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Dvd Gift Ideas Top This Week's Pop Culture Picks

Chowder Volume 1

(Cartoon Network/Warner)

Chowder is a purple blob boy who works as a chef's apprentice. He likes to eat. He usually makes a mess in the kitchen and annoys the hell out of everybody. And his animated TV show is a surreal trip through Yellow Submarine-style pop-psychedelia via the Food Network. This DVD features 10 episodes from the series' debut season. Fun game: See how many times the persistent pink bunny calls the uninterested Chowder her boyfriend.

Heathers 20th High School Reunion Edition

(Anchor Bay)

The black comedy that made Christian Slater a star celebrates its 20th anniversary with a Blu-ray release and a pricey limited-edition locker package. This biting look at high-school cliques still slays. Slater (chewing the scenery while channeling Jack Nicholson) and Winona Ryder play a pair of teen outcasts who knock off the popular girls at their school - all named Heather - in order to level the playing field. Bonus material includes a new documentary about the movie.

Popeye the Sailor 1941-1943 Volume 3

(Warner)

The third volume of classic Popeye cartoons finds the spinach-lovin' sailor smack in the middle of World War II. And he doesn't take kindly to the "Japs" and Germans. The 32 shorts on this two-disc set are borderline racist (hey, it was 1941!) and stuffed with propaganda. But they're also kinda funny, especially when skinny gal-pal Olive Oyl shows up - and an integral part of animation history. Many episodes include incisive commentary that puts the toons in perspective.

Saturday Night Live: The Complete Fourth Season

(Universal)

The legendary cast - including John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray - found its footing during the 1978-79 season. This seven-disc set includes all 22 episodes in their original 90-minute lengths, so you get to see every hit and miss, as well as complete musical performances by guests like the Rolling Stones, Devo and Talking Heads. Aykroyd and Belushi would leave at the end of the season, opening the door to 30-plus years of mediocrity.

The Shawshank Redemption

(Warner)

IMDB's top movie of all time gets a glistening Blu-ray release, complete with a pair of documentaries, director commentary, and a photo- and trivia-stuffed book. Director Frank Darabont's 1994 rumination on life inside a prison cell - based on a so-so Stephen King short story - remains a stirring portrait of hope at the center of hopelessness. And that ending can still move you, no matter how many times you've seen it. The perfect gift for the meditative-prison-movie lover in your life.

Shrek the Halls

(DreamWorks/Paramount)

Just in time for Christmas, the big green ogre's holiday special (which first aired on TV last year) comes to DVD with bonus games and sing-alongs. But the real treat is the short (22 minutes) but funny toon starring Donkey, Puss in Boots, Gingy and other faves from the hit movies. It features the usual mix of pop-culture jabs and fairy-tale tweaking, as well as a few nods to other holiday TV specials. And it's way better than the mostly blah Shrek the Third.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

(Warner)

Now that Cartoon Network's TV show has sorta redeemed this CGI feature (which was in and out of theaters in August), we can enjoy this movie for what it really is: an introduction to a weekly series that fills in the pieces for Star Wars geeks the world over. The story about Jabba the Hutt's kidnapped son is lame, but the speaker-shaking battles - and there are plenty of them - totally rock. Extras on the two-disc set include deleted scenes, webisodes and a look at the television show.

Wall-E

(Walt Disney)

The year's best animated movie starts off as a near-silent, ruminative story about a pair of starry-eyed robots. It then turns into a scathing indictment of fat people and planet-ruining consumerism. No wonder grown-ups like it more than kids. But it's a wonder to look at - Pixar's most elegant film. It's also their boldest. The three-disc set includes a terrific new short, deleted scenes, a feature-length doc on Pixar's history and a tour of outer space hosted by Wall-E. Be sure to pick up an extra copy for yourself.

Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume Four

(Walt Disney)

The 31 shorts on this two-disc collection stem mostly from Donald Duck's '50s output, so there's plenty of Chip 'n Dale shenanigans. There's also lots of scenes featuring the short-tempered Donald on the verge of a heart attack. Plus, "Working for Peanuts," originally shot in 3-D, is here. Bonus features include commentary and a storyboard for a cartoon that was never made. But best is From the Vaults, a series of toons deemed a bit too racy for kids. You'll love 'em!

Warner Bros. Pictures Gangsters Collection Volume 4

(Warner)

Years before Scarface introduced the world to his little friend, these five gangster pics came out with guns blazing. Edward G. Robinson plays a bootlegger named Bugs in The Little Giant, and The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse, despite its porn-sounding title, is a taut thriller starring Robinson and Humphrey Bogart. Best are Larceny, Inc. (a comedy about a gang of bank-robbers) and Kid Galahad, which ties boxing to the mob. Where do they come up with these things?

 

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