DOPE (2015)


“I’m in the mood, can’t bring me down”.

Was this film made for me? I think someone, somewhere must have had me in mind when making this because I couldn’t have been more excited when watching this brilliant film about these geekz ‘n the hood.

Clever script, great acting, priceless comic moments, an outstanding soundtrack; finger-snappingly awesome.

This was, without a doubt, one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen this year, an uplifting, coming of age in the hood film that doesn’t shy away from the harshness of the streets but never gets overwhelmed by it. There is so much heart here, one can not help but be charmed.

Shameik Moore plays our hero Malcolm and brings a quiet confidence to the role, he is, for sure, one to look out for. Tony Revolori plays one of his friends, Jib and Kiersey Clemons plays the other, Diggy (“I will slap the shit out of you”) completing the triangle. The chemistry between the three works brilliantly. They are the geekz in a band, ‘Awreeoh’ with their music written and produced by Pharrell Williams and their tunes are phat and phunky, reminiscent of The Neptunes. The rest of the soundtrack is just bomb; Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, Nas, Digital Underground, Naughty By Nature, Public Enemy, Onyx and many more make this BY FAR, the hippest soundtrack we’ve heard for a minute.

The script is tight, clever and on point (only one tiny plot confusion with a text that didn’t quite fuse, maybe this was down to the edit) but otherwise from the start to the finish the writing is on the money. Written and directed with skill by Rick Famuyiwa this is a film that should be up for a best comedy award somewhere. Funny, whip-smart and hip; it’s a breath of fresh air.

Support comes from Rakim Mayers (the New York rapper A$ap Rocky) as the gangster, Dom making his acting debut and bringing a charisma that shows strong on-screen presence. Zoe Kravitz is beautiful and real as Nakia, Malcolm’s crush. Quincy Brown (Puff Daddy’s kid) is Jaleel, the wannabe gangster, Chanel Iman as his seductive sister, Lily (a nice use of her name that comes to represent a certain substance and creating a bunch of very funny memes-“People on Lily be like….”). The very funny Blake Anderson (Workaholics) given a witty, hilarious exchange about the ‘N’ word “ Whaddup my N-Word?”.

Special mentions go to De’Aundre Bonds as Stacey, the school’s security, Rick Fox as Councilman Blackmon, Josh Meyer as the DEA tech, and a very funny, tense exchange with rapper Kap G playing Fidel X, Forest Whittaker plays the narrator (he is also one of the producers on the film) and finally the great Roger Guenver-Smith as Austin Jacoby. The cast is killing it.

Bitcoins, deep web, Harvard, molly, 90’s hip hop, slippery slopes and social media.

Dope is dope. I watched it twice in less than a week, which is unusual and testament to the entertaining value of this quality film. Check it out.




CHEF (2014)



After the massive successes of his Iron Man films where Jon Favreau proved to the studio system that he could helm the big budgeters with confidence and make a LOT of money, this is a welcome return for Jon Favreau making simpler more intimate films.
‘Chef’ or How Carl Casper got his groove back is a feelgood comedy of sorts, there are no serious dramatic stakes here, more a man simply doing what he can to reclaim his mojo.

Carl Casper (Favreau) is a very successful chef at a popular restaurant in L.A. but finds himself in somewhat of a creative rut, some plot contrivances happen and he goes on his journey. It is a light-hearted film that doesn’t break the dramatic bank

The cast are all clearly having a blast especially John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale both of whom lift most of the films they appear in. The best scenes are in the kitchens where the actors engage in a playful dance that is filled with charm and fun.

The rest of the supporting cast do really well, the legendary Dustin Hoffman, a histrionically toned down Sofia Vergara, the ever sexy and stalwart Scarlett Johannson, the brilliant Oliver Platt and Sir Robert of Downey Jr are all a delight to watch. Amy Sedaris has fun with her scene as a publicist and she manages to hit all the right tickles. Emjay Anthony dials down any emotional blackmailing playing Favreau’s son and thus the scenes between father and son work nicely.

The things that stood out were the music, the food and the power of twitter.
There is a plethora of really fun music, especially very cool renditions of A Message to Rudi, Oye Como Va, Sexual Healing and of course, El Michels Affair’s quality version of Wu’s C.R.E.A.M.
Music and food go together here beautifully and the clear love and attention when it comes to the food preparation is in full effect. And twitter. Yes, there are simplifications but the gentle comment on the world of social media is here played out fairly intelligently, most effectively the generational understanding (or lack of) and the sheer possibilities of it.

Unlike most other feelgood films, there are few emotional manipulations, Favreau keeps it as real as he can within the parameters of the undertaking, which he also managed to do with Elf.
All the actors plum for real over caricature with their performances and the film benefits greatly from it, creating some lovely moments reminiscent of the repartee he had back in 1996 with Swingers.

It is a fun, entertaining film that will put a smile on your face and have you racing to the nearest quality restaurant. Eat before you watch.