‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’ (2008)
After getting dumped by his girlfriend, network TV star Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), Peter Bretter (Jason Siegel) struggles to get over her. He takes a vacation to Hawaii to clear his head, only to discover that Sarah is staying at the same resort, and she’s brought her new boyfriend, rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). Awkwardly trying to avoid his ex, Peter strikes up a relationship with a woman named Rachel (Mila Kunis), the hotel’s concierge, and learns to love life again. Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a hilarious comedy, but beneath the laughter is an earnest heart.
With Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Jake Kasdan and Judd Apatow take aim at the prestigious but formulaic biopic genre, telling the ridiculous life story of the musician Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly). As a child, the young Dewey accidentally cuts his brother in half with a machete, a traumatic incident that leads him to sing the blues and discover a love of music. His story only gets weirder from there, as he dabbles in various genres over the decades, meeting musicians like Elvis and The Beatles and trying every drug under the sun. It’s a great comedy, one that manages to continue one-upping itself no matter how absurd each scene seems.
‘A Serious Man’ (2009)
“We can’t know everything.” With those words, a rabbi concludes a long, strange, and seemingly pointless story, leaving Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) flustered. A Serious Man, one of many masterpieces from the Coen Brothers, follows Larry as his life collapses in slow fashion, a landslide of misery that he can’t comprehend. His wife is leaving him for another man, an anonymous critic is putting his academic tenure in jeopardy, a student is trying to bribe him for better grades, and perhaps worst of all, nobody can explain to him why any of this is happening. The film may sound depressing, and it is, but it’s also a shockingly funny, tragicomic exploration of human suffering in a small corner of the uncaring universe.
‘Hot Fuzz’ (2007)
Hot Fuzz is basically actor-writer Simon Pegg’s take on the buddy cop genre, though, one spliced with the same comedic elements that made Shaun of the Dead so amusing in the first place. Pegg stars as a former London constable who’s assigned to investigate the sleepy town of Sanford alongside the dimwitted Butterman (Nick Frost). However, things start to become interesting following a string of so-called “accidents” plaguing various members of the town. This biting British film is the second in director Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy, which ultimately culminates with The World’s End and capitalizes on the fantastic interplay between Pegg and Frost.
One of Wes Anderson’s most iconic films, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou follows the titular explorer (Bill Murray), an oceanographer and documentarian, who sets out to hunt the shark that ate his best friend. Unfortunately, Zissou’s films have been on a downward trajectory, and so he must steal equipment and take a donation from his fan — and possibly his son — Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson). Along the way, Zissou must confront his declining career and worth as an artist. Those who hate Anderson’s quirky style of filmmaking will probably not be swayed by The Life Aquatic. Those who appreciate his idiosyncrasies, or want to see something far from mainstream filmmaking, will surely appreciate the film’s droll humor and vibrant charms (the soundtrack includes several Portuguese covers of David Bowie songs).
‘Tropic Thunder’ (2008)
This parody of action movies and Hollywood personalities follows the disastrous filming of the fictional Tropic Thunder, a big budget adaptation of Vietnam veteran “Four Leaf” Tayback’s (Nick Nolte) memoir. The film assembles an all-star cast, including action star Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller), junkie comedian Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), and method actor Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.), who, suffice to say, goes to absurd lengths to portray his African-American character. The film shoot gets off to a terrible start, thanks to the diva antics of the stars, prompting Four Leaf and director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) to throw the cast into the jungle with minimal support, hoping to get authentic suffering on film. Unfortunately, the jungle is under the control of an armed and vicious drug syndicate, eager to eliminate the outsiders. Tropic Thunder is a frenetic action-comedy, with outlandish characters and some stunningly accurate parodies of Hollywood tropes, both of which render it one of the best comedies on Netflix
‘I Love You, Man’ (2009)
Jason Segel and Paul Rudd embrace the “bromance” in this 2009 film about a man with no friends. While Rudd prepares for his wedding, his fiancee (Rashida Jones) proposes that he finds himself a male friend to occupy some of his free time. When Rudd and Segel meet, it’s a match made in heaven, as both men love jamming to Rush songs. When Segel’s character puts up some billboards featuring Rudd that are in questionable taste, however, the two must decide whether their new friendship is worth saving. A star-studded supporting cast and a hilarious cameo from Lou Ferrigno also help make this a memorable — albeit unusual — rom-com, a good movie for a casual movie night.
‘Burn After Reading’ (2008)
Another day, another wacky comedy from the Coen brothers that quickly spirals way out of control. In this black comedy, a former CIA analyst (John Malkovich) loses a CD-ROM that contains meaningless ramblings on various government activities, many of which are intended for his soon-to-be memoir. When two certifiable dimwits (Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt) find the disc and think they’ve stumbled upon a treasure trove of valuable secrets, hilarity ensues. George Clooney and Tilda Swinton provide excellent supporting performances as well, but it’s the film’s neurotic score and the tight scripting that truly makes it an anti-spy thriller worthy of the Coen name.