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.
Captain Marvel so totally dominates theaters this week that it’s the only major release; fortunately, any blockbuster MCU epic in IMAX 3D is an invite to go to the movies high. On small screens, lit laughs come by way of After Life and A.P. Bio; American Gods stuns with massive sci-fi freakiness; and the new series Now Apocalypse combines both for a mega-potent hybrid.
For reissues, Cheech Marin’s solo crack-up Born in East L.A. gets a deluxe edition Blu-ray, along with the Australian haunted house head-wrecker Next of Kin and the knockout ’70s grindhouse martial arts trilogy, The Sister Street Fighter Collection.
On the music front, Juice Wrld ignites anew, Helado Negro casts a groovy spell, and veteran psych-punk pioneers The Meat Puppets ride back on clouds of sheer reefer after a multi-decade hiatus.
So let’s get straight — but not “straight” — to this week’s fresh-rolled recommendations.
“Captain Marvel” (2019)
Directors: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Cast: Brie Larson, Ben Mendelsohn, Samuel L. Jackson
In many ways, Captain Marvel breaks new ground in the realm of Hollywood superhero epics. First, a kickass female hero takes on the title role that, not all that long ago, would have automatically gone to a man in tights. Secondly, Captain Marvel was directed by top-flight filmmaking duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, one half of whom just happens to be a woman. Third, given the co-directors background in understated indie flicks like Half Nelson and Mississippi Grind, Captain Marvel comes with a lot more emotional heft than the average big-screen beat-’em-ups.
All that’s stupendous, of course, but most importantly for stoner purposes, Captain Marvel honors the gigantic comic book flick tradition of supplying skull-rattling action, cascades of colors, supersonic surround sound, and avalanches of wild visuals that make going to an IMAX 3D theater while high one of the supreme worthwhile adventures of modern entertainment.
“After Life”: Season One
Cast: Ricky Gervais, Penelope Wilton, David Bradley
Watch It: Netflix
Ricky Gervais has been cracking up TV viewers between tokes since The Office took over the world. Since then, he’s just kept going with one ganja-geared gut-busting comedy series after another, including Extras, Derek, and An Idiot Abroad.
Ricky’s new Netflix series, After Life, showcases the no-filter version of Gervais that used to piss-off the squares with his brutally honest and even more brutally hilarious monologues while hosting the Golden Globes.
In the show, Gervais plays a man whose wife suddenly dies. The experience turns him dark, spiteful, and committed to “punishing the world” by doing and/or saying absolutely anything he wants from that moment onward. Anything goes in After Life, and every bit of it is a dank blast.
“American Gods”: Season 2
Cast: Ricky Whittle, Emily Browning, Crispin Glover
Watch It: Starz
Neil Gaiman’s time-space-and-mind-warping 2001 novel American Gods is a cult sensation all its own that many readers believed could never be properly adapted into a film or TV show.
Season one of the Starz series American Gods not only proved that such a feat was possible, it did it with drug-pumped high style and so many ideas that it apparently tore the original creative team apart.
Now American Gods has returned in largely rebuilt form with Ian McShane (Deadwood) holding steady as only he can. He plays Mr. Wednesday, a con artist incarnation of the ancient god Odin who conjures more forms of magic than anyone has ever conceived of in his ongoing battles with new emerging deities such as Media and Technology.
“A.P. Bio”: Season 2
Cast: Glenn Howerton, Lyric Lewis, Patton Oswalt
Watch It: NBC
Veteran SNL writer Mike O’Brien’s boldly brash and affably abrasive classroom sitcom A.P. Bio is back, bringing healthy, funny anarchy to the NBC primetime lineup, from its OG punk theme song (“Listen to My Heart” by the Ramones) to its clear declaration that even academic overachievers can enrich their minds and their lives alike simply by cutting loose and getting high.
Glenn Howerton (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) stars as Jack Griffin, a Harvard philosophy professor who loses his gig and has to teach high school science — and he’s not stoked about it. Patton Oswalt, naturally, is a scream as Principal Ralph Durbin, the buttoned-down educator who has to constantly contend with the new hothead on his staff — as well as the classroom full of geeks he inspires to run wild.
"Now Apocalypse”: Season One
Cast: Avan Jogia, Kelli Berglund, Roxane Mesquida
Watch It: Starz
Now Apocalypse expands on the cult cinema of writer-director Gregg Araki (Totally Fucked Up, The Doom Generation, Smiley Face) by spreading — actually make that spewing — it out in TV series form.
Araki’s films chronicle sexually polymorphous young heroes on personal quests through a mythical version of Los Angeles where anything real or hallucinated is possible and enlightenment is attained by surviving variously bizarre encounters with full-on freaks of every nature (and, almost always, multiple orgasms are involved).
In Now Apocalypse, the youthful psycho-erotic daredevils are Ulysses (Avan Jogia), Carly (Kelli Berglund), Ford (Beau Mirchoff), and Clementine (Roxane Mesquida). The show is co-created by Slutever founder Karley Sciortino, so expect the on-screen happenings to be as pulse-pounding as possible.
As for the explicit stoner appeal of Now Apocalypse, just consider the last line of the Starz network’s official description of the series: “Between sexual and romantic dating app adventures, Ulysses grows increasingly troubled as foreboding premonitory dreams make him wonder – is some kind of dark and monstrous conspiracy going on, or is he just smoking too much weed?"
“Born in East L.A.” (1987)
Director: Cheech Marin
Cast: Cheech Marin, Kamala Lopez, Paul Rodriguez
Get It: Shout Factory
It’s always a perfect occasion to bust out any R-rated comedy involving Cheech Marin, but could any movie possibly feel more timely now than Born in East L.A., Cheech’s big-screen debut sans-Chong?
Cheech actually wrote, directed, and starred in this cult favorite as Rudy, a homegrown American dude who goes to pick up his factory worker cousin Javier (Paul Rodriguez) just as the place is getting busted by immigration agents. Since he forgot his wallet and, to be sure, he “looks Mexican,” the feds deport Rudy south of the border — where he’s stuck without even being able to speak Spanish!
From there, Born in East L.A. chronicles Rudy’s every crackpot attempt to illegally cross the border out of Mexico and back into his legal home of California.
At a time when immigration is such a misery-making issue, it’s as refreshing as the first drag off a new pre-roll to revisit how Cheech made all the necessary points about the stupidity of nationalism and bigotry in the form of an uproarious slapstick all the way back in 1987. As with marijuana itself, some things hold true — and hilarious — forever.
“Next of Kin” (1982)
Director: Tony Williams
Cast: Jacki Kerin, John Jarratt, Robert Ratti
Get It: Severin Films
Not to be confused with the 1989 Patrick Swayze backwoods-cop-in-the-big-city bong-passing action flick of the same name, this Next of Kin hails from Australia and it’s a slow-burn creep-fest that goes better with a carefully-consumed strain of paranoia-inducing pot.
Jackie Kerin stars as Linda Stevens, a woman who inherits Montclare, a sprawling retirement compound that looks like something out of a haunted house movie because… well, guess why!
Shortly after Linda shows up, people start dying in variously unnerving ways. First she suspects ghoulish Dr. Barton (Alex Scott) to be the culprit. Naturally — okay, make that supernaturally — there’s more to Montclare than meets the eye, and all of it is terrifying.
Next of Kin’s studied pace and walls-are-closing-in sense of doom is perfectly matched with a synthesizer score by Klaus Schulze of electronic music legends Tangerine Dream. Trip carefully.
“Sister Street Fighter” Blu-Ray Collection
“Sister Street Fighter” (1974)
“Sister Street Fighter: Hanging by a Thread” (1974)
“The Return of the Sister Street Fighter” (1975)
Director: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Cast: Etsuko Shihomi, Sonny Chiba, Hiroshi Miyauchi
Get It: MVD
Back in the 1970s, martial-arts movie superstar Sonny Chiba proved so popular among stoners that one of the world’s most popular slang terms for marijuana — “chiba” or “cheeba” —is considered to be named after him by some. Well, at least that’s how the urban legend goes.
Regardless, vintage grindhouse audience went so nuts while passing joints and watching Sonny slaughtering all comers in his popular film series The Streetfighter that kung-fu studio Koei came up with the dopest possible spin-off franchise in the form of the Sister Street Fighter flicks.
Etsuko “Sue” Shihomi stars as Li Koryu, a wickedly-skilled martial artist investigating the sudden death of her brother in Sister Street Fighter (1974). She initially teams with Sonny Chiba’s signature hero, but then goes on to carry two sequels on her ass-kicking own: Sister Street Fighter: Hanging by a Thread (1974) and The Return of the Sister Street Fighter (1975).
Each Sister Street Fighter movie is an epic explosion of no-holds-barred action and insane stunt-work all set at a cocaine pace. With The Sister Street Fighter Collection, Arrow Films, as usual, has done so exquisite and thorough a job of restoring the films and loading them with extras, that you might feel every punch and kick like it’s coming off the screen. Be careful not to drop anything you’re smoking!
“Death Race for Love”
By Juice Wrld
Get It: Juice Wrld Official Site
Chicago supernova Juice Wrld announced his instant ascension into the realm of music’s most lit twice in 2018, first with his solo debut Goodbye and Good Riddance, and then with Wrld on Drugs, his ferocious mixtape collaboration with Future. Wasting no time with his new Wrld conquest, Juice floors all comers again with Death Race for Love. It’s 22 tracks laid out hard over 72 minutes that exhibit Juice’s roots in both classic hip-hop and heavy rock and explode with his original spin that smokes any concept as limiting as “genre” or “category.”
By Meat Puppets
Get It: Rough Trade
Dusty Notes is the first new Meat Puppets record since 1995, when these Arizona acid-baked psych-punk legends somehow scored a Top 10 radio hit (“Backwater”) and then just kind of had to break up and spend a couple of decades pondering how weird that all was.
In addition, Dusty Notes is also the first Meat Puppets album to feature the original lineup of these cosmic cowpokes since… nobody’s quite sure. They were all too wasted back whenever that might have been.
That stated, Dusty Notes rockets the Meat Puppets to the 21st Century with all their swirling desert trips and moon-scorched hallucinations in tact. From there, we’re just all passengers on the Puppets’ wagon train to the stars. Pass the peyote.
“This Is How You Smile”
By Helado Negro
Get It: Bandcamp
On This Is How You Smile, Miami music giant Roberto Carlos Lange — aka Helado Negro — taps into his Latin roots and tropical surrounding with vibrant energy and inventiveness that also bursts with urban rhythms and the endless possibilities of electronica. Of course, all that’s par for the Helado Negro course.
This new long-player, however, dives deeper than Helado has ever dared before and it grooves with rich, palpable emotion on an entirely new level for this remarkable artist. Communicating in a mix of English, Spanish, and unadulterated openness, This Is How You Smile is an album you feel as much as you hear. Pair with a strain that puts you in a good place and then let Helado Negro do the rest.
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