DVD Alternatives to This Weekend's Theatrical Offerings

It's early January. You may be hungover -- literally or figuratively -- from the holidays. You may be snowed in. You may look at the offerings at the multiplex and groan. Whatever the reason, heading out to the movies isn't the most appealing prospect at the moment. Curling up on the sofa in your bunny slippers sounds like much more fun. And you can replicate the sense of a trip out with the right selection of DVDs. Like these:

INSTEAD OF: Season of the Witch, in which Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman go all medieval on the concept of a good story with interesting characters, as their Crusader-era knight warriors transport a witch to her exorcism...

WATCH: Gone in 60 Seconds (2000), a previous collaboration between star Nicolas Cage and director Dominic Sena, about supposedly sexy car thieves; it also features a lack of good story and interesting characters. To see how Nicolas Cage can be terribly unmagical not only in the medieval world but today, too, check out the awful The Sorcerer's Apprentice (2010), from last summer, in which he plays the wizard Merlin, still alive in the 21st century and seeking a new King Arthur. To see how other films have also misplayed modern comic sensibilities in centuries-old settings, take a look at A Knight's Tale (2001), in which Heath Ledger's squire impersonates a jousting star and totally, like, gets the girl and stuff. For medieval comedy that actually works, don't miss the brilliant and subversive Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975); too many moments in Witch seem to demand one toss lines of dialogue from Grail at it anyway, so you might as well go right to the source.

INSTEAD OF: Country Strong, in which Gwyneth Paltrow's country music superstar leaves rehab too soon and keeps having breakdowns on what is supposed to be her comeback tour...

WATCH: Coal Miner's Daughter (1980), the classic film about women in country music; Sissy Spacek won a well-deserved Oscar for her portrayal of legendary performer Loretta Lynn. Or check out the goofy Rhinestone (1984), in which Dolly Parton has to turn Sylvester Stallone into a singer ... or else. For a more serious look at the price of fame, don't miss Shut Up & Sing (2006), the documentary about what happened when the Dixie Chicks expressed an unpopular political opinion. For more of Gwyneth Paltrow as a trouble artist, see her in Sylvia (2003), as the pathologically depressed poet Sylvia Plath.


MaryAnn Johanson is city strong at FlickFilosopher.com. (email me)