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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

February 19: DVD alternatives to this weekend’s multiplex offerings

We know how it is: You’d like to go to the movies this weekend, but they won’t let you of the special hospital without a good reason. But you can have a multiplex-like experience right in your room with a collection of the right DVDs. And when someone asks you on Monday, “Hey, did you see Shutter Island this weekend?” you can reply, “No, I visited other movie mental institutions instead.”
INSTEAD OF: Shutter Island, Martin Scorsese’s long-delayed film noir about a U.S. Marshal (Leonardo DiCaprio) whose missing-person investigation at an insane asylum appears to be driving him insane…

WATCH: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975’s Oscar-winning Best Picture and perhaps the greatest movie ever made about those who are differently saned. For something more like the trick Scorsese is trying to pull, check out Gothika (2003) — in which Halle Berry plays a head-shrinker who gets tossed into her own mental institution — and have a good laugh. Or go for Identity (2003), a devious movie about insanity that gives us a psychotic killer on death row (Pruitt Taylor Vince) who is more than what he seems. For a different look at what spending time in even an abandoned asylum might do to a sane mind, don’t miss Session 9 (2001), in which a team of asbestos cleaners discover that an empty hospital isn’t necessarily a deserted one.

Shutter Island is the only new wide release this weekend, but there are a few arthouse releases that you might be interested in simulating at home…

INSTEAD OF: The Ghost Writer, the new political thriller from director Roman Polanski, about a journalist (Ewan McGregor) who agrees to write the “auto”biography of a disgraced British prime minister (Pierce Brosnan)…

WATCH: Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (2008), the documentary that delves into the controversy surrounding the director, who has been a fugitive from American justice for the last 30 years, which will explain why some moviegoers will avoid this movie on principle alone. For another thriller about political secrets — and one based on a novel by Robert Harris, as Ghost Writer is — don’t miss the electrifying Fatherland (1994), set in an alternate history in which the Nazis won WWII. For another look at Ewan McGregor as a wordsmith, see Moulin Rouge! (2001), in which his impoverished writer also tangles with the rich and powerful (though in this case for the hand of Nicole Kidman). Perhaps the best writer-in-a-tough-spot thriller is Misery (1990), in which James Caan’s novelist is kept prisoner by a deranged fan (Kathy Bates).

INSTEAD OF: Blood Done Sign My Name, a rabble-rousing drama of the civil rights era, about a black Vietnam vet murdered by whites in the 1970s South…

WATCH: The Fugitive (1993), written by Blood writer-director Jeb Stuart, about another miscarriage of justice, in the form of a great popcorn thriller. For Blood star Nate Parker in another role busting bigotries, see The Great Debaters (2007), for his 1930s college student who dares to compete in a debate competition against white students. Recent cinema history is rife with powerful tales of racial strife: see Mississippi Burning (1988), a true story — as Blood is — about the murder of civil rights workers in 1964; or A Time to Kill (1996), a fictional story about a black man who attempts to avenge the rape of his little daughter by white supremacists.

INSTEAD OF: Happy Tears, a dramedy about two sisters (Demi Moore and Parker Posey) who have run out of patience coping with their increasingly senile father (Rip Torn)…

WATCH: On Golden Pond (1981), in which just one daughter (Jane Fonda) squares off with her cantankerous father (Henry Fonda). For an honest chick flick about two sisters taking care of each other, don’t miss the excellent In Her Shoes (2005), in which Cameron Diaz’s irresponsible overgrown child and Toni Collette’s over-responsible workaholic find common ground. For two grumpy old men at odds with each other, there’s always Grumpy Old Men (1993), in which Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon “enjoy” a lifelong rivalry. For a completely different look at modern womanhood from the same writer-director, Mitchell Lichtenstein, check out his black comedy Teeth (2007), about a teenage girl with a distinctive mutation that makes exploring her budding sexuality rather difficult.


Where to buy:
Fatherland [oops! looks like this isn’t availabe on DVD; hopefully it will be soon]
The Fugitive [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Gothika [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
The Great Debaters [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Grumpy Old Men [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Identity [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
In Her Shoes [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Misery [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Mississippi Burning [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Moulin Rouge! [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
On Golden Pond [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.]
Session 9 [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Teeth [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
A Time to Kill [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]



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