Welcome to Film School Rejects holiday gift guide for the movie-obsessed 2022 edition. You’re bound to find some delightful discoveries below, but I should be honest with you upfront. This is my own personal list that I’m writing to Santa this year. If it gets lost under a stack of other lists or crapped on by a red-nosed reindeer, I’m publishing it here for safekeeping and sending a link to my wife, various friends, and parents. These are the goodies I want – that I neeeeed.
I’ve arranged the gift guide into three categories: books, toys, and discs. Physical media, baby. It’s our lifeblood. Most of the items are affordable, but I did include a couple of trinkets that might require smashing a few piggy banks. With these guides, you gotta shoot your shot. If you’ve been as nice as you think you have been this year, you deserve a Silicone Werepup. It’s basic arithmetic. Santa or your loved ones should hook you up.
New York Ninja Super Special
Last year’s New York Ninja Blu-ray release from Vinegar Syndrome was the tastiest of b-movie treats. At the time, our Rob Hunter called it “a lost classic of low-budget 80s action cinema.” Shot originally in 1984 by director John Liu, the film was left incomplete until Kurtis Spieler rescued the footage in 2021. With the initial audio tracks missing, Spieler rewrote the dialogue and redubbed the film using a bevy of badass VHS icons: Don Wilson, Linnea Quigley, Cynthia Rothrock, Michael Berryman, and more.
If you don’t have the disc, toss that on your list as well. If you have the disc, well, you have to pick up the recently published New York Ninja Super Special comic book, published by Vinegar Syndrome in partnership with Floating World Comics. Written and illustrated by Charles Forsman, the maniac behind recent Netflix adaptations like The End of the F***ing World and I Am Not Okay With This, the comic operates as an official sequel to the film. Liu, the newsroom sound technician turned ninja, continues to prowl the streets, hunting for the killer of his wife and their unborn child. The diabolical Rattail poses an even greater threat as he’s taken on new radioactive powers. Free from budgetary constraints, the New York Ninja Super Special achieves only what a comic book can, stretching the original’s absurdity to blockbuster heights.
The Northman: A Call to the Gods
You’ve probably heard writer/director Robert Eggers explain in interviews how he holds no desire to make a contemporary film. Shooting someone jabbering on a cell phone or opening an email causes him to break into hives. He’s a filmmaker gloriously trapped in the past, but getting stuck there requires tremendous hours of research and dedication to achieve authenticity. When the production is over, the research lives on the screen, but it would be nice to see it carry on elsewhere too.
The Northman: A Call to the Gods is a testament to all the damn work that went into making the film before and during the shoot. Author Simon Abrams assembles every department and nearly every actor who labored on the film. He grills them on their process and the schoolwork they had to do for them to accomplish the Viking nightmare put forth by Eggers and co-screenwriter Sjón. Like all Insight Editions publications, A Call to the Gods is an impressively thick exploration sure to carry your enthusiasm for the film well beyond its runtime.
Fantastic Four: Full Circle
When I interviewed writer/artist Alex Ross for the Comic Book Couples Counseling podcast, I asked him whether or not he imagined Marel Studios producer Kevin Feige reading his latest work. Ross responded emphatically, in many ways, he created Fantastic Four: Full Circle exclusively for Feige’s eyes. The legendary comic book creator behind Marvels and Kingdom Come has specific ideas about the Fantastic Four. Considering the numerous failed attempts to capture the FF properly on the big screen, Ross wanted there to be a blueprint for future filmmakers to follow.
Fantastic Four: Full Circle champions what worked perfectly for this particular superhero family when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created them in 1964. Yet, the story never feels dusty or overly nostalgic. Presented in an oversized treasury format by Abrams ComicArts, Alex Ross’ illustrations and their blindingly brilliant pop art colors scream from the pages. The comic is undeniably beautiful, but more importantly, the unique character dynamics are sharply underlined.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio: A Timeless Tale Told Anew
Pinocchio is a project Guillermo del Toro has been noodling on for quite some time. It’s a love letter to the original fairy tale but not chained to any rules. He transplants the saga to World War II, using Pinocchio’s iconic imagery to battle del Toro’s neverending fear of fascism. Yep, yep, yep, plop this stop-motion flick into the final slot rounding out the filmmaker’s war trilogy (right behind The Devil‘s Backbone and Pan‘s Labyrinth).
As much as I love Guillermo del Toro movies, I almost always love the making-of books that come along with them more. See The Devil’s Backbone‘s celebratory tome from Matt Zoller Seitz and Simon Abrams (oh hey, the same author behind A Call to the Gods above). There is such joy to be had in tracking del Toro’s earliest design inklings via his journal sketches to the meticulously realized maquettes and the inevitable final frames. The film simply does not last as long as is required to absorb the filmmaker’s intricate and mesmerizing design work. This brick of a book gets the job done.
The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Ominous Omnibus Vol. 1
Bongo’s Treehouse of Horror comics are the secret weapons within The Simpsons franchise. Each issue follows the familiar anthology format from the seasonal television specials, but they come straight from the wicked brains of the medium’s greatest talents. Inside this first volume are Simpsons stories by the likes of Michael Allred, Sergio Aragonés, Kyle Baker, Patton Oswalt, Stan Sakai, Jill Thompson, Bernie Wrightson, and a whole lot more. Through their crazed perspectives, we encounter a variety not possible in the show’s far more rigid animation style.
If you’re like me, a staleness has fallen over The Simpsons. Somewhere during the decades, my enthusiasm for the material waned. I just got too used to it. Through this new collection from Abrams ComicArts and its wildly eclectic cast of creators, I re-discovered the bite these characters can deliver. Filtered through various illustration methods, just slightly askew from what we’re used to on the screen, an electric freshness sizzles new life into old personas.
Related Topics: Christmas