Did you know that there are less than 6 weeks worth of shopping days till Christmas? Did you know that horrendously well-organised people are already scooping up the best stuff out there? And of course you're probably still recovering from last year and wishing it was still June. But fear not! Empire is here to help, bringing you the coolest kit this Christmas for the discerning present buyer. After all, if you get good stuff for the people around you, they might get you good stuff in return. It's a double-whammy!
Samsung LED C8000 55" 3D TV
For the ultimate in home entertainment Nirvana, we can thoroughly recommend splashing out on this beauty of a 3D TV. Full high-definition (of course), ultra-slim with chrome bezel for maximum coolness, Samsung's 8000 series is the perfect solution for making your home 3D-ready. As expored in our rigorous tests, the C8000 is the next best thing to an IMAX in your living room, bringing movies to life and taking gaming to a whole new level.For this beautiful 55" effort you might need to knock out a few walls and make your living room bigger to fit it - but there are 46" and 40" versions for those of us with slightly cosier homes.
Greeted with the sort of hysteria generally reserved for the Beatles and the tween stars of the Disney Channel, the iPad is another beautifully designed, gorgeously executed step in Apple's ascent to world domination. It's perfect for watching movies, web browsing on the move or gaming, as well as approximately a billion other uses which are all downloadable from the apps store - and the price isn't actually that bad considering that the thing will change your life (ask any user, and they'll tell you at length). We're sorry to say that it can't yet walk the dog for you or mix the perfect martini (it could tell you how to mix one though), but it's only a matter of time.
Apple iPhone 4
Dubbed "the Jesus phone" before release, the iPhone has now become an inescapable part of the landscape, and the iPhone 4 took it to a whole new level. Smaller and sharper than ever, this baby has an app for everything, one of the most addictive selection of games on the planet (hello Angry Birds!), will handle your emails and organise your life for you. Oh, and it can also make phone calls. It will take over your life - but in a good way. It will also mean that if you ever get thrown back in time or space, as long as you've got coverage you'll be well placed to make yourself emperor of everything, since this is essentially magic
Asus N53 Series Laptop
Asus have been in the computer components business for years, but their own products still aren't that well known in the UK. All that, however, is about to change with the N-series, co-designed with Bang & Olufsen for serious sleekness and excellent sound quality. You can finally ditch those annoying plug-in speakers with this laptop's stylish built-in set, which is handy for those of us who can't bear to travel without a portable means of watching films. It's no slouch in other departments either, thanks to Windows 7, intel Core i5 and USB 3.0 - all of which adds up to being quick to start, quick to surf and more than powerful enough for anything you need to do. Also, did we mention that it's well pretty?
Razer Naga Molten Special Edition
If you're trying to pwn n00bs in an online world, this is the must-have accessory. With 17 buttons, the Naga is the king of MMO mice, allowing even the most hotkey-happy class to map their abilities with ease. Buttons are firm enough to prevent accidental clicking but accessible enough that those all important abilities are never out of thumb reach. Our resident Warcraft veteran gave this a whirl and, having stormed Icecrown Citadel with one of these in his grasp, vowed never to give it up.
Epson TW-450 Projector
Sometimes you just want a screen bigger than your TV can provide - and that's when Epson's HD projector comes in really handy. Hang up a sheet somewhere or point it at a pale-coloured wall, and you've got your own little cinema - and it's all only the size of a briefcase. While projectors over the last few years have sometimes been a little fuzzy, the high definition here means that you'll get crisp pictures, and it's bright enough to use without bricking up all the windows in the house or burrowing a new living room out of the back garden. While this model is designed for use by gamers, it works a treat for movie fans as well, and the price won't require you to sell your entire movie collection to pick one up, either.
Samsung BD-C6900 7.1 Channel 3D Blu-ray Player
It's all very well kitting your lounge out with a 3D TV but it won't live up to its full potential unless you have 3D movies to watch it on. That's where the BD-C6900 comes in. Beautifully crafted, with top window to watch your spinning disc in action, the player is fully equipped to present the movies in all their stereoscopic glory, which it does with very sharp pictures and all the standard Blu-ray bells and whistles you'd already expect. What's more, with full 7.1 audio the player is easy on the ears as well as the eyes.
Avatar Extended Collectors Edition
James Cameron's world-beating science fiction epic stomped all over the competition at the box office and looks pretty darn spiffy at home to boot. The King of the World and his team slaved over the DVD and Blu ray releases to make sure that the colours would pop (better than they did if you saw it in 3D, actually, since that process strips out some of the brightness) and that the quality would be maintained. And here's the Extended Edition just to provide you with a bit more Quaritch, a bit more Tsut'sey and a lot more Pandora. As you'd expect from Cameron, the extras are comprehensive - our favourite's probably the nifty feature that allows you to toggle between the finished movie and the effects-free, actors-in-wetsuits version. It may defuse the movie magic, but it's a fascinating look behind the scenes.
Is there something you want to know about the Alien series? The answer, we can practically guarantee, is in this astonishing box set. It has multiple versions of all four of the films (theatrical and directors cuts) and documentary and additional material that would take you about three solid days to watch. Without sleep - we've been trying to get through the lot since release, but it's taking quite a while. Oh, and if you can get hold of the Blu ray, the films have been gussied up for high-def to boot, and we can assure you that they've never looked lovelier. Yes, even Alien 3.
Harry Potter Complete Box Set Years 1-6
Perhaps it's premature to buy this, what with the Deathly Hallows set to emerge next year, but if you're trying to catch up before the very final instalment of Harry Potter's adventures you could do a lot worse than to pick up this Blu-ray bargain. Sure, the first two films seem impossibly long ago, and still plod along, but since then the series has gone from strength to strength, and you might be surprised how much genuinely memorable stuff is packed in here. Perfect for younger siblings and any undercover Potter obsessives you know (and you almost certainly do know some).
Beauty and the Beast: Platinum Edition
Until Up, this was the only animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, and gussied up on Blu-ray and its Platinum Edition DVD it's easy to see why. It's beautifully animated (using more CG than Disney had ever attempted before), and the plot zips along in a way that most fairytales can only dream of. The music's memorable too - this was the last film that the late, great lyricist Howard Ashman (Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid) worked on, and it's some of his finest work. It'd make a good present for any children you know, certainly, but it's also a perfect gift for animation geeks of all ages.
Limited Edition Inception Blu-ray Briefcase
It's the most talked-about film of the year; you may have heard of it. With Christopher Nolan's brain-bender hitting DVD on December 6, you'll finally get the chance to pin it down and dissect it like a frog - not that you'll get all the answers you're looking for here, on a disc that's packed with information but not always with solutions. Still, between all the extra features in the "Extraction" mode documentary-in-movie format and the chance to watch the film frame-by-frame, you might be able to spot whether that spinning top really looks like falling over. If you're more content to let the mysteries stand, buy it for your know-all friends and spark a bajillion pub debates.
Back to the Future Trilogy Limited Edition Collector's Tin
There's probably someone on Earth who doesn't love Marty McFly and his time-travelling adventures, but we've never met them. The Blu-ray release of the Back to the Future trilogy, therefore, is very good news for you if you're stumped on any Christmas presents at all. They've gussied up the pictures and sound, brought in all the old extras but filmed a raft of new material to boot, and generally come up with what should be a definitive collection of Delorean lore.
HBO's latest box set is four Empire stars worth of blistering wartime drama. With Hanks/Spielberg DNA, terrific turns from its three leads, combat as harrowing as anything since Private Ryan, and production values higher than Mount Suribachi, it's a rarely told story told with rare quality. It's not another Band Of Brothers - although it should win over fans of Winters, Guarnere, Malarkey and co - but a deeper, darker look at the impact of war on the psyche of three young men. With epic battle scenes, multi-million dollar SFX and lots of people shouting "Danger close!" at each other, it may not be festive viewing for all the family but it'll keep the adults out of trouble for a while. We'll say semper fi to that.
Guillermo del Toro Collection
For years Guillermo del Toro has followed a pattern of mixing relatively large-scale Hollywood projects with Spanish language creepers designed to get under your skin and stay there. Now you can get his three great examples of the latter on Blu-ray, as Cronos, The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth are released in this rather nice collection. Cronos, Del Toro's first feature, is the least well-known and probably least accomplished of the three, but it's fascinating as an illustration of the continuing preoccupations of his work: clockwork, good and evil, the supernatural. This lot will be the perfect antidote for all that OTT Christmas cheer on every channel at this time of year
Farscape : The Definitive Collection
If we had to pick one sci-fi series that doesn't get anywhere near the props it deserves, it would be Farscape. Finally released as a definitive DVD box set, this bells and whistles edition features all 88 episodes of the show as well as the Peacekeeper Wars mini series and 15 hours of bonus material. If you've never had the pleasure of sitting down with Rockne S O'Bannon's trend-setting sci-fi then now's the perfect opportunity.
Empire's artist in residence has been supplying us with ace twists on movie themes for some time now, but his minimalist musings on movie and pop-culture themes are always things of beauty and well worth a look - even leaving the fact that he's a nice chap aside. It's a sad truth that most of them aren't generally for sale, but if you search around the internet / eBay you might be lucky enough to find one going a-begging. Your walls will thank you for it.
Based in Toronto, Youssef produces fantastically stripped-back, lo-fi looking film posters with a grainy sheen for that vintage look. Taking a single detail from a movie and twisting it to emcompass the whole, Youssef manages to boil Scarface down to a single egg-timer (the cocaine turns into blood, see?), and Inception down to a maze in the shape of a head. Not all of his designs are for sale, but there's a selection in the shop that's well worth a look.
These are TV rather than movie posters, but they're so thoroughly boiled-down to their constituent shapes that they're strangely beautiful and utterly compelling. So True Blood becomes two white triangles (fangs, see? Clever!) and Nip/Tuck becomes two concentric pink circles against a lighter pink background (Boobies!). One could almost wish that the titles weren't included, the better to confuse and befuddle, but the "Aha!" moment that follows when you realise what each one is is still worth the price on its own.
They may look like Soviet propaganda posters or stripped-down '60s graphic art, but Brandon Schaefer's efforts are rather more up-to-date - as subjects from The Dark Knight to Ghostbusters attest. Schaefer's website claims that he's in the market for freelance work if you have specific requests, and also (rather more disappointingly) specifies that he isn't available for crime fighting, and to be honest we hope for more in our graphic designers. Still, the art's good, even if that supervillain down the street keeps on setting off car alarms every night.
Alamo Drafthouse Prints
If you're less fond of minimalism and more into movie posters that actually show you what's going on, this is the selection for you. The legendary Alamo Drafthouse is a home away from home for Hollywood's finest, and continues to knock the ball out of the park not only in the films it shows but in the posters it has created to advertise them as well. This lot come from a number of artists, but all offer an original twist on the movies in question, whether they're going for a Struzan-style composition or a more graphics-heavy style. Our favourite? Escape from New York. Wait, no, Amelie. Wait, no...
Dress The Part
Are you a well-dressed movie fan? Well, the sartorially gifted geek is catered for in this series of clothing-centric movie posters. So Pete "Maverick" Mitchell's jacket becomes the totem for Top Gun, braces and collar-and-cuffs represent Wall Street and Ron Burgundy's legendary moustache and bouffant cover Anchorman. Sadly there isn't one - yet - for Cary Grant's impeccable North By Northwest suit, nor Brad Pitt's fluffy dressing gown in Fight Club, but we live in hope.
Fabric Flavours Kids T-Shirts
Kids clothes too often veer towards pink or blue, or are afflicted by mysterious creatures with names like "Ben 10" or "Hannah Montana". Thank goodness, then, for Fabric Flavours, which has T-shirts for tinies that you won't be ashamed to be seen with. From comic book heroes to rock stars to classic Disney characters actually looking cool, these will ensure that your offspring are the tidiest toddlers on the playground. The Cookie Monster hoodie is probably the single cutest option, but the idea of a toddler wearing a Bruce Lee T-shirt is impossible to beat.
Last Exit To Nowhere T-Shirts
The most consistently inventive T-shirt shop out there, Last Exit remains our first port of call for all subtly movie-centric gear. Wearing one of these tops allows you to separate the film-loving wheat from the chaff: if someone recognises that your USS Nostromo T-shirt is an Alien reference, or gives you an Indiana Jones quip in response to your Lao Che Air Freight garb, you know that person is A-OK. With shirts riffing on everything from Raising Arizona to Back to the Future to The Breakfast Club and Jaws, there's something for everyone here.
Grr Argh Necklace
The nice thing about this little doubled-up necklace is that it works on so many levels. It'd be a good fit for any old monster fan, the bright colour makes it perfect for hipsters, and specifically for Mutant Enemy fans, be they Buffyites or Browncoats, it has a special resonnance. After all, it doesn't have to refer to the little zombie-demon thing that is Joss Whedon's production company logo, but it could. And either way, it's cute in a pleasantly aggressive, hot pink, punky sort of way and the perfect accessory for those days where the world is making itself difficult.
Ghostbusters Proton Pack Backpack
Admit it: this is all your childhood dreams come true: your very own proton pack. Now you too get to be a real Ghost Buster. Only, wait, hang on, we can't get this neutrona wand to fire. Oh darn it, it's just a backpack designed to look like a proton pack, isn't it - but at least this way you can wear your geek credentials on your sleeve (metaphorically) and on your back (actually), and the neutrona wand makes a handy case for your mobile or water or protective anti-phantom amulets.
Star Wars Bathrobe
This is the big thick warm dressing gown you're looking for - if you want to swan around the house looking like a Jedi or Sith (delete according to the brightness levels on your chosen path). Officially sanctioned and even embroidered with either the Jedi or Imperial logo, this will ensure that the Force remains strong in your morning routine and that you're always ready should Order 66 come when you're in the middle of brushing your teeth. Comes complete with a sash belt to surround you and bind you together, like an energy field created by all living things. OK sorry, enough of the Force jokes. But it's still geekily good stuff.
The Making Of Empire Strikes Back
One of the finest 'making of' books you're ever going to come across, this contains new information for even the most die-hard Star Wars fan (we know; we asked Ian Freer). Building on the success of his Making Of Star Wars book, this second offering from J W Rinzler gives you fascinating behind-the-scenes photos and access, as well as dissecting all of the film's most iconic moments. It's also going to look pretty darn spiffing on any discerning movie fan's coffee table, which is just as well as you're going to want to have it to hand any time you're watching the film.
The Godfather Family Album
Another beautifully put-together film book, crammed full of behind-the-scenes photos and drop-dead gorgeous stills, this follows the Corleone Family from Mario Puzo's novel and through all three films. The result is an exceedingly weighty tome that may require you to reinforce your bookcase, but it's packed with vintage interviews with the creative forces behind the films and those enormous pictures, so it'll be worth it to spend that money shoring things up. Also worth remembering: giving this as a gift to anyone in your family gives you all licence to quote lines from the Godfather for the entirety of the Christmas holidays, which has got to be worth the cover price on its own.
The Goblins of Labyrinth: 20th Anniversary Edition
After attending an 80s-themed fancy dress party recently, one Empire staffer remarked that there are a lot of people out there who adore Labyrinth - and if you know any of those types, this is the book for them. Essentially a sketch book full of beautifully crafted goblins, it's the work of artist Brian Froud, who was conceptual designer on Labyrinth (and The Dark Crystal) and was responsible for much of the film's distinctive goblin look. With a very, very funny foreword and absurd descriptions of individual goblins from Terry Jones (Labyrinth's screenwriter, fact fans), this is one for comedy fans as much as fantasy geeks.
The Art of Tim Burton
Surely an essential gift for anyone with crazy bed-hair or slightly Goth taste in clothing, this puts you right inside the mind of Tim Burton - and the results are every bit as twisted and dark and strangely appealing as you would wish. From his earliest sketches to film-by-film concept art and independent projects, this covers his entire career and makes you realise once again that he's really rather a talented dude (just in case you watched Planet of the Apes recently). This may leave you with an almost uncontrollable urge to read The Melancholy Death Of Oyster Boy (his, er, unusual book of poetry and rhymes) and re-watch all his films (OK, not Planet of the Apes) but it's such a gorgeous book that you can't really complain.
The Art Of Drew Struzan
You may not know Drew Struzan's name, but you really should. He created some of the most iconic movie posters of the 20th century, and he's behind quite a few that you've probably had on your walls over the years. Indiana Jones, The Thing, Back to the Future, Blade Runner - they're all his, and that's only the tip of the iceberg, as this book makes clear. Packed with unfinished and unused concepts that give you an insight into Struzan's process as well as Hollywood's publicity machine (you'll marvel that some of these were never used), this also gets bonus points for showing you how an unused idea for Crocodile Dundee got recycled. Read this, and gain a whole new respect for the art of the poster.
The Art of Hammer: Posters From The Archive Of Hammer Films
Rich in monsters, gruesomely dripping fonts and screaming ladies in white nighties, this collection of vintage Hammer posters is a feast for the eyes of horror fans. From the studio's big hits to more obscure efforts cherished only by die-hards, this runs the entire gamut of Hammer films to present a pretty comprehensive collection of primary-coloured design goodness. And once you're done reading it, you can use it as inspiration for Halloween make-up and decorations next year, or simply to marvel at the creative taglines on display.
Nerd Do Well
Simon Pegg: actor, writer, all-round top bloke, and now autobiographer. But this is not just another one of those celebrity tomes that comes out every Christmas, giving you an insight into the life of some X-Factor judge or contestant. Happily for us, Pegg can actually compose a sentence, and spends his time discussing geek-friendly topics like zombies and Star Wars rather than telling us about that frightfully amusing thing that Tom Cruise said on set that one time or indulging in lengthy and self-aggrandising anecdotes. His hetero life-mate Nick Frost receives lots of credit and attention, which is great for fans of platonic male friendships, and even the sections on his childhood and ascent to his current national treasure status are engaging. He's also, y'know, well funny. Nerd do well indeed.
Sword of the Six-Fingered Man
"HALLO! My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father; prepare to die!" You can keep your replica lightsabers (which, after all, don't even have a proper blade, because you can't get the crystals these days); we want one of these Princess Bride replica swords instead. A perfect recreation of the final masterpiece by swordsmith Domingo Montoya, created for a six-fingered man of unusually murderous disposition but wielded by Montoya's blademaster son, this is a thing of beauty for any time you're feeling a little Latin. Warning: do not attempt to use against men dressed in black. May result in being knocked over the head. Further warning: the revenge business is not a long-term career proposition. Look into piracy instead.
Death Star Planetarium
Here's a nifty little device to turn Star Wars fans into science geeks. Hidden behind the innocent, moon-like exterior of this fully operational battle station are not one but two night-sky projectors. Take off the top of the Death Star and you'll find not invading rebels but a dome of Earth's night sky, with stars marked out. Lift that too, and you get a map of the Star Wars galaxy instead, so that you can see exactly how far it is from Naboo to Corellia, and that Tatooine and Geonosis are surprisingly close neighbours. Hey! It might come in handy if you're ever in the area. The bulb isn't massively powerful so you'll want a nice dark room with nice light walls, but if you have those this is a lot of fun.
Stay Puft Marshmallows
"I tried to think of the most harmless thing- something that I loved from my childhood, something that would never ever possibly destroy us: Mr. Stay-Puft." Ray Stantz' affection for the big fluffy sailor is the stuff of legend, but we've never had the chance to see why until now. But here it is at last: proper, full-on Stay-Puft marshmallows. They come in a rather cool, slightly padded (almost marshmallowy) box, and are lightly caffeinated just in case a sugar high isn't enough for you. The good news is that they're tasty; the bad news is that you'll need to brush your teeth afterwards, because health food these ain't. But since when is Christmas about health food?
Star Trek Bottle Openers (OMFG I'VE HAD THESE FOR OVER A YEAR NOW!!!!!)
If you haven't come out as a Trekker to friends and want to gently reveal your proclivities in a non-threatening way, consider investing in one of these bottle openers and using them on your next social gathering. That way, you can subtly advertise your status without scaring off friends or would-be love interests in the way that a scale reconstruction of the Enterprise D might (lol I have this too though). If people respond positively to these (really rather nice) silver-coloured bottle opener and corkscrew, then you can suggest that you all break open a bottle of Romulan ale and enjoy some 3D chess, safe in the knowledge that you're around folk of a similar mindset.
Monty Python Wafer-Thin Mints
Anyone for a wafer-thin mint? It's only a tiny little thin one. Perfect for those times when you can't eat another bite. There's no possible way that it could have any ill-effects - unless, of course, it follows a really large Christmas dinner and causes you to, er, explode. So if you overindulged this holiday season, you might want to think twice before breaking these out, but for the rest of us these minty little treats are the best kind of movie tie-in product: small, witty and covered in chocolate. Delicious, delicious chocolate.
Remember Big? Remember Tom Hanks, as a 13 year-old suddenly thrust into adulthood, playing Chopsticks along with a toy tycoon and impressing the guy so much that he got a job out of it? Well that could be you! Sort of. The piano playing bit anyway. This portable version of the giant piano allows you to play music with your feet, surely a noble goal, and even save your masterpieces for future generations to, er, enjoy. You'll get your exercise as you play, which people keep telling us is important, and there are a few pre-loaded songs for the really hopeless among us. Loveable man-child not included.
The art of wrapping presents is often overlooked, and there are those who consider themselves too cool to faff around with bows and ribbon and the nightmare that is little bits of sticky tape. But this might just be enough to convert you: some unspeakably cool, very colourful paper that comes with the complete lyrics to such opuses (opi?) as the Sugarhill Gang's Rapper's Delight, Eminem's My Name Is or the rather more seasonal Christmas in Hollis from Run DMC. See? You can be street and still produce beautifully packaged Christmas gifts. Er, word!
Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear Plush (Creepy tbh...)
The standout newcomer in Toy Story 3 this year, Lotso may have gone to the bad in his later years, but judging by the popularity of this adorably squishy cuddly toy, he's still a hit with the kids. He has 45 adorable phrases and ticklish feet, for maximum cuteness. Bright pink, benign of gaze and smelling of strawberries, he's a perfect recreation of the film's character - except that, as far as we can determine, he bears no toy-icidal impulses towards other playthings. Just to make sure, however, we recommend that you be careful not to abandon him out in the rain and replace him with a newer model.
Cast your own Mini-Brickus Fantasicus spell with Lego's ace Hogwarts Castle. The world's best School of Witchcraft and Wizardry gets the miniature treatment with tonnes of magical detail (secret passages! Sorting Hat! Argus Filch's cat!), bats in the belfry, and a Great Hall decked out in Slytherin and Gryffindor colours. Not to mention a posse of tiny Lego Dementors circling with enough menace to worry the beard off tiny Lego Dumbledore. In an ideal world, you'd wave a wand and it'd build itself but, hey, you can't have it all. Blast-Ended Skrewts not included.