2016 Holiday Gift Guide: Television

Television fans must love the holidays, because it’s the one time of year when studios unleash a host of massive box sets collecting their favorite dramas and comedies. But while we like to devour an entire TV show just as quickly as the next person, sometimes a little self-discipline is required, which is why we’ve devoted most of this year’s guide to some less time-consuming (and more affordable) suggestions. If you don’t find anything for your friends and family here, a Netflix gift card works just as well.

Click the links within the write-ups to purchase each product online, and check back throughout the week for more additions to our Holiday Gift Guide.

American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson

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There’s been a lot of great television this year, and FX’s “American Crime Story” is right up there at the top. Though most people of a certain age remember the media circus surrounding the so-called Trial of the Century, “The People v. O.J. Simpson” manages to feel like an entirely fresh experience, revealing things about the case you may not have known before while also recapturing all the infamous moments. Told largely from the perspective of the lawyers, the show examines topics like race, gender, celebrity and the criminal justice system and how each one affected the outcome of the trial. There’s hardly a dull moment throughout the show’s debut season, including the excellent bottle episode “A Jury in Jail,” which details the mental and physical strain placed on the jurors throughout the lengthy court case. At its core, however, “American Crime Story” is just a really excellent actor’s showcase that features award-worthy performances by Sarah Paulson, Courtney B. Vance and Sterling K. Brown, among others. The series is so engrossing and expertly cast that it’s like watching the murder trial all over again, only this time, with an unrestricted view of the chaos and drama.

The Night Of

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The Night Of” was originally supposed to star James Gandolfini before the actor’s untimely death, but within the first few episodes of the HBO limited series, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than John Turturro in the role. The veteran character actor is so riveting as the down-on-his-luck attorney that it seems a near-certainty he’ll walk away with an Emmy for his performance. He’s that good, and the same could be said for the rest of the cast, including co-star Riz Ahmed and supporting players like Bill Camp, Michael Kenneth Williams and Peyman Moaadi. However, what really elevates “The Night Of” beyond the typical crime drama is the superb writing by co-creators Richard Price and Steve Zaillian, which delivers a probing examination of the systemic problems in the U.S. criminal justice system (from the police, to the prisons, to the lawyers) and how one crime can affect the lives of not only the accused but the people connected to them as well. Though the actual investigation feels a bit rushed, and the series doesn’t hit as many highs in the later episodes, “The Night Of” is an excellent piece of filmmaking that challenges the way we watch television and tell stories.

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2016 Holiday Gift Guide: Movies

While we could easily fill several pages with suggestions of great films and cool box sets that deserve a spot on any holiday wish list, we’ve picked some of our favorites released over the past 12 months. If you can’t find anything worth buying here, then chances are that the person you’re shopping for doesn’t like movies.

Click the links within the write-ups to purchase each product online, and check back throughout the week for more additions to our Holiday Gift Guide.

Captain America: Civil War

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Civil War” has been jokingly referred to as “Avengers 2.5,” and for good reason, because while the movie may be a Captain America sequel in name, it’s a continuation of several different story threads from “Winter Soldier,” “Age of Ultron” and more. Though the film feels a bit crowded at times with all the various characters and cameos (including the introduction of Black Panther and Spider-Man), they never overshadow the central conflict. Unlike “Batman v Superman,” “Civil War” actually gives its characters a reason for fighting, and that goes a long way in legitimizing the ideological and physical clash between its opposing heroes. The movie isn’t perfect – Daniel Brühl’s villainous Zemo is underserved, and the filmmakers ignore a key argument in favor of the anti-registration side – but it does such a good job of balancing the emotionally-charged narrative with some excellent action sequences and fan service that those flaws seem trivial in comparison. “Civil War” is perhaps Marvel’s darkest and most mature film to date, but it still knows how to have fun, and that’s key to its success.

The Nice Guys

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Shane Black is to buddy cop films what Raymond Chandler is to hard-boiled crime novels, and his latest movie, the retro detective noir “The Nice Guys,” is arguably his best entry in the genre since redefining the buddy cop formula three decades earlier with “Lethal Weapon.” Although it hits all the usual beats of a Shane Black feature, “The Nice Guys” does so with such remarkable efficiency – brimming with humorous banter, exciting action and even a little heart – that it feels totally fresh. Black and co-writer Anthony Bagarozzi’s dialogue crackles with wit and humor, while the chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe is simply outstanding. The two actors form one of the best double acts in recent memory, and though Crowe is quite good as the sardonic straight man, Gosling is the real standout, delivering a side-splittingly funny physical performance that makes great use of his comedic abilities. “The Nice Guys” doesn’t reinvent the wheel in any way, but it’s a consistently enjoyable flick that reconfirms why Black is the best at what he does.

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Product Review: POWERHANDZ Pop Up Defender

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If you’re an athlete or the coach of a youth team, it can be difficult to simulate game conditions or defenders. Who wants to stand in one spot and play the role of living obstruction? None of your friends and none of the kids on your team.

POWERHANDZ has come up with a solution and recently launched the Pop Up Defender. The Pop Up Defender is a compressed, collapsible barrier designed to simulate live defenders during play on the basketball court, football field or soccer pitch. It also contains storage space inside of it to store training gear and is only $34.99.

Here are a few specs:

– 3-foot-5 standing barrier created to mimic a real defender
– Can easily be collapsed to take on the road
– Durable solution to previously used training methods like garbage cans or chairs
– Designed for basketball, football and soccer

On top of all the functionality, the Pop Up Defender is a lot of fun. As the coach of my daughter’s youth league soccer team, we’ve named ours Hope Solo, famed goalie of the U.S. women’s national soccer team. One day, I told my daughter we were going to have a special visitor join us in the backyard for a training session. When she came outside, the Pop Up Defender had donned a Landon Donovan jersey.

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Jim Beam shot watch eliminates need for Apple Watch

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The year’s most anticipated tech launch has arrived. With a revolutionary new drinkable wearable, Jim Beam is advancing the technology of shot pouring and drinking, providing bourbon lovers a fool-proof way to pour a refreshingly crisp Jim Beam Apple shot that can be enjoyed as is, on the rocks or with club soda and a lemon wedge.

Jim Beam Bourbon, the world’s #1 best-selling bourbon, is changing the game again, taking its knack for bourbon innovation and breaking into the tech market with a first-of-its-kind Jim Beam Apple Watch.

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2016 Father’s Day Gift Guide: Gear

Guys are pretty easy to shop for. Most of the time, you can just get stuff you’d buy for yourself. Here’s a grab bag of Father’s Day gift ideas geared towards looking good and improving your daily life. And for more great suggestions, be sure to check out the other categories in our annual gift guide.

Burley D’Lite Bike Trailer

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Just because you have kids doesn’t mean that you still can’t enjoy the great outdoors, and with the Burley D’Lite bike trailer, your little ones will be begging you to take them wherever you go. The company’s top-of-the-line model is loaded with premium features to maximize comfort, performance and safety, including a full internal aluminum roll cage, seating for one or two children (up to 100 lbs.), adjustable suspension for different terrains, and Spring Integrated Technology seating to prevent tangled and limp straps. The D’Lite also features a water resistant cover and zippers, UV protection windows, an adjustable sunshade, interior pockets for things like snacks and toys, and a spacious rear cargo area for bigger items. This is the Cadillac of child bike trailers, and that’s before even mentioning its ability to convert into a one- or two-wheel stroller, jogger or sled. More importantly, the D’Lite provides a smooth ride that distributes passenger weight remarkably well and easily breaks down for storage and transportation. Though Burley has an excellent range of bike trailers that fit most budgets, this is one of those rare instances where splurging for the high-end model is totally worth it.

Husqvarna 136LiL Trimmer

Yard work doesn’t have to be fun, but it can at least be a little less miserable with the right tools from Husqvarna. We reviewed their AWD lawn mower a few years ago and were very impressed with the quality and performance, so it’s no surprise that this battery-powered trimmer continues the company’s tradition of delivering first-rate products at reasonable prices. Lightweight and easy to use thanks to its intuitive keypad, the 136LiL is powered by a 36-volt lithium-ion battery that is interchangeable between all Husqvarna handhelds (like chainsaws and leaf blowers) and features an eco mode called savE that extends battery life during less demanding projects. It’s also one of the quietest trimmers we’ve ever used, and it does so without surrendering performance. In fact, it boasts 25% higher efficiency than a standard brush motor, all while reducing the vibrations caused by a gas-powered trimmer. To say that the Husqvarna 136LiL is a massive improvement over our current trimmer is an understatement, but buyer beware, because once you own one Husqvarna product, you’re going to want to replace everything else in your garden shed as well.

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