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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

June 26: DVD alternatives to this weekend’s multiplex offerings

We all know how it is. You’d like to get out to see a new movie this weekend, but those pesky mental messages from the Allspark filling your head are compelling you to take a mysterious trip around the world. But you can have something close to that blockbuster experience on the road with the proper application of DVDs. In fact, you might even be able to one-up everyone else at the watercooler come Monday, because while they’re saying, “Hey, did you check out that new Transformers movie?” you can respond, “No, I saw a movie about a boy and a giant robot that has heart instead of explosions.”
INSTEAD OF: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Michael Bay’s latest ode to the insecurities of Michael Bay, in which giant robots beat the crap out of one another while recruitment ads for the U.S. military try to stop them…

WATCH: Bay’s previous Transformers film, which doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a big, loud commercial for junky plastic toys. Or for something sweeter and more appropriate for children and adults alike, try 1999’s The Iron Giant, a lovely and woefully underappreciated animated flick about a young boy and his robot; it’s from Brad Bird, and it bears all the indications that he would go on to give us movies as wonderful as The Incredibles and Ratatouille.

INSTEAD OF: My Sister’s Keeper, the melodramatic weepie — from Nick Cassavetes, director of other melodramatic weepies such as The Notebook and John Q — about a family enduring the debilitating cancer of its eldest daughter…

WATCH: Terms of Endearment, the 1983 Oscar-winning Best Picture, about a contentious relationship between mother and daughter (Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger) that undergoes a radical alteration when one of them develops cancer. Or try 2005’s The Upside of Anger, in which Joan Allen copes with grief and anger when her husband disappears, leaving her with their teenaged children — it avoid sentimentality in favor of tough, genuine emotion.

INSTEAD OF: Cheri, in which Michelle Pfeiffer’s French courtesan revitalizes herself by taking a much young lover — for free! — in Rupert Friend…

WATCH: 1958’s Best Picture, Gigi, based on the writing of Colette (who also supplied the source material for Cheri), the all-singing, all-dancing cinematic extravaganza about a girl in turn-of-the-20th-century Paris (Leslie Caron) who is being groomed as a high-class prostitute. Or check out 1998’s Dangerous Beauty, a wickedly funny and sexy little film about courtesans in late-16th-century Venice (Catherine McCormack and Jacqueline Bisset).

INSTEAD OF: The Stoning of Soraya M., a horrifying drama about the brutality of Islamic law in Iran after the 1979 revolution…

WATCH: Persepolis, the recent animated movie about one teenage girl’s life in Iran before and during the revolution. 2001’s harrowing Kandahar looks at life for Afghani women under that nation’s version of Islamic law. For one of the most beautiful movies you’ll ever see, don’t miss 2000’s The Color of Paradise, from writer-director Majid Majidi, about a blind boy in remote rural Iran, how he “sees” the world, and how the world is not prepared to cope with him.


Where to buy:

The Color of Paradise [Region 1] [Region 2]
Dangerous Beauty [Region 1] [Region 2]
Gigi [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Iron Giant [Region 1] [Region 2]
Kandahar [Region 1] [Region 2]
Persepolis [Region 1] [Region 2]
Terms of Endearment [Region 1] [Region 2]
Transformers [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Upside of Anger [Region 1] [Region 2]



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  • Loved The Upside of Anger. Great movie. However, I have a Paul McGann weekend planned. Got my The Monocled Mutineer DVDs from amazon.co.uk this week, and found Withnail & I at the library.

    8th Doctor, here I come! :)

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