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3 Recommendations for last minute gifts of local entertainment

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3 Gifts of Entertainment

If you’re still trying to figure out gift options, here are three recommendations that are easy to purchase without dealing with crowded shopping malls. And tickets have the added advantage of being easy to wrap.

How to Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular

Mix the storyline and production company behind the excellent animated film “How to Train Your Dragon” with the animatronic masterminds behind “Walking with Dinosaurs” and you get this amazing show that’s touring arenas around the country. Not only are the dragons awesome enough to thrill ‘children of all ages’ (myself included) but the show incorporates some really cool mixed-media techniques that put the characters into elaborate images projected onto both a rear screen wall and the floor of the venue.

I had the good fortune to watch it in Fresno to get a sneak peek (check the slideshow for some photos I took at the show) and it has that whole-family dynamic going for it. From Fresno the show goes to San Jose for a few days (December 26-30) and then comes to Sleep Train Arena (the Arena formerly known as Power Balance and Arco) on January 3-6. That’s only four days of shows but there are seven show times to choose from and tickets start at $30. More information can be found at www.dreamworksdragonslive.com.

Django Unchained

My preferred choice of the movies opening next week is “Django Unchained” from director Quentin Tarantino. Realistically, this is a violent film that isn’t for everybody – but it’s not just for Tarantino fans either. I wasn’t a huge supporter of his last film and I thoroughly enjoyed this one, which is a genre piece through and through. I like to think of it as 2 hours and 46 minutes of spaghetti grindhouse awesomeness, pulling from both western film styles and the kinds of action movies where the exploding blood packs are never quite big enough.

That said, it’s also tackling some serious subject matter underneath all the genre trappings. The story focuses on an ex-slave turned bounty hunter in pre-Civil War America and his desire to free his wife, at all costs to those around him. It’s not the most holidayish of holiday movies, but it’s a good pick for a film lover’s stocking. “Django Unchained” opens in wide release on December 25.

John Oliver

My third best pick of upcoming events is John Oliver, live at the Crest Theatre on January 18th. For those who might not recognize the name, Oliver is the English writer and comedian who’s a regular contributor on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” – and who mixes political jadedness with immigrant culture shock to great effect. I’m personally looking forward enough to this to be planning travel around it and it’s a perfect gift for fans of the show and other comedy-loving political junkies. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased online at tickets.com or in person at the Crest box office (which saves on some of the online fees). More details are at the www.thecrest.com.

About the author

Tony Sheppard

Tony is a Professor at Sacramento State, Co-Director of the Sacramento Film & Music Festival and a long-time writer, primarily on topics related to film and the film industry. He is an active supporter of the local arts community, an amateur photographer, and has an interest in architecture and urban planning topics. He is currently designing a 595 sq.ft. house on a very small infill lot in Sacramento.

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