The 5 Best Movies to Buy or Stream This Week: ‘The Land of Steady Habits,’ ‘Damsel’


Fear no more, friends and enemies: Cabin Boy, described on its fancy new cover as “the contentious classic that angered a nation,” finally makes its Blu-ray debut this week. But wait, there’s more! Nicole Holofcener has a new movie on Netflix, Bernardo Bertolucci has a classic on Prime, Criterion has a screwball masterpiece on Blu-ray, and yet another deliberate attempt by Robert Pattinson to alienate his Twilight fan base makes its way to DVD.


The Land of Steady Habits : The wonderful Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said, Lovely and Amazing) lands her first Netflix movie, and while it’s probably her least successful feature, that means it’s still better than many directors’ best. Ben Mendelsohn and Edie Falco are excellent as a long married, recently divorced couple who are having a bit of difficulty navigating their lives and remnants of their relationship. Falco has all the best qualities of a Holofcener heroine – whip-smart and self-aware, yet still a little broken – and Mendelsohn is wonderfully lost and weary as a businessman who was prompted by this life change to chuck everything. And thus, it’s enlightening to watch a portrait of a middle-aged male screw-up seen, for once, through the eyes of a female filmmaker.


The Conformist : Bernardo Bertolucci’s staggering 1970 drama was quietly added to Prime Video this week, and if you’ve never seen it, lucky you – this is one of the true masterpieces of Italian cinema, and one of the best movies of the ‘70s (which is no small compliment). Magnificently lensed by the great Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now), it stars Jean-Louis Trintignant as a tortured and weak-willed Italian man who chooses complicity in a fascist regime. Nothing particularly timely about this one.


Damsel: Putting aside the DVD-only, special-features-free treatment given to this beautifully photographed frontier tale by the folks at Lionsgate – seriously, what’s the story there – there’s much to admire in this genuinely weird Western tale from the Zellner Brothers (who crafted the thorny, thoughtful Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter ). Robert Pattinson is admirably corny and game as a buttoned-up type who takes to the trail to reunite with his best girl, a well-told tale that takes a very unexpected turn about halfway through. More than that I won’t say; this is a wild, unpredictable piece of work, challenging assumptions and well-established types. Mia Wasikowska slays as the girl of his dreams, Robert Forster sets the tone nicely in his pitch-perfect opening scene, and the Zellners themselves contribute sharp supporting performances.


My Man Godfrey: Director Gregory La Cava’s quintessential screwball comedy (an early addition to the Criterion Collection, now getting a Blu-ray upgrade) is a sparkling, witty charmer. Lovable rich girl socialite Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard, never better) meets the vagabond Godfrey (an exquisite William Powell) on a scavenger hunt and hires him as the family butler, and learns a thing or two about life and love in the process.. Godfrey is fast-paced, funny, and frankly ageless; though one of the great social comedies of Depression era, there are always laughs to be wrung from mingling the 1% and the 99%. (Includes new interviews, newsreels, radio adaptation, and trailer.)

Cabin Boy : This unapologetically bizarre Chris Elliott vehicle tanked so badly upon its original 1994 release, David Letterman (Elliott’s old TV boss, who makes a brief and rare acting appearance in it) used it as a punchline when he hosted the following year’s Oscars. And it’s not hard to see why it failed to find a mass audience – it’s a magnificently stupid movie, satirizing a specific kind of seafaring adventure that nobody watched anymore anyway, and sitting squarely upon the shoulders of Mr. Elliot, whom it is most charitable to describe as an acquired taste. But its specific style of comic weirdness hadn’t yet been mainstreamed by the likes of Conan O’Brien (Andy Richter appears in a brief and very funny early role); it has, in the years since, become a bit of a cult item, and KL Studio Classics’ Blu-ray presentation accords it the special features of a classic. You’ll hear no objections from this fancy lad. (Includes audio commentary, new and archival interviews, audition tapes, B-roll, outtakes, TV spots, and trailer.)