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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

August 7: 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 too busy cooking your way through Julia Child’s magnum opus and blogging about it to get out of the house. 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 Amy Adams stuffing her husband’s face with all her gourmet cooking?” you can reply, “No, I was busy stuffing my face with other foodie flicks.”
INSTEAD OF: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Stephen Sommers’ new action flick about a team of heroes who fight villains with advanced technology, withering one-liners, and supermodel good looks…

WATCH: Oh dear, can you do better than Team America: World Police, the South Park guys’ 2004 puppet sendup of the United States as the global supercop, out to right only the wrongs it sees as wrongs and damn the consequences? If you love the G.I. Joe team’s accelerator suits, you’ll probably like them even better in the hands of a real actor like Robert Downey Jr.: he invented the things for last year’s Iron Man. If the squad action is your thing, and if you can find them, maybe you can go on a binge of old episodes of The A-Team. (No, they’re readily available in DVD, actually.) For an early example of Sommers in action, check out the popcorn-a-riffic The Mummy, from 1999.

INSTEAD OF: Julie & Julia, parallel stories about how Julia Child (Meryl Streep) became the most famous American chef ever and one modern woman, Julie Powell (Amy Adams), who drew inspiration from her…

WATCH: There are a slew of foodie movies to choose from, but one of the best is 1996’s Big Night (coincidentally cowritten and codirected by Stanley Tucci, who appears in J&J as Child’s husband), about the success of a New Jersey Italian restaurant in the 1950s resting upon one spectacular dinner for one special guest. The protagonists in Night are male, however: for movies about women cooking in untraditional situations, don’t miss 2001’s Mostly Martha, about a chef (Martina Gedeck) who loves food but takes little joy in the rest of life… until she learns how to; or 2007’s Woman on Top, in which Penelope Cruz escapes from an abusive husband and finds a new life feeding the people of San Francisco. For a nonfood movie about women doing things that have nothing to do with snagging a man or having a baby, check out the 2005 action horror thriller The Descent, about a band of female spelunkers who encounter some nasty critters deep inside an almost inescapable cave.

INSTEAD OF: A Perfect Getaway, writer-director David Twohy’s preposterous — and ridiculously self-referential — island serial-killer thriller starring Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich as honeymooners threatened in paradise…

WATCH: Below, from 2002, a much better example of the B-movie popcorn thriller from Twohy, about a haunted submarine in World War II, a place the hauntees simply cannot walk away from. For more of Zahn in danger in the jungle, check out 2006’s Rescue Dawn, in which he plays (with Christian Bale) a Vietnam POW escaping through the rainforests of Southeast Asia. If you’re after more of Twohy’s winking, cinematic self-awareness — his Getaway characters keep talking about the very movie clichés they’re living in — you can’t go wrong with last year’s Tropic Thunder, about a bunch of spoiled movie stars making a movie in Thailand that they don’t realize has crossed over into reality. It’s the flip side of what Getaway is trying to achieve, and infinitely more satisfying as a satire on Hollywood storytelling.


Where to buy:

The A-Team [Region 1] [Region 2]
Below [Region 1] [Region 2]
Big Night [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Descent [Region 1] [Region 2]
Iron Man [Region 1] [Region 2]
Mostly Martha [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Mummy [Region 1] [Region 2]
Rescue Dawn [Region 1] [Region 2]
Team America: World Police [Region 1] [Region 2]
Tropic Thunder [Region 1] [Region 2]
Woman on Top [Region 1] [Region 2]



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