Hidden Netflix Gems – Magic Trip

Hidden Netflix Gems is a new feature designed to help readers answer that burning question, “What should I watch tonight?” It will be updated every Saturday before the sun goes down.

Fans of Tom Wolfe‘s seminal 1968 non-fiction novel The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test have been waiting a long time to see Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood‘s Magic Trip, whether they knew it or not. Though a narrative adaptation of the definitive book on hippie culture is reportedly in the works from director Gus Van Sant and his Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, this is the closest thing to an adaptation we’re likely to see anytime soon. In fact, it’s even better, because the documentary, subtitled Ken Kesey‘s Search for a Kool Place, is assembled almost entirely from the footage Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters shot during their LSD-fueled cross-country road trip beginning in 1964.

This is not to say you have to be a fan of Wolfe’s book to enjoy Magic Trip. Fans of Hunter S. Thompson‘s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and/or Terry Gilliam‘s film adaptation of it, the Grateful Dead, Allen Ginsberg, or Kesey himself will also get a lot of enjoyment out of it, along with anyone who appreciates wild, anarchic adventure. Narrated by Stanley Tucci, the film tells the story of Kesey (best known as the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and a group of friends who set off for the 1964 New York World’s Fair in a hand-painted school bus and then just kept going, traveling all around the country in an effort to expand the consciousness of the entire United States. Along the way, they threw parties with the likes of Thompson and Timothy Leary, and gave a then unknown band called the Warlocks (who later became the Grateful Dead) their start as an unofficial house band.

Kesey is an extraordinarily charismatic figure, a champion high school and college wrestler who turned his back on athletics in favor of writing and exploring the landscape of his mind. He first began experimenting with psychedelic drugs as a volunteer in a CIA-funded experiment, so it could be said that the U.S. government inadvertently sponsored the madness shown in this film. Another fascinating character is Neal Cassady, the Merry Pranksters’ bus driver, a wildly energetic figure who served as the model for Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac‘s revered 1957 novel On the Road, which was itself a source of inspiration for Kesey and the Pranksters’ trip. Gibney, who won an Oscar for his amazing 2007 documentary Taxi to the Dark Side, and first-time feature director Ellwood, took on the daunting task of crafting a 107-minute film out of the Pranksters’ days of footage, and they succeeded admirably. Magic Trip perfectly captures the unbridled spirit of a once-in-a-lifetime era, and offers a hell of a good ride to anyone who views it.

  

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Entourage 5.12 – Return to Queens

Apart from the end of last season, I can’t think of a lower point in Vincent Chase’s career than where it stood at the beginning of tonight’s episode. After being fired from “Smoke Jumpers” only to discover that the entire film was being shut down due to the fact that it was “over budget and overcomplicated,” Vince went on “vacation” to New York and is now living at home with his mother. Though Vince isn’t taking the whole “out of work actor” thing as seriously as he probably should be, Ari and Eric are still busy trying to find him another job. When Vince’s mom tells him that Gus Van Sant is looking for a replacement for the new movie he’s shooting in town, Eric suggests he audition for the part. Ari, however, is quick to inform them that he’s already spoken with Gus, and though he likes Vince’s work, he doesn’t feel that he’s right for the role.

Never one to take rejection so easily, Eric heads to Gus’ office to meet with him about reconsidering. He’s even managed to convince Ari to have Dana Gordon send over some dailies from “Smoke Jumpers” for Gus to check out, but though the director seems sincere about the fact that he really does like Vince as an actor, he still doesn’t want him for the role. Clearly embarrassed and feeling like a failure in front of his friends, Vince blows up at Eric for not trusting Ari, and relieves him of his duties as manager. Personally, I don’t think Vince had any right blaming Eric for his problems, and he came off looking like an ass for doing so. Eric may have made some mistakes in his days, but they’ve been trivial when compared to the things he’s done (or at least tried to do) for Vince’s career. Heck, it was Eric who tried to warn Vince about “Medellin,” and look how that turned out.

Entourage 5.12

Eric has better things to do than sit around and take that kind of shit from Vince, so he heads back to LA to take care of his other clients – namely Charlie, who’s still shopping his pilot around town. I actually thought they already found a studio to produce the show, but maybe things fell through after Charlie sucker punched Seth Green in the waiting room. Whatever the case, it’ll be interesting to see where this subplot goes next season, as it certainly has the potential to take Eric’s career to the next level. Unfortunately, he’s not around for the big news that Ari brings with him to New York, and it’s in the form of a very important phone call that he just knows Vince is going to want to take. And no, it’s not Gus Van Sant on the other line, but – wait for it – Martin fucking Scorsese!


Read the rest after the jump...

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Paranoid Park

Watching “Paranoid Park” and knowing that it’s made by Gus Van Sant, the
same man who gave us fare like “Good Will Hunting” and the carbon copy
remake of “Psycho,” is a disconcerting experience. It doesn’t look at all
like either of those films. Instead, it feels more like the work of a
gifted, first-time director who’s all of 20 years old. Van Sant is clearly
tuned in to the sort of malaise that can affect certain types of teenagers
in this day and age, which is a remarkable feat for a man in his mid-50s. In
this case, he uses skater subculture as the backdrop for a darker story told
as a disjointed series of journal entries written by skaterboy Alex (Gabe
Nevins), who may or may not be responsible for the tragic death of a
security guard. The kid is hounded by a detective (Daniel Liu) for
information, by his girlfriend (Taylor Momsen, “Gossip Girl”) for sex, and
by life in general. The film is structured like a sort of murder mystery,
but when the murder is “solved” about halfway through, you realize that it
was just a dramatic red herring; as a result, “Paranoid Park” is about
something else entirely, and I have to admit I’m not exactly sure what that
something is. This is the sort of fare that could probably hold different
meanings for different viewers. It’s strange and unsettling and will likely
stick with you long after the credits roll – far more so than Van Sant’s take
on “Psycho,” anyway.

Click to buy “Paranoid Park”

  

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