Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

I'm a gift-giving fool this time of year. No matter how much planning goes in, I generally end up with more things for more people than I intended, mostly because I just like playing Santa.

A lot of movie studios seem to feel the same way, since they regularly send members of the press promotional gifts. While it's a bad thing for their bottom line and for ethically challenged critics, it's a good thing for us. I get to extend the holiday largesse to readers without further crippling my bank account, and you get a chance to win a fun freebie.

Below you'll find the items up for grabs in the 2008 "Year in Swag" giveaway (click to City Club at ColumbusAlive.com to enter). We got more good swag than usual this year, but we also received a couple things that are truly scary.

"Iron Man" action figure [good]

It's big, shiny and has many points of articulation. It shoots little missiles out of one palm and a "repulsor blast" out of the other. Sound effects come out of its chest. The only way it could be cooler is if it came with pre-loaded phrases from Robert Downey Jr. Or Downey himself.

Original one-sheet for "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" and reprints of posters for all other Indiana Jones films [good]

They hardly ever make 'em like this any more. As with every previous Indiana Jones release, Lucas and Spielberg went old school, enlisting legendary poster artist Drew Struzan (the Star Wars films, Back to the Future).

"Tropic Thunder" mini bobbleheads [good]

Once you get a good look, it's clear more thought went into concept than execution. But how many people can say they've touched Nick Nolte in bobblehead form?

"21" loaded backpack [good]

The nylon backpack features a Velcro'ed strap with detachable shoulder pad/phone pouch. Up front is a zippered pocket with the logo of this Vegas scam story. Inside is a felt blackjack board, a pack of cards, a copy of the source book Bringing Down the House and a set of flash cards mimicking the system with which MIT students won a fortune. Too bad the movie was so lame.

Ask The Love Guru [really bad]

It appears to be a meditating Mike Myers, but the Magic Eight Ball-like base features cryptic responses such as "Go to your naughty mat." Be wary of taking even joke advice from any entity that endorses The Love Guru.

"Wall-E" paddle ball [bad]

We take no responsibility for ball/face collisions.

"Australia" postcard set [bad]

Beautiful images, and going through them only takes about five percent of the time you need to watch the movie.

"The Rocker" note cube [bad]

To remind critics, each note is printed with "In theaters April 2008." We remembered, especially when the film came out in August.

"The Strangers" mask [bad]

Now it can creep out your co-workers.