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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

September 25: 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 just gotta sing, gotta dance, gotta get a B in algebra so you can get into Julliard. 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 remake of Fame this weekend?” you can reply, “No, I went back to school in other musical theater ways.”
INSTEAD OF: Fame, the new updating of the classic 1980 film (I guess the kids all have cell phones and text their angst and despair to their friends instead of just talking about it)…

WATCH: The original Fame is, of course, your best place to start — 30 years on, the movie is still relevant to the hearts and minds of teens, and still a sheer delight. If you need more all-singing, all-dancing teens, go with last year’s High School Musical 3: Senior Year, which is actually a way better movie than you think it is, or the 2007 big-screen version of the stage adaptation of Hairspray, about a spunky teen who won’t let her extra pounds stop her from winning a local TV dance contest. For more adult humor in a musical-comedy style, the cinematic mounting of the stage production of The Producers (2005) is a hoot and a half, especially for Will Ferrell’s Nazi-loving playwright and Uma Thurman’s sexy secretary.

INSTEAD OF: Pandorum, a science fiction horror story about two astronauts (Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster) who awake from cryo sleep to find that Something Bad has invaded their ship…

WATCH: The 1979 masterpiece Alien, the best and-then-there-were-none SF flick ever likely to be made: spacebound horror doesn’t get any better than this. The genre doesn’t get any goofier than in 1997’s Event Horizon, a crock of vacuum about an entity from “a dimension of pure chaos, pure evil” that chews through a bunch of astronauts. (Pandorum, which was not screened for critics, is likely to be more like this than like Alien, especially considering that Horizon director Paul W.S. Anderson is a producer.) For more science-fiction-y Dennis Quaid, try the 1987 comedy Innerspace, which is Fantastic Voyage meets All of Me. For better Ben Foster, there’s always 2007’s 30 Days of Night, for his creepy Stranger, the best reason to see the movie.

INSTEAD OF: Surrogates, Jonathan Mostow’s new sci-fi action flick about a future in which everyone lives through beautiful android proxies, from which cop Bruce Willis must unplug and solve a murder…

WATCH: 1999’s The Matrix, in which the entire human race is, unwittingly, living only through their own vitutal surrogates in a kind of Second Life gone mandatory. If all you need are pretty robots, go for Jude Law’s android gigolo in A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) or the fembots of Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery (1997). Arnold Schwarzenegger discovers he’s been living a sort of proxy life in 1990’s Total Recall, although he got to stay in his own body to do so (his head got hijacked by… well, I won’t spoil it if you haven’t seen it). For more Jonathan Mostow SF, 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is a hilarious spoof (at least in parts) of the genre’s excesses. If it’s Bruce Willis in the future you love, you can’t go wrong with 1995’s Twelve Monkeys, in which he hails from a dark and dismal world and travels back to our today, his comparatively more pleasant past.


Where to buy:
A.I. Artificial Intelligence [Region 1] [Region 2]
Alien [Region 1] [Region 2]
Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery [Region 1] [Region 2]
Event Horizon [Region 1] [Region 2]
Fame [Region 1] [Region 2]
Hairspray [Region 1] [Region 2]
High School Musical 3: Senior Year [Region 1] [Region 2]
Innerspace [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Matrix [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Producers [Region 1] [Region 2]
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines [Region 1] [Region 2]
30 Days of Night [Region 1] [Region 2]
Total Recall [Region 1] [Region 2]
Twelve Monkeys [Region 1] [Region 2]



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