Sunday, September 27, 2015


Last month, I saw Dope at the New Parkway in Oakland.

Dope starring Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori & Kiersey Clemons; directed by Rick Famuyiwa; (2015) - Official Website

I guess this is a appropriate time to say that J. Moses Ceaser has stepped down as the General Manager of the New Parkway as of September 20.  The new general manager is Diane Tadano.  Ceaser emerged as the driving force in bringing the Parkway back into existence.  It's hard to believe that it has been nearly three years since the New Parkway reopened.  My recollection was that his background was not in film exhibition nor was it his career aspiration.  In his valedictory email, Ceaser states he will remain involved with programming the New Parkway & his ambitions don't stop at the Oakland border.  He states "One of the things that we’ll be exploring in 2016 is the possibility of taking the New Parkway to other Bay Area communities.  And we want to hear from you.  If you know of communities that would love a New Parkway, properties that we should look at, and/or people with whom we should speak, please let us know."  Having never been to an Alamo Drafthouse location, I have been under the impression that the New Parkway is the shabby chic cousin of the Alamo Drafthouse.  With the opening of the New Mission Theater imminent, I will be interested in comparing the two.

I also noted that the furniture has changed in one of the theaters.  Before the smaller auditorium had restaurant style tables on the main floor.  Now it has rows of seating with long tables for food & drink.  The chairs are on casters which make it hard to lean back and not move the entire chair.

Dope was my second trip to the New Parkway in 2015.  The food at the theater has improved since my last visit.  I had the daily special which on this day was meatloaf with string beans & mashed potatoes.  It exceeded my expectations.

Dope also exceeded my expectations.  It's the story of three high school seniors in Inglewood - Malcolm (Shameik Moore), Jib (Tony Revolori) & Diggy (Kiersey Clemons).  I've never been to Inglewood.  The only thing I know about it is that the Forum (the Los Angeles Lakers former home arena) is there.  If Dope is to be believed, there is a gang problem in Inglewood.  Malcolm, Jib & Diggy form the geek squad at their school.  It's the type of school where the kids have to go through metal detectors but the cop/security guard waves Malcolm & his friends through because of their reputation.

The plot is fairly intricate but essentially, Malcolm & his friends go to a club party where they shouldn't be.  A botched drug deal at the club ends with a brick of ecstasy in Malcolm's backpack.  Eventually, gangbangers & drug dealers are after Malcolm for the drugs.  The drug kingpin Malcolm eventually throws in with turns out to be the Harvard alumni Malcolm is meeting with for a letter of recommendation.  Forced to sell the drugs, Malcolm & his cohorts use the dark net & bitcoins to move some serious Molly.

It's all a little too contrived if you think about it too much but I mostly enjoyed the film.  It's kind of like Porky's meets Revenge of the Nerds meets Boyz n the Hood.  At times, Malcolm runs into some scary characters which makes the film uneven but I admire director Rick Famuyiwa for trying it and often pulling it off.  Some of the characters reminded me of Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.  They're funny because they are so deranged but when the violence explodes they're pretty damn scary.

Shameik Moore is solid as Malcolm which is a character that reacts to the craziness around; essentially playing the straight man.  Zoë Kravitz has a small role as the object of Malcolm's desires.

Dope trades on the stereotypes of inner city black youths.  It sets up Malcolm & his friends as the antithesis of those stereotypes and mines the humor in the interactions of Malcolm (presumably the audience's point of view) with these stereotypes.  Dope does this very effectively and to fine comic effect.

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