Noovie's Alt. Movies: 'Minari' and Other Gems

Sly satires and true life dramas are the running threads covering the great new independent movies now available to watch.

By Matthew Lissauer

Alan S. Kim in "Minari."

© A24 / Courtesy Everett Collection

As Valentine's Day looks to provide some well needed cinematic levity, this week's new crop of indies focus more on true life dramas, with a touch of satire, as studios begin to put their best awards-worthy films forward. Here are our picks for the best newly available independent movies that you can watch right now.

  • Noovie's Alt. Movie Pick: Minari

    © A24 / Courtesy Everett Collection

    You've been likely hearing a lot about Lee Isaac Chung's drama. Though it's been overshadowed as of late with other prime contenders, "Minari" has been a part of the Oscar conversation since its premiere at Sundance last year. Lead actor Steven Yeun and supporting actress Youn Yuh-jung have been garnering nominations for their performances, and the film itself has been named one of the best of the year from the American Film Institute and the National Board of Review. An immigrant story that's distinctly American, even though its dialog is mainly in Korean, "Minari" was oddly selected for Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes, leading many critics to scratch their heads wondering why it was locked out of the Best Drama category.

Minari

Drama / 2020 / PG-13

A Korean American family moves to an Arkansas farm in search of its own American dream. Amidst the challenges of this new life in the strange and rugged Ozarks, they discover the undeniable resilience of family and what really makes a home.

  • Judas and the Black Messiah

    © Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

    As we've previously written, Shaka King's new historical drama "Judas and the Black Messiah" has already been named one of the best movies of the year and should be a prime contender for a host of Oscars, including Best Picture. Leads Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield are standouts here, with the former already up for Best Supporting Actor at the Critics Choice Awards and the Golden Globes.

    Judas and the Black Messiah

    Biography / 2021 / R

    Offered a plea deal by the FBI, William O'Neal infiltrates the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party to gather intelligence on Chairman Fred Hampton.

  • The Mauritanian

    © STX Entertainment / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Jodie Foster stars in this political and legal thriller about the real story of Mohamedou Ould Salahi (Tahar Rahim), who was wrongfully held in Guantanamo Bay for years, and defense attorney Nancy Hollander (Foster), who took on his case to try and set him free. Similarities in title aside, "The Mauritanian'' should not be confused with Disney's "The Mandalorian." The two, though, do have an odd connection. The tortue sequence that's depicted in the movie did happen as shown. The only change the filmmakers had to make was that in real-life the perpetrators wore "Star Wars" masks. Certainly Lucasfilms wouldn't agree to that kind of licencing, so the ones in the film are more arcane and specially made.

    The Mauritanian

    Drama / 2021 / R

    A defense attorney, her associate and a military prosecutor uncover a far-reaching conspiracy while investigating the case of a suspected 9/11 terrorist imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay for six years.

  • Breaking News in Yuba County

    © United Artists / Courtesy Everett Collection

    In the middle of all these heavy dramas, director Tate Taylor provides some levity with this comedy-drama that plays like a satirical take on David Fincher's "Gone Girl." The film follows Sue Buttons (Allison Janey) who struggles to keep her story straight after killing her cheating husband and disposing of his body. And, as these stories tend to always play out, a media circus soon ensues.

    Breaking News in Yuba County

    Comedy / 2021 / R

    A woman takes advantage of her growing celebrity status when the police and the public think her dead husband is just missing.

  • French Exit

    © Sony Pictures Classics / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Director Azazel Jacobs provides an even more surreal comedy, as we follow an almost poor widow (Michelle Pfeiffer) as she moves to Paris with her son (Lucas Hedges) and her cat. Her cat, mind you, happens to be her husband reincarnated. Before you make unfair comparisons to similar forgettable fare that is usually typical of Disney straight-to-video releases, "French Exit" excels with its screenplay from Patrick deWitt (author of the original novel, on which the movie is based) and the performance from Pfeiffer, who recently was nominated for Best Supporting Female Actress at the Independent Spirit Awards.

    • Where to watch: In select theaters (AMC)

    French Exit

    Comedy Drama / 2020

    A widowed New York socialite and her aimless son move to Paris after she spends the last of her husband's inheritance.

Hot Indie Trailer: Jumbo

First-time writer/director Zoé Wittock hopes to break through with this quirky romantic drama that tells of a more unique romance. Shy amusement park cleaner Jeanne (Noémie Merlant - "Portrait of a Lady on Fire") is more concerned with her set of miniatures of the rides she tends to rather than meeting someone and finding love. When a new Tilt-A-Whirl ride opens up, she becomes enamored with "Jumbo," as she calls it, taking the rapture and allure of the ride to unknown heights.

  • In Virtual Cinemas Feb. 19; On VOD Mar. 16

Jumbo

Drama / 2020

A shy woman develops a strange attraction for an amusement park ride.

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