Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Last Minute Holiday Geek Gift Guide





Christmas is almost here. You’ve looked and looked for that… something… for that friend or family member who has pretty much everything they like that you might otherwise get them. You could always ask some friends for advice on odd little items the person might not have, but odds are your friends are their friends and they’ve already heard about what you’re about to find out about. So I’m here to help with at least a few people you might know.



For The Horror Movie Fan



A lot of horror movie fans are hard to shop for when it comes to adding movies to their DVD and Blu-Ray libraries. Unless you have a complete list of every film they own, you run the risk of duplicating one of the 5,376 movies they already own. Sure, you can just get them a gift card for their favorite store or website, but why not expand their collection a bit with stuff they may not have been aware of before now?

Available on Amazon right now is a great little horror film that anyone who loves some of the old school, European zombie films will love. The film is Bombshell Booldbath, and it’s an amazingly well done indie film that deserves to find the audience that will appreciate it.

It’s got a crisp, straightforward story, solid FX work, solid acting, and the type of cinematography that looks like it belongs in a film with a greater budget made by far more experienced filmmakers. You can check out the trailer here. If you have a friend who loves this type of horror film, they will appreciate you introducing them to this film. 

[Disclaimer- I’m very good friends with the people behind the next indie film I’m recommending. You can take my recommendation with a grain of salt, but I wouldn’t promote this short film if it wasn’t actually as good as I say it is. Look the film up elsewhere and you’ll see not only rave reviews but also announcements of many “Best” category wins for the film from when it first did the convention and film festival circuits.] 

Available at their webstore is a nice little short film Adrenalin Productions put together guaranteed to tickle the fancy of just about any fan of the old school Hammer vampire films. I refer, of course, to 400 Ways to Kill a Vampire. You can read my write-up on the film and interview with writer/actor Bill Mulligan here for further details. It really is an excellent little film that sets up the possibility of future adventures in the world the characters inhabit.



For Lovers of Fun Fantasy Reading



In what was some of the best news of the year for fans of enjoyable fantasy reading and/or Peter David, Peter’s Sir Apropos of Nothing is now finally back in print under the Crazy 8 Press banner. The original stories are being reprinted now with a new story, Pyramid Schemes, soon to follow.

Born to a prostitute and raised by the streets and his own wits, Apropos is a scoundrel clawing his way through life. Then an unexpected opportunity drops into his lap and starts his transformation to almost mostly respectable. His story is engrossing and wildly enjoyable. The books are excellent and well worth checking out for yourself as well as for giving as gifts. You can read a better description of the book here on Amazon.



 For the Lego Fan




I don’t normally promote what many feel to be knock-off brands or rip-off brands of most toys- in large part because I never liked getting them myself –but I’m absolutely making an exception for these sets of minifigures. I make it in part because you can’t actually get most of these characters in official Lego sets, and because a few of them look absolutely cool as hell.

The first item here is a set of four Hulks that fit in perfectly with other Lego minifigures. These are every bit the size of the larger Lego figures, and the quality is actually close enough that you don’t notice a difference. The nice thing with this set is that only one of them looks like the Hulk found in official sets. Oh, and they come with nicely done cloth vests.

You get four colors in this set- traditional green, red, yellow, and grey. The grey Hulk uses the same mold as the others, so it looks like the rampaging Hulk rather than the smarter “Joe Fixit” Hulk that fans of the comic would be familiar with. This is okay as the set still works with a red Hulk and gives us minifigures that can be used with sets outside of the Superhero sets.

We actually saw these at conventions last year and picked a few up for the family for a few bucks more than they cost on Amazon. My children think the yellow and grey Hulks, especially with the vests on, work great as trolls or ogres for knights to encounter. My son thinks the grey and red Hulks, with or without their vests, work as really great space monsters.

The same holds true for our second set. You get four Hulks in four different translucent colors. My children saw these and their imaginations went wild. These work with just about any theme of Lego set as crystal monsters from the Earth’s core, earth, air, fire, and water elemental monsters, space monsters, or Bizarro Hulks set loose on a rampage against your heroes. 

The third set is the most Marvel Lego-like in design. It’s got two figures you can find in actual Lego sets, the green Hulk and a super Green Goblin, but it also comes with three figures you can’t exactly get like this in Lego sets. It’s got a Hulkbuster Armor and a Rhino, but neither of these are available in this form in Lego sets. Both are built out of Lego bricks in the sets on the market, and the actual Lego Rhino is based on the less successful recent Spider-Man movie’s Rhino. Venom you can likewise find in Lego sets, but not at this size. He’s only available in basic minifigure and not the enlarged version.

We picked up the Hulkbuster at conventions last year. It’s surprisingly well made and the arms bend at the elbows. You might want to glue the arm shields into their fittings as the pegs will fall out of the holes, but that’s the only issue we’ve had with them.

Buying these off Amazon, you’ll see a lot of other not Lego figures that look like Lego figures in the “Customers Who Bought This” recommendations below the item. They may or may not be worth it to you. While they come close to Lego quality, some of them have ever so slightly different structural designs, so you can’t swap legs or headgear with actual Lego figures.

My last Lego recommendation is an official product. It’s a DK book you can order at Amazon called Great LEGO Sets: A Visual History that was released back in October.  Its 256 pages are packed with pictures of classic Lego sets from years gone by. Any older Lego fan will love the nostalgia of looking at the sets from way back when that they either owned or always wished they had owned. Younger fans might get a kick out of seeing the evolution of the sets from the various Lego themes. They might also find some inspiration for building new sets of their own.

The bonus with the book is a miniature set that builds a tiny version of the classic Space Cruiser that graces the book’s cover. If you shop on Amazon for this, check out the recommendations for other books by DK that are both visual histories of Lego and idea books complete with how-to instructions for creations not available in any set.



For Your Budding (or Experienced) Kaiju Fan



Did Pacific Rim and the recent Godzilla films start up the monster loving bug in someone you know? Have they started going back and watching the classics on the various streaming and DVD rental services out there? Are they starting to show their love for all things rubber suited monster? Then you need to get them this book- Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters: Defending the Earth with Ultraman, Godzilla, and Friends in the Golden Age of Japanese Science Fiction Film.





This is an absolutely gorgeous book filled with photos and information on the man who made some of the seminal and iconic monsters from the era when Japan was making us all monster lovers. This isn’t merely a coffee table photo book either. This is an amazingly well researched and well put together book documenting both the man and his monsters as well as the era he helped create and shape. You have to understand, Eiji Tsuburaya wasn’t just a monster maker. He was the head of Toho’s visual effects department and helped create Godzilla, later acted as the main creator for Ultraman, and would design many of the Japanese rubber suited monsters we all still know and love.

This is an excellent book for fans of Japan’s kaiju films whether they’re new to the genre or longtime lovers of Godzilla and his many rubber suited friends and foes.

Bonus gift that costs nothing- Turn them on to the Kaijucast podcast on iTunes. It features lots of enjoyable discussion about the classic kaiju scene as well as news on the modern works.



For the Friend with a Little Time to Kill (with Friends)



Zombie Dice is great little game for two or more players that’s easy to take and play anywhere. You get a set of dice with three pictures- a shotgun blast, brains, or footprints -printed on them in different ratios depending on the color of the dice. At the start of each turn you take three dice out of the cup (that also stores the set when not in use) and roll them to see how many humans you get to snack on. You set aside brains and shotgun blasts. Footprints are escaped humans. The footprints are re-rolled with however many additional dice you need to pull from the cup to have three dice to roll. Your goal is to collect 13 total brains before your opponent to win the game. On each turn, you can lose all the brains you collected for that turn if you collect three shotgun blasts. At the end of each turn you place all the dice other than the saved brains back in the cup and pass them to the next player.

It’s a fun, short game that’s a great way to kill the time. There are two expansion packs available for it, but only the first one (with Santa Clause) is worth getting. There are also variations on the game for those out there who aren’t into zombies. There’s Chupacabra Survive The Night- complete with glow in the dark dice –following the same basic gameplay rules as well as a Cthulhu Dice game with a different set of rules and a few different pieces. The goal in Cthulhu Dice is to steal your opponent’s sanity and be the last one left who’s sane. The twist is, everyone can lose the game to Cthulhu and end up insane by game’s end.

  


Again, these games can play fast, but they're entertaining and fun. They’re also extremely portable and can go anywhere you go with little extra storage space needed.



For the Convention Going Friend Who Worries about the Walking



If you’re reading things here on Needless Things, odds are good you have friends who attend conventions. Some may do the small ones, some may do the big ones, some may do them all, but at least some of them likely complain about getting in “convention shape” to handle the three to four days of almost nonstop walking they experience at the big cons or complain about being sore and blown out afterwards. Sure, they can get out and walk after work, but not everybody can walk hours on end or have access to hills and stairs for that extra bit of resistance. Well, there’s a way to add a bit of extra resistance to a daily walk that will help convention prep- weighted vests. I’m not going to suggest a specific vest since there are so many factors to consider for each individual using them, but I will go over the benefits of them.

Depending on the vest you go after, you can add a small amount of weight or go fairly heavy. The extra weight will add a level of resistance to a walk that can help build someone up for a long weekend of lots of walking. Good vests keep the added weight in line with your center of balance so you’re not being thrown off balance or feeling like the weight is sitting awkwardly on your body, and you can add more weight to them than you can safely add to ankle weights. Used in conjunction with lower weighted ankle and wrist strap weights, weighted vests used for daily walks running up to a convention might go a long way towards keeping your friends from feeling as blown out by the end of it as they may sometimes say they feel. Plus, hey, depending on the recipient of the gift they may find it a good thing to use the rest of the year as well.



My Wife’s Addition to the List



My wife suggests R2D2 measuring cups from Think Geek for the geek in the kitchen. This set of measuring cups and spoons stack and store in the shape of R2D2.  

 


Other than those specific things, don’t shop large and mainstream for the geek that’s hard to shop for. Every year people talk about the hard to find something for friend while looking in all the same (usually mainstream) places their friend usually gets his or her stuff from. Dig around and find something from an indie writer that looks like it fits your friend’s tastes. Someone who likes horror but still loves comedy and things like MST3K might find something from DVDs or other items from an active horror host to be really enjoyable. Dig around the indie film scene and look for creators gettingsome nice buzz who are making things that fall in line with the things your friend regularly watches. Dig around on the Etsy stores. Find an indie writer creating stuff that you can’t get for your friend anywhere else. 

Happy Holidays. 

Jerry Chandler is a lifelong geek, dabbling in just about every genre but finding science fiction and horror to be his primary comfort zones. He has also had a lifelong devotion to that form of entertainment known as professional wrestling. When not worrying that his coworkers are going to inflict bodily harm onto him over his sense of humor, he enjoys hitting the convention scene or making indie films with his friends. He also finds talking about himself in third person to be very strange.
 


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