By The Pajiba Staff | Film | August 7, 2018 |
By The Pajiba Staff | Film | August 7, 2018 |
We’re living in weird times where it concerns movies. The movie theater experience seems increasingly designed for big “event” movies designed with the large screen in mind. You know: Your Marvel movies, your big sequels, your horror flicks like A Quiet Place or Hereditary (which really should have been seen in theaters), and even your big family flicks, like Incredibles 2. Meanwhile, at least until Oscar season rolls around, your smaller dramas and comedies and other movies without giant explosions often debut on Netflix or Amazon or go straight to VOD and receive the appropriate promotional push upon their release.
But then there are those other films in the middle: Good, sometimes even great films that debut at the multiplexes, but seem like the kinds of films that do not necessarily require a big screen. “Oh, that looks good! I should rent that!” movies. Unfortunately, those movies don’t often get huge promotional pushes before their home rental releases, so sometimes deserving movies are passed over twice: In theaters and on home video.
Below is a shout-out to five great films released in 2018 (and already available for rental) that didn’t make a gabillion dollars in theaters, but should definitely be seen in the comforts of your own home. In fact, movies that may even be better from your vantage point on the couch or on your laptop while you’re under the blankets in your bedroom because it’s the only room in the house with A/C.
(Click the hyperlinks for full reviews)
Death of Stalin — With his second feature comedy The Death of Stalin, Armando Iannucci pulls off a balancing act that’s more remarkable the more you think about it: this is a movie that’s both mercilessly grim and uproariously funny. It’s the blackest of black comedies, set in the Soviet Union circa 1953, as security forces routinely gathered and executed citizens who’d made their way onto General Secretary Joseph Stalin’s enemies list, and concerns the manner in which his underlings undercut each other when he’s found near death on the floor of his office. Yet its bleakness is offset by its anarchic spirit, which summons up the ghosts of Duck Soup, Million Dollar Legs, and other screwball skewerings of authoritarianism … The comic genius of Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin lies in its surface: in many ways, it both looks and sounds like your typical, fancy period historical drama, up to and including the inaccurate British accents. But the people inhabiting those period trappings are patently ridiculous, so the authenticity of their surroundings renders their buffoonery all the more laughable. Call it the Young Frankenstein Principle, and the fact that this film warrants comparison to that one should be all the recommendation you need.
Paddington 2 — The world can be cruel. But we can choose to be better. As Paddington declares, “If we are kind and polite, the world will be right.” This may sound like a childish adage. But through Paddington 2 it proves not just a rejuvenating message of hope, but also an aspirational challenge to its audience. True to its deeply delightful predecessor, this sensational sequel offers a rollicking adventure, full of heart, color, whimsy, and pitch-perfect comedy. But more than that, it’ll inspire you to be a better person … All in all, Paddington 2 is a stellar comedy with smart setups, superb payoffs, and belly-rocking laughs. It’s a thrilling and whimsical adventure that will have your heart soaring. It’s a heart-warming parable about rising above, and being your best. It’s so much more than a kids movie. It’s a film so spectacularly cinematic, joyful, and poignant that you won’t want to miss.
Love, Simon — There is nothing groundbreaking about this story, aside from the fact that it exists on such a wide scale. It is sweet, and lovely, and wonderful. It’s a Molly Ringwald movie, or a Julia Stiles movie, only its lead is a boy, and the object of his affection is another boy, and the movie so refreshingly doesn’t treat that distinction any differently than if it were a boy and a girl, and the audience probably won’t treat that distinction any differently, either. And the fact that so many high school kids can watch this movie and see themselves in it the same way I saw myself in John Cusack movies brings me more joy than I have felt from a coming-of-age rom-com in a very, very long time. On top of that, Jennifer Garner is a goddamn delight in this, and fuck it: So is Josh Duhamel, and if you don’t cry a bucket of happy tears for the way they react to their son coming out, you are a dead, soulless troll who lives under a bridge.
Game Night — Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams star as Max and Annie, a married couple who share a fiercely competitive streak and a weekly game night for their closest friends. Playtime goes from fun to freaky when Max’s cool big brother (Kyle Chandler) swaggers onto the scene with a bold new game that involves a kidnapping mystery and a big, flashy grand prize. But when real kidnappers crash the party, Max, Annie, and their pals are pitched out of their suburban complacency and into a wild world of eccentric smugglers, curious clues, car chases, and dizzying twists. Simply put, the humor in this action-comedy is sensational, and if you’re looking for a rapturously funny film with a crackerjack cast, Game Night’s a winner.
Blockers — Blockers is hysterical, one of the funniest studio comedies in years. It is also substantive and progressive. It hits squarely upon the double standard for women when it comes to sex, and it does so in heartfelt and wildly hilarious ways. It’s also an R-Rated sex comedy that doesn’t hit a single sour note and manages to be fantastically subversive without being offensive. It is terrific. This is not a female-led Superbad, and it is not lady American Pie. It is its own unique comedy that just happens to explore female sexuality in ways that male sexuality has been explored for decades. It’s a great parenting comedy. It’s a great high-school sex comedy. It’s a great friendship comedy.
American Animals (Currently available for purchase; available for rental on August 14th) — Based on a true story, American Animals is about four college students (Warren, Spencer, Chas, and Eric) who plan to steal millions of dollars worth of rare books from a college library and fence them to a buyer in Amsterdam. Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner, and Jared Abrahamson portray the boys, but director Burt Layton has a lofty goal in mind with the narrative sections of the film. He explores the effects of memory on the truth and lets conflicting accounts of the events (as told by the real Warren, Spencer, Chas, and Eric) play out on screen. Some details are small: Did that conversation actually happen during a car ride? Did that contact they met with in New York City wear a scarf? The narrative portions become an illustration of the history as told by the real participants, with their own biases and uncertainties baked in, and the way Layton pulls it off is a technically impressive feat. You could Google the case and read about what happens. Even so, I don’t want to tell you. American Animals is one of the most confidently executed films I’ve ever seen, and in the end, the details of the case, like the uncertainty of memory, isn’t the point. The emotional journey these men go on, and the journey Layton guides us through as the audience, is the thing. To me, the film is about that moment in time when you learn that the mistakes you make aren’t just hurting you. It’s about realizing that the line is there to protect others.
Image sources (in order of posting): Universal, eOne Films, StudioCanal, Fox 2000 Pictures, New Line Cinema, Universal, The Orchard