While getting weed-whipped this weekend, gas up on the new “Fast & Furious” spin-off, hack up a guffaw to “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” or puff to some puppet porn (seriously).
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.
The Fast & Furious spinoff Hobbs & Shaw is poised to torch multiplex screens to full blockbuster effect, while over at the indie cinema, The Nightingale marks the slow-burn scary-movie return of Jennifer Kent, director of the 2014 creep-fest, The Babadook.
Small screen options go hard for lit laughs with A Black Lady Sketch Show on HBO and the inventively inspired Sherman’s Show on IFC. Over at AMC, Preacher barges back in for one final go-round of ganja-scented hellfire.
This week’s vintage head-trip flicks include the blood-chilling slashterpiece Alice, Sweet Alice; the great, grimy grindhouse potboiler Vice Squad; and the beyond batshit ’70s puppet-porn epic, Let My Puppets Come.
Just-dropped smoke-along music releases include Dive, the new Black Milk EP; First Taste, the latest brilliant brain-bomb from Ty Segall; and Interpreting the Masters, Volume 2: A Tribute to Van Halen by The Bird and The Bee, a covers collection you may think seems self-explanatory — but is definitely more than meets the ears.
So let’s get straight — but not “straight” — to this week’s fresh-rolled recommendations.
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)
Director: David Leitch
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Vanessa Kirby
From the Vin Diesel car thief original to Tokyo Drift to the Russian submarine smashing of The Fate of the Furious, fans have fired up doobs and sped off with eight Fast & Furious franchise films to date, always getting maximum bang for their automotive blockbuster buck (and buds).
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is the series’ first spin-off film, focusing on US Diplomatic Security Service agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and assassin-turned-good-guy Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham).
Epic stunts, elaborate chases, globe-spanning espionage, dynamic action, and enjoyably dumb jokes between the musclebound leading men abound. Get stoned, munch popcorn, and enjoy the ride.
The Nightingale (2019)
Director: Jennifer Kent
Cast: Aisling Franciosi, Baykali Ganambarr, Damon Herriman
Director Jennifer Kent’s surprise 2014 horror hit The Babadook delved deep into unexpected areas — specifically, the parenting anxieties of a single mom — to elicit eerie chills and sharp shocks.
With Nightingale, Kent goes even weirder, chronicling a revenge quest in 1825 Tasmania that teams a 21-year-old female convict named Clare (Aisling Franciosi) with a young Aboriginal tracker named Billy (Baykali Ganambarr).
The Nightingale isn’t a fright film in the traditional sense. Instead, it’s a bone-chiller and brain-boiler packed with powerful jolts that are best absorbed and processed with copious cannabis.
A Black Lady Sketch Show: Season One
Cast: Robin Thede, Ashley Nicole Black, Gabrielle Dennis
Watch It: HBO
Executive produced by Insecure’s Issa Rae, A Black Lady Sketch Show was created by and stars Robin Thede, host of BET’s The Rundown and the former head writer of The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. It’s frank, fearless, and, of course, ferociously funny.
Backing up that first-class comedy pedigree is a cast that includes Ashley Nicole Black, Gabrielle Dennis, and Quinta Brunson. Upping Sketch Show’s overall awesomeness even further are guest shots by Lena Waithe, Angela Bassett, Khandi Alexander, Gina Torres, Yvonne Orji, Yvette Nicole Brown, Jermaine Fowler, and Thede’s old boss, Larry Wilmore.
Preacher: The Final Season
Cast: Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga, Joseph Gilgun
Watch It: AMC
With their new series The Boys raging over on Amazon Prime, stoner entertainment overlords Seth Rogan and Evan Goldeberg’s original TV blowout, Preacher, rides into the cosmic sunset with one last season.
From the start, titular unholy man Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), wild-woman Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga), and hedonistic Irish vampire Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) have set out to find God and, at long last, they’re relentless hellraising is poised to conquer Heaven. And trust us, in every sense, everyone involved is going out in a smoking green blaze of glory.
Sherman’s Showcase: Season One
Cast: Bashir Salahuddin
Watch It: IFC
Inspired by the vintage psychedelic grooves of Soul Train and Laugh-In, IFC’s Sherman’s Showcase is a stunning salute to a TV variety series that never existed — except in the way that it’s the embodiment of every TV variety series that ever existed. And if you were too young to get stoned to those bizarre parades of one-hit wonders and fleeting celebrities, Sherman’s Showcase is on-hand now to offer you just that proper opportunity.
Bashir Salahuddin stars as Sherman McDaniel, host of the show-within-a-show that ran for 40 years and captured the zeitgeist of every one of them. Guests include Common, Tiffany Haddish, Quincy Jones, Morris Day, John Legend, and Mike Judge.
Sherman’s Showcase is a comedy crack-up by any standard, and its further amplified by taking cues from IFC’s other pitch-perfect parody series Documentary Now, and paying attention to period details with an obsessive eye on par with Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019).
Cult-Classic Collector’s Editions
Alice, Sweet Alice (1977)
Director: Alfred Sole
Cast: Paula E. Sheppard, Alphonse DeNoble, Brooke Shields
Get It: MVD
One of the most hair-raising horror films of the ’70s, Alice, Sweet Alice entirely envelops the audience in doom, dread, fear, and misery so effectively that puffing your most potently paranoia-inducing pot strain may be the only way to survive it intact.
Ten-year-old Brooke Shields stars as an innocent Catholic girl in New Jersey who’s brutally murdered on the day of First Communion. That tragedy sets off a downward spiral of vicious murders committed by a fleeting figure in a yellow raincoat and a face-warping plastic mask.
Alice commingles the lurid terror of Italy’s giallo genre with its own downbeat East-Coast sensibility to create a religious-themed shock show like no other.
Vice Squad (1982)
Director: Gary Sherman
Cast: Wings Hauser, Season Hubley, Fred “Rerun” Berry
Get It: Shout Factory
Vice Squad is a bare-knuckled, ass-shaking, skull-cracking exercise in grindhouse excess at its most entertainingly sleazy and insane. Set on scary, scummy Hollywood Boulevard at the dawn of the 1980s, director Gary Sherman plunges us into a bombastically berserk world of drug pushers, sex professionals, low-rent thrill seekers, and the cops in charge of keeping it all from erupting into nonstop chaos.
Wings Hauser steals the movie from frame one as psycho cowboy pimp Ramrod who’s on the hunt for a hooker he believed did him wrong – while a pair of hardboiled detectives are, in turn, looking to lock him up for good. Anger, violence, and electrifying scuzz explodes all over the screen.
During Vice Squad’s initial run, trash-pit theater audiences traded angel-dusted joints and shouted along with the action. Then the movie reigned for years as a go-to get-high favorite on cable and home video. Now, Shout Factory has upgraded the quality of this special collector’s edition, creating a version of Vice Squad in keeping with the infinitely superior intoxicants available to viewers today.
Let My Puppets Come (1976)
Director: Gerard Damiano
Cast: Annie Sprinkle, Al Goldstein, Luis De Jesus
Get It: Vinegar Syndrome
At the peak of his porn chic powers, Gerard Damiano, the acclaimed director of the mainstream X-rated blockbusters Deep Throat (1972) and The Devil in Miss Jones (1973), concocted Let My Puppets Come, a musical comedy featuring hardcore sex between a cast of (almost) all puppets — years before bong-passing VHS party favorites Meet the Feebles (1989) and Team America: World Police (2004).
As weird as that sounds, Let My Puppets Come actually played in adults-only theaters to baffled crowds who had shown up to see skin flicks—meaning human skin, not felt with yarn hair and ping pong balls! Vinegar Syndrome has restored this must-be-seen-high-to-be-barely-believed curiosity in a glorious collector’s edition. Talk about hand jobs!
By Black Milk
Get It: Bandcamp
Every new release by multi-talented hip-hop maestro Black Milk elevates not just his game, but the audience’s, as well. He’s like weed that way. Dive, Milk’s follow-up to 2018’s Fever, is 11 fresh tracks of genre-hopping magnificence, featuring drop-ins by BJ the Chicago Kid, MAHD, and Phil Swish. Our pick to blast-off first with, though, is Milk’s collaboration with fellow Detroiter Sam Austins — a reefer-streaming rocket ride appropriately titled, “Black NASA.”
By Ty Segall
Get It: Drag City
Visionary musical madman Ty Segall leaps between bands, projects, personas, and towering masterworks of crackpot genius with such charging bull abandon that he issued himself a challenge to hit newly staggering heights on latest album, First Taste — namely, he wrote and recorded it without using any guitars.
For a six-string slinger as electrifyingly fleet-fingered as Segall, that prospect sort of seems like the equivalent of Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson announcing work on a joint project without smoking any joints.
Leave it to Segall, though, to upend every expectation. Incorporating exotic instruments that include the bouzouki, koto, mandolin, and electric omnichord, First Taste is pure rock-‘n’-roll firestorm, another eruption of unfettered energy and inspiration that rages like pure hallucination, but leaves a lasting impact forever.
Interpreting the Masters, Volume 2: A Tribute to Van Halen
By The Bird and The Bee
Get It: The Bird and The Bee Official Site
Interpreting the Masters, Volume 1, the first covers collection by LA-based pop duo The Bird and The Bee, paid homage to soulful hit-making twosome Hall and Oates. That match-up made sense.
For Interpreting the Masters, Volume 2, The Bird and The Bee go out on a wild limb by applying their synth-splashed, hyper-stylish approach to party-hearty heavy metal monsters Van Halen. It turns out to be an idea that, like the most unexpected hybrid strains of weed, combusts into greatness.
So, roll a doob worthy of Diamond David Lee Roth’s louder-than-life showmanship and Eddie Van Halen’s superhuman skills with a fret-board, and then just crank everything within reach all the way up.
Follow Mike McPadden on Twitter