Welcome back to FlixWorthy, your weekly guide to Netflix streaming. Yet again we're bringing you a handful of new or notable selections from Netflix's streaming 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.
From Veronica Mars mastermind Rob Thomas, the Starz series Party Down is a half-hour comedy about a Los Angeles catering company. The show plays on the notion that everyone you meet in L.A., regardless of profession, is actually trying to break into showbiz. The Party Down catering crew is a motley assortment of one-hit wonders (Adam Scott), part-time actors (Ryan Hansen), disgruntled writers (Martin Starr), and aspiring stand-up comics (Lizzy Caplan). For all of them, this whole catering thing is just ďsomething to pay the billsĒ until they hit the big-time, and Party Down gets a lot of mileage out of the notion of wannabe artists realizing that every paycheck puts that much more distance between them and their dreams. Each episode is set against the backdrop of a different event, from bar mitzvahs to high-dollar celebrity soirees, and the season finds an arc of sorts in the budding non-romance between Henry Pollard (Scott) and Casey Klein (Caplan). Rob Thomas fans will find plenty of the same snappy dialogue and sharp characters that made Veronica Mars so much fun, lashed to a liberal dose of stinging Hollywood satire. Itís not to be missed.
The second season premiered on Starz last week, so now is the perfect time to race through the freshman year and catch up. Netflix uploads the new episodes in short order, so if you donít have a Starz subscription, this is a great way to catch one of the funniest shows around. This year has seen the loss of series regular Jane Lynch, whoís busy getting her Glee on these days, but Will & Grace's Megan Mullally has stepped forward to fill the gap capably.
Our own Nick Venable gave It Might Get Loud four stars when he reviewed this film on DVD a while back, so I recommend checking out what he had to say right here. An Inconvenient Truth director David Guggenheim turns his attentions from glaciers to guitar gods, profiling Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, U2's The Edge, and The White Stripes' Jack White. Musicians will probably dig the insights they'll get into each performer's style and techniques, while fans will just appreciate getting to see these three jam, although apparently they don't do as much actual playing as you might expect. As Nick puts it, "I consider this almost a must-see. It's not annual holiday viewing or anything, but if you play guitar, you're going to have one in your hands by the time the credits are rolling."
Why not pair It Might Get Loud up with another acclaimed music documentary -- an Oscar-nominated one, no less? Director Wim Wenders' 1999's Buena Vista Social Club follows American guitarist Ry Cooder and a group of Cuban folk musicians who team up to record a Grammy-winning CD down in Havana.
I realize this column has been rather Coen-heavy of late, but thatís only because so many of the Brothersí films are available on demand. Given the choice between a movie where Steve Buscemi is fed through a wood chipper or, say, one of The Asylumís thinly veiled knock-offs such as Paranormal Entity, this ainít exactly Sophieís Choice. Plus, despite my recommendations skewing Coen these past few weeks, it seems a damn shame not to spend a little time in Fargo. Frances McDormand stars as mild-mannered, heavily pregnant North Dakota police chief Marge Gunderson, who finds her way right into the middle of a criminal scheme involving several crooks (Buscemi and Peter Stormare), a nervous car salesman (William H. Macy), and a fake kidnapping scheme that becomes all too real. And did I mention Buscemi and the wood chipper?
An odd pairing at first, I know. But why not shake up the tone a bit and six-degree yourself over to Buscemiís performance as slithery villain Randall Boggs, alongside fellow Coen alum John Goodman and Billy Crystal. With a 2012 Monsters sequel recently confirmed, thatís as good an excuse as any to take another look at Pixarís exploration of the world of monsters on the other side every childís closet door. Itís one of Pixarís more brilliant concepts, and itís available to stream right now.
FX dips a toe into the animated world with this spy satire from Adult Swim alumni Adam Reed and Matt Thompson (Sealab 2021, Space Ghost Coast to Coast). The pair bring the same twisted sense of humor to the adventures of suave superspy Sterling Archer (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) and his fellow agents of the International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS). Episodes revolve around field missions as well as bickering back in the home office, with Archer and his compatriots often more concerned with petty personal squabbles than with rooting out moles or assassinating enemies of the state. Aisha Tyler voices Archer's ex, fellow spy Lana Kane, who's now involved with compulsively insecure desk jockey Cyril Figgis (Chris Parnell). Archer's mother (Arrested Development's Jessica Walter) is in charge of the outfit, and divides her time between cleaning up Archer's messes and engaging in phone sex with her counterpart in Russian intelligence. It's twisted, hilarious, and often deeply, deeply wrong.
Double-Feature It With: Casino Royale
(1967, Not Rated, 137 min.)
No, not the gritty Daniel Craig reboot. I mean the inexplicable 1967 satirical version starring David Niven as Bond, James Bond. This is a movie with a cast including Ursula Andress, Woody Allen, Peter Sellers, and Orson Freakin' Welles as the villainous Le Chiffre, all wrapped up in a Burt Bacharach score. Watch this and try to imagine a world where Dr. No never happened and this movie became the template for the four decades of Bond films that followed...
Regardless where you fall on the spectrum between fundamentalism and secularism, there's no question that this conflict is integral to the world we're living in right now. Not a day goes by in our 24/7 news cycle where we aren't barraged with stories detailing the so-called "culture war" in America, to say nothing of more violent variations unfolding around the globe. Thankfully, filmmaker Dan Merchant's documentary isn't looking to be as heavy or as vitriolic as, say, Bill Maher's Religulous. Instead, this documentary speaks to folks on all sides of faith (or lack thereof) with the simple mission to try and determine why we can't be civil to each other, regardless of our beliefs. Faith being what it is, don't expect this one to change your mind on any of the big issues, but it might just make you give more thought to whichever side you consider "the opposition."
Double-Feature It With: Hell House
(2001, Not Rated, 85 min.)
I considered suggesting the Oscar-nominated Jesus Camp, but that film is enormously tough to watch, and might make for a real downer after LSUFYF. Instead we'll keep things ever so slightly more light-hearted with this look at the so-called "Hell House" phenomenon -- Halloween events run by evangelical churches with the goal of scaring the Hell out of you via dramatic presentations of wayward sinners paying the price for premarital sex, being gay, wearing skirts above the knee, etc.