The 9 Best Movies To Buy Or Stream This Week: ‘Parasite,’ ‘Les Misérables’ & 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, catalog titles making a splash on Blu-ray or 4K. This weekly 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 new release line-up is particularly packed, with last year’s dual winner of Best Picture and Best International Feature Film, another nominee in the latter category, a new indie drama, a TV comedy classic, and four all-but-forgotten catalog titles worth talking about.

Let’s take a look!

Parasite”: The escalation of Bong Joon Ho’s latest from dagger-sharp class and culture commentary to worldwide cinematic sensation is one of the true joys of the previous months, proving once again that the right storyteller, with the right eye and focus, can gleefully burst borders. Second (and third, and fourth) viewings only underscore the startling craft at work here: the crispness of the production design, the mastery of the movements, and the multiple levels of role-playing in the key performances (even the characters who aren’t literally impersonating other people). By the time the blood spurts (and boy, does it ever), it’s hard not to marvel at how exquisitely Bong has placed us in the palm of his hand – and how ruthlessly he proceeds to squeeze. (Hulu has also added Bong’s earlier films “The Host,” “Mother,” and “Barking Dogs Don’t Bite.”)

Les Misérables”: Ladj Ly’s Cannes Jury Prize-winner and Oscar nominee doesn’t exactly break ground narratively – it’s a cop movie that colors within those lines, with the oft-told tale of a rookie’s trial by fire with the rough-and-tumble street crime unit, where his idealism is dented by their malleable morality. But the plot isn’t what makes this one special; it’s the picture’s lived-in authenticity, the degree to which Ly keys in on the power dynamics of the city, and how its cops, street gangs, power brokers, and warlords uneasily comingle. Those shifting lines give the film’s second half a hair-trigger intensity, culminating in a conclusion of electrifying savagery. Don’t let the title fool you; this one’s much closer to David Simon than Victor Hugo.

Stray Dolls”: “Don’t you worry, my dear,” purrs Cynthia Nixon, in a thick Slavic accent, “I know what it’s like to be in your shoes.” She’s trying to comfort Riz (Geetanjali Thapa), a recent immigrant with a shady past who’s come to America to make a fresh and honest start, a resolution that doesn’t last long after she meets Dallas (Olivia DeJonge), who’s determined to lie, cheat, and steal her way out of their dead-end motel maid jobs. Writer/director Sonejuhi Sinha has some trouble navigating tone, veering rather unsteadily from earnest to overheated. But the detail work is on point, the score and soundtrack are excellent, and every performance is tip-top – particularly Thapa, who has a remarkable gift for letting us barely see when the switches flip from good girl to bad. 

Police Squad: The Complete Series”: In 1982, the “Airplane!” team of David ZuckerJim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker created this riotously funny spoof of television police dramas – particularly “Dragnet” and “M Squad” – which ABC ran for six episodes, and unceremoniously canceled. Six years later, the trio revived the premise, and leading man Leslie Nielsen’s character of bumbling Lt. Frank Drebin, for the very funny “Naked Gun” films, and finally saw the success they deserved. But the original series, out this week on Blu-ray for the first time, is still the pure, uncut good stuff, joyfully puncturing the conventions of series television in its native language, thanks to energetic direction by not only the ZAZ boys but such pinch-hitters as Joe Dante and Georg Stanford Brown. (Includes featurettes, casting tests, gag reel, and Nielsen interview.)

Destry Rides Again”: George Marshall’s rowdy 1939 Western comedy, a new addition to the Criterion Collection, is a clever, self-aware piece of work, both in its use of the conventions of the Western, and its presentation of its stars. Marlene Dietrich gets to indulge her playful side as the swoony chanteuse of the “Last Chance Saloon” in the frontier town of Bottleneck; she’s clearly having a great time not taking herself too seriously (the character was the clear inspiration for Madeline Kahn’s Lili Von Shtupp in “Blazing Saddles”). James Stewart is the town’s new deputy sheriff, slyly using his aw-shucks naïveté as cover for the character’s inner strength – he may not bark, but he sure knows how to bite. They generate unexpected chemistry (off-screen as well, rumor has it), and the picture stands as a prime example of how a film can simultaneously exploit its stars’ personas and subvert them.  (Includes interviews, featurette, radio adaptation, and an essay by Farran Smith Nehme.)

Cattle Annie and Little Britches”: This early HBO mainstay – long unavailable on home video but now out on disc from KL Studio Classics – comes in the wrapping of a dusty, frontier Western, but inside one finds a coming-of-age story, in which hormones rage, friendships are strained, and camaraderie triumphs. Its focal characters are two young women, played by then-unknowns Amanda Plummer and Diane Lane; they want nothing more than the outlaw life, but when they join up with such an outfit (led by a pitch-perfect Burt Lancaster), they get a long lesson in how much romanticizing one finds in those newspaper clippings and dime novels. The entire ensemble gels, finding a note of rowdy camaraderie and riding it out, but the stand-out is Plummer, whose electrifying eccentricity is already fully intact. (Includes interview and trailer.)

Jenny”: It’s a ‘70s TV fan’s dream, as That Girl and Hawkeye team up for an unconventional romantic drama. Marlo Thomas stars as the title character, pregnant out of wedlock; Alan Alda is the guy who takes a shine to her before he’s aware of her condition but realizes they can be of use to each other since he’s recently been drafted. Their initial chemistry cools into a strange formality, however, and hopelessness runs amuck. Co-writer/director George Bloomfield takes the picture into some compelling formal territory, delving into experimental editing and far-out photography, but Thomas’ extraordinary performance is what keeps you engaged – empathetic and grounded, she absolutely breaks your heart. (Includes audio commentary and trailer.)  

Supernatural”: This 1933 drama opens with bolts of lightning, operatic trilling, and a cuckoo-bananas backstory montage about a woman on Death Row for killing her three lovers after “a riotous orgy.” It’d be impossible for any movie to live up to that opening, and this one doesn’t. But there are nevertheless plenty of pleasures to be found in this twisted bit of Pre-Code business, chief among them an against-type, batshit-crazy turn by Carole Lombard. Running a scant 64 minutes, this one seems to end just as it gets going. Then again, there’s nothing wrong with a movie that actually leaves you wanting more. (Includes audio commentary and trailer.) 

Angel”: Marlene Dietrich again, and at her very best – ritzy, sexy, and fascinating – in this sparkling, sophisticated 1937 romantic drama from director Ernst Lubitsch. Oddly enough, it’s something of a pre-“Last Tango in Paris,” concerning as it does a brief, passionate affair, with no names exchanged, in the City of Lights; Dietrich comprises half of it, as a woman in a happy but dull marriage whose fling with a handsome Brit (Melvyn Douglas) gets unexpectedly complicated. Herbert Marshall is her husband, a stuffy but likable fellow, and the film’s reluctance to make him a monster is perhaps its greatest asset; his playing of the later scenes, piecing together his station and situation, is surprisingly affecting. (Includes audio commentary and trailers.)