Richard and CP24 anchor Rena Heer talk about the weekend’s big releases, the revamped “The Jungle Book,” a third visit to Calvin’s in “Barbershop: The Next Cut,” the jazzy notes of “Miles Ahead” and the mind altering ‘Criminal.”
Richard and “Canada AM” host Jeff Hutcheson kick around the weekend’s big releases. They find out if “The Jungle Book” is appropriate for all ages, if “Barbershop: the Next Cut” makes the cut and if “Criminal” should be put in movie jail.
Fourteen years after the first “Barbershop” movie the recession has caught up to Calvin Palmer, Jr. (Ice Cube). Due to changing times the barbershop he took over from his father has been forced to amalgamate with a beauty salon run by his business partner, Angie (Regina Hall). “This was the original man cave,” complains one regular, “now it’s just a club with no drinks.”
The customers are divided by sex, men on one side, women on the other, but there’s plenty of back-and-forth, especially between flirty beautician Draya (Nicki Minaj) and the very married Rashad (Common).
Outside the atmosphere isn’t as playful. Out of necessity they have a No Guns Allowed sign in the shop. “Can’t even get a haircut without some knucklehead carrying a gun,” says Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer). “Barbershop used to be a place of peace.” Gang violence is at an all time high, putting Calvin’s teenage son Jalen (Michael Rainey Jr.) at risk. With the neighbourhood in tatters and his son in danger Calvin contemplates moving his shop and family out of the only home they’ve ever known, South Side Chicago. “What are we supposed to do,” Calvin asks his wife, “wait here until something happens?” Before taking that dramatic step the staff stages an intervention, calling for a forty-eight hour ceasefire. Setting up the shop as a safe, neutral space for everyone from all over the city to come and hash out their differences and get a free haircut, they hope to “Increase the Peace.”
“Barbershop: The Next Cut” breathes the same air as “Chi-Raq,” Spike Lee’s recent satirical look at gang violence in Chicago. Director Malcolm D. Lee does away with the stylish flourishes that made his cousin Spike’s movie so memorable, but doesn’t skimp on the social commentary. Wedged between sometimes sharp, sometimes silly one-liners are keenly observed remarks on everything from racism and street violence to monogamy and the importance of community building. The presentations are different—call this “Chi-Raq Lite” if you like—but the pleas for peace are the same.
Working from a thoughtful although occasionally unsubtle script, the large ensemble cast has the chance to provide laughs and heart. Cedric, former Conan O’Brien writer Deon Cole and JB Smooth are in charge of the chuckles, while Cube and Common’s family storylines provide the sentiment. Other standouts include rappers-turned-actors Minaj and Eve.
The humour in “Barbershop: The Next Cut” is the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. What could have been a heavy-handed treatise on urban violence is instead an enjoyable romp that shines a light on a very important topic.
In “Top Five” comedic superstar Andre Allen (Chris Rock) faces a problem that has bedeviled many of his real life counterparts. “I don’t feel like being funny anymore,” he says, but will his audience be ready for his new, serious side?
Allen is at a make or break point in his career. After years of making popular comedies featuring a cop in a bear suit, his latest film, “Uprize,” is a serious drama about the slave revolt in Haiti and if it flops his agent (Kevin Hart) says, “we’re talking ‘Dancing With the Stars.’” Before he jets off to London to marry his reality star girlfriend (Gabrielle Union) he does the promotional circuit, including spending a day with New York Times reporter Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson). In the course of doing an in-depth profile on the actor Chelsea uncovers some uncomfortable truths about Allen and herself.
The top five things to know about “Top Five” is that it works as a comedy, as a romance, as a look at creative fulfillment, as a showcase for Chris Rock’s comedian friends and as a portrait of fame in the modern age. Rock, who also writes and directs, is firing on all cylinders in a personal film that crackles with energy and NSFW humour.
Rock and Dawson spark in long, uncut scenes of dialogue that echo “Before Midnight.” Flirting and sparring throughout the film, they are at the heart of the story but Rock has populated the movie with other interesting characters and cameos.
As Allen’s childhood friend and minder Silk, J.B. Smoove is smooth as silk and SNLer Leslie Jones is a showstopper but several supporting players threaten to walk away with the whole movie. Cedric the Entertainer lives up to his name, handing in an outrageous performance as a Houston comedy promoter and DMX, in a short cameo, can only be described as unhinged. Also, it’s almost worth the price of admission to see Jerry Seinfeld “makin’ it rain” in a strip club.
It’s a colourful collection of characters but Rock keeps the focus where it needs to be, on the chemistry between he and Dawson. The talk about everything from Charlie Chaplin—“The Grandmaster Flash of Ha Ha”—to whether or not the release of “Planet of the Apes” in linked to Martin Luther King’s assassination to Allen’s alcoholism. There is an easy air of authenticity between them that is imminently watchable.
Occasionally “Top Five” tries just a bit too hard to pluck the heartstrings—a scene between Allen and his father is a clunker, neither funny or effective—but Rock, unlike his alter ego Allen, is still clearly interested in making funny movies, and pulls it off with panache here.
Bill Murray became a big screen superstar on the back of loose-limbed performances in comedies like Caddyshack, Stripes and Ghostbusters. By 1984, however, he was tiring of playing the clown and looking to do something with a bit more edge.
When director John Byrum gave him a copy of W. Somerset Maugham’s 1944 novel The Razor’s Edge, Murray responded the very next day. Calling the director at 4 am he said, “This is Larry, Larry Darrell,” dropping the name of the novel’s main character, an enigmatic man on a quest for spiritual fulfillment.
The resulting film bombed, with Roger Ebert suggesting Murray played “the hero as if fate is a comedian and he is the straight man.” Of course Murray has gone on to become a credible and in demand dramatic actor, but the story of a comedian’s rocky leap from farce to drama still rings true today.
This weekend Chris Rock’s new comedy Top Five tells the story of Andre Allen, a fictional megastar trying to jump from silly comedies to Uprize, a serious drama about the slave revolt in Haiti.
Top Five is a new twist on an old story. Many comedians have tried to flick the switch from comedy to drama.
The late Robin Williams effortlessly hopped between genres. In 2002 alone he made three films, the lowbrow laffer Death to Smoochy, bookended by the psychodrama One Hour Photo and Christopher Nolan’s thriller Insomnia.
Will Ferrell, Steve Carell and Jonah Hill are best known for funny movies like Blades of Glory, The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Superbad, but each have stretched their dramatic muscles. Ferrell’s Stranger Than Fiction earned a good review from Roger Ebert who said Ferrell “has dramatic gifts to equal his comedic talent.” Carell’s new drama Foxcatcher looks poised to earn him notice at awards time and Jonah Hill is a two time Oscar nominee for heavyweights Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street.
Finally, think Jim Carrey and visions of talking butts and rubber-faced features come to mind but he made a serious run at being a serious actor. Perhaps he was pushed into more thoughtful work when his Batman Forever co-star Tommy Lee Jones told him, ‘I cannot sanction your buffoonery,” but whatever the case in movies like Man on the Moon, The Majestic and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind played it straight. “It’s going to be so hard to talk out of my ass after this,” he said when he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor award for The Truman Show, “but I’ll manage.”
Some things are better left alone. I recently read that the Jack Kerouac classic On the Road is being turned into a movie. I can’t imagine that this is a good idea as the filmmakers could never possibly translate this book, which is revered by generations of people, into a film that would be better than the book. Another, more tangible example is out on DVD this week. Charlotte’s Web is a beloved children’s book about Wilbur a little runt pig who is concerned that he is going to end up as dinner unless he takes action. With the help of a quick-witted spider named Charlotte he hatches a plan to avoid turning into Sunday dinner.
This big budget adaptation features an all-star voice cast, including Julia Roberts as the know-it-all spider and Robert Redford, Oprah Winfrey, Cedric the Entertainer, John Cleese, Reba McEntire and Kathy Bates with Dakota Fanning heading up the live action cast.
There’s an old saying, “You can’t put lipstick on a pig,” which seems appropriate here. Charlotte’s Web isn’t as charming as that other talking pig movie Babe, or the book for that matter, but it is sweet and maybe will encourage a few kids to turn off the TV and pick up the book.