FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Frank Capra |||
Frank Capra

It goes without saying that Capra is one of the greatest and most beloved directors of all time, especially renowned for his madcap romantic comedies. He is one of the few directors who ever managed to balance whimsy with meaningfulness without loosing the ability to entertain.

Only Frank Capra, with his light hand and good sense of allowing the actors to be their roles, could carry off this tale of a naive average American used by an unscrupulous politician through a nationwide goodwill drive. No one was ever better at having strong yet vulnerable women not only aid, but often come to the rescue, of the leading man.

Frank Capra's final film is a hilarious translation of a Damon Runyon tale set in 1930s New York, as gangster Glenn Ford repays street peddler Bette Davis for her "good luck" apples by passing her off as a well-to-do society lady for her visiting daughter (Ann-Margret in her film debut). This excellent and thoroughly enjoyable remake of his own 1933 "Lady for a Day" is a beautiful swan song to a master storyteller. Widescreen!

In this black comedy about two sweet old ladies whose basement holds a murderously funny secret, Capra utilizes star Cary Grant to his zany, patented “double take” best. Capra’s brilliance in comic casting is demonstrated with such reliable character actors as Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre and Jack Carson who manage to play their parts to the hilt without chewing up the scenery.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

Advertisement

Barbershop 2: Back in Business

By BrianOrndorf

February 6th, 2004

“Barbershop 2” achieves what most sequels can only wish for: it’s actually much better than the original film. Blessed with a new, more talented director who knows a thing or two about pace, as well as a couple of deeper pockets in the budget department, making this latest installment of the neighborhood barbershop saga is a solid, entertaining sit.


After fending off the temptation to sell his family barbershop, Calvin (Ice Cube) is now faced with another trial: direct competition, in the form of a high-end chain haircut shop opening across the street. Watching the community give in to a greedy land developer (Harry Lennix, “The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions”), Calvin and his employees (including Cedric the Entertainer, Michael Ealy, Eve, Troy Garity, and Keenan Thompson) try to keep the shop alive, hoping the neighborhood will support their homegrown business even as they decide to change their particular way of conducting business, and lose their unique identity in the process.

2002’s “Barbershop” was a mild urban comedy encrusted with lessons about family, unity, and the valuable resource of community. Released during a hailstorm of less than ideal cinematic representations of the African-American community, the film was a rather large hit, considering its modest expectations. Beating its copycats to the punch, Ice Cube (who also produces) and company have set up shop again, a mere 16 months later, for “Barbershop 2.” And like a monthly visit to the barbershop, this sequel is basically the same style, just with a little more taken off the sides, and a much tighter fade.

Coming from the school of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” “Barbershop 2” picks up right where the original left off, with Calvin and his community fending off a new threat to his neighborhood institution. Call me a curmudgeon, but I found the first “Barbershop” to be an earnest, but helplessly disorganized motion picture, mixing long periods of welcome thought on the erosion of community pride with awful slapstick and 1st gear romances. “Barbershop 2” has the benefit of hindsight, with new director Kevin Rodney Sullivan (“How Stella Got Her Groove Back”) mixing the varying temperatures of the screenplay with more skill and an genuine effort to sharpen the pace. He even manages to make the rather blatant plugs placed throughout the film for the upcoming “Barbershop” spin-off, Queen Latifah’s “Beauty Shop,” seem like a natural forward movement of the story.

Under Sullivan’s guidance, the comedy is actually hilarious (thanks to a scene stealing Cedric the Entertainer, and Latifah‘s sly ribbing of his age during a neighborhood barbeque), the messages just a little bit more touching, and the drama runs deeper. This sequel builds on the laidback charms the original introduced, and like a good continuation should, develops the characters and the ideas with more finesse, since audiences are in a more forgiving mood with sequels. “Barbershop 2” is far from perfect though. It labors through the last act mechanics with inadequate passion, and I could really do without ever seeing the bottomlessly unfunny Keenan Thompson (“Saturday Night Live”) onscreen again. But Sullivan tightens the focus in his sequel, thus creating a better representation of the community spirit that Ice Cube was going after with his original film, outside of the entertaining shop floor trash-talking (“2” finds R. Kelly, Bill Clinton, and Luther Vandross as the targets) and romantic subplots that previously dominated attention.

What the two “Barbershop” films symbolize to the urban cinematic landscape is far more important than the films themselves, but “Barbershop 2” is a definite improvement on the core idea, and that’s all I was looking for.

My rating: B