for the precise moment when many people don’t even want to think about shopping for a whole ‘nother week after spending six hours standing outside of Best Buy in the wee hours of the morning after Thanksgiving (you know who you are) – and then walking home, uphill, hopefully in the snow. In any case, I find it much more thrillingly extraneous that way. Or so I tell myself.

With that said, here are some of my own recommendations for what to get that incurable movie fanatic you know and love. I mean, there’s bound to be at least one in every family, right? Or am I just writing my own holiday wish list? Well, either way – hopefully my family is paying attention…

(all prices are retail, and thus pre-any sort of discount, such as the standard Amazon deductions)

Stocking stuffers

Or gifts for the other seven nights. Or, well, whatever the case may be. You get the idea.

Pure fun miscellany – If you’re in New York, buy a can of EVIL, some powdered antimatter and other superhero stuff at the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store. If you’re in San Francisco, buy pirate goodies at the Pirate Supply Store. Seattle: space travel necessities at the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co. LA or Ann Arbor: time travel essentials (Echo Park Time Travel Mart) and monsters-in-your-closet supplies (The International Monsters Union) respectively.

Sound far-fetched? Fortunately for kids at heart everywhere (and, of course, actual kids), it’s not! For more information on these real life stores, click here.

Gift cards – If you don’t live in any of these cities, or don’t have easy access to one of them, there are, of course, many alternatives.

A Netflix gift subscription is always a fun option (and addictive, I’m on my, um, 23rd month or so past the three I originally got as a gift), and a gift certificate for a movie theater chain is easy, affordable and flexible. Almost all movie theaters have them, even the most staunchly independent ones. With ticket prices soaring to $11 (and no matinees) in cities like New York, and that’s not including the $4.50 small popcorn, your friend or family member will thank you.

And of course, finally, an iTunes gift certificate will let them download their favorite movies onto that new iPod nano you caved in and got them.

The book Cinescopes: what your favorite movies reveal about you – One of those “laugh over after opening and then forget” presents (we’ve all gotten them), it’s nonetheless the type of gift we all need during holiday bonding time with the family. $14.95 at Kitson.

DVDs – Basic, yes, but certainly not the easy way out. Individual DVDs are the fun, simple item that many people want but don’t want to actually spend the extra cash on to get themselves. I mean, really, you’re doing them a favor.

Solid

Candy Princess Kit – If you just can’t deal with one more Disney Princesses toy in your home, but someone you know is desperate for something royal after seeing Enchanted, try this fun gift basket ($50) from the famous Willy Wonka-esque candy store, Dylan’s Candy Bar. Sure, you won’t be able to drag the recipient from the walls, but most of it will probably be gone by the next morning. It includes pretty much everything you could ever think of that involves a Disney princess and sugar.

Film journal – I think we can all agree that no one actually uses these, apart from that diligently filled out first entry, of course. But if you have a Phoebe Cates fan on your list, you can cleverly point out that this elegant film journal ($45.00) came from her boutique in New York. That’s practically 3 degrees of separation!

Books and graphic novels – Sure, books that have recently been turned into films make great gifts, but if you understandably want to avoid the “Oh… Great… A book… Thanks…” response, check out these bound alternatives.

Stardust – The fairy tale (but not, I repeat not, with Disney’s G-rated fairies) graphic novel on which the Claire Danes, Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer special effects flight of fancy is based.

300 – Before it was an ultraviolent, testerone-fueled box office heavyweight, it was an ultraviolent, testerone-fueled graphic novel about the historic battle of Thermopylae in ancient Greece (it’s almost an educational book, really…). Other novels by Hollywood golden boy Frank Miller that have been adapted into film: Sin City and The Dark Knight Returns (not directly, but still very influential; see Tim Burton’s Batman)

Scott Pilgrim – Get a jump start on this 2009 film by reading the indie graphic novel on which it’s based. A boy must fight off his new girlfriend’s 7 evil exes – tongue-in-cheek, martial arts video game style. Vol. 4 just came out, but for you newbies, start with – what else? – Vol. 1.

Pretty much anything by Alan Moore – Disgruntled Hollywood golden boy Moore has written the graphic novels that inspired The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, V for Vendetta, From Hell, and the upcoming Watchmen (2009).

If books are in the cards, however, try these:

His Dark Materials – Controversy or not, these elegant, and at times emotionally wrenching, tales for young adults are a must for fantasy fans. The first book in this three volume series by Philip Pullman is the basis for the new Golden Compass epic film.

No Country for Old Men – It has certainly been Cormac McCarthy’s year. Between the Pulitzer and Oprah’s Book Club selection for his bleak The Road and the critical acclaim for the film adaptation of No Country‘s disturbing tale, McCarthy is having a good holiday.

Beowulf – Lure them in with Angelina Jolie, keep them (for a time at least) with Seamus Heaney’s actually intelligible translation of the classic English poem. And no, this is not just my own revenge for having to read this in high school – after all, my class didn’t just read it. We had to listen to it read to us in Old English, with a lyre, for hours. Well, maybe I should take back that revenge comment…

Why not?

“Ultimate” DVD collections – They’re hefty, pricey and they’ve got that “cool, lots of stuff” factor. As a very early collector of the comics, I’m partial to the Superman Ultimate Collector’s Edition ($99.98 – but phew, not $100!), which comes with 14 discs (including the Richard Donner version of Superman II and loads of extras) and total non-portability.

But perhaps your gift recipient is a Bond fan? Check out the James Bond Ultimate Collector’s Set ($289.98) with its whopping 42 discs (Never Say Never Again and other “unofficials” not included).

As for me, I’m actually hoping for the collector’s set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – was that too subtle of a hint? Mom?

Other “Ultimates”:
Blade Runner Five-Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition ($78.92) comes in one of those super spy, I’m handcuffed to this, shiny metal briefcases. Ooo, shiny.
Essential Art House – 50 Years of Janus Films ($850) might break the bank, but with 50 discs, you get a huge slice of indie film history all in one place.

Portable DVD player – A bit of a classic but always a good choice. I got one of these (plus that Netflix subscription) one year for the holidays and it was the best day (almost better than a basket of mini-muffins – sorry, in an oblique references to Friends mood) … Ah, materialism. For one that will last you beyond the next year’s holiday season, expect to pay about $150 and up.

Movie magazine subscription – Something they will literally enjoy (or at least receive) for a year. They range from mainstream (Entertainment Weekly) to humorously British (my favorite, Empire) to Hollywood (Variety). Depending on seasonal offers, a year’s subscription can run anywhere from about $20-40 (EW) to over $150 (international subscribers to Empire). For more film magazine options, click here.

Video editing software – For the aspiring filmmaker. Expect to pay around $70-$100 (from what I can tell). For help picking the right one (who can tell them all apart? capability to do what exactly?), if your budding director hasn’t given you very specific requests, go here for PC Mag’s detailed guide to buying video editing software.

The holidays only come once a year… right?

Maya and RenderMan – If you know someone who is really (really, really) into 3D animation – like, “Pixar or bust” into animation – then they are probably drooling over these computer programs, if they don’t have them already. Autodesk’s Maya software, “the current king-of-the-hill in high-end 3D animation software” (according to 3DRender.com), is the program to beat, and since you can’t get more name-brand than Pixar, throw the 3D animation king’s own rendering software into the mix as well with their RenderMan for Maya product.

Of course, you get what you pay for, and sadly, you will pay for these products: at about $4,000 and $1,000 respectively, these pricey animation gifts clearly eliminate any need for additional stocking stuffers – or any gifts for the next 10 years, for that matter.

James Bond accessories – Sure, that Ultimate DVD set is nice and all, but why just watch Bond when you can look like him? Check out Bond Lifestyle to find the stuff that the movie spy and his associates actually use and wear. Items range from the Omega watch seen in Casino Royale (about $2,500) to Brioni suits ($5,000-ish) to a sterling silver Aston Martin keychain (approx. $400).

The site also includes a list of the watches worn in the 007 films. They probably won’t shoot darts or help unzip a dress (not literally anyway), but nothing’s perfect. For a history of Bond watches, click here.

That Ferrari you’ve always wanted

Now that winning a part in a Will Ferrell movie is off the market, what gifts are there for a movie lover to dream about – or actually purchase, for those ridiculously wealthy people out there (any lottery ticket now!)?

Design your own Star Trek apartment – Although the original sold for over $800,000, get your own room, house or apartment transformed into an insanely authentic replica of the Star Trek starship by the guy who built it. No joke – if you haven’t seen pictures of what this guy did to his apartment, click here now to visit his official “24th Century Interior Design” website.

Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane Oscar – On December 11th, Sotheby’s is auctioning off the only Oscar that this über-acclaimed flick ever won (believe it or not): Best Writing, Original Screenplay. The Oscar was shared by Welles and Herman Mankiewicz. It’s expected to fetch around $1 million, but $800,000 at the very least. Steep, you say? Well, there’s nothing like literally holding Oscar glory in the palm of your hand. Or at least, Sotheby’s hopes so.

Home movie theater – Sure, that 60″ flat screen is nice, but really, it’s got nothing on a full-on luxury movie theater in your own home. In the US, companies like Gramophone, Sound Image and New England’s Home Entertainment Expo will design you a seriously jealousy-enducing home theater. Think huge leather chairs, fully integrated sound system, paneled walls, high definition lowered screen, and those essential movie curtain drapes. MTV Cribs will be knocking down your door within weeks – if they aren’t busy with those Star Trek-inspired homes of course.

If you don’t want to go quite this far, check out about.com’s list of movie theater accessories (from a projection screen to a vintage popcorn maker – nothing like the smell of popcorn throughout your entire house to make you feel that the expense was totally worth it).

Or go for the sleek accent look and purchase these stage / movie – style polished steel light fixtures from NY boutique staple, Mxyplyzyk (yep, named after that dimensional Superman villain, and it’s pronounced mix-ee-pliz-ik according to the store).

** For more similar, exactly the same and not so similar gift suggestions for movie fans, see Jenny Lauck’s thoughtful list. Also check out Moviefone’s gift guide. It’s a lot less practical than Lauck’s (think “Dumbledore gay pride” t-shirts), but, as a result, great eye candy and perfect fodder for internet procrastination. I know I at least am definitely getting that voice-changing Optimus Prime helmet for a, um, friend.

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New York movies and video games

November 17, 2007

According to The Gothamist, a new and improved Ghostbusters video game from Vivendi’s Sierra will be coming to stores in Fall ’08 with appearances from all four main characters and some supporting characters.

Of course, this clearly begs the question, as the Gothamist puts it, “Which other New York-centric films should be made interactive?” Yes, I Am Legend (trailer with potential alert!) and that mystery with a capital M Cloverfield movie aren’t bad ideas, as they say. But the real mystery is why no one has ever mined the true heart of New York filmmaking: romantic comedies.

Appealing to both girls and, well, women, this somewhat Sims-esque game could take you through the crazy perils of romantic dating on the New York big screen. No, you say? But think of the possibilities:

Girls could choose between playing omega threat Meg Ryan and, uh, everyone else – such as Diane Keaton, Sarah Jessica Parker, Audrey Hepburn, and Deborah Kerr, with possible alternates Kate Beckinsale and Kate Hudson. They would have to decide whether to dump, hate, ignore, pine after, gossip to their friends about, cheat on, semi-stalk, toy with, and write love letters, emails or post-its to men like Tom Hanks, Woody Allen, Chris Noth, and potentially John Cusack and Matthew McConaughey. Not forgetting one to-be-determined classic male actor (Cary Grant or George Peppard? Or both?).

And it would all take place through gorgeous New York backdrops like the Upper West and East Sides (because what other neighborhoods are there in romantic comedies?), Central Park, the Empire State Building, and an exciting and dangerous, in a rescue – me – with – your – BMW sort of way, encounter with Times Square.

The goal would, naturally, be marriage (what else in a romcom?), or at least some sort of long-term commitment that you assume is going somewhere.

Yep. Any day now.

(or clearly I need the holidays to get here sooner… probably the latter)


Too much news to fit in print: comic book and video game movies

October 11, 2007

I like to think of it as a kill screen – eventually you get to the point where there’s just too much fun movie news of a certain type to handle it all, and you become confused and, well, okay, you don’t die, but serious writer’s block does become an issue. (If you’re wondering right now what a kill screen is, go see King of Kong immediately – or click on the “kill screen” link, but trust me, the first option is much more fun.)

My solution? Just provide the links in an easily accessible format so you can decide what you want to know. Lazy, you say? Perhaps. But what can I say, you get your news and better one okay post with many links, than many very mediocre posts with one link. I hope, anyway.

So here it is, what’s going on this week in comic book and video game movie news:

– In a big change of pace, Michael Gordon, of 300, Spider-man 3 and Ghost Writer fame is writing the EverQuest screenplay for the big screen.

– A movie trailer is available for the documentary Confessions of a Superhero. According to SlashFilm, it’s about “a group of people who make their money dressed as superheroes, taking photos with tourists outside the Manns Chinese Theater.” Awesome. What else is there to say?

Brandon Routh, the man of truth, justice, and all that stuff, is exchanging his tights and feel-good action for the role of Dylan Dog in the big screen adaptation of the popular horror comic books.

– The art director of Gears of War and other video games, Jerry O’Flaherty, will be directing the upcoming animated Thundercats movie.

– Director Xavier Gans has been fired from directing a big screen Hitman adaptation for making it too bloody. Yes, I can see how that direction for the film would be unexpected.


King of Kong clip

August 31, 2007

To send you off on your holiday weekend travels (or, at least, my holiday weekend travels), here’s a fun clip from King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.

Enjoy and see you next week!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Quotes

August 23, 2007

King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

“I wanted to be a hero, I wanted to be the center of attention, I wanted the glory, I wanted the fame, I wanted the pretty girls coming up to me and saying: ‘Hi, I see that you’re good at Centipede*.'”

(*Centipede is a classic Atari arcade game.)


The Competitive World of Donkey Kong

August 20, 2007

After movies covering the hypercompetitive subcultures of spelling bees and crossword puzzles, here comes a documentary about competitive, um, Donkey Konging. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I did not think the world of Donkey Kong competitions would the next gaming subculture covered in the movies, but here it is – a movie about those who spend their free time, or much of their time overall, playing arcade video games, particularly Donkey Kong.

One of the great rivalries of all time. – “King of Kong”

“King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters” follows the increasing rivalry between reigning champion Billy Mitchell, who held the world record in Donkey Kong scores, and everyman Steve Webie, who learns to play the game out of his garage, while dealing with some of the more unfortunate duties of being a father. The film explores the insular world of classic arcade game players, and how they interact with outsiders like Webie, coming in to rival their established hero, often to amusing and sadly poignant effect.

The documentary is perhaps not the deepest or the most originally produced of documentaries, but there is no denying that for me at least, watching it was a very fun afternoon activity. My boyfriend and I were trading lines from it the rest of the afternoon. However, it is a documentary – and for those who find that format somewhat slow-paced, this is probably not the film for you. But if you were a fan of Spellbound or Wordplay, or similar movies, take some time out to see this one as well.

To see the fun trailer on YouTube, go here. For an equally fun clip, go here.

(For Wii-less Nintendo fans: The official movie people are throwing a contest where you can win a free Nintendo Wii. To learn more, go to the official website. The sweepstakes ends September 4th.)