The Best Movies To Buy Or Stream This Week: ‘Nobody,’ ‘Shiva Baby,’ ‘Siberia’ & 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 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 new release guide is especially stuffed (even by our normal standards), thanks to a trio of 2021’s best; new titles from Criterion, Arrow, and Vinegar Syndrome, and more; three new essential box sets; one of the best thrillers of the ‘90s in 4K; and an array of Blu-ray debuts for one of the greatest comedians of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Take a look:  


“Nobody”It would be easy to dismiss Ilya Naishuller’s action extravaganza as “Schlubby John Wick,” and for good reason: it’s written by “Wick” screenwriter Derek Kolstad, and again concerns a vicious killer brought out of retirement by a personal attack. But “Nobody” has more of a sense of humor about itself, and it has to, considering its star is Bob Odenkirk. But the filmmakers put our preconceived notions about the one-time “Mr. Show” star to use; when he finally uncoils, and growls “I’m gonna fuck you up” to a gang of tough guys, they laugh, as we do – and then he does just that. “Nobody” doesn’t entirely work (the villains are cartoonish, even by these standards, and the by-now de rigueur counterintuitive needle drops are tiresome), but it’s nevertheless satisfying. And in the piercing characterization Odernkirk crafts, of a man who only feels alive when he’s courting death, the picture ends up (in an unexpected, roundabout way) commenting on the real nihilism at the heart of contemporary action cinema. (Includes audio commentary, deleted scenes, and featurettes.)

“Shiva Baby”: Emma Seligman stakes out new territory in the cringe-comedy terrain with this short, tight, ruthlessly funny comedy/drama, which follows a stressed-out twenty-something (Rachel Sennott) to a family funeral where, much to her shock and chagrin, all the disasters of her life come to a head. Her sugar daddy shows up, and she discovers how much he’s been hiding; an ex-girlfriend appears, and the pain and anger and leftover heat of the relationship come flooding back; the various half-truths she’s old her parents threaten to overtake the entire event. It’s a deeply stressful day, and a deeply stressful movie, but Seligman is such a sophisticated filmmaker, and Sennott is such a winning leading lady, the discomfort never veers into distaste. (Includes audio commentary, Q&A, and trailers.)

“Siberia”When Willem Dafoe pulls on his parka and mushes the huskies, you might wonder if we’re heading into some sort of “Togo” sequel. Hardly; this is the latest of the actor’s many collaborations with Abel Ferrara, and right off the bat, we’re intrigued to see what this master of urban storytelling will do in the desolation of the wilderness. But, being a Ferrara movie, that serenity is constantly interrupted by natural nightmares and terrifying visuals, and soon enough, Dafoe is alone with his thoughts, which manifest as a series of visions, hallucinations, and imagined conversations. It’s a bold, daring movie, with some of Dafoe’s best recent work, which is saying something; these two are becoming another Scorsese and De Niro, each bringing out the other’s finest qualities and sharpest work, and I hope they keep right on giving these sui generis gifts to the world. (Includes trailer.)  

ON 4K:

“In the Line of Fire”This 1993 action thriller was one of the final acting-only appearances of Clint Eastwood, and it’s a good one, showcasing his world-weary persona and ease in front of the camera. (He also has a monologue that marks some of the best, and most vulnerable, acting of his career.) Like “Unforgiven” the year before, it’s a film about getting old, and acknowledging what’s out of your grasp, with Eastwood as a retirement-age Secret Service agent who failed to save JFK, a fact that’s used as taunting bait by a sociopath (an Oscar-nominated John Malkovich) who plans to assassinate the current president. The sheer craftsmanship of Wolfgang Petersen’s direction is striking; once upon a time, studio action movies could be crisp and intelligent and then exciting, on top of that. But the crux of the movie is in their telephone conversations, and Petersen clearly understood that Malkovich had to be a worthy adversary – and he is, somehow terrifying and dangerous and borderline goofy, all at once. (Includes audio commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes, and teaser trailer.)


“Last Train from Gun Hill”: Kirk Douglas comes on like a revving engine in this 1959 Western (new on Blu from Paramount), with a fierce, righteous performance as a man driven by rage and bloodlust to find the men who raped and killed his Native American wife. He discovers one was the son of an old friend (Anthony Quinn), a man who once saved his life – so when his manhunt culminates in a hostage situation, there’s no easy way out. Quinn, refreshingly, is not playing a traditional bad guy; he wants to do right by his buddy, but he also has to protect his son, all while acknowledging the evil thing he’s done. A knotty, complicated, first-rate oater. (Includes Leonard Maltin featurette and trailers.) 

“Pickup on South Street”A pickpocket (Richard Windmark) lifts some items from a woman’s purse on a crowded subway and finds himself drawn into an international web of espionage and murder in this noir standard-bearer from Samuel Fuller, finally getting the Blu-ray bump from The Criterion Collection. Fuller directs with a tabloid reporter’s sense of precision, ruthlessness, and sensationalism, using the punches of his dialogue and camera movements like body blows in a boxing match, and crafting a convincing snapshot of his specific criminal subculture. Performances are solid across the board, but Thelma Ritter steals the show as the con woman who’s seen it all; her death scene is one of the all-time greats. (Includes new and archival interviews, radio adaptation, trailers, and essays by Luc Sante and Martin Scorsese.) 

“Pariah”: “Mudbound” director Dee Rees made her feature directorial debut with this sensitive and gorgeous story of burgeoning self-realization, a new addition to the Criterion Collection. Adepero Oduye is stunning as Alike, a teenage girl whose increasing awareness of her sexual identity puts her at odds with her conservative parents; she knows who she is, and is tired of pretending otherwise for them. Kim Wayans, best remembered for her uproarious characters on “In Living Color,” is startlingly effective in her dramatic turn as Alike’s mother, and Bradford Young’s cinematography is luminous. But Rees’ keen ear for character and dialogue is what hits hardest; this feels like a story told from the inside out. (Includes interviews, cast reunion, featurette, and essay by Cassie da Costa.) 

“The Signifyin’ Works of Marlon Riggs”: Marlon Riggs made only seven features and shorts in his too-brief life (less than a decade of work), and all are collected in this essential collection, which spans from his first film, 1986’s “Ethnic Notions” – a painstakingly detailed and shocking history of the origins of ethnic caricatures, and how those types and tropes influenced the national conscience – to 1995’s “Black Is… Black Ain’t,” a posthumously completed and released examination of Black identity at the end of the 20th century, interwoven with his thoughts on his own illness and mortality. All are somehow both of and ahead of their time, richly textured and staggeringly trenchant essay films – some about himself, some about American life, and some, inevitably, about both. (Includes featurettes, archival interview, new and archival introductions, thesis film, and essay by K. Austin Collins.)

“Visions of Eight”“This is no chronological record, no summary of winners and losers,” reads the opening text. “Rather, it is the separate visions of eight singular film artists.” And in 1972, eight directors from a variety of countries (Miloš Forman, Kon Ichikawa, Claude Lelouch, Juri Ozerov, Arthur Penn, Michael Pfleghar, John Schlesinger, and Mai Zetterling) were invited to Munich and given the access and resources to make whatever short film they wanted about that summer’s Olympic Games, joined together into one feature (and bridged by a rousing Henry Mancini score). The “shadow of tragedy” that hangs over the event is acknowledged, but does not overpower the films; they are alternatively evocative, experimental, playful, intimate, and inspiring. (Includes audio commentary, new and archival featurettes, and essays by George Plimpton and Sam Lipsyte.) 

“Poison”: Todd Haynes’ first official feature (long live “Superstar”) is a triptych of stories, inspired by the novels of Jean Genet, told in contrasting visual and narrative styles. Most filmmakers would knock them off one at a time; Haynes takes the tougher path of telling them simultaneously, underlining shared themes and ironic counterpoints. He’s clearly having a great time playing with genre and its clichés, but it’s a film with serious matters on its mind (it was made at the height of the AIDS crisis), and serves as a startling reminder of a time when “indie” often meant experimental or transgressive, not merely “intended for grown-ups.” And in its approach, both in style and tone, “Poison” now feels like a skeleton key for the remarkable career that would follow. (Includes new introduction, audio commentary, Q&A, short film, trailer, and essay by Dennis Lim.)  

“CB4”In the wilderness following his frustrating tenure on “Saturday Night Live” (but before honing in on his comic voice via the landmark “Bring the Pain” special), Chris Rock co-wrote and starred in this 1993 comedy for director Tamra Davis, which aimed to be a “This Is Spinal Tap” for the gangsta rap generation. Rock collaborated on the script with esteemed music journalist Nelson George, and that attention to detail and accuracy shows; it’s the kind of satire that’s just a couple, barely decipherable degrees removed from the real thing. They don’t hit all of their targets, but there are enough ace bits (“I’m Black Y’all”) and killer supporting players (Phil Hartman is particularly funny as a smug politician) to warrant your time. (Includes audio commentary, interviews, and trailer.) 

“Major Dundee”: Sam Peckinpah’s follow-up to “Ride the High Country” was this Civil War-era Western epic, with Charlton Heston as a Union cavalry officer leading a rescue mission for children kidnapped in a bloody raid. He assembles a ragtag collection of Confederate prisoners, Black guards, outcasts, drunks, and turncoat Natives, and Peckinpah seems more interested in the interpersonal dynamics of the tinderbox of tensions than the outcome of his rather conventional narrative – particularly his ongoing concern with the thin line between rivalry and respect among men. Heston, Boy Scout though he may be, hints at the darkness of Peckinpah antiheroes to come; it’s some of the finest acting of his career. (Includes both extended and theatrical editions, audio commentaries, feature-length making-of documentary, featurettes, extended and deleted scenes, silent outtakes, and trailers.) 

“Years of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crime Thrillers 1973-1977”Arrow Video’s excellent new box set showcases a quintet of poliziotteschi films – Italian crime films from the 1970s, usually with elements of political thriller, police procedural, and/or mystery. But the “and/or” is key, as this set illuminates; “Savage Three” and “Like Rabid Dogs” are borderline slasher movies, each focusing on gangs of heartless thrill-killers partaking in escalating acts of social and sexual violence, but “Highway Racer” is more like the prototype for the buddy cop movie, and “Colt .38 Special Squad” is a breathlessly executed riff on “The Seven-Ups.” And the best film of the bunch, “No, The Case is Happily Resolved” is a deft, thoughtful psychological thriller that’s closer to Hitchcock than eurocrime, taking the classic story of the innocent man wrongly accused to its absolute limit. (Includes featurettes, interviews, introduction, trailers, booklet, and alternate ending to “No, The Case is Happily Resolved.”) 

“The Eurocrypt of Christopher Lee”The talented Mr. Lee was best known – before the “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings” franchises, that is – as the star of horror classics for the legendary Hammer Studios. Severin Films’ new box set delves deeper, unearthing five lesser-known European features (“Crypt of the Vampire,” “Castle of the Living Dead,” “Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace,” “The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism,” and “Challenge the Devil”) along with 24 episodes (!) of the 1971 Lee-hosted anthology series “Theatre Macabre.” The quality of the work varies wildly – but Lee is always at the top of his game, a consummate pro and quintessential genre player. (Includes audio commentaries, new and archival interviews, new and archival featurettes, outtakes, trailers, promos, and “Castle of the Living Dead” soundtrack CD.) 

“Adam Resurrected”The MVD Marquee Collection resurrects this barely-released Paul Schrader effort, a 2008 drama that seems a director-for-hire job (it’s based on a novel by Yoram Kaniuk; the screenplay is by Noah Stollman). But it’s a very Schrader movie nevertheless, all bound up in his ongoing preoccupations of trauma, guilt, and kinks, focusing on a concentration camp survivor (Jeff Goldblum) and the institution where he and other survivors attempt to come to terms with their experiences. Goldblum’s German accent is less than convincing, but the character’s slippery nature fits him like a glove; the picture is often disturbing, often heartbreaking, and sometimes strangely funny. (Includes audio commentary, featurette, deleted scenes, Q&A, and trailer.)

“Surf II”It’s rare that a movie tells you everything you need to know with its first post-title credit, but “Starring Eddie Deezen” is such a case. This 1984 cult fave, making its Blu-ray debut via Vinegar Syndrome, is a broad, dopey, gross-out ‘80s sex comedy; it’s the kind of movie where characters have funny names like “Chief Boyardee” and “Inspector Underwear,” and perpetual supporting player Deezen is allowed to let his squeaking geek persona run rampant. Most of it is irredeemably stupid – but then it’ll broadside you with an ingenious comic set-piece, like the borderline-Brechtian “mirrored home life” sequences, or its surprisingly trenchant corporate control subtext. I’m probably giving it more credit than it deserves, but “Surf II” is a rare ‘80s cult movie where the fervor isn’t entirely about misplaced nostalgia. (Includes theatrical and director’s cut, audio commentaries, making-of documentary, original sizzle reel, and booklet.)  

“Alien from L.A.”Full disclosure: this was the first movie I ever saw on “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” so I’d always assumed it to be indisputably terrible. But removed from that persuasive commentary, and placed into the proper context – a 1988 Cannon Films release, from legendary exploitation director Albert Pyun – it’s not hard to see why Vinegar Syndrome deemed it worthy of restoration and release; it’s goofy as hell, sure, but Pyun and his collaborators are clearly in on the joke, creating a winking and self-aware riff on the sci-fi features of the era. (Includes interviews.) 

“Alias Jesse James”There’s a reason Bob Hope made so many Westerns: there’s just something irresistible about the comic friction between his cowardly character and the snarling machismo of the Old West. He executive produced this one (through his Hope Enterprises shingle), and the premise is delicious: he plays an insurance salesman who inadvertently sells a pricy policy to Jesse James (Wendell Corey), and is then instructed by his bosses to protect their investment: “at the slightest sign of danger, you are to lay down your life to protect his!” The great comedy director Norman Z. McLeod – in his final directorial outing – orchestrates the events with his customary panache, and wisely has Corey play Jesse straight; he’s such a credible outlaw that (much like with the horror elements of “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein”) the danger, and the stakes, feel real. And that makes Hope’s scaredy-cat act that much funnier. (Includes trailer.) 

“Night After Night”: KL Studio Classics is doing classic comedy fans a solid this month, with the simultaneous release of Mae West’s first nine movies – the bulk of her filmography, released by Paramount and Universal between 1932 and 1940. She was fourth-billed in this, her film debut (and the only one of these films she didn’t write or co-write, though she reportedly rewrote all of her scenes); it’s a Pre-Code culture clash comedy, the story of a rich gangster (George Raft) trying to go straight to impress a classy lady (Constance Cummings). It’s nearly halfway over before West shows up, personifying the kind of brash broads he usually takes up with, but she’s so electrifying and charismatic that she ends up torpedoing the picture; she seems like a blast, and “Miss Park Avenue” seems like a snooty brat, so you can’t imagine why he wants to change his life, to begin with. (Includes audio commentary and theatrical trailer.)

“She Done Him Wrong”“You’re a fine woman,” she’s told, to which she replies, “Finest woman that ever walked the streets!” And with that, Mae West’s first starring vehicle is off and running, a giddily naughty adaptation of her scandalous Broadway hit “Diamond Lil,” set in the raucous Bowery of the 1890s. Cary Grant co-stars as the goody-goody in charge of the rescue mission next door, and they’re a terrific match; “I always liked a man in uniform, and that one fits you just grand,” she purrs. “Why don’t you come up some time and see me?” Even in this Pre-Code era, she has to end the film with the indication that she can be made an honest woman – but there’s little doubt in their final interaction (“You baaaaad girl.” “Mmmm, you’ll find out”) as to who’s bending for who. (Includes audio commentaries, Robert Osborne introduction, bonus cartoon, and trailers.)

“I’m No Angel”Released less than a year after “She Done Him Wrong,” and again pairing West with Cary Grant, West stars (and writes) as a carnival performer who becomes a mega-star, and who reduces every man around her into a blithering idiot. She’s taking on her two juiciest subjects here, satirizing both her own sexuality and the pursuit of luxury and wealth, and doing both with wit and sly force; this would be the last of the “pure” West vehicles, before the enforcement of the Hays Code began declawing her the following year, and these two features remain delightfully dirty and uproariously funny. (Includes audio commentary and theatrical trailer.)

“Belle of the Nineties”West’s 1934 feature shows the strain of her battles with the censors – scenes frequently end abruptly, and the ending feels like a cop-out. But a handful of good lines make it through anyway (“Where are you stopping during your visit here?” “I’m stoppin’ at nothin’”), the musical interludes (with West accompanied by Duke Ellington and his orchestra) are terrific, and Leo McCarey’s direction is assured. After all, it’s not that West couldn’t be funny without being dirty; it’s just that she was so much funnier when she was, and the substitutions for that corner of her persona don’t quite do the job. (Includes audio commentary and theatrical trailer.)

“Goin’ to Town”West’s first big-screen Western again sneaks a few good winks into the dialogue (“Take it easy honey, you’ll last longer!”), and this time finds a plot that not only compels the action but provides some subtext, with West as a showgirl whose cowboy husband dies and leaves her all of his property – where oil is quickly discovered, making her a millionaire. And thus we have the story of a woman who is forced to twist herself into polite society’s idea of a rich woman, taming herself into a flatter, duller version; one can’t help but feel that Hollywood was, by this point in her career, asking her to do the same thing. (Includes audio commentary and theatrical trailer.)

“Klondike Annie”: Raoul Walsh (not exactly known for his comedies!) helms this 1936 effort, the nadir of West’s 1930s pictures – and yet, it still has its moments, which says something about how watchable she is. Slipping onto a cargo ship to escape her domineering partner, West befriends the dying “Sister Annie” (Helen Jerome Eddy), swapping identities with her when they dock, and finding herself attending to Annie’s waiting flock. It can’t help but feel like a missed opportunity for a movie to put Mae West into the pulpit and have the pulpit change her (rather than the other way around), but her performance is genuine, and Walsh orchestrates her supporting cast skillfully. (Includes audio commentary and theatrical trailer.)

“Go West, Young Man”: Henry Hathaway takes the reins of this 1936 adaptation of the Broadway play “Personal Appearance” – West’s first role since “Night After Night” that wasn’t created expressly for her, which thus offers the rare opportunity to see West work a variation on her usual character. She plays a spoiled movie star who turns a small town upside down while trapped there during a paused promotional tour, resulting in a stage-y comedy in the “Man Who Came to Dinner” mold. It’s not really a Mae West movie at all, but like the Marx Brothers’ “Room Service,” it’s a fascinating departure and a worthy curio for fans. (Includes audio commentary and theatrical trailer.)

“Every Day’s a Holiday”Aside from “My Little Chickadee,” West’s final Paramount film is probably the best of her post-Code pictures, thanks to the cheerful direction of A. Edward Sutherland (who also directed vehicles for W.C. Fields, Laurel & Hardy, and Abbott & Costello) and a West screenplay that tries its best to replicate her successes of the past – with some success. As Peaches O’Day, a con artist who talks as fast as she thinks, West builds a clever story of penetrating turn-of-the-century New York’s power structure, and gives herself some sharp one-liners in the process (“She’s only been arrested 25 times in the last few months!” “Whaddaya expect, no woman is perfect”). It’s a real treat and a confirmation that while West’s persona might have been compromised by her time, her gifts as a screenwriter and actor were undefeated. (Includes audio commentary and theatrical trailer.)

“My Little Chickadee”Three years after Paramount unceremoniously chose not to renew her contract, West joined her fellow former Paramount player W.C. Fields at Universal for this raucous Western comedy, in which they not only co-starred but co-wrote. For the first time since Grant, she has a leading man worth sharing the screen with (Fields describes her as “Easy on the ears and a banquet for the eyes”), and they cook up a juicy little tale of fake marriage, sexual frustration, and casual larceny. Both performers seem to up their game to match the other, but she might just come out ahead, thanks in no small part to her uproarious scene as the town’s substitute teacher: “I am a good boy, I am a good man, I am a good girl,” she reads from the blackboard. “What is this, propaganda?” (Includes audio commentary and theatrical trailer.)