October 30: 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’re still working on putting together your Michael Jackson costume for Halloween; sewing all those sequins onto that glove is taking forever. 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 This Is It this weekend?” you can reply, “No, I eased on, eased on down the road instead.”
INSTEAD OF: Michael Jackson’s This Is It, the pseudo concert film/documentary/slash public memorial service that salvages what is basically home video footage of rehearsal’s for what would have been Jackson’s final tour into something not quite fit for public consumption…

WATCH: 1978’s The Wiz, and see the then-teenaged Jackson as the Scarecrow; though the film was a critical and box office flop when it was released, many critics singled out Jackson as the best thing about the film. For a real concert film, see the one that many music and film fans consider the very best: Stop Making Sense, Jonathan Demme’s 1984 paean to The Talking Heads. (The “big suit” that David Byrne wears throughout the film is, unfortunately and undeliberately, echoed in This Is It by Jackson’s frail frame inside too-big clothes.) If getting an explanation of the balletic etymology of the crotch grab isn’t naught enough for you, go with 1987’s Dirty Dancing for Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey grinding on the dance floor. For an alternative behind-the-scenes look at the making of a song-and-dance extravaganza, don’t miss Singin’ in the Rain, the 1952 comedy about the making of an (invented) early talking movie.

No other wide releases dared to go up against the Gloved One, so opportunities two avoid these two very limited releases may exist in only a few cities. Nevertheless:

INSTEAD OF: The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, Troy Duffy’s followup to his 1999 film, a cult favorite on DVD, a wannabe Tarantino-esque valentine to vigilantism and cinematic style over substance…

WATCH: The first flick, The Boondock Saints, about the Boston MacManus brothers (Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus) who go on a violent killing spree, which is okay, apparently, because they only kill people who are bad — it really would replicate the multiplex experience of seeing the new film, because the two movies are almost indistinguishable from each other. More fun is the documentary Overnight, from 2003, a tell-all about Duffy and the very rocky road the first film took to get to the screen. For a reminder of when Sean Patrick Flanery was actually interesting to watch onscreen, catch some of The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones — which was called The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles when it aired on ABC in the mid 1990s — in which he portrays the teenaged adventurer caught up in various historical intrigue, such as when he lies about his age in order to volunteer for the Belgian army in World War I. For a sweet look at Clifton Collins Jr., who plays a crazy sidekick to the MacManuses in Boondock 2, see Sunshine Cleaning, from earlier this year: his Winston is a real sweetheart.

INSTEAD OF: Gentlemen Broncos, Jared Hess’s comedy about a teenager (Michael Angarano) who sees his science fiction novel stolen by an obnoxious famous writer (Jemaine Clement)…

WATCH: Jared Hess’s first film, 2004’s Napoleon Dynamite, which does a far better job of capturing the insularity of living inside one’s own head and not caring about what the rest of the world thinks of you. To see how pleasant a screen presence Michael Angarano can be, check out 2005’s Sky High, in which he plays a student at a high school for budding superheroes; it’s adorable and very funny. For another, more successful movie about a lying cheat of a bestselling writer, see The Hoax, from 2006, in which Richard Gere invents a biography of Howard Hughes and sells it for a boatload of money; it’s actually based on real events. For a look at a real, really obnoxious science fiction writer — but one far more talented than Broncos’ — don’t miss the riveting 2008 documentary Dreams with Sharp Teeth, in which Harlan Ellison opens his mouth about himself and never shuts up.

Where to buy:
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Boondock Saints [Region 1] [Region 2]
Dirty Dancing [Region 1] [Region 2]
Dreams with Sharp Teeth [Region 1]
The Hoax [Region 1] [Region 2]
Napoleon Dynamite [Region 1] [Region 2]
Overnight [Region 1] [Region 2]
Singin’ in the Rain [Region 1] [Region 2]
Sky High [Region 1] [Region 2]
Stop Making Sense [Region 1] [Region 2]
Sunshine Cleaning [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Wiz [Region 1] [Region 2]

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