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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

October 23: 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 were planning to fly around the globe this weekend. 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 Amelia this weekend?” you can reply, “No, I defied societal expectations from the comfort of my living room.”
INSTEAD OF: Amelia, a biopic of pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart (Hilary Swank) from director Mira Nair…

WATCH: First stop: the cable network A&E’s Biography of Earhart, for the completely fact-based side of her story. Then, go to 1985’s Out of Africa, for another tale of a woman — author Isak Dinesen, real name Karen Blixen, played by Meryl Streep — who lived life on her terms, too, in an era when society didn’t much care for women doing that. For more of early aviation legends, see Martin Scorsese’s 2004 flick The Aviator, about Howard Hughes, who designed and flew some of the most innovative aircraft ever. For more Mira Nair, check out her Monsoon Wedding, from 2001, about an Indian marriage celebration that shows how women’s new expectations for themselves are transforming even traditional societies. For more Hilary Swank defying expectations for women, see her Oscar-winning performance in 2004’s Million Dollar Baby, as a boxer who finds personal redemption in the ring.

INSTEAD OF: Astro Boy, the animated kiddie flick based on the cult-favorite 1960s Japanese proto-anime about a robot boy who thinks he’s a real boy (at least at first)…

WATCH: Wall-E, from last year, which utilizes a similar setting — a garbage-strewn, end-of-nature, post-environmental-apocalypse Earth — to tell a far more engaging story about robots with emotions. Astro is voiced by the supremely talented Freddie Highmore, who can be seen as another little boy lost/prodigy musician in the lovely August Rush, from 2007. Providing the voice of Astro’s mad-scientist father is Nicolas Cage — he can be heard in another slightly mad role as the ant wizard in the 2006’s animated fantasy The Ant Bully. More animated insanity is on offer in 2006’s Flushed Away, from Astro Boy director David Bowers, about a pampered London mouse who finds himself adrift in the sewers under the city, in the realm of the rats.

INSTEAD OF: Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, a teen comedy about a high-schooler who reluctantly becomes a bloodsucking creature of the night in order to save a friend…

WATCH: 1987’s Lost Boys, which features the memorable quote “You’re a vampire, Michael! My own brother, a goddamn, shit-sucking vampire. You wait till mom finds out, buddy!” especially if you like the line from that TV spot for Cirque, “You’re a vampire, and you didn’t tell your best friend?” which isn’t actually in the final film. For more adult vampire funnies, check out 1979’s Love at First Bite, source of the greatest Dracula quote ever: “Children of the night: shut up!” (it also puts a crafty feminist spin on the sexual appeal of the vampire). For more funny John C. Reilly — he plays, with a sweet comedic twist, the elder vampire who turns our adolescent hero — don’t miss 2006’s Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, in which he plays a hick NASCAR racer. For more creepy Ken Watanabe — who here plays the leader of the sideshow circus of the title — there’s always 2005’s Batman Begins, in which he portrays Batman’s mysterious and mystical enemy Ra’s Al Ghul.

INSTEAD OF: Saw VI, which feels like way more than just the sixth installment in the torture-porn franchise about the sicko who gets off on bringing suffering and bodily anguish down on those he believes deserves it…

WATCH: If you must have a Saw movie, go with the first one, from 2004, which is more satire than porn: it cleverly sent up tropes of the genre and didn’t take quite so much glee in the gore and pain it depicted. For old-school horror, nothing beats Tobe Hooper’s 1974 classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which relies more on suggestion and the viewer’s imagination than on buckets of blood to terrorize. The imagination is way ooked by 1999’s Ravenous, a perverse and very funny movie about cannibalism on the 19th-century American frontier. For an entirely up-to-date take on horror without the torture porn, check out Sam Raimi’s underappreciated Drag Me to Hell, a sly look at who might actually deserve to be cursed by demons, from early this year.


Where to buy:
The Ant Bully [Region 1] [Region 2]
August Rush [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Aviator [Region 1] [Region 2]
Batman Begins [Region 1] [Region 2]
Biography (Amelia Earhart) [Region 1]
Drag Me to Hell [Region 1] [Region 2]
Flushed Away [Region 1] [Region 2]
Lost Boys [Region 1] [Region 2]
Love at First Bite [Region 1]
Million Dollar Baby [Region 1] [Region 2]
Monsoon Wedding [Region 1] [Region 2]
Out of Africa [Region 1] [Region 2]
Ravenous [Region 1] [Region 2]
Saw [Region 1] [Region 2]
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre [Region 1] [Region 2]
Wall-E [Region 1] [Region 2]



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