Thanks to all the readers who suggested more materials to add.
Reader note: We’ve taken out our usual scripting, so that the guide reads better on smartphones. We got some complaints over Black Friday weekend from readers whose phones were lagging hard between sections.
DVDS and BLU-RAY: The Last Gasps of Physical Media
10) LOUIE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
“Louie” is the first show I’ve come across that I absolutely refuse to let myself wait for DVD to see. It’s the first show that I don’t sit down to watch with the sole anticipation of having it either cheer me up with comedy or shock me with dramatic twists. ‘Louie’ is simply something I watch because it feels like I’m gaining life experience from it, which is impressive considering Louis C.K., or at least the Louie character’s self-proclaimed life goals are to raise his kids and hold his title as World’s Best Masturbator.
It’s also impressive considering that I, and I’m sure many viewers, have already experienced nearly every situation this show covers, from being forced out of the house with no plans to being on a date with someone who thinks less of you for doing the right thing despite saying that he/she valued righteousness. So what’s to gain from reliving these unpleasant situations every Tuesday evening? Great shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm bank on this question by allowing the main character to vengefully act on his everyday irritations only to have it bite him in the ass by the episode’s end. It’s a winning formula because the audience always comes out unscathed. ‘Louie’ makes that show look like it’s playing too safe
The supporting players are all sensational and equally genuine. His friends, cohorts, and sociopath side kicks are marvelously candid and natural. Together they have some of the most entertaining, informative and enlightened discussions on life’s more sensitive subjects. And they do it while exchanging great dick jokes. Pamela Adlon, who played his tough, often stressed working wife on the old HBO show, joins him again but now as a more crass and disillusioned fellow single parent. And the recurring visits of Ricky Gervais’ maniacally demented doctor are sublimely outrageous, positively some of the most excruciatingly intense laughter I’ve ever experienced.
The Blu-Ray comes packaged with a DVD copy of the complete first season. There’s a ton of deleted and extended scenes, plus commentaries on each episode. The best thing is the FOX Movie Channel featurette that helps to show off how Louis CK went through writing each episode. The level of detail in each episode is pretty damn amazing and allows for quite the new series. The A/V Quality is amazing for a release like this, but I just wish the video wasn’t so flat. A 1080p mix only really impresses when there’s a competent cinematographer shooting the material. Oh well, it’s still worth a purchase.
9) BLUE VELVET: 25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION
An innocent man (Kyle MacLachlan) gets mixed up in a small-town murder mystery involving a kinky nightclub chanteuse (Isabella Rossellini) and a kidnapper (Dennis Hopper) with a penchant for snorting helium in this moodily surreal mystery from writer-director David Lynch. One of the most critically acclaimed movies of the 1980s, the film inspired a generation of independent filmmakers by taking a dark look at the lives of everyday Americans.
In a pivotal, self-reflexive moment in Blue Velvet, young Jeffrey Beaumont, played by Kyle Machlachlan, breaks into Dorothy Vallens’ apartment only for the nightclub singer to return, forcing him to hide in the cupboard. When Frank, played by Dennis Hopper, calls and in turn rapes Dorothy, Jeffrey, and we with him, watch on from behind a louver door. It is the kind of masturbatory suggestion reminiscent of Francis Bacon’s paintings, a sense of an innocent boy watching his parents have sex (at one point, Frank yells, “Mommy”). It is a complex scene, not least because of the fact that Jeffrey is, in fact, the film’s driving force, our hero of sorts. He then, when Frank leaves, commits metaphorical incest, making love to Dorothy and embarking on an affair. And in the absence of his stroke-hit father, Frank can be looked upon as a violent, hideous replacement for Jeffrey.
8 ) RUSHMORE: CRITERION COLLECTION
Wes Anderson is one of my contemporary film influences. I dig the hell out of his work and I try to capture the type of cinematic atmosphere he makes with every film. “Rushmore” was the first film where I discovered my love for Wes Anderson’s filmmaking and his script collaborations with Owen Wilson. Everything from Max’s play about “Serpico” to Herman Blume’s Budweiser swimming trunks made this flick.
“Rushmore” opens like a hyperstylized play. The curtains pull apart and reveal the characters and various seasons in their lives. The film opens on Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), as he dreams of being the smartest kid in his math class. Max awakens to find that he’s actually in chapel with his best friend Dirk (Mason Gamble). The pace picks up as Max meets his new idol/rival Herman Blume (Bill Murray). Herman Blume finds inspiration in Max’s never say die spirit and sets off to rebuild his company. The problem is that along the way both Max and Herman fall in love with Ms. Cross (Olivia Williams). What results is a battle for her love that results in Herman getting a divorce and Max getting expelled from Rushmore. Max and Herman continue to battle each other through various petty means, as they drive themselves further away from Ms. Cross. Why? Because, she’s still in love with her deceased husband.
Taking a cue from a conversation overhead on a recent episode of “Extras”, that’s just something with which you can’t compete. When someone loses the love of their life, you can’t sweep in and do your best Peter O’ Toole. They need time to realize that part of their life is changing and that they need to accept new people. Or, you need to realize that fighting with a fifteen year old kid over a lonely woman’s affection isn’t worth it. But, that’s not going these two guys.
Herman and Max are brought together by their similarities. It’s rather odd to see the two reunite at the grave of Max’s mother. They finally can come to peace with each other, even in spite of Max’s last attempt to crush Herman with a tree. In this scene and Herman’s introduction to Bert Fischer (Seymour Cassel), we get to see two men open up to each other. They’re the flawed freaks of the 20th century. They are men of wealth and imagination who can find no comfort except with each other.
7) CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
Rejected by the military during WWII, scrawny and frail Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) gets a second chance after a selfless act of bravery. As a result, Colonel Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) allows Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) to administer Rogers with a serum, immediately super-sizing the latter into a “Super Soldier”. Shortly after, Erskine is killed by an assassin deployed by Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving). As Hitler’s advanced weapons expert, we learn that Schmidt has assembled an army to possess and control a mysterious cube with infinite power, after being injected with a flawed version of the serum perfected for Rogers. Now christened ‘Captain America’ and literally draped in stars and stripes, Rogers and Stark Industries must stop the evil Schmidt from destroying America with weapons of mass destruction.
The film goes past the proto-fascism of most comic book movies and outright salivates over American supremacy, advocates eugenics, portrays the US as virtuous because of its weaponry, and features a hero who spends most of his time earnestly expressing his adoration of patriotism, patriotic duty and ideals. The film contains a sequence in which Captain American, before he takes the fight to Germany, is reduced to starring in silly, one-dimensional propaganda pieces for TV and radio. The film pokes fun at these goofy showbiz-cum-agitprop segments, but they’re exactly what the film as a whole is. Captain America: The First Avenger is a pretty decent film by its own merits. Showing the good old retro style and production design, since this film is directed by Joe Johnson who is capable of portraying the old times perfectly. Chris Evans did a great job as Captain America. Some of the action scenes are disappointingly unexciting but at least the CGI effects are eye candy. The movie ends with true patriotic heroism and full of heart. Definitely not relevant but it’s still enjoyable.
The trope of Captain America: The First Avenger has been reused by so many superhero movies. A good guy who is a weakling became powerful then eventually saves the day. It’s definitely not innovating even for the people who’ve never read the comics but it’s a relic. Well made production design & the old fashion score. Most battle scenes are montages. The action scenes are large. It can be watchable but some of them are pretty bland and poorly directed. The joys and the thrills mostly goes to the performances. Nothing goes wrong with Chris Evans. He did a decent job as Steve Rogers/Captain America. Hugo Weaving is fun to watch by his campiness and menace for the Red Skull. Tommy Lee Jones is the comic relief here. The special effects are everywhere. Skinny Chris Evans and the background of the 1940s. Well, they are good enough for this film.
The Blu-Ray comes with a 3D Blu-Ray copy, a digital copy and a DVD copy to cover every home entertainment need that you might have. You get a new Marvel One-Shot that helps connect Thor to this movie and The Avengers. Plus, you get an insane amount of featurettes and deleted scenes presented in HD. I wish the commentary would’ve been a little more telling, but it works for what it is. However, what was up with these deleted scenes? So much of the material cut from the movie actually helped later scenes to develop. Hell, it totally blew our introduction to the Howling Commandos.
That being said, let’s focus on the A/V Quality. The 1080p transfer is reference quality material that stretches from the skinny Steve Rogers CGI to every blast of the Cosmic Cube. The DTS 7.1 HD-MA track has now become the best sounding mix that I’ve heard all year. When we go through the sequence of Bucky’s rescue and the Red Skull’s big reveal, your home theater will nearly burst from the massive audio bombardment. For those wondering about the 3D effects, it’s on par with theatrical exhibition. You don’t get a lot of effects that look like they were setup to use the tech, everything seems like an afterthought. Still, it’s a fun excursion on a weekend afternoon. In the end, I’d recommend a must-buy.
6) BEN HUR: 50th ANNIVERSARY EDITION
The last time Jews ever kicked ass outside the imagination of Quentin Tarantino. Stunning transfer and restoration.
5) SUPER 8
In 1979, in the fictional town of Lillian, Ohio, a preteen boy named Joe Lamb is trying to cope with the recent death of his mother, who was killed in a factory accident. Much to the frustration of his father, the town’s deputy sheriff, Joe copes by immersing himself in a project lead by his best friend, Charles. That project is a horror film, shot on a SUPER 8 camera, and Charles has enlisted the help of not only Joe, but the rest of his misfit friends, and has surprised everyone by talking Alice Dainard, the prettiest girl in school, into playing the hero’s wife. On the night of the first big shoot, the would be filmmaker witness a train crash. Pretty soon, the town of Lillian is swarmed by military men, who won’t tell anybody what is going on. Abrams and Spielberg may be the only two people in Hollywood who still know how to keep a secret, so I won’t spoil that by going into the plot too much further. But I will say that Super 8 lives up to every bit of hype and expectation surrounding it. This is a beautifully crafted, emotional, funny, scary, thrilling movie that enthralls an audience the ways Spielberg’s 80s classics did. And this is coming from someone who has been accused of “worshipping” Spielberg. Abrams has recreated the look and feel of vintage Spielberg expertly, down to the last detail. For a Spielberg fan, it’s an absolute joy to behold.
But Abrams somehow manages to do this without completely sacrificing his own unique voice as a filmmaker. It’s got the twists and turns of Lost, the personality of his Star Trek, and, like most Abrams projects, a leading lady who propels the whole thing. In this case, it’s young Elle Fanning, who, as Alice, projects such a genuine combination of childlike innocence and ahead of her years maturity, that you can’t take her eyes off of her whenever she’s on screen. The entire cast is terrific, especially Joel Courtney as Joe, and Riley Griffiths as Charles, but Fanning steals the movie. We become completely involved with these characters in a way we rarely do with adult Hollywood heroes. I found myself caring every bit as much about the budding romance between Alice and Joe as I did the more spectacular events of the film.
The film deals with themes such as family, jealousy and friendship, and it is truly a breath of fresh air to see a mainstream movie apply some well-structured character development in a genre that has recently been plagued with nothing but cardboard cut-outs of protagonists. Let me put it this way: if you get rid of the monster, and put a touch more thought into each character’s persona, Super 8 could easily pass off as an Oscar-baiting, coming-of-age drama about a boy learning to let loved ones back into his life following the traumatic death of his mother.
It is ironic, then, that the movie slips into mundane and predictable territory as soon as the monster becomes the focal point in the Final Act. All these complex and engaging relationships we’ve seen build between the kids take a back seat in the final half-hour, in place of a climax that lacks originality and, quite frankly, tries to be too emotional for its own good, to the point of becoming sappy. Without giving too much away, Abrams tries to humanize the creature by comparing its plight to that of Joel, and the comparison is hammered home with such ferocity (using both imagery and dialogue) as if to imply we didn’t get it the first three times.
The Blu-Ray comes with a DVD and Digital Copy. You also get fourteen deleted scenes and a ton of featurettes in true 1080p HD. The best thing about the special features has to be JJ Abrams’ commentary about why he shot the film and how it represented a deep connection to classic Spielberg. Larry Fong’s amazing cinematography helps this 1080p transfer to shine with one of the year’s best Blu-Ray transfers. The DTS-HD 7.1 master audio track is also impressive and it goes past reference quality into another realm. I dare say that we’ve got a contender for our Top 10 Blu-Rays of 2011 list. This is a blind buy recommendation.
4) CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS
Werner Herzog has filmed a 3-D documentary at Chauvet Cave in southern France, location of the oldest known artwork on the planet. Surely you’ve seen pictures? The cave walls are covered with prehistoric renderings of bison and bears and lions and horses and woolly rhinoceroses and more — all drawn in a similar style over 30,000 years ago with the sure hand of accomplished artists skilled in techniques of shading and placement and composition. Astonishingly, while these days we seem to move from realism to impressionism to cubism to whateverism at the drop of a decade, scientists seem certain that some of the stylistically identical Chauvet Cave images were created as much as 5,000 years apart.
And what wonderful images they are! Even on the pages of the National Geographic the lions roar ferociously and the horses neigh in terror and the rhinoceroses battle to the death while the bison gallop away in a prehistoric stampede. But Herzog has given us more than a mere magazine can manage — he’s brought life to animals in Chauvet Cave through the magic of the 3-D process.
With special permission from the culture ministry and only a few hours per day, Herzog takes a non-professional 3-D camera and a few scientists and crew into the cave, which was sealed by a landslide some 20, 000 years ago and therefore in pristine shape. So careful are the French that they plan to construct a theme park with exact reproduction of the Cave in order to satisfy the public’s natural interest in seeing the drawings but yet keep them from spoiling the treasures with their breaths.
The context and hypotheses given by the interviewees only helps to deepen the sense of wonder as each section of the cave is discussed in turn by everyone from the chief scientist to art historians, to a master perfumer, and in typical Herzog fashion, many of them are quite eccentric and add some humorous touches along the way. Throughout the film, these specialists, along with Herzog’s narration really set your mind racing and I went to bed last night still thinking about the cave’s mysteries.
The sign of a good film is never wanting it to end and during his last visit to the cave, the film fades to black a number of times, each time left me praying that we were going to be allowed to see just a bit more. Films like this help to open your eyes and remind you that outside the boring drudgery of our 9-5 existence, there is a whole world of beauty and mystery for us to explore and by leaving us with the allegorical example of crocodiles living in a nearby artificial tropical habitat, Herzog leaves you asking questions about the way we lead our modern life that will last long after you’ve left the cinema.
The Blu-Ray comes with a trailer and a nearly 40 minute long featurette about the creation of the film’s score. The A/V Quality is reference quality with HD audio and a 1080p transfer that makes this the best documentary ever release on Blu-Ray. It’s jaw-dropping amazing and it’s enough to convince anyone that watch a movie about cave painting. “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” easily stands among Herzog’s best film
3) HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 and 2
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 is an interesting take on the final leg of the Harry Potter journey. Director David Yates has still not found a proper compromise in this literary adaptation, but if he can’t find the pace by now…it’s not going to happen. The magic of this film series remains in the efforts of its stellar cast. While most make jokes about how the British acting all-star line-up that is the adult cast might below the younger gang off the screen, the kids are all right. Watson, Radcliffe and even Grint have grown over the last decade and found a way to anchor themselves into their characters. In turn, they’ve become this generation’s Han, Luke and Leia. While I finish this film for the umpteenth time, I have to wonder if that sort of notoriety means anything.
Popular cinematic fiction and the current Hollywood business model dictates that all genre films should strive to become franchises. When every major film release is almost guaranteed to have an endless series of sequels, it waters down your connection to characters being thrown upon you in a vicious onslaught of mass-marketing. When Harry Potter and his world made the jump from Scholastic to the cinema, many wondered if the magic would follow. Director Chris Columbus did a noble job, as he helped to shape the younger cast and guide the talent that would be the series’ focus for the next ten years. When he left, a handful of other directors stepped up and tried to put their stamp on Hogwarts. At this point, the franchise should’ve collapsed upon fan disapproval. What was different was that our heroic trio had your emotional attention.
The Deathly Hallows – Part 1 is defined by Yates and Kloves’ push to compromise and find a way to incorporate nearly all of Rowling’s lengthy content. The hardcore fans want every word of the books delivered to the screen, but that’s not going to happen. The kids want to see cool special effects and the eventual death of Lord Voldemort. Where does that leave the average asshole trying to kill two and a half hours? That’s where Kloves and Yates shine, as they are turning this massive tentpole franchise and trying to find a way to deliver the magic of a fan beloved series to the uninformed masses. I know that it’s hard to believe that there’s still people out there that don’t know a lot about Potter. But, even the greatest media blitz doesn’t saturate every piece of ground.
Kloves and Yates tries to introduce you slowly into the mix by showing us that Harry and the gang have to go into hiding. Bad things are happening in the Wizarding world and Harry is open to attack from all sides. After a quick reintroduction to Voldemort and The Death Eaters, we’re thrown into the Privet Drive sequence. Privet Drive almost sets the tone for the rest of the movie, outside of some aggressive camping in the second act. I’m working off the assumption that most readers have seen the film by now or having a working sense of where it takes place in the book. The escape from Privet Drive is a pretty complicated sequence that results in the death of two supporting characters. Hedwig gets whacked onscreen, but it’s a brief moment for Harry’s pet Owl. What’s more nerve-wracking is how they handled Mad Eye Moody.
Moody was a major character in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, but he doesn’t even get an onscreen death. Everyone lands at the Weasley Estate and they suddenly realize that Moody must’ve got his ass capped back in the chase. I understand that time is money, but film is a visual medium. If you’re going to whack a major player in a film franchise…give us some visual recognition. It doesn’t have to be an amazing death, it just has to be a cue to the audience that shit just got real. Talking about a character getting killed offscreen is some straight-up Poochie shit. Fleur and the Ginger Kid get married, while we get the setup for Harry leading the gang on a quest to destroy the Horcruxes. From this point is where we start delving into complains that the film slowed down and we became plagued with too many scenes of the kids arguing with each other. Some of it was necessary, but I began to wonder why Ron had to keep playing the whiny bitch in so many of these films.
The emotional connection to the film is what allows fans and bandwagon Potter followers to look past these problems and experience the ride. While I don’t support this for everyone, we can at least acknowledge what’s at hand. Throughout various chase scenes, magical spells and random visits from extraneous Wizards…the kids keep our focus. I still have no idea who the lady was at Godric’s Hollow. She turned into a snake and tried to munch Harry and then Hermione saved him. It was a cool scene and Watson/Radcliffe were able to keep me invested in the moment. Now, I know that I’m inviting a bevy of readers to comment on what that character meant, but that doesn’t matter here. You have to accept that for the average viewer, what they see on the screen is going to be their only foothold into the world of Potter.
This concept comes back into play, when you see how much Dobby gets shoe-horned into key scenes. For the average viewer, this is just some magical creature that Harry rescue from Lucius Malfoy in the second film. Dobby’s a good guy who can be trusted in a pinch, but do we feel anything for him? At best, he’s just a deus ex machina who gets a few good lines. The placement of Dobby’s key scene confuses me in the book as well, as you’re left wondering why his involvement was that important to the overall plot. I wondered why in the hell we didn’t get more information about him or Regulus Black in the insane amount of exposition that plagued the second act.
Yates tried to battle a lot of this by playing with the animated origins of The Deathly Hallows and the heavy FX use during key scenes of suspense. The world of Potter feels organic, as threats and friends weave in and out of various key locations established in prior films. It is a world that exists parallel to the muggle London, as our heroes have to weave in and out of the real and surreal to escape the Dark Lord that stalks them all. The threat is real, the armies of evil are grand and no one is safe from a killing curse. But, why can’t I shake the feeling that we’re being deprived the goods?
The film works as a teaser for what’s to come. Everyone wants to see The Battle for Hogwarts. We want to learn more about Dumbledore and his secretive brother. The audience wants to know what’s going to happen during Voldemort and Harry Potter’s final duel. People love to retroactively give Lucas shit, but Return of the Jedi wasn’t split into two parts with a cliffhanger that hung on Yoda’s death. He gave us a Death Star exploding, dead Ewoks and Palpatine frying a dude with his old man fingertips. Prattle on about literary origins all you want, but the audience doesn’t go to the theater to see a book. Wrecking overall pacing to save face on the merits of straight adaptation is boring and always results in loss.
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1 isn’t a perfect film, but it tries to be everything for everyone. As someone who could barely get through the books without being put off by Rowling’s bizarre writing style, I have come to love her work through its cinematic adaptations. Popcorn cinema gets a bad rap, but when I can see such world-building heart onscreen…I flash back to a time when everything I saw didn’t have to be critically acclaimed. A time when I saw movies based on emotional stimulus rather than direct cerebral entanglement. Since I have to put a capper on this piece, I’ll leave you with a few words to piss you off. I love what the Harry Potter film series wants to do. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t work as a cohesive whole.
The Blu-Ray is a three-disc combo pack that also includes a DVD and Digital Copy. The main disc sports Warner Brothers’ delightful Maximum Movie Mode that will take viewers through every aspect of the production. Those fans that are looking for extra material might be happy to discover a bonus scene from Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part II has been included on the set. It’s a brief scene from the first reel of the upcoming sequel, so don’t expect anything too amazing. There’s also a rather in-depth featurette that shows off how they created the seven Harry Potters for the Privet Drive sequence. The A/V Quality is pretty strong, but the off-kilter cinematography plays aggressively dark through most scenes. The clarity changes when they invade the Ministry of Magic, but it’s just one bright spot in a rather dark and dour film. The DTS-HD 5.1 master audio track is crystal clear with no moments of dropout. In the end, I’d recommend a purchase. That is until Warner Brothers goes for the final cash grab in Fall 2011.
2) BLOW OUT: CRITERION COLLECTION
DePalma. Donaggio. Criterion. One of the year’s best and one of Criterion’s best…ever.
1) STAR WARS: THE COMPLETE SAGA
Forget the one too many changes to the films. This is the definition of presenting classic films in HD. Reference quality transfers that define the format.
GLEE: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON
The second season continued the downward slide that began shortly after the “Power of Madonna” episode. Ryan Murphy was stepping back more, as he prepared to venture off to FX. Other outside talent and writers were being pulled in to serve as an all-star team to cover up the cracks. Then came Gwyneth and the ego that sunk a thousand terrible song covers. The ratings hit the shitter and the crew started scrambling to cover up the tracks.
The Blu-Ray comes with deleted scenes, commentaries, making-of featurettes and related promo material. The A/V Quality is on par with the first season Blu-Ray release. The 1080p transfer and DTS-HD 5.1 master audio track is near reference quality. But, the featurettes are so random. Letting the Santana slams slide in was great. I just don’t get who cares about Stevie Nicks talking about visiting the set.
WIN A COPY OF THE DVD COURTESY OF 20TH CENTURY FOX HOME ENTERTAINMENT
HOW TO ENTER?
Go to AndersonVision’s Twitter Feed (@AVCentral) and cross your fingers. You’ll need to send a message containing your mailing address and name as entry.
SPECIFY “MCKINLEY HIGH” on your entry.
THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH
One of the greatest kid movies ever shot. Remastered by WB Archive.
DUEL IN THE SUN
“Duel in the Sun” and “Rolling Thunder” are both available on DVD for the first time ever. Duel in the Sun is a rampaging tale of warfare in the Congo and it’s been directly sourced by Tarantino for a number of projects.
“Rolling Thunder” is the harrowing tale of a young Vietnam vet’s encounter with a garbage disposal and Tommy Lee Jones.
Rolling Thunder is available via the MGM Archive.
Duel in the Sun is available via the WB Archive.
One of my favorite comedies ever. Don’t buy the colorized version.
One of my favorite animated films ever. Recommended for Nilsson fans. I wish that the studio would revisit it for a Blu-Ray release that includes all three edits. There weren’t major changes, just shifts in narration.
“Win Win” is funny and sweet and paints a really true-to-life portrait of its characters. No one is purely good or purely bad, they’re all just human. They make mistakes, whether large or small, and they try to make up for them. In that way, the film will strike a nice honest chord with most of its audience. Paul Giamatti is great in this, giving a much lower key performance than some of his previous works like American Splendor, Sideways, and even “John Adams.” He falls into the suburban dad character very well and wears the character’s skin rather nicely. Amy Ryan is always a joy to see on-screen, but I was a bit disappointed that her character was a little one-dimensional, depicting her primarily as a stay at home housewife and mother. Bobby Cannavale and Jeffrey Tambor are fun to watch as well, but serve generally to provide comedic relief and their characters aren’t nearly as well painted as Mike or Kyle.Alex Shaffer, in his very first role, holds his own among some heavyweight actors. I thought some of the emotional scenes were a bit rough for him, but if he decides to continue his acting, more experience will only help to mature his instincts and abilities. Now, outside those heavily emotional scenes, Shaffer is great. His sort of deadpan, monotone delivery works very well for the character.
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JUDY MOODY AND THE NOT BUMMER SUMMER
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BOOKS: THE THINGS YOU USED TO READ ON THE TOILET
The greatest Marvel Omnibus released. Walking the tricky road of trying to revamp the original source material with new coloring always makes vintage fans lose their mind. The end result is an accurate collection of Walt Simonson’s time taking Thor from the hokey Silver Age into the detailed almost Tolkein style epic hero that the Marvel Universe needed.
PATTON OSWALT – FINEST HOUR
The best thing I listened to all year.
OTHER CDs TO CHECK OUT THIS CHRISTMAS!
DRIVE – ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
THE MUPPETS – ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
MY MORNING JACKET – CIRCUITAL
THE LONELY ISLAND – TURTLENECK & CHAIN
RAVE ON BUDDY HOLLY
BEASTIE BOYS – HOT SAUCE COMMITTEE PART 2
ELLIE GOULDING – LIGHTS
THE BOOK OF MORMON – ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
THE CIVIL WARS – BARTON HOLLOW
ASSASSIN’S CREED REVELATIONS
LEGO HARRY POTTER: YEARS 5-7
BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY
GEARS OF WAR 3
SESAME STREET: ONCE UPON A MONSTER
FRUIT NINJA KINECT
CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 3
FOOD and DRINK
This is the first of two booze powerhouses that helped to make my way through Broken Captchas, collapsing content management systems, Talkbackers, delivering checks to the Post Office and trying to find a way to make a dollar in the Internet Based Pop Culture Shit Sling. For those of you not in the business, we call that the IBPCSS. If you want to pronounce it phonetically, it’s I Be Piss. Things like that entertain me while I drink.
While the non-cherry Stoli is easier to find, I’ve found it to be slightly more expensive. Still, it’s a Vodka with a beer budget in mind. I’d recommend pricing it out online first before hitting your neighborhood liquor store.
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The second of my preferred booze. I love the bold flavor of the 12 year old Glenfiddich as opposed to its 50 year old counterpart. Why’s that? Well, one can be had for under thirty dollars and the other comes in a fatter bottle that makes it hard to grip during those drunken sessions. Hopefully, you’ve checked out my Dirty Balls recipe on the prior page. For those that need another liquor pick-me-up, I’ve got one more drunk culinary masterpiece.
- 3/4 cup whiskey (use the Glenfiddich)
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons)
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (4 limes)
- 2/3 cup sugar syrup (see directions)
- Ice cubes
- Maraschino cherries
Combine the whiskey, lemon juice, lime juice, and syrup. Fill a
cocktail shaker halfway with ice and pour in the drink mix 2/3 full.
Shake for 15 seconds and pour into glasses. Add a maraschino cherry and
serve ice cold.
Note: To make the sugar syrup, bring 1 cup of water and 1 cup of
sugar to a boil, and simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Chill before using.
That recipe comes courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa. That lady loves her husband, just as much as she likes making drink recipes to get me hammered. I love that Contessa.
THE OTHER TRAPPINGS OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON
In short, I saved the biggest thing for last. This is the year that I’ve decided to get LASIK. Several people I know have recently undergone the procedure and it’s getting to a price-point that I like. While it’s not for everyone, I hope that everyone in need looks into the procedure. While wearing glasses has been my thing since the age of 9, I welcome the push to move away from the need of constantly having glare riddle eye obstructions attached to my face. Mainly, it’s the promise of being able to drive at night without feeling like I’m going to hit someone head-on.
ADDITIONAL GIFT IDEAS!
FOR THE GEEKS:
Doctor Who Tardis Cookie Jar!
The Talking TARDIS Cookie Jar will solve for x in a way that hearkens back to your single days. For starters, we’re pretty sure it’s bigger on the inside. But most importantly, it makes authentic TARDIS noises (which, we suppose is why they say it’s “talking” even though it doesn’t say any words). So when the cookie jar disappears from the kitchen counter and gets hidden somewhere else, you can feign ignorance and say, “It’s a TARDIS, it’s probably taking a quick trip to Pompeii.” When it reappears the next morning, you can point and shout with glee to welcome it back, knowing full well how many cookies it contains.
- Cookie jar in the shape of a time lord’s favorite time machine
- Doesn’t actually “talk” but makes authentic TARDIS sounds
- Anyone fluent in TARDIS should write us with a translation
- We’re pretty sure it says, “Feed me cookies, Earth creature!”
- Dimensions: 11″ x 6″ x 6″
- Takes 3 1.5V G13 button cell batteries (included)
FOR THE DISCERNING ADULT: THE U-SOCKET
U-Socket is a duplex AC receptacle with built-in USB ports that can power any device that is capable of being charged via USB, including iPods, iPhones & iPads. Enjoy the convenience of USB ports built right into the wall. No need for a laptop or AC adapter – just plug in your cable and start charging.
Designed to replace a traditional 3-prong AC wall outlet, U-Socket eliminates the clutter of AC Adapters that hang from the wall, stick out & take up space in your home or office. In addition to keeping things neat & organized, U-Socket reduces your energy costs dramatically thanks to its 5-star energy efficient design that auto senses the required wattage & only outputs full power if something is connected to it.
• 15A-125V NEMA Compliant AC Outlet
• 2.4A-5V USB 2.0/ 3.0 Power Ports
• Charge 4+ Devices Simultaneously
• Eliminate Clutter- Stay Neat & Organized
• 5-Star Energy Efficient Design
• Auto Sensing Wattage
• Designed In Conjunction With Safety Agencies
• Listed Part Meets UL & NEC Specifications
• Available In Standard & Décor Style
• BTO Tamper Resistant Option
• Multiple Color Options
• End User Installable
• Patent Pending
FOR THE LITTLE GIRLS:
KATE KATE THE FASHION PLATE
BUY IT HERE!
Kate has been busy designing dresses for Marie and Antoinette, her two little dogs.But now she has a chance to shine as a famous fashion designer, or so she thinks.
FOR THE LITTLE BOYS:
SpyNet Night Vision Video Watch
- The coolest spy watch you can find – loaded with features – including Night Vision.
- Seems like a toy, but that’s part of the disguise – this sucker works!
- Time Mode
- Alarm Mode
- Timer Mode
- Stop Watch Mode
- Video Recorder Mode – preview or super-spy mode (watch face just shows time)
- Audio Recorder Mode – wave form preview or super-spy mode (watch face just shows time)
- Still Picture Recorder Mode – still image (again, with preview or without) or time lapse mode (5 seconds, 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes)
- Secrets Mode
- Missions Mode – downloadable from SpyNet HQ
- Games Mode
- Spy Apps Mode
- Playback Mode
- Capacity: Up to 20 mins of video; over 4 hours of audio; up to 2000 pics!
- Snake Cam Add-On: Allows you to record pics/video around corners or hides in a button hole for super covert missions (unable to film using night vision, however). Can also be used as a plug and play USB webcam.
- Watch Includes: Watch (duh), USB connector, and instructions.
- Watch – 2.5″ x 2.25″ x 1″ (watch body) – 1.4″ TFT display.
- Snake Cam – bendy part: 20″; overall length: 38″
FOR THE PARENTS: DOODLE TABLECLOTH
he Doodle Tablecloth is pre-shrunk 100% cotton and is printed to look like a giant piece of graph paper, complete with printed lines, holes, and red margins. It comes with eight wash-out fabric markers. Get your kiddos excited about dinner by having them draw placemats for each member of the family. Doodle the vegetables that will be tried that evening (one bite, just one bite!). No matter what gets doodled on the tablecloth, it all washes out in the Hot cycle of your washing machine, so you can start with a clean piece of paper the next evening.
- For Ages 6 and Up
- Cotton tablecloth that looks just like a sheet of graph paper
- Draw on it with the included fabric pens – it washes out!
- Gets kids excited about family dinner time
- Made of 100% cotton, pre-shrunk
- 8 wash-out fabric markers included (Other washable markers should work, but we recommend testing them in an inconspicuous area and double-checking that they come out in the wash before you go hog wild.)
- Washes out in the Hot cycle of your washing machine (washes perfectly at 30C)
- Smallest square measures 0.4in, semi-dark lines every 2in, dark lines every 4in
- Dimensions: approx 6 feet x 5 feet