October 16: DVD alternatives to this weekend’s multiplex offerings

We know how it is: You’d like to go to the movies this weekend, but there’s all this vengeance to be doled out and all those injustices to be put right. 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 Law Abiding Citizen this weekend?” you can reply, “No, I indulged in the long history of vigilante cinema and checked out the long history of extralegal fantasy ass kicking.”
INSTEAD OF: Law Abiding Citizen, the vigilante action flick about grieving, angry husband and father Gerard Butler taking vengeance against DA Jamie Foxx for setting free the man who murdered his family…

WATCH: The granddaddy of vigilante flicks, 1974’s Death Wish, in which Charles Bronson goes all badass on bad guys who done bad. Just as the Vietnam War spawned the action subgenre of the vigilante flick, so has the current Iraq War II set off another wave of them. If you really must indulge your violent outlaw desires, you could opt for 2007’s Death Sentence — starring Kevin Bacon as Charles Bronson — or The Brave One, from the same year — starring Jodie Foster as Charles Bronson. If you need a less grim Gerard Butler fix, check out last year’s RocknRolla, Guy Ritchie’s black comedy about dumb criminals and the mob bosses who hate them. For more Jamie Foxx, 2004’s Collateral — in which he plays a cab driver kidnapped for an evening’s drive by hitman Tom Cruise — shows off his talents to great measure.

INSTEAD OF: Where the Wild Things Are, Spike Jonze’s interpretation of Maurice Sendak’s beloved children’s book about a boy with anger issues and the monsters who love him…

WATCH: Another big-screen transfer of another favorite kiddie story, 2005’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which features all manner of talking critters, from messianic lions to heroic beavers, and a realm into which unsuspecting children unexpectedly wander. Grownups may appreciate one of Jonze’s previous outings for adults, such as 2002’s Adaptation, in which Nicolas Cage’s neurotic screenwriter frets and sweats his way through an impossible assignment. Speaking of screenwriters: Things adapter Dave Eggers has one previous film credit to his name: the on-the-road love story Away We Go, from earlier this year and just now out on DVD. Kids craving more encounters with cuddly fiends will love 2001’s Monsters, Inc., which lifts the veil on the ogres under the bed and in the closet.

INSTEAD OF: The Stepfather, yet another in a long line of unnecessary remakes of horror flicks…

WATCH: The 1987 original, starring Terry O’Quinn (aka John Locke on Lost); it can’t possibly be much different than the remake. If pointless remakes are your think, Stepfather director Nelson McCormick and screenwriter J.S. Cardone did the same thing last year, when they gave is a less than new take on teens-in-peril slasher flick Prom Night. The evil stepfather of this new movie is played by Dylan Walsh, best known as Dr. Sean McNamara on TV’s Nip/Tuck, plenty of which is available on DVD if you need more Walsh. For evil stepmothers, your choices are legion, but you might enjoy the postmodern take Sigourney Weaver offers in the 1997 made-for-cable flick Snow White: A Tale of Terror.

INSTEAD OF: Paranormal Activity, the ultra-low-budget haunted house flick that’s breaking records, and may break more records as it expands to a wide release; it’s got Hollywood, with its penchant for spending more rather than less and its reliance on mining the past rather than looking to the future, shaking in its collective boots…

WATCH: 1999’s The Blair Witch Project, the guerrilla indie film most often being likened to Activity; it, too, was made on the cheap and relies more on imagination and immediacy than on FX and slick production values for its effectiveness. Last year’s Cloverfield may be the first big-budget film to heed the lessons of Blair Witch — the “camcordered” look at a monster attack on New York City is riveting because it’s as realistic as such a movie can get. For a more traditional haunted-house flick, revisit 1982’s Poltergeist (Activity borrows its static-y TV for a scare). A more relaxed, more humorous haunting can be found in 1988’s Beetlejuice, which is hilarious enough to make you wish your house was inhabited by ghosts and ghouls.

Where to buy:
Adaptation [Region 1] [Region 2]
Away We Go [Region 1] [Region 2]
Beetlejuice [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Blair Witch Project [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Brave One [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe [Region 1] [Region 2]
Cloverfield [Region 1] [Region 2]
Collateral [Region 1] [Region 2]
Death Sentence [Region 1] [Region 2]
Death Wish [Region 1] [Region 2]
Monsters, Inc. [Region 1] [Region 2]
Nip/Tuck [Region 1] [Region 2]
Poltergeist [Region 1] [Region 2]
Prom Night [Region 1] [Region 2]
Rocknrolla [Region 1] [Region 2]
Snow White: A Tale of Terror [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Stepfather [Region 1] [Region 2]

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Fri, Oct 16, 2009 4:50pm

A great list, but it is missing my favorite revenge flicks…in no particular order:

Eve of Destruction (died in the theaters, but rocked despite Gregory Hines as a bad guy. Not directly revenge for an event, but watch it for long enough and one gets the feeling the ‘droid is responding to its creator’s anger at some people.)

and two by Alex Cox: Death and the Compass (odd movie from an odd story by Borges) and Revengers Tragedy (glam movie from a Jacobean bloodbath).

Then, too, there is Carrie! Serious revenge!

And Get Carter. The original one. I love watching Michael Caine. Always did, always will. Even in tripe or when he is on-screen for just a nanosecond; but this movie is neither.

Fri, Oct 16, 2009 5:05pm

My DVD alt lists are never intended to be all-inclusive.

Sat, Oct 17, 2009 2:00pm

There’s a “Death and the Compass” movie?

*running off to amazon to order it*

Sat, Oct 17, 2009 11:55pm

@MaSch: I had to get mine from the BFI, so it was Region 2. If there are any Region 1 editions around, I think they’d be pretty old. But, the quality of the BFI DVD was worth fiddling with my drive to make it Region 2.

Sat, Oct 17, 2009 11:58pm

To MaryAnn, I realize it. I just couldn’t resist sharing my fav revenge movies. Last year I watched a lot of them. Must have been the mood I was in. Rewatched a lot of Peckinpah, too.

Mon, Oct 19, 2009 3:14am

: Ah, sometimes it pays off being a Region 2 native … ;-)

Mon, Oct 19, 2009 1:03pm

@MaSch: Yup. It’ll be easier for you then … as long as you guys don’t have any more Royal Mail strikes. ;-)

Tue, Oct 20, 2009 6:17am

Another point for me: The DVD is brought to me by Deutsche Post, so no strikes, there.

Damn, I really *am* privileged, ain’t I?

Tue, Oct 20, 2009 8:59am

…grumble, grumble, grumble…d**n furiners!

Rub it in, go on.

Wed, Oct 21, 2009 2:39am

As you wish, LaSargenta: The DVD arrived yesterday. I bet you waited longer.

On the other hand, you probably enjoyed it far more than I did (I thought it was okay, but nothing too interesting; the Red Scharlach bit at the ending (which really was really, really cool) excepted).

Thanks for the recommendation, by the way :-)