Blockbusters never run out of comic book movies, but at least the indie world keeps gifting us with hilarious and righteously angry films about race and modern black life. Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq” and Justin Simien’s “Dear White People” both live on Amazon Prime, while Netflix gets their slightly lesser cousin: “Dope,” which takes the grim hood movies of the ’90s (“Boyz N Tha Hood,” “Juice,” etc.) and reworks them into a freewheeling romp.
Following one college-bound, hi-top fade-rocking nerd (Shameik Moore) as he gets in deep in the drug business, it’s an excuse to fire off cogent gripes: about trust fund kids, about white boys incensed they can’t use the n-word, about the fact that South Central L.A. hasn’t improved much in the last 20 years. The blend of jokes and talking points isn’t always smooth, but when it scratches it draws blood.
‘The Keeping Room’
Like “Dope,” the feminist Western “The Keeping Room” wants to be both a political weapon and escapist fare. Three women in the South circa the Civil War — two white (Brit Marling and Hailee Steinfeld), one a mostly autonomous slave (Muna Otaru) — find themselves in a home invasion situation, when two hissable Union army rogues (Sam Worthington and Ned Dennehy) recognize they don’t have a man to keep their country estate safe. It’s so good at blending its two sides that there’s not much else to do but admire/enjoy it — although, considering the crazy way it ends, its one major flaw may be that, this being an indie, there probably won’t be a sequel.
‘To Catch a Thief’
Did you know there are under 50 movies made before 1960 on Netflix Instant? Streaming isn’t too kind to the classics, and it’s getting worse. (Cinephiles will have to wait for Filmstruck, the forthcoming service combining the Avengers-esque powers of Criterion, TCM and others.) Frankly it’s astonishing there’s even one Alfred Hitchcock on there, even if it’s one of his third-tier efforts. Preferring fizz over suspense, 1956’s “To Catch a Thief” boasts no memorable nail biters. Indeed, its best scene is romantic, with Cary Grant, as a retired thief blamed on a spate of robberies in the South of France, canoodling with Grace Kelly’s society gal en route to some nudge-nudgey fireworks. It’s uncharacteristic in Hitch’s career, which — like his screwball “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” — makes it worth extra scrutiny.