Highly-rated yet little-known movies

agoodmovietowatch suggests excellent movies (and recently shows) that you might not know about.

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agoodmovietowatch

Patriot is about a secret agent who is assigned meddling with the Iranian elections to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Sounds serious? It is and it is not. What Patriot is really about are the bureaucratic pitfalls that involve such work. The secret agent’s team parks on the wrong street and he ends up killing the wrong guy. The bag of money he wants to use to meddle with the elections gets stolen by an airport worker in Luxembourg. Etc, etc. For all of this, Patriot is a funny and clever show. the best part is that the secret agent in question is also a folk singer - and sometimes sings awfully honest and descriptive songs of his missions in open mics. Patriot is a mix between real-life thrills and real-life laughs, and it's a near-perfect TV show.

9.0

From the Oscar-nominated cinematographer of City of God, this is a Brazilian Netflix TV show that I can only describe as a smarter Hunger Games. In a dystopian society, the majority of the planet’s population lives in extreme poverty while a select 3% (hence the title) live in a heaven-like world called “The Offshore”. Every year, the 20-year-olds of the planet get a chance to join the 3% in a selection process that for the first time might harbor moles. With an intriguing first episode that shares just enough to keep you informed but engaged, it’s easy to want to binge-watch the whole first season of 3% in one sitting.

8.0

The Tragically Hip was a deeply beloved band from Ontario that peaked in the 90s with hits like Grace, Too or Nautical Disaster.The Hip, as their fans refer to them, had just finished recording their latest album in 2015 when the lead singer was diagnosed with a fatal disease.This movie is about them deciding to go on one last tour to say goodbye to their fans and country. Mostly, it’s about the singer, Gord Downie, and how his personality and love for the music shined through his illness.Picture someone who is giving an immaculate performance despite being a few weeks away from death, and a packed stadium of people singing along in tears - this is this movie.It’s truly an incredible story of human ambition, empathy, and the bond that music can create between an artist and a whole nation.

8.6

A non-comedic Melissa McCarthy stars in this movie based on a true story. She plays author Lee Israel who after struggling to pay her bills starts forging letters from famous writers. Being a great writer herself, she's able to skillfully mimic some of the greatest American novelists. But how far can she take it? With only her cat and an ex-convict friend at her side, this movie takes you through her desperation and anxiety as she turns into a full-blown criminal. Nominated to three Oscars, including Best Actress for McCarthy.

7.3

It wouldn't be too far of a reach to evoke Kids (1995) while diving into Mid90s. But instead of taking on the HIV crisis, Mid90s is a much more tender, poignant reflection on coming of age in 90's skate culture. Jonah Hill, writer and director, examines the complexities of trying to fit in and the difficult choices one has to embrace individualism. From an opening of physical abuse to scenes of drug usage and traumatic experiences, Mid90s is a meditation not only on culture, but also a subtle examination of what it means to be human, to reach emotional and physical limitations, and to seek acceptance. Filmed in a 4:3 aspect ratio, Mid90s doesn't concern itself with grandiose filmography, but instead the aspect ratio almost reflects the tonal and metaphorical aspects played out on screen. With a smaller dynamic range of color and the familiar dust/scratches, the 16mm film compliments gritty and emotional moments of Mid90s. The emotional range of the film will take the audience from the depths of empathy to laughing out loud, but there is no compromise to the weight of each moment. Jonah Hill's directorial debut is beautiful in every sense of the word.

8.0

What makes Apollo 11 stand out is its sharp minimalist approach, allowing the archival footage of the mission to the moon to speak for itself. It’s stunning to think that at one point or another we had collectively seen a bulk of the footage in this film, and yet somehow let it lay dormant until the moon landing had been reduced to black and white stills in our collective imaginations. Not only does this film reinvigorate the moon landing with the power that it once held, but it does so in a way that is more thrilling than anything the Marvel CGI wizards could muster. The vibrant score adds a layer of ferocious tension, while the breakneck pace gives the feel of a rollercoaster ride. If there is any fault to find here, it is most definitely with the film’s MAGA style yearning for a time and place that never existed. Spare us the teary-eyed patriotism and the clips of Nixon, a disgraceful criminal, and vile racist, yammering on about the world becoming one. Nevertheless, this is a fantastic example of why most biopics should just be documentaries and why the fanatical fear of spoilers is a tad silly. Spoiler alert: they land on the moon.

8.0

An insightful and thoughtful Canadian coming-of-age drama, Giant Little Ones is about two seventeen-year-old best friends whose relationship changes after an incident one night. Spanning a quick 90 minutes, it manages to tell its story quickly and honestly, as it touches on themes of sexual identity not only for the teenagers but for their parents as well. And it has a great message about tolerance. It's a lovely and wholesome movie.

7.8

Here is a TV show where the performances are so good that it's hard to give any credit to the story. Patricia Arquette as a prison employee, and Benicio Del Toro and Paul Dano as inmates are an unbelievable trio. They all shine in their own right in this true story of escape from a prison in Upstate New York. Arquette is almost unrecognizable in the role of a frustrated middle-aged woman who gets romantically involved with the inmates. Dano plays the young one, a smart but easily excited guy. Del Toro plays an experienced, shrewd, and boss-type prisoner. Together they take an already exceptional story and create one of the most realistic mysteries in recent memory. Because of this, the pacing might be slow for some - but remember, it's not like the cast is difficult to follow.

9.3

Co-produced by the BBC and HBO, Extras is about - you guessed it - casting extras. It follows two aspiring actors as they interact with big names in the industry like Ben Stiller, Samuel L. Jackson, and Kate Winslet. The first episode finds Ben Stiller directing a genocide movie while bragging about the success of Dodgeball. Gervais’ character tries to get a line in the movie while hilariously avoiding interactions with other extras. A funny TV show set in an original setting (film sets) and around many familiar faces, Extras is not to be missed if you’re a comedy fan.

8.2

This movie is pretty much in every regard a Norwegian Kill Bill. It’s a dark gory comedy where, naturally, the substitute for Uma Thurman doing damage is an emotionless Stellan Skarsgård.After his son is killed by a drug gang, Skarsgård’s character, fresh off a win of a “citizen of the year” award, embarks on a ruthless journey to track and kill the murderers. This takes place in one of the most remote areas in Norway, where the main character works as a snowplow driver. You guessed it, some people will get snowplowed.Seems familiar? That’s because this year it was turned into a horribly sub-par American movie called Cold Pursuit, with, ugh, Liam Neeson.

7.3

Keira Knightley stars in this incredible true story of an Iraq War whistleblower who remains relatively little-known in the U.S. Katharine Gun was working for the communications office for the British government when she received a memo in the months leading to the war that showed that the U.S. requested illegal wiretapping assistance from the U.K. on U.N. diplomats. In a heroic act, she chooses to share this memo, hoping that it would stop her government (then led by Tony Blair) from going to war. Spoiler alert: didn't happen, but this decision, which first seemed like a personal sacrifice, has severe implications on her family as the government finds out that she was behind the leak. A compelling political mystery of a case that deserves much more attention than it once got.

8.0