Welcome to the world of alternative facts, where administrations will tell you what to believe, and you’ll be left wondering if strange news stories are real or fake.
People have always known not to believe everything you read on the Internet, but these days we are caught up in a whirlwind of lies disguised as truth, seemingly more so than ever before, with some preferring to choose politics over science. The inquisitions and witch hunts can’t be far behind.
For now, though, there are still people standing up before we fall into the abyss. The Women’s March on Washington is proof of this. But the struggle is far from over.
For those living in California, talk of the state not being ready to regulate recreational cannabis by next year’s Jan. 1 deadline is some bullshit. With all this stress, a weedcation might be in order. For those who can’t afford the travel, there’s always a weekend watching Netflix.
Warning: May contain spoilers.
The History of Future Folk (2012)
Starring: Nils d’Aulaire, Jay Klaitz, April L. Hernandez, Julie Ann Emery
Director: J. Anderson Mitchell, Jeremy Kipp Walker
Genre: Comedy, Sci-Fi
Summary: A man from another planet sent to overtake Earth falls in love with music.
To dismiss The History of Future Folk as just another no-budget hipster flick would be a shame. Yeah, it stars white people in funny red space costumes and looks like they shot it for no money, or without film permits all around Brooklyn, and the music is kinda weird, even though it’s just bluegrass with cosmic lyrics. But this is far from the pretentious mumblecore shitfest you might expect.
Rather, it’s the unexpectedly endearing tale of General Trius (d’Aulaire), who hails from the planet Hondo but has settled down with a wife (Emery) and kid in NYC and is now known as Bill. His mission was to save Hondo from a meteor strike by coming to Earth and wiping out its population with the push of a button, so that way the people of Hondo would have a new planet to live on. But when Trius/Bill first heard Earth’s music he was awestruck. He abandoned his mission and went AWOL. Well, the government of Hondo is pissed and have sent The Mighty Kevin (Klaitz) and an alien monster to kill Bill in order to set the plan back in motion.
Overall, this little movie is a goofy good time. The humor is barely PG-rated, it features Dee Snider from Twisted Sister in a small role, and admirably makes its lack of budget work in its favor. Who knows, you might even become a fan of Future Folk, which is an actual real band, and which would make this movie more or less a clever marketing ploy, but don’t hold that against it.
Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon (2015)
Starring: Chevy Chase, Kevin Bacon, Judd Apatow
Director: Douglas Tirola
Summary: A history of the humor magazine that spawned popular movies like Animal House, Vacation, etc.
For most young people, the National Lampoon brand is synonymous with movies, perhaps most recognized as the company that presented the world the Van Wilder series. They may be surprised to learn that National Lampoon started off as an in-your-face magazine, an offshoot of the university-based Harvard Lampoon. The publication went on to produce comedy albums, books, stage performances, and a radio show before breaking into the film industry back in the late ’70s.
In fact, it was those stage shows and radio program where comedians from the Second City troupe began getting noticed. You might of heard of some of these folks: John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Gilda Radner…. This doc explains how National Lampoon was offered a late-night comedy series on network TV, but had to turn it down because of too many other commitments. Not long after that Saturday Night Live was born, having hired the previously mentioned talent right out from under the Lampoon’s creators’ noses.
These and other tidbits are part of this engaging documentary that should hold the interest of even those unfamiliar with the magazine. The straightforward format relies mostly on talking heads mainly consisting of editorial staff, but does have a bit of archival footage thrown in. The doc doesn’t shy away from past accusations that some of the Lampoon comedy was racist, and goes into detail about some of the internal conflict in the offices, including the drug problems of co-founder Doug Kenney, who passed away in 1980.
Everything Must Go (2010)
Starring: Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall, Christopher Jordan Wallace
Director: Dan Rush
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Summary: An alcoholic salesman deals with his wife leaving him.
Whenever a comedian takes on a serious role inevitably there are people who can’t accept that a known funnyman is in a different kind of movie where the sole objective is not making the audience laugh every few minutes. That’s not to say that Everything Must Go doesn’t have its share of humorous moments—it does. But those expecting Anchorman-level absurdity should look elsewhere.
Ferrell is Nick Halsey, a fading sales exec who is having one of those proverbial bad days. After a rough morning at work, he comes home to discover all his personal property is laying on his front yard. It turns out his long-suffering wife has split. A recovering alcoholic, Halsey’s plan to deal with all this drama in his life is to just sit on his lawn with all his stuff, drinking the pain away. For the next few days, he reluctantly befriends a bored kid from the neighborhood (Wallace, the son of the late rapper Biggie Smalls, who gives a quiet yet memorable performance) and tries to get to know the attractive new neighbor (Hall) better.
Everything Must Go never got the audience it properly deserved. It’s a finely crafted, heartfelt picture. Halsey’s life is falling apart, but the movie doesn’t slip into chaos. Instead, it moves along steadily and surely. It’s true that the movie hits a lot of familiar beats (grumpy man bonds with child; same man becomes less of an asshole when he faces up to his problems; etc.). But, even if the film ends up going where you might expect, it’s still a worthwhile ride getting there.
Late Phases (2014)
Starring: Nick Damici, Tom Noonan, Ethan Embry
Director: Adrián García Bogliano
Summary: A blind veteran moves into a retirement community full of werewolves.
No-nonsense ex-military man Ambrose McKinley (Damici of Stake Land) is one tough sonuvabitch. He’s blind but wants no one to take care of him, and is set on spending the rest of his years alone. So, when his son drops him off at a gated community for old folks, he’s less than happy about his new arrangements.
It doesn’t take long for Ambrose to hate his new digs even more when his elderly neighbor is killed by a werewolf. Armed with nothing more than some silver bullets, super keen senses, and a kick-ass-take-names-later attitude, he begins sniffing around trying to figure out who is the person transforming every full moon.
Ironically (or not), just how much you’ll enjoy this senior citizen vs. lycanthrope face-off will probably depend on your age. Older folks who grew up on ’80s horror will most likely dig Late Stages’ decidedly old-school werewolves. (There’s actually a scene very reminiscent of An American Werewolf in London.) These are not computer-generated creatures. They are brought to life using practical effects and inspired camera angles.
Damici, as expected, is badass in the lead. Ambrose’s blindness is just an obstacle for the military man, who gets by on smarts, discipline, and pure strong will. Damici is perfectly cast in a solid mystery-drama that takes its time setting a peculiar mood through atmospheric lighting and the emotional distance between Ambrose and the rest of the people in the community.
(By the way, for all you trivia buffs: Tina Louise, who is best remembered as Ginger from Gilligan’s Island, appears briefly as a neighbor lady.)
Teenage Cocktail (2016)
Starring: Nichole Bloom, Fabianne Therese, Pat Healy
Director: John Carchietta
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Summary: Two high school students plan on moving away to New York together.
Teenage Cocktail is far better than the unfortunate title it has been released under, which seems like it might be about 18-year-old bartenders or something. It’s actually an alluring story about young love that comes to life thanks to the exceptional acting by Bloom (from the Showtime series Shameless) and Therese, who was in Starry Eyes (2014) and Southbound (2015).
Both are older than the teenagers they portray, but they capture beautifully all the nuances of being that age—especially Bloom, who has all the longing gazes, giddy smiles, and nervous ticks down to a tee. As Annie, she’s the new girl in town who is smitten by the adventurous Jules. She definitely has sexual feelings for her new friend, but how they proceed with their relationship is not clear-cut. There’s a fluidity to their interactions with each other and other people.
It’s a testament to the quality of the filmmaking that you don’t notice until well into the picture that this is a far more improper story than it first lets on. A lesser movie would have cheapened the young women’s bond, made it a sleazy affair. Instead, we’re given a film that, although sexual in nature, isn’t looking to exploit its female leads. The movie, which is coated with hazy pastel colors suggestive of a dream state, does sort of eventually “get real” and ends less than spectacularly, but it’s still worth getting wrapped up in its spell and enjoying the magic while it lasts.
Written on January 27, 2017 by
Gabriel Alvarez has written about rap music and movies for over 20 years. He’s from Los Angeles.