Michael Palin, Carol Cleveland, and the group in 'The Lumberjack Song'

The Essential ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ on Netflix

And now for something completely different. In 1969, five overeducated British comics and an American illustrator ambushed the BBC with the strangest show in British history. How they got on the air is anyone’s guess (rumors of blackmail were quickly hushed, though the Python’s penchant for sheep gags… but enough of speculation), but their irreverent […]

Michael Cera, Jack Black and David Cross in the comedy directed by Harold Ramis

‘Year One’ – Not quite the history of mankind on Netflix

Jack Black and Michael Cera are philosophical cavemen misfits who wander out of their pocket of Eden and into the Holy Lands of Biblical lore in Year One (2009), the History of the World according to Harold Ramis. They are Zed and Oh, ostensibly members of a pre-civilization tribe of hunter/gatherers, but despite the caveman […]

Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom in the film from Gore Verbinksi

‘Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl’ on Netflix

Buried under kerchief, blousy shirt, and the make-up of a heavy metal fashion victim, Johnny Depp bobs and weaves his way through the hit pirate trilogy as Jack Sparrow, a black pirate come high seas con man with a heart of tarnished stolen gold. He seems to have stumbled in from his own private movie […]

Adrien Brody, Rachel Weisz, and Mark Ruffalo in Rian Johnson's charming fantasy of a con movie 'The Brothers Bloom.'

‘The Brothers Bloom’ on VOD and Blu-ray/DVD

The Brothers Bloom (2008), the second feature from Star Wars: The Last Jedi writer/director Rian Johnson, is a con artist comedy as living theater. After the almost color-leached images of his high-school noir Brick (2005), Johnson puts more brightness in his palette and more spring his step for this fantasy about stories and storytelling. In a […]

Sylvain Chomet's animated film of a Jacques Tati script

‘The Illusionist’ on Amazon Prime Video

With The Illusionist (France, 2010), animator Sylvain Chomet (of the delirious The Triplets of Belleville) transforms an unproduced script by they great French auteur Jacques Tati (Mon Oncle) into a tender tale of a French magician and a Scottish girl in the theater-folk society of London as the old world of stage performance gives way […]

Matt Damon is Mark Whitacre in the movie by Steven Soderbergh

Matt Damon is ‘The Informant!’ on Netflix

Biochemical engineer and corporate whistleblower Mark Whitacre might have been a national hero for his help in exposing international price fixing. Too bad he was also a compulsive liar and an embezzler caught up in delusions of grandeur and secret-agent fantasies. Though based on a true story, The Informant! (2009) is not The Insider but […]

Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer star in Rob Reiner's 'This is Spinal Tap'

‘This Is Spinal Tap’ – crank it to 11 on Hulu

“It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.” – Nigel Tufnel Rob Reiner walks that fine line in his hilarious mockrockumentary This Is Spinal Tap (1984), ostensibly the portrait of a has-been metal band resurrected from a well-deserved obscurity for a disastrous comeback tour. Improv comedy veterans Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer don’t […]

Lucy Davis, Kate Ashfield, Dylan Moran, Simon Pegg, Penelope Wilton, and Nick Frost in the film by Edgar Wright

‘Shaun of the Dead’ – the funniest zombie comedy ever on Hulu

The apocalyptic hysteria of the zombie film has always been pitched on the edge of comedy: a horrible black joke played on humanity by a god with a sick sense of humor. Director/co-writer Edgar Wright and co-writer/star Simon Pegg’s self-proclaimed “rom-zom-com” (romantic zombie comedy) Shaun of the Dead (2004) simply nudges it over the edge. […]