December 23-25: DVD alternatives to this weekend’s multiplex offerings

We know how it is: You’d like to go to the movies this weekend, but… prezzies! toys! candy canes! snowball fights! big holiday dinner! 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 Sherlock Holmes this weekend?” you can reply, “No, I took a couple other trips to Victorian London instead.”
INSTEAD OF: Sherlock Holmes, Guy Ritchie’s take on the world’s first consulting detective, featuring Robert Downey Jr. as a more physical Holmes than we’re used to (though not one unfaithful to the source material) and Jude Law as his sidekick, Dr. Watson…

WATCH: 1985’s Young Sherlock Holmes, in which teenaged Holmes (Nicholas Rowe) and Watson (Alan Cox) battle a seemingly supernatural foe, just like the grownup criminal investigators do in Ritchie’s film. For more Victorian crimefighting, don’t miss From Hell (2001), for Johnny Depp hunting down Jack the Ripper; the film also features a secret society, though not the same one as in Sherlock Holmes. The best Holmes ever remains Jeremy Brett, who portrayed the detective for Britain’s Granada TV from 1984 to 1994, in a series that mounted faithful adaptations of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories; start with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. For more Guy Ritchie, check out his 1998 feature debut, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, a hilarious heist flick featuring a wild array of crazy characters the likes of which would probably flummox even Holmes himself.

INSTEAD OF: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, in which three small furry forest creatures continue their domination of pop music but must face a new challenge: high school…

WATCH: The prequel to the squeakquel, 2007’s Alvin and the Chipmunks reboot, which is even cuter, though just as silly, as the new film. For another talking animal flick for the kiddies, check out Dr. Dolittle (1998), also from Alvin director Betty Thomas, in which Eddie Murphy talks to critters, and hears them talk back. For more Zachary Levi, who replaces Jason Lee as the chipmunks’ human buddy and guardia, see his TV series Chuck — it debuted in 2007 and the first season is available in DVD — about a computer nerd who accidentally ends up working as a spy. David Cross plays the evil record producer who menaces our rodential heroes; for a different look at the actor in another music movie, see 2007’s I’m Not There, the fantasy about Bob Dylan, in which he plays Beat poet Allen Ginsberg

INSTEAD OF: It’s Complicated, yet another example of director Nancy Meyer’s interior-design porn among which occurs the tale of Meryl Streep’s affair with her ex-husband (Alec Baldwin) while she is also pursued by Steve Martin…

WATCH: Every Nancy Meyers movie is basically the same, so try her 2003 version of this same story: Something’s Gotta Give, in which Diane Keaton’s totally fabulous “older” gal is romanced by both Keanu Reeves and Jack Nicholson. For more Meryl Streep, see her take on a doubly imaginary writer in Adaptation (2002), in which she is a character only in the mind of Nicolas Cage’s screenwriter. For more Alec Baldwin, don’t miss the TV series 30 Rock, on which he plays a domineering network executive; start with Season 1, dating from 2006. For more Steve Martin, try Shopgirl (2005), in which he romances the much younger Claire Danes in a story that does not pretend that large gaps in age between a couple don’t matter; Martin’s own screenplay is based on his novella.

INSTEAD OF: Nine, the fantasy adapted from the stage musical about a legendary Italian film director (Daniel Day-Lewis) and the many women in his life who inspire him…

WATCH: The original inspiration for the film, Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 (1963)… but be warned: it may ruin Nine for you by demonstrating how pale an imitation it is. Or try Chicago (2002), director Rob Marshall’s first feature film mounting of a Broadway musical — it’s far more satisfying than Nine, in fact. For more of Daniel Day-Lewis in an arty depiction of a cad, check out The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988), in which his doctor beds his way across communist Prague in 1968. For more of Marion Cotillard, who plays Day-Lewis’s actress-wife, don’t miss her portrayal of singer Edith Piaf in La vie en rose (2007): she gets to sing lots more in this one than she does in Nine.

Where to buy:
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes [Region 1] [Region 2]
Adaptation [Region 1] [Region 2]
Alvin and the Chipmunks [Region 1] [Region 2]
Chicago [Region 1] [Region 2]
Chuck: The Complete First Season [Region 1] [Region 2]
Dr. Dolittle [Region 1] [Region 2]
8 1/2 [Region 1] [Region 2]
From Hell [Region 1] [Region 2]
I’m Not There [Region 1] [Region 2]
La vie en rose [Region 1] [Region 2]
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels [Region 1] [Region 2]
Shopgirl [Region 1] [Region 2]
Something’s Gotta Give [Region 1] [Region 2]
30 Rock: Season 1 [Region 1] [Region 2]
The Unbearable Lightness of Being [Region 1] [Region 2]
Young Sherlock Holmes [Region 1] [Region 2]

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Thu, Dec 24, 2009 12:15pm

Or if you can’t see “Nine”, you can now rent “9” or “District 9”, which are better alternatives.

Thu, Dec 24, 2009 12:17pm

Whoops, my bad. “9” doesn’t come out on DVD till the 29th, but you can still get your “one less than ten” fix with “District 9”.

Tonio Kruger
Thu, Dec 24, 2009 12:38pm

The original inspiration for the film, Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 (1963)… but be warned: it may ruin Nine for you by demonstrating how pale an imitation it is.

Or you can watch Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz–which apparently inspired the opening number of Chicago–and which also dares to claim inspiration from Fellini’s 8 1/2–and judge for yourself whether it’s an improvement on Nine.*

* I keep thinking of the “One” song from A Chorus Line every time I hear that title but I wouldn’t recommend you see the movie version of that play. However, if you want to argue that our dear hostess is a “singular sensation,” I won’t disagree.

Thu, Dec 24, 2009 12:45pm

Or you can skip the cinema all together and watch the last Doctor Who with David Tennant.

BTW: Where’s MaryAnne’s review of Waters of Mars?
Isn’t almost a week ago that WoM was broadcast in the States?

Surely that takes care of any spoilers… >B’)