April 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 if you don’t knock down that last bit of woods in your neighborhood and pave it over for a parking lot, it’ll never get done. But you can have a multiplex-like experience from the comfort of your own sofa with a collection of the right DVDs. And when someone asks you on Monday, “Hey, did you see Furry Vengeance this weekend?” you can reply, “No, I took a look back at the cinematic history of movies warning us about destroying our environment, and how we never take heed.”
INSTEAD OF: Furry Vengeance, in which Brendan Fraser, apparently atoning for some great sin, must battle CGI forest creatures who don’t like his plans to build a mall in their woods…

WATCH: Over the Hedge (2006), the deliciously cynical animated comedy that pokes fun at our consumeristic, materialistic foibles via the adventures of a small band of wildlife that thrives off our garbage in McMansion’ed suburbia… and all without too much toilet humor to distract from its satiric bite. For a more soulful look at the human impact on the rest of the world, don’t miss the lovely My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Hayao Miyazaki’s fairy tale about shapeshifting forest animals and their hidden relationship with humans. If you must see more of Brendan Fraser debasing himself in the name of children’s entertainment, there’s always Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003), but be warned: there’s not much of that classic Looney Tunes zing here. If you’re curious about what a smarmy, slimy hack director Roger Kumble is, watch The Sweetest Thing (2002) through your hands: it’s a grossout comedy of such disgusting awfulness that you’re need a shower not just afterward but while you’re watching it as well.

INSTEAD OF: A Nightmare on Elm Street, a remake/reboot/reimagining of the classic 1984 Wes Craven slasher flick, which created the iconic nightmare boogeyman Freddy Krueger…

WATCH: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), the classic Wes Craven slasher flick, which created the iconic nightmare boogeyman Freddy Krueger and made a star — of a sort — out of actor Robert Englund, whom I’ve heard is actually just the nicest guy. I’m sure the same is true of actor Jackie Earle Haley, who takes over the role for this new film: he’s made a career out of playing creeps, and one of the most intriguing in the neighborhood man accused of being a child molester in Little Children (2006). For a horror remake that actually had something new to say, and said it in a way that felt exciting and pertinent, see Dawn of the Dead (2004), which is so of its post-9/11 moment that it’s easy to get the sense that it’s not a remake at all. For another journey through bad dreams, check out Dreamscape (1984), in which Dennis Quaid’s psychic can enter people’s nightmares: it’s not as fun as it sounds.

That’s it for new releases this week, but there one new film on the arthouse circuit easily duplicated at home:

INSTEAD OF: Harry Brown, in which Michael Caine plays an elderly man who’s sick of the crime and general lawlessness on his London housing estate, much of it perpetuated by terrifying hoodie-wearing teenagers, and takes it upon himself to clean things up…

WATCH: Death Wish (1974), in which Charles Bronson turns vigilante after his family is attacked amidst the rising crime of 1970s New York City. For another elderly vigilante, revisit the CBS TV series The Equalizer, in which former secret agent Edward Woodward comes out of retirement to work freelance, start with the 1985 first season. For an action-oriented Michael Caine as a young man, see Get Carter (1971); here he’s a mobster avenged the death of a loved one in a story also set in poor urban environments. Modern London adolescence is in fully terrifying form in the brutal Kidulthood (2006), about a day in the life of a series of West London teens who seem all but soulless, and entirely ordinary.

Where to buy:
Dawn of the Dead [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Death Wish [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Dreamscape [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
The Equalizer: Season One [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Get Carter [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Kidulthood [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Little Children [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Looney Tunes: Back in Action [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
My Neighbor Totoro [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
A Nightmare on Elm Street [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Over the Hedge [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
The Sweetest Thing [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]

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