Follow us on

2008 - Holiday Gift Guide - Part III

December 19th, 2008

This week on our annual Holiday Gift Guide we look at limited releases and foreign imports, including a bit of Canadian content. This list was supposed to be online on Wednesday, but it is winter and I live in Canada, and a storm came by and took out the power. I don't know how long it lasted, because as soon as I powered down my computer (battery back-up rocks) I went to bed. I figure if I can't check my e-mail, there's no point in being conscious. Hopefully part four will be online on Sunday. Although there is another storm heading in for that day as well.

And now we move onto the DVD being released...

For those who are addicted to World of Warcraft...
The Guild - Season One
Description: Written and starring Felicia Day, the show is about a lady who is addicted to World of Warcraft, out of work, hasn't been able leave her house in a week, and whose therapist dumps here, in the middle of a raid. It is seriously uncool to call during a raid. Seriously. Her life takes a turn for the weird when one of her guildmates shows up at her front door, bearing flowers. This 10-part first season looks at her guild and dealing with the getting to know each other in real life after meeting online.
Pros: This is very funny stuff. Felicia Day that users gamers as comedic fodder, without making fun of gamers, and that's not an easy task. Under the guidance of a lesser writer, this could have been a collection of easy joke with one-dimensional stereotypes as the targets.
Cons: If you never heard of WoW, this might be a little too nerdy.
Note: Steamwheedle forever! Although work has been so hectic recently, that I haven't been able to play my WoW.

For those who like to be on the cutting edge of the entertainment industry...
Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog - Buy from Amazon
Description: A three-part internet mini-series starring Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Horrible, a wannabe super villain looking to join the Evil League of Evil, Nathan Fillion as Captain Hammer, his nemesis and not-so-super Super Hero, and Felicia Day, as Penny, the woman of Dr. Horrible's dreams.
Pros: Written and directed by Joss Whedon, which is really all I need to say for your to know that it's a great show. Also, the DVD is loaded with extras, including two audio commentary tracks.
Cons: Fans of the Joss Whedon probably watched it for free when it first hit the internet. Then again, fans of Joss Whedon tend to be obsessive, so the replay value is high. Also, it doesn't come out in Canada till December 31st.
Note: Felicia Day should be more famous that she actually is. Hopefully it's just a matter of time.

For those who think Hollywood doesn't get weird enough...
Minoru Kawasaki marathon - Calimari Wrestler, Koala Executive, The Rug Cop, and The World Sinks Except for Japan
Description: Four films from Minoru Kawasaki starting with Calimari Wrestler, which is about a professional wrestler who died and comes back as a giant squid, a giant squid who wants to win back his championship belt. Koala Executive is about a giant Koala who is framed for the murder of his girlfriend and looks for revenge with the help of a Rabbit and a Frog. The Rug Cop in about a crack police squad lead by a cop with a deadly toupee. Finally there's The World Sinks Except for Japan, which deals with what would happen if the world sank and all the peoples of the world had to come to Japan.
Pros: These movies are weird as hell, but in a good way. And some of them even have a poignant political message.
Cons: They may be too weird for most people.

For those who think going two for three isn't bad...
Charlie Bartlett - Buy from Amazon
Description: Robert Downey, Jr. starred in three movies this year, not counting his cameo in The Incredible Hulk. Of those three movies, two of them hit $100 million at the box office. This was the other one.
Pros: Granted, its reviews were not great, but I found the performances by Kat Dennings and Pavel Checkov quite charming. Oops. I'm letting my Fanboy show.
Cons: Depending on how old you are and how many of these movies you've seen, this one will feel very familiar. Also, doesn't come out on Blu-ray, for those who have made the leap to High Definition.
Note: If you are interested in this, you will likely be interested in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist on DVD or Blu-ray, but that doesn't come out till February.

For those who like their high school movies with a Canadian perspective...
Prom Wars - Buy from Amazon.ca
Description: The girls of Miss Aversham and Miss Cronstall's School for Girls pit the guys of two rival boys schools in order to find out who will take them to the prom. And it's not a friendly rivalry to begin with.
Pros: There are some great performances, especially from Alia Shawkat from Arrested Development, as well as several Canadian actor and actresses that probably no one reading this will have heard of (Rachelle Lefevre, Meaghan Rath, etc.).
Cons: It's Canadian, which means it's low budget and the DVD has little in the way of extras (there is an audio commentary with the director). Also, you have to import it.
Note: If you like this movie, check out DJ Champion, which supplied some of the songs from the film. Either Chill 'Em All or The Remix Album.

For those who like wars a little more political...
War, Inc. - DVD or Blu-ray
Description: The unofficial sequel to Grosse Pointe Blank. John Cusack stars as Brand Hauser, a hitman sent into Turaqistan to assassinate the head of Ugikistan Gas Company, in order to help the former Vice President land a reconstruction contract. However, while he is there, he meets a reporter and a pop princess, both of whom seriously complicate his life.
Pros: A film that takes aim at a lot of targets that deserve scorn, some political in nature (the War in Iraq, the Industrial Military Complex, News, etc.) and some that are note political (music industry). While not every shot hits, enough do that it is worth checking out.
Cons: The wild swings in the tone of the movie can be off-putting, and both the DVD and the Blu-ray lack special features.

For those who like documentaries about war, but ones that are uplifting...
War/Dance - Buy from Amazon
Description: A documentary about a refugee camp in northern Uganda that is filled with people escaping their country's 20 year civil war. The film concentrates on three young residents, Rose, Nancy, and Dominic, who try to escape the troubles of their daily life through the National Music Competition.
Pros: One of the best documentaries of 2007. In fact, it was nominated for an Oscar.
Cons: The DVD has been out since April, so if someone was very interested in the movie, they are more likely to have it.

For those who like watch documentaries about the people who choose to head south, way south...
Encounters at the End of the World - DVD or Blu-ray
Description: The latest documentary by Werner Herzog. This time he heads to Antarctica to see what kind of person would choose to live there.
Pros: This is an Oscar worthy documentary from a director that has made some great films in the past, and both the DVD and the Blu-ray are loaded with extras.
Cons: This film very well could win the Oscar for Best Documentary, so it is hard to come up with a negative point.
Note: If you like this, you might want to grab Incident at Loch Ness
Additional Note: Monkeys Riding Goats is my new favorite name for a band.

For those who like their water in liquid form...
Flow or For the Love Of Water - Buy from Amazon
Description: A documentary about the commercialization of water, and how this has compromised access to clean water for a lot of people.
Pros: Powerful is one way to describe this film, and it should be seen by a lot more people.
Cons: Depressing is another way to describe it, and I fear it will only preach to the choir. Although giving it as a gift might be the best way to prevent that.

For those who fear singing Christmas carols...
The Singing Revolution - DVD and Book
Description: A documentary about the people of Estonia who rebelled against Soviet oppression though song.
Pros: As I mentioned in my original review, this is a powerful film about a group of people who have been oppressed under foreign invaders for decades before finally earning their freedom.
Cons: You need to order it direct, because it doesn't come out on Amazon till February. Also, you can only get the regular edition on Amazon, if you want the educational versions, you have to buy it direct.

For those who like their cartoons classic...
Looney Tunes - Golden Collection - Volume Six - Buy from Amazon
Description: The final collection of animation shorts from the Looney Tunes collection, this 4-disc set has 60 more cartoons featuring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, as well as classics from the Bosko Buddie era and more.
Pros: I am a huge fan of cartoon shorts and I can say without hesitations that Warner Bros. does these DVD collections better than anyone else.
Cons: My only complaint is the lack of a chronological release. However, perhaps we will start getting those next year; we were told to expect more releases, just not in this format.

For those who like their cartoons more contemporary...
The Animation Show - Volume Three - Buy from Amazon
Description: "It's like I can reach out and touch you." Sorry, wrong volume. This volume contains numerous amazing cartoons including Everything Will Be Okay, Astronauts, Tyger, Guide Dog, Shuteye Hotel, and Learn Self Defense.
Pros: The above represents just a sample of the cartoons found on this DVD, a DVD that features a number of styles from traditional cell animation, to stop motion animation, to digital animation, and even puppetry. In short, no matter your tastes, it is almost assured there will be something for you here.
Cons: With so many cartoons from so many artists, it comes as no surprise that not all of them are hits. Also, this is the last volume to feature Don Hertzfeldt, which is terrible news, as he was the most reliable among the repeat artists. Him or Bill Plympton.

For those who like their cartoons live action...
The Three Stooges Collection - Volumes Two, Three, Four
Description: Let's face it, The Three Stooges are practically live action cartoons. This year three volumes were releases, and each 2-disc set has more than 20 short films from the classic comedy troupe.
Pros: The years presented here are arguably the Golden Age of the Three Stooge before Curly was forced to retire due to illness.
Cons: There is a group of strange, bizarre people out there who just don't find the Three Stooges funny. Medical researchers describe these people as, 'Women.' I don't understand them either.
Note: If you have a Three Stooges Fan on your list, you might want to grab Volume One, which came out last year.

For those who don't know how to spell Rambo...
Son of Rambow
Description: A story of two boys growing up who want to make a movie. The one boy is a known trouble-maker who is being looked after by his neglectful brother. The other belongs to s strict religious sect that doesn't even allow their followers to watch movies.
Pros: This movie earned strong reviews but never found an audience during its theatrical release. This means if you buy it as a gift, odds are the person will have never seen it, but will like it.
Cons: Still no proper link for this movie on Amazon.com. I guess you could import it from Buy from Amazon.ca.

For those who want to watch a more female-centric coming of age movie...
Water Lilies - Buy from Amazon
Description: The story of Marie, Anne, and Floriane, three teenage girls who meet at the local swimming pool one summer forming friendships, and more.
Pros: This filmed earned three César awards nominations, including two for Most Promising Actress, so there's a lot to recommend here.
Cons: It is a niche market of a niche market, so the target audience might be limited.

For those who like horror a little cheap...
Poultrygeist - Night of the Chicken Dead - Buy from Amazon
Description: When an American Chicken Bunker fast food chain opens its latest restaurant on top of a sacred Indian burial ground, the ancient spirits have their revenge, through undead chickens. Undead Chicken Zombies! College Lesbians! Gore! Boobs! Cheap Jokes! ... And did I mention it's a musical?
Pros: For fans of Troma, this 3-disc DVD is a treat.
Cons: It's juvenile, tasteless, and exploitive. Or as I said previously, it's from Troma.

For those who like horror a little cheap, and a little Canadian...
Jack Brooks - Monster Slayer - Buy from Amazon
Description: When Jack Brooks was a kid, a monster killed his family while he hid. However, survivor's guilt has left him with anger management issues. Now as an adult he gets to redeem himself in his own eyes after a monster possesses his professor at his night school.
Pros: Horror / comedy is a hard genre to get right, so earning overall positive reviews is quite a feat. Also, for a low-budget, limited release, the DVD is loaded with extras.
Cons: It's Canadian, which means it might be hard to hunt down in stores. Then again, that also means it is less likely that the perspective giftee with already have it.

For those who like their comedies with a dose of blasphemy...
Hamlet 2 - Buy from Amazon
Description: A failed actor, Steve Coogan, learns the drama department he now teaches is about to be shut down, and the only way to save it is to come up with a hit play for his students to perform. So he comes up with Hamlet 2.
Pros: The buzz had this film being the big Indie hit of the summer, but like every other potential 'biggest Indie hit of the summer', it missed expectations. That said, Steve Coogan gives a great performance as a terrible actor, and if a song titled, "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus" has you smiling, then this is a film for you.
Cons: It did not perform as well at the box office as many were hoping because it was not as good as its buzz was.

For those who like a little more Canadian content...
The Tracey Fragments - Buy from Amazon
Description: Ellen Page stars as Tracey Berkowitz, who is running around the city looking for her younger brother, whom she might have hyponotized into thinking he's a chicken. And oh yeah, she's only wearing a shower curtain.
Pros: The film is mostly flashbacks and split-screen effects, which was supposed to show the fragmented nature of Tracey's mind. If you were into this form of experimental filmmaking, this is a fascinating film.
Cons: If you were into it, you were in the minority.


-

Filed under: Hamlet 2, Charlie Bartlett, Son of Rambow: A Home Movie, Encounters at the End of the World, War, Inc., The Singing Revolution, FLOW: For Love of Water, War Dance, La Naissance des Pieuvres, The Tracey Fragments, Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer