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.
Movie screens explode this week as dope visuals overwhelm in the form of the X-Men epic Dark Phoenix and the frantic antics of the animated animals in The Secret Life of Pets 2.
Smoke-worthy streaming options veer from the music biz documentary The Black Godfather to the heaviness of The Handmaid’s Tale to the fright show freak-outs of Nos4A2.
Our deluxe editions of vintage stoner cinema favorites this go-round include the all-time camp classic Can’t Stop the Music with the Village People and the wildly unhinged, blood-blasted giallo thriller, The New York Ripper.
Music gets all kinds of mind-bending this week with reefer-ready releases from Plaid; multifaceted funnyman Tim Heidecker; and Boots Electric, the glam persona of Eagles of Death Metal singer Jess Hughes.
So let’s get straight — but not “straight” — to this week’s fresh-rolled recommendations.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019)
Director: Simon Kinberg
Cast: Sophie Turner, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender
X-Men: Dark Phoenix is the twelfth installment in the X film franchise and, as such, the last entry before what’s said to be a major Marvel Cinematic Universe reboot. It’s also a faithful adaptation of the beloved 1980 “Dark Phoenix Saga” comic book series that was first attempted, to apparent fan frustration, in 2006 with X-Men: The Last Stand.
Thirteen years of brain-blasting developments in CGI effects later, Dark Phoenix arrives now with Sophie Turner — the once-and-forever Sansa Stark of Game of Thrones — starring in the dual role of Dr. Jean Grey and the outer-space-spawned title character who thrives on solar flares and shoots fire out of her face. Damn.
Jennifer Lawrence returns here as blue-skinned shape-shifter Mystique, accompanied James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender respectively portraying classic X-Men adversaries Professor X and Magneto. The higher you get, the mightier it all becomes.
The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019)
Director: Brian Lynch
Voice Cast: Patton Oswalt, Tiffany Haddish, Kevin Hart
Patton Oswalt steps up as the voice of Jack Russell terrier Max in The Secret Life of Pets 2, taking over the role created by Louis CK in the original. (Louis was, um, indisposed for this go-round). Once again, Secret Life offers an eye-popping, gut-busting look at what all our dogs, cats, fish, birds, and other animal buddies get up to once we leave them alone — and with each other.
This time, the adventure focuses on Kevin Hart as Snowball, a rabbit with a superhero complex who rouses Max and the other critters into helping him free a tiger from a circus. Crazy colors, madcap slapstick, and all manner of gags just begging to be enjoyed with marijuana ensue from there.
The Black Godfather: The Clarence Avant Story (2019)
Director: Reginald Hudlin
Watch It: Netflix
The name Clarence Avant may not be widely known among the public, but behind closed doors in the upper-most echelons of culture-making dynamism, he ruled so brilliantly and with such one-of-a-kind power that the only possible title for a movie about his life would be The Black Godfather.
Netflix’s new documentary explores Clarence Avant as a brilliant, unrestrained entertainment mega-force who not only redefined music production during the ’80s and ’90s by way of mentoring platinum-selling talents, he also counseled luminaries on the godlike order of Muhammad Ali and President Barack Obama.
Roll a fatty, press play, and properly honor The Black Godfather by watching in weed-struck wonder.
The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 3
Cast: Elizabeth Moss, Ann Dowd, Joseph Fiennes
Watch It: Hulu
The prospect of pairing season three of Hulu's acclaimed dystopian drama The Handmaid’s Tale with a particularly paranoia-inducing strain of pot seems dangerous — but actually just dangerous enough to actually do it, feel the dread, and then think hard about how the woman-oppressing fascism on display in the series seems to be creeping into daily headlines out here in the real world.
As Offred and Aunt Lydia, respectively, Elizabeth Moss and Add Dowd lead the returning cast, and they’re joined now by Bradley Whitford, Christopher Meloni, and Elizabeth Reaser.
I Am Mother (2019)
Director: Michael Lloyd Green
Cast: Hilary Swank, Clara Ruugaard, Rose Byrne
Watch It: Netflix
In between melting your mind with episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale (and marijuana, of course), check out I Am Mother, an inventive sci-fi thriller with a similarly feminist bent.
After the apocalypse, a robot calling itself Mother (voiced by Rose Byrne) taps into a supply of human embryos to repopulate the planet, which she then raises as her own “children.” She proves especially fond of a teenager who’s simply referred to as Daughter (Clara Rugaard).
Tension, trouble, and some terrifying plot twists arise upon the arrival of Hilary Swank as Woman, a wounded veteran of whatever’s going on outside Mother’s bunker and whose account or reality hardly matches up with what the children have been taught to believe — kind of like the first time pot really worked for you.
Nos4A2: Season One
Cast: Zachary Quinto, Ashleigh Cummings, Jakhara J. Smith
Watch It: AMC
The title of Nos4A2 is pronounced "Nosferatu," as in the name of cinema’s first classic Dracula knock-off. It’s also based on a 2013 horror novel by Joe Hill, who just so happens to have blood-curdling brilliance running through his veins, as he’s the son of scare-master supreme Stephen King. Get ready to get wasted and get wiped out with fear.
Zachary Quinto stars as Charlie Manx, an undead bloodsucker who devours souls and forces the numerous kids he kidnaps to suffer for eternity in the ironically named Christmasland. Only Vic McQueen (Ashleigh Cummings), a young artist with supernatural abilities she’s just beginning to understand, seems to be able to outwit madman Manx. You won’t be able to stop smoking and watching.
Cult Classic Collector’s Editions
Can’t Stop the Music (1980)
Director: Nancy Walker
Cast: The Village People, Valery Perrine, Caitlyn (Bruce) Jenner
Get It: Shout Factory
Can’t Stop the Music is the fantastically fictionalized origin story of gay disco icons the Village People, and, as camp classics go, it’s utter outrageousness and over-the-top abandon quite simply bound out beyond any human compression that’s possible without the copious aid of cannabis. So you know how to prepare for it.
In addition to the colorfully costumed Village People performing head-exploding extravaganzas set to both their smash hits (“Y.M.C.A.”) and their should-have-been hits (“Milkshake”), Can’t Stop the Music is a nonstop wonderland of macho men, insanely lavish production numbers, and a cast that could only exist in the cocaine-crazed early ’80s that includes Valerie Perrine bouncing topless among the bubbles in an otherwise all-naked-male bathhouse, Steve Guttenberg roller-skating around Manhattan in short-shorts, and the future Caitlyn Jenner as, believe it or not, an uptight square.
Can’t Stop the Music pairs perfectly with weed, hash, ecstasy, acid, mushrooms and/or any other inebriants you can load inside your skull — and you still won’t believe what you’re seeing, hearing, and loving!
The New York Ripper: 3-Disc Collector’s Edition (1982)
Director: Lucio Fulci
Cast: Jack Hedley, Zora Kerova, Howard Ross
Get It: MVD
Italian splatter-horror maestro Lucio Fulci (Zombie, The Beyond) is at his bloodiest and most berserk in The New York Ripper, a gritty, gut-churning giallo classic shot in a severely rotten Big Apple at the dawn of the 1980s.
A masked maniac stalks Manhattan and Brooklyn, where he viciously butchers random victims with operatic gusto and gallons of gore. The plot may seem simple, but the movie’s delights come in the demented details.
On top of the sick slaughter scenes, the astounding location footage of filth-era Times Square at peak sleeze, and Fulci’s signature suspense-building bravado, The New York Ripper also bestows its titular killer with a clerk that seems to be designed just to crack up stoners: he talks in a quacking “Donald Duck” voice.
Eagles of Death Metal Presents Boots Electric Performing The Best Songs We Never Wrote
By Boots Electric
Get It: Rough Trade Records
Eagles of Death Metal frontman Jesse Hughes dons his Boots Electric persona to unleash a covers collection of classics on The Best Songs We Never Wrote.
Among the honorees are David Bowie (“Moonage Daydream”), Mary J. Blige (“Family Affair”), the Ramones (“Beat on the Brat”), KISS (“God of Thunder”), Wham (“Careless Whisper”), Love & Rockets (“So Alive”), and Kenny Rogers and the First Edition (“Just Dropped In to See What Condition My Condition Is In”).
Hughes has long reigned rambunctiously as one of stoner rock’s most intoxicating vocal overlords, and, while there’s no dearth of heavy-doom strokes on-hand here, a major factor of what makes this album fun — and a must for smokers — is the adventurous directions he takes off with what are otherwise familiar tunes here.
Get It: Apple Music
For their 10th long-player, Polymer, Ed Handley and Andy Turner — the electronic music wizards known as Plaid — claim they’re exploring the material of the title, specifically in regard to “the natural versus the synthetic, silk and silicone, and the significant effect they have on our lives.”
Okay. While that description sounds likely to be weed-related, when you listen to the record itself, it makes perfect sense — particularly if you’re imbibing weed at the time, of course. Smooth grooves, bombastic beats, and sonic slides in and out of hypnotic elegance are what Polymer proves to be all about.
What the Broken-Hearted Do
By Tim Heidecker
Get It: Bandcamp
Everybody knows Tim Heidecker as one half of stoner comedy gods Tim & Eric. And the lucky among us also revere him, with joints in-hand and headphones cranked all the way up, as a wild card musician.
What the Broken Hearted Do is Heidecker’s 11-track follow-up to 2016’s In Glendale, produced by ongoing collaborator and Foxygen mastermind Jonathan Rado. As you’d expect, it’s marijuana-heightened musical gold — especially when Heidecker, as he so often does, leaps off in directions no one can ever expect.
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