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're hiding out from the professional killers who are on your tail and intent on taking you out ... and not to the movies. But you can have a multiplex-like experience in the privacy of your safe house with the right collection of DVDs. So when someone asks you on Monday, "Hey, did you see The American this weekend?" you can say, "No, and if anyone else asks, you haven't seen me, OK?"

INSTEAD OF: The American, in which George Clooney's murder-weary professional assassin mopes around rural mountain Italy while doing one last job before he's out, out, he tells ya...

WATCH: Syriana (2005), for more of George Clooney as an exhausted spook; here he's a burned CIA agent, a casualty of the ongoing oil wars. To see just how morose director Anton Corbijn can be, check out Control (2007), his biopic of Brit rock star Ian Curtis of Joy Division, who killed himself at the age of 23 -- cheery! For an equally disillusioned hit man in a funnier movie, don't miss The Matador (2005), in which killer Pierce Brosnan meets salesman Greg Kinnear in Mexico City and unexpected things happen. Tom Hanks' mob killer is fed up, too, in Road to Perdition (2002); he and Clooney would have a lot to discuss about how those one-last-jobs never seem to go well.

INSTEAD OF: Machete, in which a former Mexican federale (Danny Trejo) hiding out in Texas takes on The Man who wants to bring down his Hispanic brothers and The System that perpetuates social injustice...

WATCH: El Mariachi (1992), filmmaker Robert Rodriguez's stunning debut feature, in which he demonstrated the flair for style and gonzo storytelling that has become his trademark. For a similar appropriation of '70s exploitation flicks by modern directors, check out Jackie Brown (1997), by Rodriguez pal Quentin Tarantino. Revisit an exploitation classic in Billy Jack (1971), about a half Native American avenger who defends civil rights for Indians and hippies. Or go directly to the master with a film by Roger Corman: try The Wild Angels (1966), about dangerous bikers, and offering iconic imagery that Machete borrows.

INSTEAD OF: Going the Distance, in which the adorable couple of Drew Barrymore and Justin Long attempt to maintain a relationship while one of them is in New York and the other in San Francisco...

WATCH: Sleepless in Seattle (1993), perhaps the classic tale of long-distance romance, even if lovers Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan don't even actually meet until the final moment of the film. For more of Drew Barrymore as a modern romantic heroine, see Fever Pitch (2005), in which her baseball agnostic falls in love with a rabid Red Sox fan (Jimmy Fallon); be warned that the 1997 British original is far superior. If you're looking for more Justin Long, he doesn't have many truly adult roles to his credit yet, but he's delightful in Accepted (2006) as an unconventional college student creating his own higher-education experience. Don't miss the first film by director Nanette Burstein, the documentary American Teen (2008), an excellent examination of the trials and tribulations of today's kids through the eyes of one small-town high school.


MaryAnn Johanson always goes the distance at FlickFilosopher.com. (email me)