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It’s that time of year again, when sites the web-over compile helpful holiday shopping lists to guide you into the deepest, darkest pits of retail with a map that will hopefully get you out alive. Here now, without further ado, is the 2009 Quick Stop Holiday Shopping Guide.

(If you see anything you like, please support Quick Stop by using the links below to make your holiday purchases - it’s appreciated!)

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I’ve banged on about for years, and I’m going to keep going virtual door to virtual door until the word gets out about QI. If you’ve never heard of the UK quiz program QI, you’re missing out on one of the funniest “educational” shows ever devised (the devisee being creator/producer John Lloyd, formerly of Blackadder, Not The Nine O’Clock News, and Spitting Image). The key to QI (which stands for “Quite Interesting”) is the central tenet of its philosophy - it’s not always being correct that counts, but being interesting (and funny). The interesting nature of a given piece of information spurs conversation and debate, eventually leading round to the learning of said informational nugget. Did you know that the Earth has more than one moon, for example? Or that otters kill crocodiles? Soon to make its debut on BBC1 (with its 5th season), it’s hosted by Stephen Fry and features a rotating panel of four comedians (one of which is mainstay Alan Davies) - and it’s one of the most hilarious shows I’ve ever seen… Honestly, you’ll laugh as much as you learn, and I still hold out hope a network in the US is smart enough to pick the show up uncut, as BBC America have been nothing but boobs about it (Hello, Comedy Central! Hello, Discovery Channel! Hello, PBS! Somebody!). Until then, you can grab a copy of both the first (A Quite Interesting Game) and second (Strictly Come Duncing) interactive QI DVD games (Warner Home Video, DVD-£18.99 each), the 2-disc, feature-laden DVD sets of the first three seasons - The A Series (2 Entertain, Not Rated, DVD-£19.99), The B Series, & The C Series (Warner Music Entertainment, Not Rated, DVD-£19.99 SRP each). Keep in mind that all five of which are available only for Region 2, so make sure you have a Region Free player. For those in the US, the very first QI Book of General Ignorance (Faber & Faber, $19.95 SRP) and the follow-up Book Of Animal Ignorance (Faber & Faber, $ SRP) are available, and they’re both brilliant tomes which collect much of the interesting information featured in the first four seasons into one handy volume, plus scads more of those aforementioned nuggets of intellectual goodness. Folks in the UK (and bright, industrious Americans who know how to use the internet, HINT HINT) can get their very own copies of both the inaugural QI “E” Annual, last year’s QI “F” Annual, and this year’s QI “G” Annual (Faber & Faber, £12.99 each), which make the perfect holiday gift for all ages. Last year also brought Advanced Banter: The QI Book Of Quotations (Faber & Faber, £14.99 SRP), which is the most interesting compendium of clever and memorable quotes you’ll ever lay your inquisitive mind upon. Last but certainly not least is the QI Book Of The Dead (Faber & Faber, £16.99 SRP), which is positively packed with quite interesting things about the departed, from Benjamin Franklin to Nikola Tesla. By all means, learn what all the hubbub is about (and stop by the official QI site at www.QI.com).

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I admit it - I was skeptical of Up (Walt Disney, Rated PG, Blu-Ray-$45.99 SRP) when I saw the first teaser, ages ago. How would Pixar pull of what seemed to be a film starring an old man living in a house held aloft by balloons? Well, I should really learn to doubt Pixar less, because once again they pull off an unorthodox premise with style, wit, and a breathtaking amount of real, genuine emotion as we follow the story of elderly Carl Fredrickson as his plans to fulfil a lifelong dream get turned upside down by an unlikely stowaway in the form of an 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer, Russell. Just see the film, particularly in high definition, which comes bundled with a standard DVD as well. Bonus features include a brand new short starring Dug the dog, behind-the-scenes documentaries, an integrated making-of, and more. The best way to get the flick, though, is in conjunction with the super-duper Limited Edition Luxo Jr. Collectible Desk Lamp Set (Walt Disney, $199.99 SRP), which comes packed with a replica of Pixar’s iconic mascot attached to a base display that also stores your Pixar Blu-Ray titles - including the packed-in copy of Up.

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And you can add to your Pixar display with the Ultimate Cars Gift Pack (Walt Disney, Rated G, Blu-Ray-$49.99 SRP), which not only includes copies of Cars in both standard and Blu-Ray, but also a pair of exclusive diecast cars with Ransburg paint - Cruisin’ Lightning McQueen and Rescue Squad Mater.

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We’ve reached a bit of milestone with the release of Saturday Night Live: The Complete Fifth Season (Universal, Not Rated, DVD-$69.98 SRP). Not only is it the season wherein the show reached its 100th episode, but its also the last to feature members of the original Not Ready For Primetime Players - now pared down to Gilda Radner, Larraine Newman, Garrett Morris, and Bill Murray after the departure of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. Additions to the cast included Harry Shearer and Brian Doyle Murray, plus an increased role for Al Franken and Tom Davis. Bonus materials include audio commentary with Buck Henry and Elliott Gould. I’m curious to see if we’ll get the train wreck 6th season … I really hope we do.

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As the Tennant era comes to a close, be sure to snap up your very own handy-dandy tool that The Doctor wouldn’t be caught without – the Doctor Who Sonic Screwdriver ($19.99). Not only do you get a fully illuminating screwdriver with authentic sound effect, but it also comes with a pen nib and his psychic paper wallet. Take that, Daleks!

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Oh, to be a kid today, with all of the advanced electronics now available to toy manufacturers. Back in my day, we’d be luck if we had a pull string to make something talk - or an audio tape that would prompt eye blinks and mouth flap. Today, the wizards at Thinkway have crafted the mind-bogglingly cool Ultimate Buzz Lightyear (Thinkway Toys, $199.99 SRP). Standing almost 2 feet tall, this Buzz speaks in Tim Allen’s voice, can walk around, salute, “fire” his “laser”, communicate with Star Command, and even be put in autonomous wandering mode. Yes - your toy can just roam around your room. Creepy. And oh so cool. What will they think of next?

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It wouldn’t be the holiday season without A Charlie Brown Christmas (Warner Bros., Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$29.99 SRP), now available in glittering high definition alongside the standard edition of much-newer I Want A Dog For Christmas, Charlie Brown (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$19.98 SRP). If that weren’t enough to get you in the spirit, there’s also the high-def debut of the original, classic How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Warner Bros., Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$29.99 SRP), retaining all of the bonus features found on the standard special edition (same goes with A Charlie Brown Christmas. Finally, there’s a new direct-to-video special starring the original hot & cold duo in A Miser Brothers’ Christmas (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$19.98 SRP).

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As a kid, next to the likes of A Charlie Brown Christmas and How The Grinch Stole Christmas (and yes, even A Claymation Christmas), another perennial special that found its way into my holiday viewing schedule was Yogi’s First Christmas (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$14.95 SRP). Thanks to the wonderful Warner Archive Collection, now I can easily show Yogi’s discovery of Christmas (when he gets woken up during his hibernation) with my nephews.

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Many take potshots at the show, but there’s a reason why Hogan’s Heroes remains such a fan favorite - it’s a fun, funny, absurd, Bilko-esque comedy that happens to be set in a German POW camp during World War II. Much like Mel Brooks after it, it made the Nazis into fools, with an Emmy-winning perf0ormance by Jewish actor Werner Klemperer as the bufoonish, ineffectual Kommandant Colonel Klink (the ability to ridicule the Nazis was what made Klemperer decide that taking the role - and the premise of the show - was OK). You can now get the entire series in one fell swoop via the Hogan’s Heroes: Kommandant’s Kollection (Paramount, Not Rated, DVD-$179.99 SRP), which also contains an exclusive bonus disc with an alternate/extended version of the pilot, a new interview with Richard Dawson, an alternate 1st season episode in German, Emmy wins, a Hollywood Palace clip featuring the cast, and more.

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Wanna zone out for the holidays? Sure ya do! And you can completely zone out by staring into the soothing blue glow of the Mathmos Bubble ($59.99), a rechargeable indoor/outdoor… well… glowing ball. Pretty much says it all. NOW STARE INTO IT AND FEEL THE WORLD DRIFT AWAY…

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I will admit right off the bat - nothing I’ve seen of James Cameron’s Avatar has made me in the least bit interested in seeing it. In fact, all of the hyperbole about it from the likes Jeffrey Katzenberg makes the reality of what I’ve seen seem all the more ludicrous. It is the focus of a merchandise bonanza, of course (it must be, right?), so shelves have been flooded with not only 3 3/4-scale Avatar action figures (Mattel, $10.99 SRP each), but also 6″-scale Mattel Movie Masters Series figures ($14.99 SRP) of all the lead characters. The saving grace, though, is that young children don’t know well enough what figures might be from where, and the Avatar figures are perfectly size-compatible with Star Wars, GI Joe, DC, and Marvel action figures. Just pretend their an invading alien force that can only be fought by Snake Eyes, Han Solo, Spider-Man, and Batman. See? Now they’re worth getting.

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Speaking of figures that are orphaned by a mediocre big screen inspiration, I present the 3 3/4-scaled figures based on GI Joe: The Rise Of Cobra (Hasbro, $10.99 SRP). I’m a fan of the original animated series and the original animated line of toys, so the flick and figures based on it are… well… a bit annoying. So kids? Get these figures, and consider them weird, bizarro alternate dimension versions of characters like Cobra Commander.

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The only figures I was actually happy with - even if the sculpts are a bit wonky - are those based on the classic Marvel characters as they appeared in the Secret Wars miniseries of the early-80’s. They’re being released as Secret Wars 25th Anniversary Comic Packs (Hasbro, $17.99 SRP), containing 2 figures and one of the 12 issues of the original Secret Wars miniseries.

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A few years back, it looked like Disney Editions might be abandoning the lushly illustrated, highly informative tomes that made animation junkies like me salivate over every page. Thankfully, that has not been the case, as they’ve opened up the vaults and been releasing a breathtaking series of books based on the animation process. Last year brought a focus on the pre-production story process, while this year brings The Walt Disney Animation Series: The Archive - Animation (Disney Editions, $50.00 SRP). It’s packed with original production art from the breadth of their animated shorts and features, each one glorious in its own right,

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Speaking of Disney Editions, I’d also recommend picking up their in-depth exploration of the World War II “Good Neighbor” trip that the US government sent Walt and a select team of his animators on, which is detailed in South Of The Border With Disney (Disney Editions, $40.00 SRP). The trip eventually resulted in the films Saludos Amigos and The Three Cabelleros.

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This holiday season is turning into a true Spongebob-a-palooza, as both of my nephews are big fans of the magnificent yellow bastard, and are both savvy enough to know what they want. Which is why it’s helpful that Nickelodeon has been quite active getting the sponge onto themed board games (kids don’t play enough board games). This holiday season, not only can you get Spongebob Squarepants: Connect 4 (Hasbro, $18.99 SRP) and Spongebob: Sorry! (Hasbro, $19.99 SRP), but also Spongebob: Memory (Hasbro, $8.99 SRP), Spongebob: Kid Cranium (Hasbro, $24.99 SRP), and Spongebob: Operation (Hasbro, $19.99 SRP). That’s right - now you can try to remove Spongebob’s Barnacle Brain and Patty Pleasure Center. Heck, there’s even a Spongebob: Magic 8 Ball (Mattel, $24.99 SRP) with themed responses like “Aye-Aye Captain”.

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In today’s digital age, there’s no need to use a slide rule. If you’re not familiar with a slide rule, it was essentially the pre-calculator age way if easily making some quite complex computations. In fact, they helped send us to them moon, and were the bane of many a high school student. And, thanks to ThinkGeek, you can get your very own Student Slide Rule ($19.99), lovingly recreated just for the nerd in you. Figuratively. DO NOT GO LOOKING FOR AN ACTUAL NERD WITHIN YOUR BODY.

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I think the Star Wars prequels are an abomination, but I can still appreciate a good toy when it crosses my path (and delights my nephews no end). So what was this fun toy? The Star Wars: Indoor RC Republic Gunship (Hasbro, $49.99 SRP). That’s pretty self-explanatory - it’s a radio controlled vehicle that small and safe enough to hover about and fly indoors for up to 5 minutes at a time, commanded by a rechargeable remote. Vehicle? Flying? Fun.

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Kid fans of the Nick show iCarly can now emulate the onscreen madness of Carly and Sam with a pair of toys, one of which actually features on the show. That show-specific item is iCarly: Sam’s Remote (Playmates, $16.99 SRP), which also features sound effects (just like on the show). “Random Dancing”, anyone? The other toy is the iCarly: Megabyte Mic (Playmates, $28.93 SRP), which allows kids to sing along with the theme song, sing their own song, or conduct their own interviews.

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As dense as a diamond and just as exquisite, the second volume of world knowledge written by the world’s FOREMOST EXPERT on ALL THAT IS KNOWABLE (if not factual) and the possessor of soft hands and a baby’s face (the former per our handshake, the latter per Ricky Gervais), John Hodgman, is now available for purchase from your favorite book emporium IN SOFTCOVER. More Information Than You Require (Riverhead Books, $15.00 SRP) picks up where The Areas Of My Expertise left off - literally - and presents the reader (us) with learned knowings rare, surreal, useful, and useless, as well as 700 Mole Men (one of which bears a familiar name) and CHARTS! Lots and lots of CHARTS! How can you not want this book? THERE ARE CHARTS! “But what if I’m too lazy to read, and the clarion call of CHARTS is no attraction to me?” I hear some of you cry. Well, there is now More Information Than You Require: The Audio Book (Penguin Audio, $34.95 SRP), which finds Hodgman joined by his scruffy troubadourial sidekick, Jonathan Coulton, and a galaxy of guest stars (including DICK CAVETT!). Did you hear that parenthetical, people?!? DICK CAVETT! Get the audio book. And the book. And some candles. You can never have enough candles.

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Don’t tell John Hodgman, but Scrabble is one of those games that I just never got around to learning when I was a kid. It never came up amongst my family, friends, or was available at all the middle school dances I spent sitting at the games table. So this holiday season, I promised, well, me that I would teach myself how to play. Luckily, I’ve been teaching myself with the Scrabble: Diamond Anniversary Edition (Hasbro, $39.99 SRP), which features the classic game in a nice, plastic, foldable board/case with tile storage and rotateability. One day - one day soon… I will play Hodgman. And lose. Badly. If you want some Scrabble on the go, though, there’s a touch screen Pocket Pogo Scrabble (Hasbro, $19.99 SRP), which is an electronic, portable version of the game.

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Many other artists have gotten lavish retrospective collections in recent years, and the spotlight has finally turned to the great Steve Ditko with the appropriately titled Art Of Steve Ditko (IDW, $29.99 SRP), a big ol’ hardcover volume that has copious amounts of artwork and insight on the JD Salinger of comicdom.

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For years, I’ve quietly lusted after the fantastical prop-quality ray guns that Weta has been manufacturing in extremely limited quantities. Sadly, they’ve just been a bit beyond my economic grasp - and it seems they’ve been that way for more than just me. Well, those sweet folks at Weta have decided to make a Dr. Grordbort gun that just about everyone can afford - swapping out metal for plastic, but crafting it so that they only way you can tell the difference is that the Righteous Bison ($99.99) weighs a heck of a lot less. Will there be more? Let’s hope so!

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When new editions of previously released titles come out, it’s always difficult to determine whether there is a significant difference in image/sound quality or bonus features to make a re-purchase worth it. And sometimes, it’s an easy decision - and that’s the case with Black Adder Remastered: The Ultimate Edition (BBC, Not Rated, DVD-$79.98 SRP) and Fawlty Towers: The Complete Collection Remastered (BBC, Not Rated, DVD-$49.98 SRP). On the new Black Adder set - in addition to all of the previously available material - the set adds the newly-produced, in-depth anniversary documentary Blackadder Rides Again, as well as an hour-plus clutch of unedited interviews recorded for the documentary. Not only are the episodes completely remastered and looking better than ever on the new Fawlty set, but John Cleese has recorded new commentaries in addition to brand new interviews with the cast, including the previously unavailable Connie Booth, outtakes, the previously available director’s commentaries, and the Torquay Tourist Guide documentary short.

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Paramount jumped into the spiffy-edition high-def game a few months back with a pair of high demand catalogue titles which certainly do show off the medium to its fullest - Mel Gibson’s Braveheart and Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (Paramount, Rated R, Blu-Ray-$39.99 SRP each) - under the “Sapphire Series” banner. Braveheart comes with an audio commentary, timelines, dimensional battlefields, a retrospective documentary, historical featurettes, and a look at the writing process. Gladiator sports an audio commentary, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes, storyboard/ design galleries, and more.

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On a similar note, I’m not entirely sure why it didn’t get a snazzy high-def release as well, but Chinatown (Paramount, Rated R, DVD-$19.99 SRP) has been graced with a fully remastered 2-disc entry into Paramount’s “Centennial Collection”, featuring an audio commentary, making-of featurettes, an appreciation, and a look at the history involved. Hopefully this will make its way to Blu-Ray soon.

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Those of you only familiar with Steve Coogan for his occasional American film work are in for a world of wonderful comedy that’s now contained in the easy-to-snag Steve Coogan Collection (BBC, Not Rated, DVD-$129.98 SRP). Much of the content on the 13-disc set has been unavailable in the US until now. So what do you get? Well, you get Knowing Me, Knowing You (plus the holiday special Knowing Me, Knowing Yule), the complete I’m Alan Partridge, Saxondale, Dr. Terrible’s House Of Horrible, Coogan’s Run, Paul and Pauline Calf’s Video Diaries, Paul and Pauline Calf’s Cheese and Ham Sandwich, and The Tony Ferrino Phenomenon - not to mention loads of bonus features. This is the set to get.

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Be sure to live a life full of stereotypes, and be the nerdy guy (or gal) you want to be with pride by sipping your favorite cold-weather beverage from a Laboratory Beaker Mug ($9.99). Yes. That’s right. It’s a beaker. With a mug handle. And you know you want one.

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Those fans that have only experience the butchered editions of weird and wonderful The Mighty Boosh that have been running on Adult Swim need to run - not walk - to their favorite DVD emporium and snag copies of the new-to-the-US unexpurgated editions of The Mighty Boosh seasons 1-3 that have now been collected into the massive Mighty Boosh Special Edition DVD set (BBC, Not Rated, DVD-$79.98 SRP). The 7-disc set is loaded with all of the bonus features from the separate releases - including featurettes, commentaries, bloopers, & oddities - plus an exclusive 7th disc with a documentary, a Q& A, deleted scenes & outtakes from the pilot, the Paramount channel Zookeeper sketches, Bob Fossil Audio, Live Night links, and more.

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In the first DVD release from the venerable UK music quiz show, The Best Of Never Mind The Buzzcocks (Channel 4, Not Rated, £19.99 SRP) collects the most memorable moments from Simon Amstell’s hosting stint, plus a pair of specials and a look back from Simon and Phill Jupitus. It’s also the only place one can see footage from the unaired Russell Brand episode that was pulled after the whole Andrew Sachs affair.

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It takes place at the holidays, so it makes perfect viewing during the season - and it contains what I consider the finest performance by John Candy ever put to film. What’s more, Planes, Trains and Automobiles (Paramount, Rated R, DVD-$14.98 SRP) has been given a new “Those Aren’t Pillows!” special edition, featuring a making-of retrospective, a spotlight on John Hughes, a deleted scene, and a tribute to the late, great Mr. Candy. Get it. Watch it. Enjoy it.

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Yes, I know I’m a little close to the material - but you know what? I’d still recommend you pick up a copy of Shootin’ The Sh*t with Kevin Smith: The Best of SModcast (Titan Books, $14.95 SRP). It may seem an odd proposition to read transcripts of the Kevin & Scott Mosier’s podcast, but the strength of the material means the comedy translates to the printed page quite nicely. Go. Buy it.

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Yes, it really has been 100 episodes since the squarepanted sponge of Bikini Bottom first made his way onto our TV screens. How do I know this? Because there’s now an uber-deluxe box set titled Spongebob Squarepants: The First 100 Episodes (Nickelodeon, Not Rated, DVD-$99.99 SRP), which is exactly that - 14 discs in a lucite holder, containing those titular episodes. Not only that, there’s also audio commentaries, featurettes, a music video, and even an in-depth, candid documentary on the show’s origin and evolution from the production team., It’s almost as good as getting the Krabby Patty formula.

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And if you’ve made it all the way through the massive box set of the yellow one’s first 100 episodes, it’s time to move into fresh material with Spongebob Squarepants: Season 6: Volume 1 (Nickelodeon, Not Rated, DVD-$26.98 SRP), which contains 24 episodes of Krabby goodness, plus 7 shorts and the Spongebob History Song.

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How about a cold-weather marathon of classic movies, courtesy of Turner Classic Movies? That’s exactly what you’ll get with their themed Turner Classic Movies Greatest Classic Films Collections (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$27.98 SRP each), each featuring a quartet of flicks under a common heading. On Family, you get Lassie Come Home, Flipper, National Velvet, & The Incredible Mr. Limpet. Hitchcock Thrillers presents Suspicion, The Wrong Man, I Confess, & Strangers On A Train. Comedy delivers A Night At The Opera, Father Of The Bride, The Long Long Trailer, & Arsenic And Old Lace. Finally, Holiday brings Christmas In Connecticut, A Christmas Carol, The Shop Around The Corner, & It Happened On 5th Avenue. My only disappointment with these otherwise wonderful sets is that Warners decided to put them on the loathsome double-sided flipper discs.

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It’s all coming to a close, with the Blu-Ray release of the penultimate, 5th season of Lost (ABC Studios, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$79.99 SRP) signaling that the mystery is about to get answers. Right? Well, who knows, really. Regardless, this is the season that showed us a future off the island - and a need to get back. Bonus features include behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, audio commentaries, bloopers, and the Blu-Ray exclusive Lost University and reflections from the cast & crew on 100 episodes.

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Many, many years ago, I was quite disappointed when the Harry Potter films began hitting DVD. What could have been wondrous, information and goodie-packed special editions were instead rather superficial, cursory releases that left a bad taste in the mouth for lost opportunities. Fast-forward and, as the franchise rapidly comes to a close on screen and the smell of money is in the air, Warners has decided to give the films the editions they deserve - the “Ultimate Editions”, in fact. Gracing shelves this holiday season are Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone: Ultimate Edition and Harry Potter & The Chamber Of Secrets: Ultimate Edition (Warner Bros., Rated PG, Blu-Ray-$49.99 SRP each). Each 4-disc set contains not only the original theatrical editions, but extended cuts, as well, in addition to all of the bonus materials contained on the previous releases. What’s most special, however, is the inclusion on each set of a feature-length documentary detailing various aspects of the Potter films, from characters and actors to special effects and the music. When all 8 “Ultimate Editions” are finally released, they will have what amounts to a whopping, comprehensive overview of the whole shabang. Add to that deleted scenes, TV spots, trailers, and more, and fans have at long last gotten the editions they’ve been waiting for.

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And, of course, you know you’re going to be picking up Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince (Warner Bros., Rated PG, DVD-$34.99 SRP), the 6th film in the Potter film series, and the darkest entry yet (beyond even its finale). The 2-disc edition contains additional scenes, the JK Rowling: A Year In The Life documentary, a sneak peek at the Universal theme park attraction, a Q&A with the cast, a look behind-the-scenes, and a all-too-brief preview of the first installment of The Deathly Hallows. A Blu-Ray edition ($35.99 SRP) is also available, which includes an exclusive picture-in-picture feature with Daniel Radcliffe, featurettes, and comparisons, plus a DVD copy of the film.

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The Flask - Drink conveyance of a more civilized, lushy age. Now you can combine this classic accessory of the drunkard with the lackadaisical ennui of a more modern age, courtesy of the “Meh.” Flask ($12.99). Now you can comment ironically on other’s disapproval of you… in style.

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I’ve looked at Hot Toys previous releases of the 12″ silver Iron Man Mark II and red & gold Mark II figures, and while I marveled at their sleek design and beautifully realized to-scale accuracy, I save my highest praise for the final release in the series - the chunky, clunky Iron Man Mark I (Sideshow/Hot Toys, $169.99). Crafted on the down-low from missile parts in a makeshift cave lab, the first iteration of the Iron Man suit was a makeshift affair - and a far more difficult suit for the sculptors at Hot Toys to realize. But they did. And it’s magnificent. Every wire and tube is captured in the reduced scale, a true wonder to behold. And yes, there’s a light up feature on the chest and arm blaster. Get this figure while you can, ’cause you’ll regret not getting it at its original price.

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Even the off ones have moments of high hilarity, which is why the Blu-Ray arrival of The Mel Brooks Collection (Fox, Rated PG/R, Blu-Ray-$139.99 SRP) is most welcome. Not only does the set include special editions of The Twelve Chairs, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie, High Anxiety, History Of The World: Part I, To Be Or Not To Be, Spaceballs, and Robin Hood: Men In Tights and brand new featurettes and commentaries, but also a 120-page hardcover book. Sadly missing from the set? The Producers. A real shame.

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So you still haven’t gotten your copy of Henry Selick’s stop-motion adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline? Well, you can easily rectify that with the Coraline: Limited Edition Gift Set (Universal, Rated PG, Blu-Ray-$64.98 SRP). Bundled together in the set are both the Blu-Ray and standard editions of the film (with the original bonus features), as well as behind-the-scenes book and postcards.

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Seeing a comedy like The Hangover (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$34.99 SRP) really drives home just how unfunny recent comedies are by comparison. With a straightforward premise - a group of friends reconstructing a Vegas bachelor party gone wrong on the morning after, just hours before the wedding - and a cast bringing their A-game, it’s worth a spin. See for yourself what a sharper script and a sharper cast can deliver. Bonus features include a Dan Band performance, additional Ken Jeong improv, a gag reel, a map of destruction, and additional missing camera shots. A Blu-Ray edition ($35.99 SRP) is also available, with exclusive picture-in-picture commentary, a cursing mash-up, and an Iron Mike online teaser.

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On the holiday music front, EMI has a batch of titles to provide the festive mood you’d like - including the seasonal re-releases of Christmas With The Chipmunks (EMI, $13.98 SRP) and The Beach Boys: Christmas Harmonies (EMI, $14.98 SRP). Also on the playlist are Nat King Coal: The Christmas Song (EMI, $18.98 SRP), Olivia Newton-John: The Christmas Wish (EMI, $14.98 SRP), and the Christmas Classics By The Fire DVD (EMI, $14.98 SRP), featuring a virtual fireplace and holiday music.

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Much like any sketch show, Robot Chicken (Adult Swim, Not Rated, DVD-$29.98 SRP) is a scattershot affair - some bits are quite good (even genius), and some fall flatter than a pancake. Like that metaphor. See for yourself when you dive into the complete 4th season, which contains all 20 episodes plus the San Diego and New York Comic-Con panels, video blogs, nuggets, deleted scenes, alternate audio, and more.

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Even nearly 50 years since taking the world by storm, Paul McCartney’s voice still remains a powerful instrument, and it’s always great to see him using it in front of an audience - particularly when it’s as historically significant as opening New York’s CitiField (built on the same spot as the legendary Shea Stadium). You can now see and hear that landmark concert via Paul McCartney: Good Evening New York City (Hear Music, Not Rated, DVD-$19.98 SRP). The 3-disc set features 2-CDs and the convert DVD. I’d recommend picking up the Best Buy exclusive, though, as it tacks on a bonus 4th disc featuring McCartney’s performance from atop the marquee of the Ed Sullivan Theater.

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Of the triumvirate of Top Gear presenters, I do believe that James May has become my favorite. I think it’s because of the genuinely enthusiastic documentary series he does on the side, from looking at his childhood toys to journeying into space. James May’s Toy Stories (Channel 4, Not Rated, £19.99 SRP) brings May back to the playthings he loved as a child - like LEGOs and Airfix - but with the added twist of attempting to scale up the application while introducing the community at large to the joy of old school toys. So what are the projects? How about building a 1:1 scale Spitfire Airfix model? Or a house made entirely of LEGOs? Fun!

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It’s hard to believe, but Steven Spielberg’s comic misfire 1941 (Universal, Not Rated, DVD-£14.99 SRP) is just now making its DVD debut in the UK. Many call the film a complete disaster, but it’s just so unbelievably misguided and ham-fisted that you can’t help but love what I’ve coined its “Kitchen Sink” approach to filmmaking. Newly remastered with a documentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, trailers, and more. Here’s hoping this spiffy new edition makes its way to the US soon.

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To try and explain the work of Michael Kupperman is to try and comprehend the beauty of a rose, or a sonnet, or a concerto - it just exists as a perfect comic gem for all to admire. And laugh at. A lot. Don’t believe me? Go get yourself a copy of Tales Designed To Thrizzle: Volume 1 (Fantagraphics, $24.99 SRP) and see for yourself. And laugh. A lot.

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For anyone who missed out on Rifftrax’s very first live theater-simulcast (or just want to re-live the awesome in the pantsless privacy of their own home), you can now get your own copy of Rifftrax Live!: Plan 9 From Outer Space (Legend Films, Not Rated, DVD-$14.95), recorded *live* in front of a studio audience in Nashville (the one in Tennessee). Bonus features include uncut commercials and a photo montage.
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Yeah, I’m a sucker for the Guinness Book of World Records. There’s just something so compellingly exciting yet sad about the various and sundry attempts at dubious immortality “achieved” by the people, events, and tragedies included in the 2010 edition (Guinness, $28.95 SRP).
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Most shows suffer in their sophomore season, but it’s always nice when a program bucks the trend and turns in a stellar outing - and such is the case with Mad Men: Season Two (Lionsgate, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$49.99 SRP). Will Don Draper make it out the other side the same man? The 3-disc set features all 13 episodes plus commentaries, featurettes, and a music sampler.
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It’s a juggernaut that’s still rolling along, and surely there’s a kid on your list that still plays Pokemon. For that kid on your list, there’s the Pokemon Trading Card Game: Rumble Game (The Pokemon Company, $13.95 SRP). It’s an all-in-one battle royale to be the last Pokemon standing.
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Nancy Botwin moves her mini pot empire south of the border in the fourth season of Weeds (Lionsgate, Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP), and the trip to Mexico doesn’t exactly make things easier - or safer. The 3-disc set features all 13 episodes, plus commentaries, featurettes, and a gag reel.
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So there you have it… my humble suggestions for your holiday shopping this season. See ya next year!

-Ken Plume

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