2. Paddington 2
Released: January 12
Cast: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Grant, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville
Director: Paul King
Why it’s great: When the first Paddington hit our shores in early 2015, it was appreciated as a charming, thoughtful antidote to grating children’s programming. The second installment in the saga of the bear from Darkest Peru, who preaches the gospel of “if we are kind and polite the world will be right,” is an improvement on even that, and one of the best movies of the year. Director Paul King — a veteran of the UK’s beloved cult TV show The Mighty Boosh — crafted a luminously colorful world, a visionary whirligig of imagery. The film catches up with our friend Paddington settling into his London neighborhood — bringing good cheer to all of his neighbors — but things start to go awry when he’s wrongly accused of stealing a pop-up book from the local antiques store he frequents. The true perpetrator is Phoenix Buchanan, a washed-up actor played by Hugh Grant in what is — no joke — one of the best and funniest performances of the year. Phoenix is truly a ham, who does his dastardly deeds in his old costumes, considering each crime a triumphant act worthy of applause. Meanwhile, our friend Paddington is imprisoned, but making the best of it by introducing his fellow inmates, including Brendan Gleeson’s particularly grumpy cook, to the wonders of marmalade. Like that sticky substance, Paddington 2 is sweet, but in a way that’s soothing.
Where to see it right now: Rent on iTunes, Amazon Video, YouTube, Google Play (watch the trailer)