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Movie Review: Dope

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Dope movie poster

In every decade, there are certain movies that act as time capsules, reflecting exactly where society is in that day and age, warts and all. Later on, we look back on these films with the same admiration we had for them before but with a side of shame as we wonder just what the hell we were thinking.

Dope not only seems aware that it could very well be one of these movies in the future, but also seems intent on reflecting on exactly what it means to be nostalgic towards another time in the first place, and how new generations mold their identity more and more based on what the previous ones achieved. However, none of that would ultimately matter very much if Dope was not a good movie, and fortunately, it’s a pretty great one.

Malcolm (Shameik Moore) is a teenage boy who feels utterly out of place in the world he lives in. A geek obsessed with 90s rap culture living in a harsh Los Angeles town where he can’t even enter school without walking through a metal detector, Malcolm has his mind focused on the future, wanting more than anything to be a man of Harvard. That being said, he certainly isn’t getting out of here in the near future, so he along with his two buddies in punk rock Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jib (Tony Revolori) pass the time goofing around, hopefully avoiding getting beat up. That is until Dom (ASAP Rocky), a local gangster, pulls the three of them into a party that results with Malcolm getting stuck with a backpack full of drugs that everybody seems to want, forcing our three heroes to grow a spine at long last to get themselves out of their predicament.

If there’s a name that needs to be learned by the end of this review, it’s that of writer/director Rick Famuyiwa. In both a comedic and dramatic vein, he proves himself a master storyteller with this film. From the very first frame, every little bit of motion is injected with kinetic energy. Taking a hint from such directors as Edgar Wright, and Phil Lord/Chris Miller, Famuyiwa masterfully incorporates visual and editing cues to sell jokes and scenarios. Everything is perfectly larger than life, making the story feel fable-like without ever going over the top. However, he also knows when to pull back a little and let a scene breathe, and in the film’s few dramatic moments, he lets what the characters have to say be the star, and man, do these characters have a lot to say.

Famuyiwa makes a point in ensuring that whether a character is one of the leads, or just an ancillary piece of the scene, they always have something funny or interesting to say. These people feel like they live in our world, constantly making cultural references to fuel their points, or occasionally going off on hilarious tangents even in moments of high tension. They hit a perfect balance between natural and heightened that is only aided further by wonderful performances by the entire cast. Shameik Moore in particular is a stand-out, never Malcolm into a stereotype of any form, melding a quiet charm with a confidence that makes us root for him. He also has fantastic chemistry with Clemons and Revolori, some of the movie’s strongest moments being when the three of them are firing off at each other. There are moments where certain characters feel a little too broad, bringing the comedy down a bit, but normally the film is on to something else by the time one would process that.

For all of it’s eccentricity, Dope does loose a bit of fuel as it goes on. There’s a shift in the narrative in the second half that starts to drain a bit of the comedic power that the first half has. It certainly still manages to have plenty of great moments, but all of a sudden, a story that felt like it was moving a million miles an hour starts to stall to about a hundred thousand. There are one or two scenes that are certainly well directed, but feel a bit out of place with what the rest of the film seems to do or say, and by the time we reach the home stretch, Famuyiwa misses a couple opportunities to walk off stage on a powerful note, instead opting for a more conventional ending that feels the need to tie up every loose end.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of Dope is that there is nothing quite like it. Rick Famuyiwa incorporates elements of broad, satirical comedy with that of the type of racially/culturally charged tale that normally finds itself with a place on Oscar night to create something completely original. It’s not a parody, simply a new perspective on these stories that we haven’t gotten yet, and considering how well the final product has come together, I cannot wait to see what Famuyiwa will take on next.

Rating: A-

Michael Fairbanks has been reviewing movies since he was 13, starting his own YouTube channel and growing it to nearly 400 subscribers. He's currently studying screenwriting at Chapman University, and he also dabbles in short film making of his own, having directed two shorts already with plans to make another one this year. Click here to check out his movie review blog.

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7 Famous Movie Locations To Visit In Australia

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Sydney, Australia

Who wants to spend their next vacation in the land down under? Where women glow and men plunder? Good choice. Australia is a beautiful continent with some amazing sights to see. This distant land has some amazing people and nature, not to mention a rich cultural history. You won’t run out of sights to see and things to do in this part of the world. Films like Mad Max, Babe, Dead Calm and countless others have been filmed there.

If you are a movie fan, Australia offers many special treasures that you absolutely can’t afford to miss. The continent has a rich history in the movies, as many filmmakers choose to shoot scenes or even full movies there. It’s no wonder, since Australia has such a diverse variety of environments. Here are just a sampling of what the area offers tourists. On your next trip to Australia, try to see as many of these as you can. You won’t regret it.

The Great Barrier Reef – Dead Calm (1991)
Great Barrier Reef

Who could forget the psychological thriller starring Australia native and all-around beauty Nicole Kidman? The city of Cairns is known for its waterfront views of the Great Barrier Reef. It is Australia’s natural wonder and considered one of the seven wonders of the world. The Great Barrier Reef has over 100 islands. You can book a cruise and admire its beauty up close and personal. The movie may have been dark, but it was filmed in a paradise. This is a visit that you won’t ever forget.

Melbourne – Mad Max (1979)

The 1979 apocalyptic film Mad Max was filmed in and around Melbourne, Australia. This is the movie that started it all, and the landscape is as much a star as Mel Gibson himself. The first movie alone has many memorable locations that you can still visit today, so snag yourself a car from Gumtree and live out your wildest Mad Max fantasies. Some fan has made a great list of locations, which you can see here.

Kakadu National Park – Crocodile Dundee (1986)
Kakadu National Park

Movies don’t get any more Australian than Crocodile Dundee… at least from an American’s perspective. There are a few notable locations from this iconic movie, but you just need to get to Kakadu National Park. This is the place that made us fall in love with the real outback on their movie screens. It is absolutely breathtaking and like other sites in Australia, it will take your breath away. So crack open a Foster’s beer and take it all in.

Mundi Mundi Plains – Priscilla Queen of the Desert (1994)

You know Mundi Mundi Plains. It is a vast and barren red expanse that resembles Mars. Both Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Mad Max 2 were filmed here. Do you remember now? Barren, yes. But absolutely gorgeous. These plains stretch out for an eternity so that it appears that you can see the curve of the Earth. There’s a town nearby called Silverton that has a Mad Max museum, and as far as I’m concerned that is a must to visit. You have to experience this. And it is said that watching sunsets here is a life-changing event.

Bare Island – Mission Impossible 2 (2000)
Bare Island - Fort La PerousePhotograph: Wikimedia / Adam.J.W.C.

If you’ve seen Mission Impossible 2 then you know that some of the action sequences were filmed around the Sydney coastline in the Bare Island area. It’s another location worth visiting and in this case, you get to see the Australian coast up close and personal. Bare Island used to be a war veterans’ home and museum and now it is a historic site. Take a cruise and you’ll be able to take in the scenery in the best way possible.

Sydney – The Great Gatsby (2013)

The Great Gatsby filmed many scenes in and around Sydney, including the luxurious building that is the International College of Management, which is located in Manly. Otherwise known as Gatsby’s Mansion, where amazing parties were thrown. In fact, not a single scene in this movie was filmed in the US. Shooting a New York story in Australia? Now that is movie magic!

Southern Highlands – Babe (1995)

Who could forget the story of Babe the pig? The adorable pig was the star of the movie, but the stunning landscape had a co-starring role. Those rolling green hills in the Southern Highlands make for a perfect road trip to see them for yourself. Who knows? You might even run into a pig. Well, probably not, but you’ll have a great time regardless. Here you will find a touch of old England, because some of the towns are modelled after English villages and it is all set against green landscapes.

Australian Desert

As you can see, there are plenty of great places for movie buffs to check out in Australia. Just make sure you load up your tablet with a LOT of movies for the trip down there, because it’s definitely a long flight!

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Here’s The Awesome First Trailer For ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’

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Get excited Godzilla fans, because the Godzilla: King of the Monsters trailer just dropped at San Diego Comic-Con over the weekend, and it looks freaking awesome!

Like many of you, I assumed Godzilla was a standalone movie.. until the post-credits scene in King Kong: Skull Island proved me wrong. Turns out, they’re just getting started.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is an epic action adventure that pits Godzilla against some of the most popular monsters in pop culture history. The new story follows the heroic efforts of the crypto-zoological agency Monarch as its members face off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah. When these ancient super-species—thought to be mere myths—rise again, they all vie for supremacy.

Humanity’s fate hangs in the balance when Godzilla: King of the Monsters hits theaters next year on May 31, 2019.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters Poster

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AMC Theatres Goes After MoviePass With New $20/Mo Subscription Plan

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Awhile back, we told you about MoviePass, the subscription service that lets you see a movie a day for $9.95 a month. At the time, naysayers said that this was an unsustainable model, and that the company was doomed.

But clearly they must have been doing something right, as AMC Theatres is taking a page from their playbook, launching their own subscription service called AMC Stubs A-List, which rolls into theaters on June 26th.. at a cost of $19.95 a month.

Now here’s where it gets a little confusing.. AMC’s service is twice as expensive as MoviePass, you’re limited to three movies per week, and you can only go to AMC Theatres. So why exactly is this a good deal?

“We believe that our current and future loyal guests will be interested in this type of program, as AMC Stubs A-List rewards guests with something that no one else offers,” said Adam Aron, CEO and president of AMC Theatres, in the press release. “AMC Stubs A-List is AMC’s next evolution of delivering amazing benefits to our loyal customers, and we’re excited to continue to grow the program by leaps and bounds.”

According to the press release, the only real benefit over MoviePass is the fact that you can see movies in IMAX, Dolby Cinema, and Real 3-D, which are typically off-limits with MoviePass. It also gives you access to the normal benefits of the pre-existing AMC Stubs Premiere program, including “no online ticketing fees” and “significant food and beverage savings.”

So if you’re someone who enjoys watching movies in 3D or IMAX, lives near an AMC Theatres, doesn’t plan on seeing 5-7 movies a week, and likes their popcorn, then the AMC Stubs A-List plan isn a pretty good deal, especially considering that a single movie will set you back $12 or more these days.

What do you think about the AMC Stubs A-List subscription service?

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