DVD Alternatives to This Weekend's Theatrical Offerings

We know how it is: You'd like to go to the movies this weekend, but you've been wrongly convicted of a crime and are busy busting your way out of prison and working hard to clear your name and kick some ass along the way. But jury-rig a portable DVD player to take along with you, and you can still have something like a multiplex experience while on the road. And when someone asks you on Monday, "Hey, did you see The A-Team this weekend?" you can reply, "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you. Which I might do anyway, if I suspect you're a CIA officer gone rogue."

INSTEAD OF: The A-Team, a stirring drama of wrongly convicted patriots who get mad and kick some ass, featuring Bradley Cooper half naked for a surprisingly large percentage of the running time and some wonderfully over-the-top action sequences (stay through the credits for a little homage to the TV show)...

WATCH: Well, at least some of The A-Team, the 1983-1987 action adventure show, one of the touchstone TV series for Generation X; it's available in a cool new box set just out this week (what a coincidence!). For truly classic military action, go back to The Great Escape (1963), the Steve McQueen prison flick that is explicitly referenced in the A-Team movie, which itself features four -- count 'em -- great escapes, as Hannibal and the boys bust out to clear their names. Before director Joe Carnahan took on Hannibal and his team, he gave us a bit of the ol' ultraviolence in the bloodied crime caper Smokin' Aces (2006) -- it's even more preposterous than A-Team, but somehow far less satisfying. If you like Jessica Biel as A-Team's badass military chick chasing after Hannibal et al, you'll probably like her badass military pilot in Stealth (2005), a truly glorious example of baloney and American cheese.

INSTEAD OF: The Karate Kid, in which the kid (the downright adorable Jaden Smith) is so dangerous, no one -- not even Jackie Chan -- dares tell him he's actually doing kung fu, not karate...

WATCH: The Karate Kid (1984), because if there doesn't seem to have been any reason to remake this movie, and there doesn't seem to have been any great demand for a remake, the original must be as good as the new flick, right? For an actually much better film about a youngster learning martial arts and learning about himself, check out Kung Fu Panda (2008), which also has better food than Karate Kid, too (a movie set in China needs way more dumplings than Karate Kid offers us). If you want another story about how a Western kid gets seduced into Eastern wisdom and ass-kickery, you can't go wrong with the silly but charming The Forbidden Kingdom (2008), which has Jackie Chan, too. For another teen tepid adventure from director Harald Zwart, sneak a peek at Agent Cody Banks (2003), if you must.


MaryAnn Johanson knows the diff between karate and kung fu at FlickFilosopher.com. (email me)