Ted Zep’s Favorite Films of 2015 (Part 2)

DOPE

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This is a smart little film. Essentially a crime drama, but there are enough elements of comedy, integrated with a teenage coming-of-age story, that it makes for an intriguing blend of genres.

Dope is about a nerdy, black high school student “Malcolm” (Shameik Moore). Malcolm is an aspiring attendee of Harvard who is obsessed with 90’s pop culture. He doesn’t quite fit in with classmates or others from his neighborhood, “The Bottoms,” a section of Inglewood, California. Soon enough, Malcolm and his two friends unwittingly become entangled with a local drug dealer. A series of mishaps ensnare Malcolm and company, forcing them to sell drugs themselves. Though caught in a bad situation, Malcolm relies on his book-smart cleverness to help him navigate the dilemma.

Zoe Kravitz plays the love interest, “Nakia.” Kravitz’s mother, actress Lisa Bonet, possessed a subtle, smoldering sexiness in her youth. Her daughter, Zoe, has that same quiet, doe-eyed appeal that can’t be taught. However, she is much more than simply attractive. Kravitz is a charismatic, talented young actress.  I see only good things in her future.

The film has a lot to say about race, masculinity, sexuality, and the expectations that accompany them. Even though some plot points stretch plausibility, it is a charming movie that is infused with laughs, heart, and a message.

The DUFF

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Designated Ugly Fat Friend. DUFF.

The DUFF is, in many respects, a paint-by-numbers ugly ducking/teen problem flick that probably shouldn’t be very good. That’s where casting and a well-crafted script come into play. Mae Whitman (as the titular DUFF, “Bianca”) and Robbie Amell, (playing “Wes,” the guru guiding her to a cooler self) have a tangible and infectious chemistry. Bella Thorne is deliciously bitchy as the popular-girl arch-nemesis. The dialogue is snappy and the plot just unexpected enough to make this a winner.

 

 

To Be Continued…

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