April 16: DVD alternatives to this weekend’s multiplex offerings

We know how it is: You’d like to go to the movies this weekend, but all that street crime isn’t gonna fight itself, and you’ve got to pick up your cape and mask from the dry cleaners, too. But you can have a multiplex-like experience from the comfort of your own sofa with a collection of the right DVDs. And when someone asks you on Monday, “Hey, did you see Kick-Ass this weekend?” you can reply, “No, I got my superhero freak on without ever leaving the house.”
INSTEAD OF: Kick-Ass, Matthew Vaughn’s sendup/satire/pastiche of comic books superheroes, in which two dorky teens (Aaron Johnson and Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and a prepubescent girl and her ex-cop father (Chloe Grace Moretz and Nicolas Cage) don masks and fight crime…

WATCH: Watchmen (2009), obviously, which offers a far more satisfying exploration of what happens when ordinary, nonsuperpowered people decide to make vigilante justice their life’s work. The cleverest comedy ever to take down caped crusaders is the hilarious and biting Mystery Men (1999) — they mostly don’t have any magical powers, either, but they’ve got a lot more heart than the Kick-Ass kids. For more Mark Millar, whose graphic novel serves as the basis for Kick-Ass, see Wanted (2008), in which James McAvoy discovers he’s a member of a secret guild of assassins; it’s just as outrageously violent as Kick-Ass, but without the jokiness. For more Matthew Vaughn, don’t miss his electrifying directorial debut, Layer Cake (2004), about a London cocaine dealer (Daniel Craig) looking to retire from the business after one last job…

INSTEAD OF: Death at a Funeral, Neil LaBute’s mystifying remake of an English film only a few years old, about two brothers (Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence) clashing on the day of their father’s funeral, which collapses into comedic disaster…

WATCH: Death at a Funeral (2007), from director Frank Oz, one of the funniest, laugh-out-loudest movies I’ve ever seen, and quite a wisely witty one about grief and family. (If only DVD alternates were always this easy to choose. No, wait: If movies must be remade, there’s no way on Earth it should be happening this quickly.) For more farcical Neil LaBute, check out the wonderfully oddball Nurse Betty (2000), in which Renee Zellweger retreats fully into fantasy as a way of coping with horror. For more of the amazing Peter Dinklage — who appears as the same character in both Deaths; it’s a cinematic crime if he can’t do better than that as an actor — don’t miss his debut in The Station Agent (2003) as an angry, lonely man who doesn’t realize he’s desperate not so angry and lonely anymore. If you need more funereal comedy, there’s always the modern classic Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), which explores life and love through the titular rites of passage.

That’s it for wide releases this week, but this limited release is sure to have wide appeal:

INSTEAD OF: The Joneses, in which Demi Moore and David Duchovny pose as an upscale suburban couple, a ruse through which to slyly marketing new products and services to their unsuspecting materialistic neighbors…

WATCH: Some of Mad Men (start with the 2007 first season), AMC’s genius expose of the moment in the 1960s when advertising started to get insidious, and the impact it has on the people who make it; the show also echoes The Joneses’ theme of dual identities in its main character, Don Draper (Jon Hamm). For more on the driving forces of conformity and competition that created suburbia, don’t miss the wonderful Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948); from Myrna Loy’s dreams of the paint colors of her new kitchen to Cary Grant’s troubles as an ad exec selling to housewives, marketing is a recurrent theme here, too. See Demi Moore with multiple personalities in Passion of Mind (2000), in which she’s not sure if she’s a high-powered Manhattanite dreaming she’s a widow in the French countryside, or a widow in the French countryside dreaming she’s a high-powered Manhattanite. For more David Duchovny, check out the under-the-radar dramedy The TV Set (2006), in which his television writer is frustrated to see his serious drama transformed by marketing influences.

Where to buy:
Death at a Funeral [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Four Weddings and a Funeral [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Layer Cake [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Mad Men: Season One [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Mystery Men [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Nurse Betty [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Passion of Mind [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
The Station Agent [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
The TV Set [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.]
Wanted [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]
Watchmen [Region 1/U.S.] [Region 1/Can.] [Region 2]

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