SANTA MONICA, California — At MTV News, we determine our coverage by listening to a lot of stuff, watching a lot of stuff and digging up a lot of stuff. Naturally, such work comes with the fringe benefit of receiving a lot of ... well, stuff. Much of it gets tossed or donated to charity, but some gems demand to be retained as easy office-space punch lines. With that in mind — and with all due respect to such long-gone treasures as the "Son of the Mask" blanket and the "Accepted" "Ask Me About My Weiner" hot-dog hat — the MTV Movies team humbly presents our list of the year's 10 Best Pieces of Movie Swag:
1. "Kung Fu Panda" kung-fu kit
Frustrated that this Jack Black/ Angelina Jolie/ Seth Rogen animated comedy doesn't come out until June? Well, now you have something to take out your aggressions on. Inside a box labeled "Kung Fu Fighting Kit" is a 5-foot-tall, inflatable, Weeble-like punching bag (it took a red-face volunteer in our office 20 huffing, puffing minutes to fill it), along with a step-by-step diagram explaining how best to attack the blowup Panda. For thousands of years, the black-and-white bear symbolized peace in the eyes of the Chinese — today, it is the constantly under-attack vessel for our hatred toward the crappy office copier.
2. "Walk Hard" Box of Cox
When you receive a package shaped like a guitar amplifier and bearing a crude penis joke, you tend to open it quickly. Inside is a treasure trove of memorabilia from the long, rocky — and entirely fictional — life of Dewey Cox: a guitar pick in a case reading "Cox Rox," an autographed photo of the singer being mobbed by groupies, a cocktail napkin bearing the scribbled lyrics of his #1 hit, and a 2008 calendar with shots of him decorating a Christmas tree in the nude. Bonus points to the studio for figuring out a way to incorporate the ever-present CD-ROM for journalists — it's been made to look like an old record — and for also sending along a pair of tighty-whities like the ones John C. Reilly wears in the flick, with the phrase "I love you, Dewey Cox" autographed on the rear end. We assure you, our laughter was anything but brief.
3. "Watchmen" poster
Most of the time, movie swag is little more than good for a laugh. But please hold on a minute as I wipe the drool from my mouth while thinking about the "Watchmen" poster Zack Snyder handed out in San Diego ... sorry, much better. Secretly illustrated by original graphic novelist Dave Gibbons, the best movie poster of the year doesn't feature any stars, wasn't shipped to theaters and isn't even an official Warner Bros. item. You see the title, the release date (3.6.09 — still so far away!) and the Comedian being murdered. Come back in 15 months to see the rest.
4. "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" T-shirts, hats and buttons
Every year, we receive dozens of promotional T-shirts and hats, most of which go to Goodwill, and most of which are XXL (are the studios trying to tell us something?). Showing just how automatic these items can be, Universal sent out sporty, modern-day slacker-wear to promote its art-house film about a 16th century British monarch. What better way to pay honor to the Virgin Queen than to dress in a manner that will ensure the same status for yourself?
5. Optimus Prime head
When the mailman delivered a rectangular Energon cube, we half-expected a frantic Shia LaBeouf to follow behind it. Instead, the "Transformers" MacGuffin opened to reveal a face-covering, voice-altering plastic helmet that transformed the wearer into Optimus Prime. The best part is, now that we sound just like Peter Cullen, we've been able to supplement our incomes with lucrative voiceover gigs.
6. Ray Liotta honey
No matter how many advances are made, it's still hard to immerse yourself in CGI movies, which are usually too antiseptic and crisp to be mistaken for the real world. That's why few swag items are sweeter than a jar of Ray Liotta Private Select Honey. Referencing a "Bee Movie" gag that casts the intense "Goodfellas" thespian as a Paul Newman-like pitchman, this very-real jar of very-real honey features a computer-generated Liotta promising to sweeten your tea. "As far back as I can remember," you can imagine him saying, "I always wanted to sell boutique supermarket condiments."
7. Apocalyptic stuff
Most people go to the movies to escape the worries of everyday life; some swag, however, tries to have fun by imagining our problems are much, much worse. To promote "28 Weeks Later," the studio sent out bio-kits complete with white breathing masks and jars of eyeballs floating around in red "virus slime." Meanwhile, "I Am Legend" sent a "survival kit" complete with a hospital-style wrist bracelet identifying you as "immune," a map to find your way around the barren streets of New York and a copy of the film's source novel. Because when you're the last man on Earth, you've got plenty of time to read.
8. "Waitress" baking set
When we were kids, our moms would never buy us the Easy-Bake Oven, explaining we'd probably burn the house down. Well, wait until we get our oven mitts on the "Waitress" baking set, complete with tiny spatula, Barbie-size rolling pin and a pastry cutter with razor-sharp edges! After putting on a checkered apron bearing a grinning Keri Russell, we're all ready to bake an "I Want to Divorce My Husband Pie" — or, at least, burn down the MTV offices trying.
9. "Hairspray" doll and, well, hairspray
Wanna ensure that your whiny 8-year-old cousin will need major psychiatric help as an adult? Wrap up a gift in flashy paper, hint that you've finally tracked down that Ben 10 action figure he's been dying for, and then let him open it up to reveal a cross-dressing John Travolta as Edna Turnblad. The most ill-conceived doll since He-Man's skunk-like friend Stinkor, it came as part of a package promoting Travolta's mega-hit musical. And if it you aren't content to simply traumatize your family, use the old-school "Ultra Clutch" hairspray to ruin Al Gore's holiday.
10. Random Christmas junk
What better way to celebrate the birth of our savior, than with a Chris Brown snow globe? Every year, Hollywood puts out a half-dozen movies surrounding the mother of all holidays. The swag, however, isn't always something you'd want to find under your tree. Sure, the yellow-and-white Santa hat promoting "The Simpsons Movie" is cool (if you don't mind looking like a giant corndog), and a "Fred Claus" ink pad with "naughty" and "nice" stamps is more clever than the actual film. But a "This Christmas" snow globe makes us want to drop it, "Citizen Kane"-style. And then there's the holiday card that, when opened, plays a song from the weepy family melodrama — in case you aren't already hearing enough Christmas tunes at the mall.
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