Holiday 2016 Makeup Gift Guide

Shahada Karim

By now you’ve stuffed yourself with turkey, and are well on your way to checking off your holiday shopping list. And if you haven’t started on the latter… you’d best get cracking. Millions of Americans are expected to shell out more than $950 billion this holiday season, and they’re off to a running start with Thanksgiving falling a little earlier this year, and Black Friday sales starting even before that. And the best part is, most people never left their homes to do that shopping. While there were plenty of sales to be had at big box department stories, a record number of shoppers simply turned on their computers and clicked ‘buy’ without ever breaking a sweat.

For that reason, limited edition offerings are flying out of the stock room no sooner than they’re posted for online consumption. One of the most high demand items comes courtesy of legendary makeup artist Pat McGrath. Her ‘Metalmorphosis 005‘ Everything Kit is the latest offering in a series of pro-centric high impact pigments and inks. The full kit is the best value at $165 (vs. $60 for one of four kits), complete with eye ‘marker’ and Mehron mixing medium.

For the lipstick lover, there is no better expression of the perfect pout than from Bite. The company has made it its business to know what you lips want: deeply pigmented comfortable lipsticks that smell as good as they perform. The newest Amuse Bouche formula smells like citrus oils and slides on the lips to wear for hours with no fade and no flake.  The limited edition lipstick vault sells for $195, which is is a steal compared to Louboutin. The Holiday Lipstick Coffret is back (after its initial debut at Sephora) for $275. If you want the set in terms of presenation, it’s worth the money. But if you break down cost, each lipstick is actually more expensive than if you just purchase them separately and just wrap them yourself.

Chanel is back with a little bit more this holiday season. In addition to the annual holiday palette, there are also two mini brushes to make a set. But it’ll also cost you a little more. At $105, you’re paying Chanel back for adding the brushes and putting it all together in a set for you.

And the decidedly British gift idea of ‘advent calendars’ comes across the pond courtesy of Charlotte Tilbury. The 2016 version features 12 skin care and makeup minis to get you through the 12 days of Christmas in style.

Holiday Hair Saviors

Staff Writer

Let’s face it, getting hair to transform into thick, luscious, shiny locks is at best a combination of good genes and good hair care and at worst a skilled extension job that will from-russia-10fool everyone into thinking that maybe you were born with it. The Holiday Season has fully descended upon us, and that means many opportunities to put your hair on display and pray that it acts like it has some sense just this once.

If you’re like us, you’ve got an enviable collection of hair products that promise to transform you into a vintage Hollywood icon, but what they actually do is deposit a bunch of silicone and synthetic fragrances onto your scalp, and leave your hair mediocre and hardly tamed. There is no shortage of hair care products on the market that make outrageous claims and deliver marginal results. Well, if we may be so bold, consider your quest for the perfect coif a done deal.

This collection of life changing hair masks comes courtesy of Natura Siberica, an organic Russian brand that specializes in harnessing the power of nature to transform your hair. Sound familiar? We thought so too… until we actually used these masks. Each massive jar of thick cream goes beyond simply coating the hair shaft (and potentially weighing it down) to truly nourish each strand. Each of these masks are full of specific ingredients designed to do specific things, but regardless of hair type it’s hard to find a bad one in the bunch.

The same can be said in general for the entire company. There is an actual effort to make products and perform as well as they claim. There is some discrepancy with the shampoos (we found a few to be a little harsh) but  overall a vast majority of the collection perform as expected if not better. The body selection isn’t too shabby either.

Unless you’re fluent in Russian, we recommend getting whatever you can find from Amazon (do due diligence regarding sellers), and the rest from Fresh Spa. The latter will cost you a pretty penny in shipping and the wait time averages about 65 days, but we’re convinced it’s worth the wait. So if time is of the essence, Amazon is your best bet. No matter what you choose, Natura Siberia is on a quest to earn your business for life. You’ll know it’s true from the first scoop of a mask, to the inevitable panic that sets in once you realize you’re about to run out.

He SAID: Doctor Strange is Magic

Scott F. Evans

I owe Marvel Studios an apology. When Doctor Strange was announced a couple of years ago, I figured that this would be the one that wouldn’t work. The strike. The fumble. The air ball.

Dr. Strange has been around for more than fifty years in comic form, but he’s still relatively obscure to non-fans. In Marvel’s defense, this isn’t their first time at the rodeo. In 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy introduced a set of lesser known characters, and the film proved to be a fun sci-fi jaunt. Ant-Man showed up on the big screen as a relative unknown in 2015. But Marvel kept it light and easy,  and delivered a jocular heist flick.

Doctor Strange is not only a minor, practically unknown figure… he’s a sorcerer.  To date, there had never been a supernatural element in the any of the Marvel films. The film’s first trailer suggested a heavy-handed affair with obvious visual nods to Inception, Batman Begins, The Matrix, and even Blade Runner. This looked nothing like typical Marvel fare and for all the wrong reasons.

It didn’t help that Scott Derrickson was hired to direct the picture. Other than the forgettable Day the Earth Stood Still remake from 2008, Derrickson was known primarily for low budget, schlocky horror films. As it turns out, he was a solid choice to helm Doctor Strange. He pulled amazing performances from the cast, although the credit also goes to the the actors themselves who are at the top of their game. Derrickson’s main achievement is re-imagining trite genre clichés and making them feel fresh, and he earned every penny with this film. Doctor Strange could have been another hand waving / twig pointing CGI spectacle, but Derrickson changed it up. Instead, we were treated to a blend of martial arts and magic, and the results are spectacular.

Derrickson keeps the pacing brisk as well. Instead of a bloated nearly 3 hour run-time, Doctor Strange comes in at just under two hours. The writing team of Derrickson, Jon Spaihts, and C. Robert Cargill are able to get us in and out, but still tell a complete story. The trademark Marvel humor is also present. If I had to lodge a complaint, it would be with some of the awkward pop culture references. Fortunately they are few and far between.

strange-1

I’ll go on record as saying that I thought casting Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular character was an uninspiring choice. Cumberbatch is a great actor, but he felt a little stodgy for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I was wrong. Strange is very similar to Tony Stark. Arrogant, brilliant, careless. The wrong actor could’ve ruined this by either aping Robert Downey Jr’s Stark or going too far in the other direction and playing Strange too heavily (like Christian Bales’ Bruce Wayne). Cumberbatch surprises by bringing a light touch to this role. He plays it straight, not jokey, but with just enough whimsy to make Strange likeable, which is Marvel’s main ingredient for success.

The rest of the cast does great work. Tilda Swinton plays The Ancient One just shy of ethereal, keeping the character grounded enough to be relatable. Chiwetel Ejiofor gives Karl Mordo a rigid nobility that plays well with Cumberbatch’s looser portrayal. Mads Mikkelsen is good as the villain Kaecilius… but as in most Marvel films, the bad guy is the weakest link. That’s less of a criticism and more of an observation. Marvel films know that their heroes are the draw so that’s where the focus remains.

Definitely check out Doctor Strange while it’s still on the big screen. It’s a trippy visual feast that’s also filled with fun and interesting characters.

RATING: Theater