Highly-rated yet little-known movies

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

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Spotlight

agoodmovietowatch Spotlight is a series of sections that shine a light on excellence in under-represented cinema.

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

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

An exploration of the complex and loving relationship between a mother and her son that will take you through a variety of extremely perceived emotions: it's uplifting, disturbing, provocative, sad, and hopeful among many other things. We don't get many of these middle-class-budget films anymore, and this one might be its category's best. A kidnapped girl (Brie Larson) has a son (Jacob Tremblay in an electrifying performance) with her abductor and tries to provide a "normal" environment for the kid in the room where they're being held captive, until they attempt to escape. Brie Larson won an Oscar for Best Actress in Room, so make sure to also check out Short Term 12, an equally impressive performance by her in an equally amazing movie.

9.2
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Youth is a film about Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) a famous composer vacationing at a resort in the Swiss Alps with his friend Mick (Harvey Keitel), an accomplished filmmaker, and his daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz). While Fred shuns his work (including an opportunity to play for the Queen of England) and muddles himself in disillusionment, Mick works fervently on his final film, intended to be his life’s crowning achievement. Their remaining time is spent intermingling amongst the guests and reminiscing upon their lives, their achievements, their failures and their undying yearnings. From writer/director Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty), Youth is another charming work offering an array of eccentric characters and quirky scenarios, while also serving as a touching examination of age, wisdom and ultimately personal reckoning.

8.1

In a stunning (re)introduction to James Baldwin, intellectual, author, and social critic, this movie digs very deep into the American subconscious and racial history. It is based off a book idea that would have studied the famous assassinations of three of Baldwin's friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., he wrote about 30 pages of it before he passed away in 1987. Raoul Peck picked up the project and made it into this movie, highlighting at the same time Baldwin's genius, his unique and always eloquent perspective as well as the beauty of his soul as a human being. A mesmerizing experience, it is an immensely sad fact that the narrative still feels as relevant now as it was in 1979, and as such this movie serves as a reminder on how far America still has to go.

8.9

A heartwarming and (ironically) heartbreaking indie film based around the lives of Mary, an 8-year old girl from Australia, and her pen pal Max, a 44-year old man from America. The film follows these two as they deal with life's complications, from the perspective of a child and an autistic man. One of the most riveting and diverse films I've seen, with many joyous moments and cold plot twists. Would recommend 8 condensed milks out of 10.

9.1
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The movie starts with Luke (Ryan Gosling) as a stunt driver who learns he has a newborn child. Luke wants to properly provide for him, so he turns to robbing banks. That causes conflict with the mother (Eva Mendes) and a police officer (Bradley Cooper), which ends up spanning two generations. The Place Beyond the Pines is gritty and emotional, and at the heart of it, a good take on father-son relationships and long-term consequences.

8.1

Based on Michael Lewis’ 2011 non-fiction book, The Big Short follows several disparate Wall Street insiders who predicted the housing market crash of 2007-2008, and bet against the market for huge financial gains. It’s a fascinating look into the inner workings and disrepair of the modern banking industry. A great cast of big names (Bale, Carell, Gosling, Pitt) carry the viewer through all of the intricate complexities of mortgage backed securities, collateralized debt obligations, etc.— and make it all both enthralling and highly enjoyable. Kudos to director/co-writer Adam McKay for making it work so well: balancing the humor, frustration and absurdity, punching it up with off-the-wall yet effective asides, and giving us a comprehensible education on the economic meltdown that affected so many millions of people so dramatically. It’s a legitimately important film that everyone should see.

8.1

Awkward. That is how Oliver Tate can be described, and generally the whole movie. But it is professionally and scrutinizingly awkward.Submarine is a realistic teen comedy, one that makes sense and in which not everyone looks gorgeous and pretends to have a tough time. It is hilarious and sad, dark and touching. It is awesome and it's embarrassing, and it's the kind of movie that gets nearly everything about being a teen right, no matter where you grew up.

8.6

A fantastic and light Canadian comedy, the Trotsky stars Jay Baruchel as Leon Bronstein, a young man who believes himself to be the reincarnation of the Soviet leader Leon Trotsky. True to his past life, Leon soon begins a quest to organize a revolution at his father's clothing company, while dealing with the transition from ritzy private to a Montreal public school. Smart and pointed, the Trotsky is a gem not to be missed.

8.3

A revelation of a movie, both in filmmaking and commercial success. While little-known abroad, it has made more than $42 million in US Box Office revenue out of a tiny $5 million budget. Kumail Nanjiani, stand-up comedian and star of the show Silicon Valley, tells his own story of romance with his now-wife Emily V. Gordon (who co-wrote the movie). Because it is based on a true story, and because it is the product of the love of both its writers and stars, this movie is incredibly heartfelt. It is also timely, addressing heavy themes such as identity, immigration, and family relationships. Not to mention it is absolutely hilarious. And it's produced by Judd Apatow. Trust me and go watch it.

8.2

A hilarious BBC/Viceland comedy about an underground hip-hop station and the unique characters that run it. Kurupt FM is lead by MC Grindah, a disillusioned but dedicated DJ. He is introduced in the first episode by his wife as someone who has been arrested before, but only for “silly little things” like “drug dealing and hate crimes”. His friend and manager is Chabuddy G, a “business” man who lives in the cybercafé he runs with his Eastern European wife he can’t communicate with, all while trying to start a company to import “peanut dust” (the last bits of peanut that remain at the end of a peanut pack). People Just Do Nothing is legitimately funny with quick episodes and even quicker seasons. The first one only has four episodes, so it’s a guilt-free yet amazing binge.

8.6

What happens when Banksy, one of the most famous ambassadors of street art, meets Mr. Brainwash, an egocentric aspiring French artist? Well, one of the funniest, interesting and exciting documentaries ever made about art, commercialism and the apparent gulf between them. But is it really a documentary? This confident and zany film will leave you guessing.

9.0
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A documentary about Andy Goldsworthy, the British artist whose art is made from natural materials found in their native environment. The opening has him patiently forming a spiral out of icicles using the heat of his hands to fuse the pieces together. Ephemeral works of astonishing patience and beauty and an artist who talks about his process with deep zen-like wisdom. This is one of those movies that bring you into their atmosphere, and make you see it through their main character's eyes. Rivers and Tides adds to that more substance by being breathtaking, fascinating, and inspiring.

9.0
BF