By The Pajiba Staff | Lists | December 26, 2015 |
By The Pajiba Staff | Lists | December 26, 2015 |
Each year, before we run our 10 Best Movies of the Year list, we also compile a list of those films that don’t quite fit into the “best” films category, but that should still be seen, preferably at home. On your couch. While you’re still in your pajamas. They are the best comfort films of the year. They are not particularly challenging. They are not serious films. But they are entertaining, and perfect for your big screen televisions, laptops, or iPads.
Here they are (and before you complain about an obvious omission, hang out and see if it’s on one of our other best movies list later this month. We don’t like to overlap).
Cinderella — Disney’s live-action Cinderella is no gritty reboot. It’s dedicatedly true to the tale the studio first told in the 1950 cartoon, down to a chubby mouse named Gus Gus and a big blue ballgown. And yet, Branagh’s translation doesn’t feel like a tired retread. His thoughtful casting breathes a buoyancy into this potentially dark tale of child abuse, and Chris Weitz’s sparkling script gives a greater depth to once two-dimensional characters. The film also offers an inspiring story of hope and inner strength, told beautifully by a director who knew just how to tweak a dusty old tale, and a cast that is radiant with warmth and charisma. — Kristy Puchko
Paddington — This right here is a charming story. Ben Whishaw brings a jolly whimsy to the little brown bear who is considered little more than a bother by the blustery Mr. Brown (Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville). But Mrs. Brown (the always affable Sally Hawkins) is charmed by this unusual orphan, and their children—the inventive Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) and the jaded Judy (Madeleine Harris)—are intrigued. Paddington comes into their home, and makes the mess teased in trailers, but also manages to help these four and the loopy maid Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters) find common ground. Amid gags that are sure to make kids chuckle and lots of cute moments of Paddington being a silly bear, there are some bits of wit sure to appeal to adults as well. It’s entertaining and adorable. Paddington is a rollicking ride filled with heart and humor, and one that I’d heartily recommend almost without reservation. — Kristy Puchko
The Intern — Anne Hathaway and Robert DeNiro star in The Intern, a movie that is harmless, genial, and at times, thoroughly pleasant. The relationship between the senior intern Ben Whittaker (DeNiro) and his much younger female boss Jules (Anne Hathaway) is surprisingly sweet and respectful, and there is no intergenerational butting of heads of which to speak. The humor is far from edgy, but it’s comfortable and occasionally funny (the older folks who made up the majority of the audience were laughing hysterically throughout much of the film). More importantly, it never condescends. It’s a take-your-parents-to-the-movies joint: An innocuous, nice, sweet film that may be predictable, but is not without substance or the occasional laugh. — Dustin Rowles
The Visit — The Visit is not a return to the heights of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. It was never going to be, but it is well-made and vastly more fun than I’d have thought Shyamalan would ever “lower” himself to be. I think a lot of the high buzz for this movie comes from a place of low expectations—at this point, we expect Shyamalan movies to be flaming disasters, so when they’re not, it’s a big deal. The Visit is not a big deal movie, but it is still pretty damn good, if not groundbreaking, which at this point in Shyamalan’s career is about the extent of what we can reasonably expect. — Rebecca Pahle
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel — It’s easy to roll your eyes at the title The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. But it’s nearly impossible not to be won over by its charms. It’s schmaltzy and sentimental. It’s not challenging, tragic, or the kind of thing awards season will pay attention too. But who cares? I’m grateful for a movie this sweet, warm and celebratory. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is downright delightful, and thank God! — Kristy Puchko
Spy — Ultimately, Spy isn’t perfect. While McCarthy carries this movie like a f*cking champ (while Statham steals it with shocking comedic skill), and the supporting cast kills it (especially Rose Byrne’s femme fatale and Miranda Hart’s cheerily bumbling, yet still competent BFF), the movie ends up succumbing to that comedy curse of just being about 20 minutes too long. Still, Spy is a very good movie, and that is only disappointing because it comes so close to greatness. This is (arguably, come at me, I’m ready) McCarthy’s greatest role to date, because it lets us see all of her. There are no other women (and quite possibly no men, either) out there doing physical comedy like she does it, but so often her films have us laughing at her as she nails her pratfalls. Here, she is a hero we root for and relate to and really love. She’s also sexualized by an equally hilarious and discomfiting Peter Serafinowicz, just enough to cut through the “she’s too unattractive to be a spy” theme. And boy oh boy, when she finally gets the chance to go full sexy badass Sydney Bristow, we are all of us Peter Serafinowicz. — Vivian Kane
The Duff — It’s the message that the movie is attempting to get across that makes it so exceptional, and it needed an egregiously offensive label like DUFF to effectively relay its point. The DUFF is not a She’s All That make-over movie about a beautiful woman who takes off her glasses and is even more beautiful. It’s a movie about a less traditionally beautiful woman (in the high-school movie sense) who comes to terms with her identity, who owns it, and in doing so, completely robs the label of its power. In fact, by the end of the movie, you’ll be proudly proclaiming your own DUFFness. Beyond the empowering thematic messages of The DUFF, it’s also very funny, and the chemistry between Mae Whitman and Robbie Amell is goddamn electric. I didn’t expect much from The DUFF, and what little I did expect was to be repulsed by the idea that any movie would consider Mae Whitman ugly and fat. However, I was incredibly and pleasantly surprised by the film. — Dustin Rowles
The Night Before — Like Seth Rogen’s better movies, The Night Before is mostly drug-fueled mayhem; fun cameos (Ilana Glazer, Minday Kaling, and Miley Cyrus are among them); and friendship. There’s also a lot of fun allusions to other Christmas films (Die Hard, Home Alone) as well, and, naturally, the entire movie is framed by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, which comes in the form of a pot dealer played terrifically by Michael Shannon (easily the best part of the film). It drags in a couple of parts and not all the comedy sequences are successful, but it’s a great, warm, funny holiday film perfect for a Seth Rogen audience aging into parenthood. Good Christmas movies are few and far between, and while The Night Before is not likely to become a classic, it’s easily the funniest holiday movie since Elf. — Dustin Rowles
Ricki and the Flash — There’s nothing surprising about Ricki and the Flash, except of course for Meryl Streep’s ability to cover Springsteen so spectacularly. There are no twists, no big reveals. But there don’t really need to be. Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult) wrote a solid, if by-the-numbers, script, and Jonathan Demme, who is as well known for his rock documentaries as he is for his heavy-hitting narrative films (Philadelphia, Silence of the Lambs, etc.) was the perfect choice to direct. Streep gets a lot of help form her supporting cast—Kline, Gummer, Nick Westrate, Audra McDonald, Pajiba 10 alum Sebastian Stan, and even Rick Springfield as Ricki’s boyfriend and bandmate—but she’s the one that makes this movie. Whatever made her take this role, whether she wanted a break from the Oscar race or she just wanted to be a rock star for a few months, it’s lucky for us she did. It’s definitely not her finest vehicle, but it’s something different and something fun. The movie may not really be Streep-level quality, but it lets her play, and it doesn’t let her down. And she does raise it up. Watching Streep shred the guitar, sing Tom Petty, and banter with her daughter is a better use of 100 minutes than most things you could do. — Vivian Kane
American Ultra — From screenwriter Max Landis (Chronicle), American Ultra is about a loserish stoner guy, Mike (Jessie Eisenberg) and his slightly more put together girlfriend, Phoebe (Kristen Stewart). Mike is an oblivious convenient-store clerk with a mess of phobias who wants nothing more than to propose to his girlfriend and live out the rest of his life high on his couch. What Mike doesn’t realize, however, is that he’s an agent of the CIA who has been brainwashed and trained as an assassin. However, after the operation proves unsuccessful, a CIA bureaucrat played by Topher Grace decides to end the program and wipe the slate, which means killing Mike. The program’s chief, Victoria Lasseter (Connie Britton), has other ideas in mind. She sneaks into town and “activates” the brainwashed Mike, so that when the CIA agents come to town to take him out, he finds himself taking out assassins in defense of himself. He’s kind of like Chuck, if Chuck were a stoner instead of a geek, while Stewart is his stoner Yvonne Strahovski. That’s not a bad premise, really. It works, for the most part, as long as your expectations remain in check. It’s mostly and hour and a half cat-and-mouse chase with a lot more bullets and explosives than you might associate with a Kristen Stewart film, which is part of expectation-subverting fun. It’s not great, but it’s as “not bad” as you can get without technically being “good.” — Dustin Rowles