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

||| John Sturges |||
John Sturges

Helming the “Magnificent Seven” should be reason enough, demonstrating that Sturges had the happy talent of taking what was considered strictly “male” oriented stories and making them sexy enough and humorous enough to appeal to female movie-goer as well.

Sturges takes this star-studded gunslinger film based on the Japanese favorite "The Seven Samurai", and makes it a bone fide all-American classic featuring Yul Brynner. At the request of Mexican peasants, Brynner recruits a band of fellow mercenaries, half of whom Sturges introduces as the next generation of action film super-stars including Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and Steve McQueen. Widescreen!

Sturges is responsible for what is renowned as one of the greatest war films ever made, featuring Steve McQueen and his unforgettably daring motorcycle jumps in the face of the enemy. Allied prisoners escape from a German POW camp in this superior effort, noted for a brilliant international cast and Elmer Bernstein's triumphant score. Widescreen!

This day in the life of a stranger in an isolated town has since been done to death, and this is why. In the hands of a lesser director the talents of this exceedingly manly cast (Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan) would otherwise overwhelm this compelling drama with a prejudice theme, but Sturges is able to maintain a firm grasp of the reigns, keeping his actors this side of mellow drama. Widescreen!

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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