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 2014 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 wait at times seemed painfully long, the wait was well worth the wonder contained in the beautifully restored and presented brilliance found in the third volume of Walt Kelly’s Pogo (Fantagraphics, $45 SRP). This is the volume where Kelly’s comic strip really began to hit its satirical stride, as his swampland critters began flexing their political muscle. With annotations by RC Harvey and Sunday strips not seen in their full-color glory since they originally ran, this is another must-have addition to your library.
Fans of Disney duck comics from masters Carl Barks and Don Rosa are being spoiled with the arrival of two brand new collections - Uncle Scrooge: The Seven Cities Of Cibola (Fantagraphics, $29.99 SRP) and Uncle Scrooge & Donald Duck: Return To Plain Awful (Fantagraphics, $29.99 SRP). Both contain additional essays and insight into the fantastic tales contained within, and I eagerly await the next volumes in both series. So get quacking, Fantagraphics!
Yes, Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a regrettable mess, but one of the few truly good things the film did was jettison the bizarre costume from the first film and return the webslinger to his familiar togs, which means fans also get a nifty new Amazing Spider-Man 2 Spider-Man (Sideshow/Hot Toys, $229). Not only is the tailoring impeccable, but the body is super-articulated as well, meaning you can achieve most of the iconic extreme Spidey posing. The figure comes with the usual complement of hands, a stand, some webbing, a megaphone, and - best of all - his complete “I have a cold” outfit, BECAUSE YES.
The House Of Ideas is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, which means there are plenty of massive coffee table books hitting shelves to help you celebrated (and possibly give you a hernia from listing them). For pure visual impact, there’s Marvel Comics: 75 Years Of Cover Art (DK, $50 SRP), which brings together an overview of the art and artists used to entice readers to pick up those 75 years of issues. As a supplement from DK, you can also pick up the updated and expanded edition of the Marvel Encyclopedia (DK, $40 SRP).
Not to be left out of the mix, though, are the Distinguished Competition, whose history you can explore with the newly updated edition of DC Comics: A Visual History (DK, $50 SRP), or simply root around the lore of their Dark Knight Detective with Batman: A Visual History (DK, $50 SRP).
I love to decorate for the holidays, so when I chanced upon a neighbor’s incredible projected window display at Halloween - featuring what seemed like very real skeletons, zombies, and a grim reaper inside their home, visible through the window - I had to find out exactly how they accomplished the wondrous feat. Well, much to my surprise, the effect was incredibly easy, as it consisted merely of a vinyl static-cling projection screen on the windows, a digital projector, a DVD/Blu-Ray player, and digital animation files crafted by the fine folks at AtmosFX. As soon as I heard that, in addition to Halloween frights, they also have a line of festive winter animations - AtmosCheerFX - I had to give it a go. With Atmos’s spiffy animations and a brilliant digital projector courtesy of Vivitek (their D966HD 1080p model), I’m now stopping traffic in my neighborhood as rubberneckers can’t avoid being drawn in by the glorious display. The biggest joy of all, though? Just how easy it was to do. Have a gander below…
Few shows in recent memory have been as visually and artistically creative as Pen Wards Adventure Time, so it’s only right that fans finally get a peak behind all of their weird and wonderful processes that go into its creation with Adventure Time: The Art Of Ooo (Abrams, $35 SRP), which features ooodles of art and an introduction from one Guillermo del Toro. And if that weren’t enough to satisfy you, by all means also pick up Adventure Time: The Original Cartoon Title Cards Volume 1 (Titan Books, $ SRP), which collects together in the first of multiple volumes the memorable title card artwork featured at the front of every episode.
In addition to their new Adventure Time book, Abrams has got a handful of other pop art books you should consider as gifts for yourself (or others), including Brian Froud’s Faeries Tales (Abrams, $35 SRP), The Simpsons Family History: A Celebration Of Television’s Favorite Family (Abrams, $35 SRP), the instructionally crafty Steampunk User’s Manual (Abrams Image, $24.95 SRP), and the comprehensive Star Wars Art: Posters (Abrams, $40 SRP), which explores all of the promotional art crafted for the franchise over the years.
Oh - hey - back to Adventure Time for just a moment, because you can record all of your innermost thoughts and experiences in either the large Adventure Time: Finn & Jake Journal (Bif Bang Pow, $17.97) or the pocket-sized Adventure Time: BMO Mini Journal (Bif Bang Pow/Thinkgeek, $7.99).
Coming years after the initial volume focusing on the costuming of the prequel trilogy, old school fans (and obsessive cosplayers) finally have Star Wars: Costumes (Chronicle Books, $60 SRP), a lavishly illustrated and detailed ode to the clothes of a galaxy far, far away.
If you find all of the running around from home to home and store to store this holiday season has got your energy on the wane - and if, like me, you’re not too keen on the taste of coffee but do like chocolate - then you should pick yourself up a clutch of Buzz Bites (Vroom Foods, $4.49/6-piece tin), which manage to pack the caffeine equivalent of an entire cup of coffee in a single 1-inch piece of fudge. So not only does it perk you up, it’s also a tiny treat.
The Walt Disney company has a brilliant musical legacy going back 85 years to its very first sound cartoon, and the company is diving headfirst into its impressive archives and surfacing with the absolutely incredible “Legacy Collection” of releases. Over the course of the next year on an almost monthly schedule, they’re releasing completely remastered and expanded editions of soundtracks from their most beloved films, as well as what one can only hope is a multi-disc set spotlighting the music of Disneyland. In addition to the soundtracks themselves, each set also includes rare demos, deleted songs, and newly-recorded “Lost Chords”, which takes those deleted songs from the films and realizes them with brand new recordings that attempt to match how they might have sounded if they were finished for the original films. The first clutch of releases to come down the pike - all of which are a must-have - are 2-disc sets for The Lion King and Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid (Walt Disney Records, $14.98 SRP each) and a 3-disc set for Mary Poppins (Walt Disney Records, $21.88 SRP). My fondest hope is that the series will keep rolling along even beyond its August 2015 end date, and start giving long-deserved proper treatment to the music of Disney’s 1940s compilation films like The Three Caballeros, Make Mine Music, Fun & Fancy Free, The Adventures Of Ichabod & Mr. Toad, Melody Time, and Saludos Amigos. Here’s hoping, but until then, buy every single one of these.
Oh, and howzabout a little soundtrack round-up of film scores you should snag as gifts for yourself? There’s Howard Shore’s score for the final tale from Middle-Earth, The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies (WaterTower Music, $19.98 SRP), Dario Marianelli’s score for Laika’s The Boxtrolls (+180 Records, $12.99 SRP), Lorne Balfe’s Penguins Of Madagascar (Relativity Music Group, $37.99 SRP), and the soundtrack to A Merry Friggin’ Christmas (Lakeshore Records, $10.00 SRP).
You don’t know the name Herman Schultheis, but every one who has any interest in the art of animation or filmmaking should devour the recently-rediscovered magic in The Lost Notebook (Weldon Owen, $75 SRP). Presented by animation historian John Canemaker, the notebook in question is a covert journal Schultheis kept during his brief tenure as a technician at the Disney Studios in the 1930s, working on Fantasia, Pinocchio, Dumbo, and Bambi, in which he documented in exquisite detail the processes utilized to achieve the special animation effects found in those films. Exceptionally fascinating, made even more so when one learns of the mystery behind its author’s disappearance.
Taschen is well known and beloved for their lavish art books, so it was with great delight to learn that they had turned their eye towards all things Polynesian in popular culture with Tiki Pop (Taschen, $ SRP), a simply striking volume which explores in-depth the origins, rise, and influence the south seas islands have head on our western culture over the course of the 20th century and into the 21st, in art, food, booze, and leisure.
Very few comic artists have been as influential on their peers as Alex Toth, and it’s his incredible design and draftsmanship skills in animation that are explored in Genius Animated: The Cartoon Art Of Alex Toth (IDW, $49.99 SRP). From model sheets to layouts to storyboards and more, the book is illustrated with powerful piece after powerful piece that proves the telling is in the showing.
While WETA may chiefly be known for its work on the Lord Of The Rings franchise, the little FX studio borne out of the early films of Peter Jackson way, way down in New Zealand has grown to be a powerhouse in the special effects field and has taken its rightful place amongst longstanding giants like Industrial Light & Magic. The history of the little effects company that could is celebrated in the two volume The Art Of Film Magic: 20 Years Of WETA (HarperDesign, $100 SRP), which chronicles both the practical and digital work the studio has done.
Based on the decided dearth of products available, you’d think that Disney was afraid to capitalize on their animated success, Gravity Falls. In fact, amongst the very few products available this holiday season are a quartet of books, two of which are advanced reader chapter books - Once Upon A Swine & Pining Away (Disney Press, $4.99 SRP each) - and one is a younger reader picture book comprised of two stories, Happy Summerween & The Convenience Store Of Horrors (Disney Press, $5.99 SRP). The fourth, however, is the real keeper, as Dipper & Mabel’s Guide To Mystery And Nonstop Fun (Disney Press, $12.99 SRP) is a true companion book to the show, full of interesting info and character beats expanding on the Gravity Falls universe, rather than just storybook adaptations of episodes. Here’s hoping there’s more books like the latter in the offing, because the show deserves the love.
Fill out your Doctor Who action figure collections by diving into the final season of Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor with the new 5″ Impossible Set (Underground Toys, $59.99 SRP), featuring The Doctor in his frock coat and top hat from the Christmas episode “The Snowmen” PLUS Oswin Oswald from “The Asylum Of The Daleks”. Then you can say your final farewells to 11 and hellos to 12 with The Time Of The Doctor Collector’s Set (Underground Toys, $59.99 SRP), featuring one figure of the Doctor in his final purple longcoat plus three heads - regular 11, aged 11, and Peter Capaldi’s 12th, plus a handy Handles accessory.
And because you can never - NEVER - have too many sonic screwdrivers, the folks behind the Doctor Who toys have decided to expand their line with a brand new pair. Added to the already existing wonder wands are the 12th Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver & the 10th Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver from Day Of The Doctor (Underground Toys/Thinkgeek, $34.99 each), which is now more screen accurate than previous 10th Doctor sonics. Both feature electronic sounds, and both are pretty keen.
The cinematic return to J.K. Rowling’s wizarding universe is still a few years off, but you can revisit all of the craftsmanship that went into developing the original films for the big screen with Harry Potter: The Creature Vault (HarperDesign, $45 SRP), which takes readers on a guided tour of the creature design process, from dragons to Dobby.
As a child of the 80s, and a comic book fan, I was well and truly steeped in the Venn alignment of Larry Hama’s now-legendary run on Marvel’s GI Joe comic. That’s probably why I find IDW’s first class treatment of that run via their still-ongoing GI Joe: The Complete Collections (IDW, $49.99 SRP each), which feature completely remastered archival presentations of those issues packaged in snazzy hardcover form. Five volumes have been released so far, bringing us up to issue number #53, plus the first two Yearbooks and Special Missions adventures.
Decorate your desk with the Doctor’s own robo-companion with the Doctor Who: K-9 Light & Sound Figurine (Running Press/Thinkgeek, $12.95), which comes packaged with a mini-book featuring background info and plenty of pics. Is it fun? Affirmative.
To many, after a string of hits, Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy (Marvel, Rated PG-13, 3D Blu-Ray-$39.99 SRP) seemed like a massive gamble. Not only did it star characters that had zero recognition from the general public, but it was also Marvel’s first cosmic tale with what trailers seemed to indicate was a comedic bent. Well, Marvel took our doubts and dispelled them all with a beautifully realized popcorn adventure that managed to find the sweet spot between action and comedy without sacrificing the grandeur comic fans knew to exist in Marvel’s cosmic potential. Bonus materials include an audio commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes, a gag reel, and a sneak peek at Avengers: Age Of Ultron.
I don’t really like the idea and inherent frustration behind blindboxing, but it’s hard to resist the appeal of the Guardians Of The Galaxy Mystery Minis Vinyl Bobble Heads (Funko/Thinkgeek, $6.99 each), whose stylized designs are just so darn appealing. They’re irresistible, dammit!
As the year ends, so does the unexpected but welcome high definition release of Star Trek: The Next Generation (Paramount, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$129.99 SRP) with the arrival of the seventh and final season. Granted, this season features its fair share of clunkers (Beverly’s ghost, anyone?), but all is redeemed by the stellar finale, “All Good Things”, and the exceptional job the team has done throughout in upgrading the show into high-def from the original 35mm elements. The new documentaries and bonus features also continue to be a highlight, as well. As with previous seasons, a companion standalone release of the finale All Good Things (Paramount, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$ SRP) is also available, featuring its own complement of exclusive bonus features, including an audio commentary, a retrospective featurette, deleted scenes, and promos.
While it has been available on Blu-Ray for a few years now, you and I both know that the definitive edition of any title comes when it makes its gets the full Criterion treatment, which has finally happened to Terry Gilliam’s masterpiece Time Bandits (Criterion, Rated PG, Blu-Ray-$39.95 SRP). Graced with a new 2k digital restoration and an uncompressed stereo soundtrack, bonus materials include an audio commentary, a featurette on the production design, an interview with Gilliam, a Shelly Duvall appearance on Tom Snyder’s Tomorrow show from 1981, a gallery, and a trailer.
The debut of the massive ED-209 figure earlier this year only whetted appetites for the arrival of the definitive future of law enforcement, and that time has finally come. Hot Toys’ Robocop (Sideshow/Hot Toys, $299), fashioned with actual diecast metal, is a hefty, supremely satisfying realization of the character, right down to the exquisitely engineered leg holster. The figure comes with multiple swappable heads, a stand, and a remote-controlled voice feature like the one found in ED-209.
With the arrival of the 22nd volume of Fantagraphics’ landmark release of The Complete Peanuts (Fantagraphics, $29.99 SRP), there are just 3 more collections to go until we attain the once unimaginable achievement of being able to read and own the entire run of Charles Schulz’s iconic comic strip. Volume 22 spans the years 1993 to 1994, and features an introduction by Jake Tapper.
And since you are such a Peanuts fan, you’ll also want to get the second volume of the must-have companion series, Peanuts: Every Sunday (Fantagraphics, $49.99 SRP), which prints the Sunday strips from the years 1956-1960 in large format and full color.
LEGO has been releasing their high-end “Architecture” kits of famous buildings for quite awhile, but now you can visually peruse the entire line via the coffee table-ready LEGO Architecture: The Visual Guide (DK, $40 SRP), which includes not only photos of the assembled kits, but also reference and information about the real world structural wonders they’re based on.
While we all eagerly await his definitive biography of the mighty Jack Kirby, author and genuinely good guy Mark Evanier has curated an overview of the work Kirby crafted alongside Joe Simon during comics’ golden age in The Art Of The Simon And Kirby Studio (Abrams Comicart, $60 SRP) - a hefty tome packed with dynamic art that defined a generation.
If you were just as pleasantly delighted by Disney and Marvel’s animated Big Hero 6, then you’ll want to explore all of the visual design work that went into crafting the flick via the oodles of design artwork contained in The Art Of Big Hero 6 (Chronicle Books, $40 SRP). You can then follow it up with the slight but satisfying Big Hero 6: The Essential Guide (DK, $12.99 SRP), which gives a visual overview of the characters and world of the film.
Laika continues to impress with their quirky and memorable stop-motion masterpieces, the latest of which is the focus of The Art Of The Boxtrolls (Chronicle Books, $40 SRP), which dives in to the 2-D design work as well as the 3-D realizations of those designs via innovative new processes that expand on the breakthroughs that helped bring both Coraline and ParaNorman to the screen.
And the “art of” train just keeps rocking along, as Dreamworks drops a look behind their development curtain with The Art Of Penguins Of Madagascar (Insight Editions, $45 SRP) - the first big screen solo adventure for the elite special missions waterfowl.
It may come as a surprise to some just how involved in the Disney company was in the war effort during World War II, but that distant history is explored in fascinating detail via Disney During World War II (Disney Editions, $40 SRP), which covers everything from the signage they created to the training films they crafted, including the aborted attempts at adapting Roald Dahl’s Gremlins to the big screen.
There have been many pieces of replica costuming from Doctor Who made available in recent years, but none are as iconic and downright suave as the 10th Doctor’s Coat (Thinkgeek, $299.99), as worn by David Tennant in his incarnation as The Doctor. And worn by me, in the photo below. Pretty darn suave, eh? Do you think YOU would look as suave. If you had this jacket, then I’d say YES, yes you would.
Though it may not grant you the power of flight, the Legion Flight Ring (Thinkgeek, $19.99) will still make it clear to all far and near that you are a bona fide member of the Legion Of Superheroes. And that you pal around with Superboy. IN THE FUTURE.
While All In The Family is perpetually hailed as the classic, the Norman Lear show I fell in love with as a kid was The Jeffersons (Shout Factory, Not Rated, DVD-$229.99 SRP). I think that was because more so than the often issue-oriented Family, The Jeffersons was anchored by a cast of brilliant character actors whose comedy could positively crackle, led by Sherman Hemsley’s George, Isabelle Sanford’s Louise, and Marla Gibbs’ Florence. For the first time, you can own the complete 11 season run, including a bonus featurette, episodes of E/R and the Gibb’s vehicle Checking In, and the All In The Family episode that acted as the show’s pilot.
Peter Capaldi’s take on the timeless Time Lord was certainly a much darker, more intense affair as we got to know him - a journey you can revisit with Doctor Who: The Complete Eighth Series (BBC, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$99.98 SRP), featuring all 12 episodes of The Doctor and Clara’s adventures through awkwardness. Bonus materials include a dozen behind-the-scenes featurettes, audio commentaries, a your of the TARDIS, the Doctor Who Live pre and post-shows, London’s post-premiere Q&A, the Foxes “Don’t Stop Me Now” music video, The Ultimate Time Lord, and a quartet of exclusive interview minisodes.
But if you’re wanting to re-live the entire run of the 11th Doctor, then you can do so with the multi-season and comprehensive Doctor Who: The Matt Smith Years (BBC, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$148.95 SRP), spanning seasons 5-7 plus all of the bonus materials from the original releases, plus an additional bonus disc with The Sarah Jane Adventures two-parter “The Death of the Doctor”, the 2013 Doctor Who Proms concert, Doctor Who: The Ultimate Guide, 50th Anniversary Script to Screen featurette, and Peter Davison’s The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
Odd that one of the best collections of previously unpublished production artwork from the studio’s classic period is available in postcard form, but The Art Of Disney: The Golden Age (1937-1961) (Chronicle Books, $19.95 SRP) is just that, containing 100 collectible postcards that are just too beautiful to even contemplate mailing (unless you’ve got an extra set).
Even just a few months ago, if you had told me that one day I would be able to buy an official, high definition edition of Otto Preminger’s infamous debacle Skidoo (Olive Films, Rated R, Blu-Ray-$29.95 SRP), I would have said you were nuts. Well, it looks like anything is possible in this silly ol’ world, because that is exactly the miracle achieved by Olive Films. You owe it to yourself to check it out, as it has earned its reputation as a fascinatingly wrongheaded disaster in all the right “You have to see it to believe it” ways.
And while we’re talking about Olive Films, they’ve very quietly been building up an incredible slate of deep catalogue releases making their high definition debuts, including Charlton Heston in Dark City (Olive Films, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$29.95 SRP), Burt Lancaster & Peter Lorre in Rope Of Sand (Olive Films, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$29.95 SRP), Alan Ladd in Appointment With Danger (Olive Films, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$29.95 SRP), William Holden in Union Station (Olive Films, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$29.95 SRP), Otto Preminger’s Such Good Friends & Hurry Sundown (Olive Films, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$29.95 SRP each), John Wayne’s Sands Of Iwo Jima (Olive Films, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$29.95 SRP), and Robert Altman’s Come Back To The 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (Olive Films, Rated PG, Blu-Ray-$39.95 SRP).
Oh, and Olive Films have also made fans of two dearly departed shows very happy by finishing off a pair of DVD releases left in the lurch by Fox with King Of The Hill: The Complete 7th Season & King Of The Hill: The Complete Eighth Season (Olive Films, Not Rated, DVD-$34.95 SRP each), and Better Off Ted: The Complete Second Season (Olive Films, Not Rated, DVD-$34.95 SRP).
Every holiday season, I like to catch up on all of the must-see comedy and DVD releases coming out of the UK, and this year is no different - starting with brand new stand-up with Jack Whitehall: The Live Collection (Channel 4, Not Rated, £20.03 SRP), Sarah Millican: Home Bird Live (Channel 4, Not Rated, £10.00 SRP), and Russell Howard: Wonderbox Live (Channel 4, Not Rated, £9.99 SRP),. If you’re keen on scripted comedy, give a spin to Greg Davies’ Man Down: Series 1 (Channel 4, Not Rated, £9.99 SRP), the first two series of Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy (Channel 4, Not Rated, £7.80 SRP each), Ricky Gervais’ Derek: Series 2 (Channel 4, Not Rated, £9.99 SRP), the 3rd series of Fresh Meat (Channel 4, Not Rated, £13.67 SRP), Charlie Brooker’s brilliant farce A Touch Of Cloth (Channel 4, Not Rated, £12.99 SRP), and Matt Berry and Arthur Mathews’ giddily daft Toast Of London (Channel 4, Not Rated, £17.75 SRP). And finally, add the requisite amount of mystery, wonder, and sheer dumbfoundery in the latest offering from the mental master, Derren Brown: Infamous (Channel 4, Not Rated, £ SRP).
If you’ve ever wanted to sleep with The Venture Bros., then Adult Swim has the perfect holiday gift for you - a set of queen size Venture Bros. Sheets ($50). Available exclusively at asseenonadultswim.com, the 300 thread count cotton poly blend sheets are an extremely limited edition, and once they’re gone, they’re gone. So DO NOT HESITATE. ACT NOW. DO NOT LIVE THE REST OF YOUR LIFE IN SLEEPLESS REGRET.
It’s nearly indescribable how much simple joy one can get just by owning a really huge Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man (Diamond Select Toys, $125 SRP). Standing over 2ft tall, Diamond Select’s vinyl bank perfectly captures all of the jovial menace so firmly lodged in a generation’s collective pop consciousness.
All kudos, salutations, exaltations, hurrahs and huzzahs to Darrell Van Critters for assembling a long overdue and absolutely brilliant tribute and celebration of The Art Of Jay Ward Productions (Oxberry Press, $49.95 SRP). From Crusader Rabbit and Rocky & Bullwinkle to George Of The Jungle and Superchicken, it’s packed with artwork and information about the artists and the studio itself. Did I mention how brilliant this book is? Because it really is brilliant that such a wonderful tome now exists. So go get it. Quickly.
Of all Disney’s famous group of legendary animators, the one whose works crosses the most disciplines is the one spotlighted in the excellent new Marc Davis: Walt Disney’s Renaissance Man (Disney Editions, $40.00 SRP). From animating Cruella De Vil and Maleficent to designing theme park rides like Pirates Of The Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion, he was a true original deserving of this must-read book.
I’m a big fan of ephemera books that pull together facsimiles of rare materials into beautiful tomes celebrating a given subject, so it should come as no surprise that I really dig Hergé And The Treasures Of Tintin (Sterling, $49.95), which does just that for Hergé’s famous adventuring reporter, with more than 20 removable artworks, sketches, and memorabilia from his archives.
There are a handful of beloved shows that many have claimed we’d never see on home video in their original form, due to their extensive use of popular music over the course of their runs. Well, you should never says never and nothing is impossible, and to prove that, the folks at TimeLife managed to clear an immense amount of obstacles to being out a truly special edition of The Wonder Years: The Complete Series (Starvista, Not Rated, DVD-$249.95 SRP), in which they’ve managed to clear nearly all of the music for the series, and added in a truly impressive clutch of newly-produced bonus materials to boot. And, if you buy the complete series set, it comes packaged in a miniature metal case fashioned like a school locker, complete with combination lock. However, if you want to buy the show in easily digestible season form, they’ve also released Season 1 individually (Starvista, Not Rated, DVD-$19.95 SRP).
Trust me, you’ll never know just how much you want a fully-remastered high definition collector’s edition of Pee-wee’s Playhouse (Shout Factory, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$149.99 SRP) until you feast your eyes and nostalgia upon that very wonder. By going back to the original 16mm elements and doing a modern digital reassembly and compositing, the show has literally never looked better. To say it’s incredible is an understatement. And if that weren’t enough, there are hours of brand new bonus documentaries featuring all of the on-camera and behind-the-scenes talent - except, glaring by his absence, Paul Reubens himself. But regardless of his lack of on-camera presence, his influence and attention to detail is evident throughout this must-have set.
There have been best-of clip package DVDs released in the past - all of which are well worth adding to your collection - but what makes The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: The Vault Series (Carson Entertainment Group, Not Rated, DVD-$114.99 SRP) so delightfully unique is that the 12-disc box set contains complete, unedited episodes, including the vintage commercials! The 24 episodes within are like little time capsules that are fun, funny, and fascinating. In addition to the 24 episodes, there are also over 4 hours of bonus clips. Here’s hoping there are many more sets to come.
Considering the legal tangle that has stymied its home video release for decades, miraculous is a perfectly suitable word to describe the arrival of the 1966 Batman (Warner Bros., Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$269.97 SRP) TV show to your home theater. And, as if one miracle weren’t enough, they’ve also gone and remastered and restored the original film elements in stunning high definition, making the show’s beautifully colorful 60s palette positively pop in crystal clarity literally never bore seen by audiences. And because you’re already excited, the only way you should buy it, true fans that you are, is via the deluxe collector’s edition box set, which packages all 3 seasons with copious bonus features, an Adam West scrapbook, an episode guide, a set of reproduction trading cards, and your very own 1:64 scale diecast Hot Wheels Batmobile. Holy nostalgia, Batman!
If you’ve been holding off on a grand refresher binge of The Sopranos, your perfect moment - and rationale - has arrived in the form of the honkingly massive 28-disc The Sopranos: The Complete Series (HBO, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$279.98 SRP), which marks the high definition debut of the now-classic drama that redefined both HBO and television. Not only does the series look and sound amazing, but there are plenty of brand new bonus features that make an already easy sell that much easier, including a retrospective documentary on the show’s creation and impact, a pair of cast & crew dinner roundtables, 25 commentaries, lost scenes, a 2-part interview with creator David Chase, and more. Don’t stop believin’.
After Paramount cruelly teased fans a few years back with both a best-of collection and a first season set, it took the miracle workers to deliver unto us the beautifully mastered complete four season set of the legendary Sgt. Bilko (aka The Phil Silvers Show) (Paramount, Not Rated, DVD-$129.99 SRP). If you’ve never seen the show and consider yourself a fan of comedy, you must rectify the oversight immediately. Not only is the writing sterling, but Phil Silvers is a brilliant comic performer, elevating the material and making his role as a con-happy army sergeant iconic. The 20-disc set contains all 142 episodes, plus audio commentaries, interviews with Phil Silvers, the original network opening, original cast commercials, the lost audition show, an episode of The New Phil Silvers Show, Silver’s guest-starring episode of The Lucy Show, and more.
I have been waiting ages - AGES - for Steven Spielberg’s epic misfire 1941 to make its way to a proper high definition release. Heck, considering the old DVD wasn’t even anamorphic, even that would have been a better treatment of a film that, for all its messiness, I truly enjoy. Just when I was about to give up hope, along comes the new Steven Spielberg: Director’s Collection (Universal, Rated PG/PG-13, Blu-Ray-$199.98 SRP), which brings together eight of the director’s Universal Pictures films into one must-have set. Along with the previously available special editions of Jaws, ET, Jurassic Park, and The Lost World: Jurassic Park, this set marks the high def debuts of Duel, Sugarland Express, 1941 (both the theatrical and far superior extended cuts), and Always. All this plus a 58-page book. So is this set worth it? By all means, yes. Yes, it is.
Of all of the action figures and merchandise that have been released in the 2 years since the most recent incarnation of the show debuted on Nickelodeon, none have come close to capturing Ciro Nieli’s brilliant designs like Diamond Select Toys’s set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Bust Banks (DST, $22.99 SRP each). Standing an average of 5″ tall with articulation at the shoulders, elbows, wrists, and heads, the sculpts are exceedingly accurate to the show’s designs, putting all other versions of the heroes in a halfshell out there to shame. In fact, my only disappointment is that they’re only busts and not full figures. Maybe that’s something they can rectify in the very near future. Here’s hoping, anyway.
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