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 2011 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!)
While the Laurel & Hardy catalogue has been largely overlooked and mistreated for years, the fine folks at Kino have been doing a spectacular job with the work of Buster Keaton, first on DVD, and now with their simply stunning restorations for Blu-Ray. Joining their already-released titles comes a new batch of films and, even more welcome, the Buster Keaton Short Films Collection 1920-1923 (Kino, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$49.95 SRP), featuring all of Keaton’s solo silent shorts, plus deleted footage, essays, and more. Once you’ve worked your way through that set, pick up a trio of his feature films - Our Hospitality (Kino, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$34.95 SRP) and the double feature of Go West/Battling Butler (Kino, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$34.95 SRP). Both of these are also packed with bonus materials, including shorts, audio supplements, galleries, and more. Get all of these discs, and lets hope for more.
We may or may not have a white Christmas, but if anyone was dreaming of a comedy Christmas, their wishes will come true with a torrent of new stand-up DVDs, just in time for the holidays. The fine folks at 4 are dropping a massive stable all on their lonesome, with the debut discs Sarah Millican: Chatterbox Live (Channel 4, Not Rated, Region 2 DVD-£11.99 SRP) and Micky Flannigan: The Out Out Tour Live (Channel 4, Not Rated, Region 2 DVD-£11.99 SRP), and the latest offerings from favorites Jimmy Carr: Being Funny (Channel 4, Not Rated, Region 2 DVD-£11.99 SRP) and Russell Howard: Right Here Right Now Live (Channel 4, Not Rated, Region 2 DVD-£11.99 SRP).
And speaking of stand-up DVDs that need to be on your holiday shopping list, I’m going to be severely disappointed in you if you don’t pick up the debut DVD from my buddy - Rufus Hound: Being Rude (Comedy Central, Not Rated, Region 2 DVD-£11.99 SRP). Brilliant, brilliant man and brilliant material, plus an audio commentary just as enjoyable as the main feature. Just get the thing, already.
With the film on the horizon (now in theaters), I decided it was high time I dive in and read the full run of Hergé’s intrepid Belgian reporter, Tintin. So I did. If you want what comprises the 21 adventures of the “modern canon”, there’s the 8-volume The Adventures Of Tintin: Collector’s Gift Set (Little, Brown Books, $150.00 SRP). While it’s disappointing that these are presented in a reduced page size, you do get the whole lot in one fell swoop, with the bonus of Tintinologist Michael Farr’s character study Tintin & Co.
So, now that you’re a fan of Tintin, it’s time to want all of titles, which means partaking of the brilliant archival hardcover editions of the original black & white versions of the very first stories (Hergé redrew, revised & colored the first few stories in the mid-40’s to match his current style), including the two stories not included in the aforementioned box set, put out by the fine folks at Last Gasp - Tintin In The Land Of The Soviets, Tintin In The Congo, Tintin In America, Cigars Of The Pharaoh, and The Blue Lotus (Last Gasp, $24.95 SRP).
Ready for the next level of being a true Tintin fan? Last Gasp has got you covered, with the in-depth Tintin Companion (Last Gasp, $35.00 SRP) and the biographical The Adventures Of Hergé: Creator Of Tintin (Last Gasp, $29.95 SRP). If that weren’t enough, you can explore the artistry found within the world of Tintin with a trio of lavishly illustrated volumes - The Art Of Hergé: 1907-1937, The Art Of Hergé: 1937-1949, and The Art Of Hergé: 1950-1983 (Last Gasp, $39.95 SRP each). The whole lot are lovely, and well worth getting.
And yes, I did mention there’s now a big Tintin film in the cinemas, made by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, and the massive amounts of development and concept art that went into making it is presented in The Art Of The Adventures Of Tintin (Weta/HarperCollins, $39.99 SRP). And, if you get the book directly from Weta, you get exclusive replicas of the three parchment scraps that, when aligned, give the coordinates to find Red Rackham’s treasure. And for those with a fancy iPad, the publishers have put out an absolutely phenomenal app version of the book, with every piece of art enlargeable, interactive turnarounds, artist interviews, and even clips from the film.
For years, Newmarket Press has been putting out some quite nice making of books for various films, and this year brings a pair of new additions to that library. First up is The Art & Making Of Arthur Christmas (Newmarket Press, $40.00 SRP), the latest from the wonderful gents at Aardman Animation. Also available is a look behind the latest from Steven Spielberg, War Horse: The Making Of The Motion Picture (Newmarket Press, $34.99 SRP).
Many of you are well aware of my love for and connections with the brilliant animated comedy The Venture Bros. If you’re as much a fan as I am, there are a few limited edition items you’ll want to snap up as soon as possible, or risk missing out on them entirely. First up is the absolutely massive - and positively spot-on - Brock Samson Maquette ($249.99). Featuring swappable heads, swappable weapons, swappable hands (one of which is holding a Henchman arm, and a Venture skull logo base, it’s the ultimate display piece for the ultimate fan.
If you want something a little more on the affordable side, the keen guys at Biff Bang Pow have expanded their MEGO-style Venture Bros. figure line with the addition of 4 new figures - Phantom Limb & Doctor Orpheus and Dr. Girlfriend & Hank Venture ($37.99 for each 2-pack). If you’d like something extra-special, you can still snag the Rusty Venture Lunchbox & Figure Set ($44.99), in which you get not only a retro-cool tin lunchbox, but also exclusive figures of Rusty and Dr. Jonas Venture. Get ‘em all.
Over the past few years, Sideshow Collectibles have been bringing to these shores the absolutely stunning artistry of a company called Hot Toys, whose ability to capture actor likenesses in scale-form is downright creepy. No other company can match them when it comes to their lifelike paint-ops. I mean… Creepy. Creepy good. And I think my absolute, bar none favorite piece they’ve done this year is their Superman ($209), featuring the Man of Steel as portrayed by Christopher Reeve. The costuming is perfect, and with a stand evocative of the Kryptonion crystal structures found in his Fortress Of Solitude, it’s the perfect display piece.
Gizzy gizmos and electronic doodads from those geeky ones at Thinkgeek? You mean something like a tiny USB Mini Scanner ($79.99) that fits comfortably in the palm of your hand and allows you to scan in photos or business cards, or whatever, at 300dpi? Is that geeky enough for you?
For you camera nerds wanting to eke out a bit more style from the photos and videos you take with your iPhone, there’s the Olloclip iPhone Camera Lens ($69.99), which manages to by a wide-angle, fisheye, and macro lens all in one small, pocketable form that simply slips over the top corner lens of your iPhone. How brilliant is that?
I’m not a huge wine drinker, but in the times when I’ve had to open a bottle, I’ve absolutely loathed corkscrews. Loathed them. Just can’t get it right. With the Planetary Gears Corkscrew ($69.99 SRP)? Easy. And I felt all steampunky doing it. Heck, I should have been wearing goggles and had a lose connection with reality.
Long ago when he was young (well, young-er) and foolish, YouTube sensation Charlie McDonnell made a video of him messing around with the various shock levels to be found in the electric shock hot potato game Lightning Reaction ($29.99) and, I have to admit, I found myself wanting to try the game. Even though, unsurprisingly, I’m not a fan of shocks, or pain. If you’re curious, or just want to see a good friend or family member yelp, this is the party game for you.
I’ve had a Dynaflex Powerball - one of those gyroscopic balls that exercise your wrist and arms - for years now, but very rarely used it because of how much of a pain it was to get it started via the pull strung. Well, with the new DFX Gamer Gyroscopic Powerball ($64.99), you get the exact same wonderful exercise ball but with the added bonus of a new motorized storage pass that will get the thing revved up with just the push of a button. Ironic? Yes.
Those interested in a beautiful conversation piece with a firm grounding in mathematics can pick up a Calabi-Yau Manifold Glass Sculpture ($69.99). The crystal cube features a 3D model of a Calabi Yau Manifold etched inside… And it’s cool even if you have no idea what I’m talking about.
Have you ever wanted to pilot a shark? WHO HASN’T wanted to pilot a shark? Now you can do just that, sort of, with the Air Swimmers Flying R/C Shark ($29.99), which attaches a tiny R/C motor to a helium-filled shark balloon. So, yes, it’s not a real shark, but it’s still pretty darn cool.
Oh, it is with such giddy delight that, after years of having to live with a non-anamorphic, poor-print version, one of my favorite films has finally made it to high definition with the presentation it deserves. And what is that film? Joe Johnston’s adaptation of Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer (Walt Disney, Rated PG, Blu-Ray-$26.50 SRP). Sadly, there is not a single bonus feature to be found (not even a trailer, guys?), but it’s nice to have it, regardless.
Making the transition from TV to feature film is an often tricky proposition, and its quite a rare thing for it to be a comedy making that transition. To do it and to do it well is nearly unprecedented, which makes the success of The Inbetweeners Movie (Channel 4, Rated R, Region 2, Blu-Ray-£14.97 SRP) worth celebrating. And it’s also a great film, which finds the 4 lads out of school and having a decidedly awkward holiday. There’s also hours of bonus materials, from featurettes and deleted scenes to a gag reel and 24 takes of walking out of a door.
Marking the end of Will, Neal, Simon & Jay’s school tenure comes The Inbetweeners: The Rudge Park Comprehensive Yearbook (Century 2011, $29.95), which takes an affectionate look at the students, teachers, and awkward experiences that make up that hallowed institution.
Oh, and while you’re at it, be sure to pick up The Inbetweeners Movie soundtrack ($10.29 SRP), featuring 27 tunes and dialogue snippets from the film, sure to make it a lads holiday on your iPod. That makes sense, right? Oh, just get it.
For the past few years, when I’ve wanted to show off the incredible quality of Blu-Ray - and my massive TV - I’ve popped in the BBC’s landmark nature documentary Planet Earth (BBC, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$99.98 SRP). Well, they’ve gone and made it better with a brand new special edition, featuring a re-encoded and improved picture, plus four brand new bonus programs in addition to the features carried over from the previous release - the deluxe gift set of which is housed in a globe. Rather appropriate, that. Is it worth the upgrade? Yes. Yes it is.
It’s been ages since their last release, due mainly to their constant touring schedule, but I’m delighted to report that the wait for Cinematic Titanic Live: War Of The Insects (Cinema Titan, Not Rated, DVD-$14.99) is well worth it. Filmed in front of a live audience and clearly feeding off of the energy and good will, and with a solid riff of an awful Japanese film to work with, it’s a no-brainer that you should get this. Now. Go! Get it!
And because you can never have too much high class riffing this holiday season. Rifftrax returns with a brand new high definition release of one of their live shows with Rifftrax Live: Plan 9 From Outer Space (Legend, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$17.95). Filmed in Nashville and originally transmitted to theaters across the country, the home version preserves the experience, right down to the guest performance from Jonathan Coulton.
As if the job they were doing with Charles Schulz’s Peanuts weren’t reason enough for praise, the brills at Fantagraphics have turned their eye to the oft-ignored and rarely properly treated Disney library and have done them justice. For proof, look not further than Mickey Mouse: Race To Death Valley & Mickey Mouse: Trapped On Treasure Island (Fantagraphics, $29.99 SRP each), the first two volumes collecting Floyd Gottfredson’s incredible Mickey Mouse comic strips, which capture a far feistier and fascinating character than the corporate icon he would later calcify into.
If that weren’t reason enough to praise Fantagraphics, they’ve also decided to tackle the work of an artist very close to my heart with Donald Duck: Lost In The Andes (Fantagraphics, $24.99 SRP), the first in what I desperately hope is a long line of hardcover, beautifully-presented volumes featuring the Disney duck stories of the legendary Carl Barks. And I hope the stories featuring Scrooge McDuck come quick.
If you’ve ever wondered about the last hundred years of his life - the ones not covered by Mark Twain’s recently-released autobiography - you’ll find all of his tales of that missing period in Michael Kupperman’s Mark Twain’s Autobiography: 1910-2010 (Fantagraphics, $19.99 SRP). From his encounters with monsters to space robots, it’s all in here. And all true.
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