TheRiverThis week, the best of the family-friendly movies probably isn’t the best movie for families. Jean Renoir’s The River would merit a PG rating, but the French film about three adolescent girls growing up in India who fall for an older American soldier is slow moving and has no real drama beyond emotional ones. The most dramatic incident, in fact, occurs offscreen. But as legendary film critic Roger Ebert noted, The River is the first movie filmed in India in technicolor and one of the two best color movies ever filmed. It’s the visuals and the life-as-it’s lived drama that makes this movie worth watching. Will today’s young people have the patience to grapple with a plot that, to them, might seem plodding and relatively formless? Good question. But The River comes to Blu-ray and DVD in a Criterion special edition this Tuesday, if you want to find out.

Taken3The other big title this week is also a French film. The force was with Liam Neeson big-time in Taken, a 2008 action-thriller penned by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. Distributed by 20th Century Fox, it featured Neeson as a retired CIA operative who leaps back into action after his daughter is kidnapped in France by sex-slave traffickers. That movie didn’t wow critics, but it was a huge box-office success. Taken 2 made even more money at the box office. This week, if your family is “taken” with the franchise you can add Taken 3 to your home movie library or move it to the top of your rental or on-demand list. Critics thought it the worst of the three, but it was another box-office success. This time, Neeson’s character visits his pregnant daughter in L.A. and reconnects with his ex-wife, who tells him she’s having marital problems and asks him to meet her. He does, but finds only her dead body just as L.A. police arrive and try to arrest him. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and brief strong language, it’s a classic run-from-the-law-while-trying-to-solve-the-case thriller that also features Forest Whitaker. Look for it on Blu-ray or DVD.

CooleyHighIn 1973, American Graffiti focused on high school students looking to have one last fling before going to college. Two years later, the seriocomic Cooley High was released, distinguished by the fact that it’s based on a real Chicago high school, set in 1964 Chicago, and a milestone of black cinema with a Motown soundtrack. If you’re a fan of Welcome Back, Kotter you’ll recognize Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, who co-stars with Glynn Turman as best friends whose lives are complicated by relationships, drugs, poor school performance, and “hood” friends. Entertainment Weekly ranked it #23 on its list of 50 Best High School Movies, and Olive Films is bringing Cooley High to Blu-ray this week (Amazon link).

42ndStreetThat’s it, really, for family-friendly noteworthy films, unless your brood is willing to time-travel back to 1933 for an old-style Warner Bros. musical. 42nd Street comes out on Blu-ray this week, and the unrated (would be PG) comedy-musical-romance stars Warner Baxter, Bebe Daniels, Guy Kibbee, Una Merkel, Ginger Rogers, and Dick Powell. Baxter plays a famous Broadway producer who’s hired to mount a revue that’s to showcase the backer’s girlfriend. But when she breaks her ankle, a chorus girl (Ruby Keeler) gets her big break. It’s available from the Warner Archive Collection (Amazon link).