From music to books to film, the procrastinating shopper can still achieve good form this festive season. Oliver Good rounds up the quirky and cool holiday gifts.
For last-minute shoppers, a few festive gift options
We're always told that Christmas is about giving, not receiving. This may be your festive mantra, or you might be someone who finds endless shopping trips and fretting over the "perfect" present a downright bore. But with the gift-giving season now well and truly upon us, many will still be scratching their heads, attempting to decide upon those final stocking fillers. DVDs, music, books and other pop culture ephemera can usually be relied upon to bring smiles and, in the internet age, tend to be easy to track down. Here's a guide to some of the best entertainment on offer this year.
The release of the eighth and final Harry Potter film this summer was followed by a period of mourning by thousands of fans around the world, many of whom had grown-up with the adventures of the boy wizard. But now, the biggest-grossing film franchise yet is available on DVD (Dh147) and Blu-ray (Dh186). You'll have to act quickly, though - just a month after it was released, the Harry Potter - The Complete 8-Film Collection box set will be discontinued on December 31.
The world's second highest-grossing film franchise is also making its Blu-ray debut this season: Star Wars: The Complete Saga - Episodes I-VI (Dh276). Many fans have complained about creator George Lucas's incessant tinkering with the original trilogy (with further revisions made here), but the box set offers hours of deleted scenes and never-before-seen extras, which may go some way towards repairing the rift.
More discerning cinephiles may want to track down the Criterion Collection's beautifully repackaged and restored version of Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colours Trilogy on DVD (Dh189). Meanwhile, Bollywood-lovers may find internationally released box sets are a little thin on the ground, but for a single DVD you can't go wrong with the mistaken-identity comedy Ready (Dh86). Starring Salman Khan, it was the highest grossing Indian film of 2011.
For devotees of the TV box set, the Emmy award-winning UK period drama Downton Abbey is likely to prove a popular choice. Downton Abbey - Series 1 and 2 collects every episode of the sumptuous Edwardian drama that has been broadcast to date. Those in search of an extended fix of US drama couldn't do much better than Friday Night Lights: The Complete Series (Dh275). A brilliantly insightful look at the characters and events surrounding a Texan high school football team, it ran for five gripping seasons.
It may only exist to capitalise on the tragic event of the summer, but the Amy Winehouse Lioness: Hidden Treasures (Dh52) album has already been warmly received by fans of the late singer. The 12-track Island Records collection of rare and unreleased material went straight to the top of the UK album chart and is expected to be a hugely popular stocking filler this Christmas.
Music fans of any age, but particularly those of an obsessive disposition, are likely to enjoy The Smile Sessions Box Set (Dh713). It's not a cheap gift, but the collection does feature five CDs, two vinyl LPs, two seven-inch singles and a book, dedicated to the most famous "lost" album ever. Recorded in 1966, Brian Wilson's masterpiece finally arrived this year.
Another of the classic bands who've been busy sifting through their archives for deluxe reissues are rockers Queen, who celebrate their 40th anniversary with the Limited Edition Collector's Box Set (Dh184). Featuring remastered versions of the band's first five albums, as well as a huge selection of rarities, there's more music here than the Smile box and at a fraction of the price.
The singer-songwriter Elvis Costello recently made headlines by urging fans not to buy his latest musical box set, The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook (Dh1,226), claiming that the price tag must be "either a misprint or a satire". Instead, he urged fans to buy the recently assembled Louis Armstrong collection Ambassador of Jazz Box, available at an only slightly more modest price (Dh656).
If bygone rockers and jazz trumpeters aren't your thing, The Muppets Original Soundtrack might be (Dh40). Accompanying the beloved characters' much-heralded big-screen return, the 30-track album includes old and new tunes and even a cover of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit by The Muppets Barbershop Quartet.
Stephen King has been the most popular writer of adult fiction at Christmas for some years, and things aren't likely to change this yuletide. His latest hardback, 11/22/63 (Dh47) topped The New York Times bestsellers list last month and has been lauded as one of the finest works of the exceedingly prolific author's career. His latest flight of fancy sees a time traveller attempting to prevent the assassination of JFK, with the book's title being the date on which the 35th president was shot.
Biographies are always popular gifts and this year's biggest seller is expected to be Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography, written by US media bigwig Walter Isaacson (Dh69). The book has won praise for its warts-and-all portrayal of the Apple visionary, who died in October and was apparently prone to angry outbursts and control-freakery. It even includes a passage in which the chief executive, hallucinating after an operation, complained to doctors that he disliked the breathing mask he was made to wear and that they shouldn't return without bringing five alternative designs from which he would choose.
For those in search of a lighter read, I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan (Dh52) could be an appropriate. The fake autobiography of Steve Coogan's hapless and egotistical British talk show host, Alan Partridge, has been called the funniest book of the year.
Loved by young readers around the world, the sixth book in Jeff Kinney's series Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever (Dh34) is likely to be on thousands of Santa wish lists this year. Following middle schooler Greg Heffley as he attempts to fit in and deal with his brothers Manny and Rodrick, the latest story became the fastest-selling book of 2011 when it was released last month.
Headphones make great gifts because they appeal to both music lovers and techies (the two often go hand in hand). Among this year's most sought-after audio equipment are the Skullcandy Aviator Headphones (Dh517-632). A collaboration between the trendy tech company and rapper Jay-Z's Roc Nation brand, the headphones are inspired by the design of the classic Aviator sunglasses and have been seen worn by the likes of Charlize Theron, Jennifer Hudson and Rihanna.
Staying with gizmos, the ION iCade Arcade Gaming Cabinet for iPad (Dh402) is perhaps the year's coolest retro-inspired gift. It allows iPad owners to simulate arcade gaming, by slotting their tablet into the tabletop machine and control classic Atari games using a joystick and buttons.
For film fans who've grown tired of having to watch new releases in 3D, salvation could be at the bottom of a stocking. The makers of 2D Glasses (Dh46) promise users will experience no more headaches or discomfort during their next trip to the multiplex - their specks turn stereoscopic movies back into two dimensions. Be warned, though: wearing the glasses won't get you a discount at the box office.
The breathtaking beauty of hand-painted Bollywood film posters is the focus of this year's must-have coffee table book for fans of world cinema. The Art of Bollywood (Dh88), published by Taschen, is a lovingly curated compendium of the kaleidoscopic images, collected from throughout India's nearly 100 years of filmmaking.
All prices are taken from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk on December 11 and do not include postage and packaging costs