January 29: DVD alternatives to this weekend’s multiplex offerings

We know how it is: You’d like to go to the movies this weekend, except you’re busy investigating the latest government/corporate coverup and that leaves little time for amusing yourself. But you can have a multiplex-like experience at home with a collection of the right DVDs. And when someone asks you on Monday, “Hey, did you see Edge of Darkness this weekend?” you can reply, “No, but gimme back my DVDs!”

Goodness, only two wide releases this week, and no new arthouse flicks worth mentioning? It really must be the ass end of January…
INSTEAD OF: Edge of Darkness, the Mel Gibson thriller in which the murder of his adult daughter starts to look more like part of a government conspiracy and less like he — a Boston cop — was the one being targeted…

WATCH: Ransom, the Gibson thriller from 1996, mostly because I couldn’t help expecting Edge Gibson to crazy-shout “Gimme back my daughter!” even though she’s already dead and ain’t comin’ back… because that’s what Ransom trained us to expect from Gibson. For a more satisfying exploration of the same story, see the 1985 BBC miniseries the film is based on (and is newly available on DVD): the original Edge of Darkness focuses as much on the cop’s complicated relationship with his grownup daughter as it does on the conspiracy aspect, which makes it a far more satisfying and well-rounded tale. For a better example of how to adapt a long-form British miniseries as a short-form Hollywood film, check out last year’s State of Play, which does the job much better. (It’s about a journalist and what looks like a government conspiracy, so it’s totally a different story.) For a better example of what director Martin Campbell is capable of, try The Mask of Zorro (1998), with Antonio Banderas as the titular hero, and some of the most fun and most sexy action bits in recent cinema.

INSTEAD OF: When in Rome, the alleged romantic comedy in which lovelorn misfit Kristen Bell has to travel halfway around the world in order to get a date, and them ends up with a surfeit of them (and all of them “comically” hopeless)…

WATCH: Check out last year’s My Life in Ruins, in which Nia Vardalos’s American moves to Greece, thinking this will improve her life; it doesn’t, and her “adventures” are as intolerable as the notion that an adorable blonde like Kristen Bell has trouble getting a date. For actually enjoyable examples of women finding romance in Italy, try the classic Roman Holiday (1953), in which Euro royal Audrey Hepburn falls for American reporter Gregory Peck. Or the charming Under the Tuscan Sun (2003), in which Diane Lane’s American divorcee finds new life — and new love — in the Italian countryside. If you need more instances of director Mark Steven Johnson’s hilarious incompetence, you can’t go wrong with Daredevil (2003), which is all about looking “cool,” no matter how little sense it makes within the context of the story, slender as it is.

Where to buy:
Daredevil [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Edge of Darkness (1985) [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
The Mask of Zorro [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
My Life in Ruins [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Ransom [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Roman Holiday [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
State of Play [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Under the Tuscan Sun [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]

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