FlixWorthy Brings You Bill Hicks, H.P. Lovecraft, And More
Your guide to Netflix streaming is back with a legendary stand-up, two of the better attempts at adapting H.P. Lovecraft, a team of overgrown boy detectives, and more. Yet again we're bringing you a handful of new or notable selections from Netflix's Instant Watch catalogue. Some will be classics, some will be little-seen gems, some will be shows you might have missed, and some...some will be crap so awful they simply has to be seen to be believed. Here's what's FlixWorthy this week, kids.
Bill Hicks Live: Satirist, Social Critic, Stand-Up Comedian
(2004, Not Rated, 168 min.)
Even if you're not familiar with comedian Bill Hicks, you may have had your bangs blown back by this amazing trailer for the documentary American, which focuses on Hicks' life, career, and premature death. While his life was cut short at the tragically young age of 32, Hicks impacted and inspired countless comedians, and his material is as timeless and important now as it was in 1994 when he passed. Part comedian, part poet, part prophet, Hicks was a lone voice in the wilderness, imploring us to be better than we were and not to settle for the easy paths of fear, hatred, and ignorance. This collection includes three of his stand-up performances and "It's Just a Ride," a short documentary about Hicks. If you're already a fan, you'll need no excuse to revisit the man's work. If you're just now meeting Bill, use this as an excuse to get to know him better before what Josh Tyler called one of the best films of the year comes to a town near you.
Double-Feature It With...
Bill Hicks: Sane Man
(1989, Not Rated, 80 min.)
The only thing better than watching Bill Hicks toss out truth bombs? Watching him do it some more. The only drawback is that watching these performances will make you miserable at considering how amazing his material could have become if he'd lived to see the last decade. Like Bill so often liked to remind us, life is just a ride...but it's a much poorer one without him in the seat beside us.
In the Mouth of Madness
(1994, Rated R, 95 min.)
Fans of both Guillermo del Toro and H.P. Lovecraft were rending their garments recently after the seeming confirmation that del Toro was finally going to get to make his version of Lovecraft's epic "At the Mountains of Madness" was all-too-quickly followed by del Toro's update that the project was dead in the water. It was a painful blow to all of us who think del Toro's style is pitch-perfect for Lovecraft's notoriously hard-to-adapt material, but not a surprising one. Lovecraft is in the same school as Philip K. Dick when it comes to Hollywood's track record of getting his stuff right, but Lovecraft has yet to have his "Blade Runner" project that makes his name more mainstream. Still, there are little gems out there, such as John Carpenter's ode to all things eldritch and unspeakable, the none-too-subtly-named In the Mouth of Madness. Sam Neill stars as an investigator hired to track down AWOL horror writer Sutter Cane (Jürgen Prochnow). He traces Cane to a small New England town straight out of Cane's books...and learns to his dismay just how apt that description may be. It's not a great movie, but it's full of unforgettable, unsettling moments that fit right into the Lovecraft style. Plus, you'll never listen to The Carpenters the same way again.
Double-Feature It With:
(2001, Rated R, 98 min.)
Another of film's more successful takes on Lovecraft, Dagon finds horror-meister Stuart Gordon combining parts from disparate Lovecraft works in a story most directly based on HP's story, "The Shadow Over Innsmouth." Plenty of creepy moments, and one truly unforgettable moment of gore (you'll know it when you see it).
(2009, Rated R, 94 min., HD)
Donald Glover's riding high these days thanks to his role as part of the incomparable Community ensemble, but a quick check of his bio reveals that this kid has been busy. Before becoming one half of "Troy and Abed in the Morning," Glover served as an executive story editor on 30 Rock. Before that, he was a writer for the freaking Daily Show. Try not to think too much about the fact that he's only 27. That way lies tears and a whiskey hangover. Glover is also one-third of the internet comedy troupe Derrick Comedy, who you might know from their To Catch a Predator parodying "Bro Rape" sketch (a bit NSFW, obviously). Like many a sketch group before them, Derrick Comedy finally tried their hand at a feature film last year with Mystery Team, which casts Glover, Dominic Dierkes, and DC Pierson as an Encyclopedia Brown-style team of boy detectives who haven't allowed puberty or impending graduation stop them from saving the neighborhood from stolen bikes and missing pets. However, the Mystery Team finds itself out of its depth when a little girl hires them to investigate the murder of her parents. The concept of contrasting a trio of wide-eyed innocents against the seedy underbelly of real crime is full of promise, but unfortunately this flick only realizes some of that potential. It's got some laughs, but it could have been so much better.
Double-Feature It With:
(2006, TV-14, Four seasons available, HD)
Even without the Glover connection, it's always a good time to revisit one of the best comedies currently airing. Especially given how much I hated the pilot episode, I'm constantly amazed at how tight and sharp the writing on 30 Rock has become over the years. And it goes without saying that Alec Baldwin is hewn from solid awesome.
My So-Called Life
(1994, TV-PG, 19 eps.)
You'd be hard-pressed to find a show that better sums up what it was like to be a teen during the '90s. For many of those of us who came of age in the age of flannel and grunge, My So-Called Life conjures the same uncanny nostalgia that Freaks and Geeks does for those who spent their adolescence in the '80s. Fortunately, My So-Called Life -- also like Freaks and Geeks -- speaks to universal themes in a way that makes it addictive even if you never shared the planet with Kurt Cobain. A teenaged Claire Danes starred as Angela Chase, a character many an awkward teen boy fell for hard back in the day. Which was made all the more painful by her constantly making goo-goo eyes at that asshat Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto). Er, I mean, or so I've heard. Sadly, MSCL also shared a similar fate with F&G, lasting just a single season. But teen angst never goes out of style, so now you can watch the whole run on Netflix, whether you're a curious young drive-by or thirtysomething and longing to revisit your lost youth before you have to go pick the kids up from school.
Double-Feature It With:
Friday Night Lights
(2006, TV-PG, Four seasons available, HD)
Friday Night Lights earned a similar torrent of critical praise while never breaking through to the top of the ratings. Thankfully, FNL has a happier ending than My So-Called Life, surviving five seasons before recently wrapping up its run. Even if you don't know a thing about high school football, don't let that dissuade you from catching a great show. The fifth and final season isn't streaming yet, but if you get started now, hopefully Netflix will get around to adding it before you catch up.
(2009, TV-MA, One season available, HD)
Speaking of shows where you don't have to be familiar with the subculture in question in order to enjoy them, anyone who might have dismissed The League as "that fantasy football show" owes it to themselves to give the show a chance. My best friend is a die-hard fantasy football nerd. I, on the other hand, wouldn't know a fantasy football match if one were unfolding right next to me. (Honestly, I would probably be more concerned that there was a group of strangers in my kitchen talking nonsense and eating all my Doritos.) Nevertheless, both I and my best friend regularly laugh our asses off at The League with equal amounts of gusto. While the show is loaded with inside terminology, its humor is easily applied to any group of friends that get together and obsess over a hobby. Swap fantasy football out for comic books, video games, or stamp collecting and the specifics of the jokes would change, but not the substance. FX has had a hard time duplicating the success they've had with hour-long dramas when it comes to the sit-com front, but The League is finally a show worthy to share airspace with the depraved antics of the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia crew. Shivakamini Somakandarkram!
Double-Feature It With:
(2009, TV-MA, Two seasons available)
I've actually recommended this show before, so technically, this isn't so much a recommendation as a public service announcement. Both seasons of the excellent and tragically short-lived Party Down, which unceremoniously vanished from Netflix's Instant Watch catalogue a while back, have finally returned. And quite frankly, I'm still pissed about the cancelation, so I may just recommend this bloody show every week until somebody at Starz makes restitution for my heartbreak.
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