FilmJerk Favorites

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

||| Sergio Leone |||
Sergio Leone

Leone’s career is remarkable in its unrelenting attention to both American culture and the American genre film, exploring the mythic America he created with each successive film examining the established characters in greater depth.

Only his second feature (a remake of Kurosawa’s Yojimbo), Leone's landmark "spaghetti western" caused a revolution and features Clint Eastwood in his breakthrough role as "The Man With No Name". This classic brutal drama of feuding families wasn’t the first spaghetti Western, but it was far and away the most successful up to that time.

Plot is of minimal interest, but character is everything to Leone, who places immense meaning in the slightest flick of an eyelid, extensively using the extreme close-up on the eyes to reveal any feeling, as demonstrated by Clint, who squints his way through this slam-bang sequel to A Fistful of Dollars as a wandering gunslinger that must combine forces with his nemesis to track down a wanted killer.

The final chapter in the groundbreaking trilogy follows Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach as they form an uneasy alliance to find a stash of hidden gold. Leone focuses on his central theme as they find themselves facing greed, treachery, and murder, showing that the desire for wealth and power turns men into ruthless creatures who violate land and family and believe that a man’s death is less important than how he faces it.

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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