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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Futureless Things (Korea: 2014): one never knows what’s in store next

Kyung-mook Kim’s off-beat third feature focuses on the everyday and sometimes surreal interactions in a convenience store. Futureless Things is more a series of comedy sketches than a unified narrative, but since everyone eventually needs a Coke, the setting is a good one to explore the many layers of contemporary society and the dreamers who find themselves stuck behind counters for a moment.

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What we do in the Shadows: (New Zealand: 2014): Five Vampires and a Guy Named Stu

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Winner of the People’s Choice Award at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s Vampire mockumentary, What We Do in the Shadows, is finally making the rounds in the US. It answers some pressing questions we’ve had about the prospects for the undead since terrorizing peasants from haunted castles is no longer in fashion. Surprisingly, they are doing just fine in Wellington, New Zealand, repairing their love lives and arguing about household chores.

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Brazil (UK: 1985): A Review at 30

An entry in a periodic series of reviews of films celebrating milestones in 2015

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Brief Review: Terrorism, state torture, the ease at which our humanity can be manipulated away and clinging to the hope that escaping into dreams of love can break us free. I wish I could say its themes are dated. Brazil is still visually stunning. There may be a handful of better dystopian films, and certainly ones that pack more thrills, but since the root social problems that the movie explores are still with us, Brazil remains a vital expression of our fears of the present.

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Release Date: February 22, 1985

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My Beautiful Launderette (UK: 1985): A review at 30

An entry in a periodic series of reviews of films celebrating milestones in 2015

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Brief Review: The novelty of the Hussein family embracing Thatcherism may have worn off, but the film could be worth a look for early glimpses of at the time emerging star Daniel Day Lewis and a generally fine ensemble cast.

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Release Date: August 18, 1985

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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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The Inverview (USA: 2014): It would have been worth the risk, if more risks were taken

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Brief Review

There should be a rich vein of comedy to mine in a send-up of American foreign policy hubris, press incompetence, manipulation and petty dictatorships, but The Interview fails to dig deep enough to make it sting and make us laugh. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have all the ingredients of a farce, but rely on the well-worn stoner-womanizer personas of the leads too often to take the film into more interesting territory.

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