We know how it is: You'd like to go to the movies this weekend, but you will be ensconced on the sofa, overstuffed from turkey and trimmings and enthralled in the nonstop football on TV. But you might find some time between touchdowns to sneak in a few DVDs, so that when someone asks you on Monday, "Hey, did you see Burlesque this weekend?" you can fake your way through pretending you did.
INSTEAD OF: Burlesque, in which Christina Aguilera plays a naive Iowa girl -- *snort* -- who lucks into a job singing and dancing in a neo-burlesque club run by Cher in Hollywood, and finds love and fame along the way...
WATCH: Cabaret (1972), the film director Steve Antin clearly wants to emulate, though his film suffers by comparison; but you can't beat the combination of sex-soaked dance and Nazis for sheer over-the-top melodrama. Or try Flashdance (1983), in which Jennifer Beals' steel-mill welder dreams of a life of dance and off-the-shoulder sweatshirts. Or go deep classic with 42nd Street (1933), an early backstage musical in which an ingenue has to go on in place of the star at the last minute ... just like what happens to Christina! *squeal* For more of the heaping pile of awesome that is Cher, check her out in a dramatic role, like in Mask (1985), as the very cool mother of a child with severe facial deformities who refuses to let him be treated like a freak.
INSTEAD OF: Faster, in which Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is an ex-con who takes revenge against the baddies who killed his brother...
WATCH: The Punisher (2004), which isn't very good, but is about revenge, and is big and dumb and stupid like movies about revenge always are. Or try Walking Tall (2004), and see The Rock in his previous starring role in a big dumb stupid revenge movie; here, he returns home from Iraq to find bad guys have taken over his town, and gets real mad about that. For more crazy avengers, see Payback (1999), in which Mel Gibson's lowlife thief gets cheated by his partners in crime and gets real mad about that. For classic cinematic revenge, go with Dirty Harry (1971), for Clint Eastwood's off-the-reservation cop who goes after a serial killer when his fellow police officers aren't up to the job. For more from director George Tillman Jr., see his Notorious (2009), a hilariously flattering biopic of the rapper Notorious B.I.G.
INSTEAD OF: Love and Other Drugs, in which a sharky Viagra salesman (Jake Gyllenhaal) falls in love with a woman who can't commit (Anne Hathaway), even though neither of them seems capable of being in love...
WATCH: Up in the Air (2009), a much much much much better movie about how modern life drives people about. Or check out another rom-com from director Edward Zwick in About Last Night... (1986), in which Rob Lowe and Demi Moore have a one-night stand and then can't decide whether the relationship should go further. For another hideous example of how Hollywood doesn't get female free spirits -- which is what Anne Hathaway's screwup in Love is meant to be -- take a cautious look at Along Came Polly (2004), for Jennifer Aniston's take on the stereotype. To see Anne Hathaway as a kookball character that works, check her out in Rachel Getting Married (2008) ... which is, of course, an indie.
INSTEAD OF: Tangled, Disney's new animated take on the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale about Rapunzel (Mandy Moore), the girl with the longest hair ever, now teamed up with a roguish thief (Zachary Levi)...-
WATCH: Enchanted (2007), the delightful send-up of Disney princesses in which a pink pink princess (Amy Adams) finds herself in a decidedly non-fairy-tale modern New York City. Or try Stardust (2007), a jokey fantasy about a young man (Charlie Cox) in a faux medieval land who falls in love with a falling star (Claire Danes). For a darker look at the progenitors of what we consider fairy tales, see Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm (2005), for its snarky take on what it means to tell stories and entertain audiences. For more of Mandy Moore as a young woman desperate for independence -- as Rapunzel is, prompting her to escape the forest tower she's imprisoned in -- check out Chasing Liberty (2004), in which she plays the overprotected First Daughter who yearns for some personal freedom from Secret Service agents.