2016 Holiday Gift Guide: Gadgets

Adults like toys too, so if you’re on the lookout for a memorable gift, or you just want to treat yourself to an early Christmas present, a cool gadget is always a great option. Of course, prices run the gamut in this arena, so you’ll need to be careful, but whether you’re shopping for the latest fitness tracker or something to please the audiophile in your life, you can find something that fits almost any budget.

Click the links within the write-ups to purchase each product online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

TomTom Spark 3 GPS Watch


There’s a variety of fitness trackers to choose from these days, but very few have been designed with athletes and outdoor enthusiasts specifically in mind, which is what makes the TomTom Spark 3 GPS Watch such an ideal product for runners, hikers, cyclists and even swimmers. In addition to tracking information like distance, speed, pace, time, heart rate and calories burned, the Spark 3 provides live feedback with built-in GPS and a feature called Route Exploration that shows where the path has taken you in order to find your way back to your starting point. It also includes 3GB of storage (roughly the equivalent of 500 songs), so you can listen to music without bringing along your phone, and comes packaged with a very comfortable pair of Bluetooth in-ear headphones that are sweatproof and waterproof. The Spark 3 is a little on the bulkier side compared to some of its competitors, but between the additional features and impressive battery life (up to three weeks in non-GPS mode), that’s one tradeoff that any runner would gladly accept.

Jaybird Freedom In-Ear Wireless Headphones


We weren’t very familiar with Jaybird prior to testing out their latest in-ear wireless headphones, but it’s easy to see why the company has become one of the more trusted premium headphone brands on the market. The Jaybird Freedoms passed the test in all three major areas: style, sound and comfort, especially the latter. There are a variety of mix-and-match fit options inside the box, including standard silicone ear tips, Comply memory foam ear tips for maximum noise isolation and a snugger fit, and silicone ear fins that hug the different sections of your ear to ensure the headphones remain in place. Battery power is also respectable, with up to eight hours of playtime when using the included (albeit bulky) charging clip, while the Share Me feature allows you to share the music you’re listening to with another pair of Freedom earbuds. Though serious audiophiles may not be completely blown away, the ability to customize your EQ settings and save the presets to your headphones using the Jaybird MySound app makes for a truly unique listening experience that will undoubtedly win them over.

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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


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


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


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


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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