The Best Movies to Buy or Stream This Week: Indiana Jones, ‘French Exit,’ ‘Happily,’ & More

Every Tuesday, discriminating viewers are confronted with a flurry of choices: new releases on disc and on demand, vintage and original movies on any number of streaming platforms, catalogue titles making a splash on Blu-ray or 4K. This biweekly column sifts through all of those choices to pluck out the movies most worth your time, no matter how you’re watching.

This week’s disc and streaming highlights include a quartet of fabulous documentaries, two first-rate new indies, two new Blu-rays from the Criterion Collection, and a handful of grabbers for genre movie fans. Let’s get into it:


“Punk the Capital: Building a Sound Movement”: Paul Bishow and James Schneider’s energetic and informative documentary tells the story of the birth, life, and evolution of the Washington D.C. hardcore punk scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The specifics are fascinating – the city’s bankers-hours vibe made the scene both emotionally necessary and logistically difficult – and the artists involved (including Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Void, and Rites of Spring) created a sound and style that was all their own. But “Punk the Capital” also adroitly pinpoints how most youth scenes tend to come together, as freaks and weirdos seek each other out and find the acceptance they’ve been searching for.  (Includes featurettes.)


“French Exit”“My plan was to die before the money ran out,” she explains, “but I kept, and keep, not dying.” Her name is Frances Price, and she’s spent the past several years barely managing to keep it together; Azazel Jacobs’s witty and wise comedy/drama finds her finally falling apart. She’s played by Michelle Pfeiffer in a performance of phenomenal control and dizzying emotional complexity; Lucas Hedges is a good match as her perpetually put-on son, who has spent much of his life in his flamboyant mother’s shadow, and seems comfortable there. Jacobs juggles his characters and tones with sly aplomb, and lands his script’s barbs like carefully placed land mines. (Includes deleted and extended scenes.)

“Happily”: BenDavid Grabinski’s black rom-com (an infrequent pastiche, that) begins with a juicy premise: a longtime married couple (Joel McHale and Kerry Bishé) enjoys an atypically happy – and sexually active – marriage, until a mystery man (Stephen Root, terrific) shows up at their door, informs them that their union was some sort of cosmic error, and that they’re to each take an injection, after which “you will wake up tomorrow like everyone else.” And then… well, we should stop there, because “Happily” goes in some clever and unexpectedly dark places, all while showing off Grabinski’s wry ear for dialogue (I, for one, appreciated the reference to the musical tastes of “the jet from the movie ‘Stealth’”) and providing rich roles for a loaded supporting cast. (Includes audio commentary.)

ON 4K:

“Indiana Jones 4-Movie Collection”As “Raiders of the Lost Ark” hits its 40th anniversary and the fifth Indiana Jones movie swings into production, Paramount’s new 4K Blu-ray box set is right on time – and it’s one of the must-have sets of the year. “Raiders,” of course, remains a masterpiece, the pinnacle of the series and one of the best films of either Steven Spielberg or George Lucas’s careers, a thrilling throwback to the movies serials of the 1930s, but also a peek at the kind of non-stop action machines that would take over in the 1980s. “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” hasn’t aged, um, quite as well, but it boasts a handful of breakneck sequences, a confident and engaging Harrison Ford performance, and an opening that still sings. “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” feels, as it did then, like a retreat to safer ground, but it ticks along with the precision of a Swiss watch, and Sean Connery’s turn as Indy’s dad remains an absolute delight. And while “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is certainly the least of the quartet, it’s not the disaster that frothing fanboys have tried to paint it as; how can you hate a movie that’s smart enough to bring back Karen Allen and throw in Cate Blanchett? (Includes featurettes and trailers.)

“Prospect”The presence of Pedro Pascal, everyone’s favorite intergalactic bounty hunter, is presumably the impetus for Gunpowder & Sky’s new 4K Blu-ray release of this brainy 2018 science fiction drama. And that’s reason enough; Pascal is electrifying in the film, with a charismatic antagonist turn that foreshadows the great things he’d later do in “Wonder Woman 1984,” spouting colorful dialogue and winking half-truths, and radiating so much charisma that you even believe that the daughter (Sophie Thatcher) of the man he’s killed (Jay Duplass) would team up with him to get the hell off a remote mining planet. He’s terrific; the movie is a lot of fun as well. (Also streaming on Netflix.) (Includes audio commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes, short film version, and new introduction.)


“Martha: A Picture Story”“I just kind of fell in love with New York,” Martha Cooper explains. “There was always something to photograph.” That was especially true in the late 1970s, when she worked as a staff photographer for the “New York Post”; in her time there, simply looking for neighborhood stories to tell in her frames, she discovered graffiti writers, early hip-hop culture, breakdancing and more, and treated those arts with an enthusiasm and seriousness that wasn’t shared by most of her contemporaries. Selina Miles’s affectionate and energetic documentary pulses with the vibrancy of the scene, while acknowledging Cooper’s difficulties and disappointments along the way. It’s a valentine to not only Cooper, but to the city she spent her life shooting. (Includes featurette, interview, and trailer.)

“Streetwise / Tiny: The Life of Erin Blackwell”In 1984, director Martin Bell, writer Cheryl McCall, and photographer Mary Ellen Mark made “Streetwise,” a devastating documentary account of the lives of Seattle’s homeless teens and runaways – an array of addicts, prostitutes, con artists, and thieves. Much of what the filmmakers see and hear is shocking, but there’s never a sense of sensationalism or exploitation; they merely eavesdrop on these lives and conversations, and extrapolate a sense of what takes to survive (or not) on these streets. Later scenes careful parcel out information about their parents, which often explains much about how they’ve ended up as they are; that theme continues loud and clear in Bell and Mark’s 2016 follow-up “Tiny,” also included in the new Criterion Collection edition.  It catches up with one of the key characters and her many children, several of whom are having trouble of their own – turning what could have been a nostalgic glance-back into a potent exploration of the cycles of poverty, abuse, and addiction. (Includes audio commentary, new interviews, short films, trailers, and essay by Andrew Hedden.)

“The Human Condition”: Masaki Kobayashi’s three-part film series gets the Criterion Blu-ray bump, and it’s glorious – a film of stunning (and often horrifying) imagery, immersive and overwhelming. Running nearly ten hours, it is epic, in both length and scope. But like all the best epics, it’s most interested in relationships, emotions, spirituality, and self, as one man (Tatsuya Nakadai) attempts to move through World War II-era Japan as a pacifist. Any one of these films, taken alone, is a masterpiece; together, they’re a staggering achievement. (Includes archival interviews, trailers, and essay by Philip Kemp.)

“Walking the Edge”There’s a thin layer of sleaze just radiating off the latest release from Fun City Editions, and that’s a compliment. This 1985 Los Angeles neo-noir features Robert Forster as a taxi driver who gets wrapped up with a woman on the run (Nancy Kwan), and ends up helping her exact revenge against a gang led by a typically sweaty and menacing Joe Spinell. It’s surprisingly grisly for an action flick – the slasher influence is clear – but director Norbert Meisel puts the pieces together confidently, and the late, great Mr. Forster is, as ever, engaged and exhilarating. (Includes new and archival audio commentaries, new interviews, featurette, trailer, and essay by Jim Hemphill.)

“The Leather Boys”Based on this disc’s origin (a co-release of Shout Factory and the American Genre Film Archive) and its title, you might assume this one to be, well, something quite different than it is. In fact, it’s a late entry in the British New Wave and kitchen sink realism movements, released in 1964 and directed by Sidney J. Furie, the journeyman filmmaker who would go on to direct everything from “Lady Sings the Blues” to “Superman IV.” It’s a well-observed story of growing up (and resisting it), as a young working-class couple marries too early and has trouble settling into shared domesticity. Gorgeously rendered in black-and-white Cinemascope, filled with slangy dialogue and naturalistic performances, it’s a modest yet affecting piece of work. (includes audio commentary, audio interviews, and educational short.) 

“Drive”: Steve Wang’s 1997 direct-to-video mash-up of “Terminator”-style action/sci-fi and interracial buddy movie is getting the deluxe Blu-ray treatment from MVD, restored to its original director’s cut, a frankly exhausting 117 minutes. But that outsized running time matches the gloriously over-the-top ethos of the movie, which is so entirely divorced from reality that, at a certain point, it stakes a claim in the realm of surrealism. Star Mark Dacascos is a bit of a charisma void, but Kadeem Hardison (of “A Different World” and “White Man Can’t Jump”) lands some laughs, and Brittany Murphy sails right in and steals the show as an amusingly horny motel manager. She’s clearly having a great time, and it’s kind of infectious. (Includes audio commentary, deleted scenes, interviews, featurette, theatrical cut, and trailer.)

“The Basher Box”: Pearl River’s new Blu-ray set pairs up two vintage kung fu movies: Tsia Yang-Ming’s 1972 film “The Prodigal Boxer” (aka “Kung Fu: The Punch of Death,” “Kick of Death,” and “Death Punch”) and Fang Lung-Hsaing’s 1973 film “The Awaken Punch” (aka “Fury of the Black Belt,” “The Real Dragon,” and “Village on Fire”). Neither of them are classics, exactly – but they’re solid programmers, tales of revenge and honor with fight scenes of furious energy and some genuinely striking stylization. And the restorations are stunning, particularly considering the shoddiness with which these pictures are all too typically dumped onto disc. (Includes audio commentary, interviews, theatrical trailers, and essays by John Kreng and Michael Worth.)