The Best Movies to Buy or Stream This Week: Love Lies Bleeding, Monkey Man, Bound, and 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 twice-monthly column sifts through all of those choices to pluck out the movies most worth your time, no matter how you’re watching.


Chinatown: Nothing is ever quite as it seems (or so goes the cliché) in classic noir detective movies: the client is lying, their motives are sketchy, and the initially simple mystery gradually reveals itself to be something much bigger and more sinister. Robert Towne’s justifiably celebrated screenplay follows the playbook, but takes advantage of the freedoms of New Hollywood and the R rating to throw his mystery a twist that couldn’t have flown in the Bogart era. Roman Polanski’s direction is both elegant and scrappy, while stars Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway do career-best work. It’s a movie that somehow maintains its power to shock — and to thrill — and Paramount’s new 4K restoration is exquisite. (Includes audio commentary, featurettes, and The Two Jakes on Blu-ray.)


Love Lies Bleeding: Rose Glass’s electrifying follow-up to 2019’s Saint Maud is one of the best new films of the year so far, a jaw-dropping mash-up of crime movie, erotic thriller, and girl/girl romance. (I’m sure its near-simultaneous release with the Criterion Collection’s Bound, below, is a coincidence, but my god, what a double feature.) Kristen Stewart is at her low-key best as the daughter of a small-time crime boss who can’t get out of his orbit, no matter how hard she tries; Katy O’Brian is the bodybuilder she falls for, a potential escape hatch who reveals trouble of her own. But this one’s less about the plot than the feel, how Glass captures the feverish intensity of losing control with someone you love, and how quickly it can go sideways. An ambitious effort, full of big swings that land with grace. (Includes audio commentary and featurettes.)


Monkey Man: Actor Dev Patel not only directs but stars, co-writes, and co-produces this action thriller — his first time as an autuer. There’s a restless energy to the entire production, a sense of a first-time filmmaker throwing in everything he wants to do, since he’s not sure he’ll get the chance again. This is not an uncommon quality of debut features, and sometimes it’s part of the appeal — their enthusiasm is infectious, their ambition admirable. That happens for much of Monkey Man, though at a certain point, it’s just too much; Patel shows himself a filmmaker of genuine skill, and once he learns some restraint, he could really be something else. (Includes audio commentary, deleted scenes, and alternate opening and ending.)

Remembering Gene Wilder: Ron Frank’s documentary tribute to the beloved comic actor and filmmaker is fleet-footed (it runs but 92 minutes), which has its pros and cons—I certainly expected, for example, more than the ten or so minutes spent on his years with Gilda Radner. But it’s well-assembled and entertaining, with Wilder narrating much of his own story (via his audio book) and interviews from the likes of Alan Alda, Mel Brooks, and Carol Kane, as well as copious archival materials. If you’ve read Brooks’s memoir or seen the many documentaries about him, some of this will be awfully familiar. But it’s worth a look as an introduction to Wilder’s life and legacy. (Includes additional interviews and trailer.) 

Ennio: Another, less conventional Great Artist Documentary, this one focusing on the career of the legendary Italian film music composer Ennio Morricone, and assembled by his friend and collaborator Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso). He gives us a whole roll call of sound bytes from legends (Bertolucci, Argento, Springsteen, Tarantino) right off the top, but intercuts those with images of Morricone in solitude, composing, exercising, and conducting. That solitude is what interests Tornatore most, and the picture is at its best when he dives into the nuts and bolts of composing. The subject’s bravado is endlessly entertaining (“De Palma did not agree, but as many directors do, he accepted it”), and Ennio attempts, and often manages, to replicate the composer’s distinctive, sprung rhythms and sly wit. (Includes featurette, deleted scene, interview, and trailer.) 

ON 4K:

Blue Velvet: David Lynch’s psychosexual mystery/horror masterpiece gets the Criterion 4K upgrade and folks, there’s not an ounce of dust on the damn thing. If anything, his 1986 screwjob seems even darker and more daring now, in this improbably more timid cinematic landscape; it’s hard to imagine a filmmaker so nakedly and unapologetically laying out his fetishes and preoccupations (even Lynch himself has to do that on television these days). The transfer is a knockout, and the sound design is as horrifying and haunting as ever. But what really makes it stick are the performances – not just the show-offs, like Hopper’s jet-fuel turn as Frank Booth or MacLachlan’s innocent, whose eyes are first widened by what he sees, and then by his hunger to see more. But the nuances of what Isabella Rossellini is up to here only grow more overwhelming, and our recent (overdue) appreciation of Laura Dern helps underscore how she takes what could have been a cipher, and makes her much, much more. (Includes deleted scenes and alternate takes, feature-length documentaries, archival interviews, and Lynch reading from his book Room to Dream.)

Bound: When the Wachowskis were handed The Matrix, they’d only made one, much smaller picture – but it so impressed everyone who saw it, they were able to make the leap. That movie was this 1996 stealing-from-the-mob caper picture with a lesbian-erotica twist, in which a gangster’s moll (Jennifer Tilly) and her lover (Gina Gershon) team up to steal millions of laundered cash from the clueless goodfella (Joe Pantoliano). Thrillingly photographed and paced within an inch of its life, it also features some of the sexiest love scenes of the decade – rendered all the more fascinating now by the role that gender fluidity would play in its creators’ lives. Criterion’s 4K restoration shows exactly how the filmmakers got the most bang for their buck, and the sound design is a hoot. (Includes audio commentary, video essay, interviews, trailers, and essay by McKenzie Wark.) 

Purple Rain: This 1984 musical drama from director and co-writer Albert Magnoli is no great shakes as cinema; the dramatics are often turgid, the pace drags, and its attitudes towards women are (to put it mildly) archaic. But the music is just incredible—not just from star Prince, whose performances of “Let’s Go Crazy” and the title song pretty much stop the movie, but from Morris Day and the Time, who embrace their rival roles with relish. Warner Bros.’ 4K treatment is a speaker-rattler; crank this one up and let yourself go. (Includes audio commentary, featurette, and music videos.)

South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut / Team America: World Police: South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s initial forays into moviemaking — Cannibal: The Musical and Orgazmo — didn’t exactly set the world on fire, so it’s easy to see why they decided to put their cash cow on the big screen. To their credit, they didn’t just spit out a 90-minute episode of their TV show; in addition to the film’s masterful musical numbers (hinting at the Book of Mormon  to come), they turned the film into a meta-text about the influence of pop culture—which would prove oddly, eerily timely with its release two months after the Columbine massacre—and the silliness of the movie rating system, provoking knowing chuckles from movie-goers who often saw it after multiple rounds of carding and ticket-checking at their local theaters. Paramount’s 4K disc gives it a nice gloss, and same goes for Team America, their feature film follow-up; its politics have proven far less durable, but the gimmickry and the songs are just as irresistible. (South Park includes commentary, music video, trailers, and sing-along version; Team America includes introduction, featurettes, tests, deleted/extended scenes, outtakes, and storyboards.) 


The Underground Railroad: The trouble with our current “endless content trough” era is that there are so many streaming shows that even the truly excellent ones can barely make an impression if they don’t find the proper mixture of aggressive marketing and zeitgeist capturing. That seems to have happened with Barry Jenkins’s limited series adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s bestseller, which the Criterion Collection has thankfully rescued from the Amazon doldrums. It’s an often grim dramatization of gleeful, unapologetic evil, as is so often the case with cinematic renditions of the Antebellum South. But Jenkins refuses to get bogged down either, inserting generous doses of magic realism and genuine optimism, shifting locations and tones in new episodes, and stunning work by leading actors Thuso Mbedu, Joel Edgerton, and Chase W. Dillon. (Includes audio commentary, The Gaze companion film, deleted scenes, featurette, teasers, and essay by Angelica Jade Bastien.)

Victims of Sin: The month’s final new addition to the Criterion Collection is this 1951 Mexican-made drama (original title: Víctimas del Pecado) from co-writer/director Emilio Fernández. It’s a tonal roller coaster, with the peppy musical numbers of its early scenes giving way to a rough and roguish portrait of Mexico City’s seedy underbelly. Ninón Sevilla is devastating as a nightclub dancer who rescues an abandoned baby and decides to keep it, disregarding the consequences to her career; “I love him like my own son,” she says, and that devotion is put to the test. It’s a melodrama (or “woman’s picture,” if you will) with real grit, lived-in and direct, yet never merely depressing. (Includes interviews, archival documetary, trailer, and essay by Jacqueline Avila.) 

Pursued: Raoul Walsh helms this haunted 1947 Western noir (new on Blu from KL Studio Classics) starring Robert Mitchum and Teresa Wright, and if that’s not enough information to hook you, I don’t know what else to say. Mitchum is at his recalcitrant best as the adopted son of a ranching family, while John Rodney is appropriately peeved as the biological son who resents the threat to his birthright. It’s something of a mini-Giant, with Walsh so deftly building the tension between the two men that the eventual violence and familial destruction seems inevitable. (Includes audio commentary and introduction by Martin Scorsese.)

Strangers Kiss: Fun City Editions again shines a light on a forgotten ‘80s gem, a moody meditation on the pressures and responsibilities of myth-making. Co-writer and director Matthew Chapman bases his story on the making of Stanley Kubrick’s early melodrama Killer’s Kiss, and has the good sense to cast Peter Coyote as “Stanley”; he’s tremendous in the role, capturing the singular focus and pliable morality of a never-say-die auteur. Blaine Novak and Victoria Tennant don’t fare quite as well as the romantic leads who become real-life lovers, but Richard Romanus (Mean Streets) is utterly terrifying as the picture’s money man and, unfortunately, the leading lady’s jealous boyfriend. (Includes audio commentary, interviews, video essay, and trailer.) 

Shanghai Triad: Film Movement Classics treats Zhang Yimou’s 1995 Oscar nominee with the proper reverence; he makes beautiful movies (his credits include Hero, Raise the Red Lantern, Curse of the Golden Flower, and Shadow), and this is no exception. It’s a memory play, set in ’30s-era Shanghai, as a young boy spends a week as the servant for the mistress (Gong Li) of a powerful gangster; she’s shockingly gorgeous and (at first glance, anyway) an absolute brat. There’s more to her than meets the eye, of course, and the strange turns of their time together turns the picture from a period crime drama into a knotty character study. Lü Yue’s cinematography is jaw-dropping; Zhang Guangtian’s music is nearly as lovely. (Includes video essay and booklet essay by John Berra.) 

Sex Demon **and Other Hauntings**: Leave it to AGFA to bless us with the most disreputable Pride Month offering imaginable — a collection of super-low-budget ‘70s gay porn horror movies, all long thought lost. J.C. Cricket’s Sex Demon is the main attraction, a sweaty riff on The Exorcist in which a the anniversary gift of an antique medallion turns a confused boyfriend into a raving, bloodthirsty lunatic. It’s silly and sexy, though not quite in equal proportion, while Deadly Blows (1971) and 10:30 P.M. Monday (1975) offer creepy, giggly pleasures of their own. (Includes audio commentaries and trailers.) 

Common-Law Wife / Jennie, Wife/Child: The latest double-feature from the fine exploitation purveyors at Film Masters is, per the cover, a “backwoods double-feature,” pairing these two lightweight sexploitation flicks into a sleazy good time. Common Law Wife is the better known of the pair, and it’s a hoot, as a slimy coot tries to 86 his girlfriend for his teenage niece, only to find that she’s not going quietly. Jennie is even better, thanks to its unapologetic embrace of the subgenre’s tropes (the opening credits assign the characters their stereotypes: “the town floozy,” “the lusty farmhand,” and, of course, “the farmer’s restless young wife”), and the silent movie-style intertitles provide welcome commentary. Best of all, the crisp, black-and-white cinematography is the work of one “William Zsigmond,” before he was working under his un-Americanized moniker Vilmos, and it looks better than anything like this ever has (or maybe ever should). (Includes audio commentaries, video essay, featurette, and trailers.) 

American Gigolo: Paul Schrader transitioned into a distinctive ‘80s auteur, and turned Richard Gere into a full-blown sex symbol, in this influential erotic thriller (new from Arrow Video). Gere stars as a pricy Los Angeles male escort who finds himself caught up in a sticky murder investigation while falling, ill-advisedly, for a politician’s wife (Lauren Hutton), and Schrader’s dialogue and plotting are, as usual, aces. But he really flourishes as a stylist here, creating an aesthetic of blown-out light, shiny surfaces, synth-heavy sound, and conspicuous consumption that would come to define the ‘80s thriller—and the ‘80s in general. (Includes audio commentary, interviews, and trailer.)

Jason Bailey is a film critic and historian, and the author of five books. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Playlist, Vanity Fair, Vulture, Rolling Stone, Slate, and more. He is the co-host of the podcast "A Very Good Year."

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