By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, Chicago Crusader
Barbershop: The Next Cut” is full of local references in what I call another love letter or clarion call to Chicago and the South Side (the other film being Chi-Raq). Ice Cube and Common star in the third edition of this funny, hard-hitting, sometimes disrespectful-to-elders franchise, with help from additional returning cast members, including Deon Cole, Jazsmin Lewis-Kelley, Sean Patrick Thomas, Anthony Anderson, Eve and Cedric the Entertainer, with newbies Regina Hall, J. B. Smoove and Nicki Minaj.
The plot is to reduce the gang violence around 79th Street, and both Chatham and Englewood are neighborhoods mentioned by name. There were also shout outs to Tim King and Urban Prep Academy, Italian Fiesta Pizza and Father Michael Pfleger, among others. Local and national basketball talent figures prominently, as well.
After a city hall proposal to “fence off” about 20 blocks in the area to create a cul-de-sac aimed at providing safety, the staff is upset and thinks that the idea not only reeks of racism but also threatens to cut into the shop’s revenue. The barbershop arranges a truce between the two dominant gang leaders and manages to call a ceasefire over a weekend that has also been preceded by instances of senseless gang violence. The ceasefire is successful, with a few bumps, but the message to take away from the movie is that Chicago is resilient, and this violent funk that we are in will also pass.
I enjoyed this movie, for early afternoon entertainment, although there were disrespectful digs made against Black icons. Standouts for me were Smoove, who is a jack-of-all-trades, as he runs everything from a sexually transmitted disease clinic to a haberdasher from his booth at the barbershop. Cole is clever with his one-liners, and Hall is the calming spirit that is needed at the shop that has known gone co-Ed with the addition of her beauty shop.
Barbershop: The Next Cut is playing everywhere. Go out and support—in the theaters.
The Babushkas of Chernobyl at Gene Siskel
After sold-out screenings in January during our “Stranger Than Fiction: Documentary Premieres” series, The Babushkas of Chernobyl returns for a week-long run April 22-28 at the Gene Siskel Film Center with co-director Holly Morris – who has also given a TED Talk about the documentary – in person at the April 22, 23, and 24 screenings.
This is a loving portrait of the hearty Ukrainian grandmothers who have chosen to live peacefully and stoically in post-meltdown Chernobyl (with April 26 being the 30-year anniversary of the disaster). THE BABUSHKAS OF CHERNOBYL is being presented in partnership with the Ukrainian National Museum of Chicago and the Kyiv Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International.
In the radioactive Dead Zone surrounding Chernobyl’s Reactor No. 4, a defiant community of women scratches out an existence on some of the most toxic land on Earth. They share this hauntingly beautiful but lethal landscape with an assortment of visitors – scientists, soldiers, and even ‘stalkers’ – young thrill-seekers who sneak in to pursue post-apocalyptic video game-inspired fantasies. Why the women chose to return after the disaster – defying the authorities and endangering their health – is a remarkable tale about the pull of home, the healing power of shaping one’s destiny, and the subjective nature of risk.
Gene Siskel Theatre is located at 164 N. State St. For information, visit www.siskelfilmcenter.org.
Seedfolks at Chicago Children’s Theatre
One woman plays 14 characters to tell the story of the founding and first year of a community garden in a gritty, immigrant neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio.
From an 8-year-old Vietnamese girl, to a geriatric Eastern European busybody, acclaimed actress Sonja Parks uses speech, posture and gestures to migrate between characters, who collectively describe the transformation of the empty lot into a vibrant garden. While doing so, each experiences his or her own transformation.
A Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis production based on the popular children’s novel by Paul Fleischman, directed by Peter C. Brosius. This play is recommended for ages 7 and up. The Chicago Children’s Theatre is located at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. The play runs from May 5-22, and tickets between $10-$39. Purchase at chicagochildrenstheatre.org or call (877) 222-9555.