I'll be the judge of that.

DOPE Digest vol. 12 – Ryan Gosling, Christopher Nolan, 50 Cent and MORE!

DOPE Digest is a weekly roundup of pop culture miscellany, with succinct analysis from our contributors.


Ryan Gosling’s Lost River Teaser

BK: A dude driving down the street shouting ‘Look at my muscles!’? Now that’s the kind of movie I can get behind.

I am definitely rooting for Ryan Gosling as a writer/director, though if the early reviews from Cannes are any indication he is off to a less-than-stellar start (not to fear, the critics disliked Vertigo when it debuted too). The cast alone is enough for me to check out this movie regardless of the reviews, and worst-case scenario RyGo (can we call him that? No? Ok.) will certainly learn some new tricks when he works with Tarrence Malik later this year.


syvo: I agree. Screw these critics. I generally live my life according to data mined from Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, but on this one I’m happy to ignore everything negative I hear about the film until I personally see it. I’ve been a huge fan of Ryan Gosling’s transformation in the last few years through his serious and brave work with guys like Nicolas Winding Refn and Derek Cianfrance, and I’m fully in support of his move toward writing and directing. If it’s not a perfect film, that’s fine with me. He’s learning a lot and this is only his first go. We should be so lucky to see more actors like him forge a similar career path.

Most of the Cannes reviews peg the film as David Lynch derivative, and I can see why, but I’m with you, BK: RyGo is probably the next Alfred Hitchock.


Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar Trailer

BK: Interstellar will inevitably be great. The cast is exceptional and Christopher Nolan never misses. My question is: when will we have another Director who is permitted to create creative and original blockbusters?

The main reason this doesn’t happen is relatively obvious – major studios don’t want to gamble hundreds of millions of dollars on unproven directors who might potentially create flops. Independent ideas do not have a built-in following and cache of goodwill to fall back on. But here’s the counter point: so what?! I think it is time for a ballsy movie studio to take a cue from the TV revolution and start giving mid-level ($25-40 million) budgets to some talented and up-and-coming directors to create passion projects. Inevitably some will flop, but some will explode and make huge profits. They would earn the respect of their audiences and a reputation as a daring, creative and worthwhile outlet.

Maybe Christopher Nolan can use his billions and steal this idea.

syvo: Me? I’m reserving expectations about this one. I know we’ve been trained to believe that everything Christopher Nolan touches is gold. The man has TWO films within the top fifteen on IMDB’s Top 250, for Chrissake. But contrary to (apparently) popular belief, The Dark Knight (2008) is not the fourth greatest film of all time, and the unforgivably high-concept Inception (2010) is not the thirteenth greatest film of all time. (The latter wasn’t even that great.)

Christopher Nolan may be a fine, consistent, and legitimately respectable auteur, with a voice and approach painfully rare in contemporary pop-cinema. But he’s also the most overrated director of our time. So will Interstellar be as orgasmically amazing as everyone expects? Let’s wait and see.


Raleigh Ritchie – “Bloodsport”

BK: I owe a special ‘Thank you’ to Mr. Brian Sonenstein for showing me this one. I’ve been listening to this track by Raleigh Ritchie (AKA Jacob Anderson AKA Grey Worm from Game of Thrones) for a couple weeks, and it gets more awesome every time I hear it.

The rap portion leaves something to be desired, but the song is a smash regardless. His voice has a level of gravitas that isn’t typical and pop music, and the song is just hooky enough to be on mainstream radio. You can download a remix album on his site, and I recommend that one as well.

syvo: Holy crap, this is Grey Worm?!?! Whaaaaat!? That blows my mind. This song is indeed pretty excellent.  I love how it is so obviously a thinly veiled love letter to Daenerys Targaryen. What a talented, studly fellow.


 This Is Where I Leave You Trailer

BK: Something about this trailer feels so run-of-the-mill cute that it almost makes me hate it. But then Jason Bateman and Tina Fey and Adam Driver and Rose Byrne show up and suddenly I feel ok again. There is enough of a promising  non-plot in this trailer to give me hope that these talented folks are left to riff on each other. I’ve got high hopes.

syvo: There is almost no chance I will see this movie. I agree the cast is impressive on paper, but other than perhaps being reasonably excited about Corey Stoll (of House of Cards fame) breaking into movies, I’m not particularly psyched about any of the individual actors involved (sorry, omnipresent Tina Fey fans). But did I mention this flick is directed by shameless hack Shawn Levy, who’s recently brought us such uncompromising garbage as The Internship (2013) and Real Steel (2011)? I didn’t see Date Night (2010), but I know a guy who walked out of it. Plus, it’s possible that he contributed to ruining Animorphs, easily the most important YA series of my middle school career, by directing five episodes of the crappy TV show.

Verdict? Count me out!

BK: Dude, how could you speak ill of Real Steel?! Hugh Jackman is the most charming man in Hollywood!


50 Cent – “Twisted”

BK: Is it time for the throwback already!? No sir!! F-50 is back with a new track and I have to say, it ain’t half bad! It has been almost 10 years since there was a 50 Cent album I was really excited about, but this track shows promise I haven’t seen since Get Rich or Die Tryin’.

I don’t know if it is the incredible GQ article by Zach Baron or if I’m just a sucka, but I’m on-board with this 50 Cent comeback. He may never be the biggest rapper in the world again, but I think he can still put together a solid track or two.

syvo: I am eternally pro-50 Cent. I’m just on his team. It’s been five years since his last album, the criminally underrated Before I Self Destruct. But it’s been far longer than that since Fiddy has been truly relevant. For that, you’d have to go back almost a decade to 2005’s The Massacre.

If I had to guess, I don’t think Animal Ambition is going to do much to change things. From what I’ve heard of the album so far, it’s actually pretty good, but it’s just not the kind of album that is going to put him in meaningful competition with mainstream rap artists. As 50 himself has acknowledged, it’s a Yeezy and Drizzy world, and he’s still the same old Fiddy. By now, listeners are either in or out. No new fans, no, no new.

I know I’m getting old because I’m increasingly falling out of touch with new rap. Animal Ambition sounds straight out of 2005. But for me, and I suspect some of our readers, that can be a very good thing.


DOPE Digest Throwback: Usher – “My Way”

syvo: I like this song, but I’d be lying if I said I appreciated it  in 1997. That said, this video did stand out at the time for its nod to A Clockwork Orange (1971), a film I had recently discovered at a too-young age and eventually led to my interest with another hip hop artist fond of channeling Alex DeLarge.

BK: Hard to believe this track came out in 1997 (except for the Jermaine Dupri and Tyrese cameos), but it’s true. Fortunately it sounds better than ever.

Usher has gone on to release 5 albums (with another one coming this year), discover Justin Bieber, become a judge on The Voice, and continue to look like he is nineteen years-old. Usher is the man. A genius. And a phenomenal dancer. His newest stuff has lost a bit of the fire that his old tracks have, but I’m still sure that in 17 years when we are doing DOPE Digest #3,000, we’ll be reminiscing about this track (or maybe a slightly better one).

Happy Friday, Usher fans (Brian, this means you).


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