Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3
Recommended by Travis Lakata
If you were to buy the latest season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., you might find yourself completely surprised by its contents. This statement is relevant for those familiar with the series, and to those that have never seen an episode.
This season carries its own storyline that can be picked up from the first episode. As it continues along, each episode carries its own interesting tale that continues to an epic conclusion. What’s possibly more important and amazing about this series as a whole is that there are many amazing moments during this season that represent more than what one might find in an action/adventure series, let alone a comic book series.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. shows its audience a sense of humor, action sequences that keep us excited and intrigued, and off-camera highlights showing how much the crew loves working together, which pulls at our emotions when we watch dramatic scenes that pull at our hearts. Episode 13, “Parting Shot,” is one example, with one scene that rips at my heart every time I watch it, and one prime reason to recommend this season to any and everyone interested in an entertaining show. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Seasons 1-3 are currently available on Amazon and through Netflix.
Recommended by Russ Pirozek
This isn't as much a gift suggestion for Black Mirror as it is for Netflix as a whole, as the easiest way for audiences to see the brilliant British sci-fi program is through the streaming service. But with so many options to choose from on Netflix, there's no better place to start than with Charlie Brooker's modern-era Twilight Zone. Focusing on the dangers on emerging technologies and weariness about the progression of the world, this series is equal parts enthralling and terrifying. While there are only twelve episodes in the three series, each one is worth a few watches to get some of the intricacies of each theme, which range from the potential horrors of new technologies like augmented reality gaming to the dangers of rating systems featured in companies like Uber and Amazon. In the same way the unexpected twists Tales of the Unexpected and The Twilight Zone shocked fans when they aired, Black Mirror has some incredible shifts as episodes progress, and a few are truly chilling. Tune in to Netflix for this and other amazing shows, and at $8.99 a month, it's a steal with how much content that's available. But start with Black Mirror. It's one of the best shows on television at the moment.
Captain America: Civil War
Recommended by Erik Cheski
Captain America: Civil War: Cap vs. Stark on the small screen. Outside of The Avengers, this may be the best film the MCU has dropped on us. Personal story: I’ve never liked Spider-Man as a character; I always thought he was whiny and rather silly - just my personal taste. I’m not bashing him the way I would Supes (so flawed). Anyway, after this movie, I’m now interested in the webslinger, and he’s only the third most interesting new character for me from this deeply twisted and thoroughly engaging flick. I wasn’t sure how Winter Soldier could be topped, but holy cow did they crank things up for this one. What was I saying? Oh yeah, if your cine-nerd needs something perfect under the tree this year, this Blu-ray will certainly satisfy.
Carnival of Souls
Recommended by Michele Brittany
I can remember watching this low-budget film one Saturday afternoon, and, over the years, I periodically come back to Carnival of Souls, directed by Herk Harvey, an industrial filmmaker, in 1962. With a cast of unknown actors and unforgettable creepy organ music, this film slips between reality and a dreamlike purgatory and probably would have remained in obscurity except for Mystery Science Theatre 3000 riffing it and the film getting restored for a Blu-ray release by Criterion this past summer. Beyond being riff fodder, the film captures images of small-town America (Lawrence, Kansas, and Salt Lake City), and not all that surprising, this film has been cited as having been an important influence on David Lynch (Think Lost Highway, for example.) and is situated as a prime example of the B-movie. Available here.
Recommended by Russ Pirozek
This holiday season, give the gift of gab, gore, and gratuitous pop culture references with the superhero hit of the year, Deadpool. Based on the Marvel character of same name, the Merc with a Mouth gets his live-action debut (unless you count X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which we don't) with his very own movie! Blessed with good looks, a great girl, and extremely aggressive cancer, our lovely lead is given two choices: experimental treatment to cure him, or die painfully. He goes with the former, leaving him cancer free (yay!) but mentally unstable, thanks to his body constantly regrowing new cells (boo!) and scarring him horribly. Now, Wilson, under the guise of the mercenary Deadpool, seeks to rebuild his old life and cure himself, with some ridiculous and violent side-effects. With the record for highest grossing R-rated movie and a huge following, any comic fan would be overjoyed to be given the greatest present of all: Wade Wilson, the ever-lovin' Deadpool! Blu-ray copies of the film can be found at most retail stores or Amazon for about $15.
Batman: The Killing Joke (Film)
Recommended by Angie Martin
*Disclaimer: This movie is not for kids.
Comic books fans have long-recognized The Killing Joke graphic novel as one of the most iconic graphic novels in history, and most certainly in the Batman comic line. It was only natural that a movie would eventually be released, but the idea of one came with curiosity about how filmmakers could capture the dark essence and controversial matter of the graphic novel.
On July 25, 2016, we learned just how far they could take it, and it earned the animated film an “R” rating, for good reason: The Killing Joke is one dark, disturbing movie. This is also what makes it stand out as my hands-down favorite movie of 2016. The movie explores not only the contents of the graphic novel in an incredible manner (some scenes almost panel for panel), but it delves into events leading up to the start of the novel.
Probably the most exciting part of the was the return of Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as The Joker. Many fans hear Conroy’s and Hamill’s voices as they read the comics, so having them as part of this movie brought the graphic novel to life. The scenes between the two are mesmerizing, as they bring their symbiotic relationship to life. The brilliant ending scene is chilling and wonderful all at once. Then, the coup de grace: we get to hear Batman laugh at a joke told by one of the most maniacal villains ever.
The Killing Joke the movie may not have been able to outperform the graphic novel, but it would be impossible to live up to that hype and perfection. But, what it brought fans a movie they can proudly add to their collection, one that can be enjoyed for years to come, with the fan-favorite Joker driving them on a rollercoaster of insanity.
Recommended by Simply Jack
Let’s face it. There is at least one member (or group, or maybe all of them) of your family that you want to . . . suffer. It’s because they wear holiday sweaters and smile sometimes and genuinely try to act nice. It’s insufferable. Krampus takes all of what you think they deserve and removes the felony charge. It’s a black comedy about the Germanic myth of Krampus – the anti-Santa Claus sent to punish. A good family film if you want to scare your toddler straight. Available on DVD through Amazon.
Star Wars Rebels: The Complete Season 2
Recommended by Bryant Dillon
The Star Wars universe has been constantly expanding since LucasFilm came under the Disney banner, and one of the most exciting and well-crafted additions to the mythos has been the Star Wars Rebels animated series, which tells the tale of pre-Rogue One struggles to unite the galaxy against the evil Galactic Empire.
Season Two ramps up the stakes for the fledgling series, continuing Ezra’s exploration of his connection to the Force under the tutelage of Kanan, reintroducing several beloved characters from the hit Clone Wars series, and pitting former padawan Ashoka Tano against the mechanical menace her long-lost master has become in a climatic showdown.
Bring home Star Wars Rebels: The Complete Season 2 for the Star Wars fan in your life, and you can be sure that the Force will be with you this holiday!
Available here for sale.