On one hand, it can be easy to shop for the pop culture fan in your life. Uncle Tim is way into Star Trek and here's an Enterprise ornament. Boom. Done.
But one of the wonderful (and intimidating) things about pop culture today is that there are entire universes packed with options. This is good, because you probably can't afford to buy your nephew tickets to see Hamilton, but you might be able to afford something else he would like that's in the same vein.
So for every kind of pop culture nerd in your life, here's some stuff we recommend.
For the friend who would rather live in a galaxy far, far away ...
Sphero BB-8 Force Band ($79.99): After last year’s release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Sphero’s motorized BB-8, a $149.99 droid you control with your phone, was a hot commodity. This year, Sphero expands that toy’s functionality with the watch-like Force Band, which lets you control BB-8 simply by waving your hand. Bonus points for wearing a Jedi robe while you do.
Doom: The Board Game ($79.99): The reboot of Doom, made in Richardson by Id Software, was one of the best video games of the year. Popular tabletop company Fantasy Flight Games has taken the brutal and bloody experience of killing demons with high-powered weaponry and turned it into this cooperative board game for 2-5 players. It’s complex, and a single game will take 2-3 hours, but it’s an engaging experience that encourages you to work with your several friends to survive against one “invading” friend -- or enemy.
Flashback game consoles: One of the hottest gifts this holiday season has clearly been Nintendo’s NES Classic Edition, which tosses 30 beloved old-school video games into one compact, $60 package. If you’re a huge fan of retro gaming, though, don’t stop there. The company AtGames recently released the Atari Flashback 7, which includes 101 old Atari games built-in, as well as the Sega Genesis Classic Console, containing 80 classics including Sonic the Hedgehog and the original Mortal Kombat games. If you have to choose, the Sega games, generally speaking, hold up better than the Atari ones, but it’s all about what you’re nostalgic for. Both will run you around $50, depending on where you buy.
Hamilton Mixtape ($11.99): You’ve already listened to the Hamilton soundtrack dozens of times, but you haven’t heard it quite like this. The Hamilton Mixtape takes several songs from the hit hip hop musical and puts them into the hands of artists like Usher, Kelly Clarkson, Sia, K’naan and more.
For the friend who thinks the truth is still out there ...
Aliens: 30th Anniversary Edition ($24.99): Do they believe her now? Ridley goes back to the place where she left the bones with a team of Marines. The anniversary edition includes the 1986 theatrical version and a later special edition with deleted and extended scenes.
Independence Day Attacker Edition ($69.99): Also known as the Independence Day 20th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray, this set features two versions of the original film and a new documentary on its impact. Oh, and there's that replica of one of the alien attack ships, too.
The Secret History of Twin Peaks: A Novel by Mark Frost (from $14.99): The co-creator of the landmark show that twisted and bended its own story lines revisits his creation. From pages out of exploring duo Lewis and Clark's journals to doctor's notes from Calhoun Memorial Hospital and memos from within the FBI, the book is almost clinical. But once you start connecting the dots, it's more than compelling, especially if you're a fan or if you just need something to hold you over until the miniseries comes to Showtime in 2017. Seasons one and two will be on Showtime starting Dec. 26.
For the audiophile ...
Rock 'n' Rolla Portable Turntable ($69.99-$149.99): Girl, put your records on. This is the coolest suitcase you'll ever own; it could only get better if it came in canary yellow. You can play and record your vinyl records; play your MP3 files through USB and SD card; and plug in your cellphone or MP3 players. All this, with built-in speakers for a sound that's rich with texture. There are three sizes: The Junior goes for $69.99; the Premium is $99.99; and the XL is $149.99. Best of all, this new BFF will make sure that there's always a chance for a pop-up party. myrocknrolla.com.
KidzBop Greatest Hits vinyl; Train them in the way they should go by putting their music on vinyl is what I always say. And you might as well start with today's hits for kids by kids.
Mama's Gun and Baduizm by Erykah Badu vinyl ($22.99): The Dallasite changed the game with her debut, Baduizm, and now it's available for the first time as a double LP. Follow-up Mama's Gun has also been released as a double LP as part of Motown/UMe's "Respect the Classics."
Hip Hop Raised Me by DJ Semtex ($65):The days when hip-hop was considered a fringe music genre have almost faded into legend (or into Netflix's The Get Down, but I digress). This illustrated book is an encyclopedia of the living, breathing genre that has emerged as a dominant voice in the pop culture landscape.
Hamilton Mixtape ($11.99): You've already listened to the Hamilton soundtrack dozens of times, but you haven't heard it quite like this. The Hamilton Mixtape takes several songs from the hit hip hop musical and puts them into the hands of artists like Usher, Kelly Clarkson, Sia, K'naan and more.
In memoriam ...
The Prince Movie Collection ($24.98): This collects the music icon's seminal, Oscar-winning Purple Rain; the "unofficial sequel" Graffiti Bridge; and directorial debut Under the Cherry Moon. If you buy it early enough, it will be packaged in The Purple One's royal color. It will be the gift that keeps giving to any fan of Prince, who died in April.
Labyrinth 30th Anniversary Collection ($75.99) and David Bowie Play Book ($29.99): She wished her brother away, but it was granted and now she has to get him back. Thirty years later, we get a collector's edition that can celebrate the film and the life of puppet master (aka director) Jim Henson and that of David Bowie, who breathed life into it as the Goblin King in Labyrinth. Bowie dreamed and imagined a little differently than most of us and it's laid bare for all to see in Play Book, a coloring and activity book drawn from his unique personas over a unique career.
Deadpool Holiday Blu-ray ($14.99): If you've seen the film, you know this anti-anti-hero goes all in for holidays. So, we have a holiday edition of the second most-lucrative R-rated movie, only behind Passion of the Christ. That's a distinction that Wade Wilson himself, in full costume covered by a Christmas sweater on the cover of the DVD, would appreciate. It even includes a card.
For the completist ...
The Bourne Ultimate Collection (from $29.98): All five films together in one package for the first time means you get to watch Matt Damon's return as the former CIA operative.
Sony Pictures Animation Gift Set ($75.99): Forget any kind of calm after you unveil this collection featuring 10 animated movies, one of which is bound to become a new favorite (my bet's on Hotel Transylvania). But wait, there's more. The movies come housed in a lunchbox ready for use. The set includes The Pirates! Band of Misfits; The Smurfs; The Smurfs 2; Hotel Transylvania; Hotel Transylvania 2; Arthur Christmas; Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs; Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2; Open Season; and Surf's Up.
Downton Abbey The Complete Series: Couldn't get enough? With this set, you never will. While you're going all Masterpiece, pick up Mr. Selfridge: The Complete Series, too. Jeremy Piven dives into the role of Henry Selfridge, a brash and finally unstable American who opened the famed London department store.
Ip Man Trilogy ($24.98 and $34.98): A Wing Chun grandmaster's past and present fight inspires villagers to rise up against their oppressors in IP Man. Sammo Hong co-stars in the sequel and Mike Tyson in the third film. Donnie Yen is Ip Man, the master who mentored Bruce Lee.
For the young at heart ...
The Secret Life of Pets paraphernalia ($2.99-$44.99): While merchandise from Trolls is in front of the line, walk deeper into the children's section and you'll find backpacks and other goodies -- including walking, talking robotic pets -- from the folks who brought you the movie about what pets do while the owners are away.