February 12: 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 never let you bring champagne, truffles, and candlelight into the theater with you. 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 Valentine’s Day this weekend?” you can reply, “No, I made my own at home.”
INSTEAD OF: Valentine’s Day, in which a cross section of beautiful Los Angelinos cross paths and interact with an almost supernatural level of coincidence on their romantic misadventures over the course of one fateful holiday invented by a greeting card company…

WATCH: Love Actually (2003), the charming British film that takes the same idea — sprawling cast, interwoven stories — and makes it work by both winking at itself and acknowledging the darker side of relationship. If you must have romance in the City of Angels, you can’t go wrong with Steve Martin’s wise and witty L.A. Story (1991), which is as much a valentine to that city as it is to love itself. Even though it has less romance and more racism and bigotry, Crash (2005), also set in L.A., is practically the same movie, although here it’s all Angelinos being mean to one another (to be fair, there’s quite a bit of that in Valentine’s Day, too). Perhaps the best illumination of what director Garry Marshall finds “romantic” can be found in Pretty Woman (1990), about a prostitute who falls in love with a corporate shark, which fools both of them into thinking they’ll live happily ever after together.

INSTEAD OF: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, in which a teenaged boy growing up in mundane anonymity discovers that he can do magic and is actually a wizard– er, a demigod, the son of Poseidon, and embarks upon a quest to save the divine world he just learned about…

WATCH: Oh, just give in to the urge and watch Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), about the boy wizard who is growing up in obscurity until he is thrust into a magical world he is suddenly expected to save. The book Percy Jackson is based on actually slightly predates Harry Potter, so there’s no ripping off going on, but the similarities between the two fictional universes is striking. Or journey back in time to meet Percy’s long-ago cousin, Perseus, son of Zeus, who battles monsters and the gods themselves in Clash of the Titans (1981) (which will also prepare you for the upcoming remake of that film). Pretty much the best “hey, you’ll totally never guess who your dad is!” movie must be The Empire Strikes Back (1980) — and Luke can do magic too, through the power of the force. To see more of the appealing and talented star of Percy Jackson, check out Logan Lerman in 3:10 to Yuma (2007), in which he more than holds his own against Russell Crowe and Christian Bale — this kid is one to watch.

INSTEAD OF: The Wolfman, in which Benicio Del Toro gets bitten by the mysterious creature that’s attacking people on the foggy moors of his ancestral English home and transforms into something even more monstrous…

WATCH: The 1941 original, The Wolf Man, starring Lon Chaney Jr., which is just a little corny, but very moody and atmospheric, and was the undisguised inspiration for the new film (Del Toro is a huge fan of this classic). For another American werewolf in England, see An American Werewolf in London (1981), John Landis’s horror comedy about a student backpacker who meets a terrible fate on the moors of Yorkshire and then goes on wolfman rampages in the capital city. For another look at Del Toro’s indelible screen presence, see him as a criminal who’s dumb but not stupid in The Way of the Gun (2000). Director Joe Johnston has explored the relationship between man and beast before… in Hidalgo (2004), during the production of which star Viggo Mortensen fell so in love with his equine costar that he bought the horse when the film was finished.

Where to buy:
An American Werewolf in London [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Clash of the Titans [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Crash [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
The Empire Strikes Back [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Hidalgo [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
L.A. Story [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Love Actually [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Pretty Woman [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
3:10 to Yuma [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
The Way of the Gun [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
The Wolf Man [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]

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