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The weekend’s here. You’ve just been paid, and it’s burning a hole in your pocket. What’s a pop culture geek to do? In hopes of steering you in the right direction to blow some of that hard-earned cash, it’s time for the FRED Weekend Shopping Guide - your spotlight on the things you didn’t even know you wanted…

(Please support FRED by using the links below to make any impulse purchases - it helps to keep us going…)

I admit that there was some worry that the second season of Game Of Thrones (HBO, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$79.98 SRP) would drop the ball after a pretty stellar first season, as the movement into George RR Martin’s second novel greatly increases the number of subplots and locations and could have been a compromised mess. Thankfully, although there are plenty more changes from the books this go round, what has wound up on screen is still a tight, enjoyable journey into Martin’s world, and merely whets the appetite for the events to come in season 3. Bonus materials include audio commentaries, featurettes, and a lovely clutch of animated pieces illuminating the histories of the characters and events referenced.

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There are plenty of ways so outrageous a true story as the CIA actually creating a cover story involving the production of a fake Hollywood film in order to smuggle diplomats out of Iran after the revolution could have gone wrong - from being too ham-fisted to too light - but Argo (Warner Bros., Rated R, Blu-Ray-$35.99 SRP) manages to sidestep all of those pitfalls and instead present a brilliant re-creation of a so-bizarre-it’s-true tale. Bonus materials include an audio commentary, a PiP feature integrating actual eyewitness stories, and a handful of featurettes detailing the history and its cinematic translation.

Timed to coincide with the release of the sequel Monsters University, Pixar’s recent 3D conversion of the original Monsters, Inc. (Disney, Rated G, 3D Blu-Ray-$49.99 SRP) arrives on home video, looking every bit as snazzy as their other recent 3D conversions, and loaded with not only all of the bonus features from the original Blu-Ray special edition, but adding the new Toy Story Toon “Partysaurus Rex”. Now hurry up and give us Wall-E and The Incredibles in 3D!

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Based on Michael Dobbs’ best-selling political thrillers and brilliantly adapted by screenwriter Andrew Davies, the original UK House Of Cards (BBC, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$49.99 SRP) gets a remastered special edition to coincide with the recent US remake. Bonus features on this new edition include audio commentaries, an interview with Davies, and a tour of Parliament.

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In what I can only hope is a precedent that starts a trend, the missing episodes of the William Hartnell 1st Doctor story contained in the new release of Doctor Who: The Reign Of Terror (BBC, Not Rated, DVD-$24.98 SRP) have been brought to life via newly-animated episodes utilizing the still-surviving audio, which means that fans can finally experience both sound and vision for the numerous stories - many of which are during Patrick Troughton’s 2nd Doctor run - for which the original film was foolishly destroyed by the BBC. Bonus materials include audio commentaries, featurettes, galleries, and more.

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Nicholas Meyer’s superbly written pairing of Sherlock Holmes and Sigmund Freud in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (Shout Factory, Rated PG, Blu-Ray-$26.99 SRP) finally gets the beautiful high definition presentation is deserves, along with a new interview with Meyer. If you’ve never seen this flick, do so.

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The easiest way to describe The Thieves (Well Go USA, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$29.98 SRP) is to think of it as a Hong Kong Ocean’s 11, with 10 master criminals assembling to pull off the heist of their lives - a 318-carat diamond locked away in a casino. It’s a nifty little pic, natch. Bonus materials include a pair of featurettes and a trailer.

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It’s a classic TV bonanza - which is rather fitting considering one of the shows getting another season released this week, namely Bonanza: The Fifth Season Volume 1 & Volume 2 (Paramount, Not Rated, DVD-$59.98 SRP each), featuring all 34 episodes of the Cartwright clans 5th year. Also arriving is the second volume of the 7th season of Gunsmoke (Paramount, Not Rated, DVD-$36.98, containing 17 episodes, plus preview trailers and sponsor materials. Finally, we get Matlock: Season 8 (Paramount, Not Rated, DVD-$49.99, starring the late Andy Griffith as the folksiest of folksy southern lawyers.

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I’m still not a terribly big fan of retrofitted 3D, but when it comes to a big, flashy 80’s popcorn flick like Top Gun (Paramount, Rated PG, 3D Blu-Ray-$39.99 SRP), I’ll relax my aversion enough to go along with the ride, as that’s entirely what the experience amounts to - in all the good ways. The film has also received a visual and audio upgrade to go with the 3D, meaning it’s never looked or sounded better. Bonus materials include an audio commentary, a making-of documentary, featurettes, storyboards with optional commentary, music videos, TV spots, Tom Cruise interviews, and more.

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Jean and Laurent De Brunhoff’s king of the elephants makes his feature debut in Babar: The Movie (E1, Not Rated, DVD-$14.98 SRP), which finds the titular monarch on a quest to save the future Queen Celeste and outwit the machinations of Rataxes while freeing Elephantland.

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The folks at the Smithsonian Channel have released a new pair of documentaries, covering both the natural world and the world of pop culture. On the pop side, you’ve got The Origins Of Oz (Smithsonian, Not Rated, DVD-$14.98 SRP), which examines the formation of L. Frank Baum’s Oz mythology, while Undersea Edens (Smithsonian, Not Rated, DVD-$24.98 SRP) features a clutch of programs focusing on the natural beauty beneath the waves.

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Fox rolls out the next in their line of prestige “20th Century Fox Studio Classics” with the high definition release of Otto Preminger’s legendary noir Laura (Fox, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$29.99 SRP), about the investigation behind the murder of the titular bombshell (Gene Tierney). Bonus materials include a pair of audio commentaries, A&E Biography episodes featuring Tierney and Vincent Price, a deleted scene, and more.

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Every once in awhile, you have to cleanse your blockbuster-heavy cinema palette with a lovely little character piece like The Sessions (Fox, Rated R, Blu-Ray-$29.99 SRP), which focuses on a poet-journalist (John Hawkes), paralyzed and confined to an iron lung since childhood, who receives the help of his sympathetic therapist (Helen Hunt) and his priest (William H. Macy) to overcome yet another bit of adversity by losing his virginity at age 38. Bonus materials include deleted scenes and featurettes.

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There may be eight million stories in the Naked City (Image, Not Rated, DVD-$24.98 SRP), but you’ll find at least 20 in the complete first season of this landmark police drama that features a who’s-who of up-and-coming talent, including Gene Hackman, William Shatner, Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, and many, many more.

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While the catalogue releases aren’t coming as fast & furious as they were at the end of last year, we’re still getting high definition upgrades of modern classics like The Insider (Touchstone, Rated R, Blu-Ray-$20.00 SRP), starring Russell Crowe as former tobacco executive Dr. Jeffrey Wigand who blows the whistle on his industry’s unethical practices with the help of 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino) and Mike Wallace (Christopher Plummer). Bonus materials include an audio commentary, featurette, and scene exploration.

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The Cohen Media Group has launched into a broad restoration project of some true cinema classics, the latest of which is a beautiful high definition presentation of 1924’s The Thief Of Bagdad (Cohen, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$24.98 SRP), which also includes an audio commentary and a featurette with rare photos. Add this to your must-buy list.

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This week’s kid-friendly quota gets fulfilled by a pair of Nickelodeon titles perfect for the preschool set - Nickelodeon Favorites: Rootin’ Tootin’ Wild West! (Nickelodeon, Not Rated, DVD-$24.95 SRP) and Let’s Learn: 123s & Let’s Learn: ABCs (Nickelodeon, Not Rated, DVD-$14.98 SRP each).

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Try as I might, I still find the US version of Top Gear (BBC, Not Rated, DVD-$29.98 SRP) a grating, lifeless affair lacking the eminently watchable charm of the UK’s triumvirate of Clarkson, May, & Hammond. Granted, I care not a tinker’s whit for cars, which makes my dependence on the affability of the hosts a key factor - and the US version just doesn’t have it. The 4-disc second season set contains deleted scenes and challenges, extended scenes, featurettes, and more.

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Celebrate the anniversary of the James Bond film franchise with an exploration of its more iconic elements via Top Gear: 50 Years Of Bond Cars (BBC, Not Rated, DVD-$9.95 SRP). Presented by Richard Hammond, it looks at everything from the legendary Aston Martin DB5 to the AMC Hornet, with insight from the actors, filmmakers, and stuntmen.

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It’s not a great show, but Cougar Town (Lionsgate, Not Rated, DVD-$19.98 SRP) remains consistently enjoyable as just a nice little comedy that’s good for a laugh. The third season keeps that same dependability, and is otherwise a bit of a blur. And a marriage. Bonus materials include deleted scenes and a blooper reel.

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As a story, Fun Size (Nickelodeon, Rated PG-13, Blu-Ray-$39.99 SRP) certainly doesn’t match the teen-romp-with-a-heart heyday of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or even Adventures In Babysitting, but Victoria Justice largely saves the day as a put upon daughter of an arrested development widowed mother and a dangerously precocious younger brother (Jackson Nicoll) whose hijinks after he disappears from his sister’s care on Halloween night drive the plot. Bonus materials include deleted scenes, featurettes, a gag reel, and a music video.

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Ron Moore’s remake has its last hurrah with Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome (Universal, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$34.98 SRP) - a failed pilot set during the fist Cylon war, where we follow a young Adama as he’s assigned to the centerpiece of the Colonial fleet, the Galactica. Bonus materials include deleted scenes and a visual effects featurette.

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I’m not entirely sure why The Factory (Warner Bros., Rated R, DVD-$28.98 SRP) is only getting a standard DVD release, as it’s tight little crime thriller starring John Cusack as a police detective who faces a ticking clock to find his abducted daughter.

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If you’re keen on watching a clutch of back-bayou folks bang around hunting gators, then look no further than Swamp People: Season 3 (History Channel, Not Rated, DVD-$ SRP), which collects all 22 episodes, plus 30 minutes of bonus footage featuring more drawling, swampy hijinks.

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Mill Creek and their kid-friendly Cookie Jar imprint have released another batch of family titles from their immense catalogue - Beverly Hills Teens: Volume One (Mill Creek, Not Rated, DVD-$12.98 SRP), Jayce And The Wheeled Warriors: Volume 2 (Mill Creek, Not Rated, DVD-$12.98 SRP), the 12-film Family Movie Favorites collection (Mill Creek, Not Rated, DVD-$9.98 SRP), and the 3-disc Collingwood O’Hare Collection (Mill Creek, Not Rated, DVD-$9.98 SRP), featuring Eddy & The Bear, Rarg, and Animal Stories.

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Audiences shrugged when the first part was released, but that massive failure surprisingly didn’t derail Atlas Shrugged: Part II (Fox, Rated PG-13, Blu-Ray-$29.99 SRP), which arrives via the direct-to-video route, jam-packed with all of Ayn Rand’s blinkered thinking intact. Bonus materials include deleted scenes, a featurette, and an extended Sean Hannity segment.

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So there you have it… my humble suggestions for what to watch, listen to, play with, or waste money on this coming weekend. See ya next week…

-Ken Plume

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