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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

September 11: DVD alternatives to this weekend’s multiplex offerings

We know how it is: You’d like to go to the movies this weekend, but it’s all this settling back down into pre-autumnal routine has got you exhausted. 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 check out Whiteout this weekend?” you can reply, “No, I like my scares on the ice done up more science fiction-y.”
INSTEAD OF: Whiteout, in which Kate Beckinsale’s U.S. marshal attempts to solve the first murder in Antarctica…

WATCH: Either 1951’s The Thing From Another World or John Carpenter’s 1982 remake ,The Thing, about terror at the South Pole of a more extraterrestrial sort. If U.S. marshals are your thing, check out 1993’s The Fugitive for Tommy Lee Jones’s Oscar-winning performance as a highly entertaining and doggedly determined federal lawman. For a reminder that Kate Beckinsale can actually act, see last year’s Nothing But the Truth, in which she portrays a journalist dedicated to protecting her source in a nasty Washington DC Valerie Plame-style leak case.

INSTEAD OF: 9, the steampunk animated flick about the only survivors of a gas apocalypse, humanity’s machines and a band of small, ragdoll-like Frankensteinian creatures, including the gentle but brave 9 (the voice of Elijah Wood)…

WATCH: Elijah Wood has played a small, gentle, but brave person before, of course, in the recent Lord of the Rings trilogy, which, like 9, also features a tiny object of huge importance to the creation of a happy future. The world of 9 is clearly inspired by H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, with its giant walking tripod war machines, but only one of the many adaptations of the novel is set in the Victorian era — filmmaker Timothy Hines’ slavishly faithful indie adaptation, from 2005. (I don’t think it’s a very good film; I prefer Spielberg’s modern adaptation, also from 2005.) Gentle Frankenstein beings abound on film: for other’s, try 1990’s Edward Scissorhands, Disney’s 1940 Pinocchio, and 1985’s D.A.R.Y.L.… all of which are appropriate for children, as the scary and intense 9 may not be.

INSTEAD OF: Sorority Row, in which a band of scantily clad, constantly partying college gals pull a prank that ends up with one of them dead, cover it up, and find themselves stalked by a vengeful killer who knows their secret…

WATCH: House on Sorority Row, the similarly themed and plotted 1983 flick of which this is a nominal remake (it doesn’t sound as better than the new one sounds). I Know What You Did Last Summer, from 1997, was surely inspired by that older flick, which is probably why the new one sounds so much like it. The bad-girls-doing-bad classic is 1989’s Heathers — one wonders what those high school terrors managed to get up to once they hit college. Perhaps they took a lesson from the boys Delta Tau Chi of 1978’s Animal House, and just got drunk a lot.

INSTEAD OF: Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All by Myself, about a selfish, bitter nightclub singer (Taraji Henson) who takes in her sister’s kids when no one else will, and learns how to be a decent human being in the process…

WATCH: For a taste of how godawful a filmmaker Tyler Perry is, see how long you can sit through Diary of a Mad Black Woman, an alternately hilarious and unendurable mashup of slapstick comedy, schmaltzy sentiment, and Perry himself in a crossdressing fat suit as the cartoonish Madea. More awfulness abounds in 2004’s Raising Helen, in which selfish career gal Kate Hudson adopts her sister’s kids and learns how to be a decent human being in the process — at least it does not feature Tyler Perry in a fatsuit. For a somewhat more realistic look at the trials and tribulations of modern motherhood, try 1997’s As Good as It Gets, in which Helen Hunt’s struggling waitress juggles romance and a sickly child to varying degrees of success.


Where to buy:

Animal House [Region 1] [Region 2]
As Good as It Gets [Region 1] [Region 2]
D.A.R.Y.L. [Region 1] [Region 2]
Diary of a Mad Black Woman [Region 1]
Edward Scissorhands [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Fugitive [Region 1] [Region 2]
Heathers [Region 1] [Region 2]
House on Sorority Row [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Lord of the Rings [Region 1] [Region 2]
I Know What You Did Last Summer [Region 1] [Region 2]
Nothing But the Truth [Region 1]
Pinocchio [Region 1] [Region 2]
Raising Helen [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Thing [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Thing From Another World [Region 1] [Region 2]
The War of the Worlds [Hines] [Region 1] [Region 2]
The War of the Worlds [Spielberg] [Region 1] [Region 2]



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