*** Vermont, 1999: A hot pink lacrosse cap, a fistful of psilocybin mushrooms—things are obscure in Light Years before the actual obscurity even kicks in. The third indie dramedy from writer-director Colin Thompson (Loser's Crown, It's Us) employs mushrooms as an informal time machine, transporting mid-30s Kevin back to the first night he ever partook, at 16. The result is a bit like if Charlie Kaufman directed (and interrogated) a Mike White comedy for less than $100,000. Thompson himself quite charmingly plays most characters on Kevin's trip—man, woman, young, old—but it's Russell Posner as Kevin's loopy, almost telepathically synced best friend, Briggs, that cements the film's pathos and justifies the flashback in the first place. We're swept into Kevin and Briggs' teenage idiolect, borderline nonsense about Burlington rock bands and NBA draft busts to everyone else. But the love wrapped up in their shared language is enough to sustain and choke Kevin for the rest of his life. Even if the superimposed animation of the trip feels more obligatory than valuable and Thompson's acting isn't as strong in wholly dramatic scenes, the theme hoists this indie above its weight class. Selective memory is its own kind of drug, and you can always travel back one way or another. TV-14. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. On Demand.
** Possessed of an abstruse, willfully difficult muse that bled impossible time signatures and dark humor into even the most approachable sections of his daunting discography, Frank Zappa effectively evaded commercial success until late-life novelty single "Valley Girl" inexplicably cracked the charts. But his fame as an iconoclastic counterpop-cultural figure somehow still burns bright a quarter-century after his 1993 death from prostate cancer at the age of 52. How, exactly, did an avant-rock misanthrope best resembling a cross between social activist Abbie Hoffman and Beaker ever end up becoming one of The Muppet Show writers' dream guests anyway? Zappa, the long-awaited doc that began streaming Nov. 27, doesn't much care and may be offended by the question. While nearly all authorized rockumentaries shelve criticism of the man for access to the music, Zappa leans into the infernal bargain with generic platitudes and overtold anecdotes scattered throughout 120-plus minutes of performances, interviews and home movies—family keepsakes plus the artist's own experimentalist collages—stitched together from the evidently overflowing estate vaults. It's all sure to be a treat for fans and seems fitting tribute to a largely unknowable polymath whose creative oeuvre, which includes a stint writing greeting card copy as a teenager and a final turn as a symphonic composer, survives largely through sarcastic quips and critical reputation. Still, so much of his life story—growing up near a chemical weapons plant, arrested for recording a fake sex (audio) tape, signed by a distracted label rep hoping for a white blues band—feels sufficiently compelling if only the nonstop miasma of footage would get out of its own way. NR. JAY HORTON. On Demand.