(Welcome to Employee Picks, a series where Jacob Knight uses his day job expertise as a video store manager to recommend unique and often overlooked alternative options to the big movies hitting theaters and home video.)

Hello and welcome back to Employee Picks! In case you missed the rules in the first and second editions of the column: for every big-name motion picture on the horizon, I suggest something from the archives to watch in its place that’s either thematically, spiritually, or tangentially related.Yes, I have fully accepted my role in this world: the goofball hipster who wants you to get the hell out of the multiplex and into the realm of pure weirdness (and I won’t apologize one bit).

With those general parameters in mind, here are my alternative picks for every big movie dropping on Blu-Ray, DVD or VOD this July.

The Major Release: Blockers

Your Alternative: The Last American Virgin (1982, d. & w. Boaz Davidson)

Where Blockers sees a group of parents – including John Cena and Leslie Mann – trying to prevent their kids from getting down on prom night, The Last American Virgin (which finds Boaz Davidson remaking his own ’78 Israeli coming of age farce Lemon Popsicle) is possibly the ultimate teen sex movie, as a group of dorks work their asses off to get rid of their V-Cards. Scored to one of the greatest soundtracks ever assembled – showcasing The Cars, Blondie, and The Police – it climaxes in one of the most unexpectedly melancholy final shots in the history of cinema. Come for the cock jokes, stay to get your heart broke.

The Last American Virgin is available on Blu-ray, courtesy of Olive Films.

The Major Release: Beirut

Your Alternative: The Constant Gardener (2005, d. Fernando Meirelles)

Fernando Meirelles’ City of God follow-up is one of the better modern big screen John le Carré adaptations, as Ralph Fiennes’ devastated diplomat investigates the murder of his activist wife Tessa (Rachel Weisz), haunted by regret regarding their marriage and rumors of her possibly sleeping around during their final years together. Meirelles spins the story into an overwhelmingly sad adventure that uncovers corporate corruption and climaxes in tear-jerking sacrifice. This is one of the most undervalued films of the aughts, containing what’s arguably Fiennes’ most moving, human performance. An essential piece of international pulp fiction.

The Constant Gardener is available on Blu-ray, courtesy of Universal Home Entertainment.

The Major Release: Escape Plan 2: Hades

Your Alternative: No Escape (1994, d. Martin Campbell)

For those of us who grew up during the ‘90s, No Escape will be a blast from the past, as it was a late-night cable staple of sci-fi/action schlock cinema. Instead of the high-tech penitentiaries of Escape Plan, Ray Liotta’s insurrectionary soldier is imprisoned on Absolom, a primitive island where the convicts – led by Stuart Wilson and Lance Henriksen – have formed two warring tribes, and the rogue warrior is now forced to choose a side…or die trying. It’s a no frills cheap thrill that threatens to go off the rails on numerous occasions, but Martin Campbell (Goldeneye) is too sturdy a genre workman to ever let No Escape lose its way.

No Escape is available on DVD, courtesy of HBO Home Video.

The Major Release: A Quiet Place

Your Alternative: Testament (1983, d. Lynne Littman)

Where A Quiet Place transforms one family facing the end of the world into a sci-fi monster movie rollercoaster ride, Testament is more concerned with the realistic effects of living in a universe that’s been devastated by nuclear attack. Jane Alexander and William Devane play parents, desperately trying to hold onto any semblance of hope, as radiation sickness begins to whittle the population of human survivors down to zero. Not for the faint of heart, Lynne Littman’s final feature narrative (before exiting the arena to helm TV movies and docs) is difficult to watch, mostly because it’s so terrifyingly relatable for anyone who’s ever lived in an American suburb. This is the end of all things for your friends and neighbors, and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it.

Testament is available to stream via Amazon.

The Major Release: Isle of Dogs

Your Alternative: A Boy & His Dog (1975, d. & w. L.Q. Jones)

A truly outlandish and psychedelic landmark in ‘70s sci-f filmmaking, character actor L.Q. Jones’ post-apocalyptic fable about the titular teen (Don Johnson) and his trusty telepathic canine transforms a story from the recently passed literary hero Harlan Ellison into an odyssey full of marauders, misanthropy and underground sex cults, who want to treat a crude, uneducated rapist into their inseminating stud. For those who thought Isle of Dogs’ approach to its Japanese storyline was “problematic”, wait until they sit down with a movie where the “hero” literally trades food for sex crime victims with man’s best friend, who sniffs out fresh women for him to force himself upon. A true product of its times, you could never make a movie like A Boy & His Dog today, because its commitment to cynical commentary is like a hit of bad acid, barely diluted by its genre trappings.

A Boy & His Dog is available on Blu-ray, courtesy of Shout! Factory.

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