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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

September 18: 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 raining spaghetti and meatballs out there. 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 that new 3D animated movie this weekend?” you can reply, “No, I stuffed my face on other awesome kiddie flicks.”
INSTEAD OF: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, the animated tale of giant food falling from the sky like weather, all the doing of a not-quite-mad, just-sorta-silly scientist…

WATCH: Oh, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory — the original 1971 flick, not the recent, similarly titled remake — both for Gene Wilder’s wonderfully demented mad foodie but for all the mad food as well. The new creative boundaries of animated films such as Cloudy explores are also on gorgeous display in the darker and more twisted (but not by much) Coraline, from earlier this year. Bigness is a decisive factor in the Cold War-era parable The Iron Giant (1999), about a boy who befriends a big-ass robot from outer space mistaken for a Russian weapon. For a more adult exploration of some of the food issue raised in Cloudy, see the 2004 documentary Super Size Me, in which Morgan Spurlock eats himself into a state of unhealthiness in only a month’s time.

INSTEAD OF: The Informant!, Steven Soderbergh’s oddball satire on corporate whistleblowing, in which Matt Damon’s Archer Daniels Midland VIP trades business red tape for the federal kind as he becomes an FBI spy…

WATCH: Duplicity, 2009’s other comedy on corporate espionage, which uses screwball antics the way this one does irony and cynicism. Soderbergh’s previous take on corporate crime, Erin Brockovich (2000), is more straightforward, but treads similar ground in highlighting the toll fighting corporate hegemony takes on those who do the fighting. For more Damon as a company man, see The Good Shepherd (2006), in which he portrays the cold, clinical first head of the CIA. For a horrifying dose of the reality behind the likes of Archer Daniels Midland, see the 2003 documentary The Corporation, which convincingly diagnoses that business entity in general as sociopathic.

INSTEAD OF: Jennifer’s Body, in which Megan Fox gets possessed by Satan and goes on a boy-killing spree, in a flick that’s supposed to be some sort of feminist commentary on adolescent girls…

WATCH: Teeth (2007), a far more wicked, way more potent horror metaphor on the suppressed desire teenaged girls have to take revenge on the boys who take advantage of them (think: vagina dentata — ouch). For Fox in a better sendup of her supernatural hotness, see How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (2008), in which Simon Pegg’s dorky journalist latches on to her Hollywood ingenue and won’t let go. Need more Satanic possession? Go straight to the classics with 1973’s The Exorcist, and see Linda Blair vomit pea soup — it’s fun! Discover where director Karyn Kusama made her first splash with 2000’s Girlfight, starring Michelle Rodriguez as a teenaged girl boxer. (Reader Ide Cyan recommends the Canadian film Ginger Snaps as a better look at evil adolescent girls.)

INSTEAD OF: Love Happens, in which Aaron Eckhart’s sadsack widower learns to overcome his grief and love again at the cutesy-poo hands of Jennifer Aniston, who’s supposed to be all alternative and wacky and stuff…

WATCH: Possession, from 2002, for Eckhart in a passionately romantic story that is much worthier of his ardent screen presence; for snarky Eckhart, check out Thank You for Smoking (2005) for his wonderfully depraved performance as an amoral tobacco-company lawyer. Aniston isn’t always as insufferable as she is here: for proof to the contrary, see her bored wage slave in the comedy Office Space (1999) and her bored wage slave in the drama The Good Girl (2002). If all you need is romance with a genuinely eccentric twist, don’t miss 2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which uses science fiction fantasy to find real truths about how we remember — and forget — those we love.


Where to buy:

Coraline [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Corporation [Region 1] [Region 2]
Duplicity [Region 1] [Region 2]
Erin Brockovich [Region 1] [Region 2]
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Exorcist [Region 1] [Region 2]
Ginger Snaps [Region 1] [Region 2]
Girlfight [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Good Girl [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Good Shepherd [Region 1] [Region 2]
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Iron Giant [Region 1] [Region 2]
Office Space [Region 1] [Region 2]
Possession [Region 1] [Region 2]
Super Size Me [Region 1] [Region 2]
Teeth [Region 1] [Region 2]
Thank You for Smoking [Region 1] [Region 2]
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory [Region 1] [Region 2]



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  • Kevin

    GINGER SNAPS is a goddamn masterpiece!

  • Judy

    Iron Giant is in my top 5 movies of all time!

  • Exclamation points are cool!

  • Victor Plenty

    Evil teen girl stories are so tired. Seriously, I can’t be the only one intensely weary of this theme.

    Anybody who thinks teens are all evil and cruel, or even mostly evil and cruel, male or female, just isn’t paying attention to the real world.

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