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 accidentally downloaded yourself into an ancient computer simulation, and now you're stuck there. But why not try hacking into Netflix's servers and streaming a few movies to your own personal matrix? Then, after you escape, when someone asks you, "Hey, did you see Tron: Legacy this weekend?" you can say, "010111000101000101110."

INSTEAD OF: Tron: Legacy, which sends early-'80s ideas about cyberspace hurtling off into their own dreary alternate universe while also trying to make Garrett Hedlund seem heroic and movie-star-ish as a hacker who jumps into said virtual reality...

WATCH: Tron (1982), the Disney cult favorite that broke new FX ground and sets up this sequel, if you can find it; Disney has pulled the DVD from distribution, but used copies are available. Take a look back at the most startling depiction of cyberspace cinema has seen yet in The Matrix (1999) ... and lament that more than a decade later, even a movie that wants to redefine our ideas about the virtual realm cannot even approach surpassing it. For more Jeff Bridges as an early-'80s sci-fi star, don't miss the fantastic Starman (1984), in which his astronaut from another planet romances Karen Allen and charms us with his gentleness and easy wisdom. For more of Garrett Hedlund in the same sort of cheesy, overproduced genre junk, take a peek at him in Eragon (2006), a truly awful epic dragon-rider fantasy.

INSTEAD OF: How Do You Know, in which an idiotic Reese Witherspoon takes absolutely forever to choose between a rich, dumb, unfaithful jerk (Owen Wilson) and a nice, honest guy who's in a bit of a financial pickle (Paul Rudd)...

WATCH: Legally Blonde (2001), a much more delightful romantic comedy in which Reese Witherspoon isn't as dumb as everyone -- herself included -- assumes she is. For more of Paul Rudd, you have to go indie to find him in a recent decent rom-com: try Diggers (2007), the charming story of working-class lives and loves on maritime Long Island. For another, better dramedy about love and tough times from director James L. Brooks, check out his As Good as It Gets (1997), about an unlikely platonic triangle between a poor waitress (Helen Hunt), a depressed artist (Greg Kinnear), and a jerk of a novelist (Jack Nicholson, who also appears in Know). If you want a film that closely approximates the unendurable senselessness of Know, go with the execrable Something's Gotta Give (2003), in which Diane Keaton and (again) Nicholson play out one of the most unbelievable on-screen romances ever.

INSTEAD OF: Yogi Bear, half cartoon, half live-action, in which the titular inhabitant of Jellystone Park has to save his home from greedy developers, or something, with the help of a park ranger, or somebody...

WATCH: Open Season (2006), a delightful all-animated feature comedy about forest denizens who learn lessons about friendship and stuff. For a lovely talking-animal fantasy that mixes animation and live-action, see Stuart Little (1999), about a small mouse (the voice of Michael J. Fox) who lives with a human family as their child. Or go classic talking-animal with The Shaggy Dog (1959), a fantasy about a boy who magically switches bodies with the family pooch.


MaryAnn Johanson knows how she knows at FlickFilosopher.com. (email me)