What a terrific month for films April has been. After a rather lean March, the last 30 days have been so excellent in terms of quality, you could be forgiven for thinking that we’re in the thick of awards season once again. As we prepare for the summer, here’s a list of titles to catch up on before you’re overwhelmed by tentpole after tentpole on the big screen.
This months’ list of the top underrated films includes a breakneck action movie from a master of a genre, one of the best musicals since La La Land; a lowkey horror comeback from an acclaimed director, and a stand-up special that everybody with an internet connection should watch.
You can check out the list of top picks from January, February and March by clicking on them
Ambulance – Available to purchase and rent on Apple TV, Google Play and YouTube in the US
Funny, self-aware and often breathtakingly ambitious, Ambulance is the Michael Bay comeback that fans of the maximalist master have been waiting for. Essentially a wall-to-wall chase film, Ambulance features some of the most innovative drone photography ever put on the big screen, and easily ranks as one of the best films of Bay’s career. I know this isn’t saying much, considering the terrible decade that he’s had, but this is a throwback to his heyday, back when Nicolas Cage was an above-the-title star and blockbuster movies meant something.
Cyrano – Available to purchase and rent on Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play and YouTube in the US
Probably the best film on this list, director Joe Wright’s soaring adaptation of Erika Schmidt’s 2018 musical, featuring original music from members of The National, features a career-best performance from Peter Dinklage. A tale of love and longing, Cyrano is at once euphoric and utterly tragic. It’s a story that has been told several times, but rarely with this kind of raw passion.
Paris, 13th District – Available to purchase and rent on Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play and YouTube in the US
French auteur Jacques Audiard is a master of the mundane. In Paris, 13th District, which is based on a collection of short graphic stories by Adrian Tomine, he examines the lives of a trio of French millennials whose paths cross in and around a Paris neighbourhood. It’s so interesting that it arrives in the same month as Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Gangubai Kathiawadi dropped on streaming, because you won’t find two more distinct films about sex. While one is actively afraid of it, the other treats it with matter-of-fact maturity.
X – Available to rent on Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play and YouTube in the US
Horror master Ti West returns with his first feature film in over half-a-decade, and boy is it a doozy. Essentially a period picture about a group of porn filmmakers with New Hollywood ambitions, X doubles as a tribute to the slasher genre and a loving homage to one of its finest products: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Zero F**ks Given – MUBI
Blue is the Warmest Colour breakout Adele Exarchopoulos is truly magnetic in directors Julie Lecoustre and Emmanuel Marre’s searing character study about a millennial flight attendant constantly on the move, but with no goal in sight. It’s funny, it’s sad, and in its own strange way, rather uplifting.
Jerrod Carmichael: Rothaniel – HBO Max in the US
The best stand-up special of its kind since Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette, Rothaniel will probably be remembered for featuring Jerrod Carmichael’s coming out. But the intimate setting, the unhurried pace and Bo Burnham’s lush direction lend it the air of something truly transcendent. It’s an uncomfortably intrusive glimpse inside a very complicated mind, but so, so rewarding. The bar has been raised, and everyone who is settling for mediocre material needs to promptly raise their standards.
Pada – Amazon Prime Video
A fine addition to the Malayalam New Wave, Pada is just the sort of politically charged, superbly layered and frighteningly relevant film you’d expect out of Kerala’s Next Gen filmmakers. A dramatisation of a real-life incident in which a group of pro-adivasi activists took an IAS officer hostage, Pada joins the ranks of Nayattu and Malik in pushing the boundaries—both thematically and narratively—of what Indian films can achieve.
Apollo 10 1/2 – Netflix
A new Richard Linklater film has come and gone, and never has Netflix’s quantity over quality model felt this bittersweet. On the one hand, nobody else would have spent money on Linklater’s meandering animated throwback to his own childhood, but on the other, hardly anybody even knows that it exists. Consider this a public service: the new Linklater film is here, it’s wonderful, please watch it.