Out This Week: 7 May 2020 – WFH Edition

We are shining the light on less known gems from big directors

This week on our WFH Edition, we will feature lesser known films of prominent directors. These generally speaking are critically acclaimed work known to film-buffs, but not necessary to the general public. So let’s check them out.

What We Do In The Shadows (2014)

Directed by: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
With: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonny Brugh, and Cori Gonzalez-Macuer

What is it about: Viago, Deacon and Vladislav are vampires who are finding that modern life has them struggling with the mundane – like paying rent, keeping up with the chore wheel, trying to get into nightclubs and overcoming flatmate conflicts.

Heads Up: Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi worked together on the critically acclaimed HBO series Flight of The Concorde, then they made this hilarious mockumentary horror comedy which was an absolute delight. Taika Waititi then became a big household name with his work on Thor: Ragnarok, Jojo Rabbit, not to mention his upcoming blockbuster projects. In his ★★★★☆ reviewShariq Madani wrote: “Considering its roots, i.e. low-budget Kiwi comedy-horror, the movie is generous with on-screen blood. Yet, What We Do In The Shadows never becomes about the gore. The humour is spread out to witty lines, funny situations and oddball characters. Given the world it inhabits, it is only fitting that What We Do In The Shadows is second to the similar-but-serious Only Lovers Left Alive as the best vampire film of the year“.

How to Watch it: Netflix / Google Play / iTunes

Valkyrie (2008)

Directed by: Bryan Singer
With: Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, and Tom Wilkinson

What is it about: A dramatization of the July 20, 1944 assassination and political coup plot by desperate renegade German Army officers against Adolf Hitler during World War II.

Heads Up: Director Bryan Singer is a persona non grata in Hollywood nowadays, but he was one of the hottest commercial director in the 25 years, with critically and commercially acclaimed films under his belt such as The Usual Suspects, X-Men, X-Men 2, Superman Returns, and X-Men: Days of Future Past. For a movie co-written by Christopher McQuarrie and starring Tom Cruise, this film is surprisingly unknown to many especially of the younger generation, but this movie is well-made historical thriller that deserves your attention. In his 3½ stars reviewFaizan Rashid wrote: “Valkyrie delivers in only the way that a film from the director of The Usual Suspects can, by being effective and very watchable”.

How to Watch it: Netflix / iTunes

Children of Men (2006)

Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
With: Clive Owen, Juan Gabriel Yacuzzi, Michael Caine, and Mishal Husain

What is it about: In 2027, in a chaotic world in which women have become somehow infertile, a former activist agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary at sea.

Heads Up: While Alfonso Cuarón‘s went on to make the best Harry Potter movie, Gravity, and Roma, his first bonafide masterpiece is one of my favorite dystopian sci-fi films of all time, and even thought it was nominated for 3 Oscars, its commercial failure meant that its truly one of the biggest hidden gems of the last two decades. In his ★★★★★ review, Faizan Rashid wrote: “Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men is a rare film; it is almost perfect. Grim, critical of the present and yet somehow hopeful, it is a meditation on the implications and consequences of scientific advances that feels like a cross breed of 12 Monkeys and Brazil“.

How to Watch it: iTunes

Enemy (2013)

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
With: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, and Isabella Rossellini

What is it about: A man seeks out his exact look-alike after spotting him in a movie.

Heads Up: Between his two bigger, Oscar nominated, and better known films Prisoners and Sicario, and long before the critical and fan darlings Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve managed to make this smart and mind-bending mystery thriller.  Shariq Madani is a huge fan of Enemy and in his ★★★★★ review, he wrote: “With his latest thriller, director Denis Villeneuve further cements his position as a master filmmaker and auteur. With Enemy, he continues to employ the fearless but precise form of story-telling that has become his mark, engaging the eyes, ears and mind of the audience in a complete visceral experience. It is more complex and spatial than his previous two films – Incendies and Prisoners, both top-notch thrillers in their own right – leaving the audience with a lot to think about and dissect”.

How to Watch it: Googly Play / iTunes

Snowpiercer (2015)

Directed by: Bong Joon Ho
With: Chris Evans, Kang-ho Song, Ed Harris, John Hurt, and Tilda Swinton

What is it about: In a future where a failed climate-change experiment has killed all life except for the lucky few who boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe, a new class system emerges.

Heads Up: Korean director Bong Joon Ho‘s first English language film is a fantastic crazy thrill ride. He is a household now thanks to his masterful Oscar winning film Parasite, but he has been directing fantastic films in Korea for the last 20 years, like Memories of a Murderer, The Host, and Mother, which made his one of the most recognizable auteurs of Korean cinema.  In his 4½ stars reviewFaizan Rashid wrote: “There is nothing like a genre film that aspires to be subversive and then achieves it. Snowpiercer looks like a slick Hollywood film but this turns out to be a mere façade; deep inside it is a good old fashioned Korean offering“.

How to Watch it: iTunes

Side Effects (2013)

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
With: Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Channing Tatum

What is it about: A young woman’s world unravels when a drug prescribed by her psychiatrist has unexpected side effects.

Heads Up: There are a few directors working today who managed to walk the tightrope between commercial and experimental cinema as well as Steven Soderbergh. He is a very diverse and prolific director with a long resume that ranges from the commercial hits (Ocean’s Eleven and its sequels, Magic Mike, Contagion), festival darling and awards winning films (Sex, Lies, and VideotapesErin Brockovich, Traffic, Che), experimental small films (Bubble, The Girlfriend Experience), and everything in-between. Side Effects is one of his most recent thrillers, and even thought it was positively received by critics, it did not do much commercially. In his 4½ stars reviewFaizan Rashid wrote: “Side Effects is a reminder that good, mature films have a sobering quality to them, too often lost or forgotten about when these films must compete for screens and viewer attention against cartoonish, special effects heavy, action drivel that have been corrupting the screens for the better part of this year“.

How to Watch it: Netflix / iTunes

About Abdullah Y

Abdullah Y is based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He is an avid consumer of everything Pop Culture; movies, TV, music, photography, podcasts, and social media. He loves to travel and to share his experiences.