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"Great DVD Alternatives to Going to the Movies"
By Doug Crooks, Independent Movie Critic

Since this summer movie season has been less than great, now is a great time to catch up on some films you may have overlooked in theaters. Below is a list of the Top 5 movies that I just can't take out of my DVD player.

5. Tora! Tora! Tora!
If you sat through Pearl Harbor and craved something other than US 'popcorn' History, than check out Tora! Tora! Tora! for answers. Tora! Tora! Tora! (The Japanese signal to attack) features a joint US and Japanese effort to film one of the greatest war pictures to date. The unique thing about this film is it chronicles both sides of the Pearl Harbor story (and not just a 'cartoonish' version of the Japanese brass). The war scenes are eerily accurate, and you get a sense of how the Japanese felt "awaking a sleeping Giant." This is a must see for both action enthusiasts as well as History buffs

4. Spike Lee's 'Do the Right Thing' Criterion Collection DVD
This double disc set is what DVD players were made for. Not only does this disc feature a pristine picture, but the extras on this disc are amazing. You get the now 'standard' commentary you've come to expect from a special addition set. To those not in the know, Criterion is a mark of the highest quality of DVD, showcasing foreign films as well as modern artistic and independent films. Plus, you get Spike Lee's home-video footage of everything from casting rehearsals to the wrap party, several making of documentaries, the 1989 Cannes Film Festival press conference, original storyboards for the riot scene, Public Enemy's video for "Fight the Power," and a few other tid bits. If you've never seen this film, it's worth a look just to see what all of the controversy was all about (this is the film that caused theater riots in the late 80's and early 90's, and has a VERY controversial ending). This is a perfect example of story telling at it's finest, and now you can view it in a beautiful format.

3. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
While a lot of us may be tired of the hype, you can't argue that this movie doesn't deserve the attention it's been getting. This movie not only feature some of THE most exciting action sequences ever shot, but it a beautiful love story. A film both guys and girls can get into! And if you hesitated to see in the theaters due to it's subtitles, you can rent it on DVD and watch it in English. This is one of the best dubbed movies I've ever heard, since a large portion of the cast speaks English. I won't hype up this movie any more than it's already been hyped, but take my word for it: you DO NOT want to miss seeing this film!

2. Being John Malkovich
While this movie may not be for everyone, it's undeniable that this is one of the most original movies ever made. It features John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, and John Malkovich starring in the role he was born to play! I can't go into the plot without giving away the beauty of this movie. It's best seen 'fresh' and original; the less you know, the more you can marvel in it's originality. I will tell you that Cusack is a puppeteer who takes an office job as a filer and soon discovers a portal into the mind of John Malkovich. You can actually be Malkovich for about fifteen minutes before you're shot out of his head and onto the New Jersey turnpike. I know it sounds weird, but you will be the hippest guy around the water cooler when you mention seeing (and hopefully liking) this flick!

1. Almost Famous
This was my pick for best movie of last year by a long shot. Favorite director Cameron Crowe writes the pseudo-story of his life. Almost Famous is about a smarter than average boy (William) who is fifteen and goes on the road with a big time rock and roll band. While this movie is rated R (which is absurd), this movie has some of the best morals I've seen in a main stream movie in years. William is surrounded by sex, drugs and rock 'n roll, yet upholds the good morals that his college professor mom has taught him. He doesn't give in to the temptations of the road, and he stays a good kid! A film like this should be shown to high school kids all over and seen as a triumph of the mind over the tempations.

The sound track is great (some of you older folks will dig the familiar songs of the 70's) and has one of the most memorable sing-alongs in movie history. I almost always get misty eyed, and ALWAYS get a big grin on my face watching the bus full of musicians, roadies, and hangers-on sing "Tiny Dance." To me, it's a reminder that some of the biggest fights can all be solved when we just sit back and remember how close good friends can be, and it reminds us that friendships and relations are stronger than trite squabbles.

So, if you're like me scratching your head and wondering what to do with all of this free time you USUALLY would spend at the multiplex, just visit revisit (or discover) some great 'classics' that you may have missed!

Have fun, and I'll see you in line for Lord of the Rings!

- Doug Crooks, Movie Critic

Just so you know how I rate my movies:

Rush out and see this movie immediately
See this movie soon, but on your own time
See this movie at a matinee or with a free pass, save a couple of bucks
Video store or cable TV special


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