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Movie Review: Dope

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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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Check Out The Official Teaser Trailer For ‘Bumblebee’

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With Solo: A Star Wars Story‘s disappointing performance and lackluster fan reception, you’ve heard the term Star Wars fatigue being thrown around lately. People have been complaining about that with the Transformers movies for a while now as well, myself included. So how do you reinvigorate a franchise about transforming robots?

You ditch those Michael Bay explosions and over-the-top plot lines and you focus on a single Transformer, making the plot more intimate. And if the Bumblebee trailer is any indication, you also give this story more of an 80’s Steven Spielberg flair.

As we can see from the trailer, it’s 1987, and a young woman (Hailee Steinfeld) has discovered a discarded Beetle in bad condition. Heck, it even has a beehive inside, which explains the roots of his name. She takes the car home, starts fixing it up, and in the process she activates something that brings the Transformer to life.

It won’t surprise anyone that the pair become fast friends, and it looks like they will be on the run from Sector 7’s Transformer-hunter, Agent Burns (played by John Cena). There will still be explosions and action, just not on that dizzying Michael Bay level. And that looks like it will be very refreshing for this series.

If they keep going retro and get back to the roots of the Transformers, we could have a popular Transformers series that is much deeper than what we’re used to.

Check out the trailer above and let us know what you think about Bumblebee.

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4 Of The Most Anticipated Movies Of The Summer

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There has never been a better time to be a movie fan, as this summer has quite a number of highly-anticipated releases headed for the big screen. So which ones are worth ponying up for at the box office, and which ones are you better off waiting for to come out on DVD? We’re here to give you a quick rundown of four of the biggest movies coming out this year that you absolutely have to experience for yourself on the big screen, with popcorn in hand.

So sit back and enjoy, but be forewarned. If you’re a student, you may want to find a site that has essay papers for sale, and if you’re an office worker, you might want to give up the hopes of that promotion. Because you’re going to be glued to your seats waiting for these movies.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

It’s crazy to think that the Jurassic Park series started way back in 1993. That movie seems like a long time ago compared to the last one! Jurassic World saw Chris Pratt square off against a whole bunch of dangerous dinosaurs. And there must be something that audiences love about these huge and scary creatures, as they are coming back around for a sequel!

Four years after the Jurassic World theme park was closed down, Owen and Claire return back to Isla Nublar to save the dinosaurs when they learn that a formerly dormant volcano on the island is active and is threatening to extinguish all life there. Along the way, Owen sets out to find Blue, the last of the Velociraptors that he trained, and discovers a conspiracy that could disrupt the natural order of the entire planet. This is sure to be a wild ride.

Ant-Mat and the Wasp

In 2015’s Ant-Man, we watched Paul Rudd don his super-suit, which let him shrink down in size while increasing in strength, thus allowing him to pull off a heist to help save the world. Now everyone’s favorite microscopic superhero is back for a long-awaited sequel.

As Scott Lang balances being both a Super Hero and a father, Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym present an urgent new mission that finds Ant-Man fighting alongside The Wasp to uncover secrets from their past.

Mowgli

Didn’t we just have a Jungle Book movie? Yes, Jon Favre brought everyone’s favorite childhood story to life a few years back, but this one is all new, with Andy Serkis taking the directorial reigns. The story follows Mowgli (played by Rohan Chand), and his adventures through the jungle of India. He’ll run into characters played by the likes of Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Mowgli will have to find his way through the dangerous jungles, and might just come to face to face with his real heritage and ancestry. A great, wild adventure film that will definitely get your pulse racing.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix

Yes, another movie in the X-Men franchise! There’ve been so many, it’s honestly getting hard to remember where they all started, right! In this latest movie, Jean Grey begins to develop incredible powers that corrupt and turn her into a Dark Phoenix.

Now Magneto, Professor X, and the rest of the X-Men will have to decide if the life of a team member is worth more than all the people living in the world. This should be a battle for the ages, and we’re counting down the days until it’s release.

So there you have it, four highly-anticipated movies that have got us and the rest of the world on the edges of our seats, waiting with baited breath for the next little snippet of information to be released.

Which one of these movies are you most excited to go see when they hit the theaters?

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Check Out The Action-Packed Trailer For ‘Mission: Impossible Fallout’

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Tom Cruise reprises his role as secret agent Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible: Fallout, the latest movie in the Mission Impossible series, and as you can see from this trailer, the movie delivers more of the same stunts, explosions and ridiculously dangerous things that keep us coming back for more, even after all of these years.

In Mission Impossible: Fallout, when an IMF mission ends badly, the world is faced with dire consequences. As Ethan Hunt takes it upon himself to fulfill his original briefing, the CIA begins to question his loyalty and motives. Hunt finds himself in a race against time, hunted by assassins and former allies while trying to prevent a global catastrophe.

Returning cast members include Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin, Sean Harris, Rebecca Ferguson, and Michelle Monaghan. Joining the dynamic cast are newcomers Henry Cavill, Angela Bassett, and Vanessa Kirby, with writer/director Christopher McQuarrie returning to the helm.

Mission Impossible: Fallout blasts into theaters on July 27th, 2018.

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