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 2010 FRED Holiday Shopping Guide.
(If you see anything you like, please support FRED by using the links below to make your holiday purchases - it’s appreciated!)
It’s been over 10 years since cultural icon Stephen Fry released his first memoir, Moab Is My Washpot, which left leaders with only a portion of the story, ending as it did in his teenage years, just released from a prison sentence for credit card fraud, with college - the legendary Cambridge - and fame still before him. Well, he picks it all right back up in the same warm, witty, candid style with The Fry Chronicles (Penguin, £20.00 SRP), a must-read volume that, sadly, only covers the 1980’s… But at least we can look forward to more volumes.
Another year has gone by, which means that we’re all being gifted with a lovely clutch of brand new QI books, first and foremost being The Second Book Of General Ignorance (Faber & Faber, £12.99 SRP), which compiles a whole slew of new knowledge and clarifications on common misconceptions. Add onto that The QI Annual: H (Faber & Faber, £12.99 SRP), featuring all things having to do with that 8th letter of the alphabet. Of course, if you’ve missed previous years editions, The EFG Bumper Book of QI Annuals (Faber & Faber, £12.99 SRP) is just the things, bringing together the 3 previous volumes into one handy, massive paperback.
Before television turned Charlie Brooker into a superstar (hush, you), he ran a website called TVGoHome, which put more than one skewer through television, from fake listings to articles and ads. These were all collected into the book TVGoHome: TV Listings The Way They Should Be (Faber & Faber, £12.99 SRP), which has thankfully returned to print after a long absence, because it is brilliantly funny. It is.
It was with some trepidation that fans entered the 5th season of Doctor Who (BBC, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$89.98 SRP) - Not only were we losing fan-favorite David Tennant as the 10th Doctor, but the 11th Doctor would be the ridiculously young unknown Matt Smith. Surely this would be when the new series stumbled. Well, no. No it didn’t. In fact, Matt Smith is a wonder in the role, and has more than made it its own, and new companion Amy Pond puts all former Nu-Who companions to shame. Add to that some brilliant writing and a true sense of fun (Remember when sci-fi wasn’t just maudlin navel-gazing?), and you have a brilliant season. Bonus materials include newly-filmed short interludes between episodes, video diaries, Doctor Who Confidential, in-vision commentaries, Monster Files, outtakes, teasers, and trailers.
What would the holiday season be without cookies? And, naturally, a geek needs somewhere to put those cookies - so why not a light-up (with sound effects!) Doctor Who: TARDIS Cookie Jar ($26.99). Of course, you’ll want to put your own Doctor figure in front of the TARDIS, so why not pick up the 2-figure 11th Doctor Crash 2-Pack ($19.99), featuring the disheveled post-regeneration Matt Smith Doctor and his regular outfit.
Evocative of Addams, Dahl, Gorey & Seuss but gloriously the unique genius that is the combination of my friends Trace Beaulieu and Len Peralta comes Silly Rhymes For Belligerent Children ($19.95), a beautiful book full of cautionary – and not so cautionary - tales sure to entertain (or scar) many a child lucky enough to be gifted with it this holiday season.
Another could-have-been-a-disaster moment turned out to be gold with Steven Moffat & Mark Gatiss’s modern take on Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock (BBC, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$39.98 SRP), which managed to make the mythos current without undermining the essence of what has made the character a perennial. My only regret? That the first season is on 3 feature-length episodes long. Bonus materials include audio commentaries, a making-of featurette, and the original pilot episode.
It’s a been a few months, and you know what that means - a new Mystery Science Theater 3000 set! Continuing their yearly tradition, this holiday period box set comes packed with another bot action figure, and this times it’s the absolutely massive (and wonderfully accurate) Gypsy. If that weren’t enough, the movies contained in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection: Volume XIX (Shout Factory, Not Rated, DVD-$69.97 SRP) are the 1st season episode Robot Monster (with a Josh Weinstein intro), season 4’s Bride Of The Monster, and the Sci-Fi era Devil Doll and Devil Fish. Bonus materials include featurettes on Bride & Devil Doll, a look at the “Invention Exchange”, a panel from CONvergence 2009, and trailers.
Over the past year, there have been a trio of documentaries that any self-respecting Disney fan will find essential viewing, and all three are being released on DVD the same day (making purchase that much easier, natch). First up is Waking Sleeping Beauty (Walt Disney, Rated PG, DVD-$29.99 SRP), which looks at the resurgence of Disney feature animation in the period between 1984-1994, and ends as the foundation begins to erode, which would lead to the late 90’s downturn and eventual (albeit brief) shuttering the of the legendary department. For a look at another unique period in Disney history, Walt & El Grupo (Walt Disney, Rated PG, DVD-$29.99 SRP) focuses on the trip Walt Disney and a select group of his artists undertook a good neighbor trip to South America at the behest of the US government, just prior to the WWII. Last but not least, there’s The Boys (Walt Disney, Rated PG, DVD-$29.99 SRP), about the legendary songwriting brothers Richard & Robert Sherman. All three are packed with bonus features, including deleted scenes, additional interviews, and archive footage. Get them all.
While both films have their highs and lows - Fantasia has the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, “Dance of the Hours”, Night On Bald Mountain”, and “Nutcracker Suite” as highs, while Fantasia 2000 manages only the Hirschfeld inspired Gershwin sequence and the Flamingo with a yo-yo - it’s still lovely to have them both fully remastered in high definition as a Fantasia/Fantasia 2000 set (Walt Disney, Rated G, Blu-Ray-$45.99 SRP), containing audio commentaries, featurettes, the short Destino, and much more, plus bonus DVD editions of both films.
For the true Disney fan, their incredible Walt Disney Animation Studios: Archive Series continues with the 3rd volume, Design (Disney Edition, $50.00 SRP), which collects a beautiful overview of the production artwork that influenced the final look of many an animated classic.
But the Disney fun doesn’t end there, as the Disney legacy is also explored in a far different way via the grand Mouse’s videogame comeback - Epic Mickey (Disney Interactive Studios, $49.99 SRP), in which our hero must reclaim an animated world left to rot, while at the same time reconnecting with his “older brother”, Oswald The Lucky Rabbit.
If you’ve yet to see Graham Linehan’s brilliant UK sitcom The IT Crowd (MPI, Not Rated, DVD-$24.98 SRP), the beauty of it is that you can literally watch any episode and be able to enjoy that glorious madness that unfolds. So why not pick up the newly released 4th season set and then back-fill from there? Bonus materials include audio commentaries, featurettes, outtakes, and hidden goodies.
Because they’re so attuned to exactly what geeks want - pop culture geeks, the lot of us - Thinkgeek has become a prime destination for picking up LEGO sets that both geek adults and geek kids will want. Need proof? Well, considering you Star Wars geeks can pick up Boba Fett’s Slave I ($79.99), the Hoth Wampa Cave ($39.99), and the massive Battle Of Endor ($99.99), while Harry Potter fans can snag Hagrid’s Hut ($39.99).
But what if your child likes LEGOs but you don’t want to buy them a construction set? Thinkgeek also stocks the LEGO Lantern ($23.99), for those scary nights, or a hand crankable LEGO Dynamo Torch ($24.99). Heck, they even have an oversize Darth Vader or Stromtrooper Minifig Alarm Clock ($29.99).
Ach, but that’s not all! They’re also stocking all of the new LEGO board games, from the LEGO Minotaurus Game ($24.99) to LEGO Creationary ($34.99). So yes, Thinkgeek has your LEGO needs clearly squared away.
There’ve been a few quite nice highlight and retrospective sets released in the past, but if you want a truer picture of just why Johnny Carson was considered the King of Late Night, you should pick up Tonight: 4 Decades Of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (Respond2, Not Rated, DVD-$119.99 SRP), a 15-disc set that features shows from across Johnny’s 40-year reign. It’s an impressive set that I hope is only the first of many.
Chemistry sets are so passe - Today’s kids want to investigate crimes… Particularly if their investigative materials are branded with a hit TV show. In other words, you can give the gist of a trio of kiddie-crime-solving kits - the CSI: Impression Kit ($35.77 SRP), CSI: Facial Identification Kit ($21.95 SRP), & the CSI: Ink & Handwriting Analysis Kit ($23.99 SRP). Promote logic and critical thinking skills!
I’m always leery when a new CG animated film comes down the pike and it’s not from Pixar, just because there have been so many duds trying to emulate their winning formula. This year, however, ahs been a banner one for non-Pixar flicks, starting with How To Train Your Dragon and including Despicable Me (Universal, Rated PG, Blu-Ray-$39.99 SRP), which stars Steve Carrell as a supervillain whose plan to achieve “World’s Greatest Villain” status by stealing the moon suddenly goes pear-shaped when he enlists a trio of little girls who decide to latch onto him as a father figure. Bonus materials include a trio of new mini-movies, audio commentary, featurettes, and more.
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 Guinness Book of World Records: 2011 Edition (Guinness, $28.95 SRP).
Covering the wild personal upheaval between 1964-1971, Lennon Naked (BBC, Not Rated, DVD-$19.98 SRP) stars Christopher Eccleston as a very convincing John Lennon in a drama about that period during which the rise of the Beatles was matched by the destruction of Lennon’s first marriage and his courtship of Yoko, and ends with the end of Fab Four and rise of a new Lennon.
While it never achieves the transcendent by-golly-wow reaction it desperately wants for assembling such a massive all-star action pic hall of fame cast, The Expendables (Lionsgate, Rated R, Blu-Ray-$39.99 SRP) is still a throwback bit of high octane fun, more concerned with blowing things up and throwing out one-liners than telling a story. Which, really, is exactly how this kind of picture should be played, ya namby-pambys! Bonus materials include an audio commentary, a making-of documentary, featurettes, deleted scene, 2010 Comic-Con panel, a gag reel, and more.
After they released the brilliant - and much-requested - It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, fans were ready to throw a parade for the fine folks at Shout Factory after they announced they would be giving a complete series release to the even more brilliant Larry Sanders Show (Shout Factory, Not Rated, DVD-$149.99 SRP). So yes, you can now watch the entire 6 season run! The copious amount of bonus features are all ported over from Sony’s “Best Of” collection from a few years back, but those featurettes and interviews were so comprehensive, that the port is appreciated. Now, if only they can get the rest of Dream On out, too…
There’ve been a few different versions released over the years, but the definitive edition - in high def, no less - is the Apocalypse Now: Full Disclosure Edition (Lionsgate, Rated R, Blu-Ray-$59.99 SRP), which contains a fully remastered theatrical cut, the more recent expanded cut, and the behind-the-scenes documentary Hearts Of Darkness. Besides the commentaries and featurettes, the best bonus feature in the lot is a chat between Coppola and screenwriter John Millus. A must watch.
For the past few years, Insight Editions has been putting out some truly spectacular books, from their series on the modelmaking and costuming of Star Wars to spotlights on John Lennon. While Chronicle Books has the lock on Pixar and Disney, Insight has been publishing massive, beautiful “Art Of” collections from Dreamworks and Sony. Currently available - and worth picking up - are The Art and Making Of Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs ($50.00 SRP), The Art Of Megamind ($39.95 SRP), and The Art Of Shrek Forever After ($24.95 SRP).
Also worth mentioning from Insight, even though they’re not “Art Of” books, are Jerry Beck’s 100 Greatest Looney Tunes Cartoons ($24.95 SRP), the stunningly realized Harry Potter Pop-Up Book ($34.95 SRP) and even though I hated the film, the pictures featured in Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull: A Photographic Journal ($29.95 SRP) make it worth a pick-up.
I have been counting the days until the high definition 25th Anniversary edition of the Back To The Future Trilogy (Universal, Rated PG, Blu-Ray-$79.98 SRP) arrived, eager to see it looking all snazzy and hoping the reality lived up to my outrageous expectations. Well, I’m delighted to say all three films look and sound amazing, and they’ve managed to plus the bonus materials above and beyond the ridiculous amount found on the original DVD special editions, including new documentaries (plus some tantalizing yet still unsatisfying glimpses of the legendary Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly footage). Is this an upgrade worth making? Yes. Yes it is.
By the time we reach the third volume of Bloom County: The Complete Library - 1984-1986 (IDW, $39.99 SRP), we’ve arrived at the golden age of the strip, where both the political satire and the humor had gelled into a transcendently pointed, funny strip that cemented itself in the comics pantheon. If you’re new to Bloom County, get all of the available volumes. Fast. Rectify that oversight now.
About 5 years ago, I became aware that a documentary had been made about an artist I held dear to my heart - the underrated, underappreciated Harry Nilsson. I received a promo copy at the time, and found the documentary to be a comprehensive, enlightening overview of a brilliant artist beloved by friends and fans (including the likes of The Beatles) who happened to be a very flawed human being whose excess led to a far too early death. The doc floated around the festival circuit for the past few years, but Who’s Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?) (Lorber, Not Rated, DVD-$29.95 SRP) is finally available on DVD, along with nearly 90 minutes of additional interview footage. Get this documentary, and get Harry’s music. Now.
It’s no Ben 10, but Cartoon Network’s Generator Rex (Cartoon Network, Not Rated, DVD-$19.98 SRP) is certainly constructed to try and hit all of the same buttons with the kids, right down to a super-powered kid - in this case, a 15-year-old boy/weapon made of nanites - fighting the big bad world. The 2-disc set contains 9 episodes.
Where the US version of the UK’s middle-age male crisis dramedy Manchild never got past pilot, the similarly themed Men Of A Certain Age (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP) - starring Ray Romano, Andre Braugher, and Scott Bakula - seems to be going strong. The first season set contains audio commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes, and a gag reel.
I know a lot of you are probably waiting for next year’s Blu-Ray release of the entirety of season 4, but for those who can’t wait, The Venture Bros.: Season 4 Volume 1 (Adult Swim, Not Rated, DVD-$23.98 SRP) contains the first 8 episodes of the season, plus audio commentaries (in which, yes, I am mentioned - count the times!), deleted scenes, a Comic-Con promo, and a “lost” open.
It’s been almost a year since the Blu-Ray Ultimate Editions of the first two films were released, but the rather long wait has brought us the just-in-time for Deathly Hallows: Part 1 release of Harry Potter & The Prisoner Of Azkaban: Ultimate Edition & Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire: Ultimate Edition (Warner Bros., Rated PG/PG-13, Blu-Ray-$49.99 SRP each), both of which are necessary upgrades from the previous Blu-ray editions, if only for the next two installments of the 8-part documentary series “Creating The World Of Harry Potter, which have been newly produced for these Ultimate Editions. Also included are all of the previous special features and documentaries from the previous releases, plus photo books and character cards. The bottom line? Get ‘em both, and hope the next two come out a lot quicker.
You know who else has comedy locked up for you this holiday season? The fine folks at Channel 4, who have a lovely clutch of comedy coming to DVD, including new stand-up specials - Jimmy Carr: Making People Laugh, Frankie Boyle: If I Could Reach Out Through Your TV And Strangle You, I Would, & Rhod Gilbert & The Cat That Looked Like Nicholas Lyndhurst (Channel 4, Not Rated, DVD-£19.99 SRP each) - and TV series collections - Miranda: Series 1, The Inbetweeners: Series 3, Russell Howard’s Good News: Best Of Series 1, and Peep Show: Series 7 (Channel 4, Not Rated, DVD-£19.99 SRP each).
If you’d like to spend your holidays with a big green ogre, then you can fulfill that very odd wish with the Shrek: The Whole Story box set (Dreamworks, Rated PG, Blu-Ray-$76.99 SRP), which brings together all four films - Shrek, Shrek 2, Shrek The Third, & Shrek Forever After - for the first time in high definition. Not only do all of the sets contain all of the bonus materials found on the original releases, but the set also includes Donkey’s Christmas Shrektacular and an exclusive 4-part documentary.
The one factor that made Christopher Nolan’s Inception (Warner Bros., Rated PG-13, Blu-Ray-$35.99 SRP) work for me is that Nolan didn’t burden the storytelling with the concept, but instead dumped the audience right into the action, allowing the headiness of it all to permeate, rather than overwhelm. That being said, I’m not even going to try explaining the plot, but will instead just recommend you give it a spin. Bonus materials include in-depth featurettes, an animated prequel short subject, and more.
You may know Haynes as the folks who put together all of those car manuals you see sitting on your mechanic’s (or father’s) shelf. Well, they’ve decided to venture into geek territory with the USS Enterprise Owner’s Workshop Manual (Simon & Schuster, $27.00 SRP). Its detailed schematics may not be entirely accurate, and it unfortunately also features the Enterprise NX-01, but it’s a fun read nonetheless.
You can always bet that if there’s a new version of anything in the offing, the original version will get a release to coincide with it - and such is the case with the classic 1969 version of True Grit (Paramount, Rated G, Blu-Ray-$24.99 SRP), starring John Wayne as the larger-than-life Marshall Rooster Cogburn. The film looks superb in high definition, and bonus features include an audio commentary, featurettes, and the theatrical trailer.
For the longest time, I’ve been able to suppress whatever last vestige of giddy Star Wars fanboy remained within me after being so mercilessly stamped out by the overwhelming mediocrity of the Prequels. That was, until I laid eyes on Hasbro’s incredible - in both execution and freaking size - new AT-AT ($119.99). Standing over two feet tall, articulated, and full of lights and sounds, it’s everything we hoped for after walking out of Empire Strikes Back 30 years ago. Granted, we’re adults now, but so what?
The folks at Fox want to load down your holiday viewing schedule as well, and have moved to do so with a pair of holiday box sets. The Christmas Collection (Fox, Rated PG, Blu-Ray-$79.99 SRP) brings together Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, the George C. Scott A Christmas Carol, the modern Miracle on 34th Street, and Jingle All the Way. If you just want to spend some time with Kevin McCallister, there’s the Home Alone Collection (Fox, Rated PG, Blu-Ray-$39.99 SRP), which sports all 3 films in the canon (yes, even the forgettable non-Culkin one). Of course, if the kiddies are clamoring for something animated, they’ve also got Ice Age & Ice Age 2 (Fox, Rated PG, Blu-Ray-$24.99 SRP each), in snazzy high definition.
And finally, let’s wrap up this year’s holiday guide with a couple of beautiful pieces from the fine folks at Sideshow Collectibles. Hopefully you’re familiar with their Premium Format line, which used mixed-media materials to create some truly stunning display pieces. Earlier this year, they secured a license from Disney, and have been working their magic on everything from Pirates Of The Caribbean’s Captain Jack Sparrow ($324.99) to Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent ($299.99), as you’ll see from the photos below. And about as different from Disney as you can get, how about an incredible polystone diorama featuring Conan The Barbarian - Conan: The Prize ($299.99).
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