Welcome back to Heady Entertainment, MERRY JANE's weekly guide to just-released movies, books, and music — all fresh, dank, and THC-friendly. In specific, we choose our picks based on how they can enhance your combined consumption of cannabis and entertainment.
This week, Blindspotting shines bright lights on the dark corners of gentrification; Denzel does what Denzel does so well (again) in The Equalizer 2; David Spade and Nat Faxon deliriously duke it out as dunce dads in Father of the Year; the photo book Artivism elevates through electrifying imagery; Buddy busts out his long-playing rap debut; and a batch of crazed cult flicks built for smoking to — including the psychedelic spaghetti western Sartana series — come out in collector's editions. So let's get straight — but not "straight" to this week's fresh-rolled recommendations.
Director: Carlos Lopez Estrada
Cast: Daveed Diggs, Janina Gavanker, Rafael Casal
Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal not only co-wrote and co-star in Blindspotting — a blisteringly timely saga of old school rage and righteousness meeting rampant gentrification in Oakland — they actually grew up together on the very streets where the movie takes place.
As such, Blindspotting is especially heartfelt, head-filling, and, at times, hilarious. The plot chronicles convicted felon Collin (Diggs) just trying to get through his final three days of probation while his hothead best bud Miles (Casal) continually invites trouble — the exact type of trouble that could send Collin back to the pen.
Music video director Carlos López Estrada helms the action with hip-hop energy, and the two leads deliver star-is-born moments both in terms of their performances and their script. Roll a fattie and torch up in celebration of this dynamic new team that, in a very real way, gets where Blindspotting's audience is coming from.
"The Equalizer 2" (2018)
Director: Richard Wenk
Cast: Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Melissa Leo
Denzel returns as ex-CIA problem-solver-for-hire John McCall in The Equalizer 2 to throw down and look dope while doing it like only he can — especially when he's in the high-style hands of filmmaker Anton Fuqua, who directed Denzel in the first one (as well as The Magnificent Seven and, of course, Training Day).
For this go-round, the globetrotting McCall makes his way from Boston to Istanbul to hunt down the killer — or killers — of his best friend. That sounds like ideally intoxicating IMAX overkill to us. It's a perfect formula for pre-flick puffing, then just let the high-octane action blow your stoned ass out the back of the theater.
"Father of the Year" (2018)
Director: Tyler Spindel
Cast: David Spade, Nat Faxon, Bridgit Mendelr
Watch It: Netflix
Father of the Year, Happy Madison's latest bong-passing Netflix chuckle-fest, kicks off with a drunken debate between two recent college grads about whose father would win in a fight. Mirthful mayhem follows from there, as the dorks' two idiot dads take the challenge seriously.
Considering that David Spade and Nat Faxon tackle the roles of sloppy papas by each channeling their own versions moronic machismo on full blast, select your goofiest ganja strain to go along with Father of the Year accordingly.
"The Housemaid" (2018)
Director: Derek Nguyen
Cast: Nhung Kate, Jean-Michel Richaud, Cory Jackson
Watch It: Amazon, iTunes, On Demand
After making a spooky splash on the festival circuit, The Housemaid is now on hand via streaming services to poke your brain in the places where it's most paranoid. Set in 1953 Vietnam, Nhung Kate stars as Linh, a penniless young woman with no family who gets hired in the titular gig by a colonial French Army officer named Sebastien Laurent (Jean-Michel Richaud). When taboo love blooms between them, the Frenchman's dead wife rises from the grave to express her disapproval — dramatically. The Housemaid is atmospheric as fuck and will keep you inhaling in between nervous nibbles on your fingernails.
Director: Drake Doremus
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Lea Seydoux, Christina Aguilera
Watch It: Amazon
In the same highly smokable, stylized sci-fi vein as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and Her (2013), director Drake Doremus's Zoe recasts romance amidst the troubled landscape of skyrocketing technology.
After divorced AI engineer Cole (Ewan McGregor) falls hard for Zoe (Léa Seydoux), a highly biological cyborg of his own making, questions crop up as to what it means to be human, let alone be happy. As always, such mysteries are best pondered while high. Plus, it's a trip to see Christina Aguilera in the role of a robot sex worker.
"The Complete Sartana"
Cast: Gianni Garko, George Hilton
Get It: MVD
Among the numerous "spaghetti western" knockoffs of Clint Eastwood as The Man With No Name in Sergio Leone's 1966 mind-blow masterpiece The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (among other titles), Franco Nero's Django may be the most familiar, but Gianni Garko as Sartana is the most gothic, tech-minded, and screamingly psychedelic.
Sporting a long, black cape and an array of proto-James-Bond gadgets, Sartana injected even more wigged-out weirdness into the already inherently trippy nature of this genre. The Complete Sartana collects all five films, presented here in brand-new restorations. The titles alone are like dynamite detonations to the brain: If You Meet Sartana, Pray for Your Death (1968); I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death (1969); Have a Good Funeral My Friend… Sartana Will Pay (1970); Light the Fuse, Sartana Is Coming (1970); and Sartana's Here, Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin (1970).
"Orgy of the Dead" (1965)
Director: Stephen C. Apostolof
Cast: Criswell, Pat Barrington, Loralai Hart
Get It: MVD
Although he's not listed as the director or among the cast, the real star of Orgy of the Dead is Edward D. Wood Jr, the notorious "world's worst filmmaker" (best known for 1959's Plan 9 From Outer Space), who was famously celebrated in the Tim Burton-Johnny Depp biopic, Ed Wood (1994).
Wood not only penned the script for Orgy of the Dead, he also produced it, turns up on screen briefly, and held up cue cards for the movie's anti-actors — so you know you won't even need to imbibe an intoxicant as you watch to feel like your skull is exploding. But, as always, it's a sure way to up the mind-frying fun.
Orgy also stars Wood mainstay Criswell, a crackpot 1950s TV psychic. Here, Criswell stars as The Emperor, some kind of undead overlord who oversees non-stop nonsense that essentially involves spooky go-go girls bumping-and-grinding their way out of Halloween costumes on a cemetery set. A mummy and a werewolf also put in an appearance, just to keep you wondering, "Is there something else in the joint I'm smoking?"
By Daniela Poch and Arcadi Poch
Publisher: Carpet Bombing Culture
Get It: Quimby's Books
Artivism compiles photos and essays on the "art as a weapon" movement of the title, described by authors Daniela Poch and Arcadi Poch as "a common way of denouncing conflicts, of being a megaphone of the unfairness, demanding more public space or pushing political agendas."
The images contained herein showcase mostly guerilla-style strikes sprung on the public, and they're inspiring, uplifting, and (positively) enraging. It's a dynamic call to grab your weed, grab your gear, and hit the streets — art-first!
By Champagne Superchillin'
Get It: Broken Circles
Psychedelic high stylists Champagne Superchillin' follow up last year's Destino! with Beach Deep, eleven fresh tracks of soaring, soulful sonic color. Evoking 1960s French pop, early '80s new wave, and the timeless mind travel of hallucinogenic indulgence, Beach Deep is as invigorating as its title implies, and as druggy as its influences would indicate.
"Devouring Radiant Light"
Get It: Bandcamp
Black metal extremists Skeletonwitch return after five years with Devouring Radiant Light, an experimental explosion that dives deeper into druggy depths than these ominous occult conjurers have explored in the past. Fire one up to this fresh ferocity on wax.
"Harlan & Alondra"
Get It: Amazon
Compton-based rapper Buddy debuts with Harlan & Alondra — the names of the cross streets where he grew up — a hotly-anticipated album that also features Ty Dolla $ign, Kent Jamz, A$AP Ferg, and Khalid. Smoking potential comes easy from the first note on Harlan & Alondra, and stays that way to the final drag.
Follow Mike McPadden on Twitter