Review: Dope (USA: 2015): Finding One’s Voice on a Deadline

Dope (2014)

Dope (2014)

Rick Famuyiwa’s high school comedy about avoiding gang trouble while finding one’s voice hits its stride early and doesn’t let up until the final credits roll. Shameik Moore as Malcolm gives a performance strong enough to keep us concerned with his high school trials: can he get his Harvard entrance essay completed and unload a few kilos of molly he’s found in his backpack?

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Review: The A-List (USA: 2015): In the End, We Find Popularity Doesn’t Matter So Much (Shocker)

The A-List (USA: 2015)

kkadfkdfasdf The A-List (USA: 2015)

Sometimes we look through the overlooked movies and find hidden gems, but Will Bigham’s debut, The A-List, isn’t one of those. As a comedy about the downside to popularity in high-school, it is too predictable with too few memorable moments to recommend to any but the most die-hard fans of teen movies.

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Web Junkie (USA/Israel: 2013): Social disease or phenomena

Web Junkie (2013)

Web Junkie (2013)

More thoughtful than I anticipated, Hilla Medalia and Shosh Shlam’s documentary takes us inside a gaming addiction treatment facility in China. While it never digs sufficiently into details to be an exposé of a potential sham, the human story is compelling enough to draw one in. The audience is left uncertain whether or not the boys and their families suffer from a real clinical addiction or from social overreaction to contemporary teenage behavior, but it is difficult not to feel a sense that something is wrong with a world that creates compelling virtual universes for people to escape into and then unfairly institutionalizes those who try to escape there too often.

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Cinderella (USA: 2015): In case you haven’t heard, the shoe fits and she marries well

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As a children’s film, Kenneth Branaugh’s live action Cinderella is probably worth a visit for the high production values, lush sets, gorgeous costumes, and magical CGI. For adults, however, the movie offers nothing more than Disney’s take on the story from 1950 with no noteworthy changes that might offer a new perspective on the same old story.

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Kingsman: The Secret Service (USA: 2015): Guess who wins the tournament? Yeah, it’s the hero.

Colin Firth and Taron Egerton

Colin Firth and Taron Egerton

Matthew Vaughn returns to familiar territory with Kingsman. With violence and a sexual reference guaranteed to earn an R-rating, but a story clearly aimed a teens, one wonders if the whole project was worth the effort.

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Paddington (USA/UK: 2014): The polite bear won me over

Michael Bond's classic bear keeps his classic look.

Michael Bond’s classic bear keeps his classic look.

True to the storied bear’s origin, funny and cinematically sophisticated, Paul King’s Paddington is a children’s film that actually works. Great care obviously went into the production, with effects placed into a children’s live action film at levels of quality I have not seen since Hugo. What is “real” and what is the effects team’s imagination blend almost seamlessly.

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