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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

July 31: DVD alternatives to this weekend’s multiplex offerings

We know how it is: You’d like to go to the movies this weekend, but Adam Sandler dying of some awful disease isn’t your idea of a good time. But you can have a multiplex-like experience at home with a collection of the right DVDs. And when someone asks you on Monday, “Hey, did you see that movie about Adam Sandler dying of that awful disease?” you can reply, “No, I prefer Adam Sandler repressed and depressed rather than outrageous and lonely. That’s so much more fun.”
INSTEAD OF: Funny People, Judd Apatow’s new film, which isn’t at all the comedy it’s being marketed as, about a standup comedian and movie star (Adam Sandler) who discovers he’s dying, and tries to change his big-fat-jerk ways with the help of an up-and-coming comic (Seth Rogen)…

WATCH: Martin Scorsese’s 1983 film The King of Comedy, with Jerry Lewis as Jerry Lewis as Adam Sandler, and Robert DeNiro as Robert DeNiro as Seth Rogen. Well, not really, but that film features a bizarrely similar apprentice scenario and a famous comedian playing a barely altered version of himself. Or for more Sandler in serious mode, try Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love (2002), in which he plays a lonely, repressed man who opens up to a new friendship with Emily Watson. For more of both Apatow and Rogen in a comparably sensitive dramedy, check out the short-lived TV series Undeclared, from 2001.

INSTEAD OF: The Collector, from Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, the creators of the later Saw films, a horror flick about a burglar who breaks his way into what looks like a terrifying home invasion scenario…

WATCH: If you’re, heh, dying for some torture porn, your best bet is the very first Saw flick, which Dunstan and Melton had nothing to do with but which actually satirizes the overblown gore that passes for horror these days rather than celebrating it. But the best home invasion flick ever is probably the 1994 black comedy The Ref, in which Denis Leary’s cat burglar is forced to take hostages in Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis, with outrageously hilarious results (but relatively little blood).

INSTEAD OF: Aliens in the Attic, in which a passel of kids have to defend their home against extraterrestrial trespassers…

WATCH: You can never go wrong with the 1984 classic Gremlins, which the nasty critters of Attic vaguely resemble. If you want a nice alien visitor who needs to be hidden and defended rather than fought off, go for 1981’s E.T. The Extraterrestrial, who comes complete with adorable six-year-old Drew Barrymore as his protector. Similarly themed to Attic is last year’s The Spiderwick Chronicles, in which the denizens of an alternate fantasyland of fairies and such cross over into our realm and require some battling.

INSTEAD OF: Adam, in which Hugh Dancy’s nerd suffers from a mild form of autism and still manages to fall in love with Rose Byrne…

WATCH: Rain Man, from 1988, although Dustin Hoffman’s autism is much more severe than Adam’s Asperger’s syndrome. Adam makes a joke about not being Forrest Gump (from 1994) — Adam isn’t retarded but probably genius-bright, for one — but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some parallels between the two guys. If you can wait till next Tuesday, check out The Soloist, from earlier this year, in which “neuro typical” Robert Downey Jr. discovers the difficulties, just as Byrne does, of befriending someone with a differently functioning brain in Jamie Foxx’s schizophrenic.


Where to buy:

E.T. The Extraterrestrial [Region 1] [Region 2]
Forrest Gump [Region 1] [Region 2]
Gremlins [Region 1] [Region 2]
The King of Comedy [Region 1] [Region 2]
Punch-Drunk Love [Region 1] [Region 2]
Rain Man [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Ref [Region 1] [Region 2]
Saw [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Soloist [Region 1]
The Spiderwick Chronicles [Region 1] [Region 2]
Undeclared [Region 1]



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