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agoodmovietowatch recommends highly-rated yet little-known movies and shows. Currently available for 16 streaming services.

agoodmovietowatch

Amazon Prime

J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) plays two characters in Counterpart, which could seem like a recipe for disaster (cf. Gemini Man). But watching this excellent thriller it’s easy to understand why so many actors take the risk to play two characters: when it pays off, it pays off big time.And what better setting to risk it than playing two completely different personalities: Counterpart is about a world that is parallel to ours. There are two versions of each one of us, living in separate and different timelines. The link between the timelines is in Berlin, both Simmons characters (Simmonses?) work in the institution that manages this bridge.It might seem like a complicated plot but there aren’t many characters and the show is not focused on the science-fiction aspect of the story. Instead, it’s a political thriller where everyone is constantly trying to kill everyone, similar to Bourne. And beyond that, it’s a smart attempt at answering the age-old question of what influences us more: nature or nurture.

8.6

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This funny and charming movie is about a Palestinian slacker named Salam who works on a famous Israeli soap opera. Each day, he has to pass a tough Israeli checkpoint to get to work and in an attempt to make things easier for himself, he agrees to change the ending of the soap opera to please the officer in charge of the checkpoint. At the same time, a temperamental French actress and his Palestinian love interest wish for opposite endings to the show. Stuck between love and politics, Salam has to navigate a complex situation to please all sides. There are a lot of hummus jokes.

7.0

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This story of a filmmaker who stayed in Aleppo, Syria during the war, got married then had a child called Sama, is a mix of difficult and inspiring.There are stories of unsurmountable loss, as the filmmaker’s husband is one of the 30 remaining doctors in Aleppo (a city of almost 5 million), and she films many of the victims that come to his hospital. But while this is happening, there are also uplifting stories of resilience and rare but profound moments of laughter and joy.We’re growing too sensitized to violence in Syria, and this movie, possibly the most intimate account of the war, can stir back a much-needed awareness of the injustices that take place.When things get really bad in the documentary, it’s hard not to wonder where the humanity is in all of this. You quickly realize that it’s right there, behind the camera, in Sama and her mother’s will to live.

8.6

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You may have heard about this 2019 critic-favorite from clips like this one of a kid running to flee the movie theater during a screening. “little billy ran the f**k out the door”, the caption reads.   You will want to do the same. Recovering from losing her sister and her parents in a single incident, a young girl goes on a trip to Sweden to observe a ritual within a bizarre commune that occurs every 90 years. This cult’s idea of death and their traditions intersect with the girl’s grief to create unthinkable monstrosities.   Note: while some readers praise the movie for its depiction of anxiety, I highly recommend against watching Midsommar if you suffer from panic attacks.

7.8

Olivia Colman and Hugh Laurie (House) star in this espionage drama based on a John le Carré novel.A quick mini-series that spans six episodes, it’s about a former soldier (Tom Hiddleston) who, while working as a night manager for a hotel in Cairo, Egypt, ends up getting hold of very sensitive information. He is then recruited by an intelligence officer (Olivia Colman) to bring down a corrupt businessman (Hugh Laurie.)A highly-acclaimed TV show not to be missed by lovers of spy stories, John Le Carré films (A Most Wanted Man, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), or just anyone who appreciates excellent acting.

8.0

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Like a Wes Anderson movie, The Last Black Man in San Francisco takes artistic risks and nails every one of them. There are many quirky, aesthetically well-studied, and even funny aspects to this moving story.Jimmie has been maintaining a typical San Francisco Victorian house, regularly painting the windows and watering the plants. One small problem: other people live there and they don’t want him around. It turns out this was once Jimmie’s family house, having been built by his grandfather in 1948, and he misses it deeply.This story is based on writer Jimmie Fails’ life, as he tried to reclaim his family home in SF. However, it’s not a movie that limits itself to gentrification. It transcends that to being about the universal yearning to find a place to call home.

7.6

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Adam Driver, Annette Bening, and Jon Hamm are among the many recognizable faces of this star-packed political drama.Driver, pictured above in his ‘I’m goofy but I will save the world’ signature stare 😍, plays Daniel J. Jones, an investigator working with the Senate. He is assigned to write a report (“the” report) about the CIA torture program post 9/11.If you so much as liked Vice, the hit movie from earlier this year, you will love The Report. It covers similar grounds: incompetency, unclear intentions, confusion, etc; but in a way that is more to-the-point (which might make it feel dry to some). It also helps in understanding or getting a refresher on, how the Senate works and how organizations like the CIA interact with (bully) other branches of government. I would almost go as far as to say that if you are a U.S. citizen, watching this movie, with its many goofy Adam Driver moments, is your civic duty.

8.0

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This is one of those reviews where it’s probably enough to say: watch the pilot. There is no better proof of how good Modern Love is than its first episode. The show is based on true stories that were shared in The New York Times column by the same name. That first episode is about the relationship between a doorman and a New Yorker. But, plot twist, Modern Love isn’t just about romantic relationships. It’s also about friendships, family links, and all displays of love and affection. The second episode is with Dev Patel and Catherine Keener, which I found to be also excellent. There are other ones with Tina Fey, Anne Hathaway, and many other big names, but the first two episodes are still my favorites. The power of Modern Love is in the riveting true stories it tells. It might as well have been called “you can’t make this stuff up.”

8.5
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