The 5 Best Movies to Buy or Stream This Week: ‘Voyeur,’ ‘Silence’

Plus 'A New Leaf,' 'Cop Land,' and 'Searching for Sugar Man.'

It’s a low-key week on the disc front, with only one new Blu-ray to recommend (unless you’re a glutton for animated comedies in which the punchline to every non-joke is “The ‘80s!”, in which case we heartily recommend Despicable Me 3). But we’ve got one of the fall’s best documentaries on Netflix, one of last year’s best movies on Prime and Hulu, and a couple more catalogue titles to stream as well.

Here we go!

ON NETFLIX

Voyeur: Sometimes making a great documentary is just a matter of luck, and Myles Kane and Josh Koury got a generous helping of it when they wound up following legendary journalist Gay Talese into the story of Gerald Foos, who retrofitted his Colorado motel so he could spy on his guests – a story that ended up going right off the rails, on the eve of Talese’s book publication. It’s a fascinating accounting of a journalist’s process, detailing the push-pull of patience, resistance, and resilience in his decades-long attempt to get Foos on the record, and how that exhaustion may have led his famous instincts to fail him. But the filmmakers also resist the urge to tsk-tsk, acknowledging the structure and artifice in their own work, while following this bizarre and often riveting story down its many blind alleys.

ON AMAZON PRIME

Silence: In the obvious, surface ways, the latest from Martin Scorsese barely feels like a Scorsese picture at all – there’s such formal restraint to the filmmaking, it’s sort of shocking when there’s a big camera move (nearly an hour in), and there are only a handful of them. Yet it burns with the power of his earlier religious works (The Last Temptation of Christ and Kundun); Scorsese nearly entered the priesthood before taking up filmmaking, and it feels as though only an artist with that background could capture, as he does here, the intimacy and intensity of the act of prayer. His protagonist’s searching letters and inner monologues are like incantations, as he desperately intones, “the weight of your silence is terrible,” and addresses one of the most pressing dilemma of faith: “Am I just praying to nothing, because you are not there?” This is a patient telling of a slender story – more of a tone poem or mediation, really, on the questions we ask of our God (whomever he or she may be), and the kind of answers we require. (Also on Hulu.)

ON HULU

Cop Land: Though it was perceived as a disappointment upon its initial release 20 years ago for, put simply, not being the next Pulp Fiction, James Mangold’s ensemble cop drama is s a pretty good little thriller, a Sidney Lumet movie in a Martin Scorsese movie’s clothing. Sylvester Stallone is staggeringly good as the ineffectual sheriff of a New Jersey haven for NYPD officers, altering his famed physique into that of a small-town schlub, and appropriately playing back against his famous co-stars – but roaring to life when the time comes. And Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, and (especially) Ray Liotta add strong support. It might not’ve changed the world the way it was supposed to in 1997, but it’s the kind of movie you watch now, and note that it should be a classic.

Searching for Sugar Man: Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul helms this investigative profile of Sixto Rodriguez, a singer/songwriter who should have been a giant star in the early 1970s and instead faded into obscurity (and then became a cult sensation in New Zealand, Australia, and apartheid-era South Africa). Bendjelloul’s warm, kind film is both a showcase for terrific music and a compelling human interest story; the filmmaker’s affection for Mr. Rodriguez, who is a day laborer at home and a rock star abroad, is both undeniable and infectious.

ON BLU-RAY

A New Leaf: Elaine May’s messy and memorable feature directorial debut (out in a new special edition from Olive Signature) finds the writer/director spinning the darkly comic tale of a snooty Manhattan aristocrat (Walter Matthau) whose trust has run dry, and who thus seeks out a rich woman (May) to marry – and off. The picture is both deliciously twisted and likably daft, thanks in no small part to the considerable charisma and chemistry of its stars, who get into rhythms that rival May’s old nightclub act with Mike Nichols. (Matthau and May reteamed several years later for Neil Simon’s California Suite.) It sometimes leans erratic – thanks, presumably, to the editing room interference that May’s work was so often subjected to – but it’s such a sui generis piece of work, the speed bumps barely matter. (Includes audio commentary, interviews, and featurettes.)