You’ve had a bad week, stretching on from a long month, as a leftover from a trash year. You feel flat, deflated, depressed and can barely muster enough energy to search for that one good movie in the heaps of depressing, promotionally dark content—meanwhile, that Netflix subscription is burning a hole in your laptop screen and it must be used. Well naturally, this is why you’re here. From the stupidly fun Bad Boys II to twistedly introspective Moon, these are the films that make me happy (one of which I’ll probably have to watch once I’m done here). Maybe they’ll make you happy too.
Stars: Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Mara Wilson
Director: Danny DeVito
I know, you’re thinking that you're too old to enjoy a movie like Matilda, with its offerings of little girls with powers and Danny DeVito’s face. But pocket that pessimism for a second and think about the themes we’re working with here. It’s 1996, and we’ve got a movie starring a gifted, PhD-reading, super-genius five-year-old girl with terrible family issues. Her dad, played by DeVito, is a bunk car-selling crook; her principal is a slave driver; and Matilda herself is treated like a leper. It speaks to everything you’d understand about powerlessness. But in the thick of all that is a 90s salad dressing that’s all-the-way endearing—cutesy names like Miss Lavender and Honey, with equally cringe-worthy ones like Wormwood and Trunchbull that playout in an underdog story turned positive in the end. It’s an easy watch that celebrates the individual magic we all have, and that makes for a great spirit booster.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Stars: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Janel Parrish
Director: Susan Johnson
Susan Johnson’s romantic comedy based on Jenny Han’s YA novel wasn’t the first to do the fake-relationship thing; films like Drive Me Crazy, 10 Things I Hate About You, She’s All That, and The Wedding Date did it first, but To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before probably did it better. If you’re a human with a Netflix account, you know story: a Korean-American student, Lara Jean, enters a fake relationship with the damn-near supermodel who’s somehow overlooked in Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo); she wants to save face from the other boys she’s loved. But between the ups, downs, and emotional spirals, she ends up in love with the supermodel-next-door kid. Love when done right has the ability to make everyone feel that tinge of feeling we sometimes ignore.
A Wrinkle in Time
Stars: Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon
Director: Ava DuVernay
It has beautiful colours and it’s made by the more recent we-won’t-kill-everything-you-love Disney. Our main protagonist, Storm Reid, is a vision of peaches and pie, and the story is innocence incarnate: a middle schooler goes on the mission to save her dad with the help of some very likeable celestial beings (Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and Oprah). This is a movie for the kid laying dormant within—pleading to come out as you stare at your student debt in tears. It wants every child to feel like they’re OK. We can all use the message of being okay right now.
Bad Boys II
Stars: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Gabrielle Union
Director: Michael Bay
Unless you’re an Amazon tiki torch-buying alt-right person, the joy of Bad Boys II begins within the first minutes of Michael Bay-ness: Two black-as-hell dudes go undercover as members of the KKK; some pleasant exchanges happen; and then two black guys deliver some “Surprise Fuckers!” shit, with jokes, bullets, and bodies all flying towards a cinematic finish of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as victors—KKK yokels imprisoned. Everything about this sequel shares a 1990s aesthetic that flaunted a sweaty men to big explosions ratio confidently. And the sheer simplicity in that can make anyone’s depressed hell feel a little easier to take on.
The Fifth Element
Stars: Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, Gary Oldman
Director: Luc Besson
It’s a bleached blonde Bruce “flying cabbie” Willis in the year 2259. It’s pre- Resident Evil Milla Jovovich, dressed in the most peekaboo Band-aid-looking outfit, serving as the key to saving a world. And of course, it’s the pre-christianized Chris Tucker as the dragon-queenish, media-crazed DJ Ruby who finds his high-pitched ass in the middle of Luc Besson’s wild sci-fi ride. If you don’t smile in the middle of all this brightly-coloured giddiness—which happens to feature one of the better on-screen black presidents in movie history—then I don’t know what to tell ya.
An American Tail
Stars: Dom DeLuise, Christopher Plummer, Erica Yohn
Director: Don Bluth
I know, I know: several minutes into this film you’ve already witnessed an anti-Semitic attack, an uneasy ocean ride, and the splitting of family-bound immigrants in this Don Bluth directed animation. But give it time, and you’ll see the charm in a Russian mouse lovingly named Fievel Mousekewitz. You’ll take note of his ability to survive in a big city while making a variety of friends from all nationalities, classes, and backgrounds. And in a quest to be reunited with a family, he’s able to bring about meaningful change through his struggle. You may be feeling sad and shitty, but this 30-year-old movie constantly reminds us that there’s an upside to even the most desperate seeming situations.
Good Will Hunting
Stars: Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck
Director: Gus Van Sant
Granted, a genius janitor who’s great at math but sides as a career smartass is an irritation of the most privileged kind. But when evened out with by late, great, and joyful Robin Williams, who’s tasked with teaching Matt Damon’s how to be vulnerable and stop running away from his deep-seated issues—we receive a story that’s an impactful representation of friendships, potential, and trauma. We can’t hide from our pasts, we’re made better in facing them. Just remember: It’s not your fault.
The Shawshank Redemption
Stars: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton
Director: Frank Darabont
It’s still the best bromance film ranked in a top ten movies of all time list. But it's mostly about prison—or at least a view of it as seen through the eyes of the innocent. We know the story: Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is a banker who serves double the life sentence for the murder of his wife and her lover. Of course he didn’t do it, and in knowing that, we’re presented with a years-long struggle as narrated by his fellow bromantic lead, Ellis “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman). Say what you want about the most gloomy of topics around police brutality, sexual assault, and suicide—this film is all about the payoff. We all go through the shits to the point of it feeling like it's our everything, but when Andy finally escapes Shawshank, and ultimately reunites with his bud in a happy embraced hug—camera panning out—it’s completely cathartic.
Stars: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Daryl Hannah
Director: Quentin Tarantino
I wanna preface this by saying that the root of this series is problematic. Star Uma Thurman recalled being forced to perform a stunt in Vol. 2 that placed her in a very bad situation. But in looking at Kill Bill as a whole now, the theme of a woman’s ability to survive is far more pronounced on and off the camera. Originally, Kill Bill Vol. 1 was a feel good revenge flick about the wrong wrong making things violently right. Uma’s ability to give Beatrix more life now in her objections to the powerful male director, Quentin Tarantino, is a reminder that Kill Bill never belonged to Tarantino, it always belonged to Uma, and every woman like her. That shit feels good.
Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark
Stars: Steven Spielberg
Director: Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Alison Doody
You know the “good parts” in a summer movie, when the guy flips himself on a motorcycle and outruns a Nazis regime? Or when the camera zeroes in on the massive explosives that won’t go off until a trigger catches the slow burning fire? Or when a bunch of Nazis literally have their faces melted off by a mystical religious relic? No? Anyway, Raiders of the Lost Ark is that. It’s the perfect nonstop adventure that starred Harrison Ford as his best Dr. Jones, before the whole alien conspiracy and being saved by a fridge thing.
Silver Linings Playbook
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro
Director: David O. Russell
There’s nothing funny or greatly positive about mental illness; and yes, it’s a mental strain to see Jennifer Lawrence as the star of another movie. But I assure you, there’s something special here about a Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), who moves back in with his parents to get back with his ex-wife. Pat isn’t all-together, and throughout this visual journey, it can become far easier to accept our own faults in the same way Jennifer and Pat can.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Stars: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller
Director: Stephen Chbosky
As another YA-novel-turned-movie, Perks first and foremost gets all the points for extending beyond your usual coming-of-age twaddle for teens. In a baseline plot about an introvert who finds some senior friends who welcome him to a different world, it’s earnest in its treatment of the shy, prone, and sitting-on-the-sidelines type. He’s simply discovering life's offerings for the first time, and it’s ragged in the high and lows of that high school journey all the same. It feels warm in the fuzziest kinda way.
Beauty and the Beast
Stars: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans
Director: Bill Condon
It’s that story about the scary-looking guy who holds a woman hostage until she submits to his will…which sounds like a police report. But this Disney showing has far more loveable and musically-infused roots from the original remake of the original 1991 animation. Sure, Emma Watson can’t hold a candle to Paige O’Hara’s voice, but I’ve heard the OG-iest of friends re-singing “Tale As Old As Time” like it was Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones.” Positive vibes remain all over this one.
Stars: Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, John Heard
Director: Anthony C. Ferrante
Again (because I’ve mentioned this movie before), it’s a dumbass movie about an actor from 90210 who fights sharks in a Tornado. Embrace the stupid.
Stars: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne
Director: Paul Feig
A woman’s life is a mess (like most of us right now), and her best friend just got engaged. If that isn’t a mid-life crisis event, then you’re better than me. There’s a funny-as-hell plane scene, a certain dress shop disaster, and not all of it hits comically, but director Paul Feig has a particular gift with letting scenes play out just long enough for the funny and heartfelt moments to hit. Watch this, if not for Jon “debonair” Hamm.
Stars: Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy
Director: Amy Heckerling
This isn’t your serious deep-thinking movie here, as the title hints. You’ve got Cher Horowitz, a white-privileged high schooler from Beverly Hills, and her life-size human Bratz doll of a pre-Trump supporter, Stacey Dash, who tackle teenage shit like boys, friendship, sex and how to accessorise. I personally watch this to view clueless Dash act out her most honest self. It brings me joy. But there's something here about friendships in the midst of learning and growing out of our cluelessness that can be found here.
Stars: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey, Dominique McElligott
Director: Duncan Jones
It’s Sam Rockwell talking to himself for an hour and 27 minutes. Technically, this movie isn’t feel-good in the cakes and puppies sort of way. When you’re down and feeling alone, sometimes it feels good to see that feeling personified, so you aren’t left stewing in all alone. Astronaut Sam Bell goes through a three-year stint on the moon where he, while working alongside a computer, is attempting to help diminish earth’s power problems. Between the twisted and bizarre, this is largely a commentary about isolation and the ways in which impacts us. You'll wanna go outside after this.
School of Rock
Stars: Jack Black, Mike White, Joan Cusack |
Director: Richard Linklater
It’s Jack Black faking his ass into a job he doesn’t deserve. We’ve all done this, and some of us are still faking our way through it. As a newly-hired music instructor, he comes up with an idea to have his kids bring him back to his former musical glory. We all still wish we can be more than we are, and a lot of times it isn’t about the ego or the fame like in the case of Richard Linklater’s comedy, it’s in the simple desire to be heard and appreciated.
Stars: John Travolta, Queen Latifah, Nikki Blonsky
Director: Adam Shankman
As I’ve said every damn time I’ve promoted this romantic comedy of a musical about finding fame: John Travolta is in a dress. Sure, it’s a great screenplay, Michelle Pfeiffer is fire, Nikki Blonsky is great, but the dude from Pulp Fiction and Face/Off is rocking a dress. In an entire film that seeped in herky-jerky, sugar coated dance, one has to appreciate this sight and hold it high whenever the day devolves into darkness.
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