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2008 - Holiday Gift Guide - Part IV

December 22nd, 2008

It's panic time. With less than a week left to buy gifts, this week's installment of our annual Holiday Gift Guide deals with some non-movie related gifts, including books, music, video games, as well as some DVDs and Blu-rays that either recently arrived for review, or ones that I simply forgot about previously. There are a lot in that last category.

And now we move onto the potential gifts...

For those who are addicted to The Guild...
World of Warcraft - Wrath of the Lich King Expansion Pack
Description: The latest expansion to the world's most popular MMORPG includes many new features, including inscriptions, the Death Knight hero class, as well as vehicles, new magic items, new continent, and more.
Pros: For fans of the game, the expansion is a must have.
Cons: Odds are, fans of the game already have it, but in that case, grab a 60-day Pre-Paid Time Card instead.

For those who watch motorsports, and not just to see the competitors bite it...
199 Lives on DVD and The Big Jump in hardcover
Description: A DVD and book about Travis Pastrana, a motorsport competitor who has won numerous races, and broken far more bones, while trying some of the dumbest stunts as well.
Pros: He's only 23 years old, but he's lived enough to warrant a biography. Possibly two. ... Possibly the dumbest man on the planet.
Cons: When talking about sports in HD, they completely ignored hockey. Uncool, ESPN. Uncool.

For those who like going fast, but only in video games...
Grand Theft Auto IV - PC
Description: One of the best video franchises of all time, this time around you take the role of a Russia immigrant who comes to New York City, I mean Liberty City, looking for his slice of the American dream. Also looking for a nice car to jack.
Pros: The best franchise gets better with a whole lot of new features, including better combat, more realistic world, multi-player modes, even the ability tag and download MP3s of your favorite songs from the soundtrack. It's an awesome game, as long as you have the PC power to handle it.
Cons: Seriously, make sure you have the PC power to handle it. I picked it up as soon as it was released, then I realized my video card was way too old to handle it. Now I'm saving up to buy a new computer, but I was planning on doing that anyway.

For those who celebrate Rush day...
Rush - Snakes & Arrows - DVD or Blu-ray
Description: This concert tour was in support of the latest studio album from the greatest Canadian power trio ever, Rush.
Pros: Great music, and it looks and sounds great, especially on Blu-ray
Cons: Rush is the greatest power trio ever, there are no downsides.
Notes: For those who don't understand why today is Rush day, it's the 21st day of the 12th month. ... 2112. Get it? ... While you are at it, grab 2112 as well.

For those who like their country old school...
Legendary Performances - Merle Haggard, Marty Robbins, Tammy Wynette
Description: Three DVDs, each filled with TV performances by some of the greatest county music artists of all time: Tammy Wynette, Marty Robbins, and Merle Haggard.
Pros: They don't make country music like this any more, and for fans of the genre in general, or these artists specifically, being able to see these live performances will make perfect gifts.
Cons: They don't make country music like this any more, and these performances are decades old. Don't get me wrong, given the age, they look and sound phenomenal, but they are still showing their age at times.

For those who like to learn, but still have fun...
Mental Floss - History of the World
Description: A book that goes through the history of the world for the past 60,000 years, give or take.
Pros: As I said in my review, this is a great book that packs a lot of information in a very entertaining way.
Cons: It is a book, and an educational book at that. Some might not appreciate that.

For those who always wanted to hear her speak...
Tinker Bell - DVD or Blu-ray
Description: A direct-to-DVD prequel to Peter Pan that tells the origins of the world's most famous pixie.
Pros: Surprisingly good. In fact, it is so good that if Disney maintains this quality level, the stigma attached to their direct-to-DVD sequels could go away.
Cons: It's a little light on extras, especially compared to first-run releases from the studio.

For those who hate the Rangers as much as I do...
NHL 2K9 for the Nintendo Wii - Buy from Amazon
Description: It is the first NHL game for the Wii and it takes advantage of the controls allowing for some of the most intuitive controls ever for a sports game with all of the features fans of the 2K series have come to expect.
Pros: It is the first NHL game for the Wii! How awesome is that? I like playing against the Rangers on Rookie just to see how bad I can beat them. My record with a 60-minute game is 64 to 0, however, I've beaten them 18 to 0 with just 4-minute periods.
Cons: It is the first NHL game for the Wii, and it is a little buggy at times. (Turning off the autosave will kill a lot of the bugs.)
Notes: No one hates the Rangers as much as I do.

For those who like to rock along to their favorite secret agent...
James Bond - The Best of Bond... James Bond
Description: A CD/DVD 2-disc set that contains all of theme songs for the official Bond films, as well as videos from several of the songs, and a featurette on the making of the Bond movies.
Pros: For fans of the movies that already have them on DVD, or the recently released Blu-rays, this is the perfect addition to their collection.
Cons: Not all of the Bond Theme songs were that good.

For those who want to see a classic like they've never seen before...
Sleeping Beauty on Blu-ray
Description: The first of the classic Disney cartoons to come out on Blu-ray.
Pros: Disney didn't mess this up. Thank god.
Cons: I'm coming up blank. This is a must have.

For those who like their Christmases a little bit Country
Randy Travis - Christmas on the Pecos - Buy from Amazon
Description: A 45-minute concert with Randy Travis performing some classic Christmas songs ("Santa Claus is Coming to Town", "Silent Night", etc.) film in various locations in New Mexico.
Pros: Randy Travis has a great voice and fans of his music will love this concert. Also, there are several extras on this DVD, including a featurette on the Carlsbad Caverns that serve as a backdrop for a couple songs, and Randy Travis telling stories to the crowd.
Cons: He sings "Rock of Ages", but not the good version. (Gunter glieben glauten globen!)

For those who are too old to believe in Santa, but too young to be an adult...
Kidulthood - Buy from Amazon
Description: One of many DVD screeners that arrived late, which I won't be able to get a full spotlight review to. This one is about a group of school kids who are out of school for the day and are out on the street of London. A low budget British movie that did respectable business in limited release in its native market, but never found a theatrical release here.
Pros: Not the first to tackle this subject, but this film offers a gritty look at the lives of a handful of teens dealing with problems ranging from drug abuse, pregnancy, bullying and more. It's a well made movie doesn't suffer from is budgetary limitations.
Cons: It's kind of a downer for Christmas day viewing, but worth checking out at other times of the year.

For those who like to fight on Christmas, or at least watch other people fight on Christmas...
UFC87 - Seek and Destroy - Buy from Amazon
Description: The pay-per-view event from this past August featuring hours and hours of MMA fighting, including a title match between Jon Fitch and Canadian and current champion Georges St.Pierre.
Pros: If you are a fan of this type of fighting, there's a lot of action on this 2-disc set, as well as a few extras (behind-the-scenes, extra bouts not seen in the PPV, etc.).
Cons: I'm not a big fan of this type of fighting. I don't like the ground game and prefer more stand-up fights. While there are a number of bouts that are stand up fights, too many devolved into ground games with the two men trying to submission holds.

For those who like the beginnings of...
Genesis - Buy from Amazon
Description: A 13-disc set featuring 5 albums done in CD/DVD format with bonus discs. This is the Peter Gabriel era of the band and it includes their earliest work.
Pros: If you are a fan of the band's early work, there is literally no better option available, even at the cost.
Cons: Strangely, while I love Peter Gabriel's solo work and Genesis's post-Gabriel library, I was never a really big fan of the band's work while Peter Gabriel was the lead. I know that makes no logical sense, but it's a subjective opinion and not limited to logic.

For those who like to support low, low, low budget filmmakers...
Description: Various films from a new distributor that specializes in microbudget movies including Brave New York, which is a collection of short glimpses into the lives of a lot of the characters that live in that town. Idleheist comes on a 2-disc set, the second disc being a CD soundtrack. Craig is a Danish film about a man who is slowly losing his grip, which is completely lost when he loses his medication. Gunheavy is a post-apocalyptic film about a near future where everyone is part of an army and there are more guns than there are people. The final film in the group I got was El Alambrista: The Fence Jumper, which is about a Mexican Lucha Wrestler, who helps defend the rights of migrant workers.
Pros: Quite a mix of films on the site and there should be something for everyone. Craig is arguably the best movie of the five I checked out, but I liked Brave New York as well.
Cons: These are low budget films, and at times they really show it.

For those who want to cook for Christmas...
Meals on DVD - Shop, Watch, Cook! - Cozy Comfort Foods, Easy Chicken Dinner, Elegant Entertaining, Festive Turkey Dinner, Great Dessert Recipes from Paula Deen, Holiday Cookies, Mac and Cheese Feasts, Pasta from Gilda, Quick Meatloaf Recipes, Slow Cooker Recipes from Paula Deen, and Soul Soothing Soups
Description: I was able to check out a trio of these releases, Elegant Entertaining, Slow Cooker Recipes from Paula Deen, and Pasta from Gilda, and I really like the way the shows are presented. With a couple of them, you can either watch the show how they first aired on TV, or you can watch them with the recipes proceeding the demonstration. They also break up the demonstration with another reminder, which helps make it easier to follow the recipe.
Pros: There are several good recipes on this DVD, probably none of which I can eat. (Do you really need a pound of butter and a quart of heavy cream to make mashed potatoes?)
Cons: For TV on DVD the prices are rather high on a per minute basis. However, these shows rarely come out on DVD at all.

For those who like thrills...
Cake - B-Sides and Rarities
Description: Originally sold exclusively through Cake's Official Site, it can now be bough everywhere. I bought it when it was first released, but I have been listening to it a lot more and several songs on the album have been rising to the top of the MP3 playlist.
Pros: There are a lot of great songs on this CD including, but not limited to, "Short Skirt, Long Jacket", "Never Never Gonna Give You Up", "War Pigs", "Mahna Mahna", "Thrills", "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town".
Cons: Been out for a while, which means the potential giftee might already have it.

For those who have more money than brain cells...
Life size C-3PO from Slideshow Collectables
Description: It's a life size C-3PO.
Pros: How awesome is that?
Cons: $6000 worth of awesome, apparently.
Notes: The 1:4 scale Speeder Bike is also cool.

For those who are surprised I spaced out on the TV on DVD list...
Spaced - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
Description: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost star with Jessica Hynes in this British TV series that may have more pop culture references per minute than any other plot-driven show. (I wouldn't compare it to Robot Chicken, for instance.)
Pros: It helped created the Pegg and Frost tantrum, which is reason enough to pick it up. Additionally, the 3-disc set is absolutely loaded with extras and even causal fans of the show will love it.
Cons: It might be too late to get is from Amazon.

For those who like their titles risqué...
YPF - Buy from Amazon
Description: This movie shows five couples, who are in different stages of their relationships from first date to broken up and how sex plays a role.
Pros: Despite the name, it's a rather sweet romantic comedy.
Cons: It might not be a good idea to unwrap this movie in the presence of Grandma.

For those who think private eyes are watching you...
Daryl Hall and John Oates - Buy from Amazon
Description: 35 years after performing their first concert there, Daryl Hall and John Oates return to the legendary concert hall for a 19-song set, which is collected on this 2-disc CD / single-disc DVD.
Pros: There is a great selection of hits are presented on this DVD, in fact, there are very few of their hits that are not on this set. ("Every Time You Go Away" is one, but it is better known as a Paul Young cover.)
Cons: Oh, that mustache. On the one hand, John Oates shaved his lip caterpillar, which was a good move aesthetically speaking, but not nostalgically.

For those who like learn more about the best selling book in the history...
Ken's Guide to the Bible - Buy from Amazon
Description: Ken takes a look at the Bible from a less than devout perspective and gives a humorous, but still educational look at the Bible. For instance, Ken puts forth the theory that Jesus was chubby, because he is often talked about eating, and Jesus says his opponents describe him as a glutton.
Pros: I like the idea of a chubby Jesus; as a chubby person myself, it humanizes him.
Cons: Other, more fundamental people might feel otherwise.

For those who like noodles...
Pucca - Spooky Sooga Village and Secret Santa Samurai
Description: A cartoon about Pucca, a young girl who is in love Garu, who doesn't feel the same way about her. They live in the town of Sooga Village, with other characters like Master Soo who has nearly godlike powers, Abyo who keeps tearing his shirts, Santa, and more. At least with the Christmas episodes it make sense to have Santa around.
Pros: This show is super cute, and it is even a holiday theme DVD.
Cons: No extras on the DVD and I would prefer full season sets.

For those who will think I'm joking...
Samantha Who? - Season One
Description: I can't believe I forgot this release for the TV on DVD List. Forgetting a TV series about memory loss is the definition of irony.
Pros: Christina Applegate shows amazing comedic timing in this series and it is the best work she's ever done. Also, the rest of the cast is equally amazing, as is the writing.
Cons: On the other hand, the extras are light.

Another TV on DVD release I missed the first time around...
30 Rock - Season One and Season Two
Description: A behind-the-scenes show featuring Tina Fey as Liz Lemon, the head writer of the sketch comedy show, which she used to be in real life.
Pros: The show has been on the air for just two years, and it has already won nine Emmys, , as well as two Golden Globes, and countless other awards. Additionally, the DVDs live up to the quality of the show.
Cons: Season One came out last year, so most fans likely already have it.

TV on Blu-ray release I missed the first two times around...
Mad Men - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
Description: This could have been included in the Blu-ray list and the TV on DVD list, but I forgot both times. This show is set in the 1960s at an ad firm and deals with the corporate politics of a bygone era.
Pros: The first year this series was on TV it was nominated for 16 Emmys, winning 6 of them. The DVD lives up to the quality of the show. Finally, is stars Christina Hendricks, a.k.a. Mrs. Reynolds from Firefly.
Cons: None really.
Notes: Buy Firefly on Blu-ray and Serenity on Blu-ray.
Additional Note: What? Did you think I wasn't going to mention it again?

For those who liked high school...
Can't Hardly Wait - Buy from Amazon
Description: The film takes place over the final day of high school for about a dozen main characters, all of whom have one more thing they want to accomplish before they head to college, be it finally work up the courage to tell the pretties girl in school how you feel, get revenge on the bully who has made the last 5 years of you life miserable, or just get laid.
Pros: There are a lot of very funny young actors in this movie, and it is a cornucopia of "Before they were famous" roles. Also, the 10th anniversary Blu-ray has a lot of special features, especially for a film that was barely a midlevel hit ten years ago.
Cons: It might be best described as a guilty pleasure.

For those who have more free time than me...
Hell's Gound - Buy from Amazon
Description: Called the bloodiest movie ever made in Pakistan. It's a slasher flick about a group of teens headed to a concert who get lost and run into a psychopathic, cannibalistic family.
Pros: The movie has great reviews, the DVD has lots of extras, and fans of the genre should be impressed.
Cons: I haven't actually seen the DVD, so I can't attest to the quality. I bought it when it first came out, but I haven't had the time to watch it yet, and now it is too late to watch it before getting it on this year's Holiday Gift Guide.


Filed under: Young People Fucking, Tinker Bell, Rush - Snakes & Arrows Live