Thursday, December 1, 2016

Christmas Shopping Time is Here Again

By Jerry Chandler

Okay, we can finally play Christmas songs and talk Christmas time without an elf strangling a baby reindeer. So, of course, in the true spirit of the season, we’re going to talk about what you can spend money on in order to give people stuff.
Let’s tackle the readers on your holiday gift list first, but let’s skip the top 40 book lists and see if we can find them some interesting reads that they might not see in the store windows when out and about this year. We’ll start with a few books that cover movie reviews with a fun spin on the concept.

Mike McPadden offers up an unusual but extremely fun and satisfying read that looks at moviers from a slightly different perspective. Heavy Metal Movies: Guitar Barbarians, Mutant Bimbos & Cult Zombies Amok in the 666Most Ear- and Eye-Ripping Big-Scream Films Ever! is his attempt to grade films based on their level of heavy metal esthetic. Now, that doesn’t mean that they’re movies featuring heavy metal or about heavy metal bands, but rather films that feature iconography and spirit that feels… well… metal.

This can include horror films, action flicks, documentaries, and anything else that catches ahold of what McPadden feels is that heavy metal spirit. The movies are listed in alphabetical order, so you’re not going to find films of specific genres that you didn’t know existed without browsing all 666 films listed across the book’s 560 pages, but it’s well worth the time to do so. McPadden writes about films he enjoys, and that comes through in the majority of the book’s entries. He also writes without care for what others think about the films he wants to cover. By that I mean the book has listings for films that are true cult favorites, not just the films that are trendy or that have become the “acceptable” cult favorites in the popular film fan circles. There are films in that that many fans of wild eyed cinema craziness may not have ever heard of, but that are absolutely worth tracking down. Plus, well, he’s writing about what he likes so, yeah, the big names are in there was well.

Well written, highly enjoyable, and a great gift idea for the metal fans and the crazy film fans on your shopping list. 

Jason Gilbert’s Bad Movie Beware!: Over 100 movies that no human being should watch. Ever. is a bit like McPadden’s book, but for the more demented film fan on your list. If you have a friend who loves so bad their good films and is always on the lookout for more movies to traumatize their friends and loved ones with, get them this book. I actually covered the book HERE back in October, so just take a look at the 31 Days entry for a better idea of what the book has to offer. 

Moving away from review/viewing guide books and into straight up storytelling, Michael G. Williams offers up thoroughly enjoyable tales of the end(ish) of the world for the horror comedy lover on your list with Perishables.

The concept is a simple one. Take the end of the world via zombie apocalypse, some pretty typical people that you’ll feel you know in your everyday life, a sarcastic vampire, and make three interconnected stories that range from more comedic in tone to more horrifying yet still endearing in tone. Along the way, add in dashes of wry humor that deftly skewer the things we see in everyday life but don’t always actually notice. A word of warning- Whoever the recipient of this book is, they may feel you’ve put them in a bad place right after the holidays as they try to get their budgets back on track, They will read this book very quickly and will end up feeling the need to track down and buy the sequels to it as well as other works by the same author.

But tell ‘em to wait just a wee bit if they can. Michael G. Williams can occasionally be found doing the central east coast convention scene (not to be confused with indie films and stage actor Michael Williams who often appears at the same cons) and is well worth meeting and seeing as a panelist. Tell them to get a book straight from the man himself, get an autograph, and have a nice chat. 

For the manga fan on your list that has gone through all the new titles and is still looking for an action comedy with a touch of romance and a huge twist, introduce them to an old school classic. Rumiko Takahashi’s Ranma ½ is a classic manga with loads of laughs in every collected volume. The basic story is simple enough. Ranma’s father has promised him as a husband to one of old friend Soun Tendo’s daughters in order to merge the dojos. However, Ranma and his father ran into a little bit of a problem while training in China- they fell into cursed springs. The result is that now Ranma changes from a boy to a girl when hit with hot or cld water, his dad changes from a man to a panda, and a number of enemies and allies that show up along the way change into a host of other things. Not seeing this as a particularly good trait in a future husband, the oldest daughters dump the marriage responsibility on Akane, the youngest in the household.

The stories are full of mystical martial arts, crazy characters, and a lot of great humor. The manga would go on to spawn a successful and long running anime as well as a series of OVA stories. 

Here’s a two for one recommendation for you. Peter David’s Pulling Up Stakes makes a great book for the vampire fan in your life who enjoys a little levity mixed in with the seriousness. The story follows a vampire hunter who is part of a family of vampire hunters who are part of a giant organization of vampire hunters. Of course, that’s occasionally more than a small issue for him as he’s hiding the fact that he’s been bitten and is in fact now a vampire himself. While dealing with rather sizable headache, a new big bad has come to town as well. Well written, enjoyable from start to finish, and with the promise of more to come.

Speaking of more to come (at long last) from Peter David is Pyramid Schemes. After a bit of legal wrangling and a long time away from the his popular Sir Apropos of Nothing series, Peter brought the character back home and started the continuing adventures of his scoundrel character. Get it. Get the collected stories from the original run if you haven’t read them. Some excellent work, and a great character. 

I try to keep down my recommendations of knockoff and bootleg products, but sometimes something comes along that just has to be shared. This is one of those times.

The above LEGO dinosaurs found at Amazon (and likely the odd convention merch booth here and there) are not actually LEGO. They are in fact a knockoff product designed to look like LEGO toys- a thing that’s been on the rise since they lost they copyright on their bricks some years ago.

These are the same size as the smaller dinosaurs found in the Jurassic World sets from last year, and the patterns on them are much the same. However, as you may have noticed, they’re green. They’re actually a very bright green. This would be because they glow in the dark. I can tell you from experience that small children love these. They work as LEGO dinosaurs in the normal playset settings, but they also apparently make excellent alien clones or genetically engineered super-beasts. There are kids on your Christmas list who will love these things; some of them over the age of thirty even.

While you’re there, check out these stackable baseplates and the various others that come up in the offered suggestions. 

Lately, both on the big screen and on the small screen, there seems to be an attempt to bring back the disaster film as a draw for people looking for a night’s viewing involving cities falling, ships sinking, and other natural disasters where tons of characters die painfully. Some are a little less well made than others. Actually, most are a little less well made than others. If you have a fan looking for a fix who keeps finding disappointment on the latest made for TV disaster flick, go for the originals.

You can pick up the Blu-Rays for The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure, and Earthquake for under a $30 total price. These were the films that (following Airport) started the whole disaster epic craze in Hollywood. Big budgets for their day, some damned fine effects, and some of the top and most popular actors and actresses of their day. Together they make the perfect gift for anyone on your list looking to own all of the ultimate disaster films. If you need a little more convincing that these are some of the best in the genre, just check this out.

One of the best TV adaptations of Stephen King, one of the last truly great projects Toby Hooper made, and the one of the best (if not the best) TV vampires to ever scare the spit out of you. No, not big and creepy up there, although he’s awesome as well. I mean the creepy floating kid at the window.

Salem’s Lot is wonderfully paced; a slow burn horror that builds the mystery and the tension magnificently as it goes. Get it for the horror fan on your list who has never seen it. 

My practical suggestion for the person you know who loses their keys every time they walk through the door is this handy little key finder. Just help them figure out a central location to keep the remote so they don’t lose that as well. I in no way know by practical experience how badly someone like, say, my wife might need something like this due to losing her keys ten days out of every month. Not at all.

Get one.

* The Stocking Stuffers *

Jerry Chandler follows geek stuff. When not found writing here he can be found writing for Gruesome Magazine and his own blog. He has a Twitter. He can also occasionally be heard talking pro wrestling with the amazingly talented crew over at the ESO Pro: The Pro-Wrestling Roundtable podcast.

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