Pick of the week: “Dope” — My full review is here. This high-energy comedy-drama is like an African-American twist on “Risky Business,” in which three so-called “nerdy” high schoolers in inner-city Los Angeles have to contend with a backpack full of drugs, hackers, and dangerous criminals. Along the way, the film boldly challenges some lazy assumptions about race and class in America — though you might be having too much fun to notice.
“Atonement” — It’s true that Joe Wright’s adaptation bobbles the ending of Ian McEwan’s novel, although it may have been almost unfilmable. But it’s still an elegant and powerful movie that shifts between drawing-room drama and war film (the tracking shot of the beach at Dunkirk is unforgettable), sticking close enough to McEwan’s themes of memory and rewriting our personal narratives.
“The Hoax” — My full review is here. Richard Gere kicked off a run of good roles in this underseen 2007 comedy, playing a failed writer who becomes the subject of a bidding war when he purports to have the secret autobiography of Howard Hughes for sale.
“To Be or Not To Be” — Mel Brooks effectively turns it down a couple of notches, partnering with his wife Anne Bancroft in this screwball farce about a Polish theater troupe in World War II who ends up saving Jews from the Nazis.
“Waking Ned Devine“ — A group of Irishmen try to cash a winning lottery ticket without letting on that the buyer has actually died in this gentle ’90s comedy.