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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

August 21: DVD alternatives to this weekend’s multiplex offerings

We know how it is: You’d like to go to the movies this weekend, but you’re in the Nazi-killing business, and business is booming. 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 Inglourious Basterds this weekend?” you can reply, “No, I took a break from scalping German officers only to watch some of the other B-movie takes on World War II.”
INSTEAD OF: Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino’s pulp-fiction take on the plot-to-kill-Hitler World War II movie, featuring a squad of Jewish-American soldiers — led by Brad Pitt — who hunt Nazis and take no prisoners…

WATCH: The first movie to flat out state, “Nazis… I hate these guys”: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which is just about as deadly to the German soldiers as Basterds is. B-movie-ish takes on World War II abound of late: one of the best 2006’s Black Book, from director Paul Verhoeven, which also postulates a Jewish resistance fighter (Carice van Houten) in the Netherlands who takes her, ahem, undercover duties very seriously. Bon Voyage, from 2004, is more Golden Age Hollywood: imagine Barbara Stanwyck and Cary Grant trying to escape, screwball style, from the Germans marching into Paris. Of course, the ultimate pulp fiction movie is Tarantino’s own Pulp Fiction, from 1994; it’s the only other Tarantino film that could vie with the director’s own contention that Basterds is his “masterpiece.”

INSTEAD OF: Post Grad, in which Alexis Bledel’s Ryden Malby flounders around in a would-be adorable way in the horrifying aftermath of college graduation and life subsequently choosing not to go according to her carefully laid out plans…

WATCH: If you need more Alexis Bledel, your best bet is to check out a few episodes of Gilmore Girls, in which she plays a similarly ambitious and serious girl. For more Michael Keaton as a wacky parent (he plays Ryden’s father in Post Grad), you must see 1983’s Mr. Mom, for one of his most charming performances as a stay-at-home dad. Bledel’s professionally at-odds young woman is hardly a cinematic original: her most prominent predecessor may be Melanie Griffith’s Working Girl (1988), who may well be Bledel’s post-grad in a few years. Ryden is no Benjamin Braddock, but she finds herself in a similar situation as he does in 1967’s The Graduate, right down to the relationship with the older partner… though Ryden’s trials are somewhat less existentially dramatic.

INSTEAD OF: Shorts, Robert Rodriguez latest adventure in low-budget, nonstudio filmmaking for kiddies, about a magical wish-granting object that falls from the sky into an American suburb and into the hands of imaginative gradeschoolers…

WATCH: Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, the craziest movie for kids Rodriguez has ever made — it doesn’t just toss kids into a video game, it challenges the young viewer to abandon all sense of logic or sanity along the way. On a similar theme to Shorts but with a more serious underlying agenda, the very sweet and socially conscious The Last Mimzy, from 2007, is a nice alternative: here, a mysterious science-fictional object appears to two young siblings, and asks them to save the world. But perhaps the best movie ever about kids coping with magic way beyond them is 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: Rodriguez wishes his movies were this crazy-in-a-good-way…

INSTEAD OF: X Games 3D The Movie, an IMAX documentary about extreme athletes, since we’re calling skateboarders athletes these days…

WATCH: Not that there’s really any way to replicate the IMAX experience at home, but try ESPN’s Ultimate X: The Movie, an IMAX documentary about extreme athletes, since we’re calling skateboarders athletes these days… yeah, it does sound an awful lot like X Games 3D (minus the 3D). For an intimate look at how skateboarders got to be the rebels we know and love today, check out Catherine Hardwicke’s 2005 drama Lords of Dogtown, about how bored kids in Southern California in the 1970s invented the sport; their true story was also told in the 2001 documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys, which makes an excellent double feature with Lords.


Where to buy:

Black Book [Region 1] [Region 2]
Bon Voyage [Region 1] [Region 2]
Dogtown and Z-Boys [Region 1] [Region 2]
ESPN’s Ultimate X [Region 1]
Gilmore Girls [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Graduate [Region 1] [Region 2]
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Last Mimzy [Region 1] [Region 2]
Lords of Dogtown [Region 1] [Region 2]
Mr. Mom [Region 1]
Pulp Fiction [Region 1] [Region 2]
Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over [Region 1] [Region 2]
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory [Region 1] [Region 2]
Working Girl [Region 1] [Region 2]



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