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Two-fer Tuesday: Free 'Lord of the Rings' and killer Chromecast deal

A no-strings-attached giveaway of "The Fellowship of the Ring" in HD, plus a boatload of Chromecast extras.

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Why rent when you can own -- for free? Google Play

There are few movie trilogies better than Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings," which is why I actually bought the series twice: first on DVD, then on Blu-ray. Yep: bought. Paid money. Me.

Needless to say, I couldn't be more excited about the first of today's two deals: Google Play is offering "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" (HD) absolutely free. Whaaaat?!

It's true. Don't know why, don't know for how long, don't care. The movie would normally cost you $12.99.

This is the theatrical version, not the extended one, but I have to admit I like the "short" cut better. (It runs three hours, versus nearly four hours for the extended edition.) All the extra stuff does flesh out the story, but it also hurts the pacing and, to my thinking, feels superfluous.

That's just my $.02. To snag this freebie, you will, of course, need a Google Play account, and you'll need to have a credit card on file. Them's the rules. Once you've "purchased" the movie, you can download and/or stream it to your PC, Android device, iOS device, or TV (courtesy of select media streamers, including, most recently, Roku sticks/boxes).

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Google

If you don't yet own a media streamer or just need another one, Best Buy has arguably the deal to beat (this week, anyway): A Google Chromecast for $29.99 and free two-day shipping (plus tax). When you add it to your cart, you'll see a $20 Google Play credit.

But wait, there's more. Zip on over to Google's own Chromecast Offers page and you can score a second $20 Google Play credit. And two free months of Hulu Plus. And 90 days of Google Play Music. And three months of DramaFever Premium. Oh, and the very first "X-Men" movie, yours to keep. Whew!

Update 12/22/14: Some readers are reporting difficulty claiming the second $20 credit. I'm not sure what's behind this issue, as the offer is still clearly listed on Google's Chromecast Offers page. If I'm able to learn anything more, I'll update the post again. In the meantime, I apologize!

The very important catch: You must "buy and set up your Chromecast by Dec. 21," at least if you want that second Google Play credit. So if you're getting this as a gift for someone, give them the additional "gift" of setting everything up in advance.

Anyway, my weekend is set: While everyone is out seeing the third movie in the dull, disappointing "Hobbit" trilogy (that's right, I said it), I'll be home watching the one that started it all. Even without Gollum, it's a helluva flick.

Bonus deal: Can't get enough LOTR? Bundle Stars is once again offering the Lord of the Rings Bundle, which features four complete games and two DLC packs for $9.99. The standouts, in my humble opinion, are the two Lego-game versions of the movie trilogies. They're fun, funny, and suitable for all ages. Lego: The Hobbit all by itself would cost you $19.99 on Steam. (Speaking of which, all the games are delivered via that service.)