Quacks are a part of our culture, and we all fall prey to them.
-Hunter S. Thompson, 2001
Even so, nobody likes a charlatan. This is why the Church of Scientology might be a little nervous about the upcoming release of Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, a documentary from HBO and director Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Gonzo).
Scientology is that crazy-secretive (and bafflingly wealthy) religion created in the '50s by then-science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard. These days the church is known for its celebrity converts — Tom Cruise, John Travolta — and allegations of misconduct, abuse and all-around craziness behind church doors. The veil of secrecy is lifting though, based on Lawrence Wright's book of the same name. Going Clear profiles eight former members of the church, examines the darker side of blind faith, and sheds a little insight into what really goes on behind Scientology's closed doors.
Going Clear premieres on HBO on March 29, so find a buddy who has that channel because this will be an awesome documentary. Scientology is ripe for an exposé, Gibney is a tenacious filmmaker and HBO has apparently assembled a team of 160 lawyers to ensure the film can withstand the expected lawsuits. Bring it on!
Until then, good old Whistler Village 8 has some noteworthy Oscar winners showing as well as a few new flicks. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is a John Cusack-less sequel to the hit nobody saw coming. This time, the remaining cast members (who've accumulated fortunes off other people's ideas) are on a time-hopping mission to catch a future-assassin who shot Lou (Rob Corddry) in the crotch. Along the way our hapless heroes bounce through more time zones than Bill & Ted and upset the cinematic continuum with really dubious plot logic, juvenile humour and overall stupidity. Every respectable critic hates Hot Tub Time Machine 2 but here in Whistler it's our duty to support anything with a hot tub in it, this is our culture.
Next up, Will Smith (who claims not to be a Scientologist but apparently donates lots of money to the church) stars in Focus, a heist/con-artist flick where suave conman Will, against his better judgment, teams up with a sexy rookie conwoman to fast talk their way through an improbably bad script. The fact that it's a Will Smith movie opening in February (and not Independence Day) speaks to just how much faith the studio had in this one so take the hint and skip it. Instead, download Criminal if you want a good con flick starring Diego Luna and John C. Reilly — enough said.
Finally, The DUFF also opens this weekend. An acronym for "Designated Ugly, Fat Friend" The DUFF is a teenage journey of self-discovery (hung on the classic Ugly Duckling scenario) about owning your faults and just "being who you be."
Mae Whitman stars as Bianca, the titular geeky DUFF among the hot, sought-after girlfriends. What makes The DUFF stand out over most of the other recent flicks that end with the prom is how Bianca refuses to make-over her entire persona in order to to be popular but instead tinkers with the formula to become a better version of herself. Or in the wise words of NWA founder Eazy E, "F*ck crossing over to them, let them cross over to us."
One of The DUFF 's big strengths is how it handles social media and technology (they're part of the problem), but the film also knows better than to stray too far from the standard teen formula. While too much of Bianca's self-actualization comes from outside sources to properly drive the point home, The DUFF is still a decent flick on the Clueless, Easy A level, almost as good as Mean Girls but not even close to Heathers. (It's doubtful there will ever be anything as good as the initial release of Heathers.)
Speaking of epic '80s flicks, the 1986 BMX masterpiece Rad is getting a special screening Friday, March 6, at the posh-and-renovated Rainbow Theatre. Before mountain biking took over the world with its bouncy suspension and titanium seat posts this Canadian-made flick was about as badass as bicycling got (and stars Lori Loughlin!). It's a fundraiser for the Whistler BMX track.